Obama Cites Ayatollah’s Fatwa on Road to Nuclear War

354x199xobama-iran2Frontpage, by Raymond Ibrahim, March 26, 2015:

As Iran continues edging closer to developing nuclear weapons—a major threat to the entire Mideast region, especially longstanding U.S. ally Israel—U.S. President Obama has come to the aid of the Islamic Republic, by citing an Islamic fatwa no less. In a video recording posted on the White House’s website, Obama said, “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has said that Iran would never develop a nuclear weapon.”

This is the same Rouhani who, after recently showcasing Iran’s newly developed missiles, described his nation’s diplomatic talks with the U.S. as an active “jihad”: “Our negotiations with the world powers are a source of national pride. Yesterday [during the Iran-Iraq War], your brave generals stood against the enemy on the battlefield and defended their country. Today, your diplomatic generals are defending [our nation] in the field of diplomacy–this, too, is jihad.”

Other administration officials—such as Secretary of State John Kerry and Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes—have previously referred to the ayatollah’s reported fatwa in the context of the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran.

The Obama administration’s citation of this fatwa is utterly wrongheaded on many levels.

First, the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya permits Muslims to deceive non-Muslims. Islamic prophet Muhammad himself regularly lied to his infidel enemies, often resulting in their murder (such as the case of Ka‘b ibn Ashraf). He also proclaimed that lying was permissible in three contexts, one being war. Moreover, throughout the centuries and due to historic circumstances (discussed here), taqiyya became second nature to the Shia—the sect currently ruling Iran.

Then there is the fact that Islamic law takes circumstance into account. When Muhammad was weak and outnumbered in Mecca, he preached peace and tolerance (hence why Meccan Suras appear peaceful); when he became strong in Medina, he preached war and went on the offensive (hence why Medinan Suras are violent and intolerant). This dichotomy—preach peace when weak, wage war when strong—has been Islamic modus operandi for centuries.

Speaking of fatwas, Dr. Yusuf Burhami, a prominent Islamic cleric in Egypt, recently said that destroying churches in Egypt is permissible if not advisable—but not if doing so prompts Western infidels to intervene and occupy Egypt, which they could do “because the condition of Muslims in the current era is well known to the nations of the world—they are weak.” Burhami further added that circumstance is everything, “just as the prophet allowed the Jews to remain in Khaibar after he opened [conquered] it, once Muslims grew in strength and number, [second caliph] Omar al-Khattab drove them out according to the prophet’s command, ‘Drive out the Jews and Christians from the Peninsula.’”

And who can forget Yasser Arafat’s reference to Muhammad’s Hudaybiya pact? In 1994, soon after negotiating a peace treaty criticized as conceding too much to Israel, Arafat addressed an assembly of Muslims and said: “I see this agreement as being no more than the agreement signed between our Prophet Muhammad and the [infidel] Quraysh in Mecca.” In other words, like Muhammad, Arafat gave his word only to annul it once his ranks became strong enough to go on the offensive.

In short, it’s all very standard for Islamic leaders to say they are pursuing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes while they are weaker than their infidel foes—as Iran is today—but once they acquire nukes the jihad can resume in earnest.

Then there is the fact that Shia theology is rife with apocalyptic aspirations. An August 2007 report compiled by the Congressional Research Service said: “Ahmadinejad [previous president of Iran] believes his mission is to prepare for the return of the 12th ‘Hidden’ Imam, whose return from occultation [i.e., “hiding”] would, according to Twelver Shi’ite doctrine, be accompanied by the establishment of Islam as the global religion.”

Like other Iranians, Ahmadinejad cited the eschatological (and canonical) hadith wherein Muhammad said: “The Hour [Judgment Day] will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and until the Jews hide behind the trees and rocks and the trees and rocks will say, ‘O Muslim, O Servant of God! Here are the Jews! Come and kill them!”

Indeed, during a recent speech, supreme leader Khamenei—whose fatwa Obama is now citing—boasted about Iran’s uranium enrichment, even as his military commanders shouted, “Allah Akbar. Khamenei is the leader. Death to the enemies of the leadership. Death to America. Death to England. Death to hypocrites. Death to Israel.”

Yet despite all this—despite the fact that Islamic doctrine mandates lying to infidels; despite the fact that the Shia—Iran’s leadership—have perfected taqiyya into an art; despite the fact that Islamic law holds that Muslims should preach peace when weak, war when strong; despite the fact that Iranian leadership openly boasts that its nuclear negotiations are a “jihad” against the infidel; despite the fact that Iran has previously been exposed developing uranium enrichments suitable for nuclear warheads—here is Obama and his administration relying on the “word” of the ayatollah of Iran.

Obama’s Kabuki Dance with Iran Fueling Mullahs’ Hegemony in Middle East

ap_ap-photo681-640x426Breitbart, by JAMES LYONS, March  25,  2015:

The current Kabuki dance ongoing in Geneva between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Jamad Zarif regarding an agreement on Iran’s nuclear weapons program is a sham. Its outcome was pre-ordained many years ago by President Obama in his secret communications with the Iranian mullahs in 2008– at least according to one report.

These secret communications were exposed in a August 29, 2014 article written by Michael Ledeen in PJ Media and drew little attention then, but now must be addressed. According to Ledeen, shortly after Barack Obama clinched the Democratic nomination for president on June 3, 2008, he also opened a secret communication channel to the Iranian mullahs.  The message was that they should not sign any nuclear agreement with the Bush administration on preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon capability. He informed them that he would be much easier to deal with once he assumed the presidency. He further assured the mullahs that he was a “friend” of the Iranian theocracy and that they would be very happy with his policies.

Today, Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism that has been “at war” with the United States since the 1979 takeover of our Tehran U.S. Embassy. Since then, Iran has directed many “acts of war” against the United States that have cost the loss of thousands of American lives. Most importantly, Iran provided the key material and training support to the 9/11 hijackers, which cost the lives of 3,000 innocent Americans.

The secret channel was conducted through Ambassador William G. Miller, who previously served in Iran during the Shah’s reign. The Ambassador confirmed to Ledeen the aforementioned communications he personally held with the Iranian mullahs on behalf of candidate Obama during the 2008 campaign. The Iranian mullahs apparently believed the message since on July 20, 2oo8, the New York Times reported “Nuclear Talks with Iran End on a Deadlock.”  The main reason was that Iran would not address the “international demands that it stop enriching uranium.”  What a surprise!

The shocking fact is that candidate Obama secretly told the Iranian mullahs not to make a deal until he assumed the presidency, according to Ledeen’s report. They would then be able to make a much better agreement with him – and that’s exactly what’s happening. Some would consider what candidate Obama did was treason.

President Obama abandoned the requirement that Iran stop enriching uranium.  The result has been that Iran’s nuclear program has been greatly expanded with more secret underground facilities and expanded capability during the course of the long, drawn out negotiations. When the interim agreement, called the “Joint Plan of Action,” was announced in late 2013, the Iranian president openly bragged that the West had finally acknowledged Iran’s right to its uranium enrichment program.

Iran’s chief negotiator, Foreign Minister Zarif, furthermore bragged that Iran “did not agree to dismantle anything; not its centrifuges; not its ballistic missile program; not its nuclear programs.”  It also did not give up its role as the leading state sponsor of terrorism. By his cooperation with Iran in combatting the Islamic State, he is actually sanctioning de facto Iranian hegemony throughout the Persian Gulf region.

Andy McCarthy, in his book Faithless Execution, lays out a very detailed and logical case for President Obama’s impeachment. Even Liberal law professors are now talking about Obama’s many abuses of power, too many to list here.  A summary of President Obama’s extensive violations of law and dereliction of duty are covered on pages 11-26 of Faithless Execution. President Obama’s use and abuse of power is clearly out of control. We are in a Constitutional crisis.

The Constitution vests in the House of Representatives “the sole power of impeachment.”  With a Republican controlled House of Representatives, a simple House Majority can vote out articles of impeachment. However, successfully impeaching a president means removing him from office. Removal requires the president’s conviction on articles of impeachment by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. Even with a Republican controlled Senate, this will require much work.

Clearly the Speaker of the House of Representatives must start the process. If the current Speaker is unable to find the courage to start the impeachment proceedings, then he should resign. The House members should elect a new Speaker who is prepared to live up to his Oath of Office and protect the Constitution. The survival of America as we know it, as the shining city on the hill, must come first before any party politics.

James A. Lyons, U.S. Navy retired Admiral, was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.

Egypt seizes Bab el Mandeb ahead of Iran. Saudis bomb Iran-backed Yemeni Houthis. US launches air strikes over Tikrit

Yemen3_1DEBKAfile Special Report March 26, 2015:

In a surprise step, Egyptian marine naval and marine forces Thursday morning, March 26, seized control of the strategic Bab El-Mandeb Straits to foil Tehran’s plans to grab this important energy shipping gateway between the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal, DEBKAfile’s military sources report from the Gulf. Egypt disguised the raid as a counter-piracy operation. It rounded off the Saudi-led air strikes launched the same morning against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. These operations signaled the start of a major Sunni Arab revolt against Iran’s approaching takeover of Yemen, through its Houthi proxy, and advances in other strategic positions in the Middle East, with Washington’s support.
Thursday morning too, the US launched the US launched its first air strikes against Islamic State positions in the Iraqi city of Tikrit, rallying to the aid of the Iranian-commanded Iraqi operation, which had failed to dislodge the jihadis in two weeks of fighting.

The separate operations in Yemen and Iraq attested to the widening breach between the Sunni Arab camp and the Obama administration and the former’s resolve to thwart US strategy for buying a nuclear deal with Tehran by empowering Iran to attain the rank of leading Middle East power.
DEBKAfile reported earlier Thursday morning:

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) are now leading war action in four Mid East arenas: Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon,while building Shiite “popular” armies deferring to Tehran in three: Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

The formal announcements coming from Riyadh and Washington attempted to gloss over the open breach. The Saudis Wednesday indicated that their military buildup on the Yemeni was “purely defensive,” while Washington subsequently declared support for the Saudi-Gulf-Egyptian air strikes after they began.

According to our Washington sources, President Obama decided Wednesday to accede to the Iraqi premier Haider al-Abadi’s request for air support to de-stall the Tikrit operation against ISIS. Iran’s Al Qods Brigades chief, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who commanded the operation from the start has departed the scene.

Nothing has been said to indicate whether the Iranian forces, including Revolutionary Guards officers, remain in the area. It appears that the Obama administration prefers as little as possible to be mentioned about US-Iranian battlefield coordination in Iraq versus the Islamists, especially since it was not exactly a big success. At the same time, US air strikes launched to support ground forces are bound to be coordinated with their commanders, who in this case happen to be mostly Iranian. In the last two weeks of the Tikrit operation, liaison between the US and Iranian military in Iraq was routed through the office of the Iraqi Prime Minister in Baghdad.

Early Thursday, Riyadh reported that the Saudi Royal Air Force had taken out Houthi air defenses, destroyed numerous Houthi fighter planes and were imposing a wide no-fly zone over Yemen.

Egypt is providing political and military support for Saudi-GCC operation against Houthi fighters in Yemen, the Egyptian state news agency said Thursday. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying this support could involve Egyptian air, naval and ground forces, if necessary.

DEBKAfile’s military sources add: The Saudis declared Yemeni air space a no-fly zone to achieve to goals: (1) To deny the Yemeni forces advancing on the key port city of Aden access to air cover which would undoubtedly have been forthcoming from mutinous elements of the Yemeni air force. Without it, the rebel advance would be severely hobbled, and, (2) to prevent Iranian warplanes from landing at Yemeni air bases with deliveries of military equipment and ammunition  their Houthi proxies.
Gulf sources disclose that Saudi Arabia has placed 100 warplanes and 150,000 troops with heavy weapons at the disposal of the operation against Iran’s Yemeni proxy, the Zaydi Houthis, as well as pressing into service Pakistani, Moroccan and Jordanian military units. This force is a sign that Riyadh intends of following up its air action with a ground invasion across the border into Yemen to crush the revolt in its backyard.

Developing…

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US begins airstrikes against Islamic State in Tikrit, supports Shiite militias

The offensive on Tikrit includes thousands of Iranian-backed Shia militiamen AP

The offensive on Tikrit includes thousands of Iranian-backed Shia militiamen AP

LWJ, by BILL ROGGIO, March 25th, 2015:

The US-led military Coalition in Iraq is openly supporting Iranian-backed Shiite militias and Iraqi forces who are battling Islamic State fighters who are entrenched in Tikrit. Many of the Shiite militia commanders are listed by the US as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, and one militia is listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Many of the commanders and militias are responsible for killing US, Coailition, and Iraqi troops and civilians during the occupation of Iraq.

Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) announced today that “operations to support Iraqi Security Forces in Tikrit have commenced after a request from the Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al Abadi,” in a press released issued by the US-led command.

“The Coalition is now providing direct support to Iraqi Security Forces conducting operations to expel ISIL [Islamic State] from the city. CJTF-OIR is providing air strikes, airborne intelligence capabilities, and Advise and Assist support to Iraqi Security Force headquarters elements in order to enhance their ability to defeat ISIL,” the statement continued.

The US and CJTF-OIR have claimed that the airstrikes and other support is benefiting “Iraqi Security Forces,” when in reality more than two-thirds of the personnel opposing the Islamic State are comprised of Shiite militias, all of which are backed by Iran.

The US has reversed its decision to remain on the sidelines as the militias and Iraqi forces have bogged down in Tikrit after launching the offensive at the beginning of March. The US military had previously said it would not support operations in Tikrit due to the extensive presence of Shiite militias and the significant support from Iran. Additionally, the Shiite militias have been involved in stoking sectarian tension in other areas that they have retaken from the Islamic State.

The Shiite militias are operating under the aegis of the Popular Mobilization Committee, or Hashid Shaabi, which was created by former Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to combat the Islamic State after the Iraqi military collapsed during the summer of 2014. The head of the Popular Mobilization Committee is listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and he is closely tied to Iran. One of the militias, the Hezbollah Brigades, is listed a a Foreign Terrorists Organization. And several top militia commanders, in addition to being Iranian proxies, are also listed as global terrorists.

Qods Force “advisor” heads Popular Mobilization Committee

The Popular Mobilization Committee is led by Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, a former commander in the Badr Organization who was listed by the US government as Specially Designated Global Terrorist in July 2009. The US government described Muhandis, whose real name is Jamal Jaafar Mohammed, as “an advisor to Qassem Soleimani,” the commander of the Qods Force, the external operations wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Soleimani has been visiting the Shiite militias fighting on the Tikrit front, and is said to be directing the Tikrit operation. [See LWJ report, US sanctions Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades and Qods Force adviser, and Threat Matrix report, Iranian general at the forefront of the Tikrit offensive.]

In addition to leading the Popular Mobilization Committee, Muhandis is also said to direct the operations of Kata’ib Imam Ali (Imam Ali Brigade) as well as command the Hezbollah Brigades. Shebl al Zaidi, a former commander in the Mahdi Army who has been photographed with Soleimani in the past, is the secretary-general of the Imam Ali Brigade, which is operating from Camp Speicher, a sprawling military base northwest of the city.

Iranian-backed Shiite militas invested in Tikrit offensive

Shiite militias involved in the fighting in Tikrit include the Kata’ib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades), Kata’ib Imam Ali (Imam Ali Brigade), Asiab al Haq (League of the Righteous), Saraya Khorasani (Khorasan Brigades), and Kata’ib Sayyed al Shuhada (Battalion of Sayyed’s Martyrs). All of these militias receive support from Iran’s Qods Force.

The Hezbollah Brigades, which has been spotted in Al Alam, was designated by the US State Department as a terrorist organization in July 2009. In that designation, State described the militia as “a radical Shia Islamist group with an anti-Western establishment and jihadist ideology that has conducted attacks against Iraqi, US, and Coalition targets in Iraq.” State also reported that the militia receives funding, training, logistics, guidance, and material support from Qods Force.

Asaib al Haq, which has been fighting in Abu Ajil, is considered by the US government to be one of the most dangerous Iranian-supported Shiite militias. Several of its leaders, including Akram Abas al Kabi, the group’s military commander, are listed by the US government as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. The group’s leader, Qais Qazali, was directly involved in the killing of US soldiers and was in US custody from 2007 up until his release as part of a hostage exchange at the end of 2009. Qazili has since threatened US interests in Iraq. [See LWJ reports, US sanctions Iranian general for aiding Iraqi terror groups, US releases ‘dangerous’ Iranian proxy behind the murder of US troops and Iranian-backed Shia terror leader freed by US threatens to attack.]

Kata’ib Sayyed al Shuhada has also been spotted in the fighting outside of Tikrit. This group is led by Mustafa al Sheibani, a notorious terrorist who previously commanded what the US military called the Sheibani Network. Like Asaib al Haq and the Hezbollah Brigades, the Sheibani Network was responsible for conducting attacks against US and Coalition forces in Iraq from 2005 to 2011. His fighters were known to carry out attacks with the deadly, armor-piercing explosively-formed projectiles, or EFPs, as well as with mortars, Katyusha and other rockets, and small-arms assaults. Sheibani was sent back into Iraq by Qods Force in 2010 as US forces prepared to exit the country. [See LWJ report, Iran sends another dangerous Shia terror commander back to Iraq.]

Saraya Khorasani, which has been involved in the fighting in Al Alam, is also backed by Iran. The group was advised by Hamid Taqavi, an IRGC general who was killed by an Islamic State sniper late last year. Ali al Yasiri, the leader of Saraya Khorasani, said that Taqavi “was an expert at guerrilla war” and that “People looked at him as magical,” Reuters reported. The militia has also put up billboards praising Taqavi throughout Baghdad and published videos online to commemorate the Iranian general.

In addition to the Shiite militias, Iranian artillery forces as well as drones are directly supporting the Tikrit offensive, US officials have told The Wall Street Journal.

Also see:

Dead Argentine prosecutor was zeroing in on a terror threat to the entire Western Hemisphere

Alberto Nisman

Alberto Nisman

Business Insider, by LINETTE LOPEZ, March 20, 2015:

Iran and its proxies are well positioned in several Middle Eastern countries.

As days go by, the mystery surrounding the death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman – who was found shot in the head in his locked apartment two months ago – becomes murkier.

But we’re learning a lot more about the explosive findings of his decade-long investigation.

Testimony from journalists and government officials suggest that in addition to describing Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s hand in protecting the perpetrators of a 1994 Buenos Aires terrorist attack, Nisman was also working to blow the lid off the workings of Iran’s terrorist organization in Latin America.

Nisman’s decade of work on the subject pointed to Iran.

And according to the testimonies, it appears Nisman was working to blow the lid off the entire workings of Iran’s terrorist organization in Latin America.

‘Export Iran’s Islamic Revolution’

In a written statement on Wednesday, Brazilian investigative journalist Leonardo Coutinho walked members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs through the findings of his years of work looking into Iran’s penetration of Brazil.

In a statement titled “Brazil as an operational hub for Iran and Islamic Terrorism,” Coutinho discusses not only his findings while working for Brazil’s Veja magazine, but also Nisman’s tireless work.

“Official investigations carried out by Argentine, American, and Brazilian authorities have revealed how Brazil figures into the intricate network set up to ‘export Iran’s Islamic Revolution’ to the West, by both establishing legitimacy and regional support while simultaneously organizing and planning terrorist attacks,” Coutinho said (emphasis ours).

“Despite the fact that Brazil has never been the target of one of these terrorist attacks, the country plays the role of a safe haven for Islamic extremist groups, as explained below.”

He went on to note that Nisman’s 502-page dictum on the 1994 Buenos Aires terrorist attack “not only describes the operations of the network responsible for this terrorist attack, it also names those who carried it out. Consequently, the document lists twelve people in Brazil with ties to [Iran’s Lebanese proxy] Hezbollah, who reside or resided in Brazil. Seven of these operatives had either direct or indirect participation in the AMIA bombing.”

To put these astounding assertions into perspective, consider that Iranian military mastermind Qassem Suleimani recently said, “We are witnessing the export of the Islamic Revolution throughout the region. From Bahrain and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and North Africa.”

Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explains what Suleimani, head of the foreign arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, meant by this:

“When he talks about exporting the Islamic Revolution, Suleimani is referring to a very specific template.

“It’s the template that the Khomeinist revolutionaries first set up in Lebanon 36 years ago by cloning the various instruments that were burgeoning in Iran as the Islamic revolutionary regime consolidated its power.”

And now, according to reporting from Veja and Nisman, Iran and Hezbollah have been attempting the same in Latin America.

Nisman dug deep

Nisman had been working on Iran’s involvement in Latin America since 2005, when Nestor Kirchner, then Argentina’s president, asked him to investigate a 1994 terrorist attack on a Buenos Aires Jewish Center, AMIA. The attack killed 85 people.

Around the same time, according to reports, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013, had allegedly ensured that Iranian and Hezbollah agents were furnished with passports and flights that would allow them to move freely around South America and to Iran.

From there, it was a matter of fund-raising for Iran’s agents – co-opting drug cartels, and sometimes hiding in remote, lawless parts of Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, and other countries that lack the infrastructural, legal, and economic resources to root out Iran’s agents of terror.

“Iran and Hezbollah, two forces hostile to US interests, have made significant inroads in Peru, almost without detection, in part because of our weak institutions, prevalent criminal enterprise, and various stateless areas,” Peru’s former vice interior minister told Wednesday’s House hearing, noting that Peru was not hostile to the US. “These elements are particularly weak in the southern mountainous region of my country.”

AMIA bombing argentina

Remains of the AMIA after the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Wikipedia

Nisman’s findings alleged that Hezbollah and top government officials in Iran orchestrated the AMIA attack. Nisman’s investigation was lauded by international parties – current President (and Nestor’s widow) Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has said so herself.

But things changed after Nestor left office in 2007. Argentina’s prolonged ostracization from international markets made it a cash-strapped nation, and the popularity of the Kirchners domestically waned below ecstatic.

That meant Fernandez would have to fight to hold on to power, and that fight would take money. According to Coutinho’s work, that’s when things changed. He interviewed three defected officials of Chavez’s regime who said they witnessed a conversation between the Venezuelan president and his then-Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in January 2007.

Ahmadinejad and Chavez reportedly planned to coerce Argentina into sharing nuclear technology with Iran – which Argentina had done in the 1980s and again in the early 1990s after the AMIA bombing – and stopping the hunt for the perpetrators of the AMIA bombing in exchange for cash, some of it to finance Fernandez’s political aims. It’s unclear whether Fernandez knew where this money was coming from, according to Coutinho.

In any case, The New York Times recently reported that intercepted conversations between Argentine and Iranian officials “point to a long pattern of secret negotiations to reach a deal in which Argentina would receive oil in exchange for shielding Iranian officials” from being formally accused of orchestrating the terror attack.

If genuine, The Times noted, the conversation transcripts show “a concerted effort by representatives of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government to shift suspicions away from Iran in order to gain access to Iranian markets and to ease Argentina’s energy troubles.”

Hugo Chavez, Nestor Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner with her husband, Nestor, right, and, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez in Buenos Aires in 2007. Reuters

After that, analysts at the US-based think tank Strategy Center note that there was a significant shift in Argentina’s policy toward Iran:

Later in 2012, Ahmadinejad made a speech at the UN, and for the first time in years the Argentine delegation did not walk out. The Argentine administration eventually cast Nisman’s findings on AMIA, Iran, and Hezbollah aside.

AMIA suspects

Moshen Rabbani and another original suspect in the AMIA bombing, Ahmad Reza Ashgari, from a 2006 handout released by an Argentine court. Reuters

Through all of this, Nisman continued digging. He tried to track the network of Mohsen Rabbani, who he believed led Iran’s cell in Latin America and was an architect of the AMIA attack.

>Brazilian authorities tried and failed to arrest Rabbani, whose main contact in Brazil at the time of the attacks, according to Nisman, was a cleric named Taleb Hussein al-Khazraji.

And that connection shows how Iran’s “intricate network set up to ‘export Iran’s Islamic Revolution’ to the West” touched the United States.

Both al-Khazraji and Rabbani were in contact with Abdul Kadir, a former politician from the South American country of Guyana who is now serving a sentence of life in prison in the US for plotting to attack New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport in 2007.

The FBI said Kadir was caught trying to board a plane in Trinidad bound for Venezuela and eventually to Tehran.

Kadir was prosecuted, with some assistance from Nisman, by none other than US attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch.

U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch

US Attorney Loretta Lynch. Reuters

“The sentence imposed on Abdul Kadir sends a powerful and clear message,” Lynch said in a statement at the time. “We will bring to justice those who plot to attack the United States of America.”

All of this suggests Alberto Nisman was a marked man for years. But for years he managed to do extraordinary work uncovering Iran’s terrorist network in Latin America.

It’s no wonder that confusion about what happened, who did it, and why has taken over Argentina’s news cycle. Reports have little to say or do with Nisman’s part in fighting international terrorism in Latin America.

Michael B. Kelley contributed to this report.

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Obama: “Let’s Make a Deal”, Iran Leader: “Death to America”

obama-iran-450x286 (1)Frontpage, by Daniel Greenfield, March 22, 2015:

These negotiations seem really promising. There’s no possible way that a system where “Death to America” is a given will ever use nuclear weapons against us.

While Obama chants, “Let’s make a deal” (any deal, no matter how bad), the Iranian regime has another message.

Just two days after President Barack Obama urged the Iranian people to take advantage of an “historic opportunity” to resolve the nuclear issue, an Iranian crowd on Saturday chanted “Death to America” – and the country’s Supreme Leader agreed.

Khamenei, who has the last word on all matters of state, reiterated in his speech that Tehran would not be pressured into giving in to Western demands in the negotiations with major powers.

A man in the audience shouted “Death to America”, to which the Supreme Leader responded, “Of course yes, death to America, because America is the original source of this pressure.”

The media is spinning the moment as Khamenei’s support for negotiations, which indeed he does support, because Obama is on track to give him what he wants, sanctions relief and nukes. The only ones the negotiations are working for are Iran’s Mullahs.

***

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Produce the Fatwa

Weekly Standard, MAR 20, 2015, by THOMAS JOSCELYN:

In his annual statement marking the Persian new year, President Obama said he believes that Iran and the U.S. “should be able” to resolve the dispute over the mullahs’ nuclear program “peacefully, with diplomacy.”

With his very next words, Obama said the following: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has said that Iran would never develop a nuclear weapon.”

Of course, the existence of Khamenei’s alleged fatwa is hotly disputed. If the president is so confident it exists, then his administration should be able to produce a copy of the fatwa, revealing when it was written and what it says. The Washington Post’s fact checker went looking for the fatwa in November 2013, as administration officials were citing it at the time, and couldn’t find it.

The Iranians are well aware of the controversy over Khamenei’s supposed declaration. They have countered by pointing to Khamenei’s public statements, in which he has said that Iran considers “the use of such weapons as haram (religiously forbidden).” In 2013, USA Today’s Oren Dorell reported that Iran’s press office at the United Nations cited one of Khamenei’s speeches in 2006 as evidence that the fatwa was real. With respect to building nuclear weapons, Khamenei said, “any benefit would not be worth the cost.”

The Iranians were, therefore, trying to substitute Khamenei’s public rhetoric for a formal, binding religious edict. (The very nature of such edicts, and whether they are binding or not, is itself in dispute.) Importantly, the Iranians’ argument at the time was an implicit concession that no such edict, or fatwa, actually exists. If it did, then they could easily produce it. They still haven’t.

There is another basic logical problem with the Iranians’ argument. Khamenei says all sorts of things, many of which we know are false – blatantly so. For example, he has repeatedly claimed that the Obama administration supports the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

And Khamenei has clearly lied about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In February 2012, Khamenei reportedly said the following (emphasis added):

The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.”

No one seriously believes this. The U.S. intelligence community, which erroneously argued in 2007 that Iran had “halted its nuclear weapons program” in 2003, doesn’t think this is true. Even at that time, the intelligence community noted Iran had been pursuing a bomb. The Iranians couldn’t halt those efforts if they didn’t pursue them in the first place. There are conflicting assessments about how quickly Iran can assemble a bomb, but the intelligence doesn’t support Khamenei’s claim that Iran “has never pursued” such a weapon. The evidence collected by the IAEA also shows the opposite is true.

Amazingly, according to a column by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, Obama believed that these same remarks by Khamenei in February 2012 marked “a potential starting point” for serious negotiations. That is, Obama viewed a blatant lie about Iran’s nuclear past as a diplomatic opening.

Khamenei was indeed lying in 2012 when he said Iran had “never pursued…nuclear weapons.” It stands to reason, therefore, that none of his public statements on Iran’s nuclear program can be taken at face value, let alone portrayed as a binding religious ruling.

If Khamenei issued such a fatwa, then the Iranians and the Obama administration should be able to produce it. Many have searched for the fatwa. None have found it.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Animosity between David Petraeus and Iranian commander, Qassem Soleimani, still on display

petraus2Washington Post, by Dan Lamothe, March 20, 2015:

Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, closing in on a court date during which he is expected to plead guilty to mishandling classified information, was back in Iraq last week for the first time in three years, meeting with academics and leaders in the Kurdistan region.

Petraeus, in a post published today on The Washington Post’s World Views blog, weighed in on a variety of issues about the Islamic State militant group and security in the region.

It is Petraeus’s blunt reaction to an Iranian counterpart, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, that is particularly buzzworthy, however. Asked about widely distributed photographs of the Iranian military leader in Iraq recently, Petraeus said he has “several thoughts when I see the pictures of him, but most of those thoughts probably aren’t suitable for publication in a family newspaper like yours.”

“What I will say is that he is very capable and resourceful individual, a worthy adversary. He has played his hand well,” Petraeus said. “But this is a long game, so let’s see how events transpire.”

Petraeus added that Iranian influence across the Middle East is rarely helpful to the United States and its allies. The foremost threat to Iraq’s long term security, he said, isn’t the Islamic State, it’s Iranian-backed militias and the volatility they bring.

Petraeus also relayed an old story. In 2008 — the same year that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone was shelled by Iranian-backed militias — Soleimani sent a message to Petraeus, the retired general said. It read: “General Petraeus, you should be aware that I, Qassem Soleimani, control Iran’s policy for Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan.”

He replied, through a messenger, by telling Soleimani to “pound sand,” Petraeus told The Post’s Liz Sly. A former executive officer of Petraeus’s, retired Col. Peter R. Mansoor, relayed a similar story in his 2013 book, “Surge: My Journey with General David Petraeus and the Remaking of the Iraq War.”

“In so many words, they were told to pound sand,” Mansoor wrote.

Iran nuclear talks reportedly hit snag over lifting of sanctions as Obama makes appeal to Iran’s people

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (R) over Tehran's nuclear program in Lausanne, Switzerland, on March 20, 2015 (AFP Photo/Brian Snyder)

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (R) over Tehran’s nuclear program in Lausanne, Switzerland, on March 20, 2015 (AFP Photo/Brian Snyder)

Fox News, March 20, 2015:

A dispute over when international sanctions against Iran would be lifted following a potential nuclear agreement reportedly is the latest issue to bog down negotiations.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Iran’s negotiators say that sanctions must be lifted almost immediately after a deal is concluded. U.S. and European diplomats, for their part, hold that sanctions should only be lifted once Tehran accounts for its past nuclear activity and is confirmed to be using nuclear energy for peaceful means by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.

One European diplomat was quoted by the Journal as saying there was “no way” Western negotiators would budge from their position, which the diplomat said the Iranians considered a “deal-breaker. They don’t want it at all.”

Amid the dispute, officials from Iran and the U.S. reportedly said Friday that talks will resume next week.

According to the Journal, both sides believe that the U.S. and European Union can lift some of the sanctions each has unilaterally imposed on Iran’s energy and finance sectors. However, the issue of lifting sanctions imposed by the U.N. is more complex and according to negotiators, is likely to take years, not weeks or months, to accomplish.

For its part, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that Iran has failed to turn over key documents about its nuclear program, and has also denied access to scientists and nuclear sites.

Both sides are working to meet a March 31 deadline to construct the framework of a permanent agreement. The final deadline for all the details to be worked out is June 30. On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met face-to-face for the fourth straight day in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Associated Press reported late Thursday that elements of a draft deal had been agreed that would commit Iran to a 40 percent cut in the number of machines it could use to make an atomic bomb. In return, the Iranians would get quick relief from some crippling economic sanctions and a partial lift of a U.N. embargo on conventional arms.

Officials told the AP that the tentative deal imposes at least a decade of new limits on the number of centrifuges Iran can operate to enrich uranium, a process that can lead to nuclear weapons-grade material. The sides are zeroing in on a cap of 6,000 centrifuges, officials said, down from the 6,500 they spoke of in recent weeks.

That’s also fewer than the 10,000 such machines Tehran now runs, yet substantially more than the 500 to 1,500 that Washington originally wanted as a ceiling. Only a year ago, U.S. officials floated 4,000 as a possible compromise.

It’s unclear how complete the draft is. Iran’s deeply buried underground enrichment plant remains a problem, officials said, with Washington demanding the facility be repurposed and Tehran insisting it be able to run hundreds of centrifuges there. Iran says it wants to use the machines for scientific research; the Americans fear they could be quickly retooled for enrichment.

A planned heavy water reactor will be re-engineered to produce much less plutonium than originally envisioned, relieving concerns that it could be an alternative pathway to a bomb. U.S. officials believe they can extend the time Tehran would need to produce a nuclear weapon to at least a year. Right now, Iran would require only two to three months to amass enough material to make a bomb.

President Barack Obama appealed directly to Iranian citizens in a message commemorating Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

“Our negotiations have made progress, but gaps remain,” Obama said Thursday in a video message posted online.

“If Iran’s leaders can agree to a reasonable deal, it can lead to a better path — the path of greater opportunities for the Iranian people,” he said.

The pressure in Congress on the administration over Iran remained intense, with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee saying he would move ahead with legislation giving lawmakers a say over any nuclear deal. And 360 House Republicans and Democrats — more than enough to override any presidential veto — sent a letter to Obama saying if an agreement is reached, Congress will decide on easing sanctions it has imposed.

“Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief,” the lawmakers wrote.

Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told administration officials at a hearing Thursday that Congress cannot be marginalized and “any attempts to sidestep Congress will be resisted on both sides of the aisle.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Also see:

Obama’s Iran Agenda

obama iranWeekly Standard, by Stephan Hayes, March 20, 2015:

Iran is an opportunity, not a threat; it’s a potential partner, not an enemy.

For more than six years, this view of the Islamic Republic has guided the decisions made by Barack Obama. The president has repeatedly declared his eagerness to welcome Iran into the community of civilized nations. His words sometimes suggest that Iran has a choice to make, that their acceptance into this mythical community depends in some way on their behavior. But there’s little over those six years to indicate that he means it. Instead, Obama has made clear that in his eagerness to salvage anything from his tattered foreign policy legacy he is willing to gamble the security of the United States on a blind and irrational hope that Iran will someday change for the better.

To this end, he has abandoned more than three decades of bipartisan U.S. policy towards Iran—on its nuclear weapons program, on its regional ambitions, and on its support for terrorism.

These are radical departures. The Obama administration’s goal in nuclear talks is no longer preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons at all costs, but managing the process by which Iran becomes a nuclear state. The Obama administration no longer seeks to thwart Iran’s expansionist aims in the region and in many respects is now facilitating its aggression. On terrorism, the Obama administration has cast aside inconvenient realities about Iran’s support for jihadists of all kinds and has chosen instead to pretend that to the extent there any longer exists a war on terror, Washington and Tehran are on the same side.

At one point, the Obama administration signaled that its eagerness for a nuclear deal with Iran would be tempered by its insistence on a few simple demands. Iran would have to dismantle all but a few hundred early-generation centrifuges and stop work on advanced centrifuge design; the heavy-water reactor at Arak would be shut down, and the fortified underground nuclear facility at Fordow would be shuttered; Iran’s ballistic missile program would be frozen or perhaps even rolled back; and sanctions would only be lifted after intrusive inspections verified Iranian compliance with any agreements. If news accounts about details of an imminent deal are accurate, including an Associated Press report last week reportedly based on a draft agreement, the administration is poised to capitulate on all of these issues.

And what if Iran violates the terms of even this weak deal? There are good reasons to be concerned. When Iran signed the interim agreement (Joint Plan of Action) in November 2013, it agreed to freeze new centrifuge activities. Last fall, however, Iran started feeding hexafluoride gas (UF6) into the IR-5 centrifuge at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz—a new development. The International Atomic Energy Agency recorded the activity, the United States confronted Iran, and the feeding stopped. Despite this, President Obama has repeatedly declared Iran in compliance with the interim agreement. Then, last week, a senior administration official involved in the negotiations with Iran went even further to accommodate the Iranians. The violation was “probably a mistake,” read a Bloomberg report sourced to “U.S. officials negotiating with Iran.” According to the story, U.S. officials believe “Iran hadn’t technically violated the interim accord, which allowed some research and development activities to continue. What’s more, the person responsible was probably a low- or mid-level employee who wasn’t acting on orders from above, they said.” Probably? The obvious question: Why would Iran comply with the terms of any nuclear deal if the United States is eager to make excuses for violations?

Even as the nuclear talks continued, Iran moved aggressively to expand its influence in the region. The Iranian regime is spending lavishly to influence political, military, and intelligence officials in Afghanistan; it has played a decisive role in supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria, providing funding, arms, intelligence, and manpower to aid the slaughter of the Syrian people; it fomented the unrest in Yemen that led to the overthrow of a nominally pro-American government; and, perhaps most troubling, Iranian regime elements are operating freely in much of Iraq, fighting alongside Iraqi security forces and at times going much further, with credible reports of targeting and killing of Sunni civilians. U.S. policy on Iranian expansionism has weakened over the past decade. It has evolved from thwarting those efforts to tolerating them—and now, in some respects, to facilitating them.

We’ve seen a similar pattern on Iran and terror. Iran continues to fund Hamas and Hezbollah, using these proxies to conduct attacks in Israel and elsewhere in the region and beyond. In 2011, the Treasury Department designated six al Qaeda operatives working under a secret agreement with the Iranian regime. Three months later, Treasury designated Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security for facilitating “the movement of al Qaeda operatives in Iran” and providing “money and weapons to Al Qaeda in Iraq.” The agreement provided al Qaeda senior leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan with a “core pipeline” of support. In an interview with The Weekly Standard at the time, David Cohen, then a top Treasury official and now the number two at the CIA, said: “There is an agreement between the Iranian government and al Qaeda to allow this network to operate. There’s no dispute in the intelligence community.”

These are the hallmarks of a rogue regime, and Iran has shown no willingness to modify its behavior. A rational Iran policy would require that Iran stop its aggression and bring an end to its terrorism before the United States even considers engaging in negotiations on nuclear weapons. This is no rational Iran policy.

So from the beginning of these negotiations, the administration has sought to “decouple” the nuclear talks from the hostile behavior of the Iranian regime. Discussion of Iran’s increased regional aggression and its unceasing support for terrorists, including al Qaeda, has seemed to be out of bounds for U.S. negotiators.

Last week, The Weekly Standard sought answers from the White House to four questions about Iran’s support for al Qaeda.

Our questions were straightforward:

(1) Is there still an agreement between the Iranian regime and al Qaeda?

(2) Is the Iranian regime currently harboring al Qaeda operatives?

(3) Have U.S. negotiators raised this relationship in the context of ongoing nuclear negotiations?

(4) Have U.S. government officials raised this issue at all, in any context, with Iranian regime officials?

Bernadette Meehan, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, sent us to the intelligence community for answers to the first two questions. A senior U.S. intelligence official tells TWS: “There has been no significant or substantive change in our assessment of the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda.” Meaning, it continues.

Meehan offered this as an answer to the final two questions. “You are no doubt aware that we have made very clear that the nuclear negotiations are focused exclusively on the nuclear issue, and do not include discussions of regional issues.”

That’s not exactly right.

According to a Wall Street Journal report last fall, Obama included both regional issues and terrorism in a letter he wrote to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, seeking to push the regime towards a nuclear agreement. Remarkably, the president didn’t challenge Iran on its aggression, and he didn’t confront the Iranian leader on his support for Hamas, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda. Instead, Obama green-lighted Iran’s involvement in the Syrian civil war. And his appeal to Khameini on terrorism did not involve a demand that Iran stop supporting the jihadist networks at war with America over the past two decades but a submissive suggestion that Iran and the United States might be allies against a common foe.

The administration is not, in fact, decoupling terrorism and regional aggression from the Iranian nuclear negotiations. Obama has made certain that they are part of the discussion. But rather than insist that Iran curb its destructive regional ambitions or end its lethal support for terror, the president has shown his willingness to tolerate, even condone, such behavior.

Obama puts the chances of a nuclear agreement with Iran at less than 50-50. Perhaps it’s not a certainty, but we think it’s considerably higher. The Obama administration is desperate for an accord, and Iran should be eager to accept a deal that provides a glide path to nuclear weapons.

If it happens, the media will celebrate such a deal as “groundbreaking” and hail Obama as a “historic” leader willing to look beyond the petty preoccupations of his predecessors.

And Obama will welcome into the civilized community of nations an Iranian regime that doesn’t deserve to be there.

Obama Whitewashes Iranian Terrorism

Hezbollah-Fighters-300x214Frontpage, March 18, 2015 by Joseph Klein:

The Obama administration is shamelessly whitewashing the Iranian regime’s state sponsorship of global terrorism, no doubt to help soften Iran’s image in preparation for trying to foist a bad nuclear deal on the American people. It also did the same thing for Iran’s jihadist proxy terrorist group, Hezbollah.

The administration’s most recent unclassified version of the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community report published on February 26, 2015, delivered to the US Senate by National Intelligence director James Clapper, conspicuously omitted any reference to the ongoing terrorist threat posed by Iran and Hezbollah. While acknowledging that Iran remains “an ongoing threat to US national interests,” the report noted Iran’s “intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners, and deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia.” The report also noted Iran‘s commitment of more resources to the fight against the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State.

In the small section devoted to Yemen, the report made no mention of Iranian support for the Huthi rebels. It simply portrayed Iran as a beneficiary of the Huthis’ rise to power: “Huthi ascendency in Yemen has increased Iran’s influence as well.”

By contrast, in the previous Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community report dated January 29, 2014, Iran and Hezbollah figured prominently under a section entitled “Terrorist Activities Overseas.”

In addition to mentioning the large role played by Iran and Hezbollah in propping up the Assad regime in Syria, which they view as “a key partner in the ‘axis of resistance’ against Israel, the earlier intelligence report said that “Iran and Lebanese Hizballah continue to directly threaten the interests of US allies. Hizballah has increased its global terrorist activity in recent years to a level that we have not seen since the 1990s.”

In the specific section of the January 29, 2014 report devoted to Iran, the report stated: “In the

broader Middle East, Iran will continue to provide arms and other aid to Palestinian groups, Huthi rebels in Yemen, and Shia militants in Bahrain to expand Iranian influence and to counter perceived foreign threats.”

What happened between 2014 and 2015 to merit deleting any association of Iran and Hezbollah with continued global terrorist activity in the most recent intelligence assessment report? Did Iran’s leaders suddenly decide to forswear terrorism and join the family of civilized nations? Obviously not. For example, as Middle East and national security expert Daniel Byman testified on February 11, 2015 before the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, Iran’s proxy Hezbollah continued its terrorist operations in 2014 in far-flung locations:

Iran, often working with Hizballah, has repeatedly tried to use terrorism against an array of Israeli and Western targets and interests, and this pattern has continued in recent years. Recent plots reportedly range from plots against an Israeli shipping company and USAID offices in Nigeria in 2013 to reconnoitering the Israeli embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, for a possible attack. Hizballah operatives planned an attack in 2014 against Israeli tourists in Bangkok and in October 2014 Hizballah operatives were arrested in Peru for planning attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets there.

With respect to Yemen, Iran’s increased influence in the country was not just a by-product of the “Huthi ascendency,” as the February 2015 intelligence assessment report intimated. Iran’s intervention on behalf of its Shiite allies with arms, training and funding made the Huthi takeover of the Yemen government possible. With Iran also heavily involved in Iraq, the proclamation of an emerging Iranian empire by Ali Younusi, an adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei, rings true, at least as to Iran’s hegemonic intentions. “Iran is an empire once again at last, and its capital is Baghdad,” he declared.

However, the Obama administration is willing to fudge the truth to induce Iran to stay at the negotiating table and make some sort of nuclear arms deal that President Obama can trumpet as a major diplomatic achievement. Anyway, in the Obama administration’s calculations, Iran can’t be all that bad since it now helping to fight those truly evil Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria whom we too are fighting.

Max Abrahms, professor of political science at Northeastern University and member at the Council of Foreign Relations, postulated a “quid pro quo” arrangement. “Iran helps us with counter-terrorism and we facilitate their nuclear ambitions and cut down on our labelling of them as terrorists,” he was quoted by Newsweek as saying.

The February 2015 intelligence assessment report does not limit its whitewashing of Iran’s malevolent intentions to the subject of terrorism. It turned a blind eye to Iran’s unwillingness to come clean with international inspectors with regard to the military dimensions of its nuclear program.

The February 2015 intelligence assessment report claimed that the temporary agreement in place with Iran, known as the Joint Plan of Action, has “enhanced the transparency of Iran’s nuclear activities, mainly through improved International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access.”  It ignored the International Atomic Energy Agency’s repeated warnings that Iran has not been cooperating with the IAEA’s inquiry into allegations of Iran’s past nuclear-related military development work.

One would think that unfettered inspections to verify compliance with the terms of any final agreement would be absolutely non-negotiable, especially given Iran’s past record of cheating and defying international inspectors. However, according to a report in the New York Times on March 17th, unnamed officials have indicated that “provisions for extensive verification” are still being negotiated. The other issue where there is reportedly a gap is the timetable for removal of the United Nations sanctions and other sanctions.

The February 2015 intelligence assessment report conceded that Iran has “the ability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so,” but refused to take a position on Iran’s probable intentions. “We do not know whether Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons,” the report stated. “Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them,” the report added.

Iran has remained free to develop or acquire ballistic missiles and the technology to miniaturize nuclear weapons for delivery by Iran’s “preferred method.”  That apparently won’t change with a final deal, since Iran has refused to allow its missile program to be a part of the negotiations. Thus, while the Obama administration is negotiating everything –  the scope of inspections, the number of centrifuges that Iran will be able to keep spinning from the get-go, the timing of sanctions relief and the sunset date after which any significant nuclear restrictions will go away – it is being outmaneuvered by the Iranian negotiators who stick resolutely to their red lines. And, in the process, the Obama administration is providing Iran and its proxy Hezbollah a measure of respectability in the eyes of the world by whitewashing their terrorism records in an official U.S. intelligence assessment document.

***

Dropping Iran and Hezbollah from Threat Assessment a Strategic Error (centerforsecuritypolicy.org)

It is surprising that Iran and Hezbollah were notably omitted from the list of terror threats inthis year’s Worldwide Threat Assessment. The reason for doing so is likely political, tied to negotiation over the Iranian nuclear program and in due to the Obama Administration’s view that Iran has a constructive role to play in the fight against Islamic State. However, both ideas are unsound; Iran can not be trusted, either to surrender its nuclear program nor as an ally against Islamic State.

Many have warned about further Iranian influence in Iraq, and General Petraeus noted to then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2007 that Iran was seeking to expand influence over Iraq and challenge American power in the region. Such fears are not unfounded with the fact that Iran is backing most Shia militias in Iraq and the propensity for said militias to engage in brutal acts on Sunni Iraqis for the crime of simply being Sunni. Iranian support for anti-Islamic State actions in Iraq has been considerable, as seen in the retaking of Tikrit. No US support was requested in the operation, and two-thirds of the troops involved in the offensive to retake Tikrit were from Iranian-backed Shia militias. The head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Major General Qasem Soleimani, is personally overseeing operations in Tikrit.

It is quite possible that Iran may itself be encouraging sectarian conflict in Iraq to drive the Iraqi Shia population to support an alliance with Iran to protect them from the Islamic State fundamentalist Sunni threat. This was done during the second Iraq War, when Iran gave weapons and funding to Al Qaeda in Iraq, Islamic State’s predecessor.

Now, recent reports suggest that terrorist organization Hezbollah will send 800 fighters toIraq in order to participate in a future counterattack against Islamic State in Mosul. Iran has already sent military forces to aid in the battle for Tikrit. Hezbollah’s entry in lieu of further direct Iranian military involvement are concerns from Sunni Arab Iraqis over having further Persian troops in country, and due to the similarity between the terrain of Lebanon with that of northern Iraq. Hezbollah previously had advisors in Iraq, but withdrew them after the Israeli military conducted a strike on a Hezbollah position in the Golan Heights this January.

While ignoring Iranian activity with terrorism, the Worldwide Threat Assessment Report did note that Iran’s nuclear and cyberwarfare programs had become quite advanced, citing the 2012-13 DDOS attacks on the financial sector and noting their recent attempts to develop ICBMs:

We continue to assess that Iran’s overarching strategic goals of enhancing its security, prestige, and regional influence have led it to pursue capabilities to meet its civilian goals and give it the ability to build missile – deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so…We judge that Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them. Iran’s ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering WMD, and Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. Iran’s progress on space launch vehicles — along with its desire to deter the United States and its allies — provides Tehran with the means and motivation to develop longer – range missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

The inclusion of Iran’s nuclear and cyber capabilities, while ignoring their regional strategy of using Islamist proxies and terrorists to advance their interests, which has played so successfully in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, misses the forest for the trees, and provides additional evidence that the Obama administration does not understand the nature of the regime in Tehran.

IRAN ASCENDANT

 RezaShrine

Philos Project, by Andrew Harrod, March 17, 2015:

Iran is now the rising power of the Middle East.

That’s what Hudson Institute scholar Michael Doran had to say on a February 20 panel commemorating a decade since the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. While Sunni atrocities at the hands of ISIS have captured the world’s attention, Doran and his fellow panelists argued that the Iranian-led Shiite alliance now expanding in the region is actually a far greater threat.

Doran’s colleague Lee Smith opened the panel by noting that Hariri’s Hezbollah “murderers still walk free” while the Obama administration cooperates with the Hezbollah’s patron, the Islamic Republic of Iran.  He noted that Persian Iran currently dominates four Arab capitals in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Obama’s heavy focus on countering Sunni extremism “left the door open” to Iranian regional domination, Doran observed.

How is Iran making such tremendous gains? Doran described Iran’s “winning formula” of projecting its revolutionary power around the region through its Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an organization that specializes in a mix of special operations, intelligence gathering, and aid distribution.  While the United States had difficulty channeling America’s “awesome power” during the 2006 Iraq war surge, the IRGC has successfully mounted similar operations all around the region. Doran pointed out that the Iranians “are just smarter than we are” in the Middle East, and are more willing “to kick you in the groin.” Meanwhile, Lebanese journalist Hussain Abdul Hussain recalled that the United States has “always been willing to bail” on allies, especially in his country.

What is the IRGC doing exactly? Foundation for the Defense of Democracies analyst Tony Badran explained that Iran’s export of revolution entails not so much the creation of a wider Islamic republic but the creation of a “militia movement…parallel to the state.”  This movement becomes an interlocutor with the outside world while also infiltrating existing state institutions. Take Hezbollah for example. Mythology notwithstanding, Hezbollah now effectively controls the Lebanese armed forces, once dominated by the country’s Christian population, and ensures that only an Iran-based policy will succeed in the country. The real power in Lebanon, Doran concurred, lies in militias like Hezbollah.

Badran explained how Iran wields Hezbollah, the “crown jewel” of the IRGC, as an “expeditionary force” around the region. Hussain elaborated that in this “Iranian era,” when states are collapsing everywhere, Syria’s dictator Bashir al-Assad has become an “Iranian viceroy” who is “totally dependent” upon Hezbollah.  Doran noted that the security sector in Iraq is now totally under the thumb of the Iranians, making that country’s elected officials almost irrelevant.

But Iran’s growing influence doesn’t stop at the borders of the Middle East. Doran also analyzed how Iranian influence prevented Obama from pursuing regime change in Syria despite consistent urgings from his National Security Council (NSC).  Overthrowing Assad could prompt Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq to turn from fighting ISIS to fighting the Americans.  Iran might also cancel its nuclear nonproliferation agreement with the United States. Thus, it is Iranian red lines, not American ones, that are dictating America’s activity (or non-activity) in Syria.

The view from Israel is a complex one. Badran noted that Israeli policymakers are divided over whether ISIS or the Iranian coalition is the greater threat in Syria.  Therefore, the Israelis have refrained from attempting to shift Syria’s internal power balance. But if the Israelis did ultimately move against Assad, Doran felt “almost certain” that they would find themselves at loggerheads with the Obama administration.

Doran saw “only one choice” of American policy towards Iran — opposition and not accommodation — but worried about finding regional allies who would prove up to the task.  Who would stand against Iran? ISIS?  Talking about confronting Iran, Badran said, means “you really are talking about Israel” since the Gulf States are still too weak and disorganized to be taken seriously.

All hope is not lost, however. Doran emphasized that Americans “are a great power,” even though “we may not feel like it.” At any rate, we’re a “hell of a lot stronger” than Iran. Hussain considered “far-fetched” the prospect of two million Alawites under Assad in Syria and one million Shiites in Lebanon, only one-third the population, controlling these two countries as minorities.  Hezbollah, Badran observed, is “very small” with only about 5,000 fighters, 1,000 of whom are now dead after fighting in Syria.

Hussain considered the 2006 Iraq surge a “brilliant model” that could be applicable to Lebanon and Syria.  Aided by the US, Sunni tribes in these countries, as well as Shiite tribes in Lebanon opposed to Hezbollah, could confront Iranian alliance together. In the meantime, Hussain found Obama’s NSC so incompetent that he advocated abolishing it.

The Hudson Institute panel demonstrated once again that the West has many foes and few friends in the Middle East.  While the  Sunni jihadists of ISIS transfix the world with decapitations, an even more powerful Iranian-led Shiite alliance endangers the delicate balance of the region.  Trying to counter both of these threats at the same time presents numerous dilemmas, and inexperienced outsiders must beware the Middle East’s shifting political sands.

Also see:

New photos reveal expanding reach of Iran in Venezuela and other parts of Latin America

new imagesFox News, by Catherine Herridge, March 17, 2015:

As the Obama administration seeks a deal with Iran on its nuclear program, new congressional testimony, documents and photos show Tehran is expanding its reach into South America by advising rogue regimes on suppressing anti-government protests and financing secretive military facilities.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, a Republican from South Carolina, cited this evidence when questioning the notion that Iran has changed its ways as President Barack Obama and his team advance negotiations which may include dropping Iran from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.

“We have a negotiation going on with Iran,” Duncan told Fox News. “We don’t want anything to interfere with that.”

“And so we’re going to say their influence in this hemisphere is waning,”  Duncan said, referring to the administration’s argument. “The narrative doesn’t work when you start looking at all the pieces of the puzzle that fit together of Iran’s activity in this hemisphere”

Joseph Humire, who is executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society and who will testify before Duncan and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s subcommittees on the Western Hemisphere as well as the Middle East and North Africa this week, says there is growing cooperation between Venezuela and Iran.

He pointed to a meeting between the Iranian commander of the notorious Basij paramilitary force, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Nadqi, and the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, believed to have taken place in 2009.

Humire found evidence of striking similarities between the death of Neda Agha-Soltan — an Iranian student protestor who became the face of the green revolution in 2009, after she was shot in the chest by the Basij militias – and the murder in February last year of a 22-year-old Venezuelan student Genesis Carmona, a former beauty queen, who was killed at the hands of pro-government civilian militias.

The assessment is that Teheran advised Venezuela on the development and use of brutal civilian militias known as “colectivos” that were modelled after the Iranian Basij units.

“There’s a lot of similarities in the actual results, the killings, there’s also similarities in the tactics, clandestine communication techniques that these colectivos didn’t have previously, espionage, intelligence, the ability to infiltrate student movements like they didn’t before,” Humire explained.

And Iran allegedly helped build a UAV facility in Maracay, Venezuela, with documents reviewed by Fox News suggesting potential dual use technology.

After an unexplained explosion in 2011, Humire says sections of the plant, reinforced with ceramic plates at Teheran’s insistence, were largely intact.

“I believe the Iranian UAV program is a cover for something that is more illicit,” he said. “Perhaps something that’s sanctioned and mostly likely involves Iran’s strategic programs, its–nuclear program and ballistic missiles.”

Humire found other examples, in Bolivia, with photos showing a government site, alleged to have received backing from Iran. Before 2011, it housed a UN Peacekeeping unit, but since it has been replaced by an air defense command that is heavily secured, with some areas strictly off limits.

new images 2

Duncan, who authored the Countering the Iran Threat in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012, signed by Obama, called on the State Department to assess Iranian activity, and its intentions, but the five-page unclassified report was a cursory review.

“It was a five-page report, (and) said the Iranian influence was waning,” he said. “But everyone I talked to in the intelligence community, differ from that whether it’s General Kelly with SouthCOM or whether it’s other independent, intelligence organizations.”

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Also see:

Obama Removes Iran from Terror List, Praises it for Fighting Terrorism

obama-iran-450x286Frontpage, March 16, 2015 by Daniel Greenfield:

The mask is coming off faster than ever.

You know the country responsible for killing hundreds of marines, which provided sanctuary to Al Qaeda and whose terrorist proxies helped give Al Qaeda the skills to carry out 9/11?

They’re no longer terrorists. Sure their terrorist groups currently control parts of Lebanon and Yemen, but they’re not terrorists. Because if Iran was a state sponsor of terror, then Obama letting them have the bomb might look bad. This way it’s fine.

An annual report delivered recently to the US Senate by James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, removed Iran and Hezbollah from its list of terrorism threats, after years in which they featured in similar reports

In describing Iran’s regional role, the report noted the Islamic Republic’s “intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners, and deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia,” but cautioned that “Iranian leaders—particularly within the security services—are pursuing policies with negative secondary consequences for regional stability and potentially for Iran.

The only time the report mentions Hezbollah is when describing it as a victim of attacks.

Lebanon faces growing threats from terrorist groups, including the al-Nusrah Front and ISIL. Sunni extremists are trying to establish networks in Lebanon and have increased attacks against Lebanese army and Hizballah positions along the Lebanese-Syrian border. Lebanon potentially faces a protracted conflict in northern and eastern parts of the country from extremist groups seeking to seize Lebanese territory, supplies, and hostages.

That clarifies that Obama no longer considers Hezbollah an enemy (not that he ever did). Instead it’s an ally that is classed together with Lebanon, rather than a threat to it.

Here’s what Obama chose to turn his back on.

“The worst part for me is that nobody remembers,” Mark Nevells said last year on the anniversary of the Hezbollah bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut.

A Marine had thrown his body in front of the truck to try stop the vehicle and afterward for five days, Nevells and other Marines had dug through the rubble for the bodies of the men they had served with.

One of the first Marines on the scene heard voices coming from underneath the rubble. “Get us out. Don’t leave us.”

The Marines lost more people that day than at any time since Iwo Jima and the number of Americans murdered that day by a terrorist group was a record that would stand until September 11.

And more of it still.

The Marines who died in the bombing were lucky. Another Marine did not die as quickly.

Colonel William R. Higgins was captured by Hezbollah, the terrorist group acting as Iran’s hand in Lebanon, and tortured for months until his body was dumped near a mosque.

An autopsy report found that he had been starved and had suffered multiple lethal injuries that could have caused his death.  The skin on his face had been partially removed along with his tongue and he had also been castrated.

Fred Hof, a diplomat who had been a friend of the murdered man, said, “I am one of a small handful of Americans who knows the exact manner of Rich’s death. If I were to describe it to you now – which I will not – I can guarantee that a significant number of people in this room would become physically ill.”

Like Higgins, William Francis Buckley, the CIA station chief, was also captured and tortured for months. On video tapes released by his Hezbollah captors, he was incoherent and his mind had been broken by the horrors inflicted on his ravaged body and his soul.

“They had done more than ruin his body,” CIA Director William Casey said. “His eyes made it clear his mind had been played with. It was horrific, medieval and barbarous”

Robert Stethem, a Navy diver, was brutally murdered when Hezbollah terrorists took over TWA flight 847. The Iranian-backed terrorists, one of whom was Imad Mughniyah, beat and kicked him to death.

“They were jumping in the air and landing full force on his body. He must have had all his ribs broken,” Uli Derickson, the stewardess, described. “I was sitting only 15 feet away. I couldn’t listen to it. I put my fingers in my ears. I will never forget. I could still hear. They put the mike up to his face so his screams could be heard by the outside world.”

Obama wants you to believe that the 47 Senators who stood up to him on Iran are traitors. The truth is he’s the traitor.

Also see:

America is Losing the War Against Sunni Jihadists and Empowering The Shia Caliphate

isis-640x480Breitbartby DR. SEBASTIAN GORKA, March 13, 2015:

With its support of the Baghdad government and the wrong rebels in Syria, the US Administration is doing the unthinkable: strengthening the spread of Tehran’s control in the Middle East and at the same time also helping the Sunni extremists to grow in power.

The American strategy against Global Jihad is having the opposite effect of that intended. And even key government officials are beginning to openly admit the failure of our policies.

The Director of National Intelligence, retired General James Clapper, recently testified that the terrorist threat is worse than at any other time in history and Major General Michael Nagata, responsible for planning our response to the civil war in Syria, has stated that the Islamic State is now more dangerous than Al Qaeda.

Seemingly just to prove the broader point about the global appeal of Jihad against the “infidel,” ISIS has just accepted the African terrorist group Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance, meaning that the Sunni Caliphate established last year in Mosul by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi now officially covers any territory that Boko Haram controls in Nigeria.

The spread of ISIS influence is not just about territorial control, it is about the staggering success of its international call to holy war, with an estimated 19,000 westerners having left their homes to wage jihad. The visual below, based upon a British think-tank’s unclassified research, shows just how international a recruitment wave this is, with almost every country on the map sending recruits to fight in just Syria alone.

image

Given all the evidence, even the most influential liberal commentators and pundits have admitted the failure of the Obama strategy against “Violent Extremism.” Writing recently in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman stated: “When you don’t call things by their real name, you always get in trouble. And this administration, so fearful of being accused of Islamophobia, is refusing to make any link to radical Islam” and added that as a nation “We’ve entered the theater of the absurd.” The left wing Atlantic magazine even dedicated 11,000 words to an article proving the Islamic roots of ISIS and the religious justification for its violence.

Fourteen years after the September 11th attacks and half way through President Obama’s second term, how can we explain a failure so egregious that even the pillars of the liberal left are finally prepared to call it out? The key mistakes upon which the current strategy is built are:

  • The White House’s belief in the ability to “degrade and destroy” ISIS through air power alone
  • The belief that Iran can be leveraged as an ally against ISIS
  • Gambling on Islamic rebels such as the Free Syrian Army as a way to remove President Assad of Syria, and mostly important:
  • The belief that ideology is irrelevant to the enemy we face and that this war can be won solely through military means or local proxies.

Each one of these premises is flawed and is undermining US national interests as well as the safety and stability of our regional allies.

Firstly, in the history of modern military air power, since the first hand grenade was thrown out of a biplane over a century ago, the number of insurgencies like ISIS that have been defeated by airstrikes alone is zero. Insurgents are defined by their capability to hold ground. This is what separates a rag-tag terrorist group from a real threat like the Islamic State. As a result, their control of territory by ground forces can only be countered by other ground forces contesting the same space and eventually destroying or pushing them out. This is not a call for the deployment of US troops, but for the recognition of the fact that only a ground response– for example, made up of Iraqi, Kurdish, Jordanian and Egyptian units– can defeat ISIS. (According to my sources even Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Adviser, has admitted that US airstrikes are not working because we do not have the intelligence on the ground to know what to hit.) Any such response on the ground will not happen without US leadership and support, and in this President Sisi of Egypt will play the pivotal role even if the Obama Administration doesn’t like the former General. Without Egypt’s military might, the Islamic State will continue to grow and threaten the US even more than it already does.

By bringing Iran into our plans against ISIS, we are in fact strengthening a rival brand of Jihad. The war today in Syria and Iraq is not about the corruption of the former Maliki government in Baghdad or the human rights record of President Assad of Syria. It is about whose version of Islam will dominate the region. One only has to read or listen to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s sermon from the Grand Mosque Mosul in which he declared the Islamic State. The speech is about reestablishing the theocratic empire of Islam – the Caliphate – under Sunni control. ISIS even posted their real intent on social media:

Iran, on the other hand, also believes in the need to re-establish the Caliphate, but under its control as a Shia empire, and the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, must be understood as the re-ignition of a 1,400 year old argument about who should control Islam. In fact, that is how the Sunni and Shia division of Islam occurred after the death of Mohammad, and those are the stakes for Tehran. The fact that the mullahs now control five regional capitals– Tehran, Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, and now Sanaa– means that despite ISIS’s growth, the Shia extremists are winning. The White House’s belief that Tehran is an altruistic foe of Sunni jihadists like ISIS is driven by shortsightedness and a lack of understanding of the historic battle that is in play, and will simply strengthen the Shia proto-Caliphate, eventually even to include Tehran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons should the nascent deal the President is pushing come to fruition.

By contrast, in Syria, since 2011, the administration has been driven by its pathological hatred of Assad and the belief that, despite his enjoying the support of both Beijing and Moscow, Assad can be removed through the support of indigenous rebels such as the Free Syria Army. Speaking to the few true moderates that have organizational capability in theater, the sad truth is that we have chosen the wrong rebels. The more organized and loudest rebel groups are not the moderates but the true jihadists, some of whom have in fact formally allied themselves with ISIS. (This is not just a failure of the White House, but also the Republicans in Congress, especially Senator John McCain, who has the uncanny knack of supporting those who would kill us after they have killed all the Shia in the region).

Most disturbing of all is the Administrations willful dismissal of the real center of gravity in this war: the ideology of Global Jihadism. With its constant refrain that “upstream causes” such as poverty and lack of education are the real reason for terrorist violence, the White House displays a total ignorance of the groups we face today, from Al Qaeda to ISIS, from the Fort Hood shooter to the Tsarnaev brothers who killed and maimed hundreds at the Boston bombing.

As political correctness has been forced onto the practice of national security in general and counterterrorism specifically, we see absurd conclusions being drawn and fantastical policies being implemented. The recent international summit on “Combating Violent Extremism” hosted by the President and the White House assiduously preached repeatedly that religion has nothing to do with ISIS or Al Qaeda and concluded with this visual that all we need is more community outreach:

White House Summit

Of course, if poverty and lack of education were the drivers of terrorist violence, then half of the population of India would be terrorists. But they aren’t. Why? Because terrorist violence does not happen in a vacuum. It requires a spark, a narrative that acts as the justification to violence and the catalyst to mobilize people to do horrific acts against their fellow man. That ideology can be secular – for example, the communist terrorism of the Weather Underground led by Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers – or religious, such as ISIS. How else, for example, can one understand why the Islamic state would behead the 21 Coptic Christians whose murder they filmed on the shores of Libya, but instead burn alive the Jordanian pilot Lieutenant Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh? These decisions were not random.

For the jihadists of ISIS, the Copts are kuffar, infidels, and as the Koran teaches, the infidel must be “smitten on the neck” (e.g. Koran Ch. 47 V. 4). However, Lt. Kaseasbeh was a Muslim, a Jordanian Sunni, who in taking arms up against the Caliphate made himself an “apostate” and as a result he had to be killed not as an infidel but as one who committed the sin of leaving Islam and therefore, he was to be treated as if he were in hell, i.e. burnt alive. Religion is therefore so important to this war that it even defines the way in which the terrorists will kill you should you be captured.

Today, the Global Jihad has two brands. It is a war of the “Sunni Coke” versus the “Shia Pepsi” which also targets the local minorities caught in the middle, most especially the ancient Christians of the region.(Incredibly, the Parliament of the European Union seems to understand the threat better than the White House based upon the resolution it just issued against ISIS.) The powers that be have allowed politics and ideology to distort and pervert the practice of national security to such an extent that, incredibly, we are not only helping the Sunni Jihadists, but also the Shia extremists of Iran. Whichever side wins the war for the crown of the Caliph is irrelevant, since once their immediate foe is vanquished we, the infidel West, will be their next target.

Sebastian Gorka Ph.D. is the Major General Matthew C. Horner Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University. You can see his briefing from the Global Counterterrorism Summit on Why ISIS is Much More Dangerous than Al Qaeda here and follow him on Twitter at: @SebGorka.