Posted tagged ‘Trump and Iran’

A State Department Gone Rogue on Iran

July 25, 2017

A State Department Gone Rogue on Iran, JerusalemPostMatthew R.J. Brodsky, July 24, 2017

Final round of negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran continue in Vienna November 21, 2014. (photo credit:REUTERS)

According to a recent report, the president assigned a White House team to focus on the Iran deal and sideline the State Department so that he has more options when the issue comes to the fore again in three months.

It’s not just Iran where the president sees a problem; the secretary has been actively tugging in the opposite direction when it comes to solving the Qatar crisis and on a host of issues related to Israel as well.

In many ways, the different view at the State Department should be expected, not just due to institutional issues where diplomats usually prefer finesse to force but because of personnel considerations as well.

Barack Obama holdovers are driving the State Department’s Iran policy.

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For the second time during Donald Trump’s brief tenure as president, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the State Department won in the inter-administration battle over the fate of the nuclear deal with Iran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). That victory, however, may end up being short lived given the trajectory of the administration’s overall developing policy toward the regime in Tehran and the process by which the reoccurring 90-day certification of Iran took place in April and again on July 17.

The whole ordeal cast a light on the shrinking esteem in which the president seems to hold Secretary Tillerson and the crew of Obama-era holdovers upon whose guidance he relies.

Washington was briefly abuzz on the afternoon of July 17 when rumors began to circulate that President Trump was eager to declare that Iran was in breach of the conditions laid out in the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA).

Those receptive antennas were further heightened given the previous signals sent. After all, the State Department already released talking points to reporters on the decision to recertify Iran. The Treasury Department also had a package of fresh sanctions on over a dozen Iranian individuals and entities ready to announce to appease the hawks who were eager to cut loose from the deal.

But Trump didn’t want to recertify Iran, nor did he want to the last time around in April. That evening, a longtime Middle East analyst close to senior White House officials involved in the discussions described the scene to me: “Tillerson essentially told the president, ‘we just aren’t ready with our allies to decertify.’ The president retorted, ‘Isn’t it your job to get our allies ready?’ to which Tillerson said, ‘Sorry sir, we’re just not ready.’” According to this source, Secretary Tillerson pulled the same maneuver when it came to recertification in April by waiting until the last minute before finally admitting the State Department wasn’t ready. On both occasions he simply offered something to the effect of, “We’ll get ‘em next time.”

That for the second time, Team Tillerson forced the president to recertify Iran because they prepared no other options appears to have left a mark on Trump.

According to a recent report, the president assigned a White House team to focus on the Iran deal and sideline the State Department so that he has more options when the issue comes to the fore again in three months.

It’s not just Iran where the president sees a problem; the secretary has been actively tugging in the opposite direction when it comes to solving the Qatar crisis and on a host of issues related to Israel as well.

In many ways, the different view at the State Department should be expected, not just due to institutional issues where diplomats usually prefer finesse to force but because of personnel considerations as well.

Most pundits have pointed to the dwindling bench of the department’s roster. After all, many positions remain unfilled. When Tillerson chose Elliott Abrams to serve as deputy secretary, a well-known conservative who served under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, Trump even intervened to quash the appointment. The problem, however, is more about the people already in the department, rather than those yet to be appointed or hired.

Barack Obama holdovers are driving the State Department’s Iran policy.

They include Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon; Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs Chris Backemeyer, who previously served as the director for Iran at the National Security Council (NSC) under Obama; and Deputy Assistant Secretary and former US special envoy for Syria Michael Ratney. The first two were directly involved in the recertification fiasco – twice. They, among others, made their careers selling the Iran deal and are dedicated to its preservation.

In April, the first draft of the language “was full of Obama-era lines” including several falsehoods promoting the utility of the JCPOA, such as the deal verifiably puts Iran a year away from a nuclear weapon, this source explained.

“There was a huge fight after they wrote it because some said it was too pro-deal and it used all kinds of Obama language.”

“The White House went ballistic,” he said, “and they forced rewrites until they had a statement that was just a few lines.”

The revised version praised neither the deal nor Iran’s actions and pointed to the NSC-led interagency review of the JCPOA – a White House victory on the language used but a State Department win on preserving the status quo in policy.

“Backemeyer and Shannon wrote the certification,” the source confirmed, “and they were closely involved in the certification process this time around.”

For an administration that otherwise sounds determined to curtail Iran’s expansionist ambitions, it’s a wonder that the same people who brought the deal across the finish line, made careers out of selling the deal and helped fill Tehran’s financial coffers are still running the show at the State Department.

What’s more, Secretary Tillerson seems supportive of that decision or oblivious to its impact.

In either case, the department is in open insubordination to the White House and neither scenario reflects well on the secretary or his team. Nevertheless, whether or not his days are numbered, the current policy of rubber stamping Iran’s certification certainly appears to be coming to an end.

The author is a senior fellow at the Security Studies Group in Washington, DC, a senior Middle East analyst at Wikistrat and a former director of policy at the Jewish Policy Center. 

U.S. Agency Promoting Trade With Iran Despite Trump Opposition

July 24, 2017

U.S. Agency Promoting Trade With Iran Despite Trump Opposition, Washington Free Beacon, July 24, 2017

(Please see also, Trump State Dept Unsure Why Palestinian Terrorists Kill Israelis. Fire the Obama hold-overs or put them where they can not impair President Trump’s agenda. How about air-conditioned igloos in northern Alaska?– DM)

Pistachio trees at an Iranian field that farmers left behind due to the lack of water / Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is promoting increased trade with Iran, despite clear opposition to this policy by the Trump White House, according to multiple sources who described the agency’s behavior as rogue and part of a lingering effort by the former Obama administration to promote international trade with the Islamic Republic.

A July report released by USDA praises the Obama administration’s efforts to open trade with Iran following the landmark nuclear agreement that dropped major sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The report contradicts White House policy on Iran, which has taken an increasingly hardline against increased relations with Iran under President Donald Trump.

The report is being viewed by administration insiders and regional experts as the product of efforts by the former Obama administration to promote positive propaganda about Iran in a bid to boost support for the Iran deal.

These sources viewed the report as a sign that Trump administration agencies, including USDA and even the State Department, are taking increasingly rogue action contradicting official White House policy on a range of key issues.

“White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster should call his office,” according to Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert on rogue regimes. “A key component of his job—and one that his predecessors let slide—is to coordinate policy across departments. Alas, it seems that the USDA wants to pursue an independent foreign policy, one that is detrimental to broader U.S. national interests.”

The USDA report, which touts renewed prospects for trade between the United States and Iran in light of the Iran deal, outlines “the potential for new opportunities for U.S. producers in the long run.”

The report further touts the Iran deal as an opportunity to help Iran engage with international markets, including those in the United States, to sell products such as pistachios and caviar.

“The lifting of the U.S. import ban on Iranian agricultural products, including pistachios and caviar, [represents] a large new market for Iran’s most valuable export crops,” according to the USDA report. “Arguably as important, however, was the removal of certain U.S. ‘secondary sanctions,’ penalties levied on foreign persons and companies seeking to do business in Iran, particularly in its finance, banking, insurance, and energy sectors.”

“This significant change allows Iran to attract foreign investment, import equipment, and adopt new technologies, all of which bear on Iran’s agricultural production and consumption,” according to the report.

The report further claims that the United States could face competition from Iran in regards to the pistachio market and urges the American market to brace for such a scenario.

“One example of the JCPOA’s [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] possible effect on U.S. producers relates to pistachios,” the report states. “With relaxed import restrictions from Iran, U.S. producers potentially face new competition from the world’s largest pistachio producer and second largest pistachio exporter. Decades of sanctions and trade restrictions have pushed Iran out of the large U.S. and European markets, but news reports have suggested that Iranian pistachio imports could resurge.”

One veteran Iran analyst who is in regular contact with the White House described the report as propaganda meant to falsely promote Iranian moderation and the benefits of legitimizing the regime.

“As with Obamacare, the Obama administration conscripted the entire federal government to propagandize on behalf of the Iran deal,” the source said. “The intelligence community produced politicized reports falsely hinting at Iran moderation. The State Department produced reports saying that the Iran deal was working. The Treasury department dismantled its anti-proliferation infrastructure and then declared it couldn’t find anyone to sanction for proliferation.”

“So it’s not surprising the Agriculture Department was tasked with producing pro-deal propaganda about how the deal would benefit Americans,” the source added. “What’s surprising is that the Trump administration hasn’t managed to put a stop to that nonsense.”

Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iran expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the report contradicts efforts by the White House and Congress to increase pressure on Iran as a result of its illicit ballistic missile program and ongoing support for terrorism.

“The White House and Congress seek to put pressure on the mullahs in Tehran, at the same time we see that other parts of the U.S. government are endorsing and recommending policies which are not in line with the White House and Congress’ goal,” Ghasseminejad said. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is a strategic enemy of the United States; unfortunately many in DC prefer to forget this basic point.”

USDA did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the report’s origins and who authorized its production.

What Did Trump Certify?

July 21, 2017

What Did Trump Certify? Power Line,  Paul Mirengoff, July 21, 2017

“What that really foreshadows is once the policy review is done, we’re going to see a massive increase in pressure — not just sanctions pressure but using all instruments of American power.”

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Did President Trump certify to Congress on Monday that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal? This is what virtually of all of the reporting on his action says he did.

We wrote that, early in the day, National Security Council director H. R. McMaster indicated the administration would certify Iranian compliance. The next day we reported, per Eli Lake, that Trump had balked at providing certification and came close to not doing so, but in the end certified Iranian compliance.

But the invaluable Omri Ceren of the Israel Project informs us that, contrary to “almost all major reporting,” Trump stopped short of certifying that Iran is complying with the deal. Indeed, he removed language about Iranian compliance and added language emphasizing Iranian violations. This AP story confirms Ceren’s report.

What, then, did the president certify? He certified only that Iran has met the four narrow conditions of the 2015 Corker-Cardin bill, says Ceren. The four conditions are these:

(1) Iran is implementing the deal,
(2) Iran is not in material breach,
(3) Iran is not advancing its nuclear weapons program, and
(4) sanctions relief is appropriate and vital for U.S. national security.

In limiting his certification to the four conditions, and listing several Iranian violations, the administration made it clear that, although Iran is not in “material breach,” neither is it in full compliance. This is the compromise brought about by Trump’s last-minute intervention.

What difference do the changes make? They don’t change the fact that Iran will continue to get sanctions relief, for now. Only by refusing to certify one or more of the four conditions might this have changed.

However, the changes are not without significance. For one thing, they undermine the Iranian regime’s oft-repeated talking point that the Trump administration admits Iran is complying with the terms of the deal.

For another, they may signal a shift in policy towards the deal once the Trump administration completes its broad review of the Iran deal, which is expected to happen soon. As the estimable Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who reportedly is advising the administration on Iran puts it: “What that really foreshadows is once the policy review is done, we’re going to see a massive increase in pressure — not just sanctions pressure but using all instruments of American power.”

Let’s hope so.

Iran may withdraw from N-deal for “US violations

July 18, 2017

Iran may withdraw from N-deal for “US violations, DEBKAfile, July 18, 2017

(Why not? Iran has already received all of the substantial U.S. financial benefits of the Iran Scam. Withdrawal would allow Iran to pursue its nuclear objectives without the minor conveniences of trying to hide them. Please see also, Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program: On Course, Underground, Uninspected. — DM)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif told a National Interest interview Tuesday: “If it comes to a major [US] violation, or what in the terms of the nuclear deal is called significant nonperformance, then Iran has other options available, including withdrawing from the deal.” This was his rejoinder to the Trump administration’s statement in certifying that Iran was in compliance of the nuclear deal while “in default of its spirit.”

 

World’s Rallying Cry: “Free Iran”

July 4, 2017

World’s Rallying Cry: “Free Iran”, Gatestone InstituteMajid Rafizadeh, July 4, 2017

(When will Iran have her own Independence Day? — DM)

“The ruling regime is in disarray and paralyzed as never before. Iranian society is simmering with discontent and the international community is finally getting closer to the reality that appeasing the ruling theocracy is misguided…. Our people want a constitution based on freedom, democracy, and equality…. The sun of change is shining on Iran.”

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“[W]e have a president of the United States who is completely and totally opposed to the regime in Tehran… he completely opposes the Iran nuclear deal signed by his predecessor.” — Ambassador John R. Bolton.

“The fact is that the Tehran regime is the central problem in the Middle East. There’s no fundamental difference between the Ayatollah Khamenei and President Rouhani — they’re two sides of the same coin. I remember when Rouhani was the regime’s chief nuclear negotiator — you couldn’t trust him then; you can’t trust him today. And it’s clear that the regime’s behavior is only getting worse… the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran.” — Ambassador John R. Bolton.

Any fundamental change in Iran’s theocratic establishment will reverberate across the region. Many terrorist groups will lose their major financial and weapons support. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad will lose his hold on power, which he has wielded for far too long. Iran’s major player, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which constantly damages the US and its allies’ national interests and incites anti-Semitism, will disappear; Hezbollah will lose its funding; “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” will fade away.

Tens of thousands of people came together in Paris on July 1 from all different corners of the world, to unite against the unspeakable atrocities committed by the Islamist state of Iran. It was the largest gathering of Iranians abroad of its kind.

The conference, organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), was spurred by the desire to speak up for human rights, peace, women’s rights, freedom, democracy, and to demand victory over terrorism. Its focus was to generate awareness of the plight of Iran’s innocent and vulnerable citizens, against whom the Iranian government has been wreaking havoc — with no consequences — for decades.

Leaders, journalists, prominent figures from around the world, and scholars joined the rallying cry of “Free Iran”. The array of speakers included several prominent Americans, including former US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; former Attorney General Michael Mukasey; former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge; former FBI Director Louis Freeh, and Congressmen Ted Poe, Robert Pittenger and Tom Garret.

(Image source: Maryam Rajavi video screenshot)

During the eight years of Obama’s appeasement policies towards the Islamist regime of Iran, the mullahs became significantly empowered and emboldened. Iran’s opposition hopes that the appeasement of the theocratic regime in Tehran has come to an end. Ambassador Bolton pointed out:

“[W]e come at a time of really extraordinary events in the United States that the distinguish today from the circumstances one year ago. Contrary to what virtually every political commentator said, contrary to what almost every public opinion poll said, contrary to what many people said around the world, Barack Obama’s first Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not the president of the United States.

“So for the first time in at least eight years that I’ve been coming to this event, I can say that we have a president of the United States who is completely and totally opposed to the regime in Tehran… he completely opposes the Iran nuclear deal signed by his predecessor.”

The Iranian regime is still the world leading funder of international terrorism, including the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996, the bombings of a U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon in 1983, attacks on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

It does not matter who the regime’s president is; the core imperialist foreign policy of the Iranian regime is the same as it has been for almost four decades. With the passage of time, particularly since the nuclear agreement gave them an even stronger sense of power, Iran’s regime has become more daring and destructive, leaving multitudes of human rights violations in its wake. As Bolton stated:

“The fact is that the Tehran regime is the central problem in the Middle East. There’s no fundamental difference between the Ayatollah Khamenei and President Rouhani — they’re two sides of the same coin. I remember when Rouhani was the regime’s chief nuclear negotiator — you couldn’t trust him then; you can’t trust him today. And it’s clear that the regime’s behavior is only getting worse: Their continued violations of the agreement, their work with North Korea on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, only continues to grow.

“And let’s be clear: Even if somebody were to say to you that the regime is in full compliance with the nuclear deal, it doesn’t make any difference. North Korea is already perilously close to the point where they can miniaturize a nuclear weapon, put it on an intercontinental ballistic missile, and hit targets in the United States. And the day after North Korea has that capability, the regime in Tehran will have it as well, simply by signing a check…. that’s why Donald Trump’s views on North Korea are so similar to his views on the regime in Tehran.”

Since 1979, the mullahs and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have significantly expanded their terrorist network to Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon. Iran’s main objective is to impose its Islamist laws and radical ideology on other nations, dominate them, and create an Islamic Caliphate. If the Iranian regime is allowed to continue, especially when it completes its nuclear weapons capability and delivery systems with North Korea’s help, its activities do not look as they will benefit global “health.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich praised the Iranian opposition as a just and pure movement for standing against the Iranian regime: “I am very impressed by the dedication of your movement”. He added, “I come today to bring a very simple message: Iran must be free”. He also praised the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI): “She is persistent in difficult times. She is a great leader. I thank each of you on her behalf to help her make her a truly historic figure.”

It is time for the powers of the world and the Iranian opposition to join hands to counter the Iranian regime. As Ambassador Bolton made clear:

“…we must avoid allowing the regime in Tehran to achieve its long-sought objective of an arc of control from Iran, through the Baghdad government in Iraq, the Assad regime in Syria, and the Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon — an arc of control, which if it’s allowed to form, will simply be the foundation for the next grave conflict in the Middle East.

“The regime in Tehran is not merely a nuclear-weapons threat; it’s not merely a terrorist threat; it is a conventional threat to everybody in the region who simply seeks to live in peace and security.

“The regime has failed internationally. It has failed domestically, in economics and politics — indeed its time of weakening is only accelerating, and that’s why the changed circumstances in the United States, I think, throughout Europe and here today, are so important.

“There is a viable opposition to the rule of the ayatollahs, and that opposition is centered in this room today.”

Maryam Rajavi struck a hopeful note for democratic change by saying, as the crowd cheered:

“The ruling regime is in disarray and paralyzed as never before. Iranian society is simmering with discontent and the international community is finally getting closer to the reality that appeasing the ruling theocracy is misguided…. Our people want a constitution based on freedom, democracy, and equality…. The sun of change is shining on Iran.”

Rajavi added that the international community must

“recognize the resistance of the Iranian people to overthrow the mullahs’ religious dictatorship and designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization and evict it from the entire region.”

Any fundamental change in Iran’s theocratic establishment will reverberate across the region. Many terrorist groups will lose their major financial and weapons support. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad will lose his hold on power, which he has wielded for far too long. The major player, Iran’s IRGC, which constantly damages the US and its allies’ national interests and incites anti-Semitism, will disappear; Hezbollah will lose its funding. “Death to America” and Death to Israel” will fade away. The list goes on, and leads to the eventual improvement of all human life, as these atrocities have bled their way into every country.

A united coalition can be a robust force against the ruling mullahs. But it can only be as strong as its members, and their dedication finally to achieve peace in a region that has seen far too much torture and bloodshed. It is the time for the international community and world leaders to join the Iranian opposition, more effectively to counter the Iranian regime.

As Bolton stated:

“The outcome of the president’s policy review should be to determine that the Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution will not last until its 40th birthday…. the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran. The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change, and therefore the only solution is to change the regime itself.”

With combined, global pressure, this long overdue change can finally become a reality.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He is a Harvard-educated and world-renowned Iranian-American political scientist, business advisor, and author of “Peaceful Reformation in Iran’s Islam“. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu.

Nikki Haley’s Comments on Iran Highlight Russian-Related Complications

June 29, 2017

Nikki Haley’s Comments on Iran Highlight Russian-Related Complications, Iran News Update, Edward Carney, June 29, 2017

On Tuesday, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations delivered testimony to the House panel on foreign operations, a subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee in the US House of Representatives. In that testimony, Haley addressed multiple issues relating to the Islamic Republic of Iran, thereby reasserting the Trump administration’s assertive policies toward the Iranian regime. By most accounts those policies are still emerging, but they have already come to include purposive outreach to other adversaries of the Islamic Republic and a program of expanded sanctions on matters such as Iran’s ballistic missile program.

However, those efforts to confront and contain the Islamic Republic are arguably complicated by other aspects of the Trump administration’s policy commitments, including a focus on domestic issues and an effort to improve relations between the US and Russia, which boasts close relations with Iran in the areas of trade and military cooperation, especially as it relates to the Syrian Civil War.

While the US supports moderate rebel groups fighting against the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, the Iranians and Russians have been credited with turning the war in favor of Assad. Various Shiite militias are currently operating as proxies for Iran in that war, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is increasingly playing a direct role in the conflict. Meanwhile, Russia has been providing air support for pro-Assad ground operations since 2015.

Western commentators, including officials in the Trump administration, have variously accused Russia and Iran of ignoring or actively facilitating human rights abuses by the Assad regime, including an April chemical weapons attack that killed at least 80 people in a rebel-controlled civilian area.

As the Associated Press points out, Ambassador Haley’s comments to the House panel came shortly after the White House had issued a warning to Syria regarding alleged preparations for another such chemical attack. The article specified that Pentagon officials had confirmed the intelligence underlying that warning, involving particular movements at the same Syrian air base that had been used as the staging area for the previous chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said of Assad that “he and his military will pay a heavy price” if they follow through with apparent plans for another “mass murder attack using chemical weapons.” But the AP quoted Haley as saying that the administration’s remarks were not intended only for Assad, but also for Russia and Iran. Both of the Syrian allies joined in denying Assad’s responsibility for the attacks, with some officials insisting that the chemical weapons had originated in a rebel warehouse at the site of a conventional military airstrike.

The dispute over this issue and the subsequent US cruise missile strike on Shayrat air base can be seen as early examples of the escalation between Iranian allies and adversaries which is still going on to this day. In fact, Haley’s effort to fold Russia and Iran into a warning directed more explicitly against Syria is reminiscent of an incident earlier in June wherein a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said that a ballistic missile strike on eastern Syria had been intended largely as a warning to the US and Saudi Arabia.

Those two traditional adversaries of the Islamic Republic have been expanding relations under the Trump administration, sometimes with explicit reference to shared anxieties over expanding Iranian influence and meddling in the broader Middle East. President Trump’s visit to Riyadh in May for an Arab-US summit coincided with the signing of trade agreements that included 110 billion dollars in arms sales to the Arab Kingdom.

But at the same time that the White House is openly siding with Saudi Arabia and its regional allies against the Iranian regime, it does not appear to be giving up on the prospect of improved relations with Russia. In fact, the Western strategy for a political solution to the Syrian Civil War seems to presently involve the expectation that Russia can be encouraged to rein in the Islamic Republic and prevent it from further sabotaging ceasefire agreements.

Recent developments have cast doubt upon the practicality of this strategy however. As the US has taken a more direct role in defending rebel groups, even resorting to the shoot-down of at least two military controlled drones and a Syrian warplane, Russia has responded by threatening to target US aircraft and to halt the use of a hotline intended to prevent mid-air collisions between the multiple powers operating in the skies over Syria.

Haley’s comments on Tuesday were indicative of a roughly matching increase in American criticism of Russia. And this criticism was not limited to the issue of chemical weapons. Haley also explained that Russia’s position on the UN Security Council allowed it to stymie US efforts to sanctions Iran and hold it to account for ongoing misbehavior in matters including the development of the Iranian nuclear program.

“[The Iranians are] going to continue their nuclear capabilities and we just gave them a lot of money to do it with,” Haley said, referring to the 2015 nuclear agreement that President Trump has described as “the worst deal ever negotiated.” She went on to highlight concerns about Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, suggesting that nuclear weapons could find their way into the hands of terrorist groups at some point in the future, and that Russia would effectively prevent the US and its allies from doing anything to stop this.

“Yes, we would love to sanction Iran; and, yes we will continue to be loud about it; and, yes, Russia will veto it,” Haley said, according to the Washington Examiner.

But this is not to say that the Trump administration has positively brought an end to its strategy of attempting to improve relations with Russia. In fact, various reports suggest that this endeavor is even standing in the way of congressional legislation aimed at increasing national-level sanctions on both Iran and Russia. The Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act passed the Senate two weeks ago by a margin of 98 to 2, but it was subsequently stalled in the House on procedural grounds, leading Democrats to argue that the House Republican leadership was trying to protect the president’s Russian agenda.

The prospects for resolution appeared to grow dimmer on Tuesday when the Washington Post reported that energy lobbyists were urging lawmakers to reevaluate the bill on the grounds that its restrictions on doing business with Russian companies could have a punishing effect on American firms and foreign firms doing business in the US. These objections could bolster the prospects of the House leadership sending the bill to various committees for review and markup – a process that could delay a final vote by months.

As it concerns Iran, the bill would include sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile activities and also extend all terrorism-related sanctions to the Revolutionary Guard Corps, for which Trump has urged designation as a foreign terrorist organization. This position has not changed, and it seems that neither has the Trump administration’s hardline approach to Iran policy. Some have suggested that the emerging policy is pointing in the direction of regime change, though this has not become a declared position as yet.

The Washington Examiner pointed out that one member of the House panel on foreign operations, Republican Representative Hal Rogers, had directly raised the prospect of regime change on Tuesday, asking Nikki Haley whether it is an option. The ambassador’s only response was “I don’t know.”

This coming Saturday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran will hold its annual Free Iran rally, which will include explicit calls for regime change driven by a domestic opposition movement within the Islamic Republic. The event is expected to be attended by tens of thousands of Iranian expatriates, plus hundreds of policymakers and experts from the US, Europe, and throughout the world. Notably, these dignitaries will include figures with close ties to the Trump administration, such as John Bolton, who served the second Bush administration in the position now occupied by Haley.

President Trump is fully authorized to destroy Iran in Syria

June 22, 2017

President Trump is fully authorized to destroy Iran in Syria, Israel National News, Mark Langfan, June 22, 2017

President Trump has full and plenary US Constitutional authority to wipe out Iran, and its affiliates in Syria or anywhere else for that matter, if he chooses to do so.

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Last Tuesday, the 13th of June, at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asked if there was no legal authorization from Congress to target Syrian President Bashar Assad or Iranian proxies, Tillerson answerd, “I would agree with that.” 

Secretary of State Tillerson is mistaken.  There is plenary and continuing congressional authorization under the 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) for the President to attack any country, organization, or person at all responsible for the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.  And, there is sufficient and conclusive evidence that Iran aided and abetted some of the 9/11 attackers before and after September 11, 2001. 

Therefore, there is full current authorization for President Trump to attack any Iranian-backed militias anywhere in the world, including but not limited to, those in Syria.

Exactly what was passed by the Congress 7 days after the United States was attacked by the Islamic barbarians in 2001?

On Sep 18, 2001, the Congress of the United States of America passed S.J. Res. 23 an Authorization of War under the United States Constitution authorizing the President, from then-President Bush, through Obama, to President Trump to engage in any military action against those who fall under the following conditions::

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

•   This joint resolution may be cited as the ‘Authorization for Use of Military Force’.

SEC. 2. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.

•   (a) IN GENERAL– That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

Not that there are two sets of critical language, the first is the “aided the terrorists” language, and secondly there is the “harbored such organizations or persons.”

Wikipedia sketches out the elemental facts:

The U.S. indictment of bin Laden filed in 1998 stated that al-Qaeda “forged alliances . . . with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezbollah for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies.”

On May 31, 2001, Steven Emerson and Daniel Pipes wrote in The Wall Street Journal that “Officials of the Iranian government helped arrange advanced weapons and explosives training for Al-Qaeda personnel in Lebanon where they learned, for example, how to destroy large buildings.”

The 9/11 Commission Report stated that 8 to 10 of the hijackers had previously passed through Iran and their travel was facilitated by Iranian border guards. The report also found “circumstantial evidence that senior Hezbollah operatives were closely tracking the travel of some of these future muscle hijackers into Iran in November 2000.”[137]

Judge George B. Daniels ruled in a federal district court in Manhattan that Iran bears legal responsibility for providing “material support” to the 9/11 plotters and hijackers in Havlish, et al. v. Osama bin Laden, Iran, et al. Included in Judge Daniels’ findings were claims that Iran “used front companies to obtain a Boeing 757-767-777 flight simulator for training the terrorists”,

Ramzi bin al-Shibh traveled to Iran in January 2001, and an Iranian government memorandum from May 14, 2001 demonstrates Iranian culpability in planning the attacks. Defectors from Iran’s intelligence service testified that Iranian officials had “foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks.”

Therefore, there is sufficient open-source information to invoke the 2001 AUMF to include Iran and any force assisted by Iran.

Regarding Iranian post-9/11 activities harboring al Qaeda there is extensive evidence regarding Iranian guilt.  For example there was January 16, 2009 US Treasury Memorandum entitled  Treasury Targets Al Qaida Operatives in Iran which goes into extensive detail of Iran’s active involvement in harboring and protecting al Qaeda and its operatives.

There is a more than sufficient factual predicate to invoke the 2001 AUMF against Iran, and its affiliates.

President Trump has full and plenary US Constitutional authority to wipe out Iran, and its affiliates in Syria or anywhere else for that matter, if he chooses to do so.