Archive for the ‘Iran scam’ category

Iran Faces Stricter Sanctions in Bipartisan House, Senate Bills

March 25, 2017

Iran Faces Stricter Sanctions in Bipartisan House, Senate Bills, Washington Free Beacon, March 25, 2017

Getty Images

Menendez told Reuters the bipartisan group “assiduously worked” to ensure the bill does not violate the Iranian nuclear pact enacted last year. The bill only applies to Iran’s non-nuclear activities.

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Legislation introduced Thursday in the House and Senate by a bipartisan group of lawmakers would hit Iran with tougher sanctions for the ongoing development of its ballistic missile program.

While Washington focused on the health care saga in the House, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), quietly introduced a new bill that would impose mandatory sanctions on individuals involved with Iran’s ballistic missile program.

The legislation would expand terrorism-related sanctions to include the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Tehran’s elite military force. The bill would codify sanctions announced by the Treasury Department last month that applied to anyone tied to Iran’s support for terrorism.

The bill has support from more than a dozen senators, including Democratic co-sponsors Ben Cardin (Md.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Bob Casey (Pa.), and Chris Coons (Del.). Republican backers include Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), James Risch (Idaho), and Dan Sullivan (Alaska).

Menendez told Reuters the bipartisan group “assiduously worked” to ensure the bill does not violate the Iranian nuclear pact enacted last year. The bill only applies to Iran’s non-nuclear activities.

The bill is expected to pass through the Senate given its broad support.

The chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce (R., Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), introduced a similar bill late Thursday in the lower chamber.

Like the Senate version, the House legislation would target individuals and entities involved in Iran’s ballistic missile development, including foreign companies and banks.

A staffer with the House Foreign Affairs Committee told the Washington Free Beacon on Friday that the legislation’s strong bipartisan support would likely propel it to the House floor. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) are both cosponsoring the bill.

The staffer, who asked not to be named, said the bill was introduced in response to a recent committee hearing that detailed Tehran’s ongoing development of missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

“Under the cover of a deeply-flawed nuclear deal, Iran has accelerated its ballistic missile development,” Royce said in a statement Thursday. “These tests—carried out in defiance of the U.N. Security Council—are aimed at perfecting the delivery system for a nuclear warhead.”

Both bills were introduced ahead of the annual conference in D.C. by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which begins Sunday. Iran has not commented on the bills, but has said in the past that any U.S. sanctions are a violation of the nuclear agreement.

The White House said in February it was “putting Iran on notice” before unveiling sanctions against 25 entities and individuals in Iran who have ties to terrorist groups, including Hezbollah. The sanctions were in response to a Jan. 29 missile test by Iran. Tehran immediately threatened retaliation.

Trump’s Greatest Deal

March 24, 2017

Trump’s Greatest Deal, Front Page MagazineCaroline Glick, March 24, 2017

(Before the Flynn debacle, Trump’s efforts to get Russia to divorce itself from Iran appeared to be proceeding well. Please see, Highly Classified National Security Information Must Not be Leaked. Part b of the article is titled “Flynn telephone conversations.” Part c is titled “General Flynn, Russia and Iran.” Flynn’s departure from the Trump administration and America’s current Russophobia do not augur well for future success in pushing for the divorce. — DM)

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

If Trump can convince Russia to ditch Iran, then he has a chance of dismantling the regime in Tehran and so defusing the Iranian nuclear program and destroying Hezbollah without having to fight a major war.

The payoff to Russia for agreeing to such a deal would be significant. But if Trump were to adopt this policy, the US has a lot of bargaining chips that it can use to convince Putin to walk away from the ayatollahs long enough for the US to defuse the threat they pose to its interests.

The problem with the Russia strategy is that since Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, the Democrats, their allied media outlets and powerful forces in the US intelligence community have been beset by a Russia hysteria unseen since the Red scares in the 1920s and 1950s.

The fact that Obama bent over backward to cater to Putin’s interests for eight years has been pushed down the memory hole.

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What can be done about Iran? In Israel, a dispute is reportedly raging between the IDF and the Mossad about the greatest threat facing Israel. IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot thinks that Hezbollah is the greatest threat facing Israel. Mossad Director Yossi Cohen thinks Iran’s nuclear program is the greatest danger facing the Jewish state.

While the media highlight the two men’s disagreement, the underlying truth about their concerns has been ignored.

Hezbollah and Iran’s nuclear program are two aspects of the same threat: the regime in Tehran.

Hezbollah is a wholly owned subsidiary of the regime. If the regime disappeared, Hezbollah would fall apart. As for the nuclear installations, in the hands of less fanatical leaders, they would represent a far less acute danger to global security.

So if you undermine the Iranian regime, you defeat Hezbollah and defuse the nuclear threat.

If you fail to deal with the regime in Tehran, both threats will continue to grow no matter what you do, until they become all but insurmountable.

So what can be done about Tehran? With each passing day we discover new ways Iran endangers Israel and the rest of the region.

This week we learned Iran has built underground weapons factories in Lebanon. The facilities are reportedly capable of building missiles, drones, small arms and ammunition. Their underground location protects them from aerial bombardment.

Then there is Hezbollah’s relationship to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).

For more than a decade, the Americans have been selling themselves the implausible claim that the LAF is a responsible fighting force capable and willing to rein in Hezbollah. Never an easy claim – the LAF provided targeting information to Hezbollah missile crews attacking Israel in 2006 – after Hezbollah domesticated the Lebanese government in 2008, the claim became downright silly. And yet, over the past decade, the US has provided the LAF with weapons worth in excess of $1 billion. In 2016 alone the US gave the LAF jets, helicopters, armored personnel carriers and missiles worth more than $220 million.

In recent months, showing that Iran no longer feels the need to hide its control over Lebanon, the LAF has openly stated that it is working hand in glove with Hezbollah.

Last November, Hezbollah showcased US M113 armored personnel carriers with roof-mounted Russian anti-aircraft guns, at a military parade in Syria. The next month the Americans gave the LAF a Hellfire missile-equipped Cessna aircraft with day and night targeting systems.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun is a Hezbollah ally. So is Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf and LAF commander Gen. Joseph Aoun.

Last month President Aoun told Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, that Hezbollah serves “a complementary role to the Lebanese army.”

And yet the Americans insist that it continues to make sense – and to be lawful – to arm the LAF.

You can hardly blame them. Denial is an attractive option, given the alternatives.

For the past eight years, the Obama administration did everything in its power to empower Iran. To make Iran happy, Obama did nothing as hundreds of thousands of Syrians were killed and millions more were forced to flee their homes by Iran and its puppet Bashar Assad.

Obama allowed Iran to take over the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military. He sat back as Iran’s Houthi proxy overthrew the pro-US regime in Yemen.

And of course, the crowning achievement of Obama’s foreign policy was his nuclear deal with the mullahs. Obama’s deal gives Iran an open path to a nuclear arsenal in a bit more than a decade and enriches the regime beyond Ayatollah Khamenei’s wildest dreams.

Obama empowered Iran at the expense of the US’s Sunni allies and Israel, and indeed, at the expense of the US’s own superpower status in the region, to enable the former president to withdraw the US from the Middle East.

Power of course, doesn’t suffer a vacuum, and the one that Obama created was quickly filled.

For decades, Russia has been Iran’s major arms supplier. It has assisted Iran with its nuclear program and with its ballistic missile program. Russia serves as Iran’s loyal protector at the UN Security Council.

But for all the help it provided Tehran through the years, Moscow never presented itself as Iran’s military defender.

That all changed in September 2015. Two months after Obama cut his nuclear deal with the ayatollahs, Russia deployed its forces to Syria on behalf of Iran and its Syrian and Lebanese proxies.

In so doing, Russia became the leading member and the protector of the Iranian axis.

Russia’s deployment of forces had an immediate impact not only on the war in Syria, but on the regional power balance as a whole. With Russia serving as the air force for Iran and its Syrian and Hezbollah proxies, the Assad regime’s chances of survival increased dramatically. So did Iran’s prospects for regional hegemony.

For Obama, this situation was not without its advantages.

In his final year in office, Obama’s greatest concern was ensuring that his nuclear deal with Iran would outlive his presidency. Russia’s deployment in Syria as the protector of Iran and its proxies was a means of achieving this end.

Russia’s alliance with Iran made attacking Iran’s nuclear program or its Hezbollah proxy a much more dangerous prospect than it had been before.

After all, in 2006, Russia supported Iran and Hezbollah in their war against Israel. But Russia’s support for Iran and its Lebanese legion didn’t diminish Israel’s operational freedom. Israel was able to wage war without any fear that its operations would place it in a direct confrontation with the Russian military.

This changed in September 2015.

The first person to grasp the strategic implications of the Russian move was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu recognized that with Russian forces on the ground in Syria, the only way for Israel to take even remedial measures to protect itself from Iran and its proxies was to drive a wedge between President Vladimir Putin and the ayatollahs wide enough to enable Israel to continue its raids against weapons convoys to Hezbollah and other targets without risking a confrontation with Russia. This is the reason that Netanyahu boarded a flight to Moscow to speak to Putin almost immediately after the Russian leader deployed his forces to Syria.

Israel’s ability to continue to strike targets in Syria, whether along the border on the Golan Heights or deep within Syrian territory, is a function of Netanyahu’s success in convincing Putin to limit his commitment to his Iranian allies.

Since President Donald Trump entered the White House, Iran has been his most urgent foreign policy challenge. Unlike Obama, Trump recognizes that Iran’s nuclear program and its threats to US economic and strategic interests in the Persian Gulf and the Levant cannot be wished away.

And so he has decided to deal with Iran.

The question is, what is he supposed to do? Trump has three basic options.

He can cut a deal with Russia. He can act against Iran without cutting a deal with Russia. And he can do nothing, or anemically maintain Obama’s pro-Iran policies.

The first option has the greatest potential strategic payoff. If Trump can convince Russia to ditch Iran, then he has a chance of dismantling the regime in Tehran and so defusing the Iranian nuclear program and destroying Hezbollah without having to fight a major war.

The payoff to Russia for agreeing to such a deal would be significant. But if Trump were to adopt this policy, the US has a lot of bargaining chips that it can use to convince Putin to walk away from the ayatollahs long enough for the US to defuse the threat they pose to its interests.

The problem with the Russia strategy is that since Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, the Democrats, their allied media outlets and powerful forces in the US intelligence community have been beset by a Russia hysteria unseen since the Red scares in the 1920s and 1950s.

The fact that Obama bent over backward to cater to Putin’s interests for eight years has been pushed down the memory hole.

Also ignored is the fact that during her tenure as secretary of state, Clinton approved deals with the Russians that were arguably antithetical to US interests while the Clinton Foundation received millions of dollars in contributions from Russian businessmen and companies closely allied with Putin.

Since November 8, the Democrats and their clapping seals in the media and allies in the US intelligence community have banged the war drums against Russia, accusing Trump and his advisers of serving as Russian patsies at best, and Russian agents at worst.

In this climate, it would be politically costly for Trump to implement a Russian-based strategy for dismantling the Iranian threat.

This brings us to the second option, which is to confront Iran and Russia. Under this option, US action against Iran could easily cause hostilities to break out between the US and Russia. It goes without saying that the political fallout from making a deal with Russia would be nothing compared to the political consequences if Trump were to take the US down a path that led to war with Russia.

Obviously, the economic and human costs of such a confrontation would be prohibitive regardless of the political consequences.

This leaves us with the final option of doing nothing, or anemically continuing to implement Obama’s policies, as the Americans are doing today.

Although tempting, the hard truth is that this is the most dangerous policy of all.

You need only look to North Korea to understand why this is so.

Seemingly on a daily basis, Pyongyang threatens to nuke America. And the US has no good options for dealing with the threat.

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged during his recent trip to Asia, decades of US diplomacy regarding North Korea’s nuclear program did nothing to diminish or delay the threat.

North Korea has been able to develop nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles while threatening the US with destruction because North Korea enjoys the protection of China. If not for the Chinese, the US would long ago have dealt a death blow to the regime.

Israel has moved Russia as far away from Iran as it can on its own. It is enough to stop convoys of North Korean weapons from crossing into Lebanon.

But it isn’t enough to cause serious harm to Tehran or its clients.

The only government that can do that is the American government.

Trump built his career by mastering the art of deal making. And he recognized that Obama’s deal with Iran is not the masterpiece Obama and his allies claim but a catastrophe.

The Iran deal Trump needs to make with the Russians is clear. The only question is whether he is willing to pay the political price it requires.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh: Why the Islamist State of Iran is So Dangerous

March 22, 2017

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh: Why the Islamist State of Iran is So Dangerous, Clarion ProjectElliot Friedland, March 22, 2017

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh. (Photo: Supplied)

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a world-renowned Iranian-American political scientist,  businessman and author. He is a leading expert on Iran, Middle East, US foreign policy, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East and North Africa. Harvard-educated, Rafizadeh serves on the board on Harvard International Review. Born in Iran, Dr. Rafizadeh lived most of his life in Iran and Syria.

He can be reached on Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh or by email at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu

He graciously agreed to speak with Clarion Project Dialogue Coordinator Elliot Friedland about Iran and why he feels so strongly about the threat posed by the regime. The views expressed below are those of Dr. Rafizadeh’s and not necessarily those of Clarion Project.

1. Clarion Project: What do you think is so dangerous about the regime of Iran?

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh: There are so many reasons why the Islamist state of Iran is extremely dangerous. They could fill an entire book.

Briefly speaking, I believe there are four major reasons, or what I will call, five concentric forces of extremism and fundamentalism:

First of all, from my perspective, the Iranian regime is far more dangerous than terrorist groups such as the Islamic State or Al Qaeda. On a daily basis, Iran tortures and executes people on a much larger scale than terrorist organizations such as ISIS. It is the top state sponsor of terrorism in the world. It supports militarily and financially hundreds of militia and terrorist groups all around the world. It regularly gives birth to terrorist groups. Only one country, the Islamist state of Iran single-handedly assists almost one quarter of world-designated terrorist groups. The Iranian regime contributes in terrorist attacks around the world. This means that the Iranian regime is responsible for blood spilled across many nations, for the slaughter of countless victims of terrorism. Iran has placed spies, lobbyists and agents across the globe, even in the U.S.

The Iranian regime is more dangerous than ISIS and Al Qaeda combined because the Islamist state of Iran operates under the “legitimacy” of the state system. Unlike ISIS or Al Qaeda, the Iranian regime has easily gotten away with its brutal actions for almost four decades because it is a “government” and supported by the United Nations when it comes to sovereignty. Since the ruling clerics rule a country, no one questions their actions.

Unlike terrorists groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, the Iranian regime has powerful ballistic missiles which can hit any country in the region; it has military institutions, it hires hundreds of thousands of militiamen, it freely controls the wealth of a large nation and wields all of the influence that comes with it. Instead of solely focusing on ISIS, the international community should also address the Iranian regime.

A military parade in Iran. (Photo: Getty Images)

 

Secondly, the Iranian regime is a radical theocracy. This means that its core pillars are anchored in radical Islamism and extreme interpretations of the religion of Islam. The Iranian regime imposes strict Shia sharia laws to suppress and control its population and export its ideology beyond its borders.  For nearly four decades, the ruling political establishment has exploited Islam and used their fundamentalist version of Islam in order to advance its parochial, religious, ideological, revolutionary and political interests. From the Iranian regime’s perspective, it is mandatory to commit any act of terrorism necessary to advance these religious and political goals.

Third, the Iranian regime ranks at the very top when it comes to human rights abuses according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. This regime brutally cracks down on religious and ethnic minorities. It crushes all kinds of freedoms on a daily basis, engages in torture, and executes children.

Fourth, the Iranian regime’s objective is to spread its Shia radical Islamism across the globe. The Islamist state of Iran’s constitution clearly states that it is the mission of the Islamic state to export its ideology, religion and revolutionary principles beyond its borders. The functions of Iran’s Quds Force, proxies, lobbyists and agents among others, are to accomplish this goal. The constitution mandates an “Imam” or “Velyat-e Faqih” to rule people; which is another form of authoritarian theocracy. The regime believes that the world will be ruled under the power of the Islamic state of Iran and its Shia sharia law. It will do anything to achieve this religious and political objective.

Fifth, the Iranian regime aims at directly damaging the US and Israel’s national security interests in addition to any other country that opposes its authoritarian views. The regime has killed Americans and Westerners and it continues to fund efforts to harm the lives of American and Israeli people, as well as millions of other people.

 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif laughs during the nuclear negotiations. (Photo: Reuters)

 

2. Clarion: The Iranian people are a lot more liberal than the regime. How can outside powers such as the United States reach out to and empower the people without emboldening the regime?

Rafizadeh: First of all, the U.S. government and other powers need to cooperate with those voices which oppose the theocratic and Islamist state of Iran. Powerful countries should stand on the right side of history.  There are many human rights groups and civil societies inside and outside of Iran that aim to democratize Iran and eliminate its violence. The U.S. specifically can help these people and unite the groups they form. It is in the long-term interest of any influential country that makes the effort to unify those that oppose the Islamic state and the human rights activists that struggle against it. Providing support to  opposition groups is an effective tool that will empower the Iranian people without emboldening the government. Seeing these groups strengthen and grow in numbers would frighten Iran’s government and weaken its grasp on the country as a whole.

Secondly, the U.S. and other powerful countries should cease all diplomatic, political, or economic ties with the Islamist state of Iran. They need to put pressure on the regime to respect human rights and to moderate its militaristic and ideological foreign policy. Four decades of diplomacy has not changed the violent behavior of the Islamist state of Iran.

A building in Tehran emblazoned with anti-American graffiti. (Photo: ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

3. Clarion: Now that the Iran Deal has gone through and will be upheld, what is the next step for those worried about the regime’s nuclear ambitions?

Rafizadeh: I strongly believe, and we should all be aware, that the Iranian regime will use every opportunity to acquire nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are the Iranian regime’s golden shield which can guarantee its rule for eternity and will ensure the achievement of its radical goals.

The nuclear deal is very dangerous. When it expires, it will allow Iran to legally become a nuclear state. It is already providing Iran with billions of dollars every year, wealth that is used for extremism, terrorism, damaging U.S. national interests, and killing Westerners and Americans.

The nuclear activities of the Iranian regime should be monitored by independent groups meticulously. History has shown us, that the International Atomic Energy Agency or the UN will not detect Iran’s undercover nuclear operations. They have failed to do so several times.  All violations should be brought to the attention of the public. In addition, sanctions (particularly the UN Security Council’s sanctions) should be re-imposed on the Iranian regime. The Iranian regime should be punished for its ballistic activities and violations of UN resolutions. Without consequences, they have no motivation to limit their activities or progress toward becoming a nuclear state.

Then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tours the nuclear facility at Natanz. (Photo: Reuters)

4. Clarion: Should international activists who want to see the Iranian situation improve be using a policy of detente and engagement or isolation, boycotts and shaming?

Rafizadeh: The only policy that has resulted in success against the Iranian Regime was the application of pressure and boycotts. For example, in several cases, when there has been an international outcry and when the media paid attention to a victim of torture or execution in Iran, the Iranian regime has been forced to change its sentence. The economic boycotts successfully forced the Iranian regime to the negotiating table.

For the Islamic state of Iran, engagement and concessions signal weakness, not diplomacy. Negotiations only embolden and empower the regime. Applying pressure is the most effective, and likely only way, to create change within the regime.

A woman protests against nuclear weapons for Iran at a rally in Times Square. (Photo: KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images

5.  Clarion: What is the most important thing people who want to eliminate extremism and see positive relations between Muslims and non Muslims should be doing?

Rafizadeh: The most important thing is to do what you [Clarion] are doing: to give a voice to those Muslims who strongly oppose radical Islam and attempt to create reforms from within Islam. Those silent moderate Muslims need to speak up, and need to be supported when they do. If we stay silent, radical Islam will continue winning and expanding. It is our job to strongly stand against radical Islam even if that endangers our life. People should know that there are truly some Muslims who want to forge genuine reformation in Islam and help eliminate radical Islam.

Many Muslims, including myself and my family, who have endured oppression under radical Islam in Muslim nations, would like to eliminate radical Islam, promote a peaceful moderate form of Islam and lead a reformation.

Finally, I describe in detail other important topics in this article “As a Muslim, I am shocked by Leftists and Liberals” as well as in my books.

I grew up between two authoritarian governments, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria, under the leadership of people such as Assad, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. My youth was influenced by two major denominations of Islam in the Muslim world; the Shia and Sunni. I also studied Shia and Sunni Islam academically, and at one point I was a very devout Muslim. My parents, who still live in Iran and Syria, come from two different ethnic Muslim groups; Arab and Persian.

Unfortunately, in the West and particularly in the US I have witnessed that there are some groups, who have access to megaphones, including liberals, democrats, leftists and Western Muslim scholars (who have never experienced radical Islam first hand and have never lived under states ruled by sharia law) spread apologetic views toward radical Islam. They also criticize those Muslims who attempt to promote social justice and peace within Islam.

If liberals, leftists and many Western Muslim scholars truly stand for values which they call for, such as peace and social justice, they should be aware that their actions are actually contributing to the expansion of radical Islam, and they are hurting us and our efforts to lead reformation in Islam and weaken radical Islam.

In Media, Iranian Foreign Minister, Majlis Member Clash Over Iran-U.S. Relationship

March 10, 2017

In Media, Iranian Foreign Minister, Majlis Member Clash Over Iran-U.S. Relationship, MEMRI, March 9, 2017

(If we send Kerry, will they keep him?

–DM)

Recently, Iranian Majlis member and National Security and Foreign Policy Committee member Javad Karimi Ghodosi, from the ideological camp that is critical of the JCPOA and of Iranian ties to the U.S. made accusations against Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. In a February 28, 2017 interview, Ghodosi told the YJC website, which belongs to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), that Zarif had sent a letter to his U.S. counterpart Secretary of State Rex Tillerson requesting, inter alia, that former secretary of state John Kerry be appointed special JCPOA representative. Ghodosi also noted: “[I]t is unclear whether the letter was sent in coordination with regime officials in Iran.”

The Iranian Foreign Ministry immediately denied Ghodosi’s allegations, attributing ulterior motives to him and saying that he was attempting to defame Iran’s diplomatic officials.

These statements must be viewed in the context of the Iranian leadership’s apprehensions about what the Trump administration will do next, after President Trump tweeted, on February 2, that “Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile” and added that the JCPOA was a “terrible deal.” They must also be viewed against the backdrop of the disagreement within the Iranian leadership over what its strategic response to the U.S. should be – whether to work with it, in line with the pragmatic camp’s approach, or to strengthen strategic ties with Russia, in line with the IRGC’s position.

Ghodosi, Zarif. Source: YJC, February 28, 2017

Following is the translation of the YJC interview with Ghodosi and of the Foreign Ministry’s rebuttal:

Majlis Member Ghodosi: Foreign Minister Zarif Asked Secretary Of State Tillerson To Appoint John Kerry As JCPOA Representative Because Of His Ties With The Iranians

“The Foreign Minister [Zarif] has sent a letter to [U.S. Secretary of State] Rex Tillerson with four requests. I hope the foreign minister will not deny this, because everything I say is true.

“One of the requests that Zarif presented to the American secretary of state is that America not take steps to cancel the JCPOA, and that if it did, Iran would submit a complaint to the [UN] Security Council regarding American violations of the JCPOA.

“Zarif’s most important request to the American secretary of state is that the U.S. State Department appoint a special JCPOA representative. The letter stated that John Kerry should be selected for this position, because he has a good and transparent relationship with the [Iranian] negotiating team.

“In this letter, Zarif [also] proposed to the new American secretary of state that he conduct a secret bilateral meeting in Istanbul, Turkey.

“Additionally, Zarif also requested that a direct emergency line be set up for special cases between the two countries’ foreign ministries.

“Thus far, no response from the new American secretary of state to the Iranian foreign minister’s letter has been received, and it is unclear whether the letter was sent in coordination with regime officials in Iran. However, since Iran does not approve of such ties [with the U.S.], we must question [whether it was coordinated with regime officials].

“Additionally, the Iranian foreign minister sent three letters to [EU Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica] Mogherini presenting [Iranian allegations of U.S.] JCPOA violations. This is an excellent revolutionary letter.

“Regime officials stressed to the Iranian foreign minister that the public must be kept up to date regarding such letters and JCPOA violations. In any case, even Zarif’s fourth letter, [which was] to [Iran’s] National Security Committee, mentioned no such JCPOA violations.

“In light of the increasing severity of the sanctions, which keeps rising, the government, and especially [President] Rohani and [Foreign Minister] Zarif, must be more transparent with public opinion on nuclear matters.”

Foreign Ministry Vehemently Denies Ghodosi’s Claims

The Iranian Foreign Ministry announcement stated that “this new, untrue, and unfounded claim by Karimi Ghodosi on the matter of letters by Zarif to the American secretary of state is strongly denied.

“The Foreign Ministry is shocked and saddened by the improper and bizarre thought process of Karimi Ghodosi, who insists on continuing to make false and unfounded allegations about the senior echelon of the Iranian diplomatic corps. The aim of this appears to be disruption of public opinion and self-aggrandizement. As in the past, these claims will not benefit his specific goals.

“The wise and diligent Majlis members are well informed about all of Iran’s foreign policy, and will not be influenced by these false statements.

“Such deviant issues will [also] not influence the continuation of the principled path of the Foreign Ministry, or its general operating frameworks. Measures that disrupt public opinion are against national security and can be dealt with by legal means.”[1]

___________________________

[1] YJC (Iran), February 28, 2017.

Iran honestly abiding by nuclear deal or terrified of changing times?

March 7, 2017

Iran honestly abiding by nuclear deal or terrified of changing times? Al Arabiya, Heshmat Alavi, March 7, 2017

(Al Arabiya is “a Saudi-owned pan-Arab[4] television news channel.” — DM)

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano addresses a news conference after a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria March 6, 2017. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

During the Obama years Iran understood very well his administration would take no serious actions against their aggressive nature, as seen in the West’s relative silence in the face of more than a dozen missile test launches.

To this end, Iran’s recent compliance by JCPOA articles should only be perceived as a result of its deep fear in the new US administration’s possible policies.

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Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently issued his latest report to the agency’s Board of Governors. At a first glance the text leaves you thinking Iran is honoring the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA.

However, considering the rapid pace of international developments, and US President Donald Trump’s harsh remarks against the nuclear deal, we are seeing Iran going the limits to maintain the JCPOA intact. This is a staunchly different approach from the Obama era.

The latest IAEA report contains very important technical aspects, showing how weak Iran has become. Despite all the threats of abandoning the JCPOA ship altogether, Iran’s recent measures proves it needs the JCPOA more than any other party.

By the statistics

On November 8th, 2016 the IAEA verified Iran’s heavy water reserves reached 130.1 metric tons. Iran also informed the IAEA about sending 11 metric tons of heavy water outside of its borders on November 6th and 19th, also verified by the IAEA.

After this transfer Iran has not dared to exceed the 130 metric ton limit, and on February 14th the IAEA verified Iran’s reserves have decreased to 124.2 metric tons, meaning even 6 metric tons less than the JCPOA specified amount.

During the Obama administration Iran had twice exceeded the 130 metric ton limit, and yet rushed to send the excess amount to Oman prior to Donald Trump taking the helm at the White House.

Natanz

Under the JCPOA Iran is permitted to maintain more than 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges in 30 cascades in the Natanz enrichment site. Again, terrified of the incoming Trump administration, reports indicate Iran has significantly lowered the number of such centrifuges.

Iran is continuing to enrich UF6 uranium at Natanz, yet not daring to enrich any uranium above the 3.67 percent standard set for nuclear fuel production. Iran has also not exceeded the 300-kilogram amount of 3.67 percent uranium 235, equal to 202.8 kilograms of uranium.

By February 18th Iran had stored 101.7 kilograms of 3.67 percent uranium, showing the regime has not only abided, but even halved their stocks. This is another sign of Iran’s concerns of the change in guards in Washington.

Ferdow

The controversial Ferdow uranium enrichment, with a capacity of 3,000 centrifuges, currently has 1,044 IR-1 centrifuges, where 1,042 are placed in six cascades, and two such centrifuges are set aside for research purposes.

During the past three months (especially following the November 8th US elections) Iran has suspended all of Ferdow’s uranium enrichment and R & D activities.

Surveillance

All stocked centrifuges, along with their components, are under constant IAEA surveillance. The IAEA enjoys orderly access to related facilities in Natanz, including daily inspections based on IAEA inspectors’ requests.

Iran continues to allow the IAEA use electronic surveillance devices and online seals on its uranium enrichment facilities to provide continuous monitoring. Iran has also agreed to provide for the presence of a larger number IAEA monitors.

Iran has agreed to abide by the Additional Protocol, once considered a red line for the regime, allowing the IAEA monitor a large number of sites and other facilities affiliated to Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran’s enriched uranium in Oman

Another sign of Iran giving in to major setbacks is the regime’s agreement to stock their enriched uranium in Oman, and seek its sale to foreign buyers from there. This also includes stocks of excessive heavy water. And yet, Iran is also concerned about the fate of its money in Oman banks, as expressed by a number of parliament members.

The irony

In the meantime, one cannot say for certain that the mullahs have actually relented their nuclear weapons drive. It is in the mullahs’ nature to continue their pursuit for terrorism, nuclear weapons and domestic crackdown. These are the Iranian regime’s three main pillars.

It is common knowledge that the mullahs enjoy no social base, and this is seen in remarks made by Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency chief saying in most of his interviews how Tehran intends to relaunch the nuclear program once the JCPOA time limit ends.

Despite all this, the mullahs very well understand the language of force. Iran only succumbed to the nuclear talks once international sanctions began crippling their economy.

During the Obama years Iran understood very well his administration would take no serious actions against their aggressive nature, as seen in the West’s relative silence in the face of more than a dozen missile test launches.

To this end, Iran’s recent compliance by JCPOA articles should only be perceived as a result of its deep fear in the new US administration’s possible policies.

Investments

After Obama left office foreign investment in Iran has also witnessed a nosedive, adding to the mullahs’ growing concerns. Tehran curbed a portion of its nuclear program, yet receiving nothing in return and continuously being described as the main state supporter of terrorism, instability and insecurity.

Iran’s unfrozen money has been transferred to Oman, and yet the government says it cannot release the assets to Tehran. Iran has at least $18 billion blocked in China, with no means to gain access to.

British Petroleum also had double thoughts following Trump’s entrance into the White House. This major international oil company has currently taken a major step back from participating in Iran’s oil projects.

Total in France, seeking to develop the major gas fields south of Iran, has also taken similar measures, suspending its activities until the summer of this year to allow Trump to clarify his JCPOA policy.

Foreign banks and companies

Why are French companies unable to invest in Iran? This country’s largest banks are holding back on any cooperation with Tehran, blocking any major investment by large French companies in this country. In addition to Total, Renault, AirBus and others are unable to invest in Iran without the support of major French banks such as Societe Generale.

These banks, however, are very concerned of unilateral punishing measures by the US against foreign entities investing in Iran. For example, the BNP Paribas was slapped with an $8.9 billion fine by Washington for bypassing US sanctions against Iran.

Airline restrictions

Japan’s Mitsubishi ended its negotiations to sell planes to Iran, citing concerns of the new US administration’s possible future sanctions and policies.

Despite Tehran seeking to expand its airlines and reach abroad following the nuclear deal, New Delhi delivered yet another blow by suspending its flights to Iran.

“Air India Express, the low-cost unit of the South Asian nation’s flag carrier, has put on hold a plan to fly to Tehran amid renewed tensions between the US and Iran after President Donald Trump imposed fresh sanctions on the Persian Gulf country,” according to a Bloomberg report.

Money laundry warnings

The Financial Action Task Force, the international body assigned to fight back against money laundering, issued a stark warning to Tehran to live up to its obligations or else face serious actions.

The FATF recently issued a strong reminder saying “in June 2016, the FATF suspended counter-measures for twelve months in order to monitor Iran’s progress in implementing the Action Plan. If the FATF determines that Iran has not demonstrated sufficient progress in implementing the Action Plan at the end of that period, FATF’s call for counter-measures will be re-imposed.”

Conclusion

More than a year after the JCPOA implementation, and with Washington adopting a completely new mentality and overhauling any pro-appeasement policies vis-à-vis Iran, the mullahs in Tehran have realized the global balance of power has shifted completely against their interests.

To this end, their recent measures to curtail their nuclear stocks should not be considered a coming to mind by Tehran. Not at all. The mullahs understand the language of force, just as President Ronald Reagan came to office in 1981 the fledgling mullahs’ regime rushed to release all American hostages after a 444 ordeal.

Now, Tehran is once again comprehending a significant shift in international politics, and it is taking measures accordingly to limit all possible damages. And rest assured they will jump to the occasion if they sense any weakness or hesitation.

As a result, Iran must be held at the ropes and the next necessary step in this regard is the long overdue designation of its Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization. This will begin to limit its ability to wreak havoc across the Middle East and limit its human rights atrocities.

This is in the interest of all nations.
_________________________
Heshmat Alavi is a political and rights activist. His writing focuses on Iran, ranging from human rights violations, social crackdown, the regime’s support for terrorism and meddling in foreign countries, and the controversial nuclear program. He tweets at @HeshmatAlavi & blogs at IranCommentary.

Remember When Obama Spied on Congressmen Opposed to Iran Deal?

March 6, 2017

Remember When Obama Spied on Congressmen Opposed to Iran Deal? Front Page Magazine, Daniel Greenfield, March 5, 2017

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When the media puts on its befuddled face over Trump’s allegations, remember what Obama was doing little more than a year ago.

The National Security Agency’s (NSA) continued surveillance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli leaders may also have swept up private conversations involving members of Congress, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday night.

Further, the Journal reports that intercepted conversations between Israeli leaders confirmed Israel’s knowledge of the talks, as well as its intent to undermine any nuclear deal with Iran by leaking its details. When Netanyahu and his top aides came to Washington to talk with Jewish-American groups and members of Congress to lobby against the deal, the NSA was there to pick up the conversations.

Senior officials told the WSJ that those conversations collected by the NSA raised fears “that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress.” The White House wanted the information anyway, however, because it “believed the intercepted information could be valuable to counter Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign.”

So in order to avoid leaving a trail, the White House left it to the NSA to figure out what to share, and the NSA obliged, deleting names of members and any personal attacks on the administration.

To summarize…

1. Obama Inc. used surveillance of an ally and of domestic groups, even members of Congress, to defend its own political agenda

2. It did so relying on plausible deniability

3. The information was shared across the administration and planted in the media

Kerry justified his accusation by pointing to Israeli media reports, but those reports were a convenient source, given that “Intelligence officials said the media reports allowed the U.S. to put Mr. Netanyahu on notice without revealing they already knew his thinking. The prime minister mentioned no secrets during his speech to Congress,” wrote the Journal.

There was no firewall between spying for national security and for a political agenda. That was the most important point here. Everything else is plausible deniability.

White House officials believed the intercepted information could be valuable to counter Netanyahu’s campaign. They also recognized that asking for it was politically risky. So, wary of a paper trail stemming from a request, the White House let the NSA decide what to share and what to withhold, officials said. “We didn’t say, ‘Do it,’ ” a senior U.S. official said. “We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it.’ ”

When you hear the current Obama denials, remember that they almost certainly played another variation of the same game.

What every American should know about the CIA analyst who quit and blamed Trump

March 2, 2017

What every American should know about the CIA analyst who quit and blamed Trump, Center for Security Policy, Fred Fleitz, March 1, 2017

cialogo

Last week, Edward Price, a former CIA analyst, became a media darling after the Washington Post published Price’s op-ed announcing his resignation from the CIA because he was unable to serve the Trump administration in good faith because of President Trump’s policies and disregard for the U.S. Intelligence Community.

 While several media outlets rushed to interview Price and depict him as an ethical, non-political CIA officer who rejected what he claimed was the “deceitful” and “delusional” Trump administration, a brief look at the facts suggest not only is this a blatant instance of fake news, but that Price is a “fake” CIA analyst.

 OK, Price really did work for the CIA.  But for the past several years he was a member of the Obama National Security Council staff, apparently on a detail assignment from the CIA.  His NSC job was serving as a spokesman and helping deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes run the Obama NSC “echo chamber” that misled the news media, Congress and the American people about the July 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.  Price even bragged to New York Times writer David Samuels about how he manipulated and lied to the press to promote the Iran deal.

Price’s selective outrage over Trump administration’s polices – which are still being finalized – while he was part of the Obama Iran deal echo chamber is pretty galling.  It’s also hard to square Price’s NSC position with his statements to the Post that his resignation had “nothing to do with politics” and said “as intelligence professionals, we’re taught to tune out politics.”  Price also apparently had no problem with the CIA crafting politicized talking points on the Benghazi terrorist attacks in 2014 or the Obama administration pressuring CENTCOM intelligence analyststo slant their analysis of ISIS to favor Obama administration policy.

 I also wonder why, if Price is really such a paragon of virtue and a champion of keeping politics out of intelligence, that he didn’t resign last summer after Senator Harry Reid called on intelligence analysts to give Candidate Trump fake intelligence briefings.

But the bigger question is why the CIA was paying Price to be an Obama administration political hack.  Once Price assumed such an extremely partisan NSC job, he stopped being a bona fide intelligence officer.  A CIA officer should never have been allowed to serve in a job like this or to participate in a scheme to mislead the American people and the U.S. Congress.

This also is fake news because the mainstream media left out crucial facts.  For example, Price contributed a total of $5,000 to the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party in 2016.  This was a huge contribution for a government employee and suggests Price was angling for a senior job in a Clinton administration.  None of the mainstream media press accounts I reviewed mentions this contribution, although the Washington Post added the following clarification to the Price story after it was criticized for omitting this information:

“Clarification: This column should have included a disclosure of donations made by author Edward Price in support of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In August, Price gave a total of $5,000 to the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party.”

All of the mainstream media accounts also omitted that Price is a fellow with the Truman Project, a leftwing think tank that served as a mouthpiece for the Obama administration, and that he worked for several Democratic political campaigns.

Price’s resignation had everything to do with politics.  This is the story of a liberal political hack quitting a Republican administration.  Price engineered a splashy resignation advertised on the opinion pages of the Washington Post as part of the Democratic Party’s effort to undermine President Trump and to secure himself a well-paid perch in a liberal think tank to bash the Trump administration.  The media’s coverage of Price’s resignation is typical of its extremely biased coverage of President Trump.

The bottom line: this is fake news about a fake CIA officer.