Archive for the ‘Iran’ category

Former Official: Obama Admin ‘Systematically Disbanded’ Units Investigating Iran’s Terrorism Financing Networks

June 9, 2017

Former Official: Obama Admin ‘Systematically Disbanded’ Units Investigating Iran’s Terrorism Financing Networks, Washinton Free Beacon, , June 8, 2017

US President Barack Obama meets with veterans and Gold Star Mothers to discuss the Iran nuclear deal on September 10, 2015 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

“We had operations that were denied overseas. We had funding that was cut,” he said. “People were making decisions that the counter-terrorism mission and the Iran nuclear deal was a central and all-important element whereas containing Iran’s malevolent forces was less important.”

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The Obama administration “systematically disbanded” law enforcement investigative units across the federal government focused on disrupting Iranian, Syrian, and Venezuelan terrorism financing networks out of concern the work could cause friction with Iranian officials and scuttle the nuclear deal with Iran, according to a former U.S. official who spent decades dismantling terrorist financial networks.

David Asher, who previously served as an adviser to Gen. John Allen at the Defense and State Departments, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Thursday that top officials across several key law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the Obama administration “systematically disbanded” law enforcement activities targeting the terrorism financing operations of Iran, Hezbollah, and Venezuela in the lead-up to and during the nuclear negotiations with Tehran.

“Senior leadership, presiding, directing, and overseeing various sections [of these agencies] and portions of the U.S. intelligence community systematically disbanded any internal or external stakeholder action that threatened to derail the administration’s policy agenda focused on Iran,” he testified.

Asher now serves on the board of directors of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center on Illicit Finance and is an adjunct fellow at the Center for New American Security, two national security think tanks.

He attributed the motivation for decisions to dismantle the investigative units to “concerns about interfering with the Iran deal,” a reference to the nuclear deal forged between the U.S., five other world powers, and Iran during the final years of the Obama administration.

As a result, “several top cops” retired and the U.S. government lost their years of expertise.

The United States squandered the chance “at a very low financial cost” to take apart Hezbollah’s finances, its global organization, and the Iran proxy’s ability to “readily terrorize us, victimize us, and run a criminal network through our shores, inside our banking systems—and in partnership with the world’s foremost drug cartels—target our state and society,” he said.

“We lost much of the altitude we had gained in our global effort, and many aspects including key personnel, who were reassigned, budgets that were slashed—many key elements of the investigations that were underway were undermined,” he said.

“Today we have to deal with the legacy of that and how we rebuild this capability—knowing that you can have a nuclear deal with Iran and you can contain and disrupt their illicit activities,” he continued.

The decision was a “mix of tragedy and travesty combined with a seriously misguided turn of policy that resulted in no strategic gain and a serious miscarriage of justice,” he said.

“Instead, in narrow pursuit of the [nuclear agreement], the administration failed to realize the lasting effect on U.S. law enforcement collaborative efforts and actively mitigated investigations and prosecutions needed to effectively dismantle Hezbollah and the Iran ‘Action Network,'” he said.

Asher defined the Iran “Action Network” to include groups and governments involved in crafting covert elements of Iran’s foreign policy, including terrorism, illicit finance, weapons and narcotics trafficking, and nuclear procurement and proliferation.

“The level of cooperation between the government of Venezuela, the government of Syria, and Lebanese Hezbollah that we observed in our operations—that we personally were involved with—including people in this room—was actually astonishing,” he said. “The evidentiary base to take down this entire global network exists. The facts are clear.”

Before the administration dismantled them, the collaboration between a small group of U.S. agencies was making great strides in targeting terrorist financial networks, Asher said.

“This combination of law enforcement’s criminal, civil, and regulatory authorities led to actions that provided a framework to deter, disrupt, and publicly illuminate Hezbollah’s global illicit network,” he said. “The result was the most successful path taken against Hezbollah to date after many years of inaction.”

The decision to dismantle the investigative units undermined the U.S. government’s success just as it was beginning, “perhaps because of fear of the consequences,” he said.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R., Calif.) plans to introduce additional sanctions aimed at Hezbollah as soon as next week, according to a congressional aide.

After Asher’s testimony, Royce called the scenario a “striking lesson in life, which is the zeal for the deal, which becomes a deal for any cost, and people get caught up in that.”

The dismantling of these investigative units is just one of many aspects of the nuclear deal and its impact on U.S. Iran policy receiving new scrutiny in recent months.

Royce referred to the Obama administration’s release of seven Iranian-born prisoners in U.S. custody last year as part of a prisoner swap for dual U.S.-Iranian citizens. A Politico article in April detailed how several of the seven freed individuals were accused by the Obama administration’s own Justice Department of posing threats to national security.

Citing unpublicized court filings, the report said the Justice Department dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 other men.

Critics this week also are questioning why the administration never publicly disclosed an Iranian cyber-attack on the State Department in late September of 2015 that sent shockwaves through the department and private-contractor community. The Washington Free Beacon reported new details about the hacking Wednesday.

David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector who now runs the Institute for Science International Security, testified to the same panel recently that out of a “misplaced” fear of disrupting the nuclear deal, the Obama administration also interfered with U.S. law enforcement efforts against Iran’s terrorist network.

Royce asked Asher about some of his similar assertions—that the Obama administration aborted law enforcement operations against Iran’s terrorism network.

“There are many holes in this cheese and law enforcement didn’t need to be one of them,” Asher said.

Asher said the late-March Justice Department arrest of Kassim Tajideen, who he called a “super-facilitator” financier of Hezbollah, rattled the regime.

“The fact that we’ve got him in prison and he might cooperate—I’m sure that’s gotten their attention,” he said. “We had many more that we were prohibited from acting on for political reasons.”

“We had operations that were denied overseas. We had funding that was cut,” he said. “People were making decisions that the counter-terrorism mission and the Iran nuclear deal was a central and all-important element whereas containing Iran’s malevolent forces was less important.”

“I think you can do both—and we have to do both,” he said.

Asher also recalled a similar scenario during the Bush administration when it stripped the Justice Department of its authorities to indict the government of North Korea in order not to derail the proposed North Korea nuclear deal.

“I think this is a bipartisan syndrome—this is not blame the Obama administration, blame the Bush administration,” he said. “There’s something about people wanting a deal at any cost.”

A new head appointed to CIA’s Iran Operations

June 2, 2017

A new head appointed to CIA’s Iran Operations, DEBKAfile, June 2, 2017

New CIA Chief Mike Pompeo has named Michael D’Andrea head of the Iran Operations as part of the overhaul President Trump has ordered of the agency’s espionage, counterintelligence and covert operations departments. This is reported by intelligence sources in Washington. D’Andrea, nicknamed “Dark Prince” or “Ayatollah Mike,” commanded the operation against Osama bin Laden and has orchestrated numerous drone attacks on terrorist targets across the Middle East. According to those sources, his appointment attests to the president’s determination to put more muscle behind operations against Iran. DEBKAfile adds: Some of the senior CIA agents dismissed from their jobs as a result of the overhaul are feeding the campaign of disparagement against the president.

Trump Breaks the Diplomatic Mold

May 23, 2017

Trump Breaks the Diplomatic Mold, Commentary Magazine. May 22, 2017

President Donald Trump walks with Saudi King Salman at the Arab Islamic American Summit, at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Upon arrival, Trump received a royal welcome. Saudi King Salman braved the 101-degree heat of the tarmac to greet the presidential plane personally. A brass band serenaded the two world leaders as cannons issued celebratory volleys and seven Saudi jets streamed trails of red, white, and blue overhead. The president and the king joined one another in the presidential limo and rode off together to an extravagant ceremony at the Saudi Court, where attention was even lavished upon the president’s aides.

The intentional contrast this reception struck with Barack Obama’s 2014 trip to the Saudi Kingdom was stark. Upon Obama’s arrival, King Salman dispatched only his distant nephew, the provincial governor of Riyadh, to meet the leader of the free world. The Obama White House did its best to save face, but the snub was a clear indication that tensions surrounding Iran nuclear deal, the ongoing bloodshed in Syria, and Obama’s explicit antipathy toward the Saudi Kingdom as a nation unworthy of an alliance with America.

As COMMENTARY’s Evelyn C. Gordon discussed, in exchange for Israeli technology and intelligence, a relaxation of the Gaza blockade, and the cessation of settlement construction in “some areas,” this Sunni alliance would “establish direct telecommunication links with Israel, let Israeli aircraft overfly their countries, lift certain trade restrictions and perhaps grant visas to Israeli athletes and businessmen.” And all of this would occur with existing Palestinian realities utterly unchanged. Even if no further progress toward peace in the region is secured, that bell cannot be un-rung.

A truly successful presidency in the Middle East may begin first with the abandonment of that burdensome, dog-eared diplomatic playbook.

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There is perhaps nothing a global class of calcified diplomatic professionals appreciates more than subtlety and nuance. Donald Trump’s tour of the world’s three major religious capitals is about as unsubtle and unnuanced as you can get. To many seasoned diplomats, this administration’s naïve effort to forge peace in this fashion is downright dangerous—possibly more than the administration even knows. Maybe. Or maybe the president and his team are dispensing with ossified convention in a field that could desperately use some fresh thinking. With the first leg of Trump’s world theological tour complete, it is not impossible that something new is taking shape.

In Saudi Arabia this weekend, Donald Trump danced with swords, touched an ominous glowing orb, and delivered a narrowly tailored and reasonably well-received speech on radical Islamic terrorism in the heart of the Islamic world. Among many other regional power brokers, the president also met with the leaders of Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain. What Trump did in the Saudi Kingdom is, however, less interesting than how the Saudis responded to him.

Upon arrival, Trump received a royal welcome. Saudi King Salman braved the 101-degree heat of the tarmac to greet the presidential plane personally. A brass band serenaded the two world leaders as cannons issued celebratory volleys and seven Saudi jets streamed trails of red, white, and blue overhead. The president and the king joined one another in the presidential limo and rode off together to an extravagant ceremony at the Saudi Court, where attention was even lavished upon the president’s aides.

The intentional contrast this reception struck with Barack Obama’s 2014 trip to the Saudi Kingdom was stark. Upon Obama’s arrival, King Salman dispatched only his distant nephew, the provincial governor of Riyadh, to meet the leader of the free world. The Obama White House did its best to save face, but the snub was a clear indication that tensions surrounding Iran nuclear deal, the ongoing bloodshed in Syria, and Obama’s explicit antipathy toward the Saudi Kingdom as a nation unworthy of an alliance with America.

From Saudi Arabia, Trump traveled directly to Israel—itself a shift in convention—where he was also greeted warmly. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife met the president and first lady at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. Using his remarks alongside Trump to issue a veiled rebuke of Obama, Netanyahu noted: “We appreciate the reassertion of American leadership in the Middle East.”

President Obama entered office with the objective of creating a new power balance in the region that would allow the United States to withdraw confidently. The former president’s stated belief that America’s alliance toward Israel “erodes our credibility with the Arab states” in combination with his mistrust toward Sunni Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Egypt left him with few ways of achieving that goal. There’s a cosmic irony in the fact that Obama’s navel-gazing paved the way for a radically new and promising dynamic to emerge in the Middle East. Conceptually, the strategy Trump is pursuing in the Middle East is wildly divergent from his predecessors. He is effectively abandoning the idea that there can be no resolution of the Arab World’s hostility toward Israel without first creating a Palestinian state.

As recently as February, administration sources began providing details to the press about a proposed pan-Sunni military alliance designed to both counter Islamist extremism and a resurgent Iran. That alliance would include states with unfrozen relations with Israel, like Egypt and Jordan, and nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which do not recognize the Jewish state. According to a recent bombshell report, however, the prospect of a radical relaxation in tensions between Israel and the Arab World is real.

As COMMENTARY’s Evelyn C. Gordon discussed, in exchange for Israeli technology and intelligence, a relaxation of the Gaza blockade, and the cessation of settlement construction in “some areas,” this Sunni alliance would “establish direct telecommunication links with Israel, let Israeli aircraft overfly their countries, lift certain trade restrictions and perhaps grant visas to Israeli athletes and businessmen.” And all of this would occur with existing Palestinian realities utterly unchanged. Even if no further progress toward peace in the region is secured, that bell cannot be un-rung.

Donald Trump isn’t the first American president to benefit from warm feelings solely because he isn’t the last guy to have occupied the Oval Office. When it comes to the Middle East, crises and chaos have a habit of scuttling even the best-laid plans. Iranian power projection into places like Iraq, Yemen, and Syria has, however, created new avenues of cooperation between adversarial powers with a common enemy in Tehran. If Trump can translate this new reality into tangible accomplishment (a big “if”), he will have the makings of a potent argument for his presidency and a second term.

On foreign affairs, in particular, President Donald Trump has invited the wrath of the critics. He is “the world’s most undiplomatic” diplomat who has embraced illiberal and strategically inept “lame-stream diplomacy.” Indeed, his “rejection of traditional diplomacy for his own distinctive, brusque style has incurred costs without any visible offsetting benefits.” In his article “Is This the End of the Free World,” Abe Greenwald demonstrated that Trump has an appalling and lamentably familiar habit of alienating America’s natural allies. It’s a nasty feature of a distorted worldview, and it may result in the continued loss of allied faith in American vision and authority. For now, however, not only is the Middle East obviously thrilled for the Obama era to be over but that has provided Donald Trump with the opportunity for a real diplomatic triumph. A truly successful presidency in the Middle East may begin first with the abandonment of that burdensome, dog-eared diplomatic playbook.

Hizballah’s elite force sustains heavy casualties from US air strike

May 19, 2017

Hizballah’s elite force sustains heavy casualties from US air strike, DEBKAfile, May 19, 2017

(Please see also, The Devil’s Triangle: At-Tanf/Abu Kamal/Ar Rusafah. — DM)

US jets and assault helicopters took off from the Ayn al-Asad air base in western Iraqi for an operation to prevent the convoy from reaching the strategic Al-Tanf crossing at the intersection of the Syrian, Iraq and Jordanian borders.

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Most of the damage inflicted by the US air strike Thursday in South Syria was sustained by Hizballah’s elite unit, the Radwan Force, DEBKAfile’s military sources disclose. This was the first aerial attack the United States has conducted on a combined Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah convoy in the seven-year Syrian war. Our sources add that the US jets and assault helicopters took off from the Ayn al-Asad air base in western Iraqi for an operation to prevent the convoy from reaching the strategic Al-Tanf crossing at the intersection of the Syrian, Iraq and Jordanian borders. They hit at least three of Hizballah’s armored vehicles and several trucks, which caught fire. The Americans and Hizballah have both imposed a blackout on the details of the incident and the scale of casualties.

DEBKAfile ran a number of stories this week disclosing the activities of US, British and Jordanian special operations forces in southern Syria for taking over key segments of the Syrian-Iraqi border, including the Al-Tanf crossing. US Secretary of Defense James Mattis commented this week that Washington had not change its policy of non-intervention in the Syria war, adding, “But we will defend our troops.”

The Devil’s Triangle: At-Tanf/Abu Kamal/Ar Rusafah

May 19, 2017

The Devil’s Triangle: At-Tanf/Abu Kamal/Ar Rusafah, Israel National News, Mark Langfan, May 19, 2017

This weekend President Trump must make the stakes clear to the Sunnis gathered in Saudi Arabia to meet him.  President Trump must bring truth to Arab and Islamic fantasies.  He must tell them Israel, and the ‘West Bank’ are not the issue; the only issue is fighting Iran and controlling the At-Tanf/Abu Kamal/Ar Rusafah Triangle.  The Arabs and the Sunnis themselves must contribute blood and treasure to securing this strategic triangle and killing the Iran monster before it can metastasize into an unstoppable one.

The US and the US coalition forces have to move, and move fast to control the At-Tanf/Abu Kamal/Ar Rusafah Triangle so as to avoid an Iran that will cause the death and destruction of millions of people for many, many decades into the future.

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You may have carefully read all the newspapers about the Middle East, but you will likely have never heard about the three Syria cities of At Tanf, Abu Kamal, or Ar Rusafah.  But the soon-to-be-determined military control of the geographic area bounded by these 3 Syrian cities in Syria’s south east corner will determine the fate of the entire world. 

To see the area on a US government map so that you fully understand this article, click here.

If Iran and its proxies control these three Syrian cities, Iran will have achieved its strategic goal of creating a topologic unbroken ground corridor from Iran through Iraq, through Syria, through Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea.  If Iran fails to secure this geographic Syrian triangle, Iran’s tens of billions of dollars spent to mass-murder Syrian Sunnis to create the foundation of its neo-Safavidic Empire will collapse under its own weight, and Iran’s Khomeneist Shiite Regime will likely implode.

Therefore, next month’s military victors in the battle for this strategic triangle will dictate decades of future conflict, or future peace in the Middle East and the world.

What’s the first order of battle?  If the Islamic State leaders are truly Sunnis, American and US Coalition forces should convince the Islamic State to cede and surrender Raqqah immediately, so US coalition forces can focus on and secure the At-Tanf/Abu Kamal/Ar Rusafah triangle immediately.  Otherwise, the US coalition will have to divert precious and scarce resources to conquering Raqqah, while Iran is redeploying its forces to steal the Triangle.

The question is simple.  Does the Islamic State want the Iranian Shiites to win the At-Tanf/Abu Kamal/Ar Rusafah Triangle, to win Syria, and become the unstoppable Shiite hegemon?  Or does the Sunni Islamic State want the Shiite Iran to lose?  The catastrophic scenario would be for the US coalition forces to win the Raqqah battle against the Islamic State, only to lose the Syrian war to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The second order of battle?  Trump’s minions must convince the Russians that it is in Russia’s ultimate strategic national interest to allow the US coalition to quickly and decisively win the At-Tanf/Abu Kamal/Ar Rusafah Triangle.  The US must convince Russia that an Iran with a ground corridor through Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean is as catastrophic to Russian vital national security interests in 2017 as Hitler’s acquisition of Czechoslovakia and Poland was to the Soviet Union in 1939.  Then, Stalin partnered with Hitler in building Hitler the highway for his Wehrmacht to invade the Soviet Union.

Once Iran militarily digests this Iraq-Syrian land corridor, Iran won’t need Russia anymore.  Putin will have created a unstoppable Islamic Terror Superpower.  Putin should remember Stalin’s exuberant celebration of occupying half of Poland was a short-lived delusion that soon came crashing down on his head when he had to face the ugly reality of Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union that came close to occupying Moscow itself.

Iraq is a modern-day Czechoslovakia, and Syria is a modern-day Poland.  It is the Iranian war that will lay the groundwork for the next Iranian-Safavidic violent expansion throughout the Middle East.

The third order of battle?  This weekend President Trump must make the stakes clear to the Sunnis gathered in Saudi Arabia to meet him.  President Trump must bring truth to Arab and Islamic fantasies.  He must tell them Israel, and the ‘West Bank’ are not the issue; the only issue is fighting Iran and controlling the At-Tanf/Abu Kamal/Ar Rusafah Triangle.  The Arabs and the Sunnis themselves must contribute blood and treasure to securing this strategic triangle and killing the Iran monster before it can metastasize into an unstoppable one.

The US and the US coalition forces have to move, and move fast to control the At-Tanf/Abu Kamal/Ar Rusafah Triangle so as to avoid an Iran that will cause the death and destruction of millions of people for many, many decades into the future.

Misogyny Meet Irony: Saudi Arabia Elected To United Nation’s Women’s Rights Commission

April 24, 2017

Misogyny Meet Irony: Saudi Arabia Elected To United Nation’s Women’s Rights Commission, Jonathan Turley’s Blog, Jonathan Turley, April 24, 2017

(Please see also, United Nations Elects Saudi Arabia to Women’s Rights Commission. — DM)

If you like your misogyny with a heavy serving of irony, you could do no better than the United Nations this week after Saudi Arabia was elected to a  2018-2022 term on the Commission on the Status of Women, the U.N. agency that, according to its website, is “exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.”  As with Iran being put on the Commission, the irony would be humorous if there were not millions of victims over decades of abuse by these countries.  Previously, Saudi Arabia taking over the top spot on the Human Rights Commission was viewed as unbelievable, but the entry on the Commission on the Status of Women sets a level of irony that may be unsurpassable.

Notably, various groups demanded to know what countries voted for the inclusion.  Only 7 of 54 ECOSOC states opposed the inclusion and many want the EU countries to reveal their votes. It is absurd that such votes should be taken on secret ballots.

Now that Saudi Arabia is a protector of women’s rights, it may want to immediately call for an investigation of the country responsible for:

Barring women from being able to travel without the permission of men;

Flogging women for driving;

Jailing a man for protesting the treatment of women;

Arresting women for ripped jeans or “Western haircuts“;

Stoning a woman to death (while just giving her male love flogging) for sex outside of marriage;

Sentencing human right activists to death;

Persecuting lawyers who help rape victims; 

Flogging rape victims;

Permitting child bride arranged marriages;

Closing Women’z health clubs as UnIslamic;

Arresting women without head coverings;

Arresting even foreign women who sit next to unrelated men in public places;

Flogging women over use of bad language; 

Enforcing the right to beat wives; and

Barring women from a Women’s Rights Conference.

That is only a partial list for the new Saudi Commissioner and it does not even require going outside of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Iran: Trump Administration Urged to Deny Iran’s Request for Uranium

April 23, 2017

Iran: Trump Administration Urged to Deny Iran’s Request for Uranium, Iran Focus, April 22, 2017

London, 22 Apr – The Islamic Republic of Iran has had a longstanding request to import 950 tons of natural uranium. Tehran has claimed it will sign a petition next week for the uranium during a nuclear deal meeting in Vienna.

The request was approved by the Obama administration just before the former President left office, but in the end the United Kingdom blocked it. Despite this, Iran wants to make the request again.

This is another example of the Iranian regime testing the new President of the United States. Since he came into office, the Iranian regime has tested Trump’s resolve, no doubt seeing if his actions speak as loud as his words.

During the week, President Trump declared that the Iran nuclear deal, which he maintains is a terrible deal, is going to be looked at very closely and action will be taken very soon.

Sources are unsure about whether the Trump administration will overturn Obama’s approval of the request.

A senior White House official has said that they hope Trump will prevent Iran from making a purchase of natural uranium and expressed hope that leverage will be used. So far, however, the White House had refused to comment on its plans.

The directorate of the White House’s weapons of mass destruction said: “We do not comment on the deliberations of the Joint Commission, as has been agreed to by all participating parties.”

Members of Congress are urging Trump to deny the request.

Marco Rubio, a Florida senator, would also like to see the request denied by the Trump administration. He told The Weekly Standard: “The Iranian regime remains an illegitimate nuclear actor, with international inspectors still unable to conclusively verify the absence of undeclared nuclear activities in Iran. Vetoing Iran’s proposal to buy 950 tons of uranium yellowcake from Kazakhstan should be a no-brainer. Iran does not need this nuclear material, which far exceeds its needs and could someday be further enriched for the purposes of nuclear weapons.”

Earlier in the week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised concerns about Iran and its provocative actions. He said that although Iran has technically been adhering to the terms of the nuclear deal, there were still some grave areas of concern. Some of the actions he mentioned were the Islamic Republic’s “ongoing provocations” and its “export of terror and violence” and he pointed out that the regime is currently “destabilizing more than one country at a time”.