Archive for the ‘Trump and Iran scam’ category

Domestic Protests and Trump Inauguration Both Threaten Iran’s Relations with Russia

January 14, 2017

Domestic Protests and Trump Inauguration Both Threaten Iran’s Relations with Russia, Iran News Update, January 13, 2017

(Fascinating article. Please see also, Mystery blasts in Damascus: Syria accuses Israel. “The Russians have taken charge of the Syrian war and no longer bother to consult with the Syrian president or Iran on its conduct.” — DM)

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With the US and Russia strongly at odds, it was understood that Moscow would defend its Iranian partners in disputes over the nuclear deal. But if the US and Russia begin to reconcile and engage in greater political coordination under the Trump administration, this situation could be threatened, especially at a time when Iran’s partnership with Russia is also being openly challenged at home.

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On Wednesday, Voice of America News published an article detailing some of the protests that were seen in Iran on the occasion of the state-organized funeral of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Various slogans were heard to be shouted as part of those protests, and Iranian state media muted the television broadcast of the funeral as a result. These included calls for the release of political prisoners including the Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. But the funeral also served as an outlet for critical sentiments about the Iranian regime’s relationship with Russia and the associated interventions in the Syrian Civil War.

VOA News noted that demonstrators could be heard shouting “Death to Russia” and “the Russian embassy is a den of spies,” in mimicry of slogans that have been used against the United States by supporters of the Islamic theocracy. The report suggested that these demonstrations reflected both a change in the Iranian government’s view of Russia and widespread popular anxiety about that change. That anxiety in turn adds to questions about the durability of the Iran-Russia alliance, which some analysts have characterized not as an alliance but as a tenuous “partnership of convenience.”

Although Iran and Russia have both been backing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad virtually since the outset of the civil war aimed at ousting his government, it has frequently been suggested that the two countries’ interests in the region could begin to diverge in a way that threatened their cooperation. Russia’s partnership with Iran was already threatened by its friendly relations with Iran’s bitter enemy, Israel. And as the Syrian Civil War has dragged on, that threat has apparently intensified with Iran providing anti-Israeli Shiite paramilitary Hezbollah a permanent base in Syria.

Leaving aside the different perceptions of this situation by Tehran and Moscow, it has also been suggested that the latter could be more willing to accept a future for Syria in which Assad is not a long-term player. This difference is arguably reflected in the different degrees of hostility with which the two countries pursue moderate Syrian rebels. Although both have been accused of focusing their efforts on those moderate rebels instead of militant groups like ISIL, Russia guaranteed safe passage to the rebels and to civilians in rebel-controlled territory following the recent conquest of Aleppo. Iran, on the other hand, stopped fleeing Syrians at its own checkpoints and demanded concessions from the rebels to secure their release.

If such differences do reflect broader tensions in the Iran-Russia partnership, it is possible that these could be exploited by other interested parties, particularly incoming US President Donald Trump. Since winning election in November, Trump has continued to advocate for improved relations with Russia, while also maintaining a hard line on such issues as the Iran nuclear agreement.

His prospective Cabinet appointees have largely maintained this same line. The Weekly Standardreports that Trump’s choice for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has called for a thorough review of the nuclear agreement, in the interest of strengthening its enforcement mechanisms and making sure that Tehran is held accountable to its provisions to a greater extent than it was under the Obama administration. Meanwhile, UPI reports that Trump’s Secretary of Defense pick, James Mattis, underscored the importance of such a review when he referred to Iran as the worst destabilizing force in the Middle East.

Speaking more concretely during his Senate confirmation hearing, Mattis described Iran’s “malign influence” as having grown as a result of recent policies, and suggested that it would be the responsibility of the incoming presidential administration to see that the United States counters that influence, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. And of course this objective, if adopted by the administration itself, will have serious bearing on its strategy with regard to Syria, where improved relations with Russia could also play a part.

Although Mattis also expressed an interest in taking a fairly hard line on Russia, his comments to this effect are at odds with those of the president elect and in any event, they would have to be reconciled with the desire to undermine the power of a Middle Eastern government that could be significantly constrained by Russia.

The Voice of America article indicated that some Iranian officials are noticeably worried about the effects that improved relations between Moscow and Washington could have on Iran’s plans for its Russian partnership. These effects would probably not be limited to the Syrian Civil War but would also include changes in the ways in which the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is understood and enforced.

Earlier this week, the seven parties that had negotiated that agreement met in Geneva, for the last time before US President Barack Obama leaves office and Donald Trump is sworn in. There was some danger of Iran using this meeting to initiate conflict-resolution mechanisms built into the agreement, following comments by the Iranian Foreign Ministry promising “retaliation” and demanding “compensation” from the US for its reauthorization of the Iran Sanctions Act.

The provisions of that act remain suspended under the JCPOA, but US congressmen almost universally considered it important to keep the law in effect for the next ten years, so as to retain a credible threat of the “snap back” of economic sanctions in the event that Iran is caught cheating on the deal. The Iranians, on the other hand, had insisted that any additional sanctions activity – even unenforced activity – would be regarded as a violation of the spirit of the deal.

However, Reuters reported on Wednesday that Tehran had effectively backed down from its previous threats in the context of the meeting. This apparent change in tone may support a conclusion put forward in a previous Iran News Update article, which suggested that Iran was beginning to reorient its strategies regarding the JCPOA, so as to account for the change in prospective responses under the Trump administration as compared to the Obama administration.

Trump’s own threats to tear up or undermine the nuclear deal are one aspect of this, and they may necessitate that Tehran act differently in order to preserve that deal. Previously, the Iranians themselves had suggested a willingness to tear up the agreement, but some analysts took this to be a ploy to gain further concessions at a time when the Obama White House was paranoid about losing its foreign policy legacy. Some also viewed that ploy as successful, considering that Iran made several perceived violations, including two instances of exceeding heavy water limits, but faced no serious consequences under the deal.

But in times to come, the Iranian regime may have to treat more lightly if it wishes to preserve the agreement, which provided Iran with tens of billions of dollars in unfrozen assets, plus unspecified benefits from sanctions relief and new international business. The changing circumstances reflect not only the loss of a conciliatory opponent in the Obama administration, but also the prospective loss of a strong international backer in the Russian government.

With the US and Russia strongly at odds, it was understood that Moscow would defend its Iranian partners in disputes over the nuclear deal. But if the US and Russia begin to reconcile and engage in greater political coordination under the Trump administration, this situation could be threatened, especially at a time when Iran’s partnership with Russia is also being openly challenged at home.

Straun Stevenson Blames President Obama for the Legacy of Death and Destruction in Middle East

January 8, 2017

Straun Stevenson Blames President Obama for the Legacy of Death and Destruction in Middle East, Iran News Update, January 8, 2017

(Please see also, In its Last Days, Obama Administration Clings to Hope of a Positive Role for Iran. — DM)

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Struan Stevenson, president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association, former member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14), writes in his January 6, 2017 article for UPI, that the legacy of President Barack Obama will be death and destruction in the Middle East. His vision cooperation between  the United States and Iran “has unlocked a Pandora’s box of conflict and sectarian strife across the zone.”

During the closing days of the Obama administration the controversial nuclear deal with Iran and his policies regarding that ruthless regime have allowed the mullahs to threaten the security of the Middle East, and perhaps, while Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Turkey have tried to prevent Iran’s aggressive expansionism in the region.

The U.S. and other countries is the West failed the Syrian opposition and allowed a civil war to continue into its seventh year, costing hundreds of thousands of lives, and setting off the huge migration crisis in Europe.

$150 billion of frozen assets were released to Iran by the U.S. as part of the nuclear deal, which the Tehran government was expected to use to shore up their economy, on the brink of collapse. Instead, the regime redouble its spending the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Quds Force, both of which are listed terrorist organizations in the West and are involved in many conflicts in the Middle East. Not only does Iran support Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, it funds and supplies Hezbollah in Lebanon and the brutal Shi’ia militias in Iraq.

The nuclear deal has been breached, which Stevenson says demonstrates Iran’s complete disdain for the West. Two Qadr-H missiles were fired last March, in defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution tied to the agreement. “Israel must be wiped out” was marked on the missiles, and the test firing took place on the day that the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel. Vladimir Putin sent the first shipment of Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran last August.

President Obama attempted to make deals with the so-called “moderate” and “smiling” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, which he interpreted as having a green light for Tehran’s expansionist policy. Rouhani is in fact in charge of a government which has executed around 3,000 people since he took office in 2013, ten just this year. Mass hangings are now carried out in public, even in football stadiums. Many of the officials in his government were complicit in the 1988 massacre of some 30,000 political prisoners, most of whom were part of the opposition People’s Mojahedin of Iran. In fact, it was supervised by Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, who is Rouhani’s justice minister.

Obama began his administration by agreeing with Iran, and backing Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in Iraq. Stevenson writes, “Maliki was a puppet of the mullahs, doing their bidding by opening a direct route for Iranian troops and equipment heading to Syria to bolster the murderous Assad regime. Iran’s support for Maliki in Iraq and for Assad in Syria, two corrupt dictators who repressed and brutalized their own people, resulted in the rise of Daesh, also known as the Islamic State.Thanks to U.S. acquiescence over Tehran, Daesh grew and became a threat to the whole world.”  He continues, “Obama compounded this grievous mistake by providing American military support and air cover for the genocidal campaign being waged by pro-Iranian Shi’ia militias in Iraq. Once again Iran exploited its role in ousting Daesh as a means for implementing its ruthless policy of ethnic cleansing to annihilate the Sunnis in Iraq’s al-Anbar Province. Horrific sectarian atrocities were committed during the so-called “liberation” of the ancient cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. The Shi’ia militias, who formed the main part of the force fighting to recapture these cities from Daesh and are now engaged in the battle to recapture Mosul, are led by Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian terrorist Quds Force. Soleimani has also played a key role in Syria and the massacre in Aleppo.”

Tehran is gaining strength in Iraq. The Iraqi army is poorly trained, and the Iranian has Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s agreement to allowing Iranian-funded militias to take control of military operations. Political disarray in Baghdad, has paved the way for Iran to consolidate its hold in Iraq.

The unenviable task of trying to sort out the Middle East mess will be left to President-elect Donald Trump. Many people on his team believe that Iran is the main source of conflict in the Middle East and poses a greater threat to the West than North Korea or even Russia. It will be interesting to see how Trump will fare.

 

In its Last Days, Obama Administration Clings to Hope of a Positive Role for Iran

January 8, 2017

In its Last Days, Obama Administration Clings to Hope of a Positive Role for Iran, Iran News Update, January 7, 2017

(Iran News Update 

Iran News Update (INU) features news, analysis, and commentary on events inside Iran and the Iranian Diaspora around the world.  News and information is provided in cooperation with the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the parliament in exile of the Iranian Resistance, and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

— DM)

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Kerry’s remarks seem to imply that the Obama administration’s early claims about Iranian moderation will continue to be repeated until it departs the office. But the incoming administration cannot be expected to pick up that thread. And articles like the above-mentioned Fox News editorial indicate that on such issues as Iran’s coordination with America’s enemies, Donald Trump and his advisors will recognize the continuance of Tehran’s worst behaviors.

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On Friday, Fox News published an editorial on the topic of recent nuclear threats from North Korea. As well as being a longstanding thorn in the side of the United States, the Korean dictatorship’s obsession with nuclear weapons development has also variously exposed the cooperation between Iran and other enemies of Western democracies.

This cooperation was highlighted in the Fox News article, with specific reference to a number of instances of Iran helping North Korea with its nuclear program. In the view of the author and other critics of recent US foreign policy, this assistance has effectively been further enabled by a conciliatory approach to dealing with the Iranian nuclear program. As well as failing to address this alleged cooperation while negotiating the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, the Obama administration has also taken very little punitive action against Iran following its post-agreement ballistic missile tests, which were conducted in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions on the matter.

This has arguably given North Korea the impression that the United States is presently either unwilling or unable to react to such tests, of which the Fox News article says the east Asian dictatorship conducted 20 in the past year alone. But to whatever extent Obama-era permissiveness encouraged these activities, that permissiveness is all but certain to end when Donald Trump assumes the presidency on January 20. And the Fox News article concludes with recommendations as to what Trump can do to prevent North Korea’s nuclear development and missile testing.

Those recommendations include bolstering US defensive capabilities along the West Coast, and also constraining “enablers” of North Korean development, chiefly the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, the appropriate means for such constraint remain a serious topic of dispute. On the campaign trail, Trump frequently accused the Obama administration of handing the Iranians a nuclear agreement that brought little benefit to the West. He also threatened to tear it up – a measure that theoretically would have taken the world community back to the drawing board and allowed it to pursue a more comprehensive suite of Iranian concessions.

But subsequent to his election, Trump has taken a different tack, promoting renegotiation of the existing deal instead of its cancellation. Even some Republicans who opposed the deal or viewed it as seriously flawed have taken a similar view. As an example, The Guardian featured an article on Friday that detailed the input offered to Trump by Bob Corker, the Republican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has been insistent that tearing up the nuclear deal would create more problems than it would solve, and that the best way forward is to enforce its existing provisions much more strictly than the Obama administration has done.

Iran has at various times been caught in the midst of small violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, including two instances of exceeding the deal’s defined limits on Iranian stockpiles of heavy water, a nuclear byproduct. The absence of consequences for these violations has gone a long way toward promoting the perception of the outgoing administration’s permissiveness. And there has been a great deal of associated speculation and analysis of the reasons for this. The most natural explanations deal with the administration’s fear of endangering Iranian participation in the agreement. But the situation may also be more complex than this and include worries about antagonizing Iran at a time when its participation in regional conflicts is occasionally viewed as a positive thing.

Real Clear Politics points out that this perspective was explicitly expressed by Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “Together, Iran and Russia had to prop [Assad] up, and save him from the possibility that the extremists might take over the country,” Kerry said, apparently deviating from previous US positions calling for Assad’s ouster and promoting the possibility of a victory by moderate rebel groups led by the Free Syrian Army.

Iran and Russia have widely been credited with not only preventing Assad’s fall to these groups, but also with damaging them so severely as to push the Syrian Civil War toward a situation in which the only choices for the country’s future are the established Assad dictatorship and the militant rebels affiliated with ISIL and the Al Nusra Front. Meanwhile, Iran has done its best to advance the notion that its own interests in the region are adverse to Islamic extremism. But Tehran’s pro-democratic opposition the National Council of Resistance of Iran has often referred to the Islamic Republic as the “prototype” for Islamic extremism throughout the world.

On Friday, The Iran Project pointed to recent statements by Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, claiming that Iran has always been committed to a political solution in Syria. If taken at face value, those comments can be expected to encourage Kerry’s notion that under current circumstances, a victory for Iran in Syria is a defeat for Islamic terrorism. But the trouble with this claim is that it can only be reasonably defended if one takes “Islamic terrorism” to refer only to “Sunni terrorism.”

As a major part of Iran’s strategy not only in Syria but also in Iraq and Yemen, it has directed recruitment and deployment of multitudes of Shiite militant groups to those battlefields. Previous reports have confirmed that many of these groups swear allegiance to the Islamic Republic over and above the governments of the countries in which they are operating. In this way, Iran is evidently extending its Hezbollah model of foreign influence into other part of the region. And in Syria, it is a well-known fact that Iran is actually utilizing the Lebanese paramilitary group to strengthen its operations and build a large-scale network that spans several nearby countries.

On Thursday, Xinhua News Agency pointed out that the Iranian leadership had fervently disputed rumors that Hezbollah would be withdrawing from the Syrian Civil War. It is not clear what the ultimate source of those rumors was. But they are possibly rooted in Turkey’s demands for such a withdrawal as part of a political solution to the crisis, or else in the outgoing US administration’s optimism about Iranian “moderation” and willingness to cooperate over important foreign affairs. But although Boroujerdi’s comments about a desire for a political solution promote this perception, they are belied by the Iranian leadership’s clear unwillingness to withdraw its militant proxies, even as they continue to violate ceasefire agreements negotiated by Turkey, Russia, and others.

Nevertheless, Kerry’s remarks seem to imply that the Obama administration’s early claims about Iranian moderation will continue to be repeated until it departs the office. But the incoming administration cannot be expected to pick up that thread. And articles like the above-mentioned Fox News editorial indicate that on such issues as Iran’s coordination with America’s enemies, Donald Trump and his advisors will recognize the continuance of Tehran’s worst behaviors.

Iran Vows Nuclear Retaliation for U.S. Breach of Deal

December 14, 2016

Iran Vows Nuclear Retaliation for U.S. Breach of Deal, Washington Free Beacon, , December 14, 2016

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a news briefing after his meeting with his Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor at the Saadabad palace in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani  (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

“But the Obama administration counted on Iran waiting until the next president before revealing the game, and the Iranians sprung the trap early,” the source added. “So now the administration will do everything it can to look the other way and get through the next few weeks, so they can blame the inevitable collapse on Trump.”

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Senior Iranian officials vowed on Wednesday to continue moving forward with nuclear weapons work and other banned activities as retaliation against the United States for breaching last year’s nuclear accord, according to reports in the country’s state-controlled media.

Iranian leaders instructed the country’s atomic energy organization to move forward with sensitive nuclear work, including the construction of nuclear-powered ships and submarines.

Further provocative actions will be announced in the coming days, according to these Iranian leaders, who described the country’s actions as revenge for recent moves by the U.S. Congress to extend sanctions on Iran, a move the Islamic Republic claims is a breach of the nuclear deal.

Iran’s latest moves have not elicited concern from Obama administration officials, who continue to pursue a series of measures meant to decrease international pressure on Tehran and provide it with greater financial resources.

“Considering that the US administration has ignored and delayed compliance with its undertakings under the [nuclear agreement] and given the recent extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) that had already been declared as a violation of the nuclear deal by the Islamic Republic of Iran… the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran is ordered to develop the country’s peaceful nuclear program within the framework of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s international undertakings as defined in the following missions,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote in a letter Tuesday to the country’s top nuclear agency.

Iran will move forward with a “plan for designing and building propulsion systems to be used in marine transportation in cooperation with scientific and research centers,” according to Rouhani’s letter.

It also will engage in the “production of fuel for nuclear propulsion systems,” Rouhani wrote.

This is the first in a range of responses planned by Tehran, according to Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

The renewed nuclear work is “the first but not the last measures to be taken by Iran,” Velayati was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Iran’s announcement did not draw a sharp response from Obama administration officials, who declined to say whether the nuclear work would constitute a breach of the deal.

“This announcement itself does not constitute a violation,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “I think there’s a lot we just don’t know. I mean, this announcement just got made. There’s a lot we don’t know about it and what it means. And so I think we’d have to reserve some judgment here about the degree to which this could present any kind of problem.”

Kirby expressed faith in international nuclear inspectors, telling reporters that they would likely catch a breach of the deal.

Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert of rogue regimes, told the Washington Free Beacon that Iran is using the renewal of sanctions as an excuse to ramp up its illicit research activities

“The JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], which they have never officially signed, was a gift made possible by Obama’s ego and Kerry’s naiveté,” Rubin said. “If they disagree with the United States, they can follow a legal process to pursue that but the fact that they are having a temper tantrum shows their insincerity. Especially because no new sanctions have been applied to Iran. After all, the U.S. president can waive any sanctions so long as Iran complies with its commitments.”

One senior foreign policy consultant who has worked with Republican and Democratic offices in Congress on the issue told the Free Beacon that Iran always planned to breach the deal once it received promised economic relief.

“The Iran deal was deliberately structured to prevent American leaders from pressuring Iran. Kerry and his Iranian counterparts wrote the deal so that Iran would get most of the benefits immediately, so that they could blackmail American lawmakers by threatening to costlessly walk away, which is exactly what they’re doing,” the source said.

“But the Obama administration counted on Iran waiting until the next president before revealing the game, and the Iranians sprung the trap early,” the source added. “So now the administration will do everything it can to look the other way and get through the next few weeks, so they can blame the inevitable collapse on Trump.”

Former ‘Al-Sharq Al-Awsat’ Editor ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed: ‘Which Muslims Are Against Trump?’

December 14, 2016

Former ‘Al-Sharq Al-Awsat’ Editor ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed: ‘Which Muslims Are Against Trump?’ MEMRI, December 14, 2016

In his December 13, 2016 column in Al-Arabiya, titled “Which Muslims Are Against Trump?” senior Saudi journalist ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, former editor of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and also former director of Al-Arabiya TV, expressed satisfaction that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is putting together an administration that is aware of the Iranian danger. It is “Iran, Al-Qaeda, and Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood” that object to Trump’s choice of top officials, and that seek to depict him as anti-Muslim, he wrote, adding that the Muslim Brotherhood was angered by Trump’s friendly stance towards Egyptian President Al-Sisi. He underlined that Trump’s national security advisor pick, Lt.-Gen. Michael Flynn, is only saying “what we ourselves say – that there is a dangerous virus inside Islamic society called extremism.”

The following is his column, in the original English: [1]

al-rashedAl-Rashed (source: Alarabiya.net)

“We must understand the motives behind the groups that launch incitement campaigns against the new American administration. Iran knows that two of the appointed generals know it through expertise and personal experience. ISIS knows that the phase of truce will end with President Barack Obama’s exit. The Muslim Brotherhood, which enjoyed Obama’s support and bet on Clinton’s election as president, is now before a new phase that may not be in its interest.

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“Extremist powers in our region have declared war against President-elect Donald Trump under the excuse that he has a project to fight Islam and Muslims. They are trying to incite around one billion Muslims against the new U.S. administration and against the U.S. Those performing this task are doing so through religious and media platforms affiliated with extremist Islamic parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian regime.

“Is Trump really hostile to Muslims in general? Do his secretaries of state [sic] really have hostile stances against Islam as a religion?

“Ever since Trump announced the appointments of major secretaries of state [sic], many in our region spoke out against them, claiming Washington was willing to launch war on one billion Muslims. General James Mattis, whom Trump chose as secretary of defense, has in fact clearly and frankly voiced hostility – but against terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda. He also has frank stances against what Iran is doing in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

“General Michael Flynn, Trump’s new national security advisor, has also made outspoken speeches against extremist Islamic groups. Many have used these speeches to indicate that he is hostile against Islam and Muslims. Truth be told, what General Flynn said is what we ourselves say, that there is a dangerous virus inside Islamic society called extremism that has killed Muslims and threatened them everywhere and harmed them more than it even harmed the West and followers of other religions.

“The ‘Dangerous Disease’

“Doesn’t this dangerous disease exist in Muslims’ societies across the world? It certainly exists. Look at what happened in Turkey and Egypt during the past few days and what had happened in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Jordan. Hideous crimes were committed by extremist groups – the same ones which Flynn and Mattis call for confronting. Mike Pompeo, whom Trump chose to manage the most important foreign security institution, the CIA, has the same opinions about the necessity of confronting extremism and he’s aware of Iran’s sabotaging role in the region and the world.

“If we realize that those who are angered by these three appointments are Iran, Al-Qaeda, and Islamic groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, we can understand that the problem is not in Trump’s choices, but in these men’s project to confront terrorism which the former parties sponsor or at least benefit from. The majority of Islamic countries agree with these state secretaries’ proposals and vision of the crisis that threatens the entire world. We, as Muslims, have for a decade and half now been engaged in a war against extremism and extremists, as an ideology and groups, and want the world to differentiate between Muslims and not put them all in one category and to stand with the majority of peaceful Muslims against this evil minority. It’s in our interest to deter regimes like Iran that supports terrorist groups, be it Sunni or Shi’ite, and allies with them and engages in regional wars under dishonest slogans such as defending Islam or standing against the West.

“We understand that Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the elections angered the Muslim Brotherhood. What fueled the latter’s anger was how Trump received Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in New York earlier this year. It’s on this basis that they try to picture Trump’s administration as racist and as an enemy of Islam and Muslims. They want to establish a popular bloc that exerts pressure to confront the new American government in order to intimidate it and force it to alter its stances and they are doing so by entrenching themselves behind Islam and Muslims.

“Iran’s Leadership Of Extremists

“However, the Muslim Brotherhood must realize that we don’t agree with them and don’t care about their aspirations for power and don’t want to stand with them. At the same time, we support any government in the world that’s willing to ally with us against extremism and terrorism as this has always been our desire, even before Trump entered the political arena. These groups must realize the threat of media, political and religious incitation against Trump and the West and how it will cause new waves of violence under false justifications.

“For 40 years now, Iran has led extremist groups, whether armed or politicized or Sunni or Shiite, in Lebanon, Palestine and the Gulf, and it continues to do so. It’s currently guilty when it comes to Iraq and the sectarian chaos across it and it’s responsible for the rivers of blood in Syria. It’s for the first time that we see Washington officials who realize the facts on the ground and frankly declare that they will not accept blackmail or keep silent over extremist and terrorist regimes’ and groups’ practices.

“We must understand the motives behind the groups that launch incitement campaigns against the new American administration. Iran knows that two of the appointed generals know it through expertise and personal experience. ISIS knows that the phase of truce will end with President Barack Obama’s exit. The Muslim Brotherhood, which enjoyed Obama’s support and bet on Clinton’s election as president, is now before a new phase that may not be in its interest.

“These are the reasons behind the anger and quick judgments against the new American administration, and they reflect the stance of all three groups, i.e. Iran, ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood, and those who sympathize with them. Meanwhile, the majority of Islamic countries will be very happy if he who arrives to the White House desires to fight extremism and terrorism.”

 

[1] English.alarabiya.net, December 13, 2016.

Obama Admin Staking Iran Deal Legacy on Doomed Bid to Sell Tehran Aircraft

December 12, 2016

Obama Admin Staking Iran Deal Legacy on Doomed Bid to Sell Tehran Aircraft, Washington Free Beacon, , December 12, 2016

kerry-zarifJohn Kerry, Javad Zarif / AP

The Obama administration is locked in a last minute bid to save last year’s nuclear deal with Iran by promoting the delivery of airliners to the Islamic Republic, despite mass opposition in Congress that has moved the administration to engage in a series of public relations maneuvers and backroom deals meant to secure the multi-billion dollar sale, according to multiple sources familiar with the administration’s thinking who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Obama administration has been scrambling for weeks to provide Iran with assurances the United States will continue to grant Iran vast relief from economic sanctions and help push through deals with Boeing and AirBus, American and French airplane manufacturers, respectively. The effort comes as the nuclear deal hangs in the balance following a flood of Iranian threats and the election of Donald Trump, a vocal opponent of the deal, as well as several new moves by Congress to increase pressure on Tehran’s global terror operations.

Boeing confirmed Monday it sealed a $16 billion deal to sell Iran 80 jetliners, an announcement that sources told the Free Beacon was meant to provide momentum to the nuclear deal and stop Tehran from walking away.

Multiple sources familiar with the situation told the Free Beacon the administration is promoting a false prognosis and that the pact is likely to collapse by next year, when President-elect Trump assumes control of the White House and is partnered with a Congress that is more than willing to put a kibosh on the sale, which lawmakers say will embolden Iran’s terrorist forces.

“The Obama administration oversold the deal to the Iranians by secretly promising to relieve a range of sanctions that Congress was never going to agree to,” said one senior congressional adviser apprised of the White House’s thinking on the matter.

“The administration then did everything it could do unilaterally, including lifting restrictions on military assets and ballistic missile banks, to try to make good on those secret promises,” the source said. “But Congress was never going to allow Iran to steamroll across the Middle East, even if the Obama administration was willing to look the other way, and so the deal was always going to collapse under its own weight.”

The State Department would not provide more details about the deal, including how it is being financed, by press time.

Tehran has a long history of using its national air carrier, Iran Air, to ferry weapons and support to terror groups across the region, including in Lebanon and Syria. Despite these concerns, the Obama administration has fast tracked special licenses permitting Boeing and AirBus to move forward with the sales without violating sanctions barring such agreements.

Experts have repeatedly warned that Iran Air could easily resell these planes to other Iranian airline companies still targeted by sanctions for their illicit activities.

David Pasch, a spokesman for Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), who has worked to block the plane sales to Iran, told the Free Beacon that Congress will have an easy time killing the deal next year.

“We will aggressively fight this deal next Congress, though we probably won’t even need new legislation to do it,” Pasch said. “The incoming appointees at Treasury and State will no longer report to a White House willing to bend over backwards and ignore national security concerns to keep Iran from walking away from the nuclear deal.”

One senior congressional aide who works on the issue told the Free Beacon that the flurry of recent news stories casting the deal as a lock is part of a public relations campaign by the White House meant to given the appearance the deal is set in stone, despite multiple obstacles standing in the way.

“The administration is creating a facade of false assurances to assuage Iranian concerns about completing these sales,” the source told the Free Beacon. “They want, in essence, to make this a fait accompli. In reality, there are a number of obstacles in the way of completing this deal. For example, the House has already passed legislation to cut off Ex-Im [export-import] financing for aircraft sales to Iran. I think with a Trump administration we can reasonably expect renewed movement in Congress to block these dangerous deals.”

The planes are not set to be delivered to Iran until 2018, meaning that Congress and the next administration have a couple years to disassemble the deal. There also remain questions about how these Western companies will get financing to seal the deal with Iran, which remains a safe haven for terrorist financing.

These obstacles are expected to grow more daunting under a Trump administration, which has discussed increased transparency for companies willing to deal with regimes that sponsor terrorism such as Iran.

Another issue of top concern to opponents of the sale is a carve out guaranteeing Boeing engineers work with Iran to provide spare parts and technical know-how, a move that immunizes Tehran from future sanctions targeting the airline sector.

“The Obama administration created a fantasy world in which it’s safe to sell airplanes to Iran, then pulled Boeing into that fantasy world,” said the congressional adviser quoted above. “But it’s not safe to sell airplanes to Iran, because the Iranians use their airplanes for all sorts of illegal things, including arming Syria’s war machine. That’s why the sale stalled, because no one wanted to touch it. But the administration is desperate to make it look like the sale was moving forward, so that when it collapses they can blame it on Trump.”

Israel’s First Project with Trump

December 9, 2016

Israel’s First Project with Trump, Front Page MagazineCaroline Glick, December 9, 2016

firstproject

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

[R]ecently Hezbollah commander Hassan Nasrallah bragged, “We’re open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets are from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

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Israeli officials are thrilled with the national security team that US President-elect Donald Trump is assembling. And they are right to be.

The question now is how Israel should respond to the opportunity it presents us with.

The one issue that brings together all of the top officials Trump has named so far to his national security team is Iran.

Gen. (ret.) John Kelly, whom Trump appointed Wednesday to serve as his secretary of homeland security, warned about Iran’s infiltration of the US from Mexico and about Iran’s growing presence in Central and South America when he served as commander of the US’s Southern Command.

Gen. (ret.) James Mattis, Trump’s pick to serve as defense secretary, and Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn, whom he has tapped to serve as his national security adviser, were both fired by outgoing President Barack Obama for their opposition to his nuclear diplomacy with Iran.

During his video address before the Saban Forum last weekend, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that he looks forward to discussing Obama’s nuclear Iran nuclear deal with Trump after his inauguration next month. Given that Netanyahu views the Iranian regime’s nuclear program – which the nuclear deal guaranteed would be operational in 14 years at most – as the most serious strategic threat facing Israel, it makes sense that he wishes to discuss the issue first.

But Netanyahu may be better advised to first address the conventional threat Iran poses to Israel, the US and the rest of the region in the aftermath of the nuclear deal.

There are two reasons to start with Iran’s conventional threat, rather than its nuclear program.

First, Trump’s generals are reportedly more concerned about the strategic threat posed by Iran’s regional rise than by its nuclear program – at least in the immediate term.

Israel has a critical interest in aligning its priorities with those of the incoming Trump administration.

The new administration presents Israel with the first chance it has had in 50 years to reshape its alliance with the US on firmer footing than it has stood on to date. The more Israel is able to develop joint strategies with the US for dealing with common threats, the firmer its alliance with the US and the stronger its regional posture will become.

The second reason it makes sense for Israel to begin its strategic discussions with the Trump administration by addressing Iran’s growing regional posture is because Iran’s hegemonic rise is a strategic threat to Israel. And at present, Israel lacks a strategy for dealing with it.

Our leaders today still describe Hezbollah with the same terms they used to describe it a decade ago during the Second Lebanon War. They discuss Hezbollah’s massive missile and rocket arsenal.

With 150,000 projectiles pointed at Israel, in a way it makes sense that Israel does this.

Just this week Israel reinforced the sense that Hezbollah is more or less the same organization it was 10 years ago when – according to Syrian and Hezbollah reports – on Tuesday Israel bombed Syrian military installations outside Damascus.

Following the alleged bombing, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told EU ambassadors that Israel is committed to preventing Hezbollah from transferring advanced weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, from Syria to Lebanon.

The underlying message is that having those weapons in Syria is not viewed as a direct threat to Israel.

Statements like Liberman’s also send the message that other than the prospect of weapons of mass destruction or precision missiles being stockpiled in Lebanon, Israel isn’t particularly concerned about what is happening in Lebanon.

These statements are unhelpful because they obfuscate the fact that Hezbollah is not the guerrilla organization it was a decade ago.

Hezbollah has changed in four basic ways since the last war.

First, Hezbollah is no longer coy about the fact that it is an Iranian, rather than Lebanese, organization.

Since Iran’s Revolutionary Guards founded Hezbollah in Lebanon in 1983, the Iranians and Hezbollah terrorists alike have insisted that Hezbollah is an independent organization that simply enjoys warm relations with Iran.

But today, with Hezbollah forming the backbone of Iran’s operations in Syria, and increasingly prominent in Afghanistan and Iraq, neither side cares if the true nature of their relationship is recognized.

For instance, recently Hezbollah commander Hassan Nasrallah bragged, “We’re open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets are from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

What our enemies’ new openness tells us is that Israel must cease discussing Hezbollah and Iran as separate entities. Israel’s next war in Lebanon will not be with Hezbollah, or even with Lebanon. It will be with Iran.

This is not a semantic distinction. It is a strategic one. Making it will have a positive impact on how both Israel and the rest of the world understand the regional strategic reality facing Israel, the US and the rest of the nations of the Middle East.

The second way that Hezbollah is different today is that it is no longer a guerrilla force. It is a regular army with a guerrilla arm and a regional presence. Its arsenal is as deep as Iran’s arsenal.

And at present at least, it operates under the protection of the Russian Air Force and air defense systems.

Hezbollah has deployed at least a thousand fighters to Iraq where they are fighting alongside Iranian forces and Shi’ite militia, which Hezbollah trains. Recent photographs of a Hezbollah column around Mosul showed that in addition to its advanced missiles, Hezbollah also fields an armored corps. Its armored platforms include M1A1 Abrams tanks and M-113 armored personnel carriers.

The footage from Iraq, along with footage from the military parade Hezbollah held last month in Syria, where its forces also showed off their M-113s, makes clear that Hezbollah’s US platform- based maneuver force is not an aberration.

The significance of Hezbollah’s vastly expanded capabilities is clear. Nasrallah’s claims in recent years that in the next war his forces will stage a ground invasion of the Galilee and seek to seize Israeli border towns was not idle talk. Even worse, the open collaboration between Russia and Iran-Hezbollah in Syria, and their recent victories in Aleppo, mean that there is no reason for Israel to assume that Hezbollah will only attack from Lebanon. There is a growing likelihood that Hezbollah will make its move from Syrian territory.

The third major change from 2006 is that like Iran, Hezbollah today is much richer than it was before Obama concluded the nuclear deal with the ayatollahs last year. The deal, which canceled economic and trade sanctions on Iran, has given the mullahs a massive infusion of cash.

Shortly after the sanctions were canceled, the Iranians announced that they were increasing their military budget by 90%. Since Hezbollah officially received $200 million per year before sanctions were canceled, the budget increase means that Hezbollah is now receiving some $400m. per year from Iran.

The final insight that Israel needs to base its strategic planning on is that a month and a half ago, Hezbollah-Iran swallowed Lebanon.

In late October, after a two-and-a-half-year fight, Saad Hariri and his Future Movement caved to Iran and Hezbollah and agreed to support their puppet Michel Aoun in his bid for the Lebanese presidency.

True, Hariri was also elected to serve as prime minister. But his position is now devoid of power.

Hariri cannot raise a finger without Nasrallah’s permission.

Aoun’s election doesn’t merely signal that Hariri caved. It signals that Saudi Arabia – which used the fight over Lebanon’s presidency as a way to block Iran’s completion of its takeover of the country – has lost the influence game to Iran.

Taken together with Saudi ally Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s announcement last week that he supports Syrian President Bashar Assad’s remaining in power, Aoun’s presidency shows that the Sunnis have accepted that Iran is now the dominant power in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

This brings us back to Hezbollah’s tank corps and the reconstruction of the US-Israel alliance.

After the photos of the US-made armored vehicles in Hezbollah’s military columns were posted online, both Hezbollah and the Lebanese Armed Forces insisted that the weapons didn’t come from the LAF.

But there is no reason to believe them.

In 2006, the LAF provided Hezbollah with targeting information for its missiles and intelligence support. Today it must be assumed that in the next war, the LAF, and its entire arsenal will be placed at Hezbollah-Iran’s disposal. In 2016 alone, the US provided the LAF with $216m. in military assistance.

From Israel’s perspective, the most strategically significant aspect of Hezbollah-Iran’s uncontested dominance over all aspects of the Lebanese state is that while they control the country, they are not responsible for it.

Israeli commanders and politicians often insist that the IDF has deterred Hezbollah from attacking Israel. Israel’s deterrence, they claim, is based on the credibility of our pledge to bomb the civilian buildings now housing Hezbollah rockets and missiles in the opening moments of the next conflict.

These claims are untrue, though. Since Hezbollah- Iran are not responsible for Lebanon despite the fact that they control it through their puppet government, Iranian and Hezbollah leaders won’t be held accountable if Israel razes south Lebanon in the next war. They will open the next war not to secure Lebanon, but to harm Israel. If Lebanon burns to the ground, it will be no sweat off their back.

The reason a war hasn’t begun has nothing to do with the credibility of Israel’s threats. It has to do with Iran’s assessment of its interests. So long as the fighting goes on in Syria, it is hard to see Iran ordering Hezbollah to attack Israel. But as soon as it feels comfortable committing Hezbollah forces to a war with Israel, Iran will order it to open fire.

This then brings us back to the incoming Trump administration, and its assessment of the Iranian threat.

Trump’s national security appointments tell us that the 45th president intends to deal with the threat that Iran poses to the US and its interests.

Israel must take advantage of this strategic opening to deal with the most dangerous conventional threat we face.

In our leaders’ conversations with Trump’s team they must make clear that the Iranian conventional threat stretches from Afghanistan to Israel and on to Latin America and Michigan. Whereas Israel will not fight Iran in Iraq and Afghanistan, or in the Americas, it doesn’t expect the US to fight Iran in Lebanon. But at the same time, as both allies begin to roll back the Iranian threat, they should be operating from a joint strategic vision that secures the world from Iran’s conventional threat.

And once that it accomplished, the US and Israel can work together to deal with Iran’s nuclear program.