Archive for the ‘Iran scam’ category

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

April 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What North Korea Should Teach Us about Iran

April 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran’s Stage-Managed Elections

April 15, 2017

Iran’s Stage-Managed Elections, American ThinkerReza Shafiee, April 15, 2017

(What can President Trump do to promote regime change in Iran? What can he do to support the resistance, in and outside Iran? What, if anything will he do?– DM)

Iran’s history has shown that people are willing to risk and speak openly when they have outside support and sympathy. The United States’ policies with regard to human rights have an instant effect in hearts and minds of ordinary citizens in Iran. What happened in Iran in 2009 is not a distant memory. The Obama administration’s flawed policy set off a chain reactions in the region which still reverberates in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. By focusing just on getting the nuclear deal done with the mullahs in Tehran, it actually left out other pressing issues such supporting the Iranian people and indirectly preventing the carnage in the neighboring countries. 

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Every four years, Iranian citizen witness a show called ‘elections.’ These have nothing in common with genuine democratic elections; they’re facades. The upcoming May 19 elections are no exception.

A closer look at the candidates proves that they are no different from one another and all have a clear track record of participation in suppression of Iranian people over the past four decades. They have won the approval to enter the race by the mullahs for just this reason.

The two more serious ones are: Hassan Rouhani, the incumbent president; and Ebrahim Raisi, custodian of Iran’s wealthiest charity, Astan Quds Razavi in Iran’s holiest shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad, northeastern Iran. Having charge of such vast amount of wealth, it’s a given that Raisi enjoys Supreme Leader Khamenei’s full trust. Both candidates are cut from the same cloth and are committed to principle to Supreme Guardianship (Velayat-e faqih), meaning, the rule of the ayatollahs

So who are they? Let’s start with the second one.

Ebrahim Raiai a member of “Death Commission” and close confident of Ali Khamenei

He was a low-level cleric who climbed the ladder in the mullahs’ hierarchy just for his undeniable services to the late Khomeini in slaughtering of 30,000 political prisoners in summer of 1988. (In Iran, we don’t refer to Khomeini as “Ayatollah,” just Khomeini is enough.  The title has been stolen and abused by the ruling mullahs in Iran.) The prisoners were mainly members and sympathizers of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organizations of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

The “Death Commission” was a four-member body with the sole task of carrying out Khomeini’s fatwa against dissidents. In his hand-written decree, Khomeini openly ordered the commission to kill the political prisoners, the majority of whom had been already imprisoned.

Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, Khomeini’s handpicked successor was later sacked over his quarrel with Khomeini for the indiscriminate killings. In a shocking 28-year-old audio file of one the meetings of Death Commission leaked in August by his son Ahmad, Montazeri called the killings a “crime that future generations will certainly not forget” and declared: “It is committed in the name of the Islamic Republic and carried out by you.”

Ahmad Montazeri has regarded Ebrahim Raisi’s standing for presidential elections a ‘joke’ and ‘an insult to Iranian people’. Raisi’s record does not stop at just his role in the massacre of political prisoners in 1988, but what he did overrides any other tasks he has undertaken in Islamic Republic’s killing machine.

Canada’s Parliament adopted the following motion on June 5th, 2013 on the events of 1988 in Iran: “That the House condemn the mass murder of political prisoners in Iran in the summer of 1988 as a crime against humanity, honors the memory of the victims buried in mass graves at Khavaran cemetery and other locations in Iran, and establishes Sept. 1 as a day of solidarity with political prisoners in Iran.”

Now let’s look at the other candidate:

Hassan Rouhani is no saint

Make no mistake about Rouhani being a saint by comparison. He is not far behind Raisi when it comes to cruelty. For starters, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, his justice minister, is none other than another member of the same notorious Death Commission. Last summer when Pour-Mohammadi was pressed to answer for the massacre of 1988, he proudly said: “I carried out God’s will and I have not lost sleep over what I did.”

The rate of executions during Rouhani’s presidency has been unprecedented in past 25 years in Iran, according to Ahmed Shaheed, who was Iran’s last UN Special Rapporteur for human rights. During Rouhani’s tenure, around 3000 executions were carried out.

When asked about hangings during his presidency, Rouhani simply said: “They were carried out according to God’s laws.”

Amnesty International’s report for 2016 indicates that with the exception of China, Iran carried out 55 percent of all executions worldwide.

Rouhani has always said that he has been in a decision making-position throughout the life of the Islamic Republic. He personally was in a commanding position when the 1999 student uprisings were crushed in Iran.

The European Union extended its sanctions on Iranian regime’s offices for participating in suppression of Iranian citizens.

EU documents state that they target persons complicit in “torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, or the indiscriminate, excessive and increasing application of the death penalty, including public executions, stoning, hangings or executions of juvenile offenders.”

As U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley mentioned recently: “Peace and security cannot be achieved in isolation from human rights.” The long-suffering people of Iran, Syria, and Iraq bear witness that “human rights abuses are not the byproduct of conflict; they are the cause of conflict, or they are the fuel that feeds the conflict.”

There’s also a third candidate worth looking at:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is back in the race

The trio of Rouhani, Raisi and Ahmadinejad in Iran’s upcoming elections is more than a mere joke: It has a plain and clear message – that of Khamenei’s extreme weakness in controlling his goons. The humorous Iranian people have already made jokes about the three and this bagatelle called elections. Social media is full of them.

Khamenei ordered Ahmadinejad to stay away from elections. By disobeying his master’s direct order he is demonstrating the Supreme Leader’s unprecedented lack of control over his establishment. Khamenei offered an explicit warning in September that his candidacy would be a “polarizing situation” that would be “harmful to the country.”

That is a reference to the disputed election in 2009 which ignited massive street demonstrations and subsequent arrests of thousands of protesters and the killing of hundreds of others by the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Final thoughts     

Iran’s history has shown that people are willing to risk and speak openly when they have outside support and sympathy. The United States’ policies with regard to human rights have an instant effect in hearts and minds of ordinary citizens in Iran. What happened in Iran in 2009 is not a distant memory. The Obama administration’s flawed policy set off a chain reactions in the region which still reverberates in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. By focusing just on getting the nuclear deal done with the mullahs in Tehran, it actually left out other pressing issues such supporting the Iranian people and indirectly preventing the carnage in the neighboring countries.

The elections in Iran – for parliament or president – have been designed or “engineered,” as the word has been widely used, by the regime’s inner circles, for both internal and external consumption. However after the nuclear deal with the West, it has become a high priority for the regime to show popular support at home and project it as an image to the rest of the world as a regime fully in control and ready to do business. It is no secret that the regime has no popular support in Iran.

Ebrahim Rasis, Hassan Rounhani, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and their likes should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their crimes against humanity. Known human rights criminals such as entire ruling mullah class in Iran should not go unpunished. They should soon see the inside of International Criminal Court.

Reza Shafiee is a member of Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) 

 

After Syrian Gassing, Trump Must Expose the Iran Deal

April 10, 2017

After Syrian Gassing, Trump Must Expose the Iran Deal, PJ Media, Roger L Simon, April 9, 2017

Among the more disturbing questions emerging from the renewed use of gas by Bashar Assad is whether Barack Obama and his loyal minions (Kerry, Rhodes, Rice, etc.) actually knew the Syrian leader still had chemical weapons, even though they trumpeted the opposite to the American public on numerous occasions. Either they lied or were so extraordinarily credulous they believed — apparently without verification — the Syrians had truly rid themselves of those WMDs, in which case Obama — not Trump — was Vladimir Putin’s personal “useful idiot.”

(It may even be time to take a second look at the contention of some that Saddam transferred his chemical weapons to Syria way back when, which would be a surprise vindication of Bush 43.)

Whatever the case, it’s “heavy water” under the bridge at this point, but should alert us even more to the absolute necessity of revealing everything known about the also Obama-instigated Iran Deal, all its myriad hidden codicils and clauses that remain mysterious to the citizens of this country in whose name they were allegedly signed. That agreement too could be the product of useful idiocy, a sucker punch from the mullahs.  The devil, in this case, is very much in the details, few of which we know, except that the Iranians refused to give a baseline development level for their nuclear weapons program in this first place. In a sense, that made everything else moot.

Nevertheless, Iran has been the beneficiary of this deal to the tune of billions of dollars, some evidently in cash, much of which has been and is being spent in Syria, if not directly on chemical weapons, on a war that no less than the former chief rabbi of Israel, himself a Holocaust survivor, has called another Holocaust.  Iran is also using the money to finance Hezbollah in that war, simultaneously arming those terrorist thugs with tons of modern weapons, including long range missiles, even while the mullahs use Hezbollah’s guerrillas as cannon fodder to spare Iran’s own quasi-terrorist Revolutionary Guard. The Islamic Republic’s obvious goal is to control both Syria and Iraq by proxies.  A victorious Assad would be Iran’s boy as much as Russia’s, possibly more.

The Trump administration should expose this deal in its entirety to public view now.  If that means Iran pulls out of the agreement — as they have warned — so be it.  The transparency is worth whatever minimal insurance against a nuclear-armed Iran might be inherent in these evanescent documents.  After seeing just how much insurance against chemical weapons was inherent in Obama’s deal with Putin over the crossing of our then-president’s “red line,” one could be skeptical that there is any at all.  Indeed, what little we know of the Iran Deal leads one to believe that it would be simple for the mullahs to be as busy as ever on their nuclear program.  That they are allied with North Korea makes this all the more likely.

Further to be investigated is Obama’s peculiar desire to make a deal with these same mullahs from the very beginning of his administration or even before. Indeed, Obama representatives have been accused of meeting with both Hamas and Iran during his first presidential campaign. These meetings are better documented than Trump’s supposed collusion with Putin, which seems so unlikely now.

In a continuation of that behavior, Obama later famously ignored the pleas for support by the Iranian pro-democracy demonstrators during the Green Revolution of 2009.  “Obama, you are either with us or are you with them!”  they chanted.  Obama was evidently with them. He didn’t want to disrupt his rapport with Ahmadinejad in order to make his dreamed-of deal. (You can see it all on YouTube here.  As we used to say in the sixties, “Which side are you on?”)

Obama and Kerry then welcomed the election of Hassan Rouhani, whom their cheering section in the willfully ignorant mainstream media ludicrously called a “moderate” when he was, if anything, worse than Ahmadinejad and has since been responsible for many more murders of political prisoners than his predecessor.  They made their deal with Rouhani, who is obviously now cooperating in the maintenance of peace…. Well, not exactly.

What’s behind all this? As I said at the outset, this is disturbing — liberalism and progressivism turned upside down, at least according to their own self-described principles. Everything is situational. That Democrats like Schumer and Pelosi were so positive about Trump’s actions in Syria is a sure sign that not so deep down they were more than a little uncomfortable when Obama did nothing after a similar gassing.  Like a lot of people I would imagine, they had to bury their feelings and opinions in the name of party loyalty, what the French called mauvaise foi.  They should have felt the same way yet more intensely after Obama’s execrable non-reaction to the Green Revolution.  Maybe they did, but we’ll never know until someone leaks it out in a memoir. We didn’t need to send in the Marines.  All Obama would have had to have done was to say a few words of encouragement echoed by the international community and the revolution might have happened.  It was close enough.

Thank God there’s a new sheriff in town. Maybe there will be some hope for the citizens of Iran, eventually, some support for regime change after eight years of kowtowing to the mullahs.  But for now lets at least clear up the terms of the mysterious deal, its provenance and its usefulness, if any.  No time like the present.

Iran Will Not Cancel The JCPOA – Because It Grants Iran Nuclear State Status And Is A Western Guarantee For The Regime’s Survival

April 7, 2017

Iran Will Not Cancel The JCPOA – Because It Grants Iran Nuclear State Status And Is A Western Guarantee For The Regime’s Survival, MEMRIA. Savyon and Yigal Carmon* April 6, 2017

(Cf. The Real War in ‘Syria’ and the Strategy for Long-Term Victory. — DM)

Introduction

The JCPOA grants the Iranian regime two historic achievements – the status of a nuclear state and immunity against a Western attack due to its nuclear development. This is effectively a Western guarantee of the Islamic Republic regime’s survival. These achievements cannot be cancelled unless the agreement itself is declared invalid.

Iranian spokesmen have stressed that even if President Trump’s administration cancels the agreement, the agreement cannot be cancelled – because Iran, in its prescience, involved the EU and the UN in backing the agreement. Even if the U.S. alone were to cancel the agreement, it would still remain in force – that is, Iran’s status as a nuclear state would remain.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani stressed, for example, at a November 11, 2016 cabinet meeting, the day after Trump was elected president, that there was no way to cancel the agreement. He said: “Iran’s wisdom in the nuclear agreement was in the fact that it had the JCPOA approved as a UN Security Council resolution, and not as a [bilateral] agreement with a particular country or administration. Therefore, it will not be changed by any decision by a particular administration.”[1]

Following the JCPOA’s Implementation Day, in January 2016, and even previously, Iranian regime officials repeatedly warned that if the U.S. violated the agreement, and especially if more sanctions were leveled against Iran, Iran would cancel the agreement and revert to the status quo that existed before the agreement, and would even advance beyond it?

For example, an October 21, 2015 letter of guidelines from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to President Rohani constituting “conditional approval” for the agreement stated: “Throughout the eight-year period, any imposition of sanctions at any level and under any pretext (including repetitive and reiterated pretexts of terrorism and human rights) on the part of any of the countries party to the agreement will constitute a violation of the JCPOA and the [Iranian] government would be obligated to take the necessary action as per Clause 3 of the Majlis resolution and stop the activities mandated by the JCPOA.”[2]

Iran Is Changing Its Policy – From Threats To Cancel The Agreement To Threats Of A Parallel Response

However, after the U.S. leveled additional sanctions against Iran, during both the Obama and Trump administrations, it became clear[3] that Iran was not going to implement its threats. Instead, Iran presented a new formula that does not obligate it to abrogate the agreement, as it previously threatened. The new formula determined that the Iranian regime would respond to any U.S. violation of the agreement with its own parallel violation.

Indeed, on March 26, 2017, after the U.S. State Department’s March 24, 2017 announcement of new sanctions against companies and individuals connected to Iran’s missile program, Iran’s Foreign Ministry announced counter-sanctions against 15 U.S. companies. Additionally, in response to the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017, currently under consideration in the U.S. administration and the U.S. Senate designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization, Majlis National Security Committee chairman Ala Al-Din Boroujerdi announced, on March 25, 2017, that the committee would present to the Majlis a plan to designate the CIA and U.S. Armed Forces as terrorist organizations, to be carried out after the March 21 Iranian Norouz holiday.[4]

On April 3, 2017, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif reiterated: “If the moment comes that the Americans are not implementing the JCPOA, our reversion [to the pre-JCPOA situation] will be very swift, and we will arrive at even more than what we once had… We have enough guarantees for the day when the [Iranian] regime decides and feels that the level of America’s breaking of its promises is so high that we must revert to the pre-JCPOA [situation]. But it does not appear to me that this will happen.” [5]

It should be noted that in his threats about the possibility of Iran’s reversion to the status quo that existed prior to the agreement, Zarif does not set out any red line or specific condition whose violation will oblige Iran to cancel the agreement. Instead, he states that Iran will act “when it feels” that the U.S. is ratcheting up its level of violations against Iran. Furthermore, Zarif adds that such a situation, in his assessment, will not occur.

Iran’s backing down from its previous threats and warnings regarding the JCPOA’s continuing validity even if the U.S. cancels it is testimony to the agreement’s historic importance for the Iranian regime. In our assessment, Iran will not cancel the agreement even if the U.S. continues to level sanctions against the country, even if it is involved in military action against Iranian interests. Iran will not cancel an agreement that endows it with nuclear-state status and that constitutes a guarantee of the regime’s survival and provides immunity from a Western attack aimed at regime change. These historic achievements for Iran were granted to it by the Obama administration by means of the JCPOA.

Needless to say, the threat to revert to the pre-JCPOA situation is in itself an empty threat, because if the regime does this, it will bring itself back to a situation defined by then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as “a two-month [nuclear] breakout time.”[6] By doing so, it will bring closer the risk of attack by the West.

The JCPOA – A Tool To Ensure The Survival Of The Iranian Regime

The Iranian regime is clinging to the JCPOA because this agreement guarantees its survival. President Obama promoted the Iranian regime from the status of a “defendant state”, subject to Security Council sanctions for its nuclear program, to the status of a legitimate nuclear state that can negotiate with the rest of the world powers over upgrading its nuclear activity.

The existential threat that led Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to revive Iran’s nuclear project in 2002, (after the founder of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, stopped the country’s Shah-era nuclear project), was the threat to the regime’s survival. The regime was under threat both from being attacked directly by the West, with the aim of bringing about regime change, and indirectly by mobilizing opposition elements at home, which the regime labeled “fitna” – such as the fitna – i.e. civil unrest – following the 2009 presidential election, which it suppressed. For this reason, Khamenei, during the negotiations for the JCPOA, demanded that the U.S. stop the American broadcasts in Farsi to Iran, suspend its political and economic support for Iranian opposition groups, and stop criticizing Iranian censorship of the Internet – all three demands pertain to regime survival (see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 837, Khamenei’s Aim at the Nuclear Talks – Securing the Survival of His Regime, May 15, 2012).

With the JCPOA, Khamenei gained a double achievement, assuring both the survival of his regime and Iran’s membership in the nuclear club. The Iranian regime’s original aim in pursuing the JCPOA was to guarantee the survival of the regime in the face of all the possible threats, from within and without – and was not intended to obtain massive economic aid nor to bring Iran into the Western economy in order to ease its people’s economic distress – which Khamenei intends to do with the “resistance economy,” the main thrust of which is self-reliance and rejection of economic cooperation with the West and foreign investment in Iran.

Iran’s nuclear status, promised to Khamenei by the Obama administration in the agreement that is backed by Europe, allows him to both continue to repress the Iranian people and to continue exporting the Iranian Revolution in the region.

*A. Savyon is Director of the MEMRI Iranian Media Project; Yigal Carmon is President of MEMRI.

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[1] ISNA (Iran), November 9, 2016.

[2] MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1196, Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei’s Letter Of Guidelines To President Rohani On JCPOA Sets Nine Conditions Nullifying Original Agreement Announced July 14, 2015, October 22, 2015.

[3] Tasnim (Iran), March 26, 2017.

[4] IRIB (Iran), March 25, 2017.

[5] Farsnews (Iran), April 3, 2017.

[6] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/john-kerry-iran-israel_us_55b22b45e4b0224d8831d360

Did the Obama Administration’s Abuse of Foreign-Intelligence Collection Start Before Trump?

April 5, 2017

Did the Obama Administration’s Abuse of Foreign-Intelligence Collection Start Before Trump?, Tablet MagazineLee Smith, April 5, 2017

The accusation that the Obama administration used information gleaned from classified foreign surveillance to smear and blackmail its political opponents at home has gained new traction in recent days, after reports that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice may have been rifling through classified transcripts for over a year that could have included information about Donald Trump and his associates. While using resources that are supposed to keep Americans safe from terrorism for other purposes may be a dereliction of duty, it is no more of a crime than spending all day on Twitter instead of doing your job. The crime here would be if she leaked the names of U.S. citizens to reporters. In the end, the seriousness of the accusation against Rice and other former administration officials who will be caught up in the “unmasking” scandal will rise or fall based on whether or not Donald Trump was actively engaged in a conspiracy to turn over the keys of the White House to the Kremlin. For true believers in the Trump-Kremlin conspiracy theories, the Obama “spying and lying” scandal isn’t a scandal at all; just public officials taking prudent steps to guard against an imminent threat to the republic.

But what if Donald Trump wasn’t the first or only target of an Obama White House campaign of spying and illegal leaks directed at domestic political opponents?

In a December 29, 2015 article, The Wall Street Journal described how the Obama administration had conducted surveillance on Israeli officials to understand how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, like Ambassador Ron Dermer, intended to fight the Iran Deal. The Journal reported that the targeting “also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups.”

Despite this reporting, it seemed inconceivable at the time that—given myriad legal, ethical, political, and historical concerns, as well as strict National Security Agency protocols that protect the identity of American names caught in intercepts—the Obama White House would have actually spied on American citizens. In a December 31, 2016, Tablet article on the controversy, “Why the White House Wanted Congress to Think It Was Being Spied on By the NSA,” I argued that the Obama administration had merely used the appearance of spying on American lawmakers to corner opponents of the Iran Deal. Spying on U.S. citizens would be a clear abuse of the foreign-intelligence surveillance system. It would be a felony offense to leak the names of U.S. citizens to the press.

Increasingly, I believe that my conclusion in that piece was wrong. I believe the spying was real and that it was done not in an effort to keep the country safe from threats—but in order to help the White House fight their domestic political opponents.

“At some point, the administration weaponized the NSA’s legitimate monitoring of communications of foreign officials to stay one step ahead of domestic political opponents,” says a pro-Israel political operative who was deeply involved in the day-to-day fight over the Iran Deal. “The NSA’s collections of foreigners became a means of gathering real-time intelligence on Americans engaged in perfectly legitimate political activism—activism, due to the nature of the issue, that naturally involved conversations with foreigners. We began to notice the White House was responding immediately, sometimes within 24 hours, to specific conversations we were having. At first, we thought it was a coincidence being amplified by our own paranoia. After a while, it simply became our working assumption that we were being spied on.”

This is what systematic abuse of foreign-intelligence collection for domestic political purposes looks like: Intelligence collected on Americans, lawmakers, and figures in the pro-Israel community was fed back to the Obama White House as part of its political operations. The administration got the drop on its opponents by using classified information, which it then used to draw up its own game plan to block and freeze those on the other side. And—with the help of certain journalists whose stories (and thus careers) depend on high-level access—terrorize them.

Once you understand how this may have worked, it becomes easier to comprehend why and how we keep being fed daily treats of Trump’s nefarious Russia ties. The issue this time isn’t Israel, but Russia, yet the basic contours may very well be the same.

***

Two inquiries now underway on Capitol Hill, conducted by the Senate intelligence committee and the House intelligence committee, may discover the extent to which Obama administration officials unmasked the identities of Trump team members caught in foreign-intelligence intercepts. What we know so far is that Obama administration officials unmasked the identity of one Trump team member, Michael Flynn, and leaked his name to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.

“According to a senior U.S. government official,” Ignatius wrote in his Jan. 12 column, “Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?”

Nothing, the Times and the Post later reported. But exposing Flynn’s name in the intercept for political purposes was an abuse of the national-security apparatus, and leaking it to the press is a crime.

This is familiar territory. In spying on the representatives of the American people and members of the pro-Israel community, the Obama administration learned how far it could go in manipulating the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus for its own domestic political advantage. In both instances, the ostensible targets—Israel and Russia—were simply instruments used to go after the real targets at home.

In order to spy on U.S. congressmen before the Iran Deal vote, the Obama administration exploited a loophole, which is described in the original Journal article. The U.S. intelligence community is supposed to keep tabs on foreign officials, even those representing allies. Hence, everyone in Washington knows that Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer is under surveillance. But it’s different for his American interlocutors, especially U.S. lawmakers, whose identities are, according to NSA protocol, supposed to be, at the very least, redacted. But the standard for collecting and disseminating “intercepted communications involving U.S. lawmakers” is much less strict if it is swept up through “foreign-foreign” intercepts, for instance between a foreign ambassador and his capital. Washington, i.e. the seat of the American government, is where foreign ambassadors are supposed to meet with American officials. The Obama administration turned an ancient diplomatic convention inside out—foreign ambassadors were so dangerous that meeting them signaled betrayal of your own country.

During the long and contentious lead-up to the Iran Deal the Israeli ambassador was regularly briefing senior officials in Jerusalem, including the prime minister, about the situation, including his meetings with American lawmakers and Jewish community leaders. The Obama administration would be less interested in what the Israelis were doing than in the actions of those who actually had the ability to block the deal—namely, Senate and House members. The administration then fed this information to members of the press, who were happy to relay thinly veiled anti-Semitic conceits by accusing deal opponents of dual loyalty and being in the pay of foreign interests.

It didn’t take much imagination for members of Congress to imagine their names being inserted in the Iran deal echo chamber’s boilerplate—that they were beholden to “donors” and “foreign lobbies.” What would happen if the White House leaked your phone call with the Israeli ambassador to a friendly reporter, and you were then profiled as betraying the interests of your constituents and the security of your nation to a foreign power? What if the fact of your phone call appeared under the byline of a famous columnist friendly to the Obama administration, say, in a major national publication?

To make its case for the Iran Deal, the Obama administration redefined America’s pro-Israel community as agents of Israel. They did something similar with Trump and the Russians—whereby every Russian with money was defined as an agent of the state. Where the Israeli ambassador once was poison, now the Russian ambassador is the kiss of death—a phone call with him led to Flynn’s departure from the White House and a meeting with him landed Attorney General Jeff Sessions in hot water.

Did Trump really have dealings with FSB officers? Thanks to the administration’s whisper campaigns, the facts don’t matter; that kind of contact is no longer needed to justify surveillance, whose spoils could then be weaponized and leaked. There are oligarchs who live in Trump Tower, and they all know Putin—ergo, talking to them is tantamount to dealing with the Russian state.

Yet there is one key difference between the two information operations that abused the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus for political purposes. The campaign to sell the Iran deal was waged while the Obama administration was in office. The campaign to tie down Trump with the false Russia narrative was put together as the Obama team was on its way out.

The intelligence gathered from Iran Deal surveillance was shared with the fewest people possible inside the administration. It was leaked to only a few top-shelf reporters, like the authors of The Wall Street Journal article, who showed how the administration exploited a loophole to spy on Congress. Congressmen and their staffs certainly noticed, as did the Jewish organizations that were being spied on. But the campaign was mostly conducted sotto voce, through whispers and leaks that made it clear what the price of opposition might be.

The reason the prior abuse of the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus is clear only now is because the Russia campaign has illuminated it. As The New York Timesreported last month, the administration distributed the intelligence gathered on the Trump transition team widely throughout government agencies, after it had changed the rules on distributing intercepted communications. The point of distributing the information so widely was to “preserve it,” the administration and its friends in the press explained—“preserve” being a euphemism for “leak.” The Obama team seems not to have understood that in proliferating that material they have exposed themselves to risk, by creating a potential criminal trail that may expose systematic abuse of foreign-intelligence collection.

Iran: A “Paper Tiger”

April 1, 2017

Iran: A “Paper Tiger,” Iran Focus, March 31, 2017

(What would Russia do? Please see also, Iran’s Elections: A Breaking Crisis? — DM)

London, 31 Mar – While Iran calls for the destruction of Israel, according to some experts, an American or Israeli attack against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear and military sites would be fairly easy to execute. This is because, although Iran points to technological advancement in their military, it is actually has overextended itself in Syria.

A report published in March by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), noted Iran has backed off their provocations against U.S. Navy vessels, and has even ceased their threats to sink these ships in the Persian Gulf. The report continued, “The slogan ‘death to America’ has disappeared almost entirely from the official discourse of regime spokesmen, including Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself, as have public burnings of the American flag.”

Fars News Agency reported on March 26, that deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, warned the U.S. to be more careful about its warship movements in the Persian Gulf, which is a softer warning than we’ve heard in the past from Iranian leaders.

President and founder of MEMRI, Yigal Carmon, has stated that Iran’s claims of domestic development of military technologies are “complete nonsense,” but said that the country’s acquisition of North Korean missiles is concerning. Carmon said further, that Iran imports North Korean missiles and renames them to give the impression that they were domestically developed.

He explained that Iranian media publishes stories every few weeks about success of their military programs. One such story in January 2013, announced that Iran’s Space Agency had sent a monkey into space, yet pictures of the monkey before and after the “mission” failed to match up. “Iran does not create any quality military equipment, they only are able to buy from abroad. What do they invent to counter U.S. ships? All they are able to come up with is suicide speed boats,” he said.

Iran has also “displayed what they claimed to be domestically built submarines, but when we saw the picture that they put out, we saw that the size would be good for the Baltimore aquarium,” said Carmon.

The ballistics test Iran conducted in January failed. Carmon believes that Iran poses no real challenge to the U.S. “If the U.S. or Israel attack Iran’s nuclear sites and military targets, it will be a done deal,” he said.

A comparison of American and Iranian financial resources may bolster this argument. Fox News columnist Jonathan Adelman, an international studies professor at the University of Denver, wrote in February, “Look at the figures. The American GDP of over $18 trillion is more than 40 times the GDP of Iran ($450 billion)…. Given all this, the fear of Iran getting nuclear weapons still remains real. But, even more real is the notion that the biggest power in the world, plus three significant regional powers (Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia), could handle Iran if they would put their minds to it.”

Iran sank $6 billion annually of its resources into the Syrian Civil War, according to Bloomberg News.

Dr. Harold Rhode, a distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, and a former U.S. Defense Department official, has stated that while America is strong both militarily and internally, Iran and North Korea “appear strong, but are weak and rotten inside.” Rhode said that while Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, it is destroying its country by inaction on domestic problems such as its water crisis. London-based NGO Small Media published a study in March 2016, saying that Iran “faces an unprecedented crisis of water resources that threatens to render vast swathes of the country near-uninhabitable within the coming decades.”

A dangerous opium drug problem is also facing Iran. Rhode speculated that Iranian authorities could crack down on drugs, but ignore it instead, in order “to keep the people preoccupied so they don’t concern themselves with overthrowing the government.”

Rhode believes the American or Israeli approach should be one of strength, but said, “Do we need to have a massive invasion [of Iran]? No. We must show that this regime cannot do what is necessary to keep themselves in power.”

There are alternatives to “actual physical attacks,” such as electronic warfare, when it comes to confronting Iran, according to MEMRI’s Carmon.

Rhode said other options should be considered before putting troops on the ground, including bringing about regime change. “We live in very stable societies, we expect changes to come slowly, but that is not how it works in totalitarian societies like Iran. The moment the people see the regime has lost its ability and willingness to keep itself in power, the regime will topple very quickly, as happened to the shah in 1979. The shah was not willing to do what was necessary to put down the rioting,” he said, and called Iran a “potentially a paper tiger” adding that it is “our job to encourage regime change—and we can.”