Posted tagged ‘Obama and Iran scam’

Kerry on Edge as Legacy Crumbles

October 17, 2017

Kerry on Edge as Legacy Crumbles, FrontPage MagazineJoseph Klein, October 17, 2017

Former Secretary of State John Kerry wasted no time condemning President Trump’s decision not to recertify, and to possibly withdraw from, the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran that Kerry negotiated on behalf of his boss Barack Obama. President Trump insisted on significant improvements to the Joint Plan of Comprehensive Action (JCPOA), as the deal is formally known. The JCPOA’s fundamental flaws that President Trump wants fixed include Iran’s ability to block unfettered international inspections, the wiggle room that Iran is exploiting to continue developing and testing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and the sunset clause on nuclear enrichment that would provide Iran a clear path to becoming a nuclear armed state after the current restrictions are lifted. Obama and Kerry had promised that these issues would be dealt with satisfactorily before agreeing to the final terms of the JCPOA. Instead they caved to Iranian pressure in order to get the deal done.

Now that President Trump is trying to clean up the mess Obama and Kerry left him, Kerry has the gall to label President Trump’s decision a “reckless abandonment of facts in favor of ego and ideology” and to accuse the Trump administration of “lying to the American people.” It was the Obama administration that recklessly abandoned the facts in pressing ahead with the deal. The Obama administration lied to the American people, abandoning its own promises to ensure that the deal contained ironclad protections. Moreover, all that President Trump has done so far is to return the JCPOA to Congress for review. Had Obama followed the Constitution and submitted the JCPOA to the Senate as a treaty in the first place, the JCPOA in its present form almost certainly would not have been approved. Congress should now have the opportunity to revisit the JCPOA to determine whether the protections that the Obama administration promised are working as advertised. Congress should also consider whether time limits on Iran’s commitments continue to make sense in light of what we are now experiencing with Iran’s nuclear technology collaborator, North Korea. It bought time to turn into a full-fledged nuclear power under our noses.

Kerry had promised that the Iranian regime would be prohibited from testing ballistic missiles. This turned out to be a lie. After the JCPOA was finalized, with no such prohibition included, Iran continued to test such missiles. The Obama administration’s response was that the missiles had become a separate issue, to be dealt with under a new United Nations Security Council resolution endorsing the JCPOA.  The new resolution replaced clear prohibitions imposed on Iran’s ballistic missile program with a weak declaration in an annex that simply “calls upon” Iran not to undertake any activity such as development and test launches related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons for eight years.

Iran has tested several ballistic missiles during the last two years, including two Qadr H missiles with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out” emblazoned on the sides. The commander of Iran’s Army, Major General Ataollah Salehi, had told reporters just a month before the launch of those missiles that Iran was “neither paying any attention to the resolutions against Iran, nor implementing them. This is not a breach of the JCPOA.”

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin, spurning requests from Obama administration officials to impose sanctions against Iran under the Security Council resolution, asserted that the Iranian missile test did not violate the resolution. “A call is different from a ban so legally you cannot violate a call, you can comply with a call or you can ignore the call, but you cannot violate a call,” the Russian ambassador said. In short, the JCPOA did not cover the missile tests and the replacement UN Security Council resolution that did mention the missiles is toothless.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told CNN, during an interview aired on April 6, 2015,  that under the deal’s terms then still being negotiated, “you will have anywhere, anytime, 24/7 access as it relates to the nuclear facilities that Iran has.” Rhodes claimed that “if we see a site that we need to inspect on a military facility, we can get access to that site and inspect it. So if it’s a suspicious site that we believe is related to its nuclear efforts, we can get access and inspect that site through the IAEA.” This was another lie. After the JCPOA was finalized in July 2015, Rhodes shamelessly denied that anytime, anywhere inspections were ever considered as part of the negotiations. “We never sought in this negotiation the capacity for so-called anytime, anywhere,” Rhodes said on July 14, 2015.

The JCPOA’s supporters, including Kerry, have made much of the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has on several occasions verified Iran’s compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA, keeping its stock of low-enriched uranium below the limit set forth in the JCPOA and not pursuing further construction of the Arak reactor. Iran was found to have slightly exceeded the limit on its stock of heavy water, but has remedied the problem to the IAEA’s satisfaction. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano reiterated in a statement he issued on October 9th that Iran has remained in compliance with its JCPOA commitments.

The problem, as any clear-eyed observer of the process recognizes, is that the IAEA relies on Iran for self-inspection of certain sites that the regime does not want the IAEA to inspect freely on its own. IAEA inspectors have avoided examining military sites it knows exists and has no reliable way of tracking undeclared sites. The IAEA’s explanation for not visiting any of Iran’s known military sites is that it had “no reason to ask” for access. Evidently, the IAEA is supposed to block out the fact that Iran had conducted tests relevant to nuclear bomb detonations at a military site before the JCPOA’s finalization in 2015. The IAEA should just pretend that such tests could not possibly happen again.

“Nobody is allowed to visit Iran’s military sites,” said Iran’s Head of Strategic Research Center at the Expediency Council and adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati. Intimidation works. The IAEA knows not to ask.

As to the JCPOA’s sunset provisions, the Obama administration lied about that too. Kerry claimed on September 2, 2015 that the JCPOA “never sunsets. There’s no sunset in this agreement.”

This month Kerry has resorted to parsing words. He claims the phrase ‘sunset provisions’ is a “misnomer,” before then defending the JCPOA’s time limits. “We were comfortable because the cap on Iran’s low-enriched uranium stockpile remains in place until 2030,” Kerry wrote in an article published in the Washington Post late last month. In other words, let’s just kick the can down the road and hope for a more reasonable Iranian regime in 13 years that would agree to extend the time limits. In the meantime, Kerry advises us not to worry. Kerry declared, “15 or 25 years from now, we still have the same military options we have today.”

John Kerry has obviously learned nothing from the North Korean fiasco, which resulted from years of phony agreements with the rogue regime and so-called “strategic patience.” The United States clearly does not have the same military options today to deal with a nuclear armed North Korea as it did 23 years ago when former President Bill Clinton decided not to use military force to stamp out North Korea’s nuclear program at its inception. Instead, Clinton started us down the primrose path of naïve diplomacy with a duplicitous regime that now is on the verge of being able to strike the U.S. mainland with nuclear warheads delivered by intercontinental ballistic missiles. It is precisely because North Korea’s actions over the last 23 years have proven that making concessions to a rogue regime in order to obtain denuclearization commitments is so dangerous that President Trump does not want to make the same mistake with Iran.

America’s European allies are also upset with President Trump for refusing to recertify the deal and threatening to pull out if certain conditions are not met. British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a joint statement last Friday praising the JCPOA and its implementation. They said that the nuclear deal with Iran was “the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that Iran’s nuclear programme is not diverted for military purposes. Therefore, we encourage the US Administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement.”

Perhaps these European leaders should remember their own history. Appeasement through phony deals with a rogue dictatorship does not work, as proven by the infamous Munich Pact signed by British and French Prime Ministers Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler seventy-nine years ago.

Israel Takes on the SHIA Crescent

October 2, 2017

Israel Takes on the SHIA Crescent, Front Page MagazineJoseph Klein, October 2, 2017

At least, Israel has a more sympathetic ear in the Trump administration than it did in the Obama administration for raising its concerns about Iran’s growing threat, not only to Israel but to U.S. interests in the region and beyond. President Trump’s sharp denunciation of the Iranian regime during his address to the UN General Assembly represented a welcome departure from the Obama administration’s milquetoast approach to Iran. 

As the U.S.-led coalition continues to drive ISIS from its bases of operation in Syria, the Trump administration has proclaimed its intention not to allow Iran to turn Syria into its own satellite, as Iran has essentially done in Iraq. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that the “so called liberation of areas by Assad’s forces and Iranian proxies could actually accelerate the cycle of violence and perpetuate conflict rather than get us to a sustainable outcome.” He claimed that the Trump administration’s “objectives are to weaken Iranian influence across the region broadly,” without discussing the means to accomplish those objectives.

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Despite Israel’s repeated warnings, Barack Obama’s reckless appeasement of the Iranian regime has enabled its rise as a hegemonic threat in the Middle East region as well as a threat to international peace and security. In 2009, Obama turned his back on millions of dissidents in the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities, who were peacefully protesting the rigged election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. In 2011, Obama precipitously removed the remaining U.S. combat troops from Iraq, giving rise to ISIS’s re-emergence in Iraq from its bases in Syria. The radical Shiite Iranian regime purported to come to the “rescue” of both countries from the Sunni terrorists, turning Iraq into a virtual vassal state of the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the process. Obama’s disastrous nuclear deal with Iran legitimized Iran’s path to eventually becoming a nuclear-armed state, while immediately filling its coffers with billions of dollars to fund its aggression. 

Meanwhile, Syria has become ground zero for Iran’s execution of its regional ambitions, which is to establish its Shiite Crescent connecting with its allies, including Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This plan has included the establishment of a land route that Iranian-backed militias secured in June, beginning on Iran’s border with Iraq and running across Iraq and Syria all the way to Syria’s Mediterranean coast. This road makes Iran’s job easier in supplying arms by land, as well as by air and sea, to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and to equip Iran’s own forces fighting inside of Syria in support of Assad. This helps explain why Iran has placed so much importance on helping the Syrian regime establish control over the Deir ez-Zor area in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border.

“Everything depends now on the Americans’ willingness to stop this,” said an Iraqi Kurdish official who was quoted in a New Yorker article. However, U.S.-led coalition forces apparently have done next to nothing to stop this major advance in Iran’s Shiite Crescent expansion. “Obama ran down our options in Syria so thoroughly, by the time this administration took over,” said Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The Iranian influence is spreading because they are so heavily involved in regime activities,” Tabler added. “It’s a new monster.”

Furthermore, Iran has funded and armed its terrorist proxy Hezbollah, which has sent its militia from its home base of Lebanon to fight alongside Assad’s forces.  And Iran has used Syria as a transit point for shipment of sophisticated rockets to Hezbollah in Lebanon for future use against Israeli population centers. Despite the fact that Hezbollah has American blood on its hands, the U.S.-led coalition has chosen not to do anything about Hezbollah’s presence in Syria, bought and paid for by Iran.

While Israel chose not to take sides in Syria’s civil war with military intervention of its own, it has bombed weapons storage facilities and convoys inside Syria for its own protection. Just recently, on September 7th, Israeli jets struck a Syrian weapons facility near Masyaf, which was reported to have been used for the production of chemical weapons and the storage of missiles. Israel will also do what is necessary to repel Iranian-backed forces if they edge too close to areas near the Golan Heights, shrinking the buffer between Israel and Iranian controlled territories.

However, such tactical measures may not be enough to thwart Iran’s larger ambitions. In light of intelligence reports that Assad may be ready to invite Iran to set up military bases in Syria, Israeli leaders have concluded that they cannot wait until the Trump administration decides to deal more forcefully with Iran’s growing use of Syria as a staging area for carrying out its expansionist Shiite Crescent strategy.  “Their overriding concern in Syria is the free reign that all the major players there seem willing to afford Iran and its various proxies in the country,” wrote Jonathan Spyer in an article for Foreign Policy. As long as nobody else is addressing the concern Iran’s growing control raises in a satisfactory manner, “Israel is determined to continue addressing it on its own.”

At least, Israel has a more sympathetic ear in the Trump administration than it did in the Obama administration for raising its concerns about Iran’s growing threat, not only to Israel but to U.S. interests in the region and beyond. President Trump’s sharp denunciation of the Iranian regime during his address to the UN General Assembly represented a welcome departure from the Obama administration’s milquetoast approach to Iran.

As the U.S.-led coalition continues to drive ISIS from its bases of operation in Syria, the Trump administration has proclaimed its intention not to allow Iran to turn Syria into its own satellite, as Iran has essentially done in Iraq. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that the “so called liberation of areas by Assad’s forces and Iranian proxies could actually accelerate the cycle of violence and perpetuate conflict rather than get us to a sustainable outcome.” He claimed that the Trump administration’s “objectives are to weaken Iranian influence across the region broadly,” without discussing the means to accomplish those objectives.

Whether the Trump administration follows through remains to be seen. In the meantime, Israel will have to deal with the fallout of Iran’s ambitions in Syria itself.

Iran Follows In North Korea’s Footsteps: Nuclearization, Missile Development Alongside Agreements With The Superpowers; EU3, IAEA Director-General Submitted To Obama Administration Pressure, Agreed To JCPOA With No Real Inspection, No Response To Iran’s Missile Program; French President: ‘Absolutely Necessary’ That JCPOA Be ‘Supplemented’

September 9, 2017

Iran Follows In North Korea’s Footsteps: Nuclearization, Missile Development Alongside Agreements With The Superpowers; EU3, IAEA Director-General Submitted To Obama Administration Pressure, Agreed To JCPOA With No Real Inspection, No Response To Iran’s Missile Program; French President: ‘Absolutely Necessary’ That JCPOA Be ‘Supplemented’, MEMRI, September 8, 2017

(Please see also, Powers may end up with Iranian model for NKorea. Obama would be very proud. –DM)

Introduction

Top Iranian officials have stated in the past that Tehran is learning from the experience of North Korea in attempting to actualize aspirations for regional supremacy and gaining the status of a global nuclear power.

Iran has achieved both of these under the cover of an agreement with the superpowers that protects it from both attack and inspection, and allows it to proceed, legitimately and with the help of the superpowers, to develop its nuclear capabilities. These include detonation of a nuclear device “for research purposes” as well as the continued development of its missile program, without any restrictions whatsoever under the agreement.

Iran Follows In North Korea’s Footsteps

Like North Korea, which came to several agreements with U.S. administrations, i.e. the Clinton and Obama administrations, as well as with other superpowers, yet continued with its military nuclear program without allowing real inspection of its sites, and also continued to develop long-range ballistic missiles, Tehran is utilizing the JCPOA to develop its nuclear capabilities without allowing real inspection, while continuing to develop and freely test long-range missiles.

It was President Obama who pressured the EU3 – the UK, France, and Germany – and the International Nuclear Energy Agency (IAEA) to agree to no inspection of military and other suspect sites, and to keep the issue of missiles separate from the JCPOA, thus enabling Iran to do as North Korea has done, without any significant response from the West. Iran, which monitored the West’s reaction to North Korea’s activity, concluded that it could do the same, and this lesson has been expressed in statements by top Iranian officials.

For example, Supreme National Security Council secretary Ali Larijani said in a September 2005 speech: “I recommend once again that you pay attention to the conduct of North Korea. After two years of dealings with North Korea, what have you got? You have accepted North Korea ‘s nuclear technology in the field of uranium enrichment. So accept ours now.”[1]

The Kayhan daily, which is affiliated with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, wrote in an October 12, 2006 editorial titled “Lessons from North Korea”: ” “[North] Korea has built a [nuclear] bomb before the American’s eyes, despite the great pressure it was under, and [despite] years of harsh international sanctions – and no one has managed to do anything [against it]. What this means precisely is that if any country, such as North Korea, concludes, for political or security reasons, that it must have nuclear weapons, it will ultimately succeed in implementing its wish – even if the whole world doesn’t want it to. The superpowers may manage to slow down [its] path [in going] nuclear, or may apply economic and psychological pressures on it and on its citizens – but   in the end the wish that arises from among the people is what prevails and determines the policy.”[2]

An article in Sobh-e Sadeq, the weekly of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), published in June 2008, called North Korea’s decision to destroy the cooling tower of the reactor at Yongbyon that month “a strategic deception” aimed at alleviating the pressure from the superpowers that oppose its nuclear activity. It added that the destruction of this facility could be a step towards another nuclear test. Also according to the article, the destruction of the tower, the use of which had long been suspended, did not prevent North Korea from being able to revive its activity, thanks to its knowhow, and with its stock of plutonium it could conduct at least another eight nuclear tests.[3]

The Iran Diplomacy research center, which is close to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, called, in April 2009, for careful study of the U.S. reaction to North Korea’s launch that month of a long-range missile, saying that the North Korean model could be applied to the Middle East.[4]

The conservative Iranian daily Resalat stated, following the North Korean missile launch, that the U.S. was weak and could not force its position on North Korea, which, it said, benefits from Russian and Chinese support. It added that the Obama administration was facing a difficult dilemma. If it adopted the harsh position of the preceding Bush administration, Obama’s conciliatory image would be harmed. If it gave in to North Korea, it would strengthen North Korea’s position in southeast Asia.[5]

Iran acted based on North Korea’s experience, but with greater sophistication, as manifested in the following aspects:

1. Instead of rejecting inspections out of hand like North Korea, Tehran created a framework under which only declared nuclear sites could be inspected, along with a different framework in which there would be no inspections of military and other sites, and gained full Western cooperation for this, in addition to tremendous benefits for itself. The West agreed to this Iranian scheme, and the President of the United States himself even explained on July 14, 2015, the day this agreement was announced, that “[t]he IAEA will have access where necessary, when necessary.”[6]Today, the U.S. is obligated to reconfirm every quarter that Iran is meeting the terms of the agreement even though inspection is limited to certain sites only.

2. Tehran took the issue of long-range ballistic missile development out of the negotiations for the JCPOA, and in the absence of an international treaty regulating the issue of long-term missiles, the Obama administration allowed Iran to continue to develop its missile capability to the point where it threatens the Middle East and the West. It should be noted that Iran calls its long-range missiles “defensive missiles” but that by any accepted standard they are offensive missiles; it also threatens the countries of the region with them.


On missile, in Hebrew and Farsi: Israel Should Be Wiped Off the Face of the Earth.” Photo: Fars, Iran, March 9, 2016. See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6349, Iran Launches Long-Range Missiles Emblazoned With Slogan: ‘Israel Should Be Wiped Off The Face Of The Earth,’ March 16, 2016.

3. The JCPOA was written in such a way that it expires after a certain time period, as do the restrictions and certain qualifications to which Tehran agreed.

4. The U.S. administration acquiesced to Tehran’s demand that its heavy water be stored in nearby Oman, its proxy, where it will be in immediate reach of Iran. The administration also acquiesced to Iran’s demand that it be allowed to continue developing advanced-generation centrifuges, such that after the JCPOA expires in 2025 it will be able to skip significant stages in its nuclearization process.<

What Inspection Did The EU3 And IAEA Agree To Under Pressure From The Obama Administration?

IAEA director-general Yukia Amano recently announced that the IAEA could enter any site in Iran to inspect it. But his statements are misleading, because the JCPOA does not allow real inspection of any nuclear site except for those declared by Iran. The following are the terms agreed to in the JCPOA by Amano and the Europeans:[7]

  1. The JCPOA created a unique inspection framework for Iran that bypasses the Additional Protocol, which allows inspection of military sites, which Iran accepted as a voluntary and unilateral step, and from which it can drop out without violating the JCPOA.
  2. The JCPOA transferred the authority to make clear professional decisions from the IAEA to a political supreme forum whose authority supersedes that of the IAEA – with the agreement of IAEA director-general Yukia Amano, who relinquished his status under pressure from Obama.
  3. The JCPOA set out a series of restrictions for conducting inspections; for example, any claim by the IAEA must not be motivated by an intent to damage Iranian military or security activity. This wording hands Iran the tools to prevent any inspection of any security or other site, by arguing that such an inspection is motivated by an intent to damage its military activity. The procedure demands that the information that casts suspicion on any of these sites and that prompts a request for inspection be revealed to Iran, Russia, and China – and this demand, which cannot be met, is aimed at stopping the inspection process in its tracks.
  4. The JCPOA created a political precedent for a non-credible inspection process, through closing Iran’s PMD (Possible Military Dimensions) file by a predetermined political decision and while negotiating with Iran about writing the IAEA report on the PMD – i.e. the file was not closed independently by the IAEA. That is, IAEA inspectors did not visit the sites, and the samples from these sites were taken by the Iranians themselves and handed over to the IAEA inspectors without any way of ascertaining that the sample taken is what was handed over. IAEA director-general Yukia Amano submitted to the Obama administration’s pressure to agree to this unprofessional and non-credible procedure, violating the trust placed in him and in the IAEA as an independent, professional, and authoritative body. This is because the Iranians made their acceptance of the JCPOA conditional upon the closure of their PMD file in this exact way, so that there could be no entrance to suspect military sites. Additionally, he submitted to Iran’s refusal to allow the IAEAto question Iranian nuclear scientists, and agreed not to mention the term “PMD” in the report focusing on this issue, because Iran opposed this. Furthermore, the IAEA report on the PMD issue stated that there was indeed suspect activity in Iran, but refrained from stating that the Iranian regime was responsible for it.

These were also clarified by Iran’s representative in the IAEA, Reza Najafi, in a September 21, 2015  interview with the ISNA news agency. He said: “I deny the Reuters report that the samples from Parchin were taken in the presence of IAEA inspectors. We ourselves took the samples. This is the red line for us, and no inspector is authorized to enter a military site and conduct an inspection. The visit of Amano and his deputy was strictly a general protocol visit; they had no equipment, not even a cellphone, their visit did not last more than a few minutes, [and it was] only  in order for them to see that there is nothing suspicious and that the claims about [Parchin] were completely wrong.”[8]

See also the following MEMRI reports:

French President Macron: It Is “Absolutely Necessary” That The JCPOA “Be Supplemented… As Far As The Use Of Ballistic Missiles Is Concerned”

French President Emmanuel Macron, in an August 29, 2017 Paris speech to a conference of French ambassadors, spoke of the need to fortify the JCPOA as part of the nonproliferation regime, and proposed “absolutely necessary” supplementation of it “as far as the use of ballistic missiles is concerned” after 2025 when the JCPOA expires. He said: “[T]his agreement [JCPOA] was improved thanks to the intervention of France. There is no alternative to the nonproliferation regime and we will be extremely strict as to its implementation. The framework of this agreement is good. It can be supplemented by some work [on it] after 2025 – an absolutely necessary work as far as the use of ballistic missiles is concerned.”[9]

* A. Savyon is Director of the MEMRI Iran Studies Project; Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI.

Appendix: Additional MEMRI Reports On The Subject

 

[1] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 994, Iranian Nuclear Chief Ali Larijani: The West Should Learn the Lesson of North Korea, September 26, 2005.

[2] Kayhan (Iran), October 12, 2006. See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1321, Iranian Daily Close to Supreme Leader Khamenei: ‘If Any Country Such as North Korea, Concludes, for Political or Security Reasons, That It Must Have Nuclear Weapons, It Will Ultimately Succeed… Even if the Whole World Is Opposed…’ October 13, 2006.

[3] Sobh-e Sadeq (Iran), June 30, 2008.

[4] Iran Diplomacy (Iran), April 6, 2009.

[5] Resalat (Iran), April 6, 2009.

[6] Obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office, July 14, 2015.

[7] See Section Q of Annex of the JCPOA, pp 42-43, Apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/world/full-text-of-the-iran-nuclear-deal/1651. See also MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1325 – Discussion Of Iranian Violations Of JCPOA Is Futile; The Inspection Procedure Designed By The Obama Administration Precludes Actual Inspection And Proof Of Violations, August 18, 2017.

[8] ISNA (Iran), September 21, 2015.

[9] Elysee.fr, August 29, 2017.

North Korea and Iran: The nuclear result of strategic patience

August 23, 2017

North Korea and Iran: The nuclear result of strategic patience, Israel National News, Barry Shaw, August 23, 2017

(Please see also, US Says to Ask IAEA Questions about Inspecting Iran’s Military Sites and Discussion Of Iranian Violations Of JCPOA Is Futile; The Inspection Procedure Designed By The Obama Administration Precludes Actual Inspection And Proof Of Violations. “Strategic patience” —  stupidity or worse? — DM)

While American politics in melt down mode over the Democrats almost yearlong obsession in trying to find a scintilla of evidence with which they can hang Trump on charges of colluding with the Russians, both North Korea and Iran have been busy getting on with developing their nuclear missile programs.

North Korean President Kim Jong-Un has blatantly carried out a series of missile tests that show their capability of launching a nuclear missile strike that will put the west coast of the United States within range. 

When President Trump warned North Korea of the “fire and fury, never seen before” should they test America’s patience, some Democrats and Obama hang-overs, such as Ben Rhodes, the White House Deputy National Security Secretary under President Obama, accused Trump on MSNBC of “extreme and false statements about all manner of things. It’s more concerning,” he said, “when they are about nuclear weapons.”

So who gets it? Ben Rhodes, or President Trump?  Rhodes introduced a security policy of “strategic patience.” Rhodes, it should be remembered, was an ardent promoter of Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran which rewarded the Islamic Republic to the tune of $150 Billion while allowing them to continue their intercontinental ballistic missile development program.

Compare Rhodes criticism to Trump’s statement to Donald Trump’s comments about making nuclear deals with regimes like North Korea on an NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ TV interview in October 1999. That was a decade and a half before Donald Trump entered politics. Here is what he said about the Administration’s refusal, or inability, to adequately close down North Korea’s nuclear program, “Do you want to do it in five years when they have warheads all over the place, each one of them pointing at New York and Washington, is that when you want to do it, or do you want to do it now?”

In that interview, Trump talking about the US negotiators, and using his familiar verbal style, added that the North Korean leaders “are laughing at us. They think we’re a bunch of dummies.”

Who can say, faced with today’s crisis, that Trump was wrong?

The most recent North Korean testing has seen them use their missile launch capability for carrying miniaturized nuclear weapons which they announced would be placed on their warships to aim at Guam. This is not new technology or intelligence. Revelations show that the US Military Intelligence reported this technology to the Obama Administration back on April 2013, but, operating on Ben Rhodes’s “strategic patience” paradigm, President Obama decided to deny the contents of this intelligence assessment, and do nothing about it. In other words, they covered up the intelligence as being politically inconvenient. Strategic patience bathed in denial has resulted in North Korea arriving at this dangerous moment for the United States and the Trump Administration.

It is worth reminding ourselves that Wendy Sherman was one of the architects of both the North Korean and the Iranian nuclear deals. The North Korean deal was used as the US template for the negotiations with Tehran over their advanced nuclear program.  Both were based on the fallacy of a strategic patience policy of “let’s go easy on them and see what happened in ten years’ time.”

How did the US Intelligence and the Obama Administration allow this dramatic national security failure to occur? This should be required study for leading Strategic and National Security think tanks.

The strategic patience policy is a frightening failure. It is nothing more than politically kicking the can down the road to be picked up by a future Administration when it is about to explode in a mushroom cloud.

America is in crisis mode right now. They are scrambling to come up with a solution to the North Korean nuclear threat, but there appears to be no good solution in sight, particularly when you are dealing with unpredictable rogue regimes. Conflict seems inevitable.

This is the consequence of kicking that can down the road.  Tomorrow, they will wake up to the same crisis when Iran takes the wraps off their project and are ready for a nuclear breakout.

Barry Shaw is the Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. 

Discussion Of Iranian Violations Of JCPOA Is Futile; The Inspection Procedure Designed By The Obama Administration Precludes Actual Inspection And Proof Of Violations

August 22, 2017

Discussion Of Iranian Violations Of JCPOA Is Futile; The Inspection Procedure Designed By The Obama Administration Precludes Actual Inspection And Proof Of Violations, MEMRI, August 18, 2017

(Obama’s Iran scam was, and continues to be, contrary to the security interests of America and much of the rest of the world. Even if Iranian violations of the JCPOA can not be proven under its terms, we need to exit. — DM)

This ridiculous inspection procedure obviously does not enable any real investigation of Iran’s continuing military nuclear activity, even when there is intelligence information about it. This situation is in direct contradiction with President Obama’s commitment when the JCPAO was announced on July 14, 2015: “Inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location. Put simply, the organization responsible for the inspections, the IAEA, will have access where necessary, when necessary.”[2]

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The JCPOA’s Inspection Procedure Precludes Actual Inspection And Proof Of Violations

The public debate in the U.S. over the future of the JCPOA, amid media reports that President Trump has demanded that his national security team provide evidence of Iranian violations of the agreement by October 2017,[1] is a futile debate.

It will not be possible, neither in October nor at any other time, to prove that Iran is in violation of the JCPOA – even if the U.S. has intelligence that proves that it is. This is because the inspection procedure designed by the Obama administration precludes actual inspection – at Iran’s military sites and at any other suspect site, with the exclusion of Iran’s declared nuclear sites.

Accordingly, the demand that intelligence information on Iranian violations be presented as a condition for taking steps against the JCPOA is based on inadequate knowledge of what the JCPOA stipulates. This is because under the agreement, the obtaining of such intelligence information is only the beginning of a detailed and binding process, which delays and in actuality does not enable inspection of a suspected site at all. Instead of an inspection of a site being immediately triggered when such information is obtained, the JCPOA requires a series of preliminary steps before any such inspection will be permitted – if it is permitted at all. That is, under the JCPOA, the U.S. must:

a) Hand over the intelligence information and information on its sources to Iran for the purpose of clarifying “concerns,” both in discussions between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran, and in discussions with the Joint Commission of the JCPOA – which in addition to the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, and the IAEA includes Iran, Russia, and China – with the aim of clearing up the concerns via alternative ways that will not involve inspection of the site. The demand to reveal this information and its sources to Iran, Russia, and China is ridiculous and the U.S. cannot agree to it; since these are the conditions of the JCPOA, no further action is actually possible.

b) If no agreement on alternative ways not involving inspection of the site can be reached, there will be an additional discussion in the Joint Commission, where decisions on this matter are to be made by majority vote within seven days. Iran must comply with the decision within three additional days.

This ridiculous inspection procedure obviously does not enable any real investigation of Iran’s continuing military nuclear activity, even when there is intelligence information about it. This situation is in direct contradiction with President Obama’s commitment when the JCPAO was announced on July 14, 2015: “Inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location. Put simply, the organization responsible for the inspections, the IAEA, will have access where necessary, when necessary.”[2]

It should be clarified that the heart of the JCPOA lies in the lifting of the nuclear sanctions on Iran, in exchange for Iran’s temporary and targeted suspension of some of its nuclear activity. The inspection procedure is not the heart of the agreement; this procedure is a section of the JCPOA aimed at ensuring that the JCPOA’s conditions are met. Additionally, it should also be mentioned that Iran and the IAEA Iran had, in July 2015, reached a “road map” agreement to resolve the military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program – the content of which is secret.[3] Accordingly, every demand by the U.S. administration aimed at changing the inspection procedure, if such a demand is made, will not constitute a demand to change the heart of the JCPOA itself – and in fact will even reinforce the JCPOA by reinforcing its inspection procedure.However, without any change to the inspection procedure itself, Iran will be able to covertly advance its military nuclear development, and there will be no real way of overseeing that development. Even if intelligence information from outside the inspection procedure is obtained, the JCPOA’s provisions make it worthless (see Appendix).

Iranian Regime: We Will Never Allow IAEA Inspectors Access To Military Sites

As soon as the JCPOA was announced, on July 14, 2015, Iranian regime officials, headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and top Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commanders, stressed that IAEA inspectors would not be given access to Iran’s military sites for inspection purposes.

Khamenei, July 25, 2015: “[The foreigners] shouldn’t be allowed at all to penetrate into the country’s security and defensive boundaries under the pretext of supervision, and the country’s military officials are not permitted at all to allow the foreigners to cross these boundaries or stop the country’s defensive development under the pretext of supervision and inspection.”[4]

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, July 22, 2015: Inspections of this kind cross “the red lines” and in the [JCPOA] negotiations Iran had “succeeded in fully ensuring” that the agreement would not allow such inspections.[5]

Khamenei’s top adviser for international affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati, July 2015 to the Arabic service of Al-Jazeera TV: “Access of inspectors from the IAEA or from any other body to Iran’s military centers is forbidden.”[6]

More recently, IRGC Aerospace Force commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh, August 7, 2017: “In the matter of the Westerners’ request to inspect our military centers, the answer is clear. We will not allow them to do such a thing.”[7]

IRGC deputy commander Hossein Salami, August 12, 2017: “I say to the dear Iranian nation, to America, and to the entire world: If in all of history and in the world, there is [only] one request that will not be complied with and will receive a negative answer, it is this request. And if there is one wish that will be buried with those wishing it, it is the wish that they will visit our military centers.”[8]

Appendix: What The JCPOA Says About The Inspection Procedure

The JCPOA’s “Q. Access” section, paragraphs 74-78, dealing with the inspection procedure:

The agreement specifies that requests for access for inspection “will not be aimed at interfering with Iranian military or other national security activities.” Furthermore, if the IAEA obtains secret intelligence information, it “will provide Iran the basis for such concerns and request clarification.”

Further: “If Iran’s explanations do not resolve the IAEA’s concerns, the Agency may request access to such locations for the sole reason to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA at such locations. The IAEA will provide Iran the reasons for access in writing and will make available relevant information.”

It continues: “Iran may propose to the IAEA alternative means of resolving the IAEA’s concerns that enable the IAEA to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA at the location in question, which should be given due and prompt consideration.

“If the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA cannot be verified after the implementation of the alternative arrangements agreed by Iran and the IAEA, or if the two sides are unable to reach satisfactory arrangements to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA at the specified locations within 14 days of the IAEA’s original request for access, Iran, in consultation with the members of the Joint Commission, would resolve the IAEA’s concerns through necessary means agreed between Iran and the IAEA. In the absence of an agreement, the members of the Joint Commission, by consensus or by a vote of 5 or more of its 8 members, would advise on the necessary means to resolve the IAEA’s concerns. The process of consultation with, and any action by, the members of the Joint Commission would not exceed 7 days, and Iran would implement the necessary means within 3 additional days.”[9]

 

*Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI; A. Savyon is Director of MEMRI’s Iran Studies Project.

___________________________________

[1] October 2017 is the deadline for the U.S. administration to notify Congress whether or not Iran is complying with the JCPOA.

[2] Statement by the President on Iran, July 14, 2015,
Obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/07/14/statement-president-iran.

[4] English.farsnews.com, July 25, 2015. See also MEMRI Daily Brief No. 57, What Iran Is Permitted To Do Under The JCPOA, September 17, 2015.

[5] Latimes.com, July 22, 2015. See also MEMRI Daily Brief No. 57, What Iran Is Permitted To Do Under The JCPOA, September 17, 2015.

[6] English.farsnews.com, July 25 and August 1, 2015.

[7] Tasnim (Iran), August 7, 2017.

[8] Asr-e Iran (Iran), August 13, 2017.

[9] Apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/world/full-text-of-the-iran-nuclear-deal/1651.

Former Official: Obama Admin ‘Systematically Disbanded’ Units Investigating Iran’s Terrorism Financing Networks

June 9, 2017

Former Official: Obama Admin ‘Systematically Disbanded’ Units Investigating Iran’s Terrorism Financing Networks, Washinton Free Beacon, , June 8, 2017

US President Barack Obama meets with veterans and Gold Star Mothers to discuss the Iran nuclear deal on September 10, 2015 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

“We had operations that were denied overseas. We had funding that was cut,” he said. “People were making decisions that the counter-terrorism mission and the Iran nuclear deal was a central and all-important element whereas containing Iran’s malevolent forces was less important.”

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The Obama administration “systematically disbanded” law enforcement investigative units across the federal government focused on disrupting Iranian, Syrian, and Venezuelan terrorism financing networks out of concern the work could cause friction with Iranian officials and scuttle the nuclear deal with Iran, according to a former U.S. official who spent decades dismantling terrorist financial networks.

David Asher, who previously served as an adviser to Gen. John Allen at the Defense and State Departments, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Thursday that top officials across several key law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the Obama administration “systematically disbanded” law enforcement activities targeting the terrorism financing operations of Iran, Hezbollah, and Venezuela in the lead-up to and during the nuclear negotiations with Tehran.

“Senior leadership, presiding, directing, and overseeing various sections [of these agencies] and portions of the U.S. intelligence community systematically disbanded any internal or external stakeholder action that threatened to derail the administration’s policy agenda focused on Iran,” he testified.

Asher now serves on the board of directors of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center on Illicit Finance and is an adjunct fellow at the Center for New American Security, two national security think tanks.

He attributed the motivation for decisions to dismantle the investigative units to “concerns about interfering with the Iran deal,” a reference to the nuclear deal forged between the U.S., five other world powers, and Iran during the final years of the Obama administration.

As a result, “several top cops” retired and the U.S. government lost their years of expertise.

The United States squandered the chance “at a very low financial cost” to take apart Hezbollah’s finances, its global organization, and the Iran proxy’s ability to “readily terrorize us, victimize us, and run a criminal network through our shores, inside our banking systems—and in partnership with the world’s foremost drug cartels—target our state and society,” he said.

“We lost much of the altitude we had gained in our global effort, and many aspects including key personnel, who were reassigned, budgets that were slashed—many key elements of the investigations that were underway were undermined,” he said.

“Today we have to deal with the legacy of that and how we rebuild this capability—knowing that you can have a nuclear deal with Iran and you can contain and disrupt their illicit activities,” he continued.

The decision was a “mix of tragedy and travesty combined with a seriously misguided turn of policy that resulted in no strategic gain and a serious miscarriage of justice,” he said.

“Instead, in narrow pursuit of the [nuclear agreement], the administration failed to realize the lasting effect on U.S. law enforcement collaborative efforts and actively mitigated investigations and prosecutions needed to effectively dismantle Hezbollah and the Iran ‘Action Network,'” he said.

Asher defined the Iran “Action Network” to include groups and governments involved in crafting covert elements of Iran’s foreign policy, including terrorism, illicit finance, weapons and narcotics trafficking, and nuclear procurement and proliferation.

“The level of cooperation between the government of Venezuela, the government of Syria, and Lebanese Hezbollah that we observed in our operations—that we personally were involved with—including people in this room—was actually astonishing,” he said. “The evidentiary base to take down this entire global network exists. The facts are clear.”

Before the administration dismantled them, the collaboration between a small group of U.S. agencies was making great strides in targeting terrorist financial networks, Asher said.

“This combination of law enforcement’s criminal, civil, and regulatory authorities led to actions that provided a framework to deter, disrupt, and publicly illuminate Hezbollah’s global illicit network,” he said. “The result was the most successful path taken against Hezbollah to date after many years of inaction.”

The decision to dismantle the investigative units undermined the U.S. government’s success just as it was beginning, “perhaps because of fear of the consequences,” he said.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R., Calif.) plans to introduce additional sanctions aimed at Hezbollah as soon as next week, according to a congressional aide.

After Asher’s testimony, Royce called the scenario a “striking lesson in life, which is the zeal for the deal, which becomes a deal for any cost, and people get caught up in that.”

The dismantling of these investigative units is just one of many aspects of the nuclear deal and its impact on U.S. Iran policy receiving new scrutiny in recent months.

Royce referred to the Obama administration’s release of seven Iranian-born prisoners in U.S. custody last year as part of a prisoner swap for dual U.S.-Iranian citizens. A Politico article in April detailed how several of the seven freed individuals were accused by the Obama administration’s own Justice Department of posing threats to national security.

Citing unpublicized court filings, the report said the Justice Department dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 other men.

Critics this week also are questioning why the administration never publicly disclosed an Iranian cyber-attack on the State Department in late September of 2015 that sent shockwaves through the department and private-contractor community. The Washington Free Beacon reported new details about the hacking Wednesday.

David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector who now runs the Institute for Science International Security, testified to the same panel recently that out of a “misplaced” fear of disrupting the nuclear deal, the Obama administration also interfered with U.S. law enforcement efforts against Iran’s terrorist network.

Royce asked Asher about some of his similar assertions—that the Obama administration aborted law enforcement operations against Iran’s terrorism network.

“There are many holes in this cheese and law enforcement didn’t need to be one of them,” Asher said.

Asher said the late-March Justice Department arrest of Kassim Tajideen, who he called a “super-facilitator” financier of Hezbollah, rattled the regime.

“The fact that we’ve got him in prison and he might cooperate—I’m sure that’s gotten their attention,” he said. “We had many more that we were prohibited from acting on for political reasons.”

“We had operations that were denied overseas. We had funding that was cut,” he said. “People were making decisions that the counter-terrorism mission and the Iran nuclear deal was a central and all-important element whereas containing Iran’s malevolent forces was less important.”

“I think you can do both—and we have to do both,” he said.

Asher also recalled a similar scenario during the Bush administration when it stripped the Justice Department of its authorities to indict the government of North Korea in order not to derail the proposed North Korea nuclear deal.

“I think this is a bipartisan syndrome—this is not blame the Obama administration, blame the Bush administration,” he said. “There’s something about people wanting a deal at any cost.”

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.”