Chicanery and Resignation as Iran Nuclear Talks Approach Their Conclusion

399618039CSP, by Fred Fleitz:

Amid growing speculation that the P-5 nuclear talks with Iran might be extended pass a November 24 deadline, there were several developments this week that further muddied the waters over the nuclear negotiations.

  1. NYT says Obama plans to sidestep Congress on an Iran deal

An October 19 New York Times article by David Sanger said the Obama administration “will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress have a vote” on a final nuclear deal with Iran. Sanger also said the president intends to suspend sanctions without Congressional consent.

Although some talking heads got worked up over Sanger’s article, none of this is news.

Since a nuclear agreement with Iran will not be a treaty, it will not be subject to Senate ratification. Last July, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) tried to give Congress a role in approving the agreement by submitting an amendment requiring congressional review of any final agreement with Iran. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to allow this amendment be put to a vote.

Concerning Iran sanctions, Congress has always given presidents the leeway to suspend sanctions if he believes this is in the interests of the United States. The president has already unilaterally suspended some Iran sanctions. Those of us who follow the Iranian nuclear issue have long known the president would unilaterally suspend most of the remaining sanctions after a final nuclear deal was reached.

Several members of Congress expressed their irritation with the Obama administration after the Sanger article. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said on Wednesday that the House will not sit idly by while the Obama administration negotiates a deal with Iran. House Foreign Affairs Committee member Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) said “I disagree with the administration’s reported assertion that it does not need to come to Congress at this point during negotiations with Iran.”

Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) said “Congress will not permit the president to unilaterally unravel Iran sanctions that passed the Senate in a 99-to-0 vote.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) recently said “If a potential deal does not substantially and effectively dismantle Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program, I expect Congress will respond. An agreement cannot allow Iran to be a threshold nuclear state.” Menendez has said he may push new sanctions against Iran if a final agreement is not reached by November 24.

  1. Do Iran’s recent steps to dilute some of its enriched uranium mean Tehran is serious about reaching a deal on its nuclear program?

Reuters reported on Monday that a new IAEA report said Iran diluted 4,100 kg of 2% enriched uranium to the natural uranium level (0.7% uranium-235). While some may portray this as an important gesture indicating Tehran wants to negotiate a comprehensive agreement on its nuclear program, this move actually will have little impact on the threat from Iran’s nuclear program because its large stockpile of reactor-grade uranium was unaffected. Where this batch 2% enriched uranium enriched came from is unclear. However, a September 2014 IAEA report specified this was a separate batch from Iran’s 12,464 kg of reactor-grade uranium (enriched to 3 to 5%). Iran can still make 7-8 nuclear weapons from its reactor-grade uranium stockpile if this uranium was further enriched to weapons-grade.

  1. New U.S. Concessions

The Iranian news service Mehr reported this week that the Obama administration has offered to allow Iran to operate 4,000 uranium centrifuges. Iran is using centrifuges to enrich uranium to reactor-grade and could easily adapt them to enrich to weapons-grade. Iran has 19,000 centrifuges but only about 9,000 are currently operational.

If this report is true it is consistent with previous reports of U.S. offers allowing Iran to operate 1,500-4,500 centrifuges if it converted any uranium it enriched to uranium power. As I explained in an October 2 National Review Online article, these previous concessions would do little to stop or slow Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Whether or not the U.S. actually made the offer reported by the Iranian news service, this report confirms what appears to be the disturbing direction of the nuclear talks: the United States has conceded to Iran the right to enrich uranium and is now negotiating the size of an Iranian enrichment program.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got it right when he told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell earlier this month that Iran’s centrifuges “are only good for one thing: to make bomb-grade material.” This is why Israel seeks the full dismantlement of Iran’s uranium enrichment infrastructure and its heavy-water plutonium reactor.

U.S. Iran policy has drifted further than most Americans realize under this administration.   While Obama officials and the foreign policy establishment dismissed Netanyahu‘s sobering words as unreasonable and extreme, he expressed what was the official U.S. position until January 2009.

  1. Dennis Ross Thinks There Could be a Partial Nuclear Deal with Iran

Dennis Ross, a former State Department officer who served as a special adviser to the Obama administration for the Persian Gulf, said in an October 15 Foreign Affairs article that “ultimately, there appears to be little likelihood of a comprehensive deal at the present time” because Iran is demanding a roll back of all sanctions and wants to operate industrial-scale uranium enrichment with limited transparency about its nuclear program. Ross claims the West will only permit a small enrichment program and wants full transparency.

Ross thinks a partial deal which “contains” Iran’s nuclear program and prevents Tehran from moving closer to a nuclear “breakout” capability – the ability to produce enough weapons-grade fuel for one nuclear weapon – would be a good outcome for the nuclear talks. Ross says this might also be achieved by a “muddling through” strategy under which Iran would agree to limit its nuclear program and the West would not impose additional sanctions. Under such a scenario, the nuclear talks would be suspended for a few months but bilateral talks with Tehran would continue.

Ross’ piece was probably a trial balloon by the Obama administration to weigh alternatives to a final deal with Iran.   His proposals are troubling because they perpetuate the fiction that last fall’s interim deal with Iran and the deal currently being negotiated push Iran back from a nuclear breakout. In fact, Iran passed that threshold years ago and can currently make enough nuclear fuel for one nuclear bomb in three to five weeks.

The current understandings with Iran allow Tehran to continue to enrich uranium and keep a huge stockpile of reactor-grade uranium which could be used to fuel 7-8 nuclear weapons if this uranium was enriched to weapons-grade. Iran also has been permitted during this year’s nuclear talks to install new centrifuge designs that may be four to 16 times more efficient. These are unacceptable concessions that Ross is proposing be made permanent under a partial deal with Iran or through a muddling through strategy.

Also see:

The Iran Lobby: Alive, Well and Changing the Face of the Middle East

799454648CSP, By Clare M. Lopez, Oct. 23, 2014:

“In February 2009, as President Barack Obama and his new administration were settling into office, the Center for Security Policy published a report I wrote entitled “RISE OF THE ‘IRAN LOBBY’ Tehran’s front groups move on—and into— the Obama Administration.” This occasional paper from the Center was offered as a warning about the constellation of forces that was just then moving into power positions from which to influence U.S. foreign policy in ways supportive of the Tehran regime’s objectives. Today, five years later, the disastrous fruits of that network’s efforts are evident across the Middle East in ways both predictable and unforeseen: Iran stands on the brink of deploying deliverable nuclear weapons, Turkey’s leadership sponsors HAMAS terrorism and harbors both neo-Ottoman ambitions and a visceral hatred of the Jewish State of Israel, and an Islamic State proclaiming itself a Caliphate sweeps armies and borders before it, oddly enabled by both Iran and Turkey.”

See version with embedded hyperlinks here

See version with footnotes here

 

The Secret History of Hezbollah

BY TONY BADRAN:

Thirty years ago last month, Hezbollah blew up the barracks of the U.S Marines and French paratroopers stationed at the Beirut airport, killing 241 U.S. servicemen and 58 Frenchmen. It wasn’t Hezbollah’s first terrorist operation, but this attack, the most memorable in Lebanon’s vicious and chaotic 15-year-long civil war, marked the Party of God’s entry onto the world stage.

HOSSEIN DEHGHAN IN PARLIAMENT, 2013 AP / EBRAHIM NOROOZI

HOSSEIN DEHGHAN IN PARLIAMENT, 2013
AP / EBRAHIM NOROOZI

Three decades later, thanks to the efforts of Israeli Hezbollah expert Shimon Shapira, we now know that one of the men responsible for the attack was an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander named Hossein Dehghan​—​the man Iranian president Hassan Rouhani recently tapped to be his defense minister. In other words, Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran have been joined at the hip from the very beginning, even before the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Of course, that’s not the standard account of Hezbollah, the historical narrative jointly constructed and largely agreed upon by Middle East experts, journalists, some Western and Arab intelligence officials, and even Hezbollah figures themselves. This account holds that Hezbollah was founded in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in 1982 to fight, or “resist,” the Israeli invasion of that year. On this reading, the belief​—​held by the organization’s many critics, targets, and enemies​—​that Hezbollah is little more than an IRGC battalion on the eastern Mediterranean is simply part of a U.S.-Israeli disinformation campaign meant to smear a national resistance movement fighting for the liberation of Lebanese lands. Sure, Hezbollah was founded with some help from Iranian officials, and still receives financial assistance from Tehran, but the organization is strictly a Lebanese affair. It was engendered by Israel’s 1982 invasion and subsequent occupation of Lebanon. The occupation, as one author sympathetic to the group put it, is Hezbollah’s “raison d’être.” 

Even former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak contends that it was the Israeli occupation that gave birth to Hezbollah. “It was our stay [in Lebanon] that established [Hezbollah],” Israel’s most decorated soldier said in 2010. “Hezbollah got stronger not as a result of our exit from Lebanon but as a result of our stay in Lebanon.” Perhaps Barak was simply keen to defend his decision to withdraw Israeli troops from Lebanon in 2000, for his account is simply not true.

The big bang theory of Hezbollah that puts the Israeli occupation at the alpha point is based not in fact but in legend​—​it’s an Israel-centric myth that makes the Jewish state Hezbollah’s motivation and prime mover. In reality, the story of Hezbollah’s origins is a story about Iran, featuring the anti-shah revolutionaries active in Lebanon in the 1970s, years before Israel’s intervention. Thus, to uncover Hezbollah’s roots, it is necessary to mine the accounts of Iranian cadres operating in Lebanon a decade before Israel invaded.

There we find that, contrary to the common wisdom, Hezbollah didn’t arise as a resistance movement to the Israeli occupation. Rather, it was born from the struggle between Iranian revolutionary factions opposed to the shah. Lebanon was a critical front for this rivalry between Hezbollah’s Iranian progenitors and their domestic adversaries. Accordingly, an accurate understanding of this history gives us not only the true story of Hezbollah’s beginnings, but also an insight into the origins of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Those early internal conflicts and impulses, played out in Lebanon as well as Iran, also provide a roadmap for reading the nature of the current regime in Tehran, its motivations and concerns, its strategies and gambits as it moves toward acquiring a nuclear weapon and challenging the American order in the Middle East.

Read more at The Weekly Standard

Tony Badran is a columnist for the Beirut-based website NOW Lebanon and a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Audio: Clare Lopez analysis of the Islamic State

Published on Oct 9, 2014 by The Final Say Radio Show

Clare Lopez, Vice President for Research & Analysis with the Center for Security Policy, joins the show to discuss ISIS and other security threats.

Iran Orders Elite Troops: Lay Off U.S. Forces in Iraq

1412594766052.cachedBy Eli Lake:
The last time Iranian and American forces were in Iraq, the two sides quietly fought each other. Now Iran’s Quds Force officers in Iraq are purposely leaving the Americans alone.
Pay no attention to the Shi’ite militias threatening to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. The elite Iranian forces backing those militias have been ordered not to attack the Americans.

That’s the conclusion of the latest U.S. intelligence assessment for Iraq. And it represents a stunning turnaround for Iran’s Quds Force, once considered America’s most dangerous foe in the region.

U.S. intelligence officials tell The Daily Beast that the apparent Iranian decision not to target American troops inside Iraq reflects Iran’s desire to strike a nuclear bargain with the United States and the rest of the international community before the current negotiations expire at the end of November.

“They are not going after Americans,” one senior U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast familiar with the recent assessments. “They want the nuclear talks to succeed and an incident between our guys and their guys would not be good for those talks.”

The Quds Force, named for the Arabic word for Jerusalem, are believed to have hundreds of troops in Iraq. As the primary arm of the Iranian state that supports allied terrorist organizations, their operatives worried Obama’s predecessor so much that the Treasury Department began sanctioning its members in 2007 for sabotaging the government of Iraq. The U.S. military accused the Quds Force of orchestrating cells of terrorists in Iraq. In 2012, Wired magazine dubbed Quds Force leader Qassem Suleimani the most dangerous person on the planet. In 2013, the New Yorker arrived at a similar conclusion, and claimed he has “directed Assad’s war in Syria.”

More recently, the Treasury Department has accused the Quds Force of international heroin trafficking and conducting terrorism and intelligence operations against the Afghanistan government. That’s why it’s so extraordinary that the Quds Force would be perceived to be laying off U.S. forces in Iraq.

But in some ways, the assessment is not surprising. Both Iran and the United States share a common enemy in the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). In late August, U.S. airpower and Iranian-backed militias broke the ISIS siege on the town of Amerli. Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, was photographed in Amerli, after the town was liberated from ISIS.

The latest assessments from the U.S. intelligence community also interpret Iran’s behavior in part as linked to the ongoing negotiations between Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China.

A U.S. intelligence official said the Quds Force behavior was the equivalent of a confidence building measure, a diplomatic term that refers to a concession offered to improve the atmosphere of negotiations. (Iran had already offered to play a more “active role” in the regional fight against ISIS, in exchange for nuclear concessions.)

Read more at The Daily Beast

Obama Admin Making “Disturbing Counterproposals” to Iran

2655171361Center For Security Policy, Fred Fleitz:

“U.S. negotiators have responded to Iranian intransigence on key issues with creative but sometimes disturbing counterproposals.”

This sentence describing the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran were not the words of Republican critics of President Obama’s Iran policy.  They were part of a lead editorial that ran in the Washington Post on October 3, 2014.

Think about it: the Washington Post is accusing the Obama administration of making disturbing counterproposals to a radical Islamist state-sponsor of terror which is suspected of having a covert nuclear weapons program.

The long list of these disturbing U.S. counterproposals include:

  • Dropping Western demands that Iran disassemble uranium centrifuges.
  • Allowing Iran to keep its large enriched uranium stockpile.
  • Allowing Iran to develop and install advanced uranium centrifuges.
  • Implicitly accepting Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium.
  • No longer insisting that Iran stop construction of the Arak heavy water reactor which will be a source of plutonium when completed.

While the U.S. continues to make disturbing counterproposals and concessions in the nuclear talks, Iran has given little in return and is refusing to cooperate with IAEA investigations into indications that its nuclear program has military applications.  Iran also refuses to provide IAEA inspectors with full access to its nuclear facilities.

I agree with the Washington Post’s concern that President Obama might be tempted to make more concessions to Iran to get a final nuclear agreement before the talks are schedule to end on November 24.  The Post recommends that unless there is a dramatic change in Iran’s positions, the interim deal which set up this year’s nuclear talks should be extended and Iran be threatened with tougher sanctions if it does not agree.

This recommendation does not go far enough.  A diplomatic process to reduce the threat from a nuclear Iran that includes disturbing American counterproposals and concessions is not in the national security interests of the United States.  It is therefore imperative that Congress reject these talks as well as any agreement they may produce and reestablish a responsible U.S. policy on the Iranian nuclear program by placing new sanctions on Iran until it complies with all UN Security Council resolutions on its nuclear program.

Turkey’s Knee-Deep Involvement With Islamist Terrorists

Islamic State fighters at a training camp

Islamic State fighters at a training camp

BY RYAN MAURO:

The Turkish parliament is considering authorizing military action against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. will welcome such a development, but it must not forget Turkey’s previous support of Al Qaeda in Syria, deal-making with the Islamic State (ISIS), hosting of Hamas terrorists and embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A Turkish group closely linked to Turkish President Recep Erdogan even signed up human shields for Hamas. Intelligence leaks reveal that top Turkish officials are secretly collaborating with Iran-linked terrorists, a development in line with Turkey’s drift towards Iran in spite of their historic rivalry and backing of opposite sides in Syria.

Erdogan’s time as leader of Turkey has resulted in sharply increased anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism and overall hostility to the West. A Pew poll of 11 Muslim countries found that Turkey is the only one where support for suicide bombing is increasing, more than doubling from 7% in 2011 to 16% now.

Nor should the U.S. forget the Turkish government’s increasingly autocratic governance, anti-Western incitement and crackdown on social media. Turkey is also rated as the number one jailer of journalists, even beating out China and North Korea for the title.

This anti-Western activity has only increased in recent months.

Turkey and Qatar, another supposed “ally” supporting the Islamist cause and financing Islamic terrorists, agreed to form a “supreme strategic cooperation council.” Turkey is expected to provide support for Qatari military and security forces. Qatar hosts over 200 members of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Former U.S. ambassador to Turkey confirmed that Turkey has supported Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s wing in Syria and Ahrar al-Sham, another Al-Qaeda linked group in Syria and ignored U.S. protests about this support. The free flow of personnel and weapons from Turkey to Syrian jihadists contributed to the rise of the Islamic State.

Read more at Clarion Project

Also see:

The Nuclear Giveaway

2051705677By Fred Fleitz:

With the Iran nuclear talks now in their endgame and the prospect of a very different political environment in Washington next year if Republicans capture the Senate, Obama officials are in overdrive to achieve their dream of a legacy agreement with Tehran so that President Obama can claim he halted the threat from the Iranian nuclear program. Their goal is to get a final agreement before the nuclear talks are scheduled to end November 24.

While the Obama administration has long been desperate to get such an agreement, two recent ill-advised American concessions and a string of misleading statements and proposals demonstrate how far the White House is willing to go and why it is vital that Congress denounce on a bipartisan basis the nuclear talks and a possible final agreement .

Two weeks ago, the United States floated a proposal to let Iran keep all of its 19,000 centrifuge machines, which Tehran is using to enrich uranium to reactor grade as long as all but 1,500 are “disconnected” and cease enriching uranium. This proposal alarmed many experts because Iran could quickly begin enriching uranium to weapons grade by reconnecting all of its centrifuges.

As generous as this offer was, it apparently did not go far enough for Tehran. The Associated Press reported on September 25 that U.S. diplomats have proposed letting Iran operate up to 4,500 centrifuges if its stockpile of enriched uranium gas is converted to uranium “powder.” This proposal rests on the assumption that such an arrangement would give the international community plenty of time to react to an Iranian “dash” toward constructing a nuclear weapon because it would take over a year for Iran to re-convert low-enriched powder into uranium gas for further enrichment to weapons-grade uranium.

The assumption behind this proposal is false. Both Amos Yadlin, former head of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate, and Mark Hibbs, a senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment and nuclear proliferation expert, agree that it would take Iran only about two weeks.

A final agreement also appears unlikely to do anything to reduce the nuclear-proliferation threat posed by Iran’s large stockpile of low-enriched uranium. I noted in NRO last November how a 2013 American Enterprise Institute study found that Iran has produced enough reactor-grade uranium since 2009 “to fuel a small arsenal of nuclear weapons after conversion to weapons grade.” The Langley Intelligence Group Network agreed with this assessment and estimated that, from its 20 percent-enriched-uranium stockpile, Iran could make enough nuclear fuel for one bomb and could make another seven from its reactor-grade uranium if further enriched to weapons grade.

Estimates by the American Enterprise Institute, the Institute for Science and International Security, and the Nuclear Proliferation Education Center on how fast Iran could make enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear bomb using reactor-grade uranium range from four to six weeks.

This latest proposed concession continues a pattern of misleading statements and proposals by Obama-administration officials on the Iran talks that began with last November’s interim agreement with Iran, which set up this year’s negotiations on a final agreement.

Read more at Center for Security Policy

See also:

We Don’t Need to Ally with Terrorists to Defeat ISIS

isis-431x350by Daniel Greenfield:

The big foreign policy debate now is whether we should ally with Sunni or Shiite Jihadists to defeat ISIS.

The pro-Iranian camp wants us to coordinate with Iran and Assad. The pro-Saudi camp wants us to arm the Free Syrian Army and its assorted Jihadists to overthrow Assad.

Both sides are not only wrong, they are traitors.

Iran and the Sunni Gulfies are leading sponsors of international terrorism that has killed Americans. Picking either side means siding with the terrorists.

It makes no sense to join with Islamic terrorists to defeat Islamic terrorists. Both Sunni and Shiite Jihadists are our enemies. And this is not even a “the enemy of my enemy” scenario because despite their mutual hatred for each other, they hate us even more.

The 1998 indictment of bin Laden accused him of allying with Iran. (Not to mention Iraq, long before such claims could be blamed on Dick Cheney.) The 9/11 Commission documented that Al Qaeda terrorists, including the 9/11 hijackers, freely moved through Iran. Testimony by one of bin Laden’s lieutenants showed that he had met with a top Hezbollah terrorist. Court findings concluded that Iran was liable for Al Qaeda’s bombing of US embassies. Al Qaeda terrorists were trained by Hezbollah.

While Shiite and Sunni Jihadists may be deadly enemies to each other, they have more in common with each other than they do with us. Our relationship to them is not that of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” That’s their relationship to each other when it comes to us. In these scenarios we are the enemy.

The pro-Saudi and pro-Iranian factions in our foreign policy complex agree that we have to help one side win in Syria. They’re wrong. We have no interest in helping either side win because whether the Sunnis or Shiites win, Syria will remain a state sponsor of terror.

It’s only a question of whether it will be Shiite or Sunni terror.

Our interest is in not allowing Al Qaeda, or any of its subgroups, to control Syria or Iraq because it has a history of carrying out devastating attacks against the United States. We don’t, however, need to ally with either side to accomplish that. We can back the Kurds and the Iraqi government (despite its own problematic ties) in their push against ISIS in Iraq and use strategic strikes to hit ISIS concentrations in Syria. We should not, however, ally, arm or coordinate strikes with either side in the Syrian Civil War.

Both the pro-Saudi and pro-Iranian sides insist that ISIS can’t be defeated without stabilizing Syria. But it doesn’t appear that Syria can be stabilized without either genocide or partition. Its conflict is not based on resistance to a dictator as the Arab Springers have falsely claimed, but on religious differences.

Helping one side commit genocide against the other is an ugly project, but that would be the outcome of allying with either side.

Stabilizing Syria is a myth. The advocates of the FSA claimed that helping the Libyan Jihadists win would stabilize Libya. Instead the country is on fire as Jihadists continue to fight it out in its major cities.

Even if the FSA existed as an actual fighting force, which it doesn’t, even if it could win, which it can’t, there is every reason to believe that Syria would be worse than Libya and an even bigger playground for ISIS. The FSA enthusiasts were wrong in Egypt and Libya and everywhere else. They have no credibility.

Read more at Frontpage

Also see:

Will Iran Sell Out Al Qaeda for Nukes?

1411638316752.cachedBy Josh Rogin and Eli Lake:

The Iranians want to make a deal with the U.S.: They help us fight terror in exchange for nuclear concessions. Tehran could start by giving up the al Qaeda leaders it’s harboring.
On Wednesday in New York, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani offered to help the West fight terrorism—and play a more “active role” in the Middle East—as long as the West is willing to do it Iran’s way and also come to a deal on its nuclear program.

The Iranian offer has been widely been interpreted as one to fight ISIS alongside the U.S. After all, Iranian-backed militias and American airpower earlier this month helped drive ISIS out of the Iraqi town of Amerli.

But there’s a second possibility. Iran has long been harboring senior al Qaeda, al Nusra, and so-called Khorasan Group leaders as part of its complicated strategy to influence the region and keep itself off the terrorist target list, according the U.S. government, intelligence agencies, and terrorism experts.

Now, with a potential nuclear deal and rapprochement with the West in sight, the Shiite regime in Tehran could be looking to sell its Sunni terrorist friends down the river.

“The Iranians have kept a lot of these guys as a point of protection. They are explosive bargaining chips,” said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council. “If they would have handed them over to the United States years ago without getting anything in return, they would have become a greater target for al Qaeda and they would have less cards to play with the U.S. now.”

U.S. officials have insisted all week that although U.S. and Iranian officials have been discussing the war on ISIS and Tehran’s nuclear program on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly this week, the two issues are not linked and never should be. But Iranian officials told Reuters that Iran would help the U.S. fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria only if the U.S. made concessions on Tehran’s nuclear program. The White House publicly rejected the offer.

On Wednesday, Rouhani connected the issues again and said that if only the U.S. struck a deal with Iran on the nuclear issue, Iran could really start to help on ISIS and other terrorist organizations.

“If Iran could reach a comprehensive deal on its nuclear program and leave sanctions behind, it would be able to assume a more active position on interregional dialogue in the Islamic world,” Rouhani told an audience at an event hosted by the New America Foundation.

“No one is justified in helping terrorists, whether they are taking action in Syria, or Iraq, or Lebanon, it really doesn’t matter,” he said. “Terrorism must be driven out and eradicated from the region.”

Washington experts often point out that Iran has more to lose than any country from the spread of ISIS and al Qaeda. The predominantly Shiite country is ideologically opposed to the Sunni terror groups, and ISIS threatens Iran’s dominance over neighboring Iraq. In 2003, Iranhanded over to the United Nations the names of hundreds of al Qaeda suspects.

Yet the relationship between the Shiite mullahs and the Sunni extremists isn’t that simple. The question now is whether Iran is willing to trade those bargaining chips in exchange for the ability to preserve its nuclear program.

“The Iranian regime has nurtured al Qaeda for many years. There are links, there are contacts, they know these people,” said Fouad Hamdan, executive director of the Netherlands-based Rule of Law Foundation, which funds Naame Shaam, an NGO focused on Iran’s role in Syria.

Naame Shaam has produced a 105-page report on Iran’s mischief inside Syria and its ties to al Qaeda, al Nusra, and ISIS. Al Qaeda and ISIS are under orders not to attack inside Iran in order to preserve their supply network there, the report states. The U.S. government concurs.

Read more at The Daily Beast

Also MUST see: (h/t Tom Wyld – @WyldDarkHeart)

 

Foreign policy FUBAR: US providing intel to Hezbollah

hezbollah-300x180By Allen West:

I simply don’t believe in coincidences, especially when it comes to the Obama administration. Remember when we reported here about President Barack Hussein Obama meeting with pro-Hezbollah clerics on 9-11?

And now some very disturbing news has surfaced about American-Hezbollah coordination — let me remind you that Hezbollah is an Iranian-backed Islamic terrorist group based in Lebanon. It was Hezbollah who was responsible for the 1983 Marine Beirut bombing which killed over 250 American Marines, Sailors, and others. It was Hezbollah who was responsible for the hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achilles Lauro and the heinous and barbaric murder of American Jewish citizen Leon Kilnghoffer — a man confined to a wheel chair and pushed off the ship into the Mediterranean Sea.

And despite all this, Hezbollah is indirectly receiving American intelligence aid.

As reported by Arutz Sheva,”Mohammed Afif, the new head of public relations for the Lebanese-based Iranian-backed terror organization Hezbollah, gave a rare New York Times interview as Lebanese experts reveal his group is indirectly receiving American intelligence aid in its fight against Islamic State (ISIS). Following ISIS’s temporary conquest of Arsal last month on the Lebanese side of the Syrian border, the US sent new weapons to the Lebanese army, which coordinates with Hezbollah. Likewise, US intelligence has found its way to Hezbollah according to Lebanese experts. That leaked intelligence may explain some recent impressive achievements against ISIS, including the first known Hezbollah drone strike.”

So let’s have a quick review. The Obama administration released five senior Taliban members to Qatar — where the head of Hamas resides. Obama coordinated with Qatar and Turkey, both major supporters to Islamic terrorist groups. Now apparently Obama is assisting Hezbollah with intelligence — and Hezbollah is a named Islamic terrorist organization.

This ladies and gents is our biggest fear — that the Obama administration would work with nefarious actors in its quest to deal with ISIS — instead of destroying ISIS itself. So Obama may not be dealing with Iran directly, but he’s working with Iran’s proxy terrorist army, Hezbollah.

***

> America is providing intelligence aid to Hezbollah, an Islamic terrorist group that is the avowed enemy of our ally Israel.

> Hezbollah is allied fighting in support of Bashar al-Assad whom Obama said must go.

> Therefore, we are providing intelligence support to Hezbollah who is fighting against the Syrian rebels who we want to arm and train to fight against ISIS who are fighting against Assad who is supported by Hezbollah who is supported by Iran who is the largest sponsor of Islamic terrorism who is responsible for countless attacks against our men and women and is marching towards developing a nuclear bomb capability.

Yep ladies and gents, that is Obama foreign policy — FUBAR!

Read more

Senior al Qaeda strategist part of so-called ‘Khorasan group’

Sanafi al Nasr, a senior al Qaeda strategist, is a part of the so-called "Khorasan group." Nasr is sitting on the far left in the picture above.

Sanafi al Nasr, a senior al Qaeda strategist, is a part of the so-called “Khorasan group.” Nasr is sitting on the far left in the picture above.

LWJ, By

Al Qaeda’s so-called “Khorasan group,” which was struck in the US-led bombing campaign earlier this week, is run by senior jihadists dispatched to Syria by Ayman al Zawahiri.

One member of the group, a veteran al Qaeda operative named Muhsin al Fadhli, has been publicly identified.

But several US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal have confirmed that another well-known al Qaeda bigwig, a Saudi known as Sanafi al Nasr, is also a leader in the group. And, like al Fadhli, Nasr once served as the head of al Qaeda’s Iran-based network.

In March, The Long War Journal first reported that Nasr is a senior al Qaeda leader. US intelligence officials explained at the time that he was involved in al Qaeda’s strategic planning and policies.

Five months later, in August, the US Treasury Department designated Nasr, noting that he is a “key” al Qaeda financier, as well as one of the Al Nusrah Front’s “top strategists.” Treasury also said that Nasr became a “senior” leader in Al Nusrah, an official branch of al Qaeda, after relocating to Syria in the spring 2013.

Nasr, whose real name is Abdul Mohsin Abdullah Ibrahim Al Sharikh, has an active Twitter feed with more than 23,000 followers.

In tweets posted since early 2013, Nasr has revealed a number of details concerning al Qaeda’s operations. In one tweet, for instance, he explained that al Qaeda’s senior leadership decided to deploy trusted veterans to Syria, where they were embedded within both the Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al Sham.

Nasr’s tweet was one of the first public hints regarding al Qaeda’s plans.

Nasr has been closely tied to the leadership of Ahrar al Sham, a rebel group in Syria that fights alongside Nusrah on a regular basis. Ahrar al Sham is the most powerful organization in the Islamic Front, a coalition of several groups. It was cofounded by Abu Khalid al Suri, a veteran al Qaeda operative who served as Ayman al Zawahiri’s representative in Syria until he was killed in February.

Much of Ahrar al Sham’s leadership was killed in an explosion earlier this month. After they were killed, Nasr changed the header on his Twitter feed to an image honoring the slain jihadists.

US officials have stressed that al Qaeda’s “Khorasan group” was planning attacks in the West and possibly against the US homeland.

“Intelligence reports indicated that the group was in the final stages of plans to execute major attacks against western targets and potentially the US homeland,” Lieutenant General William Mayville, director of operations for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained to reporters. Other US officials have said the same.

Nasr has not hidden his desire to strike the US. Treasury noted in August that he “has used social media posts to demonstrate his aspiration to target Americans and US interests.”

Former head of al Qaeda’s Iran-based network

Although he is relatively young, Nasr is an al Qaeda veteran. He first began contributing to jihadist forums and websites roughly a decade ago.

Nasr was groomed for his position within al Qaeda, in part, because of his jihadist pedigree. Several of Nasr’s brothers, two of whom were once detained at Guantanamo, joined al Qaeda. Some of Nasr’s other family members, including his father, have also been tied to al Qaeda.

Indeed, according to US intelligence officials, Nasr is one of Osama bin Laden’s third cousins and his family bonds have made it easier for Nasr to keep the trust of al Qaeda’s Gulf donors. Cash has flowed through Nasr into al Qaeda’s coffers.

Nasr is so respected within al Qaeda that he was tasked with managing its deal with the Iranian regime, which is one of the organization’s most sensitive relationships. In early 2013, according to Treasury, Nasr temporarily served as the head of al Qaeda’s Iran-based network. Al Qaeda’s presence in Iran is the result of a formerly “secret deal” between the Iranian government and the terrorist organization.

Nasr’s ties to Iran may help to explain why, according to the US Treasury and State Departments, the Iranian regime continues to allow al Qaeda to funnel fighters to the Al Nusrah Front in Syria. Al Nusrah is fighting in Syria against Bashar al Assad’s regime and Hezbollah, both of which are backed by the Iranians. Given their opposition to each other in Syria, the ongoing relationship between al Qaeda and the Iranians is somewhat of a mystery.

It is so well-known in jihadist circles that Nasr was based in Iran for a time that supporters of the Islamic State have even criticized Nasr’s Iran ties on social media. Nasr has repeatedly criticized the Islamic State, which was part of al Qaeda’s international network before being disowned by al Qaeda’s general command.

Like Muhsin al Fadhli, another leader in the “Khorasan group” and former head of al Qaeda in Iran, Nasr was redeployed to Syria in 2013.

Other al Qaeda operatives who joined the Khorasan group have come from around the world, including from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, and North Africa, according to The New York Times.

America is handing the region to Iran instead of arming the Kurds to defeat IS

kurdsI24 News, By SHERKOH ABBAS Sep. 22, 2014:

“You can lead them to water, but you can’t make them drink.” After having its “head” dunked in the truth of Islamism, the Obama Administration seems to prefer to drown in its failed anti-Bush pacifism.

Everyone knows the most reliably pro-American military in the Syria-Iraq region is the Peshmerga, yet American arms have not been provided to these Kurds, nor has their justified nationalist aspiration been acknowledged, let alone endorsed.

Instead, America is handing the region to Iran (enhancing its nuclear ambitions), accommodating resurrected Turkish dreams of a worldwide caliphate (transcending its “sultanate”), and failing to enlist necessary support from Wahhabist Saudi Arabia (reinforcing its ideological outreach). Indeed, America can’t find anyone to provide the “boots on the ground” that can begin to match the burgeoning Islamic Army, threatening to conquer the American Homeland… and everything in between.

Lame excuses for inaction advanced by Obama’s spokespeople are easily exposed; for example, they failed to ensure that the Continuing (Funding) Resolution passed last week would allow direct support for Erbil without first transiting Baghdad. Again, ideology (“We must not undermine the new ‘unity’ government”) shrouds intent and pays lip-service to the legitimate, urgent needs of one of the diminishing number of unabashedly pro-American fighting forces.

The vacuum displacing a relatively tranquil Pax Americana is predictably and rapidly being filled by both Sunni and Shiite Islamists, and Kurdistan finds itself in the cross fire.

Tehran wants to immortalize a Shiite Crescent (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon), Ankara wants to sever it with Sunnis (multi-national Arabs and non-Arab Ottomans), and Riyadh wants to stir the pot just enough to foment insurrection, but not enough to allow the Kingdom to be threatened. Geopolitical lines are thereby crossed as these aspirations are being fulfilled, while Kurdistan (joining Israel, to a degree) serves as an irritant, a stubborn target for those harboring far greater aspirations.

Each of these countries has attempted to manipulate Kurdistan via political alliances that serve only to undermine the legitimate aspirations of the populace – self-determination, either as an independent state or as a quasi-independent federated-region. In the mean time, 30-40 million Kurds struggle for survival.

Instead of helping Kurds, who are ready to do America’s bidding, Obama aspires to let the Free Syrian Army decide which “moderates” should receive armaments and year-long training in Saudi Arabia (costing American taxpayers $1 billion). Is Obama enamored of Saudi oil?

Instead of helping Kurds, who desperately need American support, Obama is acceding to Turkey’s rapprochement with the Islamic State, most recently having absented itself from America’s nascent “alliance of the unwilling” in return for release of 49 Turkish hostages. Is Obama pro-Brotherhood?

Instead of helping Kurds, after more than 60 villages and towns in Syrian Kurdistan have fallen to the Islamic State, Obama is receding from opposing Assad (propped up by Rouhani and Putin), hoping that Syrian air defenses (yet to be degraded) won’t block Allied bombers. Is Obama a genocide-appeaser?

Kurds eagerly and valiantly defend Western civilization against Muslims who continue fighting the Crusades; they may be a millennium remote chronologically, but they remain zealots hungry to avenge the 1683 defeat of Islam outside the gates of Vienna.

Demography is rapidly changing, as Kurds are increasingly subject to ethnic cleansing; if defeated, Kurds would be forcibly resettled out of Syria and thereby lose their distinctive identity for, already, a million refugees have relocated, replaced by pro-Assad Shi’ite/Alawite Arabs. Sporadic air-support (recalling the Yazidi plight) is grossly insufficient against the Islamic State. Yet, inexplicably, Obama has even failed to ensure other Arab nations (plus his Turkish pal, Erdoğan) and opposition groups (plus other countries, worldwide) condemn the Islamists’ anti-Kurd acts.

Political groups petitioning for support must have “clean hands.” Thus, elements of the Free Syrian Army seeking allied arms must pass the litmus-test of supporting Kurds, for most are allied with the Muslim Brotherhood or al-Qaida. Unlike stateless-Kurdistan, pro- and anti-Assad entities are merely struggling for power. Therefore, America must provide military, political and humanitarian assistance to Kurdistan urgently, empowering it to lead a coalition of ignored minorities.

Dr. Sherkoh Abbas (President of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria) and Dr. Robert Sklaroff (a physician-activist) have co-written essays during the past half-decade advocating for an independent Kurdistan.

Also see:

United States says role for Iran in tackling Islamic State

Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar Ja'afari waits to speak during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Iraq at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 19, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON

Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar Ja’afari waits to speak during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Iraq at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 19, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON

(Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday that Iran had a role to play in a global coalition to tackle Islamic State militants who have seized swaths of Iraq and Syria and proclaimed a caliphate in the heart of the Middle East.

“The coalition required to eliminate ISIL (Islamic State) is not only, or even primarily, military in nature,” Kerry told a United Nations Security Council meeting on Iraq.

“It must be comprehensive and include close collaboration across multiple lines of effort. It’s about taking out an entire network, decimating and discrediting a militant cult masquerading as a religious movement,” he said. “There is a role for nearly every country in the world to play, including Iran.”

Kerry’s remarks appeared to represent a shift away from previous U.S. statements indicating a reluctance to cooperate with Iran to confront the threat of Islamic State. The United States cut off diplomatic ties with Tehran during a hostage crisis after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The United States, president of the U.N. Security Council for September, called the meeting on Iraq as it builds an international military, political and financial coalition to defeat the radical Sunni Muslim group.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, this week said he had rejected an offer by Washington for talks on fighting Islamic State. Kerry said he refused to be drawn into a “back and forth” with Iran over the issue.

Shi’ite Muslim-dominated Iran is a key ally of the governments in Iraq and Syria.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is the only country in the region that is both capable of and has shown unqualified determination to help the Iraqi government and coordinate with it to assist all those threatened by ISIL,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told the council.

“Any real and genuine initiative to remedy regional predicaments needs to originate from within the region and be based on regional cooperation. Combating extremism is not an exception,” he said, repeating Tehran’s official view.

Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are expected to hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly next week where Islamic State and Tehran’s nuclear program will likely be among key topics of discussion.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said 40 nations have pledged help to a coalition against Islamic State. French jets struck a suspected Islamic State target in Iraq for the first time on Friday, joining a U.S. bombing campaign that started a month ago when Iraq asked for help.

“In 2003, acting against Iraq was something that divided this council; in 2014, acting for Iraq and against the (Islamic State) … terrorists is a duty for all of us,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the U.N. Security Council, referring to French opposition to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The U.N. Security Council on Friday adopted a statement urging “the international community, in accordance with international law, to further strengthen and expand support for the government of Iraq as it fights ISIL (Islamic State) and associated armed groups.”

The U.N. special envoy to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said the United Nations estimates some 8,500 have been killed during clashes in Iraq since January and more than 16,000 injured.

“ISIL is a scourge that has brought untold sorrow to the people of Iraq and Syria,” Mladenov told the Security Council. “They have shown contempt for equality, fundamental human rights and the dignity and worth of the human person.”

The United States is also planning to carry out air strikes against Islamic State in Syria, while the U.S. Congress on Thursday gave final approval to Obama’s plan for training and arming moderate Syrian rebels to take on the militants.

Other Western powers have been more reluctant to launch military strikes in Syria, which could be seen to bolster President Bashar al-Assad. Western states have repeatedly called for Assad’s departure over his crackdown on popular protests in 2011 that sparked a civil war, now in its fourth year.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin warned that any action by an international coalition against Islamic State should be in line with international law and the U.N. Charter.

He said Russia, long an ally of the Syrian government, was “extremely concerned” about possible air strikes against the militants in Syria without the Damascus government’s approval.

“International counter terrorist operations should be carried out either with the approval of the sovereign government or with the approval of the U.N. Security Council,” Churkin told the council.

“Any other options are considered illegal and undermine international and regional stability,” he said.

Cruz: Nuclear Iran is a Bigger Threat than ISIL

Ted CruzWashington Free Beacon, By Alana Goodman:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) could lead to a “massive loss of life” in the United States if it is not stopped, but added that he still believes Iran’s nuclear ambitions pose a greater threat to the U.S. than the Islamic State, in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon last week.

The senator also tied Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Obama administration’s Iran policy, and warned the White House against using a military campaign against ISIL as an excuse to appease Tehran.

“As grave as the threat from ISIS is, in my view the most significant threat to U.S. national security remains the threat of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons capability,” said Cruz. “The incoherence of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy will come to full flower if the peril of ISIS is used as an excuse to further appease Iran and facilitate their acquiring nuclear weapon capability.”

He added that “everything President Obama and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry have done have increased the chances of Iran acquiring nuclear weapon capability, and have perversely increased the chances of future military conflict.”

While Cruz has not said whether he will run for president in 2016, his response to one question suggested that the possibility is on his mind.

“What should a strong president do [to prevent a nuclear Iran]? Well number one, I’ve introduced legislation in the Senate, comprehensive Iran sanctions legislation that demonstrates the direction I believe we should be taking,” said Cruz.

Although he noted that he remains supportive of a new sanctions legislation introduced by Sens. Mark Kirk and Robert Menendez, he called the proposals “weak sauce.”

“Kirk-Menendez on its face is pretty weak sauce. It lays out future contingencies in which ultimately sanctions will be re-imposed. That’s not a rational way to negotiate with religious extremists like [Iranian Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei,” said Cruz.

“The legislation I’ve introduced would immediately re-impose sanctions on Iran, would strengthen those sanctions to make them as crippling as humanly possible, and then it lays out a clear path to how Iran can lift those sanctions.”

Cruz said both ISIL and the Iranian regime are “radical Islamic terrorists who want to kill us. The one thing on which they agree is killing Americans.”

His comments echoed former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who said earlier this month that Tehran posed a more significant geo-strategic threat than ISIL.

Still, the senator warned that failing to confront ISIL could lead to massive U.S. casualties.

“If we don’t act now and if they are able to consolidate power and control of a nation state with massive oil revenues, the inevitable consequence of that will be a significant and perhaps even massive loss of life here in the United States,” said Cruz.

He criticized the idea of arming Syria’s anti-Assad rebels, saying that many of them were allied with ISIL, and the Obama administration had not provided a clear plan on how to keep the weapons from falling into the hands of terrorist groups.

Cruz also defended his opposition to U.S. military action against the Syrian regime last summer.

“Had the administration gotten what it wanted last summer, there’s a very real chance ISIS would be stronger today than it is right now,” said Cruz.

The potential 2016 presidential hopeful sought to strike a middle ground between the non-interventionist wing of the Republican Party and those who supported President Bush’s “freedom agenda.”

“We have a job to do, and it’s not transform distant countries into democratic utopias,” said Cruz. “It’s not turn Iraq into Switzerland. It’s to prevent people who want to kill Americans from killing Americans.”

“I think it is unquestionably right that we are tired of sending our sons and daughters to distant lands to engage with nation-building,” he added. “But I think it is a profound misreading of the American spirit to confuse that with Americans being unwilling to defend themselves, being unwilling to stand up to serious and real national security threats, and to stand up with overwhelming force.”