The Iran Nuclear Negotiations: Critical Issues

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Published on Apr 16, 2015 by The Heritage Foundation

The nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5 plus 1 have entered a crucial phase ahead of the March 30 deadline for a framework agreement. A distinguished panel of experts will examine some of the key issues involved in the negotiations and assess some of the pitfalls that must be avoided if an acceptable agreement is to be reached by the June 30th deadline for a final agreement.

Key segment:

Fred Fleitz: Why conceding uranium enrichment to Iran is conceding the bomb

PART II: Michael Rubin on Obama: ‘He is Constructing an Imaginary Iran’

unnamed1-640x480Breitbart, by Adelle Nazarian, April 17, 2015:

Breitbart’s Adelle Nazarian had the opportunity to speak with renowned Middle East expert and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Dr. Michael Rubin recently. Dr. Rubin provided his analysis on U.S.-Iran relations under the Obama Administration and provided a look into the future through the periscope of the past.

This is Part II of a two-part series. For the first installment, click here.

BREITBART: Why didn’t the Obama administration look back at Khomeini’s letter from 1988 calling for nuclear weapons and compare it to Khamenei’s supposed nuclear fatwa today when approaching the nuclear talks?

RUBIN: You’ve got a situation where the Obama Administration is cherry picking dishonestly. And frankly, if Obama acted this way as a university professor, he would be dismissed. He is constructing an imaginary Iran. Take the case of the fatwa.

Does the fatwa actually exist? According to open source center there was something delivered in 2014 that purports to  be the text of the fatwa to the United Nations. But in that text — according to the open source center of the United States — it doesn’t use the word “never.”

Here’s another problem. It’s Diplomacy 101 to know that you don’t rely on anything that’s not written down. Even with North Korea, we got the North Koreans and the Americans to agree on a piece of paper.

I’m not sure John Kerry is even competent to negotiate with a 5-year-old over chocolate or vanilla ice cream. I mean how could you not get something in writing? It’s the same thing with Obama and the fatwa. Get it in writing. How come Obama can’t put this up on the White House website? He puts up everything else.

BREITBART: Is it true that a fatwa, either verbalized or written, can be changed at any time?

RUBIN: Yes. It can. And Obama is operating in a vacuum.

It’s like Groundhog Day. In 2003, Mohammaed Javad Zarif negotiated with the Americans with regard to non-interference in Iraq. According to the Iranian press, the Iranians proceeded to break that agreement and inserted 2,000 Revolutionary Guardsmen into Iraq.

Now the question is, did Zarif lie? Or was he sincere but he didn’t have the power to ensure that all aspects of the Iranian government would abide by the agreement? And why is it that, 12 years later, we’re having the same discussion about the same man? Either Zarif is a liar, in which case we never should have sat down with him again. Or he’s powerless and a conman, in which case we should have never sat down with him again.

There is a major misconception under the current administration– with Obama and Kerry– that it was due to a lack of diplomacy under the Bush Administration that the number of centrifuges skyrocketed in Iran.

#1: Between 2000-2005, the European Union almost tripled its trade with Iran and sat down with them regularly. That directly corresponds to the rapid increase in Iranian centrifuges. It was because of diplomacy, not because of coercion.

#2. During that same period, the price of oil almost quintupled and the bulk of hard-currency windfall went into Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. That was under the so-called “reformists,” and this is why the so-called reformists like to claim that they are responsible for the success of the nuclear program. But this raises questions about why Obama would again repeat the same issue.

The Iranian economy, according to Iran’s Central Bank, had declined 5.4% in the year before we sat down to negotiate the joint plan of action. Now, Iran’s economy is in the black because we’ve given them an infusion of cash. But if we hadn’t given them that infusion of cash in conjunction with the halving of the price of oil, then we could literally force Iran to drink from the chalice of poison.

Those were the words that Khomeini said when he ended the Iran-Iraq War after swearing he would never do it until Jerusalem was liberated.

Giving someone $12 billion is not forcing them to drink from a chalice of poison. What Obama did was the equivalent to giving a five-year-old dessert first and then asking him to eat his spinach.

BREITBART: What has to be done strategically to stop Iran from expansion?

RUBIN: It’s the same thing with Putin and any other expansionist dictators. The more you appease, the more you show that your red lines are drawn in pink crayon and the more they are going to test you. What we forget is when Iran tested the U.S. under Reagan, Reagan responded with Operation Praying Mantis. He sank the Iranian Navy which gave way to a joke from that time. “Why does the Iranian Navy have glass bottomed-boats? So they can see their air force as well.”

Operation Praying Mantis was the largest surface naval engagement since WWII and it taught the Iranians that you don’t mess with the United States. Obama doesn’t understand that the Middle East isn’t a neighborhood to organize. He doesn’t understand that he’s the leader of the free world and not a zoning commissioner. In effect, the bad guys are running all over him. And the problem is, he’s too naive or too arrogant to care.

BREITBART: Should the next President of the United States of America be an expert on Iranian issues?

RUBIN: What you need in a presidential candidate is not someone that knows the Iran issue inside and out. What you need is someone that is true to their values, can provide moral leadership, is not afraid of moral clarity and understands the following:

#1. The importance of individual liberty, because individual liberty is a character which no dictatorship can withstand. You need someone who isn’t afraid of understanding that we should not live in a morally and culturally equivalent world.

#2. The United States is not the equal to countries like Iran or Russia. We are their moral superiors and as such it is important that we win and our adversaries lose. It’s important that freedom and liberty triumph.

You don’t need to be an expert in Iran to understand that. But you need to be someone who is not going to calibrate their foreign policy to the latest poll. Principles have to trump polls and I think that’s where Bush and Clinton are going to be disasters.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz

How the Iran lobby sidetracked the nuclear talks: part 2

Photo by: Vahid Salemi FILE - In this Sunday, April 12, 2015 file photo, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a ceremony to commemorate the late Khadijeh Saghafi, wife of late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, in Tehran, Iran. Rouhani has dismissed pressure from the U.S. Congress over a preliminary deal on Iran's nuclear program, saying that Tehran is dealing with world powers not American lawmakers. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

Photo by: Vahid Salemi
FILE – In this Sunday, April 12, 2015 file photo, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a ceremony to commemorate the late Khadijeh Saghafi, wife of late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, in Tehran, Iran. Rouhani has dismissed pressure from the U.S. Congress over a preliminary deal on Iran’s nuclear program, saying that Tehran is dealing with world powers not American lawmakers. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

– – Thursday, April 16, 2015:

In the previous article, we saw how the Iranian regime’s panic over the 2002 outing of its theretofore clandestine nuclear weapons program drove its subsequent decisions about how to deal with the publicity and mollify, or at least occupy, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and the United States (U.S.).

Having been well-trained by its mentors at the Soviet KGB, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) quickly established a two-tier system: those nuclear sites, such as Natanz, Isfahan, Arak, and later Fordow, that had been exposed were turned into show sites. IAEA inspectors were invited in, and the so-called EU-3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), later joined by the rest of the UNSC to form the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, UK, and U.S.), began negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program.

The haggling went on for a decade and counting. At no time from 2003 to this day, however, did Iran itself willingly offer up (as obligated under its nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signatory status) any information about other clandestine sites in its sprawling nuclear weapons program. For unexplained reasons, nor did the IAEA, P5+1, or UNSC compel it to despite an international sanctions regime ostensibly aimed at getting Iran to comply with six UNSC Resolutions demanding it halt all nuclear enrichment and come clean about its past nuclear activities with “possible military dimensions.”

While international trade relationships, intra-UNSC rivalries, and a reluctance to alienate Iran right out of the talks altogether might explain some of the failure to press Iran about the clandestine elements of its nuclear weapons program, at least for the U.S., there was another player involved in the game: the Iran Lobby.

As discussed in a February 2009 occasional paper by this author and published by the Center for Security Policy under the title, “Rise of the Iran Lobby: Tehran’s Front Groups Move On—and into—the Obama Administration,” “a complex network of individuals and organizations with ties to the clerical regime in Tehran” had organized by the early 2000s to influence U.S. government policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran.

A follow-on paper, “The Iran Lobby: Alive, Well, and Changing the Face of the Middle East,” published by the Center in October 2014, chronicled what I termed “the disastrous fruits of that network’s efforts.” The term “Iran Lobby,” by the way, was first noticed in the Iranian media itself, in 2007. It seemed a most apt description of the circle of influence operators that were pursuing and achieving positions of influence at the upper levels of U.S. national security then, and certainly all the more so, now.

After more than a dozen years of maneuvering behind the scenes of Washington, DC policymaking, the Iran Lobby today has succeeded in infiltrating the Department of State, National Security Council (NSC), and the nuclear negotiations themselves. Led by NIAC (the National Iranian American Council) and its founder and president, the Iranian-born Trita Parsi, the Iran Lobby counts among its affiliates and supporters a Who’s Who list of influential individuals and organizations ranging from former ambassadors and oil executives, to a bevy of Middle East and Iran experts from leading NGOs and think tanks.

The objective was always clear: shift official U.S. policy on Iran to a position supportive of Tehran’s agenda that sought protracted negotiations to buy time for its nuclear weapons development, financial concessions that eased sanctions and released frozen assets, and a conciliatory posture that eschewed any discussion of military options to deal with Iranian intransigence, ignored Iranian support for Islamic jihad (terrorism), pretended its Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) program didn’t exist, turned a deaf ear to non-stop genocidal threats against the Jewish State of Israel, and generally acquiesced in its regional geo-strategic ambitions.

Above all, there was to be absolutely no discussion of Iran’s parallel clandestine nuclear weapons program. Astonishingly, today, the Iran Lobby has achieved all of this and more.

Not surprisingly, the Iranian leadership mocks the Obama administration, especially Secretary of State John Kerry and his hapless negotiating team. In January 2014, just weeks after the supposed landmark ‘breakthrough’ of the November 2013 “Joint Plan of Action,” Kerry’s Iranian counterpart, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, actually laid a wreath at the tomb of Imad Mughniyeh, the Hizballah terror chieftain responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans from the 1983 Marine Corps barracks bombing to 9/11.

The same month, Iran’s ‘moderate’ president Hassan Rouhani tweeted about how, in Geneva, the world powers “surrendered to Iranian nation’s will.” A senior Iranian TV commentator noted with rare honesty that the Geneva agreement was but “the Treaty of Hudaybiyya.” Following the 2015 April Fool’s Day ‘framework’ agreement, Iranian leadership figures were quick to describe the U.S. version as a “U.S. version” “lie” and declare it “not acceptable to Iran.” Meanwhile, Iran’s Bassij commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi declared that “erasing Israel off the map” was “non-negotiable.”

And yet, the American team practically begged the Iranians to keep talking and give them something, anything to hold up as a ‘success.’

To understand this sorry state of affairs, it is only necessary to understand the function and purpose of hostile influence operations and how the Iran Lobby in America has finessed its way to turning U.S. foreign policy with Iran completely on its head. As described above, maneuvering Tehran-regime-friendly figures into positions of power and influence is the name of the game.

One Sahar Nowrouzzadeh could be Exhibit A for how this works: apparently a former NIAC employee, she now appears on a list of senior White House aides who attended a secure video conference on 31 March 2015 with the U.S. negotiating team in Lausanne, Switzerland. She is listed as the National Security Council Director for Iran.

Meanwhile, her former boss, NIAC’s Trita Parsi, appears in a photo published by the Iranian Fars News Agency, greeting Fereydoon Rouhani (the president’s brother) at the Lausanne talks. Parsi’s Facebook page shows another photo of the NIAC leader smiling at the talks alongside his Research Director, Reza Marashi, and NBC reporter Ann Curry. Marashi’s NIAC bio lists his former employment at the State Department’s Office of Iranian affairs. According to reports, at least Parsi has been present at previous nuclear negotiations in Geneva and Vienna, as well.

This is what a successful infiltration operation looks like. Apparently, Parsi thinks so, too, because on 2 April 2015, he posted the following on his Facebook Page:

“Trita Parsi

“April 2 at 5:22pm ·

“Oops. Just realized I haven’t eaten lunch today. Been too busy gloating…”

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

Guest Column: President Obama’s Passover Seder

by Reuven Berko
Special to IPT News
April 16, 2015

1145President Obama’s recent statement saying that requiring Iran to recognize Israel would not be part of the agreement with Iran did not surprise Israelis, many of whom feel that the more he tries to assuage their fears, the more they have to worry about. As president of the United States, his first commitment is to the welfare of his country, but it would not have been out of place for him to demand that Iran publicly declare it would not destroy Israel, one of America’s closest allies.

Obama is clearly aware of Israel’s concerns, promising the United States would “be there” for Israel, but where is “there?” When the time comes and Iran does in fact have the bomb, what will his promises be worth, and who will be responsible for keeping them? In the shadow of the agreement, which in any case is full of contradictions and mutual accusations, lies and fraud, and still includes centrifuges, long-range missiles, yellowcake uranium, heavy water facilities and underground bunkers, Iran will continue its military and nuclear buildup without even a nod to retreating from its plan to destroy Israel.

Congress is making a rare bipartisan attempt to pick up the pieces and get a majority to vote down the curious agreement and even override a presidential veto. While Obama persists in deluding himself and others, there are many who in fact take Israel’s warning about the danger posed by a nuclear Iran seriously. In the meantime, to the American administration’s displeasure, Congress is proposing means for oversight and a way to re-impose sanctions on Iran, extracting itself from the straitjacket Obama wants it to wear.

So far, that effort includes defining a time frame for inspection to ensure that the Iranians are fulfilling the minimum requirements as conditions for confirming the agreement along with the possibility of calling it a less-binding “convention.” Those tentative steps, praiseworthy as they may be, do not take into consideration the skill of the Ayatollahs and their agents to manipulate, conceal and distort, as well as their endless patience in finding ways to dupe the hapless inspectors, who will wander around Iran like lost sheep.

Are there any practical implications for Obama’s promise to “be there” for Israel if it is attacked? If the entire Middle East, Iran, the Arabs, the Israelis, share one sentiment, it is their unwavering skepticism regarding the Obama administration’s willingness to intervene in regional crises. In light of the damage done to America’s economy and in light of the losses suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is generally conceded that Obama will not fling himself headlong into any Middle Eastern military confrontation in the foreseeable future. The violence and terrorism his new Iranian partners have employed in the Middle East without provoking any reasonable American response indicate that Obama has taken a backseat.

Obama inherited a series of American failures, such as the North Korean nuclear bomb and the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, but he has his own personal collection: he failed by not understanding the essence of Islamism and by fantasizing about a “moderate” Islam; he made a disastrous speech in Cairo in 2009, making him the laughing stock of the Middle East; he failed in Iraq where the Americans and the Iranians support the Shi’ite militias as they slaughter Sunnis. His measures against ISIS and the other Islamists indirectly strengthen Iran, Hizballah, and the Assad regime and its Russian allies.

Obama failed to stop the slaughter in Syria and the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. He failed when he overthrew Mubarak, replaced him with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, and then did not support the more moderate Sisi when he took control of the government. He failed by not understanding that Turkey’s Erdogan was an Islamist dictator with an imperialist agenda and supported Hamas and ISIS. He failed when he did not stop Putin in the Ukraine and the Middle East, when he did not support his Arab allies in Yemen and other regional crises, and did not even stand by the criteria he himself instituted for dealing with the Iranians. It is hard to know on which side Obama stands, with America’s veteran allies such as Israel and the moderate Arab states, or with Iran, the force coming to power at their expense. His frenzied measures, some of which damage American interests, are a riddle for many.

And now Obama is moving toward failure yet again, this time by forcing Israel to establish another Palestinian terrorist state in addition to the one thriving in the Gaza Strip. The outcome will be a replication of the military-terrorist conditions of the Strip, which threaten Egypt as well as Israel, in Judea and Samaria, where most of the Palestinians support Hamas. The consequence will be that ISIS will find it to pour into Jordan from Syria and Iraq and from there to the West Bank to attack Israel. Simply put, the Palestinians will be menaced, Israel will be menaced, and Jordan will be menaced.

Even the many contradictions in the proposed Iranian agreement indicate that its remaining nuclear capabilities will allow it to build a bomb, this time with the sanction of the Western powers, over the next ten years. The gun is on the table, it just isn’t smoking yet. Clearly, it is no longer a question of whether the Iranians will develop a nuclear bomb, but when.

Time is not important for the Obama administration, which wants only to finish its term with something, anything, to justify the mysterious Nobel Peace Prize Obama received. For Israel and the Sunni Arab states, the next 10 or 15 years given Iran to build its bombs will pass like nanoseconds. Action that puts off the inevitable until Obama leaves the Oval Office is a classic case of “après moi le déluge,” abandoning the Middle East to the tender mercies of Iran and an inevitable nuclear arms race and confrontation.

That being the case, the euphoria oozing from the various op-ed pieces hailing Obama as a brilliant poker player who brought Iran to the finish line at the negotiating table with an American victory is misplaced. The victors were not the Americans, not the Arabs and not the Israelis, but rather the Iranians, laughing all the way to the bomb.

During the White House Passover Seder, Obama sent his blessings to the Jews around the world. He said that the Exodus from ancient Egypt, the journey of the Israelites to freedom, meant choosing “faith over fear, courage over complacency.” It reminds us, he said, that “there is always a reason to hope,” and he somehow managed to wedge the civil rights movement into the picture.

Such exalted humanistic declarations applied to the agreement with Iran are ludicrous. In the Biblical account Pharaoh was overcome and the Jews were saved. In contrast, the agreement with Iran gives the Ayatollahs, the Iranian Pharaohs, international license to manufacture bombs to destroy the Jews. Moreover, the Exodus occurred only after Pharaoh paid no attention to the first plagues sent by God, warning of what would happen if he did not free the Jews and allow them to return to their homeland, Israel. What should be learned from the Exodus is the wisdom of Netanyahu’s proposal for increasing the sanctions on Iran. They are the culmination of the necessary warnings sent to any evil entity and certainly to Iran. Thus, as it is written in both the Old Testament and the Passover Haggadah, only when Pharaoh refused, regardless of the warnings, to free the Jews, did God bring the tenth plague on the Egyptians, and all the firstborn of Egypt were killed.

If Obama had gradually increased the sanctions on Iran, now would be the time to use the lesson of Egypt. According to the Bible, only if Khamenei hardened his heart would bunker-penetrating bombs be launched against Tehran. Even today, that is still possible. The Exodus of the Israelites to the Promised Land was not a matter of concession, fear or appeasement, like Obama’s mistaken interpretation. It was strong-willed, fearless, and determined, and the Israelites smote those seeking to kill them, down to the last one.

Obama’s twisting of the account reveals the extent of his ignorance of both the true nature of the Iranians and how determined and deadly they are, and, unfortunately, of the real history of his Israeli allies. The Obama administration has not yet understood that the Iranians plan to develop a nuclear bomb and to use it to realize their ambition to achieve regional expansion and hegemony. The Islamist clerics sanction the use of chemical and biological warfare, relying, irony of ironies, on the 10 plagues, and on Islamic history, according to which Muhammad used vermin, snakes and scorpions to attack the “infidel” city of Taif. According to Islamic doctrine, Islam should always pay its enemies back in kind, so its twisted logic decrees that if the Americans used the atomic bomb against Japan, Iran can use it against the Americans.

The American administration has deluded itself into thinking that the Iranians, who already are denying or falsifying the details of the agreement, will abort their pan-Middle Eastern imperialistic ambitions. The administration is trying to sell the entire Middle East the fairy tale that the Iranian regime, which invested billions – if not trillions – of dollars in bunkers, centrifuges and uranium, had its nuclear scientists assassinated, had its population starved through sanctions, developed missiles, weaponry and an army, and stands poised to buy cutting-edge Russian anti-aircraft missiles, is now willing to toss it all away to justify Obama’s next Nobel Peace Prize or because Obama and Kerry were such charismatic dinner companions in Lausanne.

Israel has yet to be convinced.

Dr. Reuven Berko has a Ph.D. in Middle East studies, is a commentator on Israeli Arabic TV programs, writes for the Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom and is considered one of Israel’s top experts on Arab affairs.

The Reverse Iran Deal Ratification Process

obamawinkingap_600.jpg.cms_Commentary Magazine, by Jonathan S. Tobin, April 15, 2015:

The day after the White House waved the white flag on the Corker-Menendez bill that would force President Obama to submit a nuclear deal with Iran for congressional approval some of his press cheering section is still lamenting this defeat.The New York Times editorial page continued to rage about the spectacle of Democrats uniting with Republicans to force some accountability on the president. Meantime, congressional critics of the president were likewise still celebrating and denouncing the administration’s claims that the amendments Corker allowed to be added to the bill substantially modified it as nothing more than cheap spin. But in a classic example of how our political class—both on the left and the right—can be equally mistaken despite holding opposite views, both the Times and conservative Obama critics are wrong. By embracing the Corker bill, the White House has more or less assured that a terrible Iran deal will be ratified.

Let’s pause a moment to note that the Times’s argument against congressional review of the Iran deal is yet one more example of the shameless and utterly unprincipled partisanship of the Democrats’ paper of record. Had this been a Democratic-controlled Congress seeking to force a Republican president like George W. Bush from concluding a foreign agreement without observing the constitutional niceties in which the Senate must approve such documents, the Times would be invoking the need to defend the rule of law and inveighing against a GOP imperial presidency. But since this is a Democratic president facing off against a Republican Congress, they take the opposite point of view and say Congress is meddling in the president’s business. Need we remind the editors of the Times about what The Federalist Paperssay about the dangers of a president acting as if he is an “hereditary monarch” rather than an “elective magistrate” again?

But instead of wasting time pointing out the obvious, it might be just as important to tell the president’s critics to stop patting themselves on the back for forcing him to back down on Corker-Menendez. The more you look at what this bill accomplishes, the more likely it seems that Obama will get his way no matter how bad the final version of the Iran deal turns out to be.

Even if we dismiss the concessions Corker made to the president’s Democratic Senate allies as not significant, the basic facts of the situation are these. Instead of the Iran deal being presented to the Senate as a treaty where it would require, as the Constitution states, a two-thirds majority to pass, Corker-Menendez allows the deal to be voted upon as a normal bill. That means that opponents need only a simple majority to defeat it. That’s good for those who understand that this act of appeasement gives Iran two paths to a bomb (one by cheating on it via huge loopholes and one by abiding by it and patiently waiting for it to expire) and needs to be defeated, right? Wrong.

By treating it as a normal act of legislation, the president will be able to veto the measure. That sets up a veto override effort that will force Iran deal critics to get to 67 votes, a veto-proof majority. If that sounds reasonable to you, remember that in doing so the bill creates what is, in effect, a reverse treaty ratification mechanism. Instead of the president needing a two-thirds majority to enact the most significant foreign treaty the United States has signed in more than a generation, he will need only one-third of the Senate plus one to get his way.

By allowing pro-Israel Democrats a free pass to vote for Corker-Menendez the president is giving them a way to say they voted to restrain the president before also granting them a path to back him by either voting for the deal or failing to vote to override the president’s veto. That gives plenty of room for inveterate schemers such as Democratic Senate leader-in-waiting Chuck Schumer to make sure the president gets his 34 votes while giving some Democrats, including perhaps himself, impunity to vote against him.

What has happened here is that despite furious effort and hard legislative work all critics of Obama’s pursuit of détente with Iran have accomplished is to allow him the opportunity to legally make a historic and disgraceful act of betrayal of Western security with the least possible support. They may have had no better options and I’ll concede an ineffectual vote on an Iran deal might be better than no deal at all, but please spare me the praise for Corker’s bipartisanship or the chortles about how the White House was beaten. What happened yesterday actually advanced the chances for Iran appeasement. And that’s nothing to celebrate.

How the Iran lobby sidetracked the nuclear talks

Photo by: STR Even if the U.S. and other world powers can settle on the delicate final terms of a nuclear deal with Tehran, there's still a big chance Iranian hard-liners will pressure Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to reject the accord. (Associated Press)

Photo by: STR
Even if the U.S. and other world powers can settle on the delicate final terms of a nuclear deal with Tehran, there’s still a big chance Iranian hard-liners will pressure Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to reject the accord. (Associated Press)

Washington Times, by Clare Lopez, April 15, 2015:

The Obama administration spin narrative about what a great success nuclear negotiations with Iran are was already coming unglued the day after the April Fool’s Day ‘framework’ was announced. Mr. Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and their advisors were trying desperately to portray the endless succession of contentious talks between the P5+1 and Iran as a great success even as the Iranians spoiled all the fun by essentially calling the Americans out as liars, and declaring that what they called “the U.S. version” was “not acceptable to Iran.”

And in fact, the European Union, the French, Iran, and the U.S. have all put out differing accounts of what was actually agreed upon in Lausanne, Switzerland in late March 2015. As Amir Taheri pointed out in a trenchant 4 April 2015 piece at the New York Post, all we really have is a “diplomatic dog’s dinner” of competing and contradictory statements. It’s not any kind of agreement at all.

But if we take a step backward and consider what we already know or ought to know about Iran’s nuclear weapons program, it should become rather quickly obvious that all this diplomatic wrangling about centrifuges, enrichment levels, inspection regimes, and sunset clauses is nothing but window dressing.

That’s because the real Iranian nuclear weapons program very likely is not the one they’re all tussling over. The real Iranian nuclear weapons program long ago was withdrawn behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy guarded by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS—Iran’s primary intelligence agency).

While it’s long been known that the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordered the IRGC to “get the bomb” in the waning days of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, details about the subsequent 25-year Iranian commitment to comply with that order are much less well-known.

As the so-called “father of the Pakistani bomb,” Abdul Qadir Khan, wrote in documents obtained by the Washington Post in 2010, Pakistan provided Iran with blueprints and parts for centrifuges and shared its secret list of worldwide suppliers. That’s how the Iranian nuclear weapons program got started. But neither the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) nor the public knew anything about this until the Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), blew the lid off Iran’s program in August 2002. The Iranian regime, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), went to panic stations and came up with a plan to limit the damage. The Iran Lobby in America would have a key role to play in that damage control operation.

Much as the Iranians’ mentors in the clandestine WMD business—the Soviet KGB—had done earlier when some of its illicit weapons programs made media headlines, the Iranians conceded a few of the sites that were now exposed: Natanz, Isfahan, Arak, and later Fordow.

Lavizan-Shian, where the regime had worked on nuclear warhead design, was deemed too sensitive, so it was simply razed to the ground in 2003 and its components moved elsewhere.

Natanz, the buried uranium enrichment site where some 9,000 centrifuges currently are operating, became the centerpiece of the regime’s new information operation. It was opened to IAEA inspections, figured prominently in the IAEA’s quarterly reports, and was allowed on the P5+1 nuclear negotiations agenda.

Likewise it was with Isfahan, the conversion plant; Arak, the heavy water reactor that gives Iran a parallel plutonium route to the bomb; and Fordow, a deeply buried centrifuge facility.

Everybody was kept very busy arguing, discussing, and negotiating about the sites Iran got caught with—and now, more recently, a non-existent ‘agreement’ that each of the parties describes in its own, mutually contradictory, terms. Indeed, all the negotiating teams from the IAEA, Britain, China, the European Union, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.S. are being kept so busy that nearly everyone has forgotten all about the fact that Iran’s entire nuclear program was an illicit clandestine one until the NCRI exposed it—or that virtually every site in that program that’s now public was revealed by someone other than Iran…which the P5+1 now inexplicably wants to trust to open all its nuclear facilities to IAEA inspection.

Parchin, a military site where the IAEA believes Iran has conducted nuclear trigger explosives tests, provides a good example of how the regime deals with demands to open places to inspection it would rather remain closed: as Bill Gertz explains at the Free Beacon, they just say “no.” And, as with Lavizan-Shian a dozen years earlier, they conduct a “clean-up” operation to tear down buildings and destroy parts of the complex they’d prefer not show up in any more satellite images.

Naturally, Parchin has not been included in any of the P5+1 talks, nor has the U.S. delegation even suggested that it ought to be. It has been the same with other suspicious sites like Khondab and Lavizan-3, now revealed publicly, but left completely off the agenda. This is not to even consider how many additional clandestine sites Iran has been operating, but are as yet not revealed.

The critical issues before us then are not so much about the number of centrifuges, or which generation of centrifuges, or what level of enrichment will be allowed to Iran going forward at the show case sites: rather, we must ask why and how our negotiators have themselves been spun up to dither endlessly, but only about sites already in the public domain. Iran’s secret parallel nuclear weapons program remains unmentioned and untouched.

In Part 2 of this series, the critical role of the Iran Lobby will be examined.

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

EXCLUSIVE: Michael Rubin: Obama Enabling Iran in Middle East, Economic Coercion Is the Answer

unnamed1-640x480Breitbart’s Adelle Nazarian had the opportunity to speak with renowned Middle East expert and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Dr. Michael Rubin recently. Dr. Rubin provided his analysis on U.S.-Iran relations under the Obama Administration and provided a look into the future through the periscope of the past.

He is the author of Dancing With the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes and a former Pentagon official. With a June 30 deadline for a final nuclear deal swiftly approaching, Rubin draws upon heightened concerns surrounding President Obama’s destructive handling of this most pivotal moment in international relations and national security with regard to U.S.-Iranian relations.

BREITBART NEWS: Do you think President Obama, John Kerry and the American team of negotiators were aware of how the Iranians operated?

RUBIN: No. I honestly think they were in a bubble and they were also blinded by their own personal ambition. Obama is arrogant. He thinks that all the problems with diplomacy were because of his predecessors rather than with his adversaries. Therefore, he has repeatedly gotten us into trouble with dictators and rogue regimes like Russia ad now Iran. They play the United States.

Obama is willfully naive and he doesn’t understand that evil exists in the world and that it wants to destroy the United States.

BREITBART: Considering he has former NIAC employee Sahar Nowrouzzadeh and Valerie Jarrett advising him, wouldn’t you think he would be better prepared to deal with the Iranians?

RUBIN: He surrounds himself with people who tell him what he wants to hear. But a low-level and a c-staffer is hardly someone that you could say advises the president accurately.

BREITBART: Many in the media and on the left have suggested that the conservatives see war and bombing Iran as the only option should the nuclear deal fail. What viable alternatives could you offer?

RUBIN: That’s just such nonsense and what we see is that, when it comes to diplomacy, the only people who you can trust are the conservatives. President Obama likes to credit sanctions — both United Nations sanctions and otherwise — despite the fact that he was consistently against sanctions whenever he had the chance. He’s too busy making John Bolton into a straw cartoon to recognize that John Bolton was the man who crafted the Untied Nations sanctions.

And whether it was John Bolton as under secretary of state or ambassador to the United Nations, it was Bolton who rallied the international community and gave us unanimous or near-unanimous U.N. security council resolutions that ultimately brought Iran to its knees.

BREITBART: So what do we do with Iran?

RUBIN: Economic coercion. When Hillary Clinton came into office as secretary or state she almost lectured Republicans and said, if you’re not going to talk to your enemies, who are you going to talk to? And she cited Ronald Reagan who sat down with Mikhail Gorbachev to end the Cold War. But she didn’t understand the importance of leverage to Reagan.

Reagan had prefaced his diplomacy with Gorbachev with a military buildup in order to negotiate from a position of strength. In order to bring Iran to the table and have them adhere to their international agreements, you have to maximize your leverage. Obama agreed to give Iran $11.9 billion in sanctions relief in unfrozen assets just to sit at the table and talk to the American team.

To put this in perspective, the annual, official budget of the Revolutionary Guard is about $5.6 billion. In order to get the Iranians to sit at the table, Obama gave Iran enough money to pay the salaries of a group responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans for two years.

BREITBART: It has been suggested that up to $150 billion in frozen Iranian assets could be released to the Iranian regime. Would this guarantee the regime’s longevity?

RUBIN: Yes. The Soviet Union ultimately fell due to an unstable economy. The analogy would be that, instead of bankrupting the Soviet Union, Ronald Reagan decided to flood them with cash. What Obama is doing with the potential release of those funds, is taking a hateful, racist regime and throwing it a lifeline.

The IRGC dominates the Iranian economy. The revolutionary foundation and what’s called Khatam al-Andia control perhaps 40% of Iran’s economy, including anything involved with import and export. So rather than allowing reformism to flourish inside of Iran, the net impact of the rush to do business inside Iran and to bring Iranian oil into the market will be to empower the Revolutionary Guard even further. It would allow them to consolidate control.

The IRGC is involved with the military aspects of the nuclear program, which of course aren’t included in this framework yet. And they are also in charge of export of revolution. And we see that this isn’t mere rhetoric when we look at what is happening in Gaza and Yemen. Simply put, if Obama and his national security team were to sit down and ask themselves what a strategy to enable Iran’s destabilizing influence in the Middle East would look like– I hate to say it, but it would not look any different from the strategy they are now pursuing.

BREITBART: What are the Iranian mullah’s plans in the region? Now that not only Tehran but Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and even Sanaa are under their control, what is their ultimate goal?

RUBIN: This is something else Obama simply doesn’t understand or he ignores. Iran is not a status quo state. It is an ideological revisionist state. Its goal is to export revolution. Ordinary Iranians may not subscribe to this, but in any dictatorship it’s the guys with the guns that matter. And in this case, the Iranians used to describe themselves as a regional power. Then about four years ago, they began describing themselves as a pan-regional power, meaning the Persian Gulf and the North Indian Ocean.

Well, this past November they started talking about themselves in terms of having strategic boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf of Aden. And again, we see that this wasn’t mere rhetoric when we look at the weapons shipments to Syria and to Hamas. And when we look at Iranian activities in Yemen.

BREITBART: Is it then safe to say that Iran’s goal is not very different from the goal of ISIS, which is to establish an Islamic Caliphate and regional hegemony, except that they have two different fundamental Islamic ideologies?

RUBIN: Correct.

BREITBART: What do you think will happen when Khamenei passes away?

RUBIN: We only have one example of this happening before and that was when Khomeini died. On paper, you have an 86-member particle body called the Assembly of Experts which decides who replaces him. In reality, from 1989 we know thats not the case. What happened in 1989 with Khomeini’s death was that all the power centers got together and basically came to a consensus. That consensus was Khamenei.

Now who that consensus figure will be, I don’t know. But it is possible to have a council. And that is the Iranian way of kicking the can down the road. But this is what concerns me; and this is also where Obama’s outreach is so short-sighted. Any strategy which empowers the Revolutionary Guard gives the Revolutionary Guard additional powers to impose its will as the next choice. After all, if they’re powerful, they’re not going to subordinate themselves to someone with whom they disagree.

The important thing about this is you have a cycle of radicalization in which the supreme leader picks the most radical, ideologically pure officers to staff the highest levels of the Revolutionary Guard. Those same officers then have predominant influence in choosing the next supreme leader. And so President Obama is not only pursuing a deal which is bad for the United States and Iranians in the short term. He is pursuing a deal which is going to perpetuate this radicalization for at least another generation or two.

Obama Administration Knew of Illegal North Korea Missile Technology Transfers to Iran During Talks

North Korean Sohae Launch Station November 2012 Source Space.com

North Korean Sohae Launch Station November 2012
Source Space.com

NER, by Jerry Gordon, April 15,2015:

Bill Gertz has a blockbuster expose in today’s Washington Free Beacon  of something we have been hammering away for years: the technology transfer of  missile  and nuclear technology  between  North Korea and the Iran, “North Korea Transfers Missile Goods to Iran During Nuclear Talks.”  The stunning disclosure was that US intelligence has known about the illegal transfer in violation of UN arms sanctions, as apparently did the Obama Administration.   You recall the statement that Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman made before a Senate hearing in early 2014. Sherman said, “that if Iran can’t get the bomb then its ballistic missiles would be irrelevant.”

In a March 2014 NER article “Has Iran Developed Nuclear Weapons in North Korea In March 2014, we wrote a New English Review article, we interviewed my colleague Ilana Freedman about her sources on Iran North Korean nuclear cooperation. She noted:

According to my sources, Iran began moving its bomb manufacturing operations from Iran to North Korea in December 2012. Two facilities near Nyongbyon in North Pyongan province, some 50 miles north of Pyongyang, have become a new center for Iran’s nuclear arms program.

Over the last year, Iran has been secretly supplying raw materials to the reactor at Nyongbyon for the production of plutonium. At a second facility, located about fifteen miles north and with a code name that translates to ‘Thunder God Mountain’, nuclear warheads are being assembled and integrated with MIRV platforms. MIRVs are offensive ballistic missile systems that can support multiple warheads, each of which can be aimed at an independent target, but are all launched by a single booster rocket. Approximately 250-300 Iranian scientists are now reported to be in North Korea, along with a small cadre of IRGC personnel to provide for their security.

According to the reports, the Iranian-North Korean collaboration has already produced the first batch of fourteen nuclear warheads. A dedicated fleet of Iranian cargo aircraft, a combination of 747′s and Antonov heavy-lifters, which has been ferrying personnel and materials back and forth between Iran and North Korea, is in place to bring the assembled warheads back to Iran.

Gertz’s WFB reported:

Since September more than two shipments of missile parts have been monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies as they transited from North Korea to Iran, said officials familiar with intelligence reports who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Details of the arms shipments were included in President Obama’s daily intelligence briefings and officials suggested information about the transfers was kept secret from the United Nations, which is in charge of monitoring sanctions violations.

While the  CIA declined to comment on these allegations claiming classified information, others  , Gertz queried  said that “such transfers  were covered by the Missile Technology Control Regime, a voluntary agreement among 34 nations that limits transfers of missiles and components of systems with ranges of greater than 186 miles.”

One official said the transfers between North Korea and Iran included large diameter engines, which could be used for a future Iranian long-range missile system.

The United Nations Security Council in June 2010 imposed sanctions on Iran for its illegal uranium enrichment program. The sanctions prohibit Iran from purchasing ballistic missile goods and are aimed at blocking Iran from acquiring “technology related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”

U.S. officials said the transfers carried out since September appears to be covered by the sanctions.

In a June 2014 Iconoclast post  we drew attention to Iranian/ North Korean joint development of large rocket boosters sufficient to loft nuclear MIRV warheads and the likelihood that Iran might have that capability within a few years. In June 2014, The Algemeiner reported an Iranian official announcing that it possessed a 5,000 kilometer (approximately 3,125 miles) range missile that could hit the strategic base of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean:

“In the event of a mistake on the part of the United States, their bases in Bahrain and (Diego) Garcia will not be safe from Iranian missiles,” said an Iranian Revolutionary Guard adviser to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Majatba Dhualnuri.

Gertz cites 2009 State Department Classified cables revealed by Wikileaks  confirming the Freedman analysis:

North Korea also supplied Iran with a medium-range missile called the BM-25 that is a variant of the North Korean Musudan missile.

“This technology would provide Iran with more advanced missile technology than currently used in its Shahab-series of ballistic missiles and could form the basis for future Iranian missile and [space launch vehicle] designs.”

“Pyongyang’s assistance to Iran’s [space launch vehicle] program suggests that North Korea and Iran may also be cooperating on the development of long-range ballistic missiles.”

A second cable from September 2009 states that Iran’s Safir rocket uses missile steering engines likely provided by North Korea that are based on Soviet-era SS-N-6 submarine launched ballistic missiles.

That technology transfer was significant because it has allowed Iran to develop a self-igniting missile propellant that the cable said “could significantly enhance Tehran’s ability to develop a new generation of more-advanced ballistic missiles.”

“All of these technologies, demonstrated in the Safir [space launch vehicle] are critical to the development of long-range ballistic missiles and highlight the possibility of Iran using the Safir as a platform to further its ballistic missile development.”

Gertz quotes  former US UN Ambassador John Bolton,  former CIA analyst Fred Fleitz and former Senate Foreign Relations Committee arms control expert Thomas Moor  raising concerns about  Administration suppression of  missile technology transfers between North Korea and Iran.

Ambassador Bolton said:

“And if the violation was suppressed within the U.S. government, it would be only too typical of decades of practice,” Bolton said. “Sadly, it would also foreshadow how hard it would be to get honest reports made public once Iran starts violating any deal.”

Fleitz said:

“While it may seem outrageous that the Obama administration would look the other way on missile shipments from North Korea to Iran during the Iran nuclear talks, it doesn’t surprise me at all,” Fleitz said.

“The Obama administration has excluded all non-nuclear Iranian belligerent and illegal activities from its nuclear diplomacy with Iran,” he said. “Iran’s ballistic missile program has been deliberately left out of the talks even though these missiles are being developed as nuclear weapon delivery systems.”

“Since the administration has overlooked this long list of belligerent and illegal Iranian behavior during the   Iran talks, it’s no surprise it ignored missile shipments to Iran from North Korea,” he added.

Moore said:

“If true, allowing proliferation with no response other than to lead from behind or reward it, let alone bury information about it, is to defeat the object and purpose of the global nonproliferation regime—the only regime Obama may end up changing in favor of those in Tehran, Havana and Pyongyang,” Moore said.

These stunning disclosures about missile component transfers between North Korea and Iran with the knowledge of the Administration and intelligence echelon confirms  the conclusion of our several NER and Iconoclast posts. To wit:

“Who will be able to stop that dangerous development taking place in North Korea’s hermit Kingdom? Who is best able to counter these threats in both Iran and North Korea?”   That appears to be foremost from the minds of Secretary Kerry, Undersecretary Sherman and the President intent on perfecting a new paradigm of relations in the Middle East by pivoting to Iran.  They appear not bothered by the facts and the national security implications of Iran with nuclear tipped ICBMs courtesy of North Korea.

Add this latest Gertz, WFB reports to the stack of  increasing evidence to quote Israeli PM Netanyahu that the nuclear deal with Iran “ is a very bad deal”.  Now we have to wait the delivery of a final agreement with Iran may or may not eventuate. Thus  raising the question of whether yesterday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee  unanimous approval of  the Iran Nuclear Review agreement legislation, if passed  by both chamber and signed into law by President Obama,  will ever be triggered.

Russian System Should Be Treated As Part of Iran’s Nuke Program

S-300 anti-aircraft missile system at the Victory Parade, Red Square, 9 May 2009. (Wiki Commons / www.kremlin.ru)

S-300 anti-aircraft missile system at the Victory Parade, Red Square, 9 May 2009. (Wiki Commons / http://www.kremlin.ru)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, April 15, 2015:

The U.S., Germany and Israel condemned Russia’s announcement that it will change course and sell the advanced S-300 air and missile defense system to Iran. Anonymous officials are relaying feelings of near panic to various press outlets, saying the delivery of the system would essentially eliminate the military option to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Russia repeatedly threatened to sell the system to Iran and Syria since 2007 but relented under Western pressure. The Iranian regime even sued Russia for $4 billion for going back on its agreement to deliver the system. Russia’s formal announcement and request that Iran drop the lawsuit indicates Moscow is genuine in its stated intention to deliver the system.

The Russians will reportedly be paid $800 million by Iran for the system. Its advanced abilities include targeting 24 missiles or 30 aircraft simultaneously; a reach of 19 miles into the air and a distance of 155 miles. It can intercept aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. Russia has already trained Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps personnel in how to use it.

Earlier, Israel strongly suggested delivery of the S-300 system to Syria was a red line and it would be attacked before it became operational. It is widely assumed the same standard would apply to Iran because a potential strike on its nuclear program is already a very complicated and hazardous scenario.

The Daily Beast’s headline declares the system “could make U.S. attacks on Iran nearly impossible.” If the system terrifies U.S. officials, then the fear of Israeli officials must be exponentially greater because of their government’s more limited military capabilities.

“[The S-300 is] a complete game changer for all fourth-gen[eration] aircraft. That thing is a beast and you don’t want to get near it,” a senior Marine Corps aviator told the publication.

A senior Air Force commander said it “essentially makes Iran attack-proof by Israel and almost any country” without fifth-generation aircraft like the F-35. The U.S. has sold the F-35 to Israel but those aircraft may not be able to destroy important targets buried deep underground like the Fordow site.

Read more

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Kyle Shideler on Fox News: Could Russia arms deal with Iran impact nuclear talks?

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Also see:

Shameful Corker “Compromise” Is a Triumph For The Obama Administration’s Iran Negotiations Strategy

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Corker talks to reporters before meeting with Secretary of State Kerry on Iran nuclear negotiations in WashingtonBy Andrew Bostom, April 15, 2015:

Yesterday, April 14, 2015 a much ballyhooed “compromise” regarding S.615, “Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015.” was unanimously agreed upon within the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Independent Politico.com, and Washington Post assessments of critical aspects of the lauded compromise brokered by Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, and Democrat Ben Cardin helped eliminate my own cautious optimism about what in fact transpired.

Politico noted:

Though it gives Congress an avenue to reject the lifting of legislative sanctions that will be a key part of any deal with Iran, it explicitly states that Congress does not have to approve the diplomatic deal struck by Iran, the United States and other world powers… nor does it treat an Iran agreement like a treaty

This claim is substantiated on p. 32 of the updated bill, under a section entitled, “EFFECT OF CONGRESSIONAL ACTION WITH RESPECT TO NUCLEAR AGREEMENTS WITH IRAN,”which states in lines 16-19,

16‘‘(C) this section does not require a vote by

17 Congress for the agreement to commence;

18 ‘‘(D) this section provides for congressional

19 review,

Moreover, as Karen DeYoung and Mike DeBonis added in their Washington Postreport:

Obama retains the right to veto any action to scuttle an Iran pact. To override, a veto would require a two-thirds majority of both House and Senate.

Accordingly, the Corker-Cardin compromise validates the Obama Administration’s negotiations strategy. That “strategy” is contrary to almost all past arms control agreements of consequence, which have been Senate Advice and Consent Treaties, whose approval requires a 2/3 vote in the Senate. The Obama Administration, in contrast, is hell-bent on giving legitimacy to Iran’s uranium enrichment program, and waiving economic sanctions on Iran, while not submitting the fruits of its masterful negotiations to a Congressional vote for initial approval, prior to implementing the agreement. These developments should be a tocsin of looming calamity given that the framework fiasco for this pending deal includes an inadequate/“hotly contested” inspections process, while also fully ignoring Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear weaponization programs.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) commented wistfully that although the bill “created” the role of post-hoc “congressional review,” it remained “a long way from advice and consent” for an agreement which “rises to the level of a treaty.” But Iran—a self-proclaimed jihadist state with global hegemonic aspirations—remains in an open-ended, “fierce” jihad war with the U.S. “at all levels,” as one “moderate” Iranian adviser to former moderate Iranian President Khatami recently explained. Notwithstanding Sen. Johnson’s rueful acknowledgment, Senate Republicans have shirked their Constitutional, and moral responsibility, rather than confront the implications of Iran’s religiously-inspired bellicosity. With the exception of a gimlet-eyed young Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)—who speaks candidly about tactical destruction of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, which is the only rational way to thwart Iran’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons capability—Senate Republicans have cravenly acquiesced to cynical, perverse Obama Administration bullying so as not to be labeled “warmongers.”

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A Formula for Rubber-stamping Obama’s Iran Deal by Frank Gaffney

On the surface, yesterday’s insistence by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Congress get a vote on a nuclear deal with Iran appears to be a victory for what is left of our constitutional republic.

Two clues suggest otherwise: First, the panel’s legislation was adopted unanimously. And second, the White House says Mr. Obama is willing to sign such a bill.

The President and his partisans on Capitol Hill are on board for a simple reason: Instead of this deal facing the high hurdle the Constitution requires for treaties – in which the executive branch must persuade two-thirds of the Senate to approve it, the mechanism set up by the proposed legislation will require opponents to come up with that super-majorityin both houses of Congress.

This arrangement serves Iran’s interests, not America’s.

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Obama’s One-Man Nuclear Deal – WSJ

President Obama says he wants Congress to play a role in approving a nuclear deal with Iran, but his every action suggests the opposite. After months of resistance, the White House said Tuesday the President would finally sign a bill requiring a Senate vote on any deal—and why not since it still gives him nearly a free hand.

Modern Presidents have typically sought a Congressional majority vote, and usually a two-thirds majority, to ratify a major nuclear agreement. Mr. Obama has maneuvered to make Congress irrelevant, though bipartisan majorities passed the economic sanctions that even he now concedes drove Iran to the negotiating table.

The Republican Congress has been trying to reclaim a modest role in foreign affairs over Mr. Obama’s furious resistance. And on Tuesday afternoon the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed a measure that authorizes Congress to vote on an Iran deal within 30 days of Mr. Obama submitting it for review.

As late as Tuesday morning, Secretary of State John Kerry was still railing in private against the bill. But the White House finally conceded when passage with a veto-proof majority seemed inevitable. The bill will now pass easily on the floor, and if Mr. Obama’s follows his form, he will soon talk about the bill as if it was his idea.

Mr. Obama can still do whatever he wants on Iran as long as he maintains Democratic support. A majority could offer a resolution of disapproval, but that could be filibustered by Democrats and vetoed by the President. As few as 41 Senate Democrats could thus vote to prevent it from ever getting to President Obama’s desk—and 34 could sustain a veto. Mr. Obama could then declare that Congress had its say and “approved” the Iran deal even if a majority in the House and Senate voted to oppose it.

Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker deserves credit for trying, but in the end he had to agree to Democratic changes watering down the measure if he wanted 67 votes to override an Obama veto. Twice the Tennessee Republican delayed a vote in deference to Democrats, though his bill merely requires a vote after the negotiations are over.

His latest concessions shorten the review period to 30 days, which Mr. Obama wanted, perhaps to mollify the mullahs in Tehran who want sanctions lifted immediately. After 52 days Mr. Obama could unilaterally ease sanctions without Congressional approval. Mr. Obama has said that under the “framework” accord sanctions relief is intended to be gradual. But don’t be surprised if his final concession to Ayatollah Khamenei is to lift sanctions after 52 days.

Mr. Corker also removed a requirement that the Administration certify to Congress that Iran is no longer supporting terrorism. This sends an especially bad signal to Iran that Congress agrees with Mr. Obama that the nuclear deal is divorced from its behavior as a rogue state. One of Mr. Obama’s least plausible justifications for the nuclear deal is that it would help to make Iran a “normal” nation. But if Tehran is still sponsoring terrorism around the world, how can it be trusted as a nuclear partner?

***

Our own view of all this is closer to that of Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who spoke for (but didn’t offer) an amendment in committee Tuesday to require that Mr. Obama submit the Iran nuclear deal as a treaty. Under the Constitution, ratification would require an affirmative vote by two-thirds of the Senate.

Committing the U.S. to a deal of this magnitude—concerning proliferation of the world’s most destructive weapons—should require treaty ratification. Previous Presidents fromJFK to Nixon to Reagan and George H.W. Bush submitted nuclear pacts as treaties. Even Mr. Obama submitted the U.S.-Russian New Start accord as a treaty.

The Founders required two-thirds approval on treaties because they wanted major national commitments overseas to have a national political consensus. Mr. Obama should want the same kind of consensus on Iran.

But instead he is giving more authority over American commitments to the United Nations than to the U.S. Congress. By making the accord an executive agreement as opposed to a treaty, and perhaps relying on a filibuster or veto to overcome Congressional opposition, he’s turning the deal into a one-man presidential compact with Iran. This will make it vulnerable to being rejected by the next President, as some of the GOP candidates are already promising.

The case for the Corker bill is that at least it guarantees some debate and a vote in Congress on an Iran deal. Mr. Obama can probably do what he wants anyway, but the Iranians are on notice that the United States isn’t run by a single Supreme Leader.

***

Ignatius: WH Left Kerry Like a ‘Beached Whale’ When They Realized They’d ‘Get Clobbered’ on Iran Washington Free Beacon

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Also see:

Tom Friedman’s Iran Ignorance

maxresdefault (1)Commentary Magazine, by Michael Rubin, April 14, 2015:

Jonathan Tobin highlights well some problems with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s defense of President Barack Obama’s empathy with Iran. Perhaps a greater irony, however, is how wrong Friedman gets Iranian history. Friedman describes how:

We, the United States, back in the ’50s, we toppled Iran’s democratically-elected government. You know, there might be some reason these people actually want to get a weapon that will deter that from happening again.

Three problems with this conventional wisdom:

  • Firstly, Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq was not much of a democrat. Or, if he was a democrat, then he was a democrat in the mold of Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide: he was democratic so long as you agreed with him; Iranians who voiced opposition might easily find themselves lynched.
  • Second, while Kermit Roosevelt wrote the main English-language account of the 1953 coup in Countercoup, he exaggerated his own and the United States role in what was a much broader operation. The idea for the coup was British because Mosaddeq had nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (a predecessor of British Petroleum) and then refused to negotiate. The United States was more concerned by Mosaddeq’s pro-Soviet proclivities. So too were the Iranians themselves, especially the military and the clergy. That’s right, the folks who run the Islamic Republic today were co-conspirators with the United States and deeply opposed to Mosaddeq’s anti-clerical attitudes. So when Friedman self-flagellates, he essentially is apologizing to the Iranians who supported the coup.
  • Third, Friedman gets the shah wrong. Mohammad Reza Shah was a deeply problematic figure, and he grew far more dictatorial after the 1953 coup, but at the time of the coup, he was a popular head of state whom Mosaddeq was seeking to force out in order to assume dictatorial power himself. Then again, he was a dictator in the mold of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Turkey: he sought dictatorial powers to modernize Iran, making Iranians equal under the law regardless of religion and enfranchising women. Still, the shah’s regime was brutal at time, and there were no angels in this story. But the idea that the 1953 coup motivates the Iranian nuclear program is bizarre. While the shah had a nuclear program himself, the resurrection of the Iranian nuclear program after the Islamic Revolution can be traced more to Iraqi chemical weapons attacks on Iran.

There’s also a broader problem underlying both Obama’s and Friedman’s assumptions about Iranian motivations, and that is the assumption that grievance motivates the Iranian nuclear drive. That’s lazy thinking and belies a fundamental misunderstanding of the Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Republic. At its heart, the Islamic Republic is an ideological state. The reason why Obama’s interpretation that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s statements can be discounted because he’s playing to a political constituency are so bizarre is that such an explanation suggests ignorance of the fact that the supreme leader derives legitimacy from God rather than from the Iranian public. The Islamic Republic simply isn’t a normal, status quo state; it’s a revisionist, ideological power. Iran’s nuclear behavior is rooted not in grievances real or imagined, but rather in a desire to export its revolution. [emphasis added]

Also see:

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Passes Congressional Review Of Iran Deal

us-senate-500x261Truth Revolt, by Peter Malcolm, April 14, 2015:

Now that the Senate has watered down its bill which would require any nuclear agreement between the U.S. and Iran to be reviewed by Congress, the bill passed unanimously in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, 19-0, and Barack Obama agreed to sign the legislation as it is presently constituted. The bill will now be brought before the full Senate for approval.

Although the impression given is that Congress won its face-off with Obama by insisting it review any deal, the concessions that were made in order to elicit support from Democrats were so basic to any concept of trusting Iran that it is difficult to see how Obama will not ultimately give Iran room to stay as extreme as it has been. Congress will now have only 30 days after any deal is reached to prevent any plan by Obama to lift sanctions on Iran, as opposed to the original intention, which was a 60-day period, although if the deal is consummated after July 9, the 60-day review will be reinstated. More importantly, two provisions were elided: to force the Obama administration to prove that Iran was not supporting terrorism and to make Iran publicly renounce its rhetoric of destroying Israel.

Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said, ”We’re involved here. We have to be involved here. Only Congress can change or permanently modify the sanctions regime.”

Democrat Senators Charles Schumer, Tim Kaine and Barbara Boxer lauded the new bill; Kaine shrugged off those criticizing Congress for wanting a review, saying, “The American public, just as we do, really prefer we find a diplomatic answer. (Americans) are deeply skeptical just like we are about Iran’s intentions.” Schumer added, “The American-Israel relationship has always been bipartisan and I’m glad we’re continuing in that fine tradition. I’m certainly in favor of what they’ve put together.” Boxer, thrilled with the elision of the two provisions listed above, said, “There’s no longer language in the bill tying extraneous issues (to the bill). That would be a deal breaker.”

Although Obama seemed to bend, he still can veto the bill if Congress attempts to torpedo the deal he is making.

GOP Senator Bob Corker, an author of the bill, said, “The administration … has been fighting strongly against this. I know they’ve relented because of what they believe will be the outcome here. I believe this is going to be an important role, especially the compliance pieces that come afterward.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., had offered an amendment forcing Iran to accept Israel’s right to exist, but admitted it “could imperil the entire arrangement.” He added there is new language that “is better than not having it at all” but that his original amendment “is something we’re going to have to talk about on the floor.”

Also see:

Friedman: Obama sympathetic to Iran due to childhood overseas

obama-netanyahu-e1426719572680WND, by Bob Unruh, April 14, 2015:

Barack Obama – who often has boasted of his world travels and life in Indonesia as a child – understands what America looks like from the outside, and that’s why he’s engaged in nuclear negotiations with Iran.

That’s according to Thomas L. Friedman, the internationally known author, reporter and columnist.

Freidman has won three Pulitzer Prizes and has written multiple bestselling books, including “The World is Flat.” He started with the New York Times in 1981 and the next year moved to Beirut then to Jerusalem in 1984, covering the Middle East.

Moving back to Washington in 1989, he covered Secretary of State James A. Baker III and later domestic policy, and eventually foreign affairs.

Friedman was being interviewed by former Florida Congressman Joe Scarborough on his MSNBC “Morning Show” on the topic of Obama and Iran.

“Obama’s someone who’s lived abroad maybe more than any president in a long time, and because of that he actually knows what American looks like from the outside in,” he told Scarborough.

“And he can actually see America even to some point from the Iranian perspective. It comes through when he says ‘let’s remember, we, the United States, back in the 1950s, we toppled Iran’s democratically elected government. There might be some reason that these people actually want to get a weapon that will deter that from happening again.’”

Scarborough had an immediate question.

“But Tom, is it possible, is it an admirable quality for us to have a president who can look at the world through the eyes of a regime that you and I both know has been the epicenter of terrorism since 1979?”

Friedman responded: “It really depends on what you’re talking about Joe. You know, I think it really depends on what you think of this deal, because Iran is a very complex entity, and I think that’s something else that Obama believes that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu doesn’t.”

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Friedman said Obama’s view “is that, if you talk to Netanyahu about Israel politics, he’ll say, ‘We have politics in Israel We have politics. My hands are tied. I’d love to do something with you on the Palestinians, but my hands are tied. We have politics. If I don’t have a kosher kitchen in the basement of the Ministry of Interior by 5 o’clock today they’re going to take down my government.’”

“But when it comes to Iran,” Friedman said, “Netanyahu’s view is that there is no politics in Iran. Eighty-five million Iranians want to get a bomb to drop on Jews the next day. And I think one of the differences between them, is that Obama believes there’s some really bad actors in Iran and he believes there’s a lot of people that oppose them internally, and he’s trying to construct a deal that will play with that chemistry in a way that will tip in favor of more engagement in the world.”

He described Obama as being able to “actually walk in another man’s shoes.”

Friedman interviewed Obama recently, prompting the JNS.org news service to accuse “the ever-sycophantic Friedman” of “shamelessly” shilling for Obama.

Abraham Miller wrote: “This is the president who helped the Muslim Brotherhood come to power in Egypt. This is the president who sought to put the Muslim Brotherhood back into power after the Egyptian military had the good sense to overthrow the fanatics bent on creating a Shariah-compliant tyranny. This is the president who overthrew Moammar Gadhafi and flung Libya into chaos, paving the way for the Islamic State to become a political force there. This is the president whose ‘red lines’ in Syria were repeatedly crossed without consequence, and whose politics were were most aptly described as the zig followed by the zag.”

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Russian Missile Sales to Iran Cross White House ‘Red Line’

AP

AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, April 14, 2015:

Russia’s announcement on Monday that it will proceed with the sale of advanced missile systems to Iran crosses a so-called “red line” established by the Obama administration in 2010, according to comments by senior administration officials.

Following years of dissent from the United States, Russia announced on Monday that it would proceed with the sale of the advanced S-300 air defense missile system to Iran, which has been vying to purchase the hardware for years.

The announcement sparked criticism from the Obama administration, which has been pressuring Iran since at least 2010 to withhold the sale.

Russia’s previous ban on selling Tehran the powerful defense system was hailed as a coup by the Obama administration and promoted by it as an example of President Obama’s ability to rein in Russian intransigence on the military front.

However, Monday’s announcement by Russia threatens to complicate an already fractured relationship with Moscow and throw into further jeopardy the ongoing negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program. 

Experts have warned that the reversal threatens to split the international coalition currently working to halt Iran’s nuclear program—a narrative that the White House is working to downplay

The Russian executive order effectively “lifts the ban on transit of the S-300 air defense missile systems via Russian Federation territory (including by air), export from the Russian Federation to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and transfer of the S-300 to the Islamic Republic of Iran outside the Russian Federation’s territory, using ships or aircraft flying the Russian Federation flag,” according to an announcement by Moscow.

Russia’s decision to arm Tehran with the S-300 system erodes a long-promoted narrative by the Obama administration about its success in preventing Russian proliferation.

One senior Obama administration official speaking in 2010 described the S-300 sale as a “red line” for the United States that “couldn’t be crossed,” according to Foreign Policy.

“They’ve made that very clear to us for the last two years that this is not a symmetrical transaction for them and they don’t share the same threat assessment as us vis-a-vis Iran,” the official was quoted as telling Foreign Policy in a 2010 article focused on “how the Obama team convinced Russia not to sell arms to Iran.”

The White House claimed that Moscow’s decision to ban arms sales to Tehran would usher in a new era of cooperation between the United States and Russia.

“The decision was a bold one that acknowledges how important it is to us and how important [Former Russian President] Medvedev takes this reset with President Obama,” the administration official said.

Obama administration officials also told Foreign Policy that it had “made clear to Medvedev and other Russian officials that the sale of the S-300 to Iran was a red line that couldn’t be crossed.”

Monday’s announcement by Russia flies in the face of this purported diplomatic success and left the Obama administration scrambling to respond. Officials in both the White House and State Department declined to discuss with the Washington Free Beacon its previous declaration about Russia’s deal with Iran violating a so-called red line.

“We’ve seen those reports, as they relate to the possible sale of the S-300 anti-ballistic missile system to Iran,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Monday.

The United States, he added, “has previously made known our objections to that sale” and did so again on Monday in private phone calls with the Kremlin.

The sale of the S-300 system to Iran could violate international economic sanctions still in place, Earnest said.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that while the sale of the S-300 to Iran would not violate United Nations Security Council sanctions on Tehran, it remains a concern to the United States.

“We don’t believe it’s constructive at this time for Russia to move forward with it,” Harf told reporters.

“We think given Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region, in places like Yemen or Syria or Lebanon, that this isn’t the time to be selling these kinds of system to them,” Harf explained. “So in general, that’s what our concerns are based on.”

Elliott Abrams, a former White House National Security Council (NSC) member, wrote that the breakdown in the Obama administration’s campaign to block the sale is yet another sign of Washington’s waning influence.

“American ‘red lines’ aren’t what they used to be, Medvedev is gone, and the ‘reset’ with Russia is an embarrassment,” Abrams wrote at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). “So is the way the Obama administration claimed credit for changing Russia’s policy toward Iran.”

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Listen to Frank Gaffney interview Dr. MATTHEW KROENIG, author of “A Time to Attack: The Looming Iranian Nuclear Threat”

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Corker says he has deal on Iran

corkerbob_090313gn_0The Hill, By David McCabe, April 14, 2015:

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday said he has a bipartisan deal on his bill allowing Congress to review a nuclear deal with Iran.

Corker said the agreement would ensure an easy vote on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“We have reached an agreement that absolutely keeps the integrity of the process in place,” he said on Bloomberg TV.

Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been negotiating with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), his panel’s ranking member. The committee will consider the bill on Tuesday afternoon.

The White House has threatened to veto the Corker bill, which could lead to a vote by Congress disapproving of the nuclear deal with Iran.

Corker on Monday suggested the agreement he’s reached could lead to a strong bipartisan vote.

“I believe we’ve struck an exact right balance in the agreement that will be voted on today and I’m hopeful that we’re going to be very, very successful,” Corker said while appearing on CNN’s “New Day.”

Supporters of the Corker bill have been nearing a majority in the Senate that would be high enough to override a veto. It takes two-thirds majority votes in both chambers to override a veto.

Democrats had been pushing to change language in Corker’s bill that set up a 60-day review period for Congress. During the period, President Obama would not be able to waive sanctions on Iran in exchange for concessions by Tehran on its nuclear program.

Corker’s communication’s director said on Twitter that they had reached “an agreement on bill that keeps integrity of congressional review intact.”

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) later on Tuesday said he planned to file two amendments during committee consideration of the bill.

The first would cut the review period from 60 days to 30 days, while the second would remove a provision requiring that the administration certify as part of a nuclear deal that Iran is no longer supporting terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah.

Democrats argue that language would expand the scope of the proposal beyond Iran’s nuclear program.

“I believe that these amendments move [the legislation] in a direction that make it one that I can support,” he told reporters.

Coons said he was confident that Corker has reached a deal on a manager’s amendment with Cardin, but indicated he still hoped to win more changes to the bill.

Corker said Tuesday morning while he is “confident” that Corker has reached a manager’s agreement on the legislation, he suggested that the committee meeting will underscore if a deal can get approval from members.

“By the end of today I am optimistic that we will demonstrate the possibility of a more balanced and bipartisan outcome,” Coons said.

Republicans are also expected to offer amendments to the Iran bill, and if they are accepted it could cost the bill support from Democrats.

Corker defended his measure on Tuesday morning from criticism that it constitutes Congress meddling with the executive branch.

“I think there may be a misunderstanding about what’s happening. What Congress is saying is when they finish negotiation — we’re not going to be involved while they’re negotiating — but when they finish we want this presented to Congress,” he said.

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