Posted tagged ‘Iran Scam’

Bi-Partisan Support for Bill to ‘Hold Iran Accountable’

June 16, 2017

Bi-Partisan Support for Bill to ‘Hold Iran Accountable’, Iran News Update, June 16, 2017

“It’s worth noting that the JCPOA is not unlike the Paris climate accord.

“I don’t think many people in our country or many people in this body realize that it is a non-binding political agreement that was entered into by one man using presidential executive authority and can easily be undone by one man using presidential executive authority.

“In fact, in many ways, it is easier than the Paris accord considering the president doesn’t have to take an action to exit this agreement.

All he has to do is decline to waive sanctions. I think that has been missed.

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Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), spoke before the Senate on Wednesday, in a bill he authored, the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017. The legislation, has 60 bipartisan cosponsors, and is expected to pass the Senate this week. It will expand sanctions against Iranian for ballistic missile development, support for terrorism, transfer of conventional weapons to or from Iran, and human rights violations.

Senator Corker’s speech is reproduced as follows:

“Mr. President,

I rise today to speak about the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017, which passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month by a vote of 18 to 3.

“I’d like to thank the members of our committee and the co-authors of this bill for working in a constructive, bipartisan fashion to craft this legislation.

“I think it is a good example of how the Senate can still work together to tackle complex and difficult issues.

“I was in the SCIF recently – a place where senators go to read classified information – reviewing intelligence, and it truly is astounding what Iran continues to do around the world.

“For a people that are capable of so much, their foreign policy is shockingly counter to their own interest.

“We see destabilizing act after destabilizing act – from missile launches, to arms transfers, to terrorist training, to illicit financial activities, to targeting Navy ships and detaining American citizens – the list goes on and on.

“And it’s past time for us to take steps to protect the interests of the United States and our allies.

“This bill is the first time Congress has come together since the JCPOA – the Iran nuclear deal – to do just that.

“For far too long, the agreement – which I strongly opposed, as did our ranking member and presiding officer – has dictated U.S. policy throughout the Middle East.

“It’s worth noting that the JCPOA is not unlike the Paris climate accord.

“I don’t think many people in our country or many people in this body realize that it is a non-binding political agreement that was entered into by one man using presidential executive authority and can easily be undone by one man using presidential executive authority.

“In fact, in many ways, it is easier than the Paris accord considering the president doesn’t have to take an action to exit this agreement.

“I don’t think most Americans understand that. He doesn’t have to take action to exit the agreement. All he has to do is decline to waive sanctions. I think that has been missed.

“But no matter what the president decides, this bill makes it clear that the Congress intends to remain involved and will hold Iran accountable for their non-nuclear destabilizing activities.

“What the nuclear agreement failed to do was allow us to push back against terrorism, human rights issues, violations of U.N. security council resolutions relative to ballistic missile testing, and to push back against conventional arms purchases, which they are not supposed to be involved in.

“As many of us predicted at the time, Iran’s rogue behavior has only escalated since implementation of the agreement, and this bipartisan bill will give the administration tools for holding Tehran accountable.

“Let me say this. I don’t think there’s anybody in this chamber who doesn’t believe that the Trump administration – I know there’s been a lot of disagreements recently about foreign policy issues in the administration – but I don’t there’s anybody here that believes they are not going to do everything they can to push back against these destabilizing activities.

“And what we’ll be doing today and tomorrow with passage of this legislation is standing hand-in-hand with them as they do that.

“It also sends an important signal that the U.S. will no longer look the other way in the face of continued Iranian aggression.

“I want to recognize the important work of my colleagues in making this legislation possible.

“Senator Menendez has been a champion for holding Iran accountable, in this bill but also in decades of work on this issue. He truly is an asset to the Senate, and I thank him for his commitment to many issues, but especially this one.

“Senators Cotton, Rubio, and Cruz all played an important role in drafting this legislation as well.

“But finally, let me say this. This would not have been possible without the support and tireless effort of the ranking member, Senator Cardin, and his great staff. It has truly been a pleasure for me to work with him on the Russia bill that we will be voting on today at 2:00 p.m. but also on this legislation.

“We come from two very different places, representing two very different states, and yet are joined by the fact that we care deeply about making sure that the foreign policy of this country is in the national interest of our citizens and that we as a Congress and as a United States Senate are doing everything we can to drive positive foreign policy.

“I want to thank him for that and tell him I am really proud of the strong bipartisan momentum behind this legislation, which his leadership has helped make happen, and I look forward to passage of this bill.”

Congress Seeks Embargo on Iran Airline Linked to Terrorism as Tehran Targets U.S. Forces

June 15, 2017

Congress Seeks Embargo on Iran Airline Linked to Terrorism as Tehran Targets U.S. Forces, Washington Free Beacon, June 15, 2017

An airplane of Mahan Air sits at the tarmac / Getty Images

The legislation would grant the Department of Homeland Security increased power to boost security at U.S. airports that host flights arriving from countries where Mahan operates. It also instructs the Trump administration to prepare reports outlining every airport where a Mahan-operated flight has landed.

At this point, the deal between Boeing and Iran remains on track, though that could change if the Trump administration decides to block licenses that would permit the U.S. company to engage in business with Tehran.

Iran has already threatened to take action against the United States if Congress approves the new package of sanctions. This includes leveling its own sanctions on American entities.

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Congress is seeking new authorities that would enable it to expose and crack down on an Iranian state-controlled commercial airline known for transporting weapons and terrorist fighters to hotspots such as Syria, where Iranian-backed forces have begun launching direct attacks on U.S. forces in the country, according to new legislation obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Congressional efforts to expose Iran’s illicit terror networks more forcefully come as U.S. and European air carriers such as Boeing and AirBus move forward with multi-billion dollar deals to provide the Islamic Republic with a fleet of new airplanes, which lawmakers suspect Iran will use to amplify its terror operations.

The new sanction legislation targets Iran’s Mahan Airlines, which operates commercial flights across the globe while transporting militants and weapons to fighters in Syria, Yemen, and other regional hotspots.

Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) is spearheading an amendment to a larger Iran sanctions bill that would increase security at U.S. airports and help expose Mahan’s use of commercial flights to ferry weapons abroad, according to a copy of the measure obtained by the Free Beacon.

The legislation would grant the Department of Homeland Security increased power to boost security at U.S. airports that host flights arriving from countries where Mahan operates. It also instructs the Trump administration to prepare reports outlining every airport where a Mahan-operated flight has landed.

Mahan’s “very presence is a security risk to Americans flying in and out of airports where a Mahan aircraft may land,” Cornyn said earlier this week on the Senate floor.

The amendment, if passed, could complicate efforts by Boeing and others to move forward with multi-billion dollar deals with Iran, a portion of which would likely benefit Mahan.

The State and Homeland Security departments declined to comment on the new sanctions when asked by the Free Beacon, citing a policy of not discussing pending legislation.

The renewed focus on Mahan and Iran’s use of commercial airlines to support terror activities comes as the Islamic Republic amps up operations in Syria directly targeting U.S. forces, a new front that has cast a spotlight on the growing proxy war between Iran and the United States in the region.

An Iranian drone recently attacked U.S. forces in Syria, and Hezbollah—an Iranian-backed terror organization—also has taken steps to counter American forces in the region.

A crackdown on Mahan could indicate that Congress is more seriously eyeing ways to thwart Iran’s mainly unchecked terror pipeline in the region.

Iranian officials have separately expressed anger over Congress’s efforts to impose new sanctions, threatening to walk away from the landmark nuclear deal if the United States does not uphold its end of the bargain.

At this point, the deal between Boeing and Iran remains on track, though that could change if the Trump administration decides to block licenses that would permit the U.S. company to engage in business with Tehran.

Iran has already threatened to take action against the United States if Congress approves the new package of sanctions. This includes leveling its own sanctions on American entities.

“Today, 23 American people and firms are in the list of our sanctions as a reciprocal move and we will take such measures in the future too,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was quoted as saying this week in comments that also took aim at Trump.

Iranian officials have also accused the United States under Trump of breaching its end of the nuclear deal, though officials did not outline what the specific violations are.

“Implementation of the nuclear deal undertakings by the U.S. has not been acceptable to Iran so far and the U.S. should comply with its undertakings,” Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Organization, or IAEA, said this week during a meeting with the group in Vienna.

Obama Admin Did Not Publicly Disclose Iran Cyber-Attack During ‘Side-Deal’ Nuclear Negotiations

June 7, 2017

Obama Admin Did Not Publicly Disclose Iran Cyber-Attack During ‘Side-Deal’ Nuclear Negotiations, Washington Free Beacon, June 7, 2017

US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on April 22, 2016 in New York. / AFP / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump, during his trip to the Middle East in late May, talked tough against Iran and its illicit ballistic missile program but has so far left the nuclear deal in place. A Trump State Department review of the deal is nearing completion, the Free Beacon recently reported, and some senior Trump administration officials are pushing for the public release of the so-called “secret side deals.”

Infiltrating State Department emails and internal communications about where the United States stood on a number of sensitive issues could have given the Iranians an important negotiating advantage, according to David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector and president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

“The [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] had a lot of loose language at the time and the question was whether the U.S. was going to accept it,” he told the Free Beacon, referring to the weeks immediately following the Congressional Review Period, which ended Sept. 17, and Iran’s own review process, which ended Oct. 15.

“It would be to Iran’s great benefit to know where the U.S. would be” on a number of these issues dealing with the possible military dimensions of the Iran nuclear program, he said. “If they could tell the U.S. was going to punt, they could jerk around the [International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA] a bit.”

“That’s essentially what happened with the IAEA,” he added.

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State Department officials determined that Iran hacked their emails and social media accounts during a particularly sensitive week for the nuclear deal in the fall of 2015, according to multiple sources familiar with the details of the cyber attack.

The attack took place within days of the deal overcoming opposition in Congress in late September that year. That same week, Iranian officials and negotiators for the United States and other world powers were beginning the process of hashing out a series of agreements allowing Tehran to meet previously determined implementation deadlines.

Critics regard these agreements as “secret side deals” and “loopholes” initially disclosed only to Congress.

Sources familiar with the details of the attack said it sent shockwaves through the State Department and the private-contractor community working on Iran-related issues.

It is unclear whether top officials at the State Department negotiating the Iran deal knew about the hack or if their personal or professional email accounts were compromised. Sources familiar with the attack believed top officials at State were deeply concerned about the hack and that those senior leaders did not have any of their email or social media accounts compromised in this particular incident.

Wendy Sherman, who served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs for several years during the Obama administration and was the lead U.S. negotiator of the nuclear deal with Iran, could not be reached for comment.

A spokeswoman for Albright Stonebridge LLC, where Sherman now serves as a senior counselor, said Tuesday that Sherman is “unavailable at this time and cannot be reached for comment.”

Asked about the September 2015 cyber-attack, a State Department spokesman said, “For security reasons we cannot confirm whether any hacking incident took place.”

At least four State Department officials in the Bureau of Near East Affairs and a senior State Department adviser on digital media and cyber-security were involved in trying to contain the hack, according to an email dated September 24, 2015 and multiple interviews with sources familiar with the attack.

The Obama administration kept quiet about the cyber-attack and never publicly acknowledged concerns the attack created at State, related agencies, and within the private contractor community that supports their work.

Critics of the nuclear deal said the Obama administration did not publicly disclose the cyber-attack’s impact out of fear it could undermine support right after the pact had overcome political opposition and cleared a critical Congressional hurdle.

The hacking of email addresses belonging to State Department officials and outside contractors began three days after the congressional review period for the deal ended Sept. 17, according to sources familiar with the details of the attack and the internal State Department email. That same day, Democrats in Congress blocked a GOP-led resolution to disapprove of the nuclear deal, according to sources familiar with the details of the attack and the internal State Department email. The resolution of disapproval needed 60 votes to pass but garnered just 56.

President Trump, during his trip to the Middle East in late May, talked tough against Iran and its illicit ballistic missile program but has so far left the nuclear deal in place. A Trump State Department review of the deal is nearing completion, the Free Beacon recently reported, and some senior Trump administration officials are pushing for the public release of the so-called “secret side deals.”

State Department alerts outside contractors of cyber-attack

State Department officials in the Office of Iranian Affairs on Sept. 24, 2015 sent an email to dozens of outside contractors. The email alerted the contractors that a cyber-attack had occurred and urged them not to open any email from a group of five State Department officials that did not come directly from their official state.gov accounts.

“We have received evidence that social media and email accounts are being compromised or subject to phishing messages,” the email, obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, states. “Please be advised that you should not open any link, download or open an attachment from any e-mail message that uses our names but is not directly from one of our official state.gov accounts.”

“We appreciate learning of any attempts to use our names or affiliations in this way,” stated the email. Shervin Hadjilou, the public diplomacy officer in the Office of Iranian Affairs, sent the email and cc’d four other State Department officials who deal with Iran issues, including one cyber-security expert.

Two sources familiar with the details of the hack said the State Department and outside contractors determined that Iranian officials were the perpetrators. The hack, which began Sept. 21, had compromised at least two State Department officials’ government email accounts before they regained control of them, as well as private email addresses and Facebook and other social media accounts, the source said.

“They had access to everything in those email accounts,” the source said. “Everyone in the [State Department Iranian Affairs] community was very upset—it was a major problem.”

The hack also stood out because cyber-warfare between Iran and the United States, which had been the weapon of choice between the countries for years, had cooled considerably in 2015 during the nuclear negotiations in what cyber-security experts have described as a limited détente.

Since Iran discovered the Stuxnet virus—a cyber-worm the United States and Israel planted to degrade Iran’s nuclear capabilities—in 2011, the countries have been engaged in escalating cyber warfare as Tehran’s cyber capabilities become increasingly sophisticated and destructive.

Since 2011 Iran has attacked U.S. banks and Israel’s electric grid. In 2012, Iranian hackers brought down Saudi-owned oil company Saudi Aramco, erasing information on nearly 30,000 of the company’s work stations and replacing it with a burning American flag.

Cyber-security experts have long believed that Russia helped Iran quickly build up its cyberweaponry in response to Stuxnet. A team of computer-security experts at TrapX, a Silicon Valley security firm that helps protect top military contractors from hackers, said in April they officially confirmed that Iranians were using a cyber “tool set” developed by Russians.

Tom Kellerman, a TrapX investor who also served on a commission advising the Obama administration on cyber-security, said Iranian cyberwarfare has dramatically improved over the last two or three years in large part due to Russian technical assistance.

“Much like you see the alliance between Syria, Iran, and Russia, the alliance doesn’t just relate to the distribution of kinetic weapons,” he said, but extends into cyberwarfare.

Uproar among private contracting community over cyber-attack

In the late September 2015 hack, at least two State Department officials and a handful of outside contractors lost control of access to their email and social media accounts, which were automatically forwarding emails to work and personal contacts. This spread the hack to a wider network of victims.

The private-contracting community involved in State Department Iran programs—approximately 40 private firms, some of which are based in Washington and others located throughout the United States—were outraged by the infiltration.

“They were saying ‘We’re mad—we’re angry,'” the source recalled. “We all got compromised.”

Eric Novotny, who served as a senior adviser for digital media and cyber security at the State Department at the time, was involved in trying to shut down the hack and help affected officials and private contractors regain control of their accounts. Novotny was one of the four government officials copied on Hadjilou’s Sept. 24 email.

Critics: Obama administration’s silence on hacking was needed to secure nuke deal

Critics of the Obama administration’s handling of the Iran nuclear deal argue that the State Department stayed silent about the hack because acknowledging it could have publicly undermined the pact right after it became official.

“Within hours of the Iran deal being greenlighted, Iran was already conducting cyberattacks against the very State Department that ensured passage of the [nuclear deal],” said Michael Pregent, a senior Middle East analyst at the Hudson Institute. “Acknowledging a cyberattack after the [nuclear deal] was greenlighted would be something that would immediately signal that it is a bad deal—that these are nefarious actors.”

Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said Iran’s hacking of State Department personnel at such a critical period is “just one of many of Iran’s malign activities that continued and the State Department essentially ignored while the Obama administration was working out the fine points of the nuclear deal.”

“The Obama administration didn’t acknowledge it publicly out of fear that public outrage could threaten the nuclear deal,” he said.

In early November 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Iran’s hardline Revolutionary Guard military had hacked email and social-media accounts of Obama administration officials.

Yet that report wrongly tied the beginning of the uptick in Iranian cyberattacks to the arrest October 29, 2015 of Siamak Namazi, a businessman and Iranian-American scholar who has pushed for democratic reforms. Namazi and his elderly father remain imprisoned in Iran and face a 10-year sentence on espionage charges.

The Journal report also did not indicate that the attacks had occurred more than a month earlier, within three days of the end of the congressional review period, nor did it indicate any specific individual targeted nor how officials and contractors reacted to it.

The Sept. 24 email obtained by the Free Beacon shows the Iranian hacking of State Department officials occurred much earlier—the weekend after Republicans in Congress failed to push through a resolution disapproving the Iran nuclear pact, effectively sealing the foreign policy win for Obama.

The late September time period was particularly important for negotiating critical details of the nuclear deal’s implementation, what critics, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, have labeled “secret side deals” allowing Iran to evade some restrictions in the nuclear agreement in order to meet its deadline for sanctions relief.

Among other non-public details of the pact, the side agreements involved the controversial exchange of American prisoners held in Iran for $1.7 billion in cash payments.

Infiltrating State Department emails and internal communications about where the United States stood on a number of sensitive issues could have given the Iranians an important negotiating advantage, according to David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector and president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

“The [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] had a lot of loose language at the time and the question was whether the U.S. was going to accept it,” he told the Free Beacon, referring to the weeks immediately following the Congressional Review Period, which ended Sept. 17, and Iran’s own review process, which ended Oct. 15.

“It would be to Iran’s great benefit to know where the U.S. would be” on a number of these issues dealing with the possible military dimensions of the Iran nuclear program, he said. “If they could tell the U.S. was going to punt, they could jerk around the [International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA] a bit.”

“That’s essentially what happened with the IAEA,” he added.

The IAEA is charged with verifying and monitoring Iran’s commitments under the nuclear agreement.

According to Albright, the IAEA ultimately accepted far less access to nuclear sites than it originally wanted. The United States and other world powers also accepted other concessions involving “loopholes” allowing Iran to exceed uranium enrichment and heavy water limits for a certain time period in order for Iran to meet implementation deadlines, he said.

“The IAEA didn’t know much at all and had to write a report [in December 2015] that it was content in knowing so little,” he said.

Others who credit Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard with the cyber-attack say it may not have focused entirely on gaining leverage in the negotiations but simply demonstrating a resistance to the deal among hardline factions in the country.

“Iran has two personalities, and I think you were seeing the other personality shine through,” Kellerman said of the hack during a critical phase of the nuclear deal.

Hack used common spear-phishing technique

Sources said the September 2015 hacking incidents compromised email accounts by sending spear-phishing messages, or efforts to gain unauthorized access to confidential data by impersonating close contacts.

The phishing emails targeted both State Department and private contractors’ personal email and social media accounts, including Facebook, shutting down the users’ access and sending out emails to some of the hacked individuals contacts and forwarding other information to unfamiliar emails with Persian-sounding names, two sources told the Free Beacon.

Samuel Bucholtz, co-founder of Casaba, a cyber-security firm that conducts test-hacking for Fortune 500 companies, said the hackers were likely trying to gain access to contacts and emails. The hackers also may have tried to install malware that would provide greater access to information held on computers or the entire computer network of the organizations, he said.

“If it’s a phishing account that installs malware on your machine, then they have access to all the information on your machine,” he said. “Then they start using that foothold to start exploring access throughout the entire organization.”

Iran Developing Advanced Nuclear Capabilities, Reducing Time to Weapon

June 5, 2017

Iran Developing Advanced Nuclear Capabilities, Reducing Time to Weapon, Washington Free Beacon, June 5, 2017

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani holds a press conference in Tehran on May 22, 2017. AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, bragged in April that Tehran is prepared to mass-produce advanced centrifuges on “short notice.” Work of this nature would greatly increase the amount of nuclear fissile material produced by Iran, prompting concerns the country could assemble a functional nuclear weapon without being detected.

The issue is complicated by the lack of access international nuclear inspectors have to Iran’s contested military sites, according to the report.

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Iran is believed to be developing advanced nuclear-related capabilities that could significantly reduce the time it needs to build a deliverable nuclear weapon, according to statements by Iranian officials that have fueled speculation among White House officials and nuclear experts that the landmark accord has heightened rather than reduced the Islamic Regime’s nuclear threat.

The head of Iran’s nuclear program recently announced the Islamic Republic could mass produce advanced nuclear centrifuges capable of more quickly enriching uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon. Work of this nature appears to violate key clauses of the nuclear agreement that prohibits Iran from engaging in such activity for the next decade or so.

The mass production of this equipment “would greatly expand Iran’s ability to sneak-out or breakout to nuclear weapons capability,” according to nuclear verification experts who disclosed in a recent report that restrictions imposed by the Iran deal are failing to stop the Islamic Republic’s nuclear pursuits.

The latest report has reignited calls for the Trump administration to increase its enforcement of the nuclear deal and pressure international nuclear inspectors to demand greater access to Iran’s nuclear sites.

It remains unclear if nuclear inspectors affiliated with the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, have investigated Iran’s pursuit of advanced centrifuges, according to the report, which explains that greater access to Iran’s sites is needed to verify its compliance with the deal.

The report comes amid renewed concerns about Iran’s adherence to the nuclear agreement and its increased efforts to construct ballistic missiles, which violate international accords barring such behavior.

“Iran could have already stockpiled many advanced centrifuge components, associated raw materials, and the equipment necessary to operate a large number of advanced centrifuges,” according to a report by the Institute for Science and International Security. “The United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) need to determine the status of Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing capabilities, including the number of key centrifuge parts Iran has made and the amount of centrifuge equipment it has procured.”

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, bragged in April that Tehran is prepared to mass-produce advanced centrifuges on “short notice.” Work of this nature would greatly increase the amount of nuclear fissile material produced by Iran, prompting concerns the country could assemble a functional nuclear weapon without being detected.

The issue is complicated by the lack of access international nuclear inspectors have to Iran’s contested military sites, according to the report.

Salehi’s declaration highlights the “profound weaknesses in the JCPOA which include lack of inspector access, highly incomplete knowledge of Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing capabilities and output, and too few centrifuge components being accounted for and monitored,” according to the report.

Iran already has manufactured more centrifuge parts than needed for the amount of nuclear work permitted under the agreement.

The terms of the agreement permit Iran to operate one advanced IR-8 centrifuge. However, Iran is known to have assembled more than half a dozen such centrifuges.

Iran also is working to construct IR-6 centrifuges, which also point to an increased focus on the production of enriched nuclear materials.

“These numbers are excessive and inconsistent with the JCPOA,” according to the report. “Moreover, in light of Salehi’s comments, the excessive production of [centrifuge] rotors may be part of a plan to lay the basis for mass production.”

Iran’s work on “any such plan is not included in Iran’s enrichment plan under the JCPOA,” according to the report.

Inspectors affiliated with the IAEA should immediately investigate the total number of centrifuge parts in Iran’s possession and determine exactly how many of these parts are currently being manufactured, the report states. The IAEA also should attempt to keep tabs on any clandestine nuclear work Iran may be engaging in.

Iran may be misleading the world about its centrifuge production and it still has not declared all materials related to this work, as is obligated under the nuclear deal.

“A key question is whether Iran is secretly making centrifuge rotor tubes and bellows at unknown locations, in violation of the JCPOA, and if it takes place, what the probability is that it goes without detection,” the report concludes.

Additionally, “the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) need to determine the status of Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing capabilities, including the number of key centrifuge parts Iran has made and the amount of centrifuge equipment it has procured,” the report states.

“They need to ensure that Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing is consistent with the intent of the nuclear deal as well as the deal’s specific limitations on advanced centrifuges,” according to the report. “Moreover, the Iranian statement illuminates significant weaknesses in the Iran deal that need to be fixed.”

When asked to address the issue, a State Department official told the Washington Free Beacon that Iran’s centrifuge work remains very “limited” under the nuclear agreement.

“Under the JCPOA, consistent with Iran’s enrichment and enrichment and [research and development] plan, Iran can only engage in production of centrifuges, including centrifuge rotors and associated components, to meet the enrichment and R&D requirements of the JCPOA,” the official said. “In other words, Iran’s production of centrifuges and associated components are limited to be consistent with the small scale of R&D that is permissible under the JCPOA.”

If Iran is in violation of the deal, the United States will take concrete action to address this once the Trump administration finishes its interagency review of the Iran deal.

“The Trump administration has made clear that at least until this review is completed, we will adhere to the JCPOA and will ensure that Iran is held strictly accountable to its requirements,” the official said.

Paris: Trump Blocks First of Obama’s ‘Three Authoritarianisms’

June 2, 2017

Paris: Trump Blocks First of Obama’s ‘Three Authoritarianisms’, PJ MediaRoger L. Simon, June 1, 2017

Sometimes — maybe almost always — the world seems to run on Freudian projection. One of the salient recent examples is Barack Obama’s supporters — and Obama himself, literally and by implication — calling Donald Trump “authoritarian.”

But in non-projected reality, during his administration, Obama is the one who imposed what we might deem — in appropriately Maoist parlance — the “Three Authoritarianisms.” They were the Paris climate accord, the Iran deal, and US intelligence agencies being used to surveil American citizens.

All three of these “authoritarianisms” were entirely ex-Constitutional.  The first two were in essence treaties on which Congress (and by extension the American people) never got to vote or, for that matter, discuss in any serious way.  The Paris accord probably would have failed. As for the Iran deal, we still don’t know the full contents and therefore debating it is somewhat moot. We have, however, seen its consequences — corpses littered all across Syria, not to mention untold millions of refugees.

Admittedly, too, the third of “Three Authoritarianisms” is still, shall we say, occluded.  We don’t know the extent of this surveillance and may never. But this too is typical authoritarian behavior.

Even a cursory look at history reveals that totalitarianism does not always come with the obvious iron fist of a Comrade Stalin.  Sometimes it arrives in a subtler manner, as it did in the Obama administration when the then president’s amanuensis/lackey Ben Rhodes was so naive or arrogant (or both) as to brag to a New York Times writer how he duped young and uneducated reporters into parroting what the administration wanted them to say about the Iran deal.  The KGB couldn’t have done it better.

In the cases of Paris and Iran, it’s clear the (totalitarian) decision to avoid Congress was deliberate.  But now Trump has put a crimp in the former by pulling out of the Paris climate ( global warming) accord. The international chorus of hissy fits was so instantaneous and predictable — no more eminent scientist than actor Mark Ruffalo has declared “Trump will have the death of whole nations on his hands” — one must ask the obligatory question: Was it ever really about climate or was it, in the immortal words of  H. L. Mencken, “about the money“?

I learned firsthand just how much it was the latter when covering COP15 — the UN climate conference in Copenhagen at the tail end of 2009.  That the event occurred in near-blizzard conditions with temperatures hovering close to single digits was the least of it.  As we all know, that’s weather, not climate. Right?

Naturally, most of the conference was deadly dull — except for watching junketing U.S. politicians scarfing down modernist Danish jewelry in the Marriott gift shop. But during one of the tedious panel discussions, I found myself sitting next to the representative of one of the Pacific islands said to be on the edge of being submerged.  A pleasant fellow, I engaged him in conversation, attempting to commiserate with him about the fate of his homeland. The diplomat started laughing. “Don’t you believe in global warming?” I asked.  “It’s nonsense,” he said.  He went to explain that his island was just fine.  They had some bad weather and had put up sandbags, but now they were gone.  So I then asked why he had come all the way from the South Pacific to Denmark and he looked at me in astonishment. “For the money,” he said, continuing to stare at me as if I were some kind of cretin who had wangled a press pass. (Okay, I wouldn’t have been the first.)

Look, I know that’s entirely anecdotal but it is funny to think about and somehow meshes with the absurd amounts of money the accord would presumably have forced the American taxpayer to cough up in return for, at best, a puny amount of cooling.  No one explained how that would be consequential and perhaps that’s the point.  It would have exposed the whole thing as a sham.

Of course, the folks who take global warming at face value like that other eminent scientist, the newly minted French president Macron, probably believed in imminent catastrophe even before they saw Al Gore’s famous movie warning of a global armageddon that was supposed to have occurred five years ago.  To have altered their opinions since in any way would have been to much of an effort, like trying to read a scientific paper by MIT’s Richard Lindzen. Science is, after all, complicated and never settled.  Worse yet, it takes background to understand it.  Far better to accept the conventional wisdom and not be ostracized.

Anyway, Trump is to be congratulated for resisting all these would-be bureaucratic totalitarians and walking out on this absurd accord before it bankrupted us. I am reminded of a trip I took to then still fully Communist China in 1979 when signs urging the populace to “Resist the Gang of Four!” (Mao’s wife and her Cultural Revolution colleagues) were everywhere. In that spirit I say “Resist the Three Authoritarianisms!”  One (hopefully) down.  Two to go.

PS:  You will note I did not include the Affordable Care Act in my list of authoritarianisms.  It was, after all, enacted by our representatives  in Congress, even if most of them didn’t read it. So you can’t call it strictly totalitarian.  You can just call it stupid.

The Iranian People Hope Trump Will Support Them, Not Their Rulers

May 14, 2017

The Iranian People Hope Trump Will Support Them, Not Their Rulers, Iran Focus, May 14, 2017

(Please see also, Prosecutor General Warns against Attempts to Upset Election Security in Iran. — DM)

The new American president is reviewing policy with regards to Iran, and with an eye to change. Kashfi suggests that, “Any further support for the un-elected regime in Teheran, be it commercial, economic, diplomatic should be tied to a commitment by the Islamic regime to stop supporting international terrorism and to respect women, minorities, and human rights.”

With the change of power in America, the hope and expectation of the Iranian people is that Washington will support the Iranian people, and advocate the overthrow of the Islamic regime.

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London, 14 May – It’s been reported that more than 9 million Iranians have fled their homeland since the Revolution in 1979. This means that more than 12 percent of Iran’s citizens chose to abandon their homes, families, and belongings, to maintain their freedom. It is estimated that close to four million Iranians have taken refuge in the U.S since 1979.

These refugees consider the International, and specifically European, trade agreements and relations with Iran, their worst nightmare.

The Islamic regime and some in the international community claim that support for the so-called “reformist” and “pragmatic” President Hassan Rouhani will ultimately bring freedom and democracy to Iran. They attempt to convince the free world and democratic countries that appeasement and normalized relations will change the Iranian regime’s attitude and behavior.

“However,” writes Mansour Kashfi, author and president of Kashex International Petroleum Consulting with over 50 years’ experience in petroleum exploration, primarily in Iran in an article for WorldTribune, “the distinction between a ‘moderate’ president and ‘fundamentalist’ Supreme Leader in Iran is a political subterfuge used to mislead the population and perpetuate the inherent corruption of the Islamic regime governing system.

This corruption will not only continue to oppress the Iranian people but also undermine the transparency in business dealings with foreign investors.”

After two years of negotiations, an agreement was reached to lift the sanctions on Iran in return for the Islamic Republic halting its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.

In the midst of this, former President Obama decided to attempt to make a connection with Ayatollah Khameini, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic regime. Obama sent Khameini several friendly letters. Some called this course of action outrageous, considering that the Iranian people were crying for democracy and American help to support a secular government in Iran, and the disastrous human rights issues in Iran, continued terrorist acts in the region, and ongoing testing of intercontinental missiles. Obama may have done better by establishing a relationship with the Iranian people, instead.

According to Kashfi, “Clergies in Iran are as murderous as any religious group in history. From the very first day of the Islamic regime’s establishment, they executed many innocent Iranian officials and military officers, and provoked war with Iraq just to consolidate their dictatorial regime,” and adds, “During eight years of bitter war with Iraq and over one million casualties, clergies dragged school children to the front lines, where their little bodies were used as sandbags to clear mine fields.”

“War was an excuse to execute dissidents and anyone who displeased the bloodthirsty clergies. Minorities including non-Shiite believers such as Sunnis, Jews, Christians, and Bahais were executed on political charges. All these killings and unjust acts in Iran were carried out on command of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khameini,” writes Kashfi.

According to The U.S. Congress’s Human Rights Country Report there has been no change in the status of human rights in Iran. Since 2013, when Hassan Rouhani became president, the status of human rights worsened.

Respect for human rights distinguishes America as a great nation, so Kashfi wonders how it can “…still believe it can establish a lasting line of communication with a terrorist regime in Iran that routinely persecutes religious and ethnic minorities, tortures and systematically executes political prisoners, and promotes international terrorism abroad?” He adds, “…when America fails to lead, enemies of freedom like the Islamic regime of Iran and Russia fill the vacuum.”

After the U.S.withdrew from Iraq, Kashfi says that “the Islamic regime did everything it could to establish oppression and spread terror in that country, and Russia began focusing on the southern Persian Gulf states.”

The new American president is reviewing policy with regards to Iran, and with an eye to change. Kashfi suggests that, “Any further support for the un-elected regime in Teheran, be it commercial, economic, diplomatic should be tied to a commitment by the Islamic regime to stop supporting international terrorism and to respect women, minorities, and human rights.”

With the change of power in America, the hope and expectation of the Iranian people is that Washington will support the Iranian people, and advocate the overthrow of the Islamic regime.

How to Secure and Stabilize the Middle East

May 14, 2017

How to Secure and Stabilize the Middle East, Clarion ProjectShahriar Kia, May 14, 2017

An Iranian protester during the Green Revolution (Photo: Reuters)

The opinions below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Clarion Project.

In contrast to other countries that lack a opposition that can be trusted, Iran enjoys an internationally-recognized alternative based on democratic values acknowledged across the globe.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its pivotal member, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), is the largest and most organized opposition in the face of the Iranian regime. The NCRI enjoys widespread support inside Iran and throughout the world, with the ability to organize an uprising against the regime in Tehran. Senior Iranian regime officials have acknowledged the time and again that the main threat compromising Iran’s entire regime apparatus is none other than the PMOI/MEK. To this end, they have focused their entire efforts on physically obliterating this Iranian opposition group.

In 2009, when the Iranian people took to the streets and demanded fundamental change, their efforts went unsupported due to Obama’s appeasement policy that sought to sign the nuclear deal with Tehran at all costs. This was an opportunity that enjoyed the potential of significantly decreasing existing Middle East crises. Today, the regime in Tehran is facing crises far more dangerous than 2009.

The correct Iran policy is supporting regime change by the Iranian people and their organized and legitimate resistance. By adopting such a stance, the international community can begin to confront Iran’s notorious influence in the region and its nuclear ambitions in order to spread security in a non-nuclear Middle East free of terrorism.

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced at a press conference on April 19 that the White House is evaluating its policy on Iran. This policy overview will not merely cover the Iran nuclear deal, but will be a comprehensive look at all Iran-related issues.

At a press conference, Tillerson formalized Iran’s provocative and destructive measures in different fields.

“Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and is responsible for intensifying multiple conflicts and undermining U.S. interests in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon, and continuing to support attacks against Israel … An unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea, and take the world along with it … Iran’s provocative actions threaten the United States, the region, and the world …” he said.

“Iran continues to have one of the world’s worst human rights records,” Tillerson added.

Defense Secretary James Mattis adopted a similar approach on April 22 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, saying, “But we’re talking about the Mideast at an inflection point. And I would just point out right now that among the many challenges the Mideast faces, I think Iran is actually foremost … The Iranian regime, in my mind, is the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.”

Iran’s meddling has neutralized all efforts to resolve the region’s crises, said Bahrain Interior Minister Rashed bin Abdullah at a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) session, adding the region faces threats that demand cooperation to confront. He emphasized the need for unity in Gulf positions regarding strategic matters.

What is the right Iran policy?

Supporters of the Iran appeasement approach believe the correct policy is to engage the mullahs’ regime and continue dialogue. They justify this approach for two reasons: first, to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions and second, to attempt to establish change from within by supporting so-called “moderates” inside the regime apparatus.

This is the policy pursued during the Obama years without any political or strategic reservation, and also that of previous administrations throughout the past few decades.

However, rapprochement with Tehran not only failed to contain the mullahs’ ambitions and terrorism; in fact, it further encouraged the regime and plunged the entire Middle East into insecurity and instability.

The Wall Street Journal wrote in a recent piece, “President Donald Trump’s hard-line view on Iran was at odds with State Department diplomats.”

Yet, the solution placed forward by Obama and the State Department’s experienced diplomats resulted in Iran escalating its flagrant human rights violations and expanding its devious influence throughout the Middle East.

Others believe the right Iran policy is a military solution and the U.S. must launch airstrikes targeting Iran’s nuclear sites. Although this can deliver significant blows to Iran’s ambitions and disrupt the mullahs’ efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, the consequences on regional security and stability are controversial, placing the U.S. and its allies in yet another Middle East war.

What is the durable solution? Can we avoid war while bringing an end to the spread of extremism and terrorism across the globe?

Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in today’s world. Since the appeasement policy adopted by previous U.S. administrations has been fruitless in containing Iran and actually led to the current dangerous circumstances, the only viable long-term solution is to adopt a firm policy that hinges on regime change.

In contrast to other countries that lack a opposition that can be trusted, Iran enjoys an internationally-recognized alternative based on democratic values acknowledged across the globe.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its pivotal member, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), is the largest and most organized opposition in the face of the Iranian regime. The NCRI enjoys widespread support inside Iran and throughout the world, with the ability to organize an uprising against the regime in Tehran. Senior Iranian regime officials have acknowledged the time and again that the main threat compromising Iran’s entire regime apparatus is none other than the PMOI/MEK. To this end, they have focused their entire efforts on physically obliterating this Iranian opposition group.

Following a visit paid by Senator John McCain to Albania and his meeting with Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, an analysis posted on April 27 in Iran Dideban, a state-sponsored outlet, made vivid the regime’s concern that the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) failed to quell and destroy the PMOI/MEK.

“The IRGC’s involvement in Syria led to serious neglect. This inattention has surfaced, resulting in this group [MEK] gaining a more open hand to play a role in on-the-ground developments … It is worth noting this group has significant experience in organizing campaigns and can pose a potential security threat for the country. The use of social domestic networks inside the country and influencing grayscale correspondents are among the efforts of this group. This has launched a wave of disappointment among forces loyal to the establishment and state.”

In 2009, when the Iranian people took to the streets and demanded fundamental change, their efforts went unsupported due to Obama’s appeasement policy that sought to sign the nuclear deal with Tehran at all costs. This was an opportunity that enjoyed the potential of significantly decreasing existing Middle East crises. Today, the regime in Tehran is facing crises far more dangerous than 2009.

The correct Iran policy is supporting regime change by the Iranian people and their organized and legitimate resistance. By adopting such a stance, the international community can begin to confront Iran’s notorious influence in the region and its nuclear ambitions in order to spread security in a non-nuclear Middle East free of terrorism.