Posted tagged ‘Obama and Iran scam’

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

January 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

The Madness of King Barry (or not)

January 10, 2017

The Madness of King Barry (or not), Power Line, Scott Johnson, January 9, 2017 

If one hypothesized that President Obama’s object in entering into the JCPOA was to block Iran from acquiring a nuclear arsenal, one might conclude that the man is madder than King George III in the Regency Crisis. Indeed, so it seems, more evidence emerges every day to support the hypothesis. You begin to think you might be on to something.

In the alternative, one might hypothesize that President Obama seeks to facilitate and finance Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear arsenal, and to protect its program from disruption until such team as Iran seeks to go for it forthrightly. In this case, although one shrinks from the conclusion, Obama’s actions appear rationally calculated to achieve their objective.

Today’s news brings us additional evidence in the form of the AP exclusive reporting that Iran is to obtain a massive batch of natural uranium from Russia with the blessing of President Obama. The AP reports:

Two senior diplomats said the transfer recently agreed by the U.S. and five other world powers that negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran foresees delivery of 116 metric tons (nearly 130 tons) of natural uranium. U.N. Security Council approval is needed but a formality, considering five of those powers are permanent Security Council members, they said.

The AP helpfully explains:

Uranium can be enriched to levels ranging from reactor fuel or medical and research purposes to the core of an atomic bomb. Iran says it has no interest in such weapons and its activities are being closely monitored under the nuclear pact to make sure they remain peaceful.

Tehran already got a similar amount of natural uranium in 2015 as part of negotiations leading up to the nuclear deal, in a swap for enriched uranium it sent to Russia. But the new shipment will be the first such consignment since the deal came into force a year ago.

The AP adds this for those of us trying to sort out the madness or not of King Barry:

The natural uranium agreement comes at a sensitive time. With the incoming U.S. administration and many U.S. lawmakers already skeptical of how effective the nuclear deal is in keeping Iran’s nuclear program peaceful over the long term, they might view it as further evidence that Tehran is being given too many concessions.

The diplomats said any natural uranium transferred to Iran after the deal came into effect would be under strict surveillance by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency for 25 years after implementation of the deal.

Let me add: “…for 25 years after implementation of the deal or until such time as Iran chooses to pull the plug on the phony baloney JCPOA.”

Back to the diplomats speaking to the AP:

They said Tehran has not said what it would do with the uranium but could choose to store it or turn it into low-enriched uranium and then export it for use as reactor fuel.

Despite present restrictions on its enrichment program, the amount of natural uranium is significant should Iran decide to keep it in storage, considering its potential uses once some limits on Tehran’s nuclear activities start to expire in less than a decade.

Here the AP goes outside Obama’s circle of love for informed comment:

David Albright, whose Institute of Science and International Security often briefs U.S. lawmakers on Iran’s nuclear program, says the shipment could be enriched to enough weapons-grade uranium for more than 10 simple nuclear bombs, “depending on the efficiency of the enrichment process and the design of the nuclear weapon.”

Omri Ceren adds these comments by email (footnotes omitted):

The 2015 nuclear deal obligated Iran to keep no more than 130 metric tonnes of heavy water, a material used in the production of weapons-grade plutonium.

But the Iranians have continued to produce heavy water, and they exceeded the cap in February and November. The violations functionally blackmailing the Obama administration: either someone would purchase the excess heavy water, allowing Iran to literally profit from violating the deal, or the Iranians would go into formal noncompliance, endangering the deal.

After the Iranians violated the deal in February the Obama administration purchased the excess heavy water for $8.6 million. After they violated the deal in November State Department spokesperson Toner refused to call the overproduction a violation — “I’m not going to use the V word necessarily in this case” — and the Iranians eventually found someone else to purchase the excess.

The Associated Press just revealed that in addition to getting millions of dollars, the Iranians are also getting 116 metric tons of uranium in exchange for their heavy water. That’s enough for more than 10 nuclear bombs. The Obama administration has approved those terms [reported in the AP story]…

There are no diplomatic or technical reasons Iran needs to sell excess heavy water to avoid violating the deal: the Iranians could 1st, stop producing heavy water or 2nd, dump the excess in a river, since it’s just water. Obama officials have separately suggested that Iranian over-production is a win-win because there are shortages in the global market, but: there are no shortages, even if there were the Iranians are substandard suppliers, and using the Iranians may create actual shortages by kneecapping the existing legitimate suppliers.

We report, you decide.

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)

obama-750

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.

 

UNSC resolution promotes Mid East war

December 24, 2016

UNSC resolution promotes Mid East war, DEBKAfile, December 24, 2016

obama_bibi2480-1

The United States did not abandon Israel by its abstention from vetoing the UN Security Council resolution condemning settlements that was passed Friday, Dec. 23, 2016.

The one who abandoned Israel was US President Barack Obama – and not for the first time. During his eight years in office, Obama let Israel down at least three times on issues that jeopardized its security:

One of the first consequences of his 2011 “Arab Spring” initiative was the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak as Egyptian president and his direct promotion of the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of power in Cairo.

Four years later, Obama turned his back on Israel to award Iran favored status. Iran was allowed to retain the infrastructure of its military nuclear program as well as continuing to develop ballistic missiles, with the help of an infusion of $250 billion in US and European sanctions relief.

The horror of the carnage in Syria overshadowed the fact that President Obama allowed Tehran to pump Revolutionary Guards forces into the country through Iraq in order to fight for the brutal Assad regime. The president made no effort to halt the influx of pro-Iranian Shiite groups, including the Lebanese Hizballah, into Syria, as though it was perfectly natural and his policies had nothing to do with bringing Israel’s arch-foes to its back door.

In 2015, too, when Obama tried to wash his hands of the Middle East at large, he opened the war for the Islamic State and its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi to walk in and commandeer large swathes of Iraq and Syria virtually unopposed.

From those vantage points, the jihadists sent out a tentacle to Egyptian Sinai – close to another Israeli border.

Of late, the Obama has claimed he was not aware of ISIS’ potential for expansion, implying that US intelligence was at fault.

All the same, Obama never tired of emphasizing that he had done more than any US president before him to support Israel’s security, mainly in the form of advanced US weapons systems supplied for its defense. Because of the close military and intelligence ties between the two countries, no voice was raised to contradict him.

It is now time to point to the hypocrisy of the incumbent president’s posture: Had he invested less in granting benefits and free rein to the Jewish state’s closest enemies, Israel would perhaps have been less dependent on American hardware.

In the latest UN Security Council resolution, Israel is reprimanded on the score that “all Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem, are illegal under international law and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of peace on the basis of the two-state solution.”

Before anyone else, Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry are in a position to attest to the falseness of this equation.

On Nov. 25, 2009, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that Israel would impose a 10-month freeze on construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a concession to ease the US peace initiative. Israel gave way further on its demand for direct negotiations, when Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas dug his heels in against meeting Israeli officials face to face. John Kerry was forced to engage in shuttle diplomacy.
Even after those concessions for peace, the Obama initiative fell flat when it came up against Palestinian resistance.

The departing US president seems determined to use his last weeks in office to teach the Israeli prime minister a painful lesson he won’t forget in a hurry after his White House exit on Jan. 20.

But he is getting it wrong one more time. The UN SC resolution will soon be reduced to a piece of paper. The Palestinians will wave it gladly in the face of the international community, but Israel won’t remove a single settlement or stop building new housing estates in Jerusalem. The Prime Minister’s Office made it clear that Israel is not bound by the resolution and rejects it.
The only concrete result will be to make peace more elusive than ever

The notion that Donald Trump will come riding to Israel’s rescue as soon as he moves into the Oval Office is foolish. He was elected to rebuild America as a global power. That would necessarily include restoring US influence in the Middle East, but how he proposes to accomplish this is not generally known.

If he decides to call on Israel for support and assistance, it stands to reason that he will introduce radical changes in Obama’s steps – especially the nuclear deal with Iran and the peace process with the Palestinians.

Not all those changes can be achieved peacefully. They may well entail the use of military force by the United States and Israel. In this sense, Security Council Resolution 2334 may turn out to be the real obstacle to peace, tending rather to promote belligerence in the Middle East, because the Palestinians and other hardliners and rejectionists will use the resolution as their justification for bashing Israel and more acts of terror.

The sorrow and the pity in Syria

December 21, 2016

The sorrow and the pity in Syria, Washington Times

(Please see also, Lies and Hypocrisy over Aleppo. — DM)

iraninsyriaIllustration on Iran’s future role in Syria by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Over the last five years, Syria has been descending into a hell on Earth. Over the last four months, the lowest depths of the inferno have been on display in Aleppo, an ancient city, once among the most diverse and dynamic in the Middle East. On Friday, in the final press conference of his presidency, Barack Obama addressed this still-unfolding humanitarian and strategic catastrophe.

“So with respect to Syria,” he said, “what I have consistently done is taken the best course that I can to try to end the civil war while having also to take into account the long-term national security interests of the United States.”

An estimated 500,000 dead, 11 million displaced, millions more living in fear, sorrow and pitiful poverty, Iranian forces backed by Russian forces occupying the heart of the Arab world — yet no-drama Mr. Obama remains so casual, so confident that the decisions he’s made were “the best” and, what’s more, that he made them “consistently.” Is refusing to change one’s mind as conditions worsen and policies fail really a virtue?

To bolster his case, the president emphasized that he has spent lots of time — “if you tallied it up, days and weeks” — attending meetings on Syria. “We went through every option in painful detail with maps,” he said, “and we had our military and we had our aid agencies and we had our diplomatic teams, and sometimes, we’d bring in outsiders who were critics of ours.” Imagine that: painful detail, maps, aid agencies, even critical outsiders.

Count me among those not convinced. In 2011, during that hopeful moment known as the Arab Spring, peaceful protesters took to the streets of Damascus. The dynastic dictator Bashar Assad responded brutally. Before long, a civil war was ignited.

Mr. Obama’s top advisers recommended assisting non-Islamist and nationalist rebels — not with the proverbial boots on the proverbial ground but with secure communications devices, money, weapons and training. Mr. Obama rejected that advice. He had done the math: Mr. Assad, a member of the Alawite minority, hadn’t enough loyal troops to prevail against Syria’s insurgent Sunni majority. So the fall of the Assad regime had to be both inevitable and imminent.

What that failed to take into account: Iran’s theocrats would send in foreign Shia fighters, including those of Hezbollah, their Lebanese proxy, all under the leadership of their Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Vladimir Putin also would deploy forces in support of the Assad regime. We can surmise his reasons: to have a Mediterranean port for his navy; to re-establish Russia’s influence in the Middle East; to show the world that, unlike Mr. Obama, he does not abandon his friends; to diminish American credibility and prestige.

Mr. Obama’s response was, as it so often is, mainly rhetorical. He warned Mr. Putin that he was stepping into a quagmire. He proclaimed, as so he often does, that there can be “no military solution.”

The Russian president, a product of the KGB rather than the faculty lounge, knew that was nonsense. In the Middle East, the law of the jungle trumps international law every time.

Having accused President George W. Bush of overreach, Mr. Obama adopted a policy that might be called underreach. He decided not to enforce the “red line” he had declared against Mr. Assad’s use of chemical weapons. He decided not to eliminate Mr. Assad’s air power, which would have ended the barrel-bombing of civilians. He wasn’t even willing to help establish “safe zones” where innocent Syrians might stand a chance to defend themselves.

I know: Mr. Obama saw his mission as ending wars and certainly not risking additional American entanglements. And he is among those who believe that the projection of American power generally does more harm than good.

Not mutually exclusive is the theory that he had a specific goal in mind: to bring Iran’s rulers into a strategic partnership with the United States. To achieve that, he had to demonstrate that he respected what he has called their “equities” in Syria. Were he to take action against Mr. Assad, the Islamic republic’s envoys might walk away from the table where they were negotiating the nuclear weapons deal Mr. Obama envisioned as his great foreign policy legacy.

The president has been nothing if not “consistent” in his pursuit of detente with Iran’s Islamic revolutionaries. In all likelihood, that is what explains his decision, just after taking office, to turn a blind eye to the clerical regime’s ruthless repression of the Green Movement that took to the streets of Iranian cities following a rigged presidential election in 2009.

History will record that these efforts failed. Nixon went to China. Mr. Obama will not be going to Iran — or to Syria, which Iran intends to incorporate into its version of a caliphate (which Shia call an “imamate”).

Aleppo,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said last week at the U.N., “will join the ranks of those events in world history that define modern evil, that stain our conscience decades later. Halabja, Rwanda, Srebrenica, and, now, Aleppo. To the Assad regime, Russia, and Iran, your forces and proxies are carrying out these crimes.”

She went on to ask: “Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there literally nothing that can shame you? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin?”

Would it be unfair to suggest that the answers to these questions should have been apparent to her and the president years ago? Had that been the case, perhaps they would have formulated different policies and implemented a different course of action. Or perhaps not.

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.