Posted tagged ‘Trump and Iran scam’

Congress ignores Trump’s deadline on Iran nuclear deal

December 12, 2017

Congress ignores Trump’s deadline on Iran nuclear deal, Washington Times December 11, 2017

President Trump said on Oct. 13 that Iran is not living up to the “spirit” of the nuclear deal that it signed in 2015. (Associated Press/File)

Congress is about to miss what was widely seen as a deadline to deal with President Trump’s demands for a harder line on the Iran nuclear deal, failing to agree on new sanctions against Tehran and punting the future of the deal back to Mr. Trump.

A Republican legislative push to establish new “triggers” that could reimpose harsh sanctions on Iran lifted under the Obama-era deal has gone nowhere ahead of Tuesday — the end of a 60-day unofficial deadline set by the administration for Capitol Hill to weigh in on the situation after Mr. Trump declared he could no longer certify that the accord was in the U.S. national interest.

Congressional aides say lawmakers still have time to propose something before Mr. Trump is mandated to decide again whether to weigh in on the deal, but White House aides say the president is rankled by the lack of progress on Capitol Hill and likely will pull the United States out of the deal entirely when it comes up for review on Jan. 13.

In October, Mr. Trump called on Congress and American allies party to the 2015 accord — including Britain, France and Germany — to propose ways to address what he called the deal’s “serious flaws,” including its failure to reimpose sanctions should Iran continue to carry out ballistic missile tests in violation of existing U.N. Security Council resolutions. Russia and China also signed the accord and, to date, none of the other signatories has followed the U.S. lead in trying to overhaul the agreement.

U.N. monitors have also repeatedly said Tehran is honoring the letter of the 2015 agreement in curtailing its suspect nuclear programs.

“Come January, the president may be extremely frustrated that neither Congress nor the Europeans have responded to his request for ways to fix the deal,” Mark Dubowitz, an analyst on Iran sanctions and CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said in an interview. “It’s entirely possible at that time that the president will walk away from the deal.”

According to a law enacted by Congress in 2015, the president must certify every 90 days that Iran is honoring the deal and that it is in the U.S. national interest. Mr. Trump, in the early days of his administration, twice formally certified Iran’s compliance, but he clearly chafed at seeming to endorse an agreement that he harshly criticized on the campaign trail last year.

He made clear his unhappiness when announcing his Iran deal decision two months ago.

“In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” Mr. Trump said on Oct. 13. The deal “is under continuous review, and our participation can be canceled by me, as president, at any time.”

Some of the president’s top aides, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, have advocated staying in the deal out of concern about the negative effects an American pullout could have on Middle East security and on U.S. allies that remain committed to the deal.

The Obama administration strongly backed the agreement, which gave major sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for limits to its nuclear programs. For decades before the accord, the Islamic republic was suspected of developing nuclear weapons in violation of U.N. resolutions.

Legislative fix

Critics say the restrictions on Tehran will expire over the coming decade and that Iran has not moderated its policies in other areas the way President Obama and other supporters of the deal had hoped.

Mr. Trump moved in October to decertify the deal but stopped short of fully pulling Washington out of the agreement. Instead, he called on lawmakers to come up with legislative fixes “to strengthen enforcement, prevent Iran from developing an … intercontinental ballistic missile and make all restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity permanent under U.S. law.”

Several senior administration officials told reporters on background ahead of Mr. Trump’s announcement in October that the White House was giving Congress 60 days to deliver on such legislation, but congressional aides argued Monday that the president never put a hard deadline on the request.

Aides to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, say he is negotiating with key lawmakers such as Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the panel’s ranking Democrat, and Sen. Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican who is one of the most prominent critics of the deal on Capitol Hill, to meet Mr. Trump’s demands for legislative action.

“Sen. Corker remains engaged in productive discussions with Sen. Cardin, Sen. Cotton and the administration about the appropriate path forward,” Micah Johnson, a spokeswoman for Mr. Corker, said Monday.

If the legislation comes to the fore and passes before Jan. 13 — an unlikely scenario given the limited number of congressional working days until then — there are concerns about how U.S. allies in Europe who signed the nuclear accord would react.

Analysts say any legislation calling for a reimposition of sanctions on Iran could trigger a demand from Iran for a renegotiation of the entire nuclear accord. There is little appetite for reopening the accord in Europe, where concerns are high that it would lead to an all-out collapse of the existing deal.

European Union Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini has firmly rejected the idea of trying to renegotiate the agreement in hopes of getting new concessions from Iran. After a closed-door briefing to lawmakers on Capitol Hill last month, Mrs. Mogherini told reporters flat out that “renegotiation [of the nuclear deal] is not an option.”

She also stressed that European nations “wish to see the United States continue in the implementation of the deal.”

There are also concerns about the impact a Trump administration pullout from the Iranian accord may have on U.S. efforts to engage in a negotiated solution to another nuclear-related crisis — that with North Korea.

Donald Trump’s undermining of the Iran nuclear deal only shrinks U.S. options for dealing with North Korea,” said Andray Abrahamian, a visiting fellow with the Jeju Peace Research Institute, a South Korea-based think tank.

“The U.S. president’s decertification of Tehran’s compliance will be well noted in Pyongyang, giving North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a credible excuse for refusing to negotiate with Washington,” Mr. Abrahamian wrote in a recent commentary published by Reuters.

Trump Admin Halts Taxpayer-Funded Purchases of Iranian Nuclear Materials

November 29, 2017

Trump Admin Halts Taxpayer-Funded Purchases of Iranian Nuclear Materials, Washington Free Beacon , November 29, 2017

Getty Images

After leaving the door open to additional purchases, senior Trump administration officials confirmed to the Free Beacon on Wednesday that the U.S. government would no longer engage in these nuclear transactions with Iran, a major policy shift that sources say is part of an effort to crackdown on Iran’s access to U.S. funds.

Lawmakers and other insiders had viewed the $8.6 million payment to Iran as a scheme to give Iran access to U.S. currency as part of an incentive package aimed at keeping it in compliance with the nuclear deal. The former administration stonewalled several attempts by lawmakers to discern the full details of the transaction.

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The Trump administration has put a stop to U.S. purchases of nuclear materials from Iran, a policy that first began under the Obama administration in an attempt to ensure Iran remains in compliance with the landmark nuclear deal, according to U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Obama administration sparked controversy in Congress and the national security world when it announced in late 2016 that it would spend more than $8 million dollars to purchase Iranian heavy water, a nuclear byproduct, in a bid to keep the Islamic Republic in line with restrictions on these materials imposed under the nuclear agreement.

The Obama administration, in what lawmakers described as a “potentially illegal” taxpayer-funded transaction, paid at least $8.6 million to purchase 32 metric tons of heavy water from Iran. The nuclear byproduct can be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium, which is why restrictions were initially placed on Tehran’s stockpile.

The transaction occurred via an offshore third-party, according to U.S. officials, who made clear at the time that it would engage in further purchases if they were needed to help keep Iran in compliance with the nuclear deal.

After leaving the door open to additional purchases, senior Trump administration officials confirmed to the Free Beacon on Wednesday that the U.S. government would no longer engage in these nuclear transactions with Iran, a major policy shift that sources say is part of an effort to crackdown on Iran’s access to U.S. funds.

Lawmakers and other insiders had viewed the $8.6 million payment to Iran as a scheme to give Iran access to U.S. currency as part of an incentive package aimed at keeping it in compliance with the nuclear deal. The former administration stonewalled several attempts by lawmakers to discern the full details of the transaction.

Trump administration officials told the Free Beacon they have informed Iran that it is now solely responsible for maintaining compliance with the nuclear deal.

“No, the United States is not planning to purchase any Iranian heavy water,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson told the Free Beacon. “We have made it clear to Iran that it is their responsibility to remain under their heavy water limit in the JCPOA,” or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official title of the nuclear agreement.

A State Department official confirmed this shift in policy to the Free Beacon following a request for further information.

In May, House lawmakers approved a bill spearheaded by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), to outlaw all future purchases of Iranian heavy water by the United States. Democrats in the Senate opposed a similar measure due to concerns that it would conflict with U.S. efforts to preserve the nuclear agreement.

One source familiar with the administration’s thinking on the policy shift told the Free Beacon it is part of a larger effort to take a tougher line towards Iranian efforts to gain further access to cash assets.

“This is another place where the Trump administration is saying ‘no’ to Iranian extortion and blackmail,” said the source, a veteran Middle East policy expert who routinely works with congressional offices on the Iran issue.

“Iran was deliberately overproducing heavy water and then telling the U.S. ‘buy it from us or it’ll blow up the deal’,” the source said. “The Obama administration paid, effectively rewarding Iran for violating the nuclear deal. The Trump administration refused to let the Iranians hold the deal hostage.”

At the time the Obama administration was orchestrating the cash transaction, lawmakers were intentionally being kept in the dark, the Free Beacon first reported.

Current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, then a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told the Free Beacon at the time that the former administration was seeking to subsidize Tehran’s nuclear program.

“The Obama administration’s deal with the Mullahs in Tehran to purchase heavy water demonstrates a disturbing, potentially illegal, willingness of the administration to subsidize Iran’s nuclear program,” Pompeo told the Free Beacon. “This purchase allows the Iranians to offload previously unsellable product and it destigmatizes the act of doing business in Iran.”

The purchase was “made without explanation as to how Iran will receive these funds or what steps the administration is taking to prevent what will almost certainly be U.S. taxpayer dollars from possibly being used to support terrorist activities, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, or Iran’s ballistic missile program,” Pompeo said at the time.

U.S. Pursuing Rigorous New Nuclear Inspection Regime in Iran

October 31, 2017

U.S. Pursuing Rigorous New Nuclear Inspection Regime in Iran, Washington Free Beacon, October 30, 2017

International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and Iranian technicians at a nuclear power plant of Natanz / Getty Images

The United States is pursuing a rigorous new regime for international inspections of Iran’s nuclear program that includes access to off-limits military sites as well as increased transparency on the Islamic Republic’s often obfuscated enrichment of uranium, the key component in a nuclear bomb, according to U.S. officials and congressional leaders spearheading the new inspection effort.

A delegation of 13 leading senators petitioned the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, led by Ambassador Nikki Haley, to implement a series of stricter inspection methods that would give Western countries a deeper look into Iran’s suspected use of military sites to continue contested nuclear work prohibited under the landmark nuclear agreement, according to U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Trump administration is said to be fully on board with these tougher inspection measures, which could address lingering questions about Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, U.S. officials said. Iran has been found in breach several times since the accord was implemented.

The letter, spearheaded by Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.) and a delegation of top GOP senators, urges the United States to force the United Nations into accepting a tough new nuclear inspection regime in Iran that could shed sunlight on the country’s hidden nuclear efforts.

Many of Iran’s most contested military sites and uranium enrichment plants have been off-limits to international inspectors or subject to a delayed timeline that gives Iran at least a month to prepare for inspections, a part of the nuclear agreement that has come under particular criticism from those who say it gives the Islamic Republic time to cleanup and hide possible nuclear work falling outside of the accord.

The senators highlight a series of “shortcomings in the inspection and verification regime” led by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, which has itself admitted in recent months that it does not have a full picture of Iran’s current nuclear program.

A major “deterioration in the amount and quality of the information provided by IAEA inspections [has] prevented the inspection and verification regime of the JCPOA from being as thorough and transparent as possible,” the senators write, referring to the nuclear deal by its official acronym.

The U.S. Mission to the U.N. is said to fully back these tougher inspection requests and is already pushing for a change at Turtle Bay.

“The senators’ letter is completely in sync with Ambassador Haley’s concerns about Iranian nuclear inspections,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Mission told the Free Beacon Monday, several days after the senators first sent their letter.

Haley “will continue to press for the most aggressive implementation of the nuclear deal, while also working to move the U.N. toward stronger measures against dangerous Iranian actions that fall outside of the deal, including their missile testing, arms smuggling, and support for terrorism,” the official said.

A spokesperson for Perdue’s office described the letter as part of a larger bid to crackdown on flaws in the nuclear deal that were originally obfuscated by the Obama administration when it first sold the deal to Congress and the American public.

“It’s very clear President Obama’s dangerous Iran Nuclear Deal doesn’t have the teeth he claimed it would,” the congressional official told the Free Beacon. “President Trump was right to decertify this deal, and now we have to turn up the pressure on the IAEA to get more detailed reporting and ensure all potential nuclear sites—including military installations—are inspected thoroughly.”

“Senator Perdue is encouraged Ambassador Haley has brought these issues to the U.N. and supports her effort to get better information about Iran’s nuclear activities,” the source said.

U.S. officials and those in Congress are seeking to close a series of gaps that have allowed Tehran to receive a month’s notice before inspections and also keep secret its most contested military sites.

The letter highlights flaws in a portion of the nuclear deal known as Section T, which is supposed to provide assurances that Iran is not engaging in any activities that would contribute to the design or development of a nuclear explosive device.

The IAEA has admitted in recent weeks that it is unclear exactly how to interpret this portion of the accord and has been unable to fully verify efforts undertaken by Iran on this front.

Without this information, the United States cannot fully determine “if Iran makes any effort to leave the JCPOA abruptly or gradually,” according to the letter, which was also signed by Sens.Ted Cruz (R., Texas), Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), Mike Lee (R., Utah), John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.), and several others.

Access to Iran’s military sites remains a key outstanding issue for the Trump administration and Congress, according to these officials, who say there is no credibly way to determine Iranian compliance with the nuclear accord without such access.

“We believe that without visits to military sites, the IAEA cannot make a credible conclusion that Iran is meeting its section T obligations,” the senators wrote.

The group is also pushing greater transparency on Iran’s uranium enrichment efforts, including its mining of uranium ore and yellow cake.

Inspection regimes “should include the number of visits to mines and ore concentration plants,” according to the senators, who say that Iran should be forced to inform the West about the amount of yellow cake it produces.

Additional new measures would include disclosures of “the type and amount of uranium fed into [nuclear] cascades at” each of Iran’s facilities. Such information would provide a clearer picture of how much enriched uranium Iran has on hand.

Iran must also provide more information about the number of nuclear centrifuges it is operating in its Natanz plant, as well as other areas, according to the senators, who are pushing for greater inspection of Iran’s storage of advanced nuclear centrifuges.

This would include “an assessment on if the IAEA surveillance measures are conclusive” on this front, or if further inspections are needed.

“With these improvements to inspection and reporting practices, we can better deny Iran’s access to a nuclear weapons capability,” the senators wrote.

A spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council declined to comment on the letter, saying it does not discuss “correspondence between Congress and government officials,” but the issues highlighted in the missive appear to jibe with the Trump administration’s public criticism of the accord.

One veteran foreign policy insider for works closely with Congress on the Iran portfolio told the Free Beacon that the new U.S. inspection efforts highlight important ways in which the IAEA’s current regime has failed to provide critical information about Tehran’s nuclear progress.

“This letter does a couple of things,” the source said. “It highlights how the IAEA has been spinning its wheels in Iran, and hasn’t visited the sites where Iran is likely to be developing nuclear weapons technology.”

“It also serves notice that Congress knows the IAEA is full of shit when its top officials say they’ve confirmed Iran is complying with the deal,” the source added.

Clare Lopez: Trump Takes Aim at Iran’s ‘Clandestine Nuclear Weapons Program’

October 18, 2017

Clare Lopez: Trump Takes Aim at Iran’s ‘Clandestine Nuclear Weapons Program’, Breitbart,  Clare M. Lopez, October 17, 2017

AFP

Iran remains a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is obligated under the terms of that agreement to disclose all nuclear sites to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Of course, it never has. In fact, of all the facilities now known to be part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, not one was ever reported first by the Iranian regime itself.

Denying re-certification for the Iranian nuclear deal is an important first step as is the Treasury Department designation and sanctioning of the IRGC. Designating the IRGC to the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list and complete withdrawal from the JCPOA should follow. Seeking the support of our closest allies and partners to implement a follow-on set of measures, including sanctions and increasingly coercive commercial, diplomatic, legal, military, and political steps, is also critical if we are to ensure that this Tehran regime never has the ability to deploy deliverable nuclear weapons that threaten any of us.

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President Donald J. Trump put the Iranian regime on notice with his speech last week: the time when the United States (U.S.) government would turn a blind eye to its decades-long drive for deliverable nuclear weapons is over. Citing a long litany of destabilizing, rogue behavior on the part of Tehran, the president announced he would not re-certify Iranian compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Iran nuclear deal.

That is a necessary and first step, but must be followed up with a clear U.S. strategy for ending Iranian support to Islamic terror proxies and the criminal regime of Syrian Bashar al-Assad, its reckless regional aggression, human rights abuses against its own people, and above all, development of an entire range of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) – biological, chemical, and nuclear – as well as the ballistic missiles on which to deliver them.

By making explicit references to “Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program” and “illicit nuclear program,” President Trump acknowledged what many have known for a long time: there has never been a time since 1988, when the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini first ordered his Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to “get the bomb,” that Iran has not had a clandestine nuclear weapons program. The world first learned publicly about that illicit program in 2002, when the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) blew the lid off the program with revelations about places whose names are now well-known, including Natanz and Isfahan. Iran remains a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is obligated under the terms of that agreement to disclose all nuclear sites to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Of course, it never has. In fact, of all the facilities now known to be part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, not one was ever reported first by the Iranian regime itself.

One of the most glaring problems with the terms of the JCPOA is that there is no obligatory mechanism under which the Iranian regime is compelled to open facilities to IAEA inspection where it is suspected that nuclear weapons work is being done. Iran’s leadership has made quite clear in numerous public statements that it will never allow inspectors onto military sites it declares off-limits. Unfortunately, this means there is no chance under the terms of the JCPOA for IAEA inspectors ever to clear up the many unresolved “Possible Military Dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program – involving nuclear warhead work, explosive charges to initiate the implosion sequence of a nuclear bomb, and more – that were enumerated in the November 2011 quarterly report on the Iranian nuclear program by the IAEA Board of Governors.

On 11 October 2017, the NCRI issued a new report, entitled “Iran’s Nuclear Core: Uninspected Military Sites,” which reveals four more of the clandestine sites where the Iranian military is conducting nuclear weapons R&D. While Iran’s alarming and destabilizing geo-strategic behavior certainly provides more than enough reason for the president to find the JCPOA not in America’s national security interests, it is the Iranian regime’s blatant violation of the nuclear NPT as well as material breaches of the JCPOA (especially section T, that deals with nuclear warhead work), that fully justify U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal entirely.

Denying re-certification for the Iranian nuclear deal is an important first step as is the Treasury Department designation and sanctioning of the IRGC. Designating the IRGC to the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list and complete withdrawal from the JCPOA should follow. Seeking the support of our closest allies and partners to implement a follow-on set of measures, including sanctions and increasingly coercive commercial, diplomatic, legal, military, and political steps, is also critical if we are to ensure that this Tehran regime never has the ability to deploy deliverable nuclear weapons that threaten any of us.

Clare M. Lopez is the Vice President for Research and Analysis at the Center for Security Policy.

Iran Plays Chess, We Play Checkers

October 17, 2017

Iran Plays Chess, We Play Checkers, FrontPage MagazineKenneth R. Timmerman, October 17, 2017

I am not dissing the new Iran strategy the President rolled out on Friday, far from it. My Iranian dissident friends drew much encouragement from the President’s willingness to take an all fronts approach against the Iranian regime, not just focus on its nuclear weapons program. The fact that he mentioned the regime’s dreadful record of human rights abuses and political repression was significant.

But does it really mean the U.S. is finally ready to provide material support to a pro-freedom coalition in Iran to spark a popular uprising against the regime?

Don’t hold your breath. The Deep State would never abide by it.

Barzani himself has made bad moves. He has recklessly endangered his Queen (Kirkuk), while not defending his King (Erbil). And while doing so, he has tweaked the nose of his only committed ally, the United States, and alienated his local rivals, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan of former Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, who died on October 3.

Barzani appears to have realized he has overstepped with his ill-timed and poorly-prepared referendum, and has agreed to cede the K-1 airbase and other positions south of Kirkuk to Iranian-backed Iraqi government forces south of Kirkuk.

It’s time for the United States to face facts and recognize that an independent, united Iraq ceased to exist several years ago, and that the only way for us to check Iranian domination of the region is to support a united, independent and democratic Kurdistan, with U.S. military bases in Kirkuk and Erbil.

To get there will require a great deal of hands-on diplomacy, because Barzani has shown himself to be reckless, unreliable and undemocratic. We need to working the ground, aligning the players.

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And the Kurds pay the price for our mistakes.

The Iranian-backed attack in Iraqi Kurdistan is nothing short of disastrous for the United States, for U.S. interests and U.S. allies in the region, and for American prestige.

It’s a hockey-style power play by Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qassem Suleymani, and a direct challenge to President Trump, coming just hours after the President announced a new get tough policy on Iran.

A U.S. ally in Baghdad is attacking another U.S. ally in Kurdistan using U.S. weapons, including M1-A2 Abrams tanks, paid for with U.S. taxpayer dollars. And they are doing so under the watchful eyes of U.S. and coalition drones and fighter jets, which continue to control the skies over Iraq.

How in the world did we get here?

Even Democrats should be ready to admit by now that the American withdrawal from the Middle East under Obama and the Iran nuclear deal have emboldened the Iranian regime, while removing much of the hard-won leverage over Iran that sanctions had won for us.

Today, if we want to get tough on Iran, we can no longer call on our European allies to shut down Iran’s access to the international financial system. We can no longer impose gargantuan fines on a French or a German bank to punish them for violating those sanctions and to deter them from doing it again.

Today, our main leverage over Iran is military. We can bomb their forces in Iraq. We can intercept their ships. Eventually, we could take out their nuclear weapons production facilities.

If that sounds an awful lot like war, it’s because it is.

As Thomas Jefferson reportedly said in relation to the Barbary Pirates, an earlier jihadi Muslim confederacy that declared war on America: sanctions are the only option between appeasement and war. Obama just removed sanctions. QED.

But the Trump administration is not without blame.

The President instructed his national security team to take a fresh look at our overall strategy toward the Islamic State of Iran early in his presidency. To show how serious the administration was, national security advisor Michael Flynn “put Iran on notice” in an on-record briefing on Feb. 1.

And then, something happened. Rather than continue the “get tough” policy by decertifying the Iran nuclear deal, imposing new sanctions and other measures as Flynn was recommending, the President fired Flynn and other hard-line advisors, and everything turned to mush.

I am not dissing the new Iran strategy the President rolled out on Friday, far from it. My Iranian dissident friends drew much encouragement from the President’s willingness to take an all fronts approach against the Iranian regime, not just focus on its nuclear weapons program. The fact that he mentioned the regime’s dreadful record of human rights abuses and political repression was significant.

But does it really mean the U.S. is finally ready to provide material support to a pro-freedom coalition in Iran to spark a popular uprising against the regime?

Don’t hold your breath. The Deep State would never abide by it.

But Qassem Suleymani wasn’t going to wait to find out. Perhaps assuming – correctly – that the U.S. President was leaning out over his skis, he decided to act decisively to test the President’s resolve.

Want to get tough on the Iranian regime, Mr. President? Then bomb the Iranian-backed militias attacking our Kurdish allies in Northern Iraq and send U.S. special forces to capture Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleymani, a war criminal who has the blood of more than a thousand U.S. soldiers on his hands. (Watch a video of how Iran killed our soldiers in Iraq here).

Because that’s what Suleymani is daring you to do. And he’s betting, you won’t lift a finger to help the Kurds or to threaten him in any way.

In Middle East parlance, that makes Suleymani – not Donald Trump – the strong horse, the one to be feared and respected.

To be fair to Suleymani, he has been advancing his pieces like a brilliant chess player, springing his trap on us at precisely the moment when it would cause us the most damage.

First, in 2014 as ISIS was preparing its assault on Mosul and the Assyrian Christian and Kurdish regions of Northern Iraq, he instructed his puppet, then Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to order the Iraqi army to withdraw from Mosul ahead of the ISIS advance.

That left Mosul defenseless and accounts for why ISIS was able to take over the city in a matter of hours without a fight.

Maliki fled briefly to Iran after his role in the abandon of Mosul was revealed in the Iraqi media, and was soon replaced by Qassem Suleymani’s new front man, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.

Same puppet-master, new puppet.

Next, he recruited 100,000 Iraqi Shiite fighters into the Hasht-e Shahbi militia, known in English as the Popular Mobilization Units, or PMU. They might be Iraqis, but they are owned by Qassem Suleymani and his Quds Force.

When the U.S. decided to rearm the Iraqi military to join the fight against ISIS, Suleymani positioned PMU units to fill the vacuum when ISIS left.

As I learned in July while on a reporting mission to northern Iraq, the PMU faced off with the Kurdish peshmerga all across the Nineveh Plain and was already threatening to confront them in Kirkuk.

As the U.S.-backed Iraqi army drove ISIS out of Iraq, Suleymani’s PMU raced to the border with Syria, opening a land bridge for Iran into Syria and Lebanon, putting Iran on Israel’s northern border directly for the first time.

Today, Suleymani and his strategy ally, Turkish president Erdogan, want to jerk the leash of Iraqi Kurdish president Massoud Barzani to make him realize who really calls the shots in the region.

Guess what: for all of Donald Trump’s welcome bravoura, it’s not the United States.

One immediate goal both the Turks and Iranians share is to eliminate safe havens in Iraqi Kurdistan for the PKK and PJAK, Turkish and Iranian Kurdish dissident groups. Both have reiterated that demand in recent days.

Beyond that, they want to make Barzani kneel as a vassal to his suzerain, and abandon all hopes for Kurdish independence. That can only happen if the United States drops its support for the KRG.

Barzani himself has made bad moves. He has recklessly endangered his Queen (Kirkuk), while not defending his King (Erbil). And while doing so, he has tweaked the nose of his only committed ally, the United States, and alienated his local rivals, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan of former Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, who died on October 3.

Barzani appears to have realized he has overstepped with his ill-timed and poorly-prepared referendum, and has agreed to cede the K-1 airbase and other positions south of Kirkuk to Iranian-backed Iraqi government forces south of Kirkuk.

So far, the Pentagon is pretending that nothing is happening, just a bit of maneuvering among friends.

This is not just embarrassing, it is dangerous, wrong-headed, and will lead to total disaster. We’ve already lost Iraq, thanks to Obama’s withdrawal in 2011. Now we are about to lose the last ally on the ground that we have, the Kurds.

It’s time for the United States to face facts and recognize that an independent, united Iraq ceased to exist several years ago, and that the only way for us to check Iranian domination of the region is to support a united, independent and democratic Kurdistan, with U.S. military bases in Kirkuk and Erbil.

To get there will require a great deal of hands-on diplomacy, because Barzani has shown himself to be reckless, unreliable and undemocratic. We need to working the ground, aligning the players.

We need to be playing chess, not checkers.

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.

A Slow Death for the Iran Deal

October 16, 2017

A Slow Death for the Iran Deal, Gatestone InstituteJohn R. Bolton, October 16, 2017

The JCPOA is also packed with provisions that have never received adequate scrutiny. Take Annex III, which envisages full-scale assistance to, and cooperation with, Iran’s “peaceful” civil nuclear efforts. Annex III contemplates facilitating Iran’s acquisition of “state of the art” light-water reactors, broader nuclear-research programs, and, stunningly, protection against “nuclear security threats” to Iran’s nuclear program.

It sounds suspiciously like the Clinton administration’s failed Agreed Framework with North Korea. Many Clinton alumni were part of Mr. Obama’s Iran negotiation team. In Washington, nothing succeeds like failure. Mr. Trump and his congressional supporters should expressly repudiate Annex III and insist that Europe, Russia and China do the same.

The Iran nuclear deal, which Mr. Trump has excoriated repeatedly, is hanging by an unraveling thread. Congress won’t improve it. American and European businesses proceed at their own peril on trade or investment with Iran. The deal should have died last week and will breathe its last shortly.

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As Abba Eban observed, “Men and nations behave wisely when they have exhausted all other resources.” So it goes with America and the Iran deal. President Trump announced Friday that the U.S. would stay in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), even while he refused to certify under U.S. law that the deal is in the national interest. “Decertification,” a bright, shiny object for many, obscures the real issue — whether the agreement should survive. Mr. Trump has “scotch’d the snake, not kill’d it.”

While Congress considers how to respond — or, more likely, not respond — we should focus on the grave threats inherent in the deal. Peripheral issues have often dominated the debate; forests have been felled arguing over whether Iran has complied with the deal’s terms. Proposed “fixes” now abound, such as a suggestion to eliminate the sunset provisions on the deal’s core provisions.

The core provisions are the central danger. There are no real “fixes” to this intrinsically misconceived agreement. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a party, has never included sunset clauses, but the mullahs have been violating it for decades.

If the U.S. left the JCPOA, it would not need to justify the decision by showing that the Iranians have exceeded the deal’s limits on uranium enrichment (though they have). Many argued Russia was not violating the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (though it likely was) when President Bush gave notice of withdrawal in 2001, but that was not the point. The issue was whether the ABM Treaty remained strategically wise for America. So too for the Iran deal. It is neither dishonorable nor unusual for countries to withdraw from international agreements that contravene their vital interests. As Charles de Gaulle put it, treaties “are like girls and roses; they last while they last.”

Pictured: A uranium conversion facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran, used as part of Iran’s uranium enrichment process. (Photo by Getty Images)

When Germany, Britain and France began nuclear negotiations with Iran in 2003, they insisted that their objective was to block the mullahs from the nuclear fuel cycle’s “front end” (uranium enrichment) as well as its “back end” (plutonium reprocessing from spent fuel). They assured Washington that Tehran would be limited to “peaceful” nuclear applications like medicine and electricity generation. Nuclear-fuel supplies and the timely removal of spent fuel from Iran’s “peaceful” reactors would be covered by international guaranties.

So firm were the Europeans that they would not even negotiate unless Iran agreed to suspend all enrichment-related activity. Under these conditions, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell agreed their effort could proceed. Today, JCPOA advocates conveniently ignore how much Barack Obama and the Europeans conceded to Iran’s insistence that it would never give up uranium enrichment.

The West’s collapse was a grave error. Regardless of JCPOA limits, Iran benefits from continued enrichment, research and development by expanding the numbers of scientists and technicians it has with firsthand nuclear experience. All this will be invaluable to the ayatollahs come the day they disdain any longer to conceal their real nuclear strategy.

Congress’s ill-advised “fixes” would only make things worse. Sens. Bob Corker and Tom Cotton suggest automatically reimposing sanctions if Iran gets within a year of having nuclear weapons. That’s a naive and dangerous proposal: Iran is already within days of having nuclear weapons, given that it can buy them from North Korea. On the deal’s first anniversary, Mr. Obama said that “Iran’s breakout time has been extended from two to three months to about a year.” At best, Corker-Cotton would codify Mr. Obama’s ephemeral and inaccurate propaganda without constraining Iran.

Such triggering mechanisms assume the U.S. enjoys complete certainty and comprehensive knowledge of every aspect of Iran’s nuclear program. In reality, there is serious risk Tehran will evade the intelligence and inspection efforts, and we will find out too late Tehran already possesses nuclear weapons.

The unanswerable reality is that economic sanctions have never stopped a relentless regime from getting the bomb. That is the most frightening lesson of 25 years of failure in dealing with Iran and North Korea. Colin Powell told me he once advised British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw: “Jack, if you want to bring the Iranians around, you have to hold an ax over their heads.” The new proposals aren’t even a dull razor blade.

The JCPOA is also packed with provisions that have never received adequate scrutiny. Take Annex III, which envisages full-scale assistance to, and cooperation with, Iran’s “peaceful” civil nuclear efforts. Annex III contemplates facilitating Iran’s acquisition of “state of the art” light-water reactors, broader nuclear-research programs, and, stunningly, protection against “nuclear security threats” to Iran’s nuclear program.

It sounds suspiciously like the Clinton administration’s failed Agreed Framework with North Korea. Many Clinton alumni were part of Mr. Obama’s Iran negotiation team. In Washington, nothing succeeds like failure. Mr. Trump and his congressional supporters should expressly repudiate Annex III and insist that Europe, Russia and China do the same.

The Iran nuclear deal, which Mr. Trump has excoriated repeatedly, is hanging by an unraveling thread. Congress won’t improve it. American and European businesses proceed at their own peril on trade or investment with Iran. The deal should have died last week and will breathe its last shortly.

John R. Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is Chairman of Gatestone Institute, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad”.

This article first appeared in The Wall Street Journal and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.