Learning from Barack and Hillary’s Libyan Adventure

President Obama delivers a statement on the US consulate attack in Benghazi, September 12, 2012.

President Obama delivers a statement on the US consulate attack in Benghazi, September 12, 2012.

Religious Freedom Coalition, by Andrew Harrod, PhD, Feb. 4, 2016:

To learn more about the September 11, 2012, attack upon the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, portrayed in themovie 13 Hours:  The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, read Architects of Disaster:  The Destruction of Libya by Pete Hoekstra.  The former congressman insightfully analyzes the “naiveté run amok” concerning global jihad of President Barack Obama and “his chief foreign policy lieutenant, Hillary Clinton—who hopes to be the next commander-in-chief.”

Hoekstra, former House Intelligence Committee chairman, examines how this attack “was the culmination of a foreign policy on Islamic terrorism that was grounded in wishful thinking and self-delusion” concerning “moderate” Islamists.  This Obama administration definition often required “nothing more than a group’s professed commitment to nonviolence, however unsavory the group’s ultimate objectives.”  During the 2011 overthrow of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Obama cooperated with “countless salafi-jihadist veterans of the global Al Qaeda.”  American policymakers were “seemingly content to buy jihadists’ assurances that they would pursue jihad solely in their homeland.”

Hoekstra remains at a loss to justify the Libya campaign’s estimated 9,700 NATO airstrikes and 20,000 tons of weapons delivered by Qatar, mostly to jihadists like those that brutally killed the fallen Gaddafi.  Although the Libyan campaign was supposedly a humanitarian intervention, “sensational reports of humanitarian abuses, having been largely generated by Gaddafi’s opposition, were vastly overstated.”  In the face of Gaddafi’s imminent victory, the foreign intervention was “not seeking to bring the killing to a halt or to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the war, but rather to help the losing side win—by definition a prolongation of the conflict.”

Hoekstra fully recognizes that “Muammar Gaddafi was a monster, but he was our monster” at the time of his overthrow.  Hoekstra had first visited Libya with a 2003 congressional delegation specifically requested by President George W. Bush to determine whether Gaddafi genuinely sought better relations with the West.  Hoekstra had multiple meetings with Gaddafi during two subsequent official visits.

“Gaddafi was obviously driven by his instinct for self-preservation,” Hoekstra writes, but the transformation of American-Libyan relations under a despot previously notorious for international terrorism “was nothing short of stunning.”  After “September 11, 2001, Gaddafi had emerged as one of America’s greatest assets in one of the world’s most dangerous regions, northern Africa—strategically located between the tinder box of the Sahel and the soft underbelly of southern Europe.”  Additionally, “human rights conditions in Libya generally improved during this period.”

Contrastingly, a chaotic post-Gaddafi “Libya is today a central nexus for training and equipping jihadists across the Middle East,” notes Hoekstra.  Along with shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, “Islamic terrorists almost surely got their hands on the remnants of Gaddafi’s chemical weapons arsenal.”  Libya exemplifies how Obama has “thrown out dictators only to embrace far worse.  American foreign policy has been turned upside-down.”

“Gaddafi, for all his sordid history, was infinitely wiser than Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton” concerning Islam, notes Hoekstra.  “Gaddafi appreciated—in ways few Americans could—how vast were the jihadists’ global ambitions” and that “their scorn for democracy and individual rights dwarfed even his own.”  Accordingly, under him the Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood “was never allowed the opportunity to expand its influence by building a substantial social welfare network,” in contrast to neighboring Egypt.

Hoekstra finds a certain precedent for Obama administration Islam fantasies in President George W. Bush, who “repeatedly proclaimed Islam a ‘religion of peace.’”  Bush wanted “to avoid being seen as attacking the overwhelming majority of Muslims, who go about their lives peaceably,” yet “such a formulation also left too many things unsaid.”  This “refusal of the Bush administration to take seriously or understand the realities of Muslim culture” led him “to grossly underestimate the enormous obstacles that it faced in seeking to foster Western-style democracies in that part of the world.”

Hoekstra contrasts the “heads of state and chief intelligence leaders of just about every country that bordered Iraq” that he visited before the 2003 invasion.  “Almost to a person they said the same thing:  ‘You’re making a huge mistake.  You don’t know what you will be unleashing.’”  Today “Iraq is a disaster of incalculable proportions…We owned Iraq for a time, but we left before the job of rebuilding was done—assuming that it could have ever been completed.”  Similarly, the “Afghanistan we are now leaving is little different from the Afghanistan we inherited.”

“If such countries are ever to change fundamentally, we must understand that their change will be a long and exceedingly slow process” and “locally driven, not imposed by outsiders,” Hoekstra concludes.  He recalls a 2007 Jordan visit in which during “three days I talked with the Iraqi Sunni chieftains, and over and over I heard the same thing.”  “We have a system of local government that has worked thousands of years:  It is called the tribal system,” they stated, “if you think that you can impose democratic electoral reforms at the local level, we will continue to fight you.”  “General David Petraeus took heed,” writes Hoekstra, with a “surge” campaign making explicitly “clear to the local Sunnis that America was suspending efforts at democratization at the local level…and the rest is history.”

“Failing to grasp the fundamental lesson of those earlier experiences—that once broken, a nation is very difficult to put back together—President Obama broke Libya,” Hoekstra writes.  He is amazed that the “chief celebrant of Gaddafi’s murder,” Clinton, “actually gloated on camera: ‘We came, we saw, he died.’”  “It is an image that will likely haunt her presidential campaign and should,” Hoekstra notes.

“Geopolitical affairs are rarely black or white,” Hoekstra soberly concludes from his years on the intelligence committee.  He “traveled to more than eighty countries, sometimes meeting with leaders rightly reputed as being among the harshest and most oppressive in the world,” yet “they were the lesser of two evils…the devil we knew.”  “The world needs a strong America—an America that understands who it is, what it will do, and what its power can, and cannot, achieve.”

Andrew E. Harrod is a researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies. He can be followed on twitter at @AEHarrod.

Reviving American Power After Obama

Flickr/White House

Flickr/White House

National Interest, by Kim R. Holmes, February 2, 2016: (h/t Fortuna’s Corner)

For the last seven years we have witnessed an unprecedented experiment based on a fundamental question: What would the world look like if the United States pulled back from its traditional leadership role? That was after all, the key thrust of President Barack Obama’s new foreign policy. He promised to embark on a radically new way of dealing with the world—one where we would “engage” our enemies rather than confront them.

The verdict is in.

The world is a far more dangerous place today than when Obama took office. Global terrorism is rising dramatically. The Middle East is a cauldron of war and instability. Instead of “ending,” the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan persist—and in the case of Iraq, under far worse conditions than Obama inherited in 2009. We face a terrorist threat arguably as bad, if not worse, than Al Qaeda was at its height: ISIS is more vicious, controls territory and even has a government, which, as far as safe havens for terrorists go, poses a more dangerous threat than in 2008. Russia and China are more powerful and threatening than they were in 2008. Our friends and allies are confused and afraid. And our enemies are significantly emboldened.

The new order Obama wants to establish is, unfortunately, one in which the United States cannot possibly win. It is hopelessly stacked against us: an asymmetrical strategic environment in which our adversaries can make huge gains at our expense—and at relatively low cost to themselves. Examples include not only the Iranian nuclear deal, where Tehran reaps a huge financial windfall but is left free—in ten or fifteen years (if not earlier)—to pursue nuclear weapons. They also include as Exhibit A Obama’s Russia “reset” policy, which paved the way for the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of eastern Ukraine with Russian surrogate forces.

Obama’s foreign policy has been a historic failure. But frankly, recognizing this fact does not automatically tell us how to correct it. We can’t just go back and recreate the world as it was before Obama sought to transform it. Too much water has passed under the bridge, and it will be much more difficult to get America back on track than many realize. We are in a very deep hole, and it will require brutal honesty to dig our way out of it.

We must do nothing less than completely overhaul Obama’s way of approaching the world. Every flawed assumption must be challenged. He claims adversaries will be more cooperative if we “engage” them. We must insist the opposite is true—that they stand down or back away only when they are confronted. He argues that our costs (both in terms of money and influence) go down when we appease our enemies. We must counter with the opposite; that they go up astronomically, as witnessed not only by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine but even by Iran’s bellicosity in the wake of the nuclear deal. He contends we will be more respected if we display a more open hand toward our adversaries. Polls of world opinion, not to mention the disrespect many world leaders (like Vladimir Putin) show toward Obama personally, prove otherwise. He promises a cheap and easy peace if we simply pull back and let others take the lead. We must show that the opposite is true—that peace is hard and expensive to achieve, and others, including our allies, follow only when we lead them.

The world Obama has left us is filled with new forces intent not only on threatening our security but disrupting the international order we helped create. Russia, Iran, ISIS and even China are trying to replace the old order with a new instability—perhaps even chaos—in which they win and we lose. For them, it truly is a zero-sum game. Yes, Russia and China partially benefit from the order they deride (especially China economically); but they do so mainly on their own terms, not ours or even those of the rest of the international community.

It’s in that dynamic that the asymmetry resides. It’s asymmetric because our adversaries and rivals pick and choose their fights at pressure points convenient to them, while we pretend that any attempt on our part to counter them only leads to more disorder. This is utterly false; in fact, it’s the exact opposite. Our refusal to stand up to adversaries signals a lack of commitment to that order, and to the security of our allies and friends who depend on us. Obama’s famous caution is not perceived by much of the world as a cool weighing of options (as his defenders imagine), but as indecision and even indifference. When he saves all his vigor and passion for issues like climate change, and neglects our defenses and makes deals with adversaries like Iran, he’s broadcasting his priorities loud and clear: America is getting out of the superpower business, and it’s time for the world to get used to our shrinking strategic presence.

There is only one way to reverse this dynamic: disrupt the disrupters—that is, those who wish to disrupt America’s leadership in the world. We should be thinking of ways to invert the cost ratios that now favor revisionist powers and forces like Russia, China, Iran and ISIS over us. In other words, we need to raise their costs for opposing us, while reducing the costs we incur from not opposing them. It may cost us more in the short run to challenge them, but in the long run we save because deterrence works better than appeasement. If we don’t do this, the price of peace will only go up. We will face a cascade of escalating challenges unleashed by the perception that we are an easy mark, and that it pays to challenge the United States of America.

It is true that we can never be as cynical as Russia or China in manipulating conflicts. Our values and international commitments will force us into the frustrating position of not being able always to meet them tit-for-tat. But there is no reason why we can’t make it more costly for them when they blatantly threaten us or our allies. That was the way Ronald Reagan confronted the Soviet Union, and it worked quite well.

We need to do more of some things but less of others. We must focus on what really counts, and stop chasing windmills like pretending climate change is the world’s biggest threat. We need to stand up a viable and friendly Syrian force to combat both ISIS and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, not waste our time on fruitless diplomatic initiatives at the United Nations that serve no purpose other than to offer cover for Russia’s backing of Assad. We need to spend a lot more money on national defense and stop pretending as if advanced technology or mere “smart” diplomacy can make up for military weakness.

Above all, we must choose confrontation (mostly diplomatic, but in the case of ISIS, military) wisely but deliberately. We must be very careful about picking our fights—but when we do, we must win them. In choosing confrontation, we should think not only about the specific tactical problems involved, but whether they serve some larger strategic purpose. Think of them as inflection points that can bend a strategic curve in our favor. We must always keep the overall curve in mind, and how all the points fit together.

There are four such inflection points. First and foremost is the destruction of ISIS’s capability to make war, inflict terror and control territory. That is what defeating ISIS means. Its total defeat is necessary, not only to protect the homeland from terrorist attacks but to reverse the trajectory toward more war and chaos in the Middle East. This goal can be achieved only by interjecting a substantial increase of U.S. combat forces into the fight against ISIS.

Second is to arrange for the defeat of Putin’s adventure in Ukraine. So much is riding on whether he succeeds or not. If he pulls it off, he will likely move onto other low-hanging fruit, possibly in the Baltics. But if he fails, it will prove his gambit to change the international order in Europe has miscarried and show the Russian people that adventurism doesn’t pay. Under those circumstances, Putin could end up facing the same misfortune as Soviet leaders did after the failure of the Afghanistan invasion in 1979.

How to do this? By dramatically increasing lethal assistance to Ukraine. A year ago, such a move looked risky because Putin was on a roll and in a strong position at home. Now he faces not only a potential quagmire in Ukraine, but increasing criticism for poorly handling the economic crisis. Politically, Putin is weaker, which means he no longer enjoys the easy escalation dominance he once did.

Third, we must reverse Obama’s strategic tilting in favor of Iran. It is upending a region already roiled by bitter sectarian and state power rivalries. If not reversed, it will lead to more war and bloodshed and possibly a nuclear arms race. This will require the next president to reverse the Iran nuclear deal as soon as possible. America’s allies, who salivate over renewed commercial ties with Iran, will have to be told they must choose between Iran and the United States. If given no other choice, they will choose us.

Fourth, we need to make clear to Beijing that China’s territorial expansionism will not be accepted as part of rules for a “new type of major power relations,” which is Chinese code for accepting a more dominant role for China in East Asia. This will entail a more forceful policy against China and substantial new naval deployments in East Asia—much more than those that accompanied Obama’s paltry “rebalancing” or “pivot” to Asia. It will also necessitate stronger support for friends and allies in the region in resisting China’s maritime territorial claims.

Some conflicts are simply intractable. That’s true not only for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but also for the ongoing nuclear drama with North Korea. These and other conflicts cannot be ignored, and they do need to be managed. But we should not expect that any new U.S. diplomatic initiative would make any significant difference. In fact, trying to do so could backfire, giving the Palestinians and the North Koreans new openings to exploit the differences of opinion we have with our friends and allies. Nevertheless, we should be moving briskly to build a missile defense system to deal with the North Korean threat. In addition, we should not rule out military preemption as an option if the North Koreans posture their nuclear weapons in a threatening manner.

Taking these actions could dramatically alter the diplomatic terrain left by Barack Obama. They would show a new style of U.S. leadership. They would reveal a new strategic focus on the most important issues facing us and our friends. They would show our friends that we are reliable and our foes that we should not be crossed.

Most importantly, they would demonstrate that the Obama experiment tried is over, and that the United States is back in the superpower business. The trajectory of American decline that once looked inevitable will have been reversed. America’s traditional leadership role, so derided and neglected by Obama, will be back. Only then can we begin the long and arduous process of restoring some sense of order and stability to a world unsettled by some of the biggest foreign policy mistakes in U.S. history.

Kim R. Holmes, a former Assistant Secretary of State, is a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation. His latest book, “The Closing of the Liberal Mind” (Encounter Books), will be published in April.

Ted Cruz Doesn’t Have Time for Failed ‘Conventional Wisdom’ on Foreign Policy

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Here’s How He Would Defend America Against Threats from the Middle East, Russia and China, According to His Chief National Security Advisor Dr. Victoria Coates

 

Medium.com, by Ben Weingarten for Encounter, Jan. 27, 2016:

 

You might not think that the national security and foreign policy advisor for one of the leading 2016 presidential candidates would have the pedigree of a University of Pennsylvania art history Ph.D. specializing in Italian renaissance studies, and a former consulting curator title at the Cleveland Museum of Art. But then you haven’t met Dr. Victoria Coates, the self-described Renaissance woman and the chief articulator and defender of Cruz’s Jeane Kirkpatrick-inspired philosophy that has vexed many across the Republican political spectrum to date.

During an in-depth interview with Dr. Coates on her new book, David’s Sling: A History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art, we had the chance to pick the brain of Cruz’s national security consigliere on topics including:

You can read — or listen to — this portion of our interview below (and click here for Part I of our conversation.) Note that the transcript has been edited slightly for clarity.

 

TRANSCRIPT

Click here for more on David’s Sling: A History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art.

And listen to our full interview with Victoria Coates here.

Ben Weingarten is a writer, podcaster, and Founder & CEO of ChangeUp Media LLC, a media consulting and publication services firm. He regularly contributes to publications such as City Journal,The Federalist, Newsmax and PJ Media on national security/defense, economics and politics. You can find his work at benweingarten.com, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

The CIA’s Syria Program and the Perils of Proxies

Fadi Al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images

Fadi Al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images

Daily Beast, by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Nathaniel Barr, Jan. 19, 2016:

After fighting al Qaeda and its affiliates for a decade and a half, the CIA is now helping them gain ground in Syria.
Almost every aspect of the Obama administration’s policy toward Syria has been scrutinized, lambasted or praised in recent months, but one of the most significant facets, the CIA’s covert aid program to Syrian rebels, has largely slipped below the radar.

It is time that we start paying attention, since this initiative is benefiting the very jihadist groups the U.S. has been fighting for the past 15 years.

America’s abrupt about-face is a mistake, but even those who would defend this new course as the least bad option should favor a more robust public debate.

The CIA’s program, launched in 2013, initially was conceived as a way of strengthening moderate rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime without significantly increasing the U.S. footprint in the conflict.

The program got off to a slow start, with rebel commanders grumbling that the CIA was stingy due to its concern that weapons would fall into extremists’ hands. As a result, moderate rebels were forced at times to ration ammunition. At least one rebel group severed its ties with the CIA and joined an Islamist-led coalition, while other CIA-backed rebels stopped fighting.

After these early hiccups, the program evolved.

Anonymous U.S. officials now tell the media that CIA-backed rebels have begun to experience unprecedented successes, particularly in northwestern Syria. Yet these gains reveal a darker side to the CIA-backed groups’ victories, and even American officials’ framing of these advances provides reason for concern. As the Associated Press reported in October, officials have explained that the CIA-backed groups were capturing new territory by “fighting alongside more extremist factions.”

Who are these extremist co-belligerents? Analysis of the geography of “moderate” rebels’ gains during this period and reports from the battlefield demonstrate that CIA-backed groups collaborated with Jaysh al-Fateh, an Islamist coalition in which Jabhat al-Nusra—al Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate—is a leading player.

Hassan Hassan, co-author (with The Daily Beast’s Michael Weiss) of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, suggested that rebel gains in Idlib in April 2015 showcased the symmetries between CIA-backed forces and Nusra when he attributed the rebels’ successes to suicide bombers (frequently deployed by Nusra and other jihadists) and “American anti-tank TOW missiles.” In southern Syria, the CIA-backed Southern Front fought alongside Nusra in the campaign to take the city of Deraa in June 2015.

CIA-backed groups in northwestern Syria publicly acknowledge their relationship with the al Qaeda affiliate. A commander of Fursan ul-Haq, a rebel group that received TOW missiles through CIA channels, explained that “there is something misunderstood by world powers: We have to work with Nusra Front and other groups to fight” both Assad’s regime and the Islamic State.

Similarly, a spokesman for CIA-backed Suqour al-Ghab justified his group’s collaboration with Nusra by noting that “we work with all factions when there are attacks on the regime, either through direct cooperation or just coordinating the movements of troops so we don’t fire at each other.”

The fact that CIA-backed groups collaborate with Nusra does not necessarily prove that they harbor jihadist sympathies, nor that they hoodwinked the American officials who vetted them. In many or perhaps most cases, these groups’ decision to cooperate with Nusra is born out of pragmatism.

When fighting a regime as brutal as Assad’s, it is natural to look for allies wherever they may be found. Further, as one of the dominant players in northern Syria, Nusra can dictate terms to smaller rebel factions. The experiences of Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front, two CIA-backed groups that Nusra literally obliterated in late 2014, are a stark warning.

Jamaal Maarouf, the commander of the Syrian Revolutionary Front, explainedafter his group was ousted from Syria that no militia in the rebel umbrella organization known as the Free Syrian Army can operate in northern Syria “without Nusra’s approval.”

Because of Nusra’s strength, CIA-backed factions have entered what has beencalled a “marriage of necessity” with the jihadist group, which is exploiting its position to gain access to American weapons.

After rebels seized a Syrian military base in Idlib province in December 2014, CIA-backed groups admitted that they had been forced to use U.S.-provided TOW missiles to support the Nusra-led offensive. One rebel explained that Nusra had allowed CIA-backed groups to retain physical control of the missiles so as to maintain the veneer of autonomy, thus allowing them to sustain their relationship with the CIA. In short, Nusra has at times gamed the system.

But such subterfuge notwithstanding, at this point it is impossible to argue that U.S. officials involved in the CIA’s program cannot discern that Nusra and other extremists have benefited. And despite this, the CIA decided to drastically increase lethal support to vetted rebel factions following the Russian intervention into Syria in late September.

Rebels who previously complained about the CIA’s tight-fistedness suddenly found the floodgates open, particularly with respect to TOW missiles. One rebel explained: “We can get as much as we need and whenever we need them. Just fill in the numbers.” Reports suggest that the Obama administration and Sunni states backing the opposition have also discussed, though not committed to, providing shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons to vetted groups.

With the CIA doubling down on its support for Syrian rebels, it is now more important than ever to have a candid and vigorous public debate about the agency’s program. Put simply, such an about-face in U.S. policy—backing groups that help al Qaeda to make advances, after spending a decade and a half fighting the jihadist group—should not occur without a public debate that helps Americans understand why such drastic changes in U.S. policy have occurred.

Several prominent figures have defended this program. For instance, Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria, argued that by maintaining the supply of lethal support to moderate rebels, the CIA may ultimately be able to build up these factions as a viable alternative to Nusra, the Islamic State and Assad.

But the program’s costs outweigh its possible benefits. Though aiding al Qaeda’s advances is not the program’s intention, it is the effect. Thus, after fighting al Qaeda and its affiliates for a decade and a half, the CIA is now helping them gain ground in Syria.

At the moment, al Qaeda is trying to rebrand itself by contrasting its approach to that of the far more brutal Islamic State—and, unfortunately, it has experienced some success due to its jihadist competitor’s excesses and the escalating conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Al Qaeda has portrayed itself to Sunni states and the Muslim public as a bulwark against both the Islamic State’s growth and Iranian encroachment. If U.S.-backed rebels are cooperating with al Qaeda, the United States will be hard-pressed to stop al Qaeda from gaining more room to operate in the region.

It is unlikely that the United States, with no meaningful presence in Syria, understands the situation on the ground better than al Qaeda, and can strategically outmaneuver the jihadist group. The danger is too great that continuation of this policy will empower Nusra further, eventually forcing policymakers to confront a greatly emboldened al Qaeda force in Syria.

This is why, at the very least, we should have a robust public discussion about whether to continue this course in Syria—a debate that the U.S. Congress is well positioned to kickstart through public hearings on the CIA’s program. Allowing this program to continue without carefully thinking through the benefits, costs, and possible unintended consequences is incredibly risky, and could erode public trust and support.

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Also see:

The Iran nuclear agreement is national security fraud

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Center for Security Policy, by Fred Fleitz,  Jan. 19, 2016:

As the Obama administration celebrates what it claims is a great victory for its nuclear diplomacy with Iran, many Americans are scratching their heads and wondering how we got to this point given the many examples of Iranian bad faith and belligerent behavior since the nuclear deal was announced last July. For example…

  • Because the IAEA declared that Iran met the requirements to roll back its nuclear program to what the nuclear deal calls “Implementation Day,” it will receive approximately $150 billion in sanctions relief even through Iran is still designated by the United States as a state sponsor of terror and was listed in a June 2015 State Department report as the world’s leading terrorist state.
  • Over the last six months, Iran increased its support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah, its terrorist proxy.
  • Iran is threatening Saudi Arabia by backing a Shiite insurgency in Yemen.  Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states broke off diplomatic relations with Iran this month after the Saudi embassy and a consulate in Iran were ransacked.
  • Iran tested ballistic missiles in October and November even though President Obama and Secretary Kerry said last July that under the deal Tehran would abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions for eight years calling on it to halt its missile program.  (The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Iran for the missile tests yesterday but Foundation for Defense and Democracy Executive Director Mark Dubowitz called them “symbolic and ineffective.”)
  • Iran fired rockets last month near a U.S. aircraft carrier.  It also detained and humiliated 10 U.S. Navy sailors last week.
  • At the same time, few Americans understand that Iran keeps its nuclear infrastructure under the nuclear deal and will be allowed to expand it.
  • Iran will continue enriching uranium under the nuclear deal with 5,000 uranium centrifuges and will be developing more advanced centrifuges while the deal is in effect. This will occur even though when Barack Obama became president, his administration supported the Bush administration’s effort to stop the spread of uranium enrichment technology and strengthened a nuclear technology sharing agreement with the UAE which required it to not to pursue this technology.  
  • Although Iran agreed to remove the core of a plutonium-producing heavy water-reactor, it will be rebuilt and redesigned with Chinese assistance.  While the redesigned reactor will produce less plutonium, it also will help Iran to master this technology.
  • Although President Obama and Secretary Kerry said Iran sent all of its enriched uranium out of the country, they failed to mention that this was a swap for an equivalent amount of uranium ore that can be converted into enriched uranium in a few months.
  • President Obama said last July that the issue of Iran’s past nuclear weapons work would be addressed. The IAEA issued a report on this issue in December that said Iran failed to fully cooperate and provided some answers to investigators that were false. The report also said Iran engaged in nuclear weapons research until 2009.  Despite this report, the United States voted with other IAEA members last month to close the IAEA’s file on this issue.
  • Although nuclear deal has weak verification provisions, the Iranian parliament made them even weaker last October when it ratified an amended version of the deal containing new language on dismantling Israel’s nuclear weapons program, requiring that sanctions under the agreement be cancelled and not suspended, forbidding IAEA inspections of military installations, and barring IAEA interviews of Iranian military officers and scientists.

And then there is the issue of the “swap” of five American hostages for seven Iranian criminals held in U.S. prisons and the removal of 14 other Iranian criminal and terrorists from the INTERPOL wanted list.  As objectionable as this sounds, President Obama and Secretary Kerry failed to mention that Oman paid Iran $500,000 ransom each for the release of the Americans and that several were brutally mistreated while incarcerated.  At least two other innocent Americans plus a U.S. green card holder are still being by Iran.

Given these factors, how can the Obama administration claim Iran has complied with the nuclear agreement? 

How can it justify providing over $150 billion in sanctions relief that Tehran is likely to spend on terrorism and destabilizing the Middle East?  

How can the United States reward a state that used Americans as hostages to advance its policy goals?

How can Obama officials say this nuclear deal is a great diplomatic success?

The answer to these questions is this: because the Obama administration wanted a legacy nuclear agreement with Iran so badly they made any concession necessary to get one. 

When Iranian officials refused to give up their uranium enrichment program, the U.S. said they could keep it. 

When Iran balked on including restrictions on ballistic missile tests in the agreement, they were removed.  

To get around Tehran’s refusal to answer questions about its past nuclear weapons work, this issue was moved into a secret side deal between the IAEA and Iran.

The Obama administration also took Iran’s sponsorship of terror and its meddling in the Middle East off the table.  The deal drops U.N. and EU sanctions on Iranian terrorist individuals and entities.  Even worse, the U.S. encouraged Iran to play a more active role in Iraq which is driving tensions between the Shiite government and Iraqi Sunnis.

The Iran nuclear agreement is national security fraud. It will not stop or slow Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. 

The deal’s weak verification provision will not detect Iranian cheating. 

Seeing itself as the big winner in the nuclear deal, Iran probably will beemboldened to expand its efforts to destabilize its neighbors and sponsorship of terrorism using the estimated $150 billion in sanctions relief it won in the deal.

How did Iran reach the nuclear deal’s Implementation Day?  Because the Obama administration rigged the game by setting the bar so low that Iranian compliance was assured. 

That’s how desperate President Obama was to get his legacy nuclear deal with Iran. 

That’s what led to a disastrous agreement that will may do enormous damage to international security for decades to come.

Also see:

Gorka: ‘We’ve Sent a Message: Iran, You Can Get Away With Murder, Literally’

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Fox News Insider, Jan. 18, 2016:

On “Hannity” tonight, counterterrorism expert Sebastian Gorka said that President Obama’s prisoner swap with Iran sends a message to bad actors around the world that you can get something meaningful in exchange for American hostages.

“We sent a very clear message that [Iran] – which is the greatest state-sponsor of terrorism for the last 30 years – has carte blanche,” Gorka said.

He said that hundreds of Marines were killed in Beirut by an organization trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and many servicemen and women were maimed or killed in Iraq by IEDs created with the help of Iran.

“We’ve sent a message: Iran, you can get away with murder, literally,” Gorka said.

He added that exchanging Americans who were unjustly imprisoned for their religious beliefs for documented Iranian spies and terrorists is not a fair deal.

“That is empowering the message of the theocratic regime of the mullahs,” Gorka stated. “And they will draw the right conclusions: That we are no longer a leader and we are giving in to their message of terror.”

Former Intelligence Chairman Warns ‘Stealth Jihad’ Is Moving Through The West

Iranians burn US flags outside the former US embassy in Tehran on November 4, 2013, during a demonstration to mark the 34th anniversary of the 1979 US embassy takeover. Thousands of Iranians shouted "Death to America" as they demonstrated 34 years after Islamist students stormed the embassy compound in Tehran, holding 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days. AFP/Getty Images

Iranians burn US flags outside the former US embassy in Tehran on November 4, 2013, during a demonstration to mark the 34th anniversary of the 1979 US embassy takeover. Thousands of Iranians shouted “Death to America” as they demonstrated 34 years after Islamist students stormed the embassy compound in Tehran, holding 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days. AFP/Getty Images

Daily Caller, by Ginni Thomas, Jan. 17, 2016:

Former House Intelligence Chairman Pete Hoekstra is genuinely worried about the fundamental changes President Barack Obama has made to American foreign policy, according to this 28-minute exclusive video interview for The Daily Caller News Foundation.

A Michigan congressman for 18 years, the native-born Dutchman is a man of integrity and candor who has seen American statecraft up close. His years in politics gives Hoekstra the perspective that “the ruling elite in Washington is becoming disconnected from citizens.”

Hoekstra said when former President George W. Bush and Obama claim “Islam is a religion of peace,” many citizens are taken aback. Americans think,“’Whoa. They’re beheading Christians. They’re suicide bombers. They’re taking gays and lesbians and throwing them off the tops of buildings and they’re selling women into sex slavery. That doesn’t kind of look like a religion of peace to me,’” Hoekstra said in the interview.

Tying this cognitive dissonance to the rise of presidential candidate Donald Trump who sounds authentic, passionate and patriotic, Hoekstra said, “people are just frustrated and angry and this may be the election where they go out and say, I want something totally different.”

The former congressman watches the bellwether of embedded Islamafication in Europe and is worried what this could mean for safety in America. Hoekstra warned that accusations of Islamophobia are weapons used to intimidate Americans so that we close our eyes and ears to the “stealth jihad” strategy moving through the West. Islamists “use our laws, our customs to change who we are and to change us into something we don’t want to become.”

Hoekstra confirmed political correctness, such as that exposed by Department of Homeland Security whistleblower Phil Haney in a December video interview, is endangering Americans. All federal agencies, and now even the New York Police Department, are fundamentally shifting their policies with dangerous consequences, he said.

He discussed the refugees who attacked German women on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and elsewhere, and said America can’t vet any refugee or asylee from failed states. America especially can’t vet asylum seekers since the Islamic State is seeding the refugees with Islamic jihadists.

Hoekstra gives a C grade to Republican oversight in Congress, knowing from experience what successful oversight can accomplish.

The new movie “Thirteen Hours: the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” is reigniting conversations about the mishandled 2012 Benghazi attack that killed four Americans, including an ambassador.

Hoekstra said, “Libya is a huge disaster.” He added it was a planned strategy by the Obama administration to work with the Muslim Brotherhood, rather than former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi — who maintained stability in northern Africa and who helped control radical jihadists. After Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted in taking out Gadhafi, Hoekstra said Libya became a failed state. It exports ideology, fighters, and weapons. He continued that it spawned what became ISIS, and serves now to help frame up attacks on Europe.

Adding insult to injury, our attackers in Benghazi in 2012, he said, were most likely those who were “trained and equipped by NATO.”

As to why Obama and Clinton did not send help to those under attack on the anniversary of 9/11, Hoekstra said the administration appears to have made a tragic judgment call in that “sending help was going to be more risky than allowing those people to survive on their own.”

“Almost everyone of this administration’s readjustments in foreign policy, whether it’s North Korea, Iran or engaging with radical jihadists like the Muslim Brotherhood, has been a total and utter failure. They’ve seen it as weakness; they’ve used it to leverage and move their programs forward,” he said.

Fired from a  Washington, D.C. law firm last year for writing and speaking publicly of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a way that displeased some of the partisan lawyers, Hoekstra is determined to pursue litigation in defense of his right to freedom of speech in the District of Columbia.

Today, Pete Hoekstra is a fellow with the Investigative Project on Terrorism and author of a book on Libya titled “Architects of Disaster.”  Follow him on Twitter @petehoekstra. Follow the Investigative Project on Terrorism on Facebook.

Watch the interview for much more.

hoekstra interview

Why America Needs To Get Ready For A ‘100-Year War’ With Radical Islam

A masked Palestinian boy wearing the headband of Hamas's armed wing takes part in a rally marking the 28th anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City December 14, 2015. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem - RTX1YLQ9

A masked Palestinian boy wearing the headband of Hamas’s armed wing takes part in a rally marking the 28th anniversary of Hamas’ founding, in Gaza City December 14, 2015. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem – RTX1YLQ9

Daily Caller, by Russ Read, Jan. 16, 2016:

The war against radical Islamic terrorism could go on much longer than anyone is expecting, and the enemy may not give the U.S. any choice but to fight it.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was quite sober in his address Wednesday on the subject of the politics of dealing with radical Islam. Speaking to a room of people packed to the brim on Capitol Hill, Gingrich outlined in a clear and concise manner his belief that combating the terrorist forces within radical Islam will take as many as 100 years. He noted that the choice to go to war had already been made by the enemy, and the U.S. will eventually have no choice but to respond in a massive way.

Though he certainly had ample criticism for President Barack Obama’s current strategies for countering terrorism, calling the President “delusional,” he was willing to point blame for the current situation in multiple directions. “You have to look seriously at why did we fail in Iraq … in Afghanistan.” Gingrich believes that the commission set up to investigate the attacks on September 11, 2001, failed. So too did both Bush and Clinton, and especially Paul Bremer, Bush’s envoy to Iraq after the initial 2003 invasion.

He opened his remarks with a comparison of today’s time to that of former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain just before the outset of World War II. Unlike others who have attempted to draw the comparison as a slight, the former history professor took a different tack.

“Chamberlain was not weak” he explained, referring to the former prime minister crushing his opposition in parliament at the outset of the war, “[he believed] almost any future was worth getting to that did not involve World War II.”

Gingrich said Chamberlain certainly had a point, highlighting the massive death and destruction left in the wake of the conflict. “Look at the scale of World War II, you cant argue that it was successful,” he explained.

He outlined the point that people knew then that another war was going to be bloody, much like those who look at the war on terrorism realize its going to be bloody now.

“It’s not irrational to ask how to avoid that,” said Gingrich, “we could be involved in a 70 to 100 year war … this is going to be hard to communicate,” he continued.

Reality, though, sometimes trumps one’s preferences, and Gingrich believes that the reality of the threat posed by Islamic radicalism and the terrorism it spawns requires a very difficult, and bloody, form of vigilance.

“We are having a difficult time coming to grips with how large this problem is … this is a clash of civilizations,” he said.

Despite current disagreements over how to confront radical Islamic terrorism, Gingrich is optimistic that leaders will come to his point of view, if only because things will get to a point where they have no choice but to do so. He outlined three points that he predicts will occur in the process that will eventually lead to people acknowledging the severity of the problem:

“One. This is going to be a very hard to win the argument about, because if you do win the argument, you’ve now undertaken a project of historic depth involving an enormous amount of blood.”

“Two. It will happen eventually because the enemy won’t give you any choice … the threat is so obvious, that people will say, just as they did with World War II … OK, we have no choice. The challenge for those of us who are trying to win this is to shorten the amount of time it takes … for us to get there.”

“Three. You have several different blocs engaged in this [argument].”

Gingrich believes those camps run across a spectrum. On one end you have those “who want the enemy to win.” You also have “an entire academic left which is so anti-Western … that they can’t really imagine there is a threat to us that we haven’t earned.”

Yet another political cabal knows there’s a problem, but doesn’t have the will to confront it. “You have the group who sort of know that, OK, we out to do something, but after all, we shouldn’t disrupt the culture of the State Department, we shouldn’t disrupt the patterns of the U.S. military.”

Gingrich alluded that these are the same people who have contributed to U.S. failures abroad. He believes these are the individuals who said “we should wage an Iraqi campaign that doesn’t disrupt the Army, as opposed to we should change the Army as much as we have to to win the Iraq campaign.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, he believes there is “a minority, but a growing minority, that breaks into two units.” The first is a small, but crucial “intellectual pattern … which has always been worried about security … has always thought America was worth defending, and needed defending.”

The other much larger portion is a growing bloc whose view is “if I think you are going to come and try to kill me, I’d like to kill you before you come and try to kill me.” Gingrich refers to this mentality as the “Roman model of defense,” the idea that “I really don’t want to fight you, but if I do have to fight you I am going to wipe you out.” He points to the U.S. bombing of large population centers in Germany and Japan as an example of how the U.S. has genuinely wished to avoid war, but reacts to threats with tremendous force.

Gingrich believes that the same mentality that has led the U.S. to fight and win against its adversaries before should, and will, be the mentality applied to the question posed by radical Islamic terrorism.

“We have probably been the most ferocious [country] with the application of force once provoked,” he noted. He believes those who are worried about being attacked are “going to keep growing for a practical reason.” Gingrich believes this growing faction will inevitably be one the one to force change in policy.

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Report: U.S. Rescue Team Was on Its Way to Benghazi, But Was Turned Back

Col. Andrew Wood

Col. Andrew Wood

PJ MEDIA, BY DEBRA HEINE, JANUARY 15, 2016:

The evidence is overwhelming that the United States had several rescue teams ready to go during the 2012 Benghazi attacks, but someone — possibly the president himself — prevented them from acting. So said Emmy Award-winning journalist Sharyl Attkisson to talk show host Steve Malzberg in an interview on Wednesday.

This week on her show, “Full Measure,” Attkisson looked into the aborted rescue mission in an in-depth two-part report, “Rescue Interrupted,” which you can watch here and here. She spoke with a Green Beret commander who told her that there were actually Special Forces on their way to Benghazi who were turned back.

Col. Andrew Wood had once commanded a Special Forces anti-terrorism team protecting Ambassador Chis Stevens and other diplomats in Libya. In October of 2012, Woods told Congress that one month before the attacks in Benghazi, his team had been removed from Libya by the Obama administration, despite the numerous warnings of impending terrorist attacks. Wood told Attkisson that Special Forces (the ones mentioned in the “spinning up” email from Jeremy Bash) were on their way to Benghazi, but were ordered to turn back.

“Those individuals I know loaded aircraft and got on their way to Benghazi to respond to that incident. They were not allowed to cross the border as per protocol until they got approval from the commander in chief,” Wood explained.  “That authority has to come from him or they’re not allowed to enter the country.”

Attkisson told Malzberg, “This is something that the president and the White House has steadfastly denied, but there’s now what I would call an overwhelming body of evidence that leads us to believe that somebody stopped a number of teams and potential rescuers from entering Libya or going to Benghazi to help while those attacks were underway.”

“They could have gotten there before the last two Americans died,” Attkisson noted. “Those attacks went on for eight hours.”

The email from Jeremy Bash to Jacob Sullivan, deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, came at 7:19 pm Washington time.

Attkisson notes in Part One of “Rescue Interrupted” that “the White House has refused to detail the involvement of President Obama — the Commander-in-Chief — while Americans were under attack on foreign soil.”

On November 9, 2012, Jake Tapper asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney if and when the White House was going to put out a detailed “tick-tock” surrounding its response to the Benghazi attacks. Instead of answering the question, Carney blathered on about the State Department investigation: “Nobody is more interested than the president in making sure the facts are collected, we find out exactly what happened, that we bring to justice those who killed four Americans and that we take measures to ensure that what happened in Benghazi does not happen again.”

“We’re never going to get a tick-tock,”  one of the reporters complained at the time. As Attkisson notes, Obama “virtually disappears from the public narrative.” All we know is he had a fundraiser to attend the next day in Las Vegas. Incredibly, in light of what happened in Benghazi, he didn’t cancel the trip.

At a conference in Maryland last weekend, Benghazi security officer Kris “Tanto” Paronto revealed that two AC-130H “Spectre” gunships were “on call” that night, both within range of Benghazi.

One of them was a six-hour flight away, co-located with a U.S. special operations team in Djibouti. The other was at Naval Air Station Sigonella, in Sicily. “That’s a 45-minute flight,” Paronto said.The Spectre gunship with its 25mm rapid-fire Gatling guns, its 40mm precision Bofors gun, and its 105mm canon is “good in urban warfare because you have little collateral damage,” Paronto explained.

In fact, it was just what the beleaguered security team needed. They could see the jihadis advancing on the Annex compound throughout the night and lit them up with lasers, which the airborne crew could have used for precision targeting purposes. On-line videos of the Spectre gunship in operation show that it can walk its cannons up narrow streets, killing fighters while leaving the surrounding buildings intact and people inside them unharmed.

“I asked for the Spectre and ISR [an armed Predator drone] at 9:37 pm,” Paronto said, certain that the attacks actually started at 9:32 pm local time, not 9:42 pm as previously reported. “At midnight, they told us they were still working on getting us that Spectre gunship. Not that it was not available, but that they were still working on it.”

And there were more forces immediately available for a rescue effort, in particular, the European Command (EUCOM) Commander’s In-Extremis Force, which was then on a counter-terrorism training mission in Croatia, a three-hour flight from Benghazi.

Paronto knew people in that unit, and remembers calling them after he and his security team got back to the CIA Annex from the diplomatic compound, where they had just rescued the surviving U.S. personnel. “They were loading their gear into their aircraft and ready to go,” he recalled. Later, his friends in the unit told him they had been shut down sometime after midnight.

Author and former Navy Seal Matt Bracken first made the point here at PJ Media in November of 2012.  All forces needed to enter Libya was a “cross-border Authority” from the commander in chief. Unfortunately for Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, Obama had probably gone to bed early so he could get his beauty sleep for the big fundraiser the next day.

If the White House doesn’t like that unflattering perception, maybe it should — at long last — pony up that tick-tock.

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Also see:

Cherry on Top: Iran to Get $1.7 Billion Settlement from U.S. in Addition to Sanctions Relief

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President Obama leaves the podium after speaking about the release of Americans by Iran on Jan. 17, 2016, in the Cabinet Room of the White House. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

PJ MEDIA, BY BRIDGET JOHNSON, JANUARY 17, 2016:

President Obama today declared at the White House that “Iran will not get its hands on a nuclear bomb” and that their “tireless” negotiations paid off with several American hostages coming home.

Obama’s Cabinet Room statement came a day after the administration announced the lifting of sanctions on Iran for Implementation Day of the nuclear deal as well as the prisoner swap: seven to Iran, five to the U.S. The administration is claiming the fifth American, student Matthew Trevithick, was released not as part of the swap but as a goodwill gesture by Iran.

Obama called the clemency granted to six Iranian–Americans and one Iranian serving sentences or awaiting trial “a reciprocal humanitarian gesture,” and asserted none of them were “charged with terrorism or any violent offenses.” They were, however, involved in networks procuring illegal components for Iran deemed damaging to national security by the Justice Department and in one case hacked a defense contractor to steal millions in proprietary software.

“And their release is a one-time gesture to Iran given the unique opportunity offered by this moment and the larger circumstances at play,” he said. “And it reflects our willingness to engage with Iran to advance our mutual interests, even as we ensure the national security of the United States.”

“So, nuclear deal implemented. American families reunited. The third piece of this work that we got done this weekend involved the United States and Iran resolving a financial dispute that dated back more than three decades. Since 1981, after our nations severed diplomatic relations, we’ve worked through a international tribunal to resolve various claims between our countries. The United States and Iran are now settling a longstanding Iranian government claim against the United States government. Iran will be returned its own funds, including appropriate interest, but much less than the amount Iran sought,” Obama said.

That payout to Iran from the United States? $1.7 billion.

Secretary of State John Kerry said today that the settlement is $400 million debt and $1.3 billion in interest dating back to the Islamic revolution. That’s separate from the sanctions windfall Iran will receive.

“For the United States, this settlement could save us billions of dollars that could have been pursued by Iran,” Obama claimed. “So there was no benefit to the United States in dragging this out. With the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well.”

The president then acknowledged a bit of Iran’s other bad behavior, such as “a violation of its international obligations” with illegal ballistic missile tests.

“But today’s progress — Americans coming home, an Iran that has rolled back its nuclear program and accepted unprecedented monitoring of that program — these things are a reminder of what we can achieve when we lead with strength and with wisdom; with courage and resolve and patience,” Obama said. “America can do — and has done — big things when we work together. We can leave this world and make it safer and more secure for our children and our grandchildren for generations to come.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) called it “a huge relief that these Americans are finally coming home,” and noted that “all of them should have been unconditionally released a long time ago — period.”

“Instead, a disturbing pattern is emerging where the Obama administration is willing to negotiate the release of spies, terrorists and now criminals. I fail to see how this trend will improve the long-term security of the United States and its citizens,” Royce said.

“The Obama administration will need to answer why this policy won’t encourage terrorist groups and regimes to step up their efforts to target Americans. And the Iranians still need to answer for Robert Levinson, an American citizen who has been missing in Iran since 2007.”

The Levinson family was still on a heartbreaking tweetstorm Sunday using the haghtag #WhatAboutBob.

“Let me just say Bob Levinson is still missing,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said this morning on CBS’Face the Nation. “The Iranians know where he is or we believe they do. And they’re not being cooperative about that. We should not forget Mr. Levinson and his situation.”

Obama said what he’s said before: that Iran “has agreed to deepen our coordination as we work to locate Robert Levinson — missing from Iran for more than eight years.”

“Even as we rejoice in the safe return of others, we will never forget about Bob,” he said. “Each and every day, but especially today, our hearts are with the Levinson family, and we will not rest until their family is whole again.”

Iran is also holding on to a couple more hostages: Since the Iran nuclear deal was inked last year, one American citizen, businessman Siamak Namazi, and one permanent U.S. resident, IT expert Nizar Zakka, were arrested by Iran. Iran’s Fars News Agency said they kept Namazi out of the deal because his charges were “not political.”

Zakka, a Lebanese-American, works in Washington as secretary-general of the Dupont Circle-based Ijma3 group, which lobbies for the information and communications technology industry in the Middle East. He last tweeted on Sept. 9 about Internet freedom and free expression.

Zakka received an invitation on Sept. 11 from Iran’s vice president for Women and Family Affairs to attend the 2nd International Conference & Exhibition on Women in Sustainable Development, titled “Entrepreneurship & Employment.” After the conference, while he was trying to return home to D.C., he was seized.

“For decades, our differences with Iran meant that our governments almost never spoke to each other. Ultimately, that did not advance America’s interests. Over the years, Iran moved closer and closer to having the ability to build a nuclear weapon,” Obama declared today.

“But from Presidents Franklin Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, the United States has never been afraid to pursue diplomacy with our adversaries. And as president, I decided that a strong, confident America could advance our national security by engaging directly with the Iranian government. We’ve seen the results.”

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Also see:

The Global Islamic Jihad Movement is Expanding

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Dr. Sebastian Gorka was on Hannity last night talking about the increasing jihadist threat in America as well as the Iranian detention of US sailors.

More evidence of ISIS’ expansionist mission – FoxTV Business News

Also see:

North Korea’s Nuclear Advance–With Or Without The Hydrogen Bomb

960x0 (1)Forbes, by Claudia Rosett, Jan. 6, 2016:

President Obama waited, under the rubric of “strategic patience.” Now we get to see. North Korea says it has just tested a hydrogen bomb.

If true, this means a big jump in the destructive power of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. An H-bomb, also known as a thermonuclear device, can pack far more explosive force than the atomic bombs North Korea has previously tested.

Pyongyang’s claim that it has mastered the H-bomb has yet to be confirmed. But coincident with North Korea’s announcement, the U.S. Geological Survey did record a significant seismic event near North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site. This suggests that whether or not it was an H-bomb, North Korea probably did carry out some kind of underground nuclear test.

Let’s be clear on what this means: For America and its allies this is not just a setback. It is a debacle. This goes beyond even the highly unpleasant prospect of North Korea becoming ever more capable of directly threatening South Korea and the U.S. with nuclear strikes. In an increasingly tumultuous 21st century, North Korea is demonstrating to the entire world — notably the terror-spawning and blood-soaked Middle East — that it is quite possible for a state to ignore the rules, and illicitly acquire and brazenly test nuclear weapons. There were abundant signs of a looming nuclear arms race in the Middle East before North Korea announced this test. Now, brace for the deluge.

What are the great powers of the world doing about it? The answer these days (now that the Israelis are enjoined not to fly to the rescue) is that they wait and see.

This is North Korea’s fourth nuclear test since 2006. North Korea has carried out three of those tests on President Obama’s watch, in 2009, 2013 and now 2016 — the last two of those tests conducted under the rule of current hereditary tyrant Kim Jong Un. For young Kim, nuclear weapons are clearly central to his reign. North Korean television, which exists to sustain and glorify his rule, showed him personally signing the order for this latest test, which was carried out on Wednesday morning, Jan. 6, local time.

North Korea has also been toiling away at missile systems to deliver the bombs. Along with beefing up its Sohae launch site, North Korea’s Kim regime has paraded road-mobile missile launchers, and advertised its interest in developing the ability to launch missiles from submarines. Last year, a number of senior U.S. military officials warned that North Korea has acquired the ability — as yet untested — to miniaturize a nuclear warhead, mount it on a ballistic missile and target the United States.

Read more

The Saudi-Iran spat: What comes next?

Supporters of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr burn posters of King Salman of Saudi Arabia against the execution of Shi’ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, during a demonstration in Kerbala January 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed al-Husseini.

Supporters of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr burn posters of King Salman of Saudi Arabia against the execution of Shi’ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, during a demonstration in Kerbala January 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed al-Husseini.

American Enterprise Institute, by Michael Rubin, Jan. 4, 2016:

Make no mistake: Saudi Arabia should be condemned without reservation for the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, perhaps the country’s most prominent Shi‘ite cleric.

The murder is, alas, the sign of more trouble to come as Muhammad Bin Nayyef — Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and interior minister — consolidates control against the backdrop of King Salman’s growing dementia. Nayyef is a sectarian warrior who seldom finds a fire upon which he cannot pour gasoline. There was also cynicism involved in the timing, coming so soon after Saudi Arabia implemented new austerity measures. That so many diplomats in Europe, Washington, and the United Nations also blessed Saudi ambitions to a leadership post on the United Nations Human Rights Council simply convinced Riyadh that they could get away with murder.

That does not mean the Islamic Republic of Iran is blameless. While they have now named the street on which the Saudi Embassy in Tehran sits for Nimr, they did nothing for Nimr during his imprisonment. Nor does Iran have the moral high ground on either religious freedom or executions. Indeed, Iran’s rate of executions in 2015 was an order of magnitude above Saudi Arabia’s. Even as Saudi Arabia is wrong for arresting and executing Nimr, there can be zero tolerance for the sacking and burning of embassies, a practice that has become all too common inside Iran. Iran’s refusal to protect diplomats on its territory risks far more than Saudi-Iranian peace, but rather threatens the mechanism of modern diplomacy.

So what comes next? Nothing good, especially at a time when American diplomatic influence is at its nadir. It’s not simply that neither side trusts the United States. Rather, both Riyadh and Tehran believe that the United States is actively supporting the other side. So here’s a quick look at the crystal ball:

  • That Syria peace process in which Secretary of State John Kerry is engaged? Fahgettaboudit. At the very least Iran and Saudi Arabia are going to take their proxy war in Syria to a new level. That’s the best scenario. The worst is that Iran moves to undercut security in Bahrain and takes its proxy conflict to Iraq, which has quietly been making amends with Riyadh.
  • Nuclear proliferation? Expect Saudi Arabia to pursue that off-the-shelf bomb from Pakistan. And if Riyadh gets a nuclear capability, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — which continues to oppose the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — is simply going to push forward with Iran’s nuclear capability, an easy move since Kerry designed his deal to leave Iran with an industrial program and a $100 billion cash infusion to boot.

So what should the United States do? Unfortunately, there’s no magic solution at this point, but here’s a few places to start:

  • President Obama argued that the United States could have more influence by working with the UN Human Rights Council than by ignoring it. All evidence is to the contrary, however. The Council is a parody of human rights advocacy and gives moral inversion UN imprimatur. It’s time to cut off all funding and support for the Council until human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia are purged from them.
  • Condemn, in unequivocal terms, the murder of Sheikh Nimr and the persecution of anyone on the basis of their religion. Demand that Iran release Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American pastor imprisoned simply because he is a Christian. Free the Bahai men, women, and children from Iranian prisons. Demand Tehran account for the missing Iranian Jews.
  • Crack down on Iran’s ballistic missile program. Desperation is seldom a successful negotiation tactic, as Obama and Kerry might realize if they had any experience in the private sector. By allowing Iran to cheat on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the UN Security Council Resolution which encoded it, Obama and Kerry are only convincing regional states that they must take matters into their own hands.

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Listen: 

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Dr. Sebastian Gorka discusses the risk of war between Iran and Saudi Arabia with Stuart Varney:

Robert Jackson on Sharia v. the Constitution

Constitution vs Sharia (1)National Review, by Andrew C. McCarthy, Jan. 4, 2015:

I’ve been working my way through my friend Steve Coughlin’s invaluable new book, Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad (which I discussed a bit in this recent column on the San Bernardino terrorist attack).

In light of the sharia encroachment campaign to bend the First Amendment to the repressive blasphemy standards of Islamic law (the subject of my columns today and over the weekend), it is very much worth noting Steve’s unearthing of a 1955 statement by the legendary Robert Jackson – the former Supreme Court justice and Nuremberg prosecutor, who was United States attorney general under FDR:

In any broad sense, Islamic law offers the American lawyer a study in dramatic contrasts. Even casual acquaintance and superficial knowledge – all that most of us at bench or bar will be able to acquire – reveal that its striking features relative to our law are not likenesses but inconsistencies, not similarities but contrarieties. In its source, its scope and its sanctions, the law of the Middle East is the antithesis of Western law.

The passage is part of a Forward Justice Jackson wrote to a book called Law in the Middle East. He thought it was a subject we needed to be informed about.

Today, we don’t want to know about sharia – not the government, the commentariat, or the popular culture. As noted here time and again, foreign policy of the United States has for a generation proceeded on the absurd assumption that sharia and Western liberalism are perfectly, seamlessly compatible.

Indeed, that is the operating assumption of the new constitutions for Afghanistan and Iraq that the United States government helped write – constitutions that impossibly purport to protect civil rights while simultaneously enshrining sharia as a principal source of law. In Afghanistan, the government has, for example, convicted former Muslims for apostasy under the new Constitution – the apostates escaped the death penalty only by being whisked out of the country. In Iraq, since the American invasion and the new constitution it ushered in, the Christian population has decreased by more than 70 percent (from about 1 million down to around 250,000 to 300,000, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2015 Report, pp. 95-96). While the rise of ISIS has exacerbated religious persecution in Iraq, it was rampant even before the terror network came along. (See id. at 97: “The Iraqi government, under both former Prime Minister al-Maliki and current Prime Minister Haideral-Abadi, also has committed human rights abuses, including torture and extrajudicial killings of Sunni prisoners and civilians.”)

Tellingly, Islamic supremacists fully comprehend the fundamental incompatibility between Islamic and Western standards. In Cairo in 1990, the 57-government Organization of Islamic Cooperation (then known as the Organization of the Islamic Conference) issued its “Declaration on Human Rights in Islam.” This sharia supremacist proclamation was issued because the “Universal” Declaration of Human Rights presumptuously issued by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 was not consistent with Islamic norms.

Steve observes that the deeply flawed assumption of compatibility between sharia and the Constitution that undergirds our policy flows from “an absence of functional knowledge of Islamic law in America’s halls of power.” Why don’t officials inform themselves? Because, he opines, “our national security leaders have taken active measures to suppress both analysis and discussion of the topic, under threat of harsh sanctions.”

There was a time, not so long ago, when America’s national security leaders and legal titans grasped the need to be informed about Islamic law as it actually exists, not as they wished it were. Until we recover that understanding, we will be able neither to protect ourselves nor to know how and when to intervene in the world’s most volatile region.

Did the White House Use the NSA to Spy on Congress about the Iran Deal?

1636300814Center for Security Policy, by Fred Fleitz, Dec. 30, 2015:

According to a bombshell Wall Street Journal article by Adam Entous and Danny Yadron, published online late Monday, the National Security Agency provided the White House with intercepted Israeli communications containing details of private discussions between Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. lawmakers and American Jewish groups on the Iran nuclear deal. If true, this could be the biggest scandal of the Obama presidency.

The Journal article explains that President Obama decided to stop NSA collection against certain foreign leaders after the backlash against Edward Snowden’s disclosure that the NSA had eavesdropped on German chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone and monitored communications of the heads of state of other close U.S. allies.

According to the Journal story, President Obama did not halt NSA spying against Netanyahu. This is not a surprise, given the president’s chilly relations with the Israeli leader and Israel’s aggressive spying against the United States. It’s also not a surprise that the Obama administration sought intelligence on Netanyahu’s efforts to undermine the nuclear deal. But it is stunning to learn that NSA sent the White House intelligence on private discussions with U.S. congressmen on a major policy dispute between the White House and Congress.

According to the Journal article, to avoid a paper trail that would show that they wanted the NSA to report on Netanyahu’s interactions with Congress, Obama officials decided to let the agency decide how much of this intelligence to provide and what to withhold. The article cited an unnamed U.S. official who explained, “We didn’t say, ‘Do it.’ We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it.’”

This suggests major misconduct by the NSA and the White House of a sort not seen since Watergate. First, intercepts of congressmen’s communications regarding a dispute between Congress and the White House should have been destroyed and never left the NSA building. The Journal article said a 2011 NSA directive requires direct communications between foreign intelligence targets and members of Congress to be destroyed, but gives the NSA director the authority to waive this requirement if he determines the communications contain “significant foreign intelligence.”

Netanyahu’s discussions with members of Congress on a policy dispute between Congress and the president do not qualify as foreign intelligence. Destroying this kind of information should not have been a close call for NSA. Congress should immediately ask NSA director Michael Rogers and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to verify the Journal story and explain why intercepts of private discussions of members of Congress were provided to the White House. If this did happen, both officials should resign.

Second, the White House bears significant responsibility for this scandal. By encouraging and accepting this intelligence, the White House used the NSA as an illegitimate means to undermine its legislative opponents. This represented a major abuse of presidential power, since it employed the enormous capabilities of an American intelligence service against the U.S. Congress. It also probably violates the U.S. Constitution’s separation-of-powers principles and the Fourth Amendment, since surveillance may have been conducted against U.S. citizens without a warrant.

The claim that Obama officials did not directly instruct the NSA to collect this information but simply accepted what the NSA sent them is preposterous. If the Journal article is accurate, Obama officials knew they were receiving intelligence on the private conversations of U.S. congressmen on a major policy dispute. These officials knew they were not supposed to have this intelligence but did not cut it off, because they wanted to use it to defeat efforts by Netanyahu and Congress to derail the Iran nuclear deal. This story is another indication of how desperate the Obama administration was to get a nuclear deal with Iran.

It is truly bizarre that Obama officials would be parties to such a gross misuse of U.S. intelligence after the controversy caused by NSA collection of phone records under the metadata program and so-called warrantless wiretaps by the Bush administration. These initiatives might have pushed the envelope of the law and intelligence charters, but they were carried out to defend the nation against terrorism and targeted terrorist suspects. By contrast, the Journal article discusses domestic intelligence activities that clearly are prohibited: targeting U.S. citizens over a policy dispute, and targeting the legislative branch of government.

Congress should be outraged over this story, especially in light of how narrow the votes were in September to disapprove the Iran deal. The Obama administration won these votes because it did a better job than the congressmen and American Jewish groups who opposed the Iran deal of persuading Democratic members to support it. The Journal story suggests that NSA collection against American opponents of the deal may have helped the Obama administration win this battle for Democratic support.

Congressional anger over the Journal story might force intelligence officials to resign. However, I believe there is no chance anyone in the Obama White House will be held accountable, since the Obama Justice Department will refuse to investigate and Obama officials probably will feign ignorance. Still, I hope the congressional intelligence committees will conduct full investigations.

The story will damage relations between the Obama White House and Congress, but since these relations are already so poor, it is hard to see how much farther they can sink. The Journal story could inflict serious damage on the reputation of the U.S. intelligence community, which has been struggling to defend itself against unfair and misleading attacks by privacy advocates, liberals, and libertarians, sparked by the Snowden leaks.

I am one of many conservatives who have fought over the last few years to defend U.S. intelligence agencies against these attacks, which have weakened U.S. intelligence programs and undermined the morale of intelligence personnel. But the Journal article describes a bona fide abuse of intelligence for which I can offer no defense.

If it is true that the NSA provided intercepts of the private discussions of congressmen with Netanyahu on the Iran deal, this will be a huge gift to the U.S. intelligence community’s critics, who will say this story confirms their claims about how American intelligence agencies routinely violate the law and the privacy rights of Americans. It also could cause the U.S. intelligence community to lose congressional support, and Congress to pass more legislation restricting important counterterrorist intelligence programs.

National-security-minded Americans should call on Congress to fully investigate this matter and hold the Obama administration and intelligence officials accountable to the greatest extent possible. But the best response to this outrage will be to make it a top issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. This fiasco represents a serious lack of leadership and ethics by the Obama administration that will never be fixed by the ethically challenged Hillary Clinton. It may be the best reason yet why we need a new president who will implement comprehensive government reform and hold himself and his administration to a much higher ethical standard.