Archive for the ‘Iran’ category

The Iran dilemma of the Saudi crown prince

July 27, 2017

The Iran dilemma of the Saudi crown prince, Washington Times, S. Rob Sobhani, July 26, 2017

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Associated Press photo

The first step that Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince can take is to deliver an address to the Iranian people in which he lays out his vision for a peaceful and friendly relation with people of Iran. In this address, Mohammed bin Salman can touch upon the rich history of Iran, its unique culture and heritage, and end by extending his hand of friendship to his natural allies — the people of Iran.

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The starting point for any policy that the new crown prince of Saudi ArabiaMohammed bin Salman, adopts toward the Islamic Republic of Iran is to understand two basic facts. First, the Iranian regime continues to be the most serious threat to regional security in the Middle East and the major state sponsor of terrorism. Second, the Iranian people continue to be the most serious threat to the Islamic regime and the only real hope for a fundamental change in Iran.

If Mohammed bin Salman adopts the right policies in his dealings with the Islamic regime, not only will he go down in history as the leader who solved the “Iran Problem,” he will also usher in a new economic dynamic within the broader Middle East. In view of his friendship with President Trump, any new and bold approach by Mohammed bin Salman toward the Islamic regime in Tehran will no doubt have the full support of the president and his entire national security team.

To date Saudi policy toward Iran has not produced the results that Riyadh had hoped would either appease the mullahs or contain the bad behavior of the regime in Tehran. For example, the latest policy decision by Saudi Arabia to confront the Iranian regime by war through proxy in Yemen has not deterred the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The conflict in Yemen is fast becoming a quagmire for Riyadh. According to some estimates, the Saudi effort to confront Iran in Yemen is costing the kingdom around $600 million per month. After spending billions of dollars, Saudi Arabia is not close to thwarting the designs of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to build a beachhead on the Arabian Peninsula by supporting his Houthi allies.

Indeed, the Saudi narrative against the Iranian regime, eloquently enunciated by Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubair, captures the essence of Tehran’s dangerous behavior in places like Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and Lebanon, but it does not address the fundamental underlying challenge: how to deal with a regime that is the mortal enemy of Saudi Arabia.

The overarching policy that Mohammed bin Salman should seriously consider is to adopt a soft-power approach to solving his Iran dilemma. This policy starts by drawing a clear distinction between the people of Iran and their rulers. The first step that Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince can take is to deliver an address to the Iranian people in which he lays out his vision for a peaceful and friendly relation with people of Iran. In this address, Mohammed bin Salman can touch upon the rich history of Iran, its unique culture and heritage, and end by extending his hand of friendship to his natural allies — the people of Iran.

The concrete steps the young crown prince may wish to consider following his address to the Iranian people are as follows: First, he can announce the creation of a fund to pay for the pilgrimage of elderly Iranians to Mecca and Medina. For the average Iranian whose per-capita gross national product has shrunk since the overthrow of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, making the obligatory visit to Islam’s holiest sites has become a financial burden. Mohammed bin Salman can endear himself to millions of Iranians through this act of charity.

Almost all of Iran’s diplomats in Kuwait to be expelled following terror ruling

July 20, 2017

Almost all of Iran’s diplomats in Kuwait to be expelled following terror ruling, DEBKAfile, July 20, 2017

Kuwait has shut down Iran’s cultural and other missions in the country and ordered the expulsion of almost all Iranian diplomats, including the ambassador, after the Kuwaiti supreme court reaffirmed the conviction of the members of a terror cell that spied for Tehran, smuggled explosives and was preparing to carry out terrorist attacks. The members of the cell are said to have acted as operatives for Hizballah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The mastermind of the cell, which was broken up in August 2015, has been sentenced to life in prison. However, Kuwait’s Interior Ministry said Wednesday that 16 out of the 26 cell members are on the run. On Monday, a Kuwaiti newspaper claimed that 14 have fled by boat to Iran.

The Iranian ambassador, Alireza Enayati, was summoned to the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry where he was told that the military and cultural missions had been closed, and that 15 out of the 19 Iranian diplomats in Kuwait are being expelled, according to Iran’s state-run television. Enayati himself was given 48 days to leave the country, Iran’s ISNA news agency said.

British Muslims Fund Terror, Says UK Government Report

July 18, 2017

British Muslims Fund Terror, Says UK Government Report, American ThinkerPaul Austin Murphy, July 18, 2017

The British Home Office have just clarified something which many British people have known for well over a decade: that Islamists and terrorists are being funded by ordinary British Muslims to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

That means that this isn’t about the usual extremist British Islamic organisations which have already been well-documented. This is about people who may well pass for “ordinary” or even “moderate” Muslims. 

Many people have also known — for a long time — that Islamic charities are often fundraisers for Islamic terror. Indeed the report includes the information that Islamic organisations pose as charities because charity — though only for fellow Muslims and Islamic causes — is very big in Muslim communities. Thus, it’s all very late in the day for the British Government to decide to work with the Charity Commission on these issues. However, better late than never.

As the Home Office put it, pro-terror money is coming from small, anonymous public donations. According to the British Home Secretary, Amber Rudd:

“In some cases, these organisations receive hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. This is the main source of income.”

Rudd also said that the report (which was commissioned in 2015 by David Cameron)

“gives us the best picture we have ever had of how extremists operating in the UK sustain their activities”.

However, Rudd has decided not to publish the report for reasons of “national security” and also because it contains a lot of “personal information.”

Rather predictably, the Labour Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, chose to make a party-political point about all this; rather than a point about what can be called “the enemy within.” After all, the enemy within has brown skin; whereas the Tory Party is white. Thus, Abbott tells is that there’s a “strong suspicion” that facts are being

“suppressed to protect this Government’s trade and diplomatic priorities, including in relation to Saudi Arabia”.

(The Green Party — which, just like a melon, is green on the outside and red on the inside — has got in on the act. Caroline Lucas also attacked the Tories for withholding information.)

What Dianne Abbott fails to mention is that Rudd also stated that the report contains lots of personal information about British Muslims. That would mean that if that personal information were made public, then lots of British Muslims would be put under the spotlight. Now, I wonder how the anti-white anti-racist Diane Abbott would respond to that? Would she — and other Labourites — talk about “Islamophobia” and the “victimisation of the Muslim community?” After all, Rudd is white and most Muslims are brown.

Saudi Arabia has just been mentioned.

This is the latest British left-wing sport: tying literally all Islamic extremism and terror (including ISIS and the attacks in England) to Saudi Arabia. Now why is this the case and why is it such a recent phenomenon in left-wing circles? Again, for party-political reasons; not for a genuine antipathy towards Islamic terror or Saudi Arabia. More concretely, the Corbynite Left decided to make a big deal about the government’s close relations to Saudi Arabia during Jeremy Corbyn’s election campaign. (These relations are no closer today than they were during any other previous British government.) Thus, to the Left, this isn’t at all about Islam or Saudi Arabia. It’s actually all about the Tories.

Saudi Arabia is indeed important in the terror stakes. Very important. Nonetheless, so too is Iran. Iran has been funding terror and carrying out terror attacks since 1979. Some of those attacks occurred as far away as Argentina (two large-scale attacks), Paris, Brussels, Bahrain, Kuwait, Panama, London (against Salman Rushdie), Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Israel, Bulgaria, etc. Iran was also responsible for the attacks in Beirut in the 1980s and other Lebanese bombings which — over all — claimed hundreds of lives.

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and the Stop the War Coalition (which he led until he became leader of the Labour Party) are big fans of Iran. Iran is at war with Saudi Arabia. (You work it out!) Indeed, some of the StWC’s leaders are also big fans of Bashar Assad’s Socialist Ba’ath Party! Then again, other StWC leaders have said positive things about the Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and, believe it or not, North Korea.

 

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.”