Posted tagged ‘Iran – sanctions relief’

Thank Obama for Iranian Missile Tests

January 31, 2017

Thank Obama for Iranian Missile Tests, PJ MediaAndrew C. McCarthy, January 31, 2017

notamissile(Amir Kholousi, ISNA via AP)

There is great shrieking from the “international community” over Iran’s ballistic missile test over the weekend, the latest of what the Wall Street Journal reports is nearly a dozen such tests since President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — went into effect last year. The United Nations Security Council, which endorsed the deal even though no party has actually signed it, is set to hold an “emergency meeting” today to discuss the matter.

What is there to discuss?

French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said it best in complaining that such tests are “contrary to the spirit” of the JCPOA.

When they talk about a violation of the “spirit” of a pact, you can be certain that there has been no violation of the letter of a pact — i.e., the thing that is required for there to be a real, actionable violation.

The provocative missile tests further elucidate the obvious: Iran’s nuclear program is about developing nuclear weapons — which Iran will be able to do consistent with the terms of the JCPOA. But regardless of the crying and gnashing of teeth at the emergency meeting, the tests do not violate the JCPOA.

For that, we can thank Barack Obama.

Prior to the JCPOA, Iran’s ballistic missile activities were barred by a series of UN resolutions backed by American and international sanctions. But sensing Obama’s desperation to complete the JCPOA at any cost, and by indulging any fiction, Iran threatened to walk away from the table unless the restraints on missiles were eliminated.

Obama quietly accommodated the mullahs — despite having repeatedly told the American people that the negotiations were confined to nuclear activities, and that his administration would hold a hard line on Iranian missile development and terror promotion.

There was nothing in the JCPOA about ballistic missiles. When Obama brought the deal to the Security Council, however, he used its endorsement vehicle — Resolution 2231 — to undermine the missile sanctions. The pertinent paragraph is buried deep in the resolution (Annex B, Paragraph 3 — scroll all the way down to page 99 of 104). It states (italics is mine):

Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology, until the date eight years after the JCPOA Adoption Day[.] …

Notice three things:

  1. The words “Iran is called upon” not to undertake ballistic missile activity. That is not the same as being forbidden to do so. Because of the way the JCPOA was codified in the resolution – for what the parties will call international law purposes — the former proscription against ballistic missile activity has been watered down to a mere encouragement of Iran not to engage in such activity. In UN-speak, a country’s ignoring what the Security Council “calls upon” it to do does not even rise to the level of a tsk-tsk letter from the principal. It is just a suggestion along the lines of “Pretty please don’t fire missiles after we’ve told everyone how moderate you are.”
  2. Then there is the fiction: the paragraph refers to “missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” Bear in mind the fraud on which the JCPOA is based: Iran has no intention of manufacturing or otherwise acquiring nuclear weapons. Therefore, so the story goes, Iran would not build missiles “designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” We, like the Obama administration, are supposed to ignore what Iran’s missiles are technologically capable of doing and trust the stated intentions of the world’s chief sponsor of jihadist terror.
  3. The resolution not only abandons the prohibition against missile activity; even the insipid suggestion that Iran not engage in such activity is only operative for eight years. After that, they can do what they want … just as, after no more than 15 years, they are free to develop nuclear weapons free and clear.

How could Obama have agreed to such disastrous terms (in addition to giving the mullah’s over $100 billion in sanctions relief — including ransom cash)? The Obama administration illusion was that Iran was in the process of a powerful, inevitable reform movement that would, in the course of eight to 15 years, transmogrify it into a normal, reasonable, moderate nation-state. According to this thinking, by the time the JCPOA ran its course, Iran would be so benign it would probably not want nuclear missiles; and even if it did, that would be no problem because, by then, its regime would have evolved into a stable pillar of the international community.

Of course, we now know this was a consciously false narrative that Obama peddled to sell the Iran deal to the public — orchestrated by deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, with the help of an echo chamber media.

Iran ratcheted up missile development almost immediately after the JCPOA went into effect. The missiles test-fired last March were inscribed “Israel must be wiped out.” In Tehran, that’s known as “the spirit” of the agreement.

Re-isolate Iran now

January 27, 2017

Re-isolate Iran now, Israel Hayom, David M. Weinberg, January 27, 2017

In fact, the U.S. and Israel should reach an accord on a basket of responses to Iranian violations and aggressions, including the placement of a military option against Iran’s nuclear program back on the table.

Trump and Netanyahu must together promulgate an approach for combating the malign influence and hegemonic ambitions of Iran.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that one of the top items on his agenda for consultation with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington next month is countering Iranian aggression. With good reason. The net result of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has been to foster Iran’s rise to regional hegemon.

While the JCPOA suspended a part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program for a few years, the ayatollahs see it as providing time to advance their centrifuge capability and regional sway.

In a Hoover Institution paper published this month, Professor Russell Berman and Ambassador Charles Hill call Iran a “de facto Islamic caliphate,” and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps an “Iranian expeditionary force for invading strategic Arab spaces.”

They call former President Barack Obama’s declared goal — of finding and bolstering so-called moderates in Tehran via the JCPOA — an “illusion.” Iran is not a polity of moderates and hard-liners, they write. It is a revolutionary theocracy masquerading as a legitimate state actor. So the first thing Trump must do is recognize the consistently hostile character of the regime.

Alas, Obama was obsessed from the advent of his presidency with making nice to Iran, and was willing to subordinate much of American foreign policy in service of that goal. He sent many secret letters to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that recognized the prerogatives of the Islamic republic and foreswore regime change. He cut funding to anti-regime groups and abandoned Iranian moderates during the early days of the Green Revolution in 2009, after the regime fixed an election. He effectively conceded Syria as within Iran’s sphere of influence.

In his penetrating book, “The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles, and the Secret Deals That Reshaped the Middle East,” Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon exposes the money trail that accompanied this strategic sellout to Iran. In exchange for talking, Obama gave the Iranians hundreds of millions of dollars monthly, stabilizing their economy. And in the end, Obama offered Iran a deal that legalized full-blown uranium, plutonium, and ballistic missile work on a timeline, and did not force the country to disclose its previous nuclear cheating. The deal also released roughly a hundred billion dollars to Iran; had American officials traveling to drum up business for Iran; and removed restrictions on a range of Iranian terrorists.

Along the way, the administration abandoned the powerful sanctions leverage it had over Iran. Solomon chronicles the ramp-up of severe banking sanctions on Iran that were having a disastrous impact on the Iranian economy. “Iran’s economy was at risk of disintegrating, the result of one of the most audacious campaigns in the history of statecraft. The country was months away from running short on hard currency. The budget had a $200 billion black hole. And the U.S. Treasury Department had made sure Iran had no way to recover. Iranian ships and airplanes were not welcome beyond Iran’s borders, and oil revenue was frozen in overseas accounts.”

And then, behold, Obama backed off. Administration officials all of a sudden claimed that tightening the noose on the Iranian economy would cause the sanctions policy to collapse! And Secretary of State John Kerry was sent to cut a sweet deal with Iran; a deal that squandered — and then reversed — a decade’s worth of effort to constrain Iran.

Now Trump must act to constrain Iran all over again.

Over the past year, Iran has intensified a pattern of aggression and increased its footprint across the region. Iranian advisers with Shiite militias from as far away as Afghanistan have flooded Syria, giving Tehran a military arc of influence stretching to the Mediterranean.

Khamenei says that Iran’s massive military presence (alongside Hezbollah) in Syria is a supreme security interest for the regime — a front line against Israel — and that Iran has no plans to leave.

This has grave implications for Israel. Netanyahu must demand of Trump (and Putin) to include the removal of all foreign forces, especially Iran, in any future agreement regarding Syria. This will be very difficult — especially since Russia has just signed a long-term agreement to greatly enlarge its military presence in Syria, including the port in Tartus and air base in Latakia.

Iran, too, is aggressively expanding its naval presence in the Red Sea region and eastern Mediterranean. Since 2011, it has been sending warships through the Suez Canal, and has used maritime routes to send arms shipments to Hizballah and Hamas. (Israel has intercepted five of these armament ships.) And in the Strait of Hormuz, IRGC speedboats have repeatedly engaged in provocative encounters with American warships, including the conduct of surprise live rocket fire exercises in proximity to U.S. Navy vessels.

Then there is Iranian terrorism. IRGC agents have been caught planning attacks on Israeli, American, British and Saudi targets in Kenya. Over the past five years, Iranian agents were exposed while planning to attack Israeli diplomats in Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, India, Nigeria, Thailand and Turkey. Hezbollah operatives supported by Iran carried out the bus bombing of Israeli tourists at the Burgas airport.

Also: The detailing of Iranian terrorism in Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia could fill this entire newspaper.

Then there is Iran’s ballistic missile program. In December, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz sent a seven-page letter to three senior officials of the Obama administration, detailing his well-founded concerns that North Korea and Iran might be working together on developing nuclear missiles. (Not surprisingly, the Obama officials never answered.)

Cruz’s basic question was: Why does Iran, having promised not to make nuclear weapons, continue to pour resources into developing long-range ballistic missiles, including numerous missile tests this past year? If not for nuclear weapons, then for what?

The intrepid analyst Claudia Rosett continually has raised the suspicion that North Korea’s nuclear program is secretly doubling as a nuclear backshop for Iran. It’s very possible that the $1.7 billion in air-freighted cash that Obama granted Iran is being used to finance nuclear weapons and missile research in North Korea. It’s even possible that Iran may be bold enough to buy warheads from North Korea.

Only Washington can stop this, by re-isolating and pressuring Iran. Netanyahu should travel to Trump with a comprehensive plan to influence U.S. policy toward Iran, as well as plans for joint action against Tehran.

This should include an end to the secrecy surrounding many sections of the JCPOA. All side agreements should be disclosed relating to Iranian technology acquisitions, raw material quantities, uranium and plutonium enrichment levels, sanctions relief and financial transfers. Loopholes and exceptions made surreptitiously by Obama should be closed.

Penalties should be set firmly in place for Iran’s prohibited missile programs. (Such penalties do not exist in the JCPOA or in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231.)

U.S. and Israeli resources should be pooled, in a renewed and formal U.S.-Israel agreement, to uncover and eliminate any undisclosed sites within Iran connected to nuclear weapons technology; to counter Iranian terror threats across the region; and to subvert any Iranian bases in Syria and Lebanon.

In fact, the U.S. and Israel should reach an accord on a basket of responses to Iranian violations and aggressions, including the placement of a military option against Iran’s nuclear program back on the table.

Trump and Netanyahu must together promulgate an approach for combating the malign influence and hegemonic ambitions of Iran.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Has Become More Influential and Powerful

January 25, 2017

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Has Become More Influential and Powerful, Iran News Update, January 24, 2017

(Please see also, What Is Iran’s Policy-Making Mechanism? — DM)

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The IRGC has successfully suppressed domestic opposition. Examples  include supporters and leaders of the Green Movement, and religious and ethnic minorities such as Kurds, Sunnis and Arabs. As well, other political factions, such as the moderates, have come to the conclusion that they need the blessing of the IRGC in order to survive politically.

The reintegration of Tehran into the global financial system is deepening, and more countries are committing themselves to trade with Iran and investment in its markets.The IRGC and the office of the supreme leader are the main beneficiaries of the increased revenues, which have been diverted into upgrading the IRGC’s military capabilities.  Iran’s lawmakers voted to increase the military budget despite the high unemployment rate.

Regional stability was an obstacle for the IRGC’s objective of expanding its influence beyond Iran’s borders. Rafizadeh writes, “In fact, it was through domestic conflicts that the IRGC expanded its stranglehold by penetrating other countries such as Lebanon and Iraq, and gave birth to several critical Shia proxies. In the long term, these proxies increase Iran’s political and ideological influence.”  He adds, “The more tensions and conflicts there are, the more the militaristic role of the IRGC increases in the region in order to achieve its regional ambitions. This has led to a vicious series of heightened conflicts.”

Once the child that Iran’s Islamic revolution gave birth to, the IRGC is now becoming the father of the Islamic republic. This can only be reversed if global powers or a coalition of regional nations stand against the IRGC’s increasing influence in the region.

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Majid Rafizadeh, Iran¬ian-American political scientist, Harvard University scholar and president of the International American Council, writes in an article for The National on January 23, 2017 about the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who were given birth to during Iran’s 1979 revolution.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after becoming the country’s second supreme leader in 1989, gave considerable power to the IRGC, while sidelining other powerful clerics.

Although the IRGC still had obstacles preventing it from expanding its influence, recent developments suggest that those barriers are being lifted, allowing Iran’s military to be the key decision-maker in Iran’s policy-making.

Many people, who once had considerable amount of political weight and influence, which counterbalanced the IRGC’s increasing power, do not play a crucial role any more. The late Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, who was one of the founding fathers of the Islamic republic was sidelined by Khamenei towards the end of his life, still enjoyed a considerable amount of political legitimacy in creating challenges for the IRGC and others. However, Rafsanjani died this month.

Rafsanjani had significant power as a member of the Assembly of Experts, which is given the power to supervise, elect or remove the supreme leader. After his death, the IRGC is now much stronger, suggesting that the next supreme leader will be under the IRGC’s influence. If the IRGC controls the next supreme leader, it rules Iran’s political establishment unequivocally.

While the nuclear agreement remains in place, the Iranian government’s global legitimacy expands, leading to less scrutiny from the international community on how the IRGC treats domestic opposition.

The IRGC has successfully suppressed domestic opposition. Examples  include supporters and leaders of the Green Movement, and religious and ethnic minorities such as Kurds, Sunnis and Arabs. As well, other political factions, such as the moderates, have come to the conclusion that they need the blessing of the IRGC in order to survive politically.

The reintegration of Tehran into the global financial system is deepening, and more countries are committing themselves to trade with Iran and investment in its markets.The IRGC and the office of the supreme leader are the main beneficiaries of the increased revenues, which have been diverted into upgrading the IRGC’s military capabilities.  Iran’s lawmakers voted to increase the military budget despite the high unemployment rate.

Reuters reported, “Iranian lawmakers approved plans to expand military spending to 5 per cent of the budget, including developing the country’s long-range missile programme which US president-elect Donald Trump has pledged to halt. The vote is a boost to Iran’s military establishment – the regular army, the elite IRGC and the defence ministry.”

Regional stability was an obstacle for the IRGC’s objective of expanding its influence beyond Iran’s borders. Rafizadeh writes, “In fact, it was through domestic conflicts that the IRGC expanded its stranglehold by penetrating other countries such as Lebanon and Iraq, and gave birth to several critical Shia proxies. In the long term, these proxies increase Iran’s political and ideological influence.”  He adds, “The more tensions and conflicts there are, the more the militaristic role of the IRGC increases in the region in order to achieve its regional ambitions. This has led to a vicious series of heightened conflicts.”

The IRGC, more than ever before, is capable of exploiting the rise of Sunni extremist groups such as the ISIL, not only to justify its military presence in the region, but also to increase its global legitimacy by arguing that it is fighting extremism. Without a specific agenda for fighting ISIL, western powers have allowed a certain amount of leeway to the IRGC.  Additionally, some global and regional powers have been reluctant to address counterbalancing the increasing role of the IRGC across the region for economic or geopolitical reasons.

Although founded as a theocracy, Iran is becoming more of a military state as the IRGC pursues its regional ambitions. According to Rafizadeh, “We are more likely to witness the increasing influence and domination of the IRGC domestically and regionally as several major obstacles against Iran’s military have been lifted.”

Once the child that Iran’s Islamic revolution gave birth to, the IRGC is now becoming the father of the Islamic republic. This can only be reversed if global powers or a coalition of regional nations stand against the IRGC’s increasing influence in the region.

Sanctioned Iranian Airlines Ferrying Illicit Weapons to Tehran

January 24, 2017

Sanctioned Iranian Airlines Ferrying Illicit Weapons to Tehran, Washington Free Beacon, January 24, 2017

A plane from the Iranian private airline, Mahan Air lands the international airport in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, March 1, 2015. The first direct flight from Iran to the rebel-held Yemeni capital arrived, Sunday, an Airbus 310 carrying Iranians including aid workers from the Iranian Red Crescent as Yemen's Shiite rebels formalize ties with the regional Shiite powerhouse. The rebels, who overran the capital, Sanaa, last September, are widely believed to have support from Iran, a claim they frequently denied. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

A plane from the Iranian private airline, Mahan Air lands the international airport in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, March 1, 2015.  (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Boeing and Airbus should be paying close attention to the situation developing in Ukraine, according to one senior congressional adviser, who told the Free Beacon that the Trump administration would take sanctions enforcement more seriously than the Obama administration. The two airlines could find themselves ensnarled in sanctions violations if they move forward with deals to sell plans to Iran, the source said.

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Two airlines sanctioned by the United States for enabling Iran’s global terrorist operations appear to have played a central role in moving illicit missile components from Ukraine to the Islamic Republic, according to information obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Ukrainian authorities confirmed this week they had seized a shipment of missile system components bound for Iran, which could put the Islamic Republic in violation of international bans prescribed under the nuclear agreement.

Video of the seizure show Ukrainian authorities uncovering 17 boxes of missile parts bound for Iran and meant to be used in its Fagot anti-tank guided missile system.

Sources familiar with the incident told the Free Beacon that the airlines involved in this illicit activity have long been sanctioned by the United States for providing support to Iran’s global terror network. The reversal of longstanding economic sanctions on Iran provided under the nuclear agreement has boosted this activity and strengthened Iran’s illicit weapons pipeline, according to these sources.

Iran’s use of commercial airlines to import weapons has been well documented over the years. This latest incident could complicate efforts by global airplane manufacturers Boeing and Airbus to complete landmark deals with the Islamic Republic that are fiercely opposed by many in Congress.

The Free Beacon disclosed late last year that Iran secretly has been using commercial aircraft to smuggle weapons to terrorists supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country’s bloody civil war. Many of the commercial planes flown by Iran were originally sold by the United States and later repurposed by Iran for use by its Air Force and Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, sources said.

“Iran was caught red-handed trying to import military hardware, including infrared guided anti-tank missiles,” Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), a vocal opponent of Boeing’s efforts to sell new planes to Iran, told the Free Beacon. “This is yet another example of the Islamic Republic using commercial aircraft for military purposes. Airbus and Boeing cannot claim ignorance on this—the Regime’s behavior is on full display before the world.”

The exposure of this illicit network in Ukraine demonstrates that Iran continues to use commercial airlines as cover for its movement of arms and other illicit materials, sources said.

The weapons were found onboard planes operated by Ukraine’s UM Airlines, which officially partners with Iran’s Mahan Air. The United States has sanctioned both carriers for providing support to Iran’s terror network, including the transportation of weapons and resources to the terror group Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy group.

Business between UM and Mahan reached its highest levels following the Iran nuclear agreement, when the Obama administration lifted longstanding economic sanctions on Iran. Removing the sanctions paved the way for the airline partnership and the multi-billion dollar trade deals between Iran, Boeing, and Airbus.

Mahan officially entered the Ukrainian marketplace in 2016 and now partners with UM on daily flights into Tehran.

While the removal of sanctions under the Iran deal helped to legalize business ties possible between the two airlines, they continue to carry out illicit activities, as highlighted by the missile shipment discovered this week.

Experts say there is no way to know how much illegal activity the two carriers have engaged in during their partnership.

“Authorities in Ukraine should be commended for seizing the weapons shipment, but when Ukraine asks the United States for economic and military assistance, the least it could do is not allow airlines, sanctioned for their support of the Assad regime and the IRGC, to operate from their soil,” Boris Zilberman, a regional expert and deputy director of congressional relations at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Free Beacon.

Boeing and Airbus should be paying close attention to the situation developing in Ukraine, according to one senior congressional adviser, who told the Free Beacon that the Trump administration would take sanctions enforcement more seriously than the Obama administration. The two airlines could find themselves ensnarled in sanctions violations if they move forward with deals to sell plans to Iran, the source said.

“No one is surprised that the Iranians are running weapons literally any way they can. Not even the Obama administration ever claimed that Iran stopped using civilian airlines like Iran Air for military uses,” said the source, who works with Congress on sanctions enforcement issues. “If I was Boeing or Airbus, I’d be worried about a knock on the door from Trump administration sanctions enforcers sooner rather than later.”

A State Department official was not able to provide information as to whether the missile discovery violates international agreements governing the nuclear deal.

“We’ve seen these reports but we do not have any further comment at this time,” the official said.

Emails and phone calls to the Ukrainian embassy in Washington, D.C., seeking comment were not answered.

Iran Demands ‘Compensation’ for U.S. Breach of Nuke Deal

January 11, 2017

Iran Demands ‘Compensation’ for U.S. Breach of Nuke Deal, Washinton Free Beacon, , January 10, 2017

Abbas Araqchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs and top nuclear negotiator, meets the press in Vienna, Austria, on Feb. 24, 2015, after talking with International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano on Tehran's nuclear program. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs and top nuclear negotiator. (Kyodo)

The call for further compensation comes just days after the Obama administration was forced to admit that it had been providing Iran with around $700 million in assets every month since the nuclear deal was approved.

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Iran is demanding further “compensation” from the United States following claims America violated the nuclear agreement by passing new sanctions on the Islamic Republic, according to comments by senior Iranian officials following meetings with the Obama administration in Vienna.

The demand for further concessions by the Obama administration comes on the heels of reports that the United States has deflated the total amount of cash, gold, and other assets provided to the Islamic Republic during the past several years. The sum is believed to be in excess of $10 billion.

Iran has threatened to retaliate against the United States in recent weeks following the passage late last year by Congress of the Iran Sanctions Act, or ISA, which will continue to economically penalize Iran for the next 10 years.

The call for further compensation comes just days after the Obama administration was forced to admit that it had been providing Iran with around $700 million in assets every month since the nuclear deal was approved.

Ahead of a series of meetings Tuesday with senior U.S. officials, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi again accused the United States of violating the nuclear agreement and demanded compensation for the purported breach.

“The extension of the ISA is a breach of the U.S. obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and must be compensated in an effective way,” Araqchi was quoted as telling reporters in Vienna.

The latest meetings about the nuclear deal were orchestrated by Iranian officials, who remain angry about the passage of new sanctions.

Araqchi made clear on Monday that Tehran is “serious” about retaliating against the United States for its passage of new sanctions, stating the Islamic Republic has already made moves to restart contested work on nuclear powered submarines and other weapons.

The Washington Free Beacon reported on Monday that official estimates about the amount of money awarded to Iran by the Obama administration are actually higher than previously known.

A State Department official told the Free Beacon that it would not prejudge its meetings with Iran when asked if further concessions are on the table.

“While we are not going to prejudge the outcome of any meeting, we will discuss ongoing implementation of the JCPOA as we always do,” the official said.

The total worth of the cash, assets, gold, and bullion given to Iran is in excess of $10 billion, according to Bahram Ghasemi, the spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry.

“I will not speak about the precise amount,” Ghasemi was quoted as saying in Persian language reports independently translated for the Free Beacon.

The $10 billion figure is actually a “stingy” estimate, Ghasemi claimed, adding that the cash and gold sent by Washington to Iran’s Central Bank was subsequently “spent.”

“This report is true but the value was higher,” Ghasemi was quoted as saying.

“After the Geneva conference and the resulting agreement, it was decided that $700 million dollars were to be dispensed per month” by the United States, according to Ghasemi. “In addition to the cash funds which we received, we [also] received our deliveries in gold, bullion, and other things.”

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.

 

Iranian Commander Who Killed Americans Tours Syria, Violating International Travel Ban

December 19, 2016

Iranian Commander Who Killed Americans Tours Syria, Violating International Travel Ban, Washington Free Beacon, , December 19, 2016

CORRECTS SPELLING OF NAME TO SOLEIMANI - In this photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, commander of Iran's Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, prays in a religious ceremony at a mosque in the residence of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Tehran, Iran, Friday, March 27, 2015. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sought Friday to reassure the six world powers conducting nuclear power talks in Switzerland, saying the negotiations remained focused on sealing a deal. (AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)

Qassem Soleimani,  (AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)

Multiple sources who spoke with the Washington Free Beacon about the matter disclosed that the Obama administration is taking a soft approach with Iran, including not enforcing sanctions, in order to preserve the nuclear deal and diplomacy with Tehran, which has threatened repercussions for any new sanctions.

Soleimani’s visit to Syria is viewed as a sign that Iran is not worried about facing repercussions for its continued military presence in Syria in support of embattled leader Bashar al-Assad.

Iran has breached international laws for some time without facing consequences. The Obama administration repeatedly assured Congress it would enforce sanctions on Iran when lawmakers expressed doubt about the viability of the Iran nuclear deal.

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A top Iranian commander responsible for the deaths of Americans was photographed touring the war-torn city of Aleppo in Syria over the weekend, in violation of a United Nations travel ban that the Obama administration swore to enforce while selling the landmark nuclear deal with Iran to Congress, according to multiple sources and photographs.

Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani—a top general who leads Iranian militants across the globe and is directly responsible for the death of Americans—was recently photographed touring Aleppo in a demonstration of Iran’s waxing influence in Syria and disregard for international resolutions barring such behavior. Soleimani’s presence in Syria is a direct violation of the United Nations resolution governing the nuclear deal.

Soleimani’s visit coincided with moves by the terror group Hezbollah, which is controlled by Iran, to establish its own claim in Syria, according to regional reports and footage.

Iran’s public presence in Syria has not been met with action by the Obama administration, which has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks to explain why it is not enforcing current sanctions against Iran. Soleimani continues to direct Iranian forces in both Iraq and Syria and has long been sanctioned for the murder of U.S. citizens.

Mutliple sources who spoke with the Washington Free Beacon about the matter disclosed that the Obama administration is taking a soft approach with Iran, including not enforcing sanctions, in order to preserve the nuclear deal and diplomacy with Tehran, which has threatened repercussions for any new sanctions.

Soleimani’s visit to Syria is viewed as a sign that Iran is not worried about facing repercussions for its continued military presence in Syria in support of embattled leader Bashar al-Assad.

Iran has breached international laws for some time without facing consequences. The Obama administration repeatedly assured Congress it would enforce sanctions on Iran when lawmakers expressed doubt about the viability of the Iran nuclear deal.

The absence of consequences for Iran’s behavior has paved the way for Hezbollah to stake it own claim in Syria, according to congressional and foreign policy insiders who told the Free Beacon that the Obama administration is working behind the scenes to prevent any new sanctions against Iran.

“The Obama administration has been working overtime to prevent any U.S. official from doing anything new to punish the butchers of Syria, because they know that would force them to take action against Iran, and then Iran would walk away from the deal,” said one veteran insider who consults with Congress on the issue. “Now they’re ignoring even old sanctions against the Iranians. They’ll do anything to keep the Iranians in the deal for just a couple more weeks, so they can blame the inevitable collapse on Trump.”

A senior congressional aide apprised of the situation said the administration would continue to turn a blind eye to blatant violations in order to preserve diplomacy with Iran.

“This administration’s refusal to enforce sanctions explicitly allowed under the nuclear deal is not only cowardice—it’s dangerous,” said the aide. “What does it say about U.S. leadership when a terrorist like General Soleimani—someone with American blood on his hands—can freely travel to the ground zero of genocide in Syria without penalty? President Obama knows his nuclear deal is on thin ice, so he’s willing overlook blatant sanctions violations like this one even if it means more carnage in Aleppo.”

A second senior congressional source warned that refusal to enforce sanctions was empowering Iran’s radical regime, which has increasingly taken hold in Iraq as well, where the U.S. military has been accused of training Iranian-backed militias.

“The outgoing Obama administration struck a Faustian bargain with Iran, the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, and Soleimani, head of the IRGC terrorist organization that’s responsible for the death of many hundreds of Americans, continues to do victory laps throughout the Middle East” the source said. “Unless the Trump administration changes course, this short-sighted Iran policy cannot and will not end well.”

Troops in Aleppo, as well as an Iranian reporter, have been spotted raising Hezbollah’s flag in recent days, calling into question the Obama administration’s claim that it has been working to constrain the terror group.

Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert on radical regimes, told the Free Beacon that Iran sees the nuclear deal as a vehicle to advance its regional aspirations.

“For Obama, diplomacy’s goal was to affirm his brilliance,” Rubin said. “For Iran’s leadership, it was an asymmetric warfare tactic meant to distract from a continuous geopolitical goal.”

“Red lines matter. Over 25 years, both Republicans and Democrats signaled to Iran about what they were,” Rubin explained. “Obama, however, believed himself wiser than Reagan, Clinton, and Bush—at least that’s what the man in the mirror told him every morning. Once Iran realized there were no real red lines, it concluded it could bust sanctions with impunity. Soleimani is the personification of that conclusion.”

The State Department conceded on Monday that Soleimani’s visit to Syria violated United Security Council resolutions government the nuclear deal, but would not lay out steps meant to address the behavior.

“We do intend to consult with our partners on the security council about how to address our concerns with this,” State Department Spokesman John Kirby said during a press briefing. “We’ve long said that Iran needs to choose whether it’s going to play a positive role in helping peacefully resolve conflicts, such as in Syria, or whether it will choose to prolong them. And you’re absolutely right, his travel was a violation.”

Update 3:05 P.M.: This post has been updated to reflect comment from the State Department.