Archive for the ‘Obama and Iran scam’ category

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

March 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By the statistics

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

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

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

Natanz

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

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

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

Ferdow

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

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

Surveillance

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

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

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

Iran’s enriched uranium in Oman

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

The irony

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

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

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

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

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

Investments

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

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

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

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

Foreign banks and companies

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

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

Airline restrictions

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

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

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

Money laundry warnings

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

Remember When Obama Spied on Congressmen Opposed to Iran Deal?

March 6, 2017

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

obamanixon

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

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

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

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

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

To summarize…

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

2. It did so relying on plausible deniability

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

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

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

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

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

Obama’s Secret Communications with Mullahs Undermined American Foreign Policy

February 16, 2017

Obama’s Secret Communications with Mullahs Undermined American Foreign Policy, Power LineJohn Hinderaker, February 15, 2017

Obama secretly told the mullahs not to make a deal until he assumed the presidency, when they would be able to make a better agreement. Which is exactly what happened . . . .

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The Democrats are trying to make a scandal out of the fact that one or more people associated with the Trump presidential campaign had telephone conversations with one or more representatives of the Russian government prior to Trump’s inauguration. Is there anything wrong with that? Not as far as we know. The CIA/NSA leakers have declined to say anything about the content of the conversations, so they must have been benign. Let’s release the tapes and eliminate all doubt, and then let’s fire the leakers and, if appropriate, send them to prison.

But in the meantime, let’s not forget an infinitely bigger scandal: in 2008, while he was running for the presidency, Barack Obama deliberately undermined American foreign policy by secretly encouraging Iran’s mullahs to hold out until he became president, because he would be easier to deal with than President George Bush. I wrote about the Obama scandal here: “HOW BARACK OBAMA UNDERCUT BUSH ADMINISTRATION’S NUCLEAR NEGOTIATIONS WITH IRAN.” Check out the original post for links. Here it is:

In 2008, the Bush administration, along with the “six powers,” was negotiating with Iran concerning that country’s nuclear arms program. The Bush administration’s objective was to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. On July 20, 2008, the New York Times headlined: “Nuclear Talks With Iran End in a Deadlock.” What caused the talks to founder? The Times explained:

Iran responded with a written document that failed to address the main issue: international demands that it stop enriching uranium. And Iranian diplomats reiterated before the talks that they considered the issue nonnegotiable.

The Iranians held firm to their position, perhaps because they knew that help was on the way, in the form of a new president. Barack Obama had clinched the Democratic nomination on June 3. At some point either before or after that date, but prior to the election, he secretly let the Iranians know that he would be much easier to bargain with than President Bush. Michael Ledeen reported the story last year:

During his first presidential campaign in 2008, Mr. Obama used a secret back channel to Tehran to assure the mullahs that he was a friend of the Islamic Republic, and that they would be very happy with his policies. The secret channel was Ambassador William G. Miller, who served in Iran during the shah’s rule, as chief of staff for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and as ambassador to Ukraine. Ambassador Miller has confirmed to me his conversations with Iranian leaders during the 2008 campaign.

So Obama secretly told the mullahs not to make a deal until he assumed the presidency, when they would be able to make a better agreement. Which is exactly what happened: Obama abandoned the requirement that Iran stop enriching uranium, so that Iran’s nuclear program has sped ahead over the months and years that negotiations have dragged on. When an interim agreement in the form of a “Joint Plan of Action” was announced in late 2013, Iran’s leaders exulted in the fact that the West had acknowledged its right to continue its uranium enrichment program:

“The (nuclear) program will continue and all the sanctions and violations against the Iranian nation under the pretext of the nuclear program will be removed gradually,” [Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif] added. …

“Iran’s enrichment program has been recognized both in the first step and in the goals section and in the final step as well,” Zarif said.

“The fact that all these pressures have failed to cease Iran’s enrichment program is a very important success for the Iranian nation’s resistance,” he added.

So Obama delivered the weak agreement that he had secretly promised the mullahs.

That, readers, is what a real scandal looks like.

Special Report | Out Like Flynn

February 15, 2017

Special Report | Out Like Flynn, American SpectatorScott Mckay, February 15, 2017

(Apparently, General Flynn’s knowledge of and access to Obama’s secret agreements with Iran were a major reason why the “deep state” wanted him out. No longer a member of the National Security Council, he likely lacks access. Is there any reason he can’t tell selected members of the Council what and where they are? — DM)

outlikeflynn

Which gives rise to the mistake which ultimately cost him his job — pressed about the conversation, Flynn told Vice President Mike Pence that he and Kislyak did not discuss the lifting of Obama administration sanctions against Russia, which was apparently true. What Flynn had discussed, per an interview he did with the Daily Caller before he was forced out, was the status of the 35 Russian diplomats Obama had expelled from the country. He contends Kislyak raised the issue and was told it would be reviewed after the inauguration — but he made no promises to the Russian.

The expulsions were considered part of the sanctions, and therefore Flynn’s representation to Pence would go down as inaccurate — and the resulting media scandal following Pence’s reliance on Flynn’s statements to pass the adviser’s contention on in a TV interview ultimately made Flynn too hot to handle.

There should be no holdovers from the Obama administration left in the federal government beyond what the law forces on the president.

Which includes the CIA, NSA, and other agencies clearly infested with Harkonnens seeking to impose the same fate on Trump and his administration which befell Duke Leto Atreides.

All new administrations, particularly those taking over from predecessors in the opposite party, will struggle to find loyal servants within the bowels of the federal government. But no administration has politicized the bureaucracy and the intelligence community the way Obama did, and the government has never been so corrupted as it is now. The political assassination of Mike Flynn proves that, and Flynn will certainly not be the last. This administration is in a death struggle with the deep state, and only one will survive.

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If there is truth to the stories about the intelligence community’s campaign to force the resignation of Trump’s national security advisor, his should be the first of countless heads to roll.

“House Atreides took control of Arrakis 63 standard days into the year 10,191. It was known that the Harkonnens, the former rulers of Arrakis, would leave many suicide troops behind. Atreides patrols were doubled.”

— From the 1984 David Lynch movie Dune, as adapted from the Fran Herbert novel.

You’ve got to read, if you haven’t yet, the piece by Adam Kredo in the Washington Free Beacon about the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Michael Flynn on Monday.

Kredo weaves together the statements of several confidential sources to create an alarming tapestry that views not unlike the classic 1980s sci-fi film referenced above — it seems reasonably clear that leftovers from the Obama administration are actively sabotaging the new president.

A quick excerpt or two…

The effort, said to include former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes—the architect of a separate White House effort to create what he described as a pro-Iran echo chamber—included a small task force of Obama loyalists who deluged media outlets with stories aimed at eroding Flynn’s credibility, multiple sources revealed.

The operation primarily focused on discrediting Flynn, an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, in order to handicap the Trump administration’s efforts to disclose secret details of the nuclear deal with Iran that had been long hidden by the Obama administration.

Kredo’s piece isn’t the only one pointing to Iran as the real enemy of interest here rather than Russia. It’s worth watching Obama’s fundraising for his presidential library and other “philanthropic” activities with interest in the identities of his benefactors.

And there’s more…

“It’s actually Ben Rhodes, NIAC, and the Iranian mullahs who are celebrating today,” said one veteran foreign policy insider who is close to Flynn and the White House. “They know that the number one target is Iran… [and] they all knew their little sacred agreement with Iran was going to go off the books. So they got rid of Flynn before any of the [secret] agreements even surfaced.”

Flynn had been preparing to publicize many of the details about the nuclear deal that had been intentionally hidden by the Obama administration as part of its effort to garner support for the deal, these sources said.

Flynn is now “gone before anybody can see what happened” with these secret agreements, said the second insider close to Flynn and the White House.

Sources in and out of the White House are concerned that the campaign against Flynn will be extended to other prominent figures in the Trump administration.

Read the whole thing. It’s well worth your time.

But let’s understand what actually happened here. Yes, Mike Flynn had a conversation with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak on Dec. 29 regarding American policy toward that country. Yes, there is an ancient and little-known piece of legislation, the Logan Act, which makes it illegal for private citizens to conduct foreign policy, and yes, that law was put forth to justify accusations Flynn had committed a crime in his conversation with Kislyak.

But as a national security advisor designate it’s hardly realistic to have considered Flynn a private citizen, and he wasn’t going to be charged with anything for that conversation. Which gives rise to the mistake which ultimately cost him his job — pressed about the conversation, Flynn told Vice President Mike Pence that he and Kislyak did not discuss the lifting of Obama administration sanctions against Russia, which was apparently true. What Flynn had discussed, per an interview he did with the Daily Caller before he was forced out, was the status of the 35 Russian diplomats Obama had expelled from the country. He contends Kislyak raised the issue and was told it would be reviewed after the inauguration — but he made no promises to the Russian.

The expulsions were considered part of the sanctions, and therefore Flynn’s representation to Pence would go down as inaccurate — and the resulting media scandal following Pence’s reliance on Flynn’s statements to pass the adviser’s contention on in a TV interview ultimately made Flynn too hot to handle.

But this goes far beyond the Beltway scandal machine which is now running at top gear after largely idling for the past eight years spitting out its first Trump administration victim. What blew Flynn out of the water were leaks from the intelligence community — his conversation with Kislyak was recorded by the FBI, pursuant to a FISA warrant which had to come from the highest levels, possibly high enough to have reached Obama himself, and then a transcript was provided to the media in order to refute Flynn’s contention he hadn’t discussed the sanctions.

Mike Walsh called this troubling pattern a “rolling coup attempt, organized by elements of the intelligence community, particularly CIA and NSA, abetted by Obama-era holdovers in the understaffed Justice Department (Sally Yates, take a bow) and the lickspittles of the leftist media, all of whom have signed on with the ‘Resistance’ in order to overturn the results of the November election.”

He’s not wrong. He goes further and is also not wrong…

Welcome to the Deep State, the democracy-sapping embeds at the heart of our democracy who have not taken the expulsion of the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party lightly. They realize that the Trump administration poses a mortal threat to their hegemony, and so have enlisted an army of Democrats, some Republicans, the “neverTrumpumpkin” conservative die-hards, leftist thugs, Black Lives Matter and anybody else they can blackmail, browbeat or enlist. They mean business.

What to do if you’re Trump? Fight.

It’s not enough to send Sean Spicer out to complain about the leaks, or to back his press conference statements up with early-morning tweets.

He must fight.

Trump clearly has not taken the sound advice of any executive engaged in a hostile takeover of a large organization — which is to fire everyone. There should be no holdovers from the Obama administration left in the federal government beyond what the law forces on the president.

Which includes the CIA, NSA, and other agencies clearly infested with Harkonnens seeking to impose the same fate on Trump and his administration which befell Duke Leto Atreides.

Trump went to Langley and spoke about inaugural crowds, and received warm applause from some of the same people concocting schemes to destroy his presidency. That was a mistake, and it must be recognized as such. Trump is late in drumming Obama’s people out of the government, and those people are now a cancer on his administration. He must clean out the intelligence community and the rest of the deep state, and he must drain the swamp in Washington. And he’s in a race against time in doing so.

All new administrations, particularly those taking over from predecessors in the opposite party, will struggle to find loyal servants within the bowels of the federal government. But no administration has politicized the bureaucracy and the intelligence community the way Obama did, and the government has never been so corrupted as it is now. The political assassination of Mike Flynn proves that, and Flynn will certainly not be the last. This administration is in a death struggle with the deep state, and only one will survive.

Former Obama Officials, Loyalists Waged Secret Campaign to Oust Flynn

February 15, 2017

Former Obama Officials, Loyalists Waged Secret Campaign to Oust Flynn, Washington Free Beacon, February 14, 2017

File photo : Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, U.S. national security advisor, arrives to a swearing in ceremony of White House senior staff in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. Trump today mocked protesters who gathered for large demonstrations across the U.S. and the world on Saturday to signal discontent with his leadership, but later offered a more conciliatory tone, saying he recognized such marches as a "hallmark of our democracy." Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg(Sipa via AP Images)

File photo : Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, U.S. national security advisor, arrives to a swearing in ceremony of White House senior staff in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg(Sipa via AP Images)

“The Obama administration knew that Flynn was going to release the secret documents around the Iran deal, which would blow up their myth that it was a good deal that rolled back Iran,” the source said. “So in December the Obama NSC started going to work with their favorite reporters, selectively leaking damaging and incomplete information about Flynn.”

“After Trump was inaugurated some of those people stayed in and some began working from the outside, and they cooperated to keep undermining Trump,” the source said, detailing a series of leaks from within the White House in the past weeks targeting Flynn. “Last night’s resignation was their first major win, but unless the Trump people get serious about cleaning house, it won’t be the last.”

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The abrupt resignation Monday evening of White House national security adviser Michael Flynn is the culmination of a secret, months-long campaign by former Obama administration confidantes to handicap President Donald Trump’s national security apparatus and preserve the nuclear deal with Iran, according to multiple sources in and out of the White House who described to the Washington Free Beacon a behind-the-scenes effort by these officials to plant a series of damaging stories about Flynn in the national media.

The effort, said to include former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes—the architect of a separate White House effort to create what he described as a pro-Iran echo chamber—included a small task force of Obama loyalists who deluged media outlets with stories aimed at eroding Flynn’s credibility, multiple sources revealed.

The operation primarily focused on discrediting Flynn, an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, in order to handicap the Trump administration’s efforts to disclose secret details of the nuclear deal with Iran that had been long hidden by the Obama administration.

Insiders familiar with the anti-Flynn campaign told the Free Beacon that these Obama loyalists plotted in the months before Trump’s inauguration to establish a set of roadblocks before Trump’s national security team, which includes several prominent opponents of diplomacy with Iran. The Free Beaconfirst reported on this effort in January.

Sources who spoke to the Free Beacon requested anonymity in order to speak freely about the situation and avoid interfering with the White House’s official narrative about Flynn, which centers on his failure to adequately inform the president about a series of phone calls with Russian officials.

Flynn took credit for his missteps regarding these phone calls in a brief statement released late Monday evening. Trump administration officials subsequently stated that Flynn’s efforts to mislead the president and vice president about his contacts with Russia could not be tolerated.

However, multiple sources closely involved in the situation pointed to a larger, more secretive campaign aimed at discrediting Flynn and undermining the Trump White House.

“It’s undeniable that the campaign to discredit Flynn was well underway before Inauguration Day, with a very troublesome and politicized series of leaks designed to undermine him,” said one veteran national security adviser with close ties to the White House team. “This pattern reminds me of the lead up to the Iran deal, and probably features the same cast of characters.”

The Free Beacon first reported in January that, until its final days in office, the Obama administration hosted several pro-Iran voices who were critical in helping to mislead the American public about the terms of the nuclear agreement. This included a former Iranian government official and the head of the National Iranian American Council, or NIAC, which has been accused of serving as Iran’s mouthpiece in Washington, D.C.

Since then, top members of the Obama administration’s national security team have launched a communications infrastructure after they left the White House, and have told reporters they are using that infrastructure to undermine Trump’s foreign policy.

“It’s actually Ben Rhodes, NIAC, and the Iranian mullahs who are celebrating today,” said one veteran foreign policy insider who is close to Flynn and the White House. “They know that the number one target is Iran … [and] they all knew their little sacred agreement with Iran was going to go off the books. So they got rid of Flynn before any of the [secret] agreements even surfaced.”

Flynn had been preparing to publicize many of the details about the nuclear deal that had been intentionally hidden by the Obama administration as part of its effort to garner support for the deal, these sources said.

Flynn is now “gone before anybody can see what happened” with these secret agreements, said the second insider close to Flynn and the White House.

Sources in and out of the White House are concerned that the campaign against Flynn will be extended to other prominent figures in the Trump administration.

One senior White House official told the Free Beacon that leaks targeting the former official were “not the result of a series of random events.”

“The drumbeat of leaks of sensitive material related to General Flynn has been building since he was named to his position,” said the official, who is a member of the White House’s National Security Council. “Last night was not the result of a series of random events. The president has lost a valuable adviser and we need to make sure this sort of thing does not happen again.”

Other sources expressed concern that public trust in the intelligence community would be eroded by the actions of employees with anti-Trump agendas.

“The larger issue that should trouble the American people is the far-reaching power of unknown, unelected apparatchiks in the Intelligence Community deciding for themselves both who serves in government and what is an acceptable policy they will allow the elected representatives of the people to pursue,” said the national security adviser quoted above.

“Put aside the issue of Flynn himself; that nameless, faceless bureaucrats were able to take out a president’s national security adviser based on a campaign of innuendo without evidence should worry every American,” the source explained.

Eli Lake, a Bloomberg View columnist and veteran national security reporter well sourced in the White House, told the Free Beacon that Flynn earned a reputation in the Obama administration as one of its top detractors.

“Michael Flynn was one of the Obama administration’s fiercest critics after he was forced out of the Defense Intelligence Agency,” said Lake, who described “the political assassination of Michael Flynn” in his column published early Tuesday.

“[Flynn] was a withering critic of Obama’s biggest foreign policy initiative, the Iran deal,” Lake said. “He also publicly accused the administration of keeping classified documents found in the Osama bin Laden raid that showed Iran’s close relationship with al Qaeda. He was a thorn in their side.”

Lake noted in his column that he does not buy fully the White House’s official spin on Flynn’s resignation.

“For a White House that has such a casual and opportunistic relationship with the truth, it’s strange that Flynn’s ‘lie’ to Pence would get him fired,” Lake wrote. “It doesn’t add up.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stated in his daily briefing that “the evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation and a series of other questionable incidents is what led the president to ask General Flynn for his resignation.”

A third source who serves as a congressional adviser and was involved in the 2015 fight over the Iran deal told the Free Beacon that the Obama administration feared that Flynn would expose the secret agreements with Iran.

“The Obama administration knew that Flynn was going to release the secret documents around the Iran deal, which would blow up their myth that it was a good deal that rolled back Iran,” the source said. “So in December the Obama NSC started going to work with their favorite reporters, selectively leaking damaging and incomplete information about Flynn.”

“After Trump was inaugurated some of those people stayed in and some began working from the outside, and they cooperated to keep undermining Trump,” the source said, detailing a series of leaks from within the White House in the past weeks targeting Flynn. “Last night’s resignation was their first major win, but unless the Trump people get serious about cleaning house, it won’t be the last.”

According To Iranian Officials, Obama Administration Gave Unwritten Consent In The Nuclear Talks And In The JCPOA Negotiations For Iran To Develop Ballistic Missiles With A Range Of Only 2,000 km – That Is, Capable Of Striking Israel But Not Europe

February 3, 2017

According To Iranian Officials, Obama Administration Gave Unwritten Consent In The Nuclear Talks And In The JCPOA Negotiations For Iran To Develop Ballistic Missiles With A Range Of Only 2,000 km – That Is, Capable Of Striking Israel But Not Europe, MEMRI, A. Savyon and Yigal Carmon and U. Kafash*, February 2, 2017

“Likewise, the Zionist regime is the most important enemy of Iran in the regionregion, and is less than 1,200 km away. Therefore, short- and medium-range missiles are sufficient to strike U.S. bases near Iran, and long-range missiles are sufficient to strike the occupied territories [Israel]. The diagram shows several of these American bases and [also] the missiles that are counting [down] to the moment [when they will be able to] strike them.”

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Introduction

On January 30, 2017, U.S. sources announced that Iran had conducted a failed test of a new ballistic missile, the Khorramshahr. According to reports, the missile exploded after a 965-km flight.[1] Both Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif (on January 31) and Defense Minister Dehghan (on February 1) stressed that Iran “asks permission from no one in the matter of its defense program.”[2]

It should be emphasized that contrary to statements by Iranian regime spokesmen who say that Iran’s missile program is defensive, missiles with a 2,000-km range are strictly offensive and strategic. This is why Iran has faced constant demands to stop developing them.

In the years that preceded the U.S.-Iran nuclear talks, Iran developed ballistic missiles with ranges of 2,500-5,000 km that threaten Europe and even the U.S.

Dr. Hassan Abbasi, theoretician of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and director of the IRGC Center for Borderless Security Doctrinal Analysis, said in 2004: “We have a strategy drawn up for the destruction of Anglo-Saxon civilization and for the uprooting of the Americans and the English.

“Our missiles are now ready to strike at their civilization, and as soon as the instructions arrive from Leader [Ali Khamenei], we will launch our missiles at their cities and installations… And because of Khatami’s policies and dialogue between the civilizations, we have been compelled to freeze our plan… and now we are [again] about to carry out the program… The global infidel front is a front against Allah and the Muslims, and we must make use of everything we have at hand to strike at this front, by means of our suicide operations or by means of our missiles.”[3]

The London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat also reported, on June 14, 2004, that the Shihab 4 and Shihab 5 long-range missile projects had been revived, on orders from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.[4]

It should be noted that a December 14, 2013 report on Iran’s missile program published by the IRGC-affiliated Mehr news agency immediately following the Geneva Agreement provided details on the various Shihab models. According to the report, Shihab 3D missiles, with a range of 2,200-3,000 km, “can easily reach the occupied territories [Israel]… and cover their entire area.” The report also stated that the Shihab 4 has a range of 3,000 km and the ability to launch satellites into orbit, and that “very little information” has been published about the Shihab 5. The diagrams in the article also feature a Shihab 6 model.[5]

U.S. Approves Iranian Development Of Missiles With A Range Of Only 2,000 km – That Is, Capable Of Reaching Israel

However, after U.S.-Iran negotiations began, and at the end of their first stage, in Geneva in November 2013, Iranian officials began reporting that Iran’s missile program for missiles with ranges above 2,000 km was being restricted.

Thus, for example, immediately after the interim agreement was reached in Geneva, on December 10, 2013, and in reference to it, IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said that Iran is capable of producing missiles with a range of over 2,000 km but that Khamenei had restricted the IRGC to a 2,000-km range: “We want to increase the range of the IRGC’s missiles, but despite this, the Leader [Khamenei] has restricted us to a range of 2,000 km. We have the capability to increase the range of our missiles, and our missiles should obviously reach Israel… The regime’s red lines were not crossed during the nuclear talks with the P5+1 [Group] and in the Geneva Agreement.”[6]

Indeed, IRGC commanders stressed that the most important thing for the regime was missiles capable of striking Israel; see, for example, comments by IRGC Aerospace and Missile Division director Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who said following a 2016 missile launch: “For us, Israel’s evil is totally clear, and the 2,000-kilometer range of our missiles [is intended] to confront the distant Zionist regime.”[7]

Extensive quotes regarding the Iranian regime’s explicit intent to target Israel with its missiles can be found in MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1135, Iranian IRGC Missile Unit Commanders: We’ve Developed 2,000-km Range Missiles And Equipped Hizbullah With 300-km Range Missiles; Fars News Agency: Israel’s Illusions About Its Natural Gas Fields Will Be Buried In The Mediterranean, December 3, 2014, and Special Dispatch No. 6349, Iran Launches Long-Range Missiles Emblazoned With Slogan: ‘Israel Should Be Wiped Off The Face Of The Earth’, March 16, 2016.

1298aIranian missile emblazoned with the slogan ‘Israel Should Be Wiped Off The Face Of The Earth” (Fars, Iran, March 9, 2016)

On November 17, 2014, the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim news agency posted a diagram explaining that Iran “makes do” with a range of 2,000 km, which it considers “desirable” and which covers all of Israel: “On the Firing Line – The commanders of the army of the Islamic Republic [of Iran] have said several times that with its attainment of long-range missiles with a range of up to 2,000 km, Iran has arrived at the range ceiling that it considers desirable, and that ‘in the meantime’ there is no need to increase this range. Although the U.S. is 11,000 km from Iran, in recent years it has approached the borders of Iran, [and therefore] its military bases, equipment, and forces are a target for Iran’s missiles.

“Likewise, the Zionist regime is the most important enemy of Iran in the region, and is less than 1,200 km away. Therefore, short- and medium-range missiles are sufficient to strike U.S. bases near Iran, and long-range missiles are sufficient to strike the occupied territories [Israel]. The diagram shows several of these American bases and [also] the missiles that are counting [down] to the moment [when they will be able to] strike them.”[8]

Additionally, Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said on August 18, 2015 in response to a reporter’s question on the manufacture of missiles with a range greater than 2,000 km: “We do not produce missiles with ranges greater than 2,000 km.”[9]

Is U.S. Permission For Iran To Develop Missiles With Ranges Up To 2,000 km – Which Reach Israel – A Secret Annex Of The JCPOA, Or Simply Unwritten Consent?

In statements, IRGC officials hinted that restrictions on the range of Iranian missiles so that they reach Israel but not Europe were part of the Iran deal. Thus, for instance, IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari referred to the IRGC’s November 2, 2015 consent to UN Security Council Resolution 2231, saying: “One of the points in this resolution was the matter of restrictions, which some military elements feared. Therefore, we held meetings in [Iran’s] Supreme National Security Council, and also went to the Leader [Khamenei]. The [Iranian] negotiating team told the Westerners that we do not agree to these restrictions. They [the Westerners] said that these issues must be included in the resolution. Even when I met with the Leader, he said that there were no restrictions on developing defensive capabilities. The only restriction relates to nuclear missiles, which, obviously, we never wanted.”[10]

The next day, on November 3, 2015, Iranian Army chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi referred to Jafari’s remarks, saying: “I confirm statements by the IRGC commander that Iran’s missile activity is not restricted. We will follow two restrictions: The first is mentioned in the JCPOA, in the matter of no nuclear planning, and the second is the range of 2,000 km, which has already been noted previously by all elements in Iran.”[11]

It should be noted that the Hebrew version of this news, which IRIB published on November 4, 2015 explicitly mentioned, in both the headline and the text, that the JCPOA allows Iran to possess ballistic missiles of a range of 2,000 km. The Hebrew news item read:

Firouzabadi: The Nuclear Agreement Promises Iran Missiles With 2,000-km Range

“The chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Maj.-Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, stressed that the state, under orders from the general commander [i.e. Khamenei] of the IRGC, undertakes, inter alia, to restrict nuclear planning, but that it is entitled to produce missiles with a range of 2,000 km.

“Firouzabadi made these statements yesterday (Tuesday) to a group of Islamic regime leaders and officials, and referred to [statements by] the IRGC general commander emphasizing that Iran would commit to the sections of the nuclear agreement with the West that include a restriction on nuclear planning, and that in addition, Iran is entitled to possess missiles with a range of 2,000 km.”[12]

These statements indicate that although the permission given to Iran to develop missiles capable of striking Israel is likely not a secret annex of the JCPOA, it still constitutes unwritten consent that is an integral part of the nuclear deal. It is convenient for both sides not to publish this understanding in written form – for Iran because it rejects any public reference to its missile program, which it defines as defensive but is in fact offensive; and for the Obama administration, because there would be repercussions if it were to be revealed that it had given Iran permission to develop missiles capable of striking Israel.

It should be noted that UN Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015) constitutes an additional concession by the Obama administration to Iran, in comparison with the previous resolution 1929 (2010). This concession has two components:

One, UNSCR 1929 banned Iran from conducting any activity concerning missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, while UNSCR 2231 replaced the word “capable,” which refers to objective specifications, with the word “intended,” which concerns fluid political matters.

Two, while UNSCR 1929 banned Iran from conducting any missile activity, UNSCR 2231 rescinds this ban.

Following Iran’s May 9, 2016 missile test, which took place after the JCPOA’s Implementation Day – and which embarrassed the Obama administration – IRGC Aerospace and Missile Division director Amir Ali Hajizadeh said: “The Americans are telling [us]: ‘Don’t talk about missile affairs, and if you conduct a test or maneuver, don’t mention it.'”[13]

*A. Savyon is Director of MEMRI’s Iran Media Project; Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI; U. Kafash is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.

 

[1] Foxnews.com, January 30, 2017.

[2] Yjc.ir, January 31, 2017; Tasnim (Iran), February 1, 2017.

[3] Shargh (Iran), June 5, 2004; Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 28, 2004. Also see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 181, The Internal Debate in Iran: How to Respond to Western Pressure Regarding Its Nuclear Program, June 17, 2004; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 723, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Official Threatens Suicide Operations: ‘Our Missiles Are Ready to Strike at Anglo-Saxon Culture… There Are 29 Sensitive Sites in the U.S. and the West…’, May 28, 2004; and MEMRI TV Clip No. 252, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Official In Tehran University Lecture (Part II): We Plan To Target US Nuclear Warheads On US Soil; Should Take Over England, May 22, 2004.

[4] A military source in the Iranian Defense Ministry stated: “In a meeting last week with Revolutionary Guards commanders, Khamenei said that Israel was planning to attack Iran’s nuclear installations and the Iranian military soon, and therefore defense and military preparedness should be boosted as soon as possible. Khamenei stressed that the increase in petroleum prices allowed Iran to allocate a larger budget to its military projects. [Iran’s] Ministry of Defense received $1 billion to resume its Shihab 4 and Shihab 5 project. It is known that in the past, Iran conducted an experiment with Shihab 3 missiles whose range is 1,200 kilometers [and which can reach Israel], but [President] Khatami halted the project of the Shihab 4, whose range is 2,800 [which covers Western Europe], and the Shihab 5, whose range is 4,900-5,300 km [and which can reach the U.S.], because he thought it was a project incompatible with Iran’s strategic interests and defense needs.” Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 14, 2004.

[5] Mehrnews.com, December 14, 2013.

[6] ISNA (Iran), December 10, 2013.

[7] Fars (Iran), March 9, 2016. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6349, Iran Launches Long-Range Missiles Emblazoned With Slogan: ‘Israel Should Be Wiped Off The Face Of The Earth’, March 16, 2016.

[8] Tasnim (Iran), April 17, 2014. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1135, Iranian IRGC Missile Unit Commanders: We’ve Developed 2,000-km Range Missiles And Equipped Hizbullah With 300-km Range Missiles; Fars News Agency: Israel’s Illusions About Its Natural Gas Fields Will Be Buried In The Mediterranean, December 3, 2014.

[9] Yjc.ir, August 18, 2015.

[10] Fars (Iran), November 2, 2015.

[11] Mashregh (Iran), November 3, 2015.

[12] Hebrew.irib.ir, November 4, 2015.

[13] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6430, IRGC Aerospace And Missile Force Commander: The Americans Are Telling Us ‘Don’t Talk About Missile Affairs, And If You Conduct A Test… Don’t Mention It’, May 15, 2016.

What Obama Owes Putin—and Why Donald Trump Is Left Holding the Bag

January 17, 2017

What Obama Owes Putin—and Why Donald Trump Is Left Holding the Bag, Tablet MagazineLee Smith, January 17, 2017

(A long but fascinating analysis of Obamas’ Middle East policy, of which a strong Iran was the centerpiece and in which Putin was his tool, ally and master. — DM)

The Obama administration’s dual-track diplomacy was different because the public track was intended to cover for the real show going on behind the scenes. For instance, if it looked like Obama was at odds with Putin over Russia’s destructive escalation in Syria and its role in crushing the rebels and killing civilians, nothing could have been further from the truth. Yet Obama needed Putin to rescue Iran and save its regional position. So while Obama was denouncing Putin in public, his White House errand boys were actually meeting in private with Putin’s errand boys, helping the Russians to accomplish the very things that the administration—especially the State Department—then publicly denounced. On bad days, it could look like there were actually two U.S. governments, pursuing policies that were diametrically opposed to each other. In fact, there was only one government, led by Obama—and the policy of that government was entirely coherent, although not necessarily wise.

For what mattered most to Obama wasn’t Syria, nor even was it the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is typically referred to as Obama’s signature foreign-policy initiative. Even that was a feint, cover for a larger strategy that entailed a realignment of interests in the Middle East and a new form of foreign-policy “realism” that would get American troops out of the Middle East—and put America in the same column as Iran and its allies, including Vladimir Putin.

How could Obama cover America’s retreat, yet ensure a certain amount of stability in the Middle East? Israel was too small for the role of regional policeman, and besides, its policies toward the Palestinians pointed toward instability. The Sunni Arab states were fractious and incapable of working together, and their own internal problems gave rise to extremism. That left Iran.

Trump’s nominee for defense secretary, Gen. James Mattis, . . . thought crushing Assad would be a huge strategic setback for Iran. And that’s just what worried Obama, who hardly needed the Iranians to warn him that realignment would collapse if America targeted the Syrian regime. After all, realignment was predicated on the idea of a strong Iran with a can-do Quds Force that could act as the region’s new policeman. An Iran knocked back down to size, and where the country’s internal opposition would be emboldened, would be of no use to a White House keen to hand over the keys to the Middle East and get out. Obama needed a big Iran, a “successful regional power,” as he’s put it.

***************************

Is Donald Trump a Russian secret agent? Did he pay FSB hookers to pee on the bed the Obamas slept in at the Ritz in Moscow, overlooking the Kremlin? It’s silly season, so any drunk on a fat oppo-research expense account can write down any crazy foolishness they want and Buzzfeed will let you decide if it’s true because that, as Buzzfeed’s editor, Ben Smith, solemnly explained to The New York Times, is where American journalism is at in 2017. Duly noted, Buzzfeed. Enjoy the golden showers.

What’s being obscured by this grotesquerie is the origin and the actual substance of U.S. foreign policy toward Russia, which in turn affects the lives of hundreds of millions of people living in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, and elsewhere. Or, to put it another way: Is Donald Trump likely to continue the policies of his predecessor, which set the Middle East on fire and led to 500,000 deaths in Syria, and to Putin biting off large chunks of the sovereign nation of Ukraine? Or is he likely to reverse those policies? Or can he, even if he wanted to?

The single-mindedness with which the White House and the remnants of the Clinton campaign have pursued the idea that Donald Trump is a pawn of Vladimir Putin is not based on silly stories about peeing prostitutes or secret computer servers that connect the Trump organization to the Kremlin. Rather, it’s an attempt to manufacture more smoke to obscure the reality of Obama’s own determination to collaborate with a hostile Russian leader in Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Sure, Obama recently sent 35 Russian diplomats packing and shuttered Russian diplomatic facilities in Maryland and New York, but this was after seven years of looking the other way while Russia seized Crimea, then Donbass; waged cyberattacks on the Baltic countries; brought down a passenger jet over Ukraine; sheltered Edward Snowden; and bombed schools and hospitals in Syria. All of these actions threatened global stability and American interests, yet Obama only puffed his chest after the cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails—long after it mattered, and after the moving vans have already started to haul his stuff out of the White House.

The reason top national-security journalists, policy mandarins, and much of the Washington establishment can’t fathom Obama’s relationship with Putin is only partly due to partisanship. The real reason it’s so hard to see how much room the outgoing president gave Putin is because misdirection has been Obama’s guiding principle for seven years.

The president made it look like he was at odds with Putin for much of his two terms—for instance, loudly poo-pooing the Russian campaign in Syria and warning of Vietnam-style “quagmires,” dismissing Russia as a weak country, sending an LGBT delegation to the Sochi Olympics to underscore his differences with Russia’s treatment of the LGBT community. All this helped obscure the fact that when it really counted, Obama took special care to signal the Russian strongman that their interests were aligned. That wasn’t because he has a man-crush on Putin, but because he had a larger purpose in view—securing the Iran nuclear deal.

The point isn’t that Obama lied. Sure, he lied. All politicians lie all the time, right and left, Republican and Democrat. All governments lie, perhaps especially liberal democracies, which don’t have the luxury afforded authoritarian regimes to do whatever they want at no cost to their approval ratings, which hardly matter. Liberal democracies lie especially when they’re crafting policies that would make many of their constituents queasy.

For two terms the Obama White House staged a foreign-policy puppet show, while the real drama took place far from the spotlight—a mutant variation of dual-track diplomacy. Policy is often conducted along two tracks—maybe military and diplomatic, or hard power and soft power, like development assistance or cultural-exchange programs. Diplomacy is almost always conducted on two tracks. Track-two diplomacy is a term of art that refers to the nonofficial meetings held by private individuals or groups that give the official parties the nonofficials represent enough room to disclaim ownership if or when it blows up. The Oslo peace process began as track-two diplomacy, for example, as have plenty of other major diplomatic initiatives. The point is that whether we’re talking about foreign aid or political pressure, military force or moral suasion, the two tracks of dual-track diplomacy are almost always pointed in the same general direction, with the aim of securing the same outcome.

The Obama administration’s dual-track diplomacy was different because the public track was intended to cover for the real show going on behind the scenes. For instance, if it looked like Obama was at odds with Putin over Russia’s destructive escalation in Syria and its role in crushing the rebels and killing civilians, nothing could have been further from the truth. Yet Obama needed Putin to rescue Iran and save its regional position. So while Obama was denouncing Putin in public, his White House errand boys were actually meeting in private with Putin’s errand boys, helping the Russians to accomplish the very things that the administration—especially the State Department—then publicly denounced. On bad days, it could look like there were actually two U.S. governments, pursuing policies that were diametrically opposed to each other. In fact, there was only one government, led by Obama—and the policy of that government was entirely coherent, although not necessarily wise.

For what mattered most to Obama wasn’t Syria, nor even was it the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is typically referred to as Obama’s signature foreign-policy initiative. Even that was a feint, cover for a larger strategy that entailed a realignment of interests in the Middle East and a new form of foreign-policy “realism” that would get American troops out of the Middle East—and put America in the same column as Iran and its allies, including Vladimir Putin.

Yes, as Obama believed, Americans were sick of the problems and psychoses of the Middle East, and angry that George W. Bush failed to win his two Middle East wars. But neither Congress nor the U.S. foreign-policy establishment was keen to see the United States dismantle a regional security architecture it took 70 years to build, and which Obama and his young aides saw as a guarantee of future friction, and future U.S. military engagement. Someone needed to smash that architecture with a hammer.

So the Obama White House made stuff up. No one wanted to side with Iran and downgrade traditional allies like Israel. And so the Obama administration said that wasn’t happening. And the way it obscured the truth was to stage a dog-and-pony show with familiar Beltway names and faces to keep the Buzzfeed kids busy pondering the complexities of U.S. foreign policy while the adults went about their deadly serious business. What looked like the president of the United States pulling a rabbit out of his hat was actually Obama sawing a woman in half—and drawing blood.

***

Is that really what happened? Some former Obama officials, like the administration’s onetime Syria point man, Frederic Hof, argue that the reason the administration’s foreign policy is a mess is because the president and his men in the White House lacked experience in the federal bureaucracy. In this view, the Obama team—namely, National Security Adviser Susan Rice—didn’t know how to manage what people in the know call the “interagency process,” or how the various institutions, like the National Security Council staff, State Department, Pentagon, and intelligence community process policy.

The reality is that Obama and his closest aides were contemptuous of the institutions, staffed by those very same Beltway bureaucrats that collectively make up what Obama deputy Ben Rhodes disparagingly called “The Blob.” As both Obama and Rhodes have explained, the mediocrities worthy of contempt included members of Obama’s cabinet. The reason for tapping figures like Leon Panetta, Robert Gates, David Petraeus, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Samantha Power was to use the establishment as cover, while the real players, like Obama and Rhodes, Rob Malley, and a few select others, maneuvered in the shadows, and spun covering fictions. By 2012, as Gates and Panetta detailed in their memoirs, the Wise Men came to understand they were simply pawns in the president’s larger game, and quit before the real bloodshed started.

Hillary Clinton, with an eye to her presidential campaign, was not about to cross Obama in public, as Gates, Panetta, Chuck Hagel, and others did, but she knew she was window dressing, too. Her State Department was surprised when John Kerry, then head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was tasked to open a channel with the Iranians through Oman. The concessions Kerry offered Iran, especially the right to enrich uranium, angered Clinton’s staff. Kerry was screwing up badly, they leaked to reliable press contacts, they’d never have blundered like that.

Was the Clinton team really shocked and outraged? No, it was just cranking up its own fog machine, lest anyone realize the White House had done the worst thing anyone can do to someone else in Washington—make them irrelevant. Hillary Clinton’s job wasn’t to make policy—it was to rack up frequent-flier miles and stay out of the way while the White House handled the big-ticket items like Israel, Iran, China, and every other issue of any major importance. Nor did she particularly want the responsibility for decisions that she and her coterie may have opposed, and which certainly were likely to anger many of her prominent traditional liberal supporters. “The president,” as one official from a pro-Israel organization in Washington told me, “leapfrogged the State Department.”

Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, was either less ambitious or more vain than Clinton, or maybe both. He was the electronic rabbit while the real work of shaping the world was done by much younger men who represented the will of the president of the United States. What Kerry did in public, all those marathon negotiating sessions, all those windy speeches, was a sideshow. The fact that his tremendous vanity made him think that it was real only added conviction to his performance—all the better to generate buzz among 27-year-old reporters at Buzzfeed and their instant-foreign-policy-expert buddies at the newly-minted Washington “think tanks” led by Democratic political operatives like Neera Tanden, whose actual experience of any particular part of the world or area of human endeavor—warfare, diplomacy, nuclear engineering, you name it—was nil.

So while Buzzfeed—and the New Yorker—wrote articles about how John Kerry was manfully negotiating cease-fires in Syria with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, it was, in fact, Obama’s own Middle East point man, Robert Malley, who conveyed the president’s real policy. Almost as soon as Obama called for Assad to step aside in August 2011, the administration came to regret that bit of grandstanding, and walked it back. As Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies told me, “The administration went from ‘transitioning away from Assad’ to ‘de-escalating’ the conflict, or stopping the bloodshed. The White House used a veneer of humanitarian concern to elide the fact that removing Assad was no longer a part of the equation. It was now about shutting down the war against Assad.”

It wasn’t long before foreign officials came to understand that Obama was working two seemingly opposing channels—the trick was figuring out which channel was real. As a source close to the Turkish government explained to me, Turkey’s former prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, eventually concluded that Obama was using Clinton as a prop. Whatever promises she might make on Syria, for instance, were worthless. They were also often actively misleading, as they were unconnected to what the Americans were actually doing on the ground. The White House had sent its top diplomat out to lie, and without informing her she was lying.

No one saw more of the administration’s shell game than Israel. The White House reassured Jerusalem that it wasn’t going to sell Iran the farm—Israel was their ally, and Iran was the enemy. As one former senior U.S. official told me, “The Bush administration and Israel had developed a pressure track on Iran, primarily through the intelligence community. This was the track that produced Stuxnet. But Obama shut down the pressure track with the opening of the Oman channel since they didn’t believe that pressure and diplomacy work together. But the Obama White House couldn’t tell the Israelis they were shutting down the pressure track. So the president wrapped them up in planning, promising, for instance, a Stuxnet 2.0. So you have emissaries going back and forth, planning and planning and planning, which was actually just stalling.”

Moreover, said the former U.S. official, the Israelis knew that Obama was lying about the Oman channel. He added that the head of the U.S. team negotiating with Iran, Wendy Sherman, “would meet openly with the Iranians as part of the P5+1 talks, then fly to Jerusalem, and tell the Israelis, ‘We got your back.’ But the Israelis knew the Americans were meeting with Iran because they had the tail numbers of planes going to Oman. The Israelis went to Obama’s then national security adviser, Thomas Donilon, and said, ‘We know what’s going on.’ ”

In fact, the Israelis didn’t understand. They thought, like most critics of the Iran deal, that the administration was just flubbing negotiations and needed help. But the White House didn’t care that much about the particulars because the JCPOA was simply a device to allow for a larger, even more historic play—Obama wanted to get America out of the Middle East, and realigning with Iran was America’s exit strategy.

For the big problem with the region, from Obama’s perspective, is the lure of the “Washington playbook,” a set of guiding principles that typically point to the use of force, which was passed down by generations of government grandees—the kind he used as rodeo clowns. The question was: How could Obama cover America’s retreat, yet ensure a certain amount of stability in the Middle East? Israel was too small for the role of regional policeman, and besides, its policies toward the Palestinians pointed toward instability. The Sunni Arab states were fractious and incapable of working together, and their own internal problems gave rise to extremism. That left Iran.

Clearly, there are plenty of Obama administration officials enamored with the Islamic Republic, whether they’re attracted to the vintage patina of late 20th-century Third Worldism or classic Persian culture. What was most appealing to Obama, as he told a meeting of Gulf Arab officials at Camp David in 2015, was simply that the Iranians are capable of getting things done—a sentiment that he expressed in the context of his admiration for the Revolutionary Guards Corps’ expeditionary unit led by Qassem Soleimani. However, he also realized that this conviction and the policy it undergirded would have grossed out a large number, likely a majority, of Americans, and their elected representatives. So he lied, or misled and misdirected—and said the JCPOA was about stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and nothing more.

***

All the major foreign-policy issues of the Obama presidency (the fraying of the bilateral relationship with Israel, the withdrawal from Iraq, Russia, etc.) were subsets of realignment policy—including the administration’s management of the single largest strategic, political, and humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century, the Syrian conflict. Obama’s cabinet held the mainstream view of the Syrian war—Panetta, Clinton, Kerry, Petraeus, and Power all supported arming the rebels to defeat Assad, or at least compel him to negotiate under harder circumstances. But that was exactly the opposite of what Obama wanted to do.

A more hawkish position was expressed by the U.S. officials like then-head of CENTCOM and now Trump’s nominee for defense secretary, Gen. James Mattis, who thought crushing Assad would be a huge strategic setback for Iran. And that’s just what worried Obama, who hardly needed the Iranians to warn him that realignment would collapse if America targeted the Syrian regime. After all, realignment was predicated on the idea of a strong Iran with a can-do Quds Force that could act as the region’s new policeman. An Iran knocked back down to size, and where the country’s internal opposition would be emboldened, would be of no use to a White House keen to hand over the keys to the Middle East and get out. Obama needed a big Iran, a “successful regional power,” as he’s put it.

A victory for the Syrian opposition—whom the White House could not help but disparage even as the president and his aides honored the victims of Assad’s depredations, i.e., the opposition—would have been a disaster for the Obama administration. It would have not only cashiered Obama’s hopes for a hegemonic Iran capable of managing American regional interests but would have required Washington to manage the varied and often conflicting interests of its regional allies, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc. In other words, an opposition victory would have demanded more American involvement in the Middle East—more time, attention, energy, money, and perhaps blood.

The structural problem with Obama’s grand realignment is that Iran simply can’t handle the load. Obama should have understood this every time he had to tip the scales on behalf of the Iranians. When the administration leaked that Israel struck Iranian arms convoys headed to Hezbollah, Obama should’ve understood that he was tipping the scales, but it still wasn’t working. Qassem Suleimani turned out to be less than impressive, for his Quds Force couldn’t even tackle ISIS without the U.S. providing air support in Tikrit. The much-heralded operation to take back Mosul before Obama left office is such a mess that the White House simply doesn’t talk about it anymore.

When the Russians escalated in Syria in September 2015, Obama should have seen it as a clear sign he’d been wrong about Iran: The IRGC couldn’t even put down the farmers and carpenters the American president repeatedly disparaged. They needed the Russians to do it for them.

The White House said Putin’s action caught them by surprise, but that is unlikely to be true. The Russians were moving men and materiel for months through the Bosphorus—under the control of NATO member Turkey—at least since Suleimani’s July 2015 trip to Moscow to ask for Russian intervention.

The reality is that the Russian campaign in Syria served vital Obama interests. There was no point in realigning with Iran if Tehran’s regional position collapsed. Putin saved not only Assad and Iran, but Obama’s realignment policy. It was the second time the Russian president rescued Obama’s realignment policy—the first being when he offered the deal over Assad’s chemical weapons that allowed the commander-in-chief to walk back his red line.

Obama owes Putin, which is why he let the Russians get away with nearly everything it chose to do the last seven years, including its attacks on the American political system. What’s left for Trump is to manage the Russia policy he inherited from Obama—or overturn the table.