Before and After Obama: 10 Signs of a Diminished America

TIM SLOAN, Anthony Behar-Pool/Getty Images

TIM SLOAN, Anthony Behar-Pool/Getty Images

Breitbart, by John  Hayward, January 18, 2017:

The media acted as if Donald Trump’s campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again” was an incomprehensible emotional outburst from people who didn’t realize, or wouldn’t accept, just how great Barack Obama was. President Obama has spent his final months in office giving juvenile speeches full of excuses for why nothing bad since 2009 was his fault, while everything good was his personal handiwork. Why, if you just ignore all the terrorist attacks that happened on American soil over the past eight years, you can believe his carefully-phrased assertion that there haven’t been any terrorist attacks!

In truth, everyone paying attention could see the signs of a diminished America, and they knew exactly what Trump was talking about. A new Gallup poll finds that American believe the country slid backwards in 14 out of 19 policy domains, with the worst deterioration in the national debt, crime, income inequality, and race relations.

The four areas of improvement Gallup found were in the situation for gays and lesbians (Obama’s only truly high mark), energy (which got better despite his policy preferences, thanks to the private sector), climate change (whose partisans scream that it’s getting worse!) and the economy. “Health care” was a complete wash, which is awful, given the amount of money Obama spent on it.

The new administration has its work cut out for it to repair the damage caused by eight years of Obama’s policies in the following ten key areas.

1. Terrorism: Let’s start with terrorism, since Obama has made such a fetish of implying it’s not worse, even though his heavily-lawyered denials merely claim that a highly specific and unusually organized sort of attack hasn’t been taking place. In essence, Obama wants congratulations because the Islamic State hasn’t marched an army across the Rio Grande and sacked San Antonio, or sent a squad of terrorists to take out a shopping mall with signed, dated, notarized orders from Raqqa in their pockets.

Obama’s factoid about zero “foreign-directed terror attacks” is based on the highly contentious notion that soldiers of Allah (even the one who had “Soldier of Allah” printed on his business card, Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hassan) aren’t truly operatives of ISIS or al-Qaeda because they weren’t in constant two-way communication with the terrorist high command. (In Hassan’s case, even that weak excuse falls apart, because he was in touch with jihadi guru Anwar al-Awlaki.)

In truth, the number and frequency of deadly terrorist attacks on U.S. soil grew substantially worse under Obama. The raw number of fatalities under his predecessor, of course, is distorted by the horrific carnage of 9/11.

No one knew what a “lone wolf” terrorist was until Obama came along. The departing President seems to think “lone wolves” are less of a problem than big-ticket, carefully-planned professional atrocities like 9/11… but that’s the exact opposite of what his own intelligence community says. They’re warning that isolated extremists using the Internet to connect with global terrorist ideologies are difficult to spot in advance, and our resources are stretched to the breaking point keeping tabs on them.

The situation worldwide is even worse, with the number of annual terrorist deaths increasing over 400 percent since Obama took office. ISIS happened on Obama’s watch, while al-Qaeda and the Taliban are resurgent. The hellish mess he made of Syria will threaten the security of Western nations for years to come.

2. Cybersecurity: It should be clear by now that information security was, at most, a political annoyance to Barack Obama. His primary concern was controlling the public-relations fallout — keeping cybersecurity disasters off the media radar, because they made his administration look bad. Who can forget how the administration lied about the extent of the Office of Personnel Management data breach, leaving millions of victims vulnerable, while it scrambled to contain the P.R. damage? And remember, the intruders had been creeping around that gigantic, vital government database for a year.

The one-two sucker punch of Obama going nuclear over the menace of Russian hacking and WikiLeaks to delegitimize the 2016 election, and then springing alpha WikiLeaker Chelsea Manning from jail three decades early, should cement his careless and destructive infosec legacy forever — as if supporting his former Secretary of State’s presidential run after she trashed security protocols with reckless abandon wasn’t bad enough.

Obama apologists will say the Internet has become a bigger part of our lives over the past eight years, so it’s natural there would be more information-security controversies.The problem with that excuse is that the big cybersecurity disaster headlines were so often traced directly to administration policies — the OPM hack, the Clinton email scandal, the NSA/Edward Snowden controversy, software vulnerabilities kept secret by the government so it could exploit them, and others. The risky handover of Internet domain control to international control was Obama’s brainstorm.

Not every infosec threat since 2009 is his fault, but the gap between the rhetoric in his speeches and the way he coped with actual cyber disasters is. So is the way online adversaries have been emboldened by his failure to take action against them. We can’t even turn on our smartphones without worrying about Chinese spyware.

“On Obama’s watch, the State Department was hacked, the White House was hacked, the Department of Energy was hacked, and the National Nuclear Security Administration was hacked. A Government Accountability Office report found that cyberattacks against government agencies climbed 35% between 2010 and 2013,” noted Investor’s Business Daily in a November 2016 review of how cybersecurity grew worse under Obama.

IBD went on to quote an Inspector General report that OPM’s cybersecurity situation actually got worse after the attack, in keeping with the Obama tradition of talking big and doing little. His most comprehensive cybersecurity plan was rolled out in April of his last year in office, in an obvious example of passing the buck to his successor.

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Son of Muslim Brotherhood Official Visits White House

In this March 9, 2015 photo, Mohammed Soltan is pushed by his father Salah during a court appearance in Cairo, Egypt / AP

In this March 9, 2015 photo, Mohammed Soltan is pushed by his father Salah during a court appearance in Cairo, Egypt / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, January 19, 2017:

The son of a Muslim Brotherhood official who was imprisoned in Egypt until mid-2015 visited the White House earlier this week, according to photos posted on social media.

Mohamed Soltan is an American citizen who served as the unofficial spokesperson for a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated protest movement that sought to reinstate Mohamed Morsi following his ouster in 2013. Soltan visited the White House just days before President Barack Obama is set to vacate the presidential home.

Soltan, the son of a senior Muslim Brotherhood official Salah Soltan, was sentenced to life in prison by Egyptian authorities for his role backing the Muslim Brotherhood as it carried out deadly protests following Morsi’s ouster.

The younger Soltan was released from prison after a lengthy hunger strike and efforts by the Obama administration to secure his freedom.

screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-9-14-33-am-3

Soltan, who has been critical of the Muslim Brotherhood in the past and claims to not be an official member of the organization, thanked the Obama administration in comments accompanying the photo of him in the White House, which was posted on Facebook.

The Obama administration has come under fire in the past for hosting official members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which some lawmakers in Congress have sought to designate as a terrorist organization.

The Washington Free Beacon first reported in 2015 that the State Department had lied to reporters about a meeting it held with Muslim Brotherhood members.

One member of that delegation, a Muslim Brotherhood-aligned judge in Egypt, posed for a picture in which he held up the Islamic group’s four-finger Rabia symbol, according to his Facebook page.

Because Nothing Says ‘I CAIR’ Like a Pardon

cair-pleaNational Review, by Andrew C. McCarthy, January 18, 2017:

Thinking about what else could happen in the next 48 hours?

The Investigative Project on Terrorism reports that CAIR (the Council on America-Islamic Relations) is leading a furious lobbying campaign by Islamists in the U.S. to persuade President Obama to free the five Hamas operatives convicted in the Holy Land Foundation case.

Isn’t that rich?

The HLF prosecution is the most significant terrorism financing case the Justice Department has ever done. Hamas, a designated terrorist organization under federal law, is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. In the HLF case, the government proved not only that leading Islamist organizations in America were helping the Brotherhood transmit millions of dollars overseas to Hamas; prosecutors further demonstrated – using the Brotherhood’s own internal memoranda – that the Brotherhood saw its mission in the United States as “a grand jihad to eliminate and destroy Western civilization from within.”

In this grand jihad, the Brotherhood was in cahoots with these leading Islamist organizations, many of which had roots in the Brotherhood. One of these was … CAIR.

Indeed, Hamas and Brotherhood activists created CAIR in 1993-94 because they realized they needed an organization with legal know-how and media polish to advance the Islamist agenda. Having studied the United States (in a way that we resist studying radical Islam), they also realized that if they labeled their new creation a Muslim “civil rights” organization, the media would play along – CAIR would be lauded as a social justice warrior rather than revealed as a jihadist mouthpiece.

So CAIR was shown to be an unindicted co-conspirator in the HLF case. After the convictions of the five HLF officials in 2008, however, the incoming Obama administration opted against prosecuting CAIR and the other Islamist organizations that had assisted the conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization. In fact, early in his administration, Obama proclaimed his commitment “to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.”

As I explained at the time, zakat is often misleadingly translated as “charitable giving” by commentators and government officials. Actually, it is the fortification of the ummah (the notional worldwide Muslim community). Under classic sharia, zakat may only be contributed to Muslims. There are eight categories of permissible zakat recipients; one is Muslims who are fighting in jihad operations. (See the ancient sharia manual Reliance of the Traveller, sec. h8.17: “Zakat: The seventh category is those fighting for Allah, meaning people engaged in Islamic military operations for whom no salary has been allotted in the army roster[.]”)

I assume the president was simply uninformed about Islamic law – although this is Obama we’re talking about, so maybe it’s that he figures he knows more about how it should be construed than anyone on earth, including those who’ve spent their lives immersed in it. But Islamists would interpret his stated commitment to “ensure that they can fulfill zakat” as ensuring that they could do what the HLF defendants were convicted of doing: providing material support to terrorists. To Islamists, the five HLF convicts have been stuck serving between 15- and 65-year prison sentences for something they believe Obama has said should not be a crime in the first place.

Following the HLF convictions, it was reported that the Obama Justice Department had blocked prosecutions against a top CAIR official and leaders of other Brotherhood-tied organizations.

And now CAIR is pushing for the HLF defendants to be released from their very lengthy sentences. The Islamists’ narrative, as the Investigative Project explains, is that these Hamas operatives are really victims of, yes, “anti-Muslim hysteria.”

It’s a shrewd campaign. The Obama administration has been wholesale onboard the anti-anti-jihad bandwagon since day-one, and it often spouts the anti-Muslim hysteria party line. The administration has championed the Muslim Brotherhood; worked with Islamist governments to restrict American free speech rights (regarding criticism of Islam); armed and trained militias in Libya and Syria that were threaded with jihadists; and colluded with the Islamist government of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan – a Muslim Brotherhood backer who is among the world’s leading supporters of Hamas. As illustrated by the administration’s shameful orchestration last month of an anti-Israel resolution at the U.N. Security Council, Obama is sympathetic to the hard left’s view that Palestinian terrorists are not really terrorists – they are members of “political organizations” whose regrettable brutality is best understood as “resistance” to “occupation.”

If he were to release the Hamas convicts from the HLF case, Obama would (again) be a hero to both Islamists and leftists. He would simultaneously enrage national-security conservatives in the United States and the Israeli government.

In other words, he’d be doing what he’s done for eight years.

Also see:

Obama Frees Manning the Traitor

manning

Front Page Magazine, by Matthew Vadum, January 18, 2017:

To the Left the highest form of service to America is to betray it.

This is why President Obama yesterday ordered that the 35-year sentence of convicted traitor U.S. Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning be commuted. Manning, who leaked vast quantities of classified materials, was born male with the given name Bradley but now identifies as female.

Bradley’s transgender status, which has made the prisoner a cause célèbre among left-wingers, almost certainly played a huge role in the commutation. Manning, who has tried to commit suicide in prison, has not had sex-reassignment surgery but has been campaigning for it for years.

As a consequence of our Marxist, identity politics-obsessed president’s order, Manning is now scheduled to be released from military prison on May 17 of this year, instead of 2045. This means that upon release Manning will have served about seven years behind bars.

Manning was convicted by court-martial on July 30, 2013, of 20 counts, including six violations of the Espionage Act, along with theft and computer fraud. An acquittal was registered on the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, which can result in a sentence of life imprisonment.

As a clemency-sweetener, on Jan. 12 WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange offered to allow himself to be extradited to the U.S. if President Obama ordered the release of Manning.

Will Assange honor his promise? We’ll see.

Read more

***

Tucker Carlson and Ben Collins discuss:

GORKA: Obama’s Farewell Speech Puts Narrative and Spin Before Safety of the American People

screen-shot-2017-01-12-at-2-04-08-pm-640x480Breitbart, by John Hayward, January 12, 2017:

Breitbart News National Security Editor Dr. Sebastian Gorka, author of the best-selling book Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War, appeared on Fox Business Network to offer his take on departing President Obama’s statement that “no foreign terrorist organization has been able to conduct a terrorist attack on U.S. soil” during his administration.

“My take is, I live in reality, Maria,” Gorka told host Maria Bartiromo. “Yesterday was Alice in Wonderland. It was a wilderness of mirrors. It was spin and narrative over truth.”

“This is outrageous,” he continued. “This the moment when President Obama could have shown great graciousness. He could have handed over the baton with style, admitted some of his mistakes, and just welcomed the new administration. Instead, the lies continue.”

“We’ve had more than 13 attacks linked directly to outside jihadi organizations,” Gorka noted. “The Fort Hood shooter – let me just concentrate on one of them, Maria. The Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Hassan, wasn’t just ‘inspired by’ jihadism. He wasn’t just reading jihadi literature. He was emailing Anwar al-Awlaki. He was emailing al-Qaeda’s leadership in Yemen.”

“And the President has the bald-faced cheek to stand up in front of the American people and say ‘No, no, no, no foreign attacks,’” he exclaimed. “It is parsing. He took a leaf out of the playbook of President Clinton, when he said well, it depends what your definition of ‘is’ is. That’s what yesterday was.”

Bartiromo noted that another achievement Obama claimed during his farewell speech was the closing of Guantanamo Bay… only to see the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee demand a halt to Gitmo transfers the very next day, following the review of new intelligence reports.

“I was told by various individuals inside the national security enterprise that he is adamant, because he’s so embarrassed that on his first day in office he signed that executive order closing Gitmo, eight years ago,” Gorka said. “Simply through personal sheer embarrassment, he says, ‘I have to close it this month.’ This is not about national security. It’s about prestige and ego.”

“These are bad people, Maria,” he said of the remaining detainees. “And Gitmo isn’t a detention facility. Gitmo is an intelligence asset. That’s how we found out where bin Laden was, through interrogations of KSM. This is again narrative more important than reality, spin more important than the safety of the American people.”

Fox News contributor Robert Wolf, a board member of the Obama Foundation, leaped to President Obama’s defense. He claimed Dr. Gorka’s comments were disrespectful to the outgoing President, arguing that Obama justified the false statement Gorka and Bartiromo criticized with a disclaimer that he wasn’t referring to “homegrown terrorists,” and lauding Obama for reducing the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Your guest, I hope he gets a job in the next Democrat administration. What a water carrier,” Gorka responded.

“Removing troops from a theater of combat is not the definition of victory. I recommend you open a history book. The definition of victory is when the enemy stops killing you. Tell your spin to the dead of Orlando,” he said to Wolf.

When Bartiromo interjected that Obama did oversee the killing of Osama bin Laden, Gorka replied, “Oversee it? Yeah. Anybody who was in that chair would be overseeing it, whether they were left or right.”

“Let me talk about the military,” he said. “You talked about them, your guest mentioned the military. Just before the speech, I had a conversation with a three-star general who is in charge of counter-terrorism issues here in America. He said the counter-terrorism effort under President Obama is shambolic, and morale is at its lowest level ever. That’s from inside.”

“Don’t try and take the bravery of our military and wrap yourself in it, when we have ISIS become the largest insurgent jihadi group in modern history, and when we have the SITE Intelligence Group say outside of Iraq and Syria, we have had a jihadi attack every 83 hours. Not 83 days, every 83 hours. 65 million refugees in the world, in most part thanks to jihadi extremism. If that’s a success story, I have a bridge to sell your guest,” Gorka said.

He predicted Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson would have “a little bit of heat put on him” during the remainder of his confirmation hearings, but noted he is “a man who is in charge of one of the largest, most successful companies in the world.”

“I think he’ll do swimmingly,” he predicted. “He’ll skate through. There will be a little bit of rhetoric and posing for the cameras, but I’m confident that these nominees will be confirmed.”

Dr. Sebastian Gorka: Iran Nuclear Deal Is the Worst of Obama’s ‘Many Catastrophic Legacies’

Associated Press

Associated Press

Breitbart, by John Hayward, January 10, 2017:

Breitbart News National Security Editor Dr. Sebastian Gorka, author of the best-selling book Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War, was tasked by SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam on Tuesday’s Breitbart News Daily with choosing the “worst thing Obama is leaving this country, in terms of foreign policy.”

“Oh, that’s easy,” Gorka replied. “It’s the empowering to nuclear threshold status of a nation that his own State Department says is a state sponsor of terrorism. The Iran nuclear deal is – of all the many, many catastrophic legacies, it’s the Iran deal.”

He judged that the empowerment of Iran was a worse Obama legacy than the rise of the Islamic State because “we can wipe ISIS off the face of the earth, if we’re serious, and if we really go to war.”

“I mean, think about it: they’ve got maybe, at best, at this point, 40,000 fighters. We have twice that number of special operators alone in the United States,” he noted. “If we’re serious, we can destroy them, and then follow that up with a counter-ideological campaign. But dealing with an eschatologically informed theocratic republic that now has a crescent of influence from Yemen to Persia, which is on the cusp of nuclear capability, that’s even more dangerous.”

Gorka suggested a dissertation could be written on how the realignment of power in the Middle East became a “secret war,” largely unreported by U.S. media, because President Obama wanted to change American posture towards Iran and other regional powers.

“Obama has a legacy for using more drones to kill people in the first six months of his administration than Bush ever did,” he said. “If you look at the fact that on one day, he has bombed six different nations – but nobody’s reporting about it. During the Bush administration, we had embedded journalists. You remember embed phenomena? That doesn’t exist any more. This is the complicity of the mainstream media, that they preach peace, they preach Nobel Prizes, but this is a truly hyper-engaged administration when it comes to doing what they think is right around the world for ideological reasons. But nobody writes about it, except Breitbart.”

Gorka agreed with author Dinesh D’Souza’s contention that Obama was “the first post-American President.”

“His guiding philosophy was very simple: America is bad. If there are problems in the world, from global warming to you-name-it, we are the cause. America is the new imperial force. As a result, we have to be taken down a peg or two – and my, did he take us down a peg or two,” he said.

Gorka had no patience for Obama’s claim of a “scandal-free” presidency.

“Where to begin? Benghazi, the IRS, the Iran deal, the involvement of drone strikes against U.S. citizens without due process – on and on and on,” he said. “That is perhaps the most bare-faced lie of any of the press reporting in the last eight years, that this was a scandal-free administration.”

Kassam asked for Gorka’s take on how the Trump transition team is handling the Russian hacking story, in particular the assertion in the intelligence community’s public report that Russian President Vladimir Putin directly ordered an effort to influence the 2016 election via media manipulation.

“I can’t talk to the transition, but if you listen to the statements that are being made, I think you’ll understand that the transition team understands better than most: this isn’t about ‘hacking.’ It’s hard to hack somebody whose password is ‘password,’” Gorka replied, making a jab at the notoriously lax security procedures of Hillary Clinton campaign chief John Podesta.

“This is about influence operations and information warfare,” he continued. “The issue is that Russia, for very little investment, managed to question the probity of our elections, without there really being anything that’s occurred to the elections themselves. That’s the big story. This is old, Cold War-style information operations at their worst.”

He said links to Russia could be seen in the penetration of the Democratic National Committee and Podesta’s email.

“If you look at the code that was used, if you look at the various modus operandi, the report from DHS, FBI, the unclassified one is clear. But the important point is, it’s not a ‘hack.’ The election wasn’t undermined. It is the perception of the probity of the election, and that’s called active measures. That’s called dezinformatsiya,” Gorka said.

Kassam noted the IC report has been criticized for offering far-reaching conclusions about Russian involvement without providing any supporting information, much of which would still be classified – the very same criticism that was leveled retroactively, for years, with white-hot passion, against the intelligence reports on pre-war Iraq. “Why are we just sort of accepting this now?” he asked.

“Look, the thing that has to be remembered – and this is the point I always try to make on any interviews – is that we have patriots and good people working inside the national security establishment,” Gorka responded. “For the majority of cases, that is absolutely true. But who runs them? Who is John Brennan? Who is General Clapper? These individuals are politically chosen. John Brennan has carried the water for Obama for eight years. That is important, and as a result, we have to reassess when one agency says something that the other agencies do not agree with. That’s the bottom line, Raheem.”

Kassam recalled that the last time unanimity was supposedly reached between the intelligence agencies, “it was Colin Powell sitting there claiming that everybody believed we had to go to war in Iraq. How’d that work out for us?”

“Yes indeed – another political actor who I’m sure regrets waving a test tube at the United Nations Security Council. Indeed, the ‘sexed-up’ dossier, Colin Powell’s behavior – these are all things we must remember,” Gorka urged.

Also see:

Obama “Gifts” Iran With Massive Uranium Shipment From Russia Sufficient “For More Than 10 Nuclear Bombs”

Zero Hedge, by Tyler Durden, January 9, 2017:

In what amounts to an 11th hour “gift” by the outgoing Obama administration to Tehran’s leadership to keep the country, which on Sunday was involved in yet another shooting incident with a US destroyer, content and compliant with Obama’s landmark “Nuclear deal”, the AP reported that Iran is to receive a huge shipment of natural uranium from Russia to compensate it for exporting tons of reactor coolant. The move was approved by the outgoing U.S. administration and other governments “seeking to keep Tehran committed to a landmark nuclear pact.

AP cites two senior diplomats who said that the transfer which was recently agreed by the U.S. and five other world powers that negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran, foresees delivery of 116 metric tons (nearly 130 tons) of natural uranium. U.N. Security Council approval is needed but a formality, considering five of those powers are permanent Security Council members, they said.

The swap is in compensation for the approximately 40 metric tons (44 tons) of heavy water exported by Iran to Russia since the nuclear agreement went into effect. Another 30 metric tons have gone to the U.S. and Oman.

While Uranium can be enriched to levels ranging from reactor fuel or medical and research purposes to the core of an atomic bomb, Iran has claimed it has no interest in such weapons and its activities are being closely monitored under the nuclear pact to make sure they remain peaceful. As we reported at the time, Tehran previously received a similar amount of natural uranium in 2015 as part of negotiations leading up to the nuclear deal, in a swap for enriched uranium it sent to Russia. But the new shipment will be the first such consignment since the deal came into force a year ago.

The news comes ahead of a meeting in Vienna, where of representatives of Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany will review Iranian complaints that the U.S. was reneging on sanctions relief pledges included in the nuclear deal.

As AP adds, “the uranium agreement comes at a sensitive time. With the incoming U.S. administration and many U.S. lawmakers already skeptical of how effective the nuclear deal is in keeping Iran’s nuclear program peaceful over the long term, they might view it as further evidence that Tehran is being given too many concessions.”

The diplomats said any natural uranium transferred to Iran after the deal came into effect would be under strict surveillance by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency for 25 years after implementation of the deal.

 

They said Tehran has not said what it would do with the uranium but could choose to store it or turn it into low-enriched uranium and then export it for use as reactor fuel.

Despite present restrictions on its enrichment program, the amount of natural uranium is significant should Iran decide to keep it in storage, considering its potential uses once some limits on

 

Tehran’s nuclear activities start to expire in less than a decade.

The troubling part, if only for those who see Iran as hell bent on creating nucleaar weapons was noted by David Albright, whose Institute of Science and International Security often briefs U.S. lawmakers on Iran’s nuclear program, says the shipment could be enriched to enough weapons-grade uranium for more than 10 simple nuclear bombs, “depending on the efficiency of the enrichment process and the design of the nuclear weapon.”

While it remains to be seen if Trump will comment on the unexpected delivery, we are certain that Israel, and especially its embattled prime minister Netanyahu, will raise a substantial fuss over the renewed possibility of a nuclear-armed neighbor. Heavy water is used to cool a type of reactor that produces more plutonium than reactors cooled by light water. Like enriched uranium, plutonium can be turned into the fissile core of a nuclear weapon

* * *

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Iranian lawmakers, far from demilitarizing, approved plans on Monday to expand military spending to five percent of the budget, including developing the country’s long-range missile program which U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to halt.  The vote is a boost to Iran’s military establishment – the regular army, the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and defense ministry – which was allocated almost 2 percent of the 2015-16 budget.

But it could put the Islamic Republic on a collision course with the incoming Trump administration, and fuel criticism from other Western states which say Tehran’s recent ballistic missile tests are inconsistent with a U.N. resolution on Iran. The resolution, adopted last year as part of the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear activities, calls on Iran to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons. Tehran says it has not carried out any work on missiles specifically designed to carry such payloads.

Tasnim news agency said 173 lawmakers voted in favor of an article in Iran’s five-year development plan that “requires government to increase Iran’s defense capabilities as a regional power and preserve the country’s national security and interests by allocating at least five percent of annual budget” to military affairs. Only 10 lawmakers voted against the plan, which includes developing long range missiles, armed drones and cyber-war capabilities.

Members of Iran's revolutionary guard look at a missile launched during a war  game near the city of Qom.

Members of Iran’s revolutionary guard look at a missile launched during a war
game near the city of Qom.

The Obama administration says Iran’s ballistic missile tests have not violated the nuclear agreement with Tehran, but Trump, who criticized the accord as “the worst deal ever negotiated”, has said he would stop Iran’s missile program.

“Those ballistic missiles, with a range of 1,250 miles, were designed to intimidate not only Israel … but also intended to frighten Europe and someday maybe hit even the United States,” he told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee AIPAC in March. “We’re not going to let that happen.”

* * *

So one hand, we have Obama desperate to salvage his diplomatic legacy (having already seen TPP implode and Obamacare starting the repeal proess), appeasing Iran in every possible way, even if it means further antagonizing Israel; on the other we have Iran taking advantage of Obama’s weakness, and accelerating the ballistic weapons program which has been banned per the same treasury that Obama wants to see continue. Finally, throw in Trump and Netanyahu in the mix, and the future for US-Iranian relations after January 20 suddenly looks rather volatile.

Also see:

  • Iran Shows Obama, Not Trump, Putin’s Biggest Lackey – Amidst the mainstream media slavering over putative Russian hacks into the U.S. election, far more serious evil is emerging from the former Soviet Union in cahoots with Iran. And Barack Obama, not Donald Trump, is the enabler-in-chief. In his most dangerous act on his way out the door, the outgoing president is paving the way for Vladimir Putin to help the mullahs go nuclear.

Iran: U.S. Surrendered More Than $10 Billion in Gold, Cash, Assets

Hassan Rouhani / AP

Hassan Rouhani / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, January 9, 2017:

The Obama administration has paid Iran more than $10 billion in gold, cash, and other assets since 2013, according to Iranian officials, who disclosed that the White House has been intentionally deflating the total amount paid to the Islamic Republic.

Senior Iranian officials late last week confirmed reports that the total amount of money paid to Iran over the past four years is in excess of $10 billion, a figure that runs counter to official estimates provided by the White House.

The latest disclosure by Iran, which comports with previous claims about the Obama administration obfuscating details about its cash transfers to Iran—including a $1.7 billion cash payment included in a ransom to free Americans—sheds further light on the White House’s back room dealings to bolster Iran’s economy and preserve the Iran nuclear agreement.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi confirmed last week a recent report in the Wall Street Journal detailing some $10 billion in cash and assets provided to Iran since 2013, when the administration was engaging in sensitive diplomacy with Tehran aimed at securing the nuclear deal.

Ghasemi disclosed that the $10 billion figure just scratches the surface of the total amount given to Iran by the United States over the past several years.

“I will not speak about the precise amount,” Ghasemi was quoted as saying in Persian language reports independently translated for the Washington Free Beacon.

The $10 billion figure is actually a “stingy” estimate, Ghasemi claimed, adding that a combination of cash, gold, and other assets was sent by Washington to Iran’s Central Bank and subsequently “spent.”

“This report is true but the value was higher,” Ghassemi was quoted as saying.

“After the Geneva conference and the resulting agreement, it was decided that $700 million dollars were to be dispensed per month” by the U.S., according to Ghassemi. “In addition to the cash funds which we received, we [also] received our deliveries in gold, bullion, and other things.”

Regional experts who spoke to the Free Beacon about these disclosures said that the $10 billion figure offered by the Obama administration should be viewed “as a conservative estimate for what Iran was paid to stay at the table and negotiate.”

“Iran does have incentives to overstate this figure,” Behnam Ben Taleblu, a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Free Beacon. “But given the recent state-sponsored narrative in Iran about a Western and particularly American failing to offer sanctions relief, this reads much more as fact rather than another instance of disinformation from Tehran.”

It is likely Iran spent a portion of this money to fund its regional terror operations and military enterprise to bolster embattled Syrian President Bashar al Assad, Ben Taleblu said.

“Given the nature of some of this sanctions relief (through the provision of gold and unfrozen assets), this money likely underwrote some of the Islamic Republic’s more destabilizing regional activities,” he explained. “At the macro level, all of this continues to prove one larger point: The way the Iran deal was handled and the provision of sanctions relief during and after the talks that led to the nuclear accord continues to create problems for those interested in defending the integrity of the international financial system.”

One veteran foreign policy insider familiar with the administration’s outreach to Iran told the Free Beacon that the White House has a history of deflating these figures in order to obfuscate details about its contested diplomacy with the Islamic Republic.

“This is how it always happens when the Obama administration secretly sends money to Iran,” said the source, who would only speak on background when discussing the outgoing administration’s strategy. “They deny it until they’re caught, then they lowball it until they’re caught again, then they say it’s old news. In every single case where Iranian officials confirms these transfers while Obama officials denied them, it later turned out the Iranian officials were the ones telling the truth.”

No Surprise Classified Report on Russia Leaked to Media to Hurt Trump

524204248-1Center for Security Policy, by Fred Fleitz, January 6, 2016:

The same day that a classified 50-page intelligence report was delivered to President Obama on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, its findings were immediately leaked to the Washington Post by “U.S. officials” – probably senior Obama officials at the National Security Council.  Making this worse, the leakers may have compromised sensitive intelligence sources and methods by revealing that the report was based on intercepted communications.

According to the Post story, the classified intelligence report says senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow.  So-called “actors” involved in providing Democratic emails to WikiLeaks reportedly are identified.  The report also is said to discuss “disparities in the levels of effort Russian intelligence entities devoted to penetrating and exploiting sensitive information stored on Democratic and Republican campaign networks.”

After the Washington Post story was posted online, a senior U.S. intelligence official discussed the classified report with NBC News.  The intelligence official agreed to talk to NBC because he or she disagreed with the focus of the Post story and believes the Post overemphasized alleged Russian celebration of Trump’s win and did not focus on the thrust of the report.

Two other intelligence officials also leaked details of the classified report to NBC.  According to the NBC story, “Two top intelligence officials with direct knowledge told NBC News that the report on Russian hacking also details Russian cyberattacks not just against the Democratic National Committee, but the White House, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the State Department and American corporations.”

It’s no surprise that Obamas officials would immediately leak to the news media details about the intelligence report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election since they have a history of leaking highly classified intelligence to the press – including sensitive intelligence sources and methods – to advance their political agendas.

For example, in 2012 then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reportedly told the Obama NSC staff to “shut the f— up” after they leaked sensitive details about the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound as part of a victory lap for the president’s foreign policy.

Not only do I believe the Obama White House raced to the phone to leak the new intelligence report on Russian hacking to the press, I believe this is why Mr. Obama requested this report in the first place – the president wanted an intelligence assessment undermining Trump’s election that his staff could leak to the news media before he left office.

But as bad as the leaking of classified reports to the press for political reasons by White House officials is, leaks about the Russia report by intelligence officers are far more serious, especially at a time of growing tension between President-elect Donald Trump and the U.S. Intelligence Community.  Trump’s team has attacked the accuracy of intelligence assessments and accused intelligence officers of leaking to the news media against Trump and politicizing intelligence.  Regardless of whether these accusations have merit (I believe they do), press leaks by intelligence officials on the Russia report will only widen the rift between Trump and U.S. intelligence agencies.  Trump tweeted in response to the NBC story:

How did the intelligence officials who leaked to NBC expect Mr. Trump to react?  Did they give any thought to the damage these leaks would cause to relations between their agencies and the president-elect?

President Trump will need and deserve a U.S. Intelligence Community that provides him with hard hitting and objective analysis devoid of politics.  It’s time for Director of National Intelligence Clapper and other intelligence officials to stop complaining about Donald Trump “disparaging” U.S. intelligence agencies and demand that intelligence officers stop trying to undermine our new president.  I am certain that the vast majority of intelligence officers welcome the opportunity to support Mr. Trump.  If the handful of intelligence officers who have been leaking against Trump cannot accept his election and their responsibility to loyally serve the next president, they need to resign immediately.

Will Obama Pardon Hillary? Should He?

hillary-please-640x480And does Trump actually want her to be pardoned?

National Review, by Andrew C. McCarthy, November 12, 2016:

White House press secretary Josh Earnest raised some eyebrows on Wednesday when he engaged on the question whether President Obama would pardon Hillary Clinton before leaving office. Earnest did not indicate that the president had made any commitment one way or the other, but the fact that he is clearly thinking about it is intriguing.

The question primarily arises because there is significant evidence of felony law violations. These do not only involve the mishandling of classified information and the conversion/destruction of government files (i.e., the former secretary of state’s government-related e-mails). It has also been credibly reported that the FBI is investigating pay-to-play corruption during Clinton’s State Department tenure, through the mechanism of the Clinton Foundation — the family “charity” by means of which the Clintons have become fabulously wealthy by leveraging their “public service.” Thus far, Mrs. Clinton has been spared prosecution, but we have learned that the e-mails aspect of the investigation was unduly limited (no grand jury was used); and the legal theory on which FBI director James Comey declined to seek charges is highly debatable, even if it has been rubber-stamped by Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

The proximate cause driving the pardon question, however, is President-elect Donald Trump’s commitment that if victorious, he would appoint a special prosecutor to probe his rival’s “situation.”

This is one of what will no doubt be many things that Mr. Trump will find were easier to say in the heat of the moment (a contentious debate between the candidates) than to do in his new political reality. During the campaign, nothing damaged Clinton as badly as the specter of criminal jeopardy. But now Trump has been elected, and he has a governing agenda that will require cooperation from Capitol Hill. A prosecution of Clinton would provoke Democratic outrage, which means media outrage, which, in turn, means Republican panic.

Much of the outrage is ill-considered — although that doesn’t stop some smart people from expressing it. The objection is that the United States is not, for example, Turkey, where the Islamist despot persecutes his political opposition. But the comparison is apples and oranges. Clinton would not be under investigation for opposing Trump; the probe would be based on evidence of non-trivial law-breaking that has nothing to do with Trump. We know this because Clinton’s misconduct has already been the subject of ostensibly serious investigations by the incumbent administration’s law enforcers. If your position is that a politician may be investigated only if her own party is in power, then you are the one politicizing law enforcement — and creating an environment that breeds corruption.

But that, of course, is logic. Politics is not obliged to be logical. Even those of us who believe Mrs. Clinton’s misconduct demands a thorough investigation must acknowledge the real-world circumstances. The Trump administration will need to move on filling Justice Scalia’s Supreme Court seat; repealing Obamacare; debt, tax and regulatory reform; Iran; and who knows what unforeseen crises. A prosecution of Mrs. Clinton, especially if it is perceived as a rush to judgment, could derail the Trump train before it even pulls out of the station.

So what is to be done? Well, let’s put the merits of prosecution versus pardon aside for a moment. Politically speaking, the easiest out for Trump would be an Obama pardon of Clinton. But will the incumbent president do it? I suspect he will. There is no love lost between Obama and Trump, and probably not much between Obama and Clinton. But the president does have himself to think about — lots of love there.

Mrs. Clinton’s misconduct occurred when she was a high-ranking member of Obama’s cabinet. Her improper use of a non-secure private e-mail system was widely known in administration circles, yet it went unpoliced. Moreover, there is good reason to believe the administration was aware of Clinton’s serial flouting of the agreement she made with the White House as a condition of being appointed secretary of state — the one that required her to disclose and seek prior administration approval of Clinton Foundation activities that generated payments and donations from foreign sources. As it is, Obama’s dereliction in failing to make Clinton toe the line reflects poorly on him. Were these matters ever to be fully explored at a public trial, though, his legacy would take a major hit.

More to the point, as we’ve repeatedly noted in these columns, Obama, using an alias, willfully communicated with Clinton via her private e-mail account at least 18 times. This implicates him in her mishandling of classified information. Indeed, the Obama–Clinton e-mails would be admissible evidence in any trial of Mrs. Clinton — as likely would be the fact that the president falsely denied knowledge of Clinton’s private e-mail usage when asked about it in media interviews.

If President Obama had wanted these matters publicly exposed, he would have encouraged an aggressive criminal investigation of Mrs. Clinton, and he would not have invoked a confidentiality privilege to prevent Congress and the public from reading the Obama–Clinton e-mails.

For all the president’s gracious rhetoric this week about helping his successor succeed, the thought of leaving the thorny Clinton dilemma on Trump’s desk must be very tempting to Obama. On the other hand, Obama may calculate that a pardon for Clinton would burnish his legacy, just as historians have smiled on Gerald Ford for granting clemency to Richard Nixon (although, as I’ve argued, Nixon’s situation was very different from Clinton’s.) But all that aside, and regardless of the president’s feelings for Mrs. Clinton (which I suspect are warmer than some have suggested), this is more a matter of Obama’s self-preservation than anything else. That’s why I believe he will pardon her — after all, he seems to be pardoning everybody else. A pardon issued by Obama would make the whole affair go away, leaving Trump a clean slate.

But what if he doesn’t? What should President Trump do once the reins are in his hands?

Some are already arguing that Trump should pardon Clinton. There is some sense to this. Most of Trump’s ardent supporters would forgive him for going back on his word (as they would forgive him, it seems, for most anything). They would rationalize that he has more important fish to fry. There would also be reveling in the five or six minutes the media spent extolling Trump’s magnanimity before reverting to attack mode. As for the many in Republican circles who are tepid, at best, when it comes to Trump, a goodly number of them would cheer a Clinton pardon.

So if that’s the case, why shouldn’t Trump pardon Clinton?

Well for one thing, because a president is supposed to know what he is pardoning before resorting to that conclusive, irrevocable power. That is why the Justice Department has a pardon office, funded annually by Congress. The pardon office oversees an elaborate procedure, a key element of which is input from the prosecutor responsible for the case. The point is to ensure that the president is fully aware of the extent and nature of the criminality involved before deciding whether to grant clemency.

Mrs. Clinton has never been subjected to a full-blown criminal investigation, with FBI agents and prosecutors working jointly (rather than at cross-purposes), using the grand jury to compel the production of testimony and physical evidence. Such an investigation would be important here because Clinton did not act alone. Her use of private e-mail was systematic, with numerous staffers supporting it, covering it up, and moving classified intelligence through it; several underlings carried out the destruction of government files; many subordinates may have made false statements to FBI investigators; and the Clinton Foundation is a vast multi-billion-dollar enterprise — one that will continue its potentially criminal activities if a prosecution does not put it out of business.

Among the salient factors considered in pardon decisions are (a) where the offender under consideration fit in the pecking order of conspiratorial activity and (b) how similar offenders are typically treated. To be sure, Hillary Clinton is a special case: A prosecution against a major party’s most recent presidential candidate (which may also implicate her husband, the former president) would roil the nation and could complicate its governance. Still, we are talking about serious crimes, and Mrs. Clinton is the most culpable participant. Is the plan to pardon everyone involved, or should Mrs. Clinton get a pass while her minions face the anxiety and costs of potential legal jeopardy?

And if Mrs. Clinton is to walk away scot-free after compromising our nation’s most closely guarded intelligence operations, and after she has reaped hundreds of millions of dollars by putting our government’s foreign and security policy on sale, what is a Trump Justice Department going to do in far less consequential cases?

Trump campaigned as the people’s champion, the president who was going to “drain the swamp” and end the sordid Washington system of two sets of rules: a forgiving one for the well-connected and a harsh one for everybody else. Well, what about it, then? If Mrs. Clinton skates, is the run-of-the-mill fraudster also going to get a pass for the more mundane $100,000 scheme? How about the low-ranking naval officer who takes a couple of souvenir photos of a top-secret submarine? The mid-level CIA analyst who brings a few classified memos home rather than staying late to read them in the agency SCIF? Is everybody off the felony hook now, or just the Clintons?

These are not easy questions. If President Trump and his advisers are going to answer them fairly and properly, it ought to be done on a much better-informed basis than what we now have. The new president should direct his attorney general to select a scrupulous, objective, non-partisan special prosecutor, an attorney with solid law-enforcement experience who is respected on both sides of the political aisle (there are more of those than you might imagine). That special prosecutor and a team of FBI agents, operating outside the supervision of Trump’s political appointees at the Justice Department, should conduct a full and fair investigation — under normal law-enforcement protocols, which means no public commentary unless and until a decision is made about whether to file charges.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department’s pardon office should begin preparing a full clemency petition, working, as always, out of the public spotlight. Eventually, input from both Mrs. Clinton’s attorneys and the special prosecutor should be invited.

At the end of that process, with a normal investigation and a full understanding of the facts, the special prosecutor should file an indictment if the facts are so damning that prosecution is warranted. But, before or after that is done, President Trump could issue a pardon if the equities weigh in favor of one, especially if the evidence appears to be ambiguous. Significantly, the special prosecutor and the attorney general could also end up announcing that the investigation is being closed without charges and with no need to address the question of a pardon. That would give Mrs. Clinton the vindication she deserves if there truly is insufficient evidence to prosecute her.

Again, I don’t believe it will come to that. My sense is that President Obama will issue a pardon that covers not only Mrs. Clinton but any crimes committed by any person arising out of both the homebrew e-mail system and the Clinton Foundation — including any false statements and obstruction of the FBI’s investigations. That would make it case closed, sparing Obama embarrassment and Trump a political hot potato. If the current president does not act, though, the new president needs to be ready with a plan.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

When the Trump Team Comes Looking for the Secrets of Obama’s Iran File

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PJ Media, by Claudia Rosett, November 11, 2016:

Thursday’s cordial meeting between President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama was a reassuring ritual of democracy. But Obama was far from convincing when he told Trump “we are now going to do everything we can to help you succeed.” There are some highly disparate ideas here about what constitutes success, both foreign and domestic. There are also big areas in which one might reasonably wonder if Obama and his team are in a quandary over the prospect of a Trump administration inheriting the internal records of the most transparent administration ever.

Take, for instance, the Iran nuclear deal, Obama’s signature foreign policy legacy, the chief accomplishment of his second term. The Obama administration’s Iran file has been a realm of murk, crammed with dangerous concessions and secret side deals for terror-sponsoring Tehran — to a degree that has left some critics wondering if Obama’s real aim was to empower Iran as the hegemon of the Middle East (equipped with ballistic missiles to complement its “exclusively peaceful” nuclear program).

The cherry on top — officially separate from the nuclear deal, but highly coincident — was the Obama administration’s secret conveyance to Iran early this year of cash totaling $1.7 billion for the settlement of an old claim against the United States.

Like Obama’s other legacy achievement, the unaffordable Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, these Iran dealings were so intricate, extensive and opaque that we are still discovering just how duplicitous the official narratives were. Obama never submitted the Iran nuclear deal as a treaty for ratification by the Senate. Instead, he rushed the deal to the United Nations Security Council for approval less than a week after the final text was announced, and left Congress wrestling through the ensuing weeks, during the summer of 2015, to try to extract vital details from the elusive Obama and his team, subject to a legislative bargain so convoluted that the process, and the deal, never came to a vote.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s focus on the $1.7 billion “settlement” paid to Iran, which Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, apparently with no prior notice to Congress, announced this past January.  Obama and Kerry did not mention at the time that the administration was shelling out the funds in cash, to be airlifted into Iran — a form of payment especially handy for Iran’s illicit ventures, such as terrorism and procurement for its ballistic missile program (the usual role of ballistic missiles — which Iran has continued testing — being to carry nuclear weapons, which Obama has assured us Iran under his deal is not developing).

Obama and his team also neglected to mention that $1.3 billion of his administration’s cash bonanza for Tehran had come from the pockets of American taxpayers, via an obscure channel at Treasury called the Judgment Fund. It took months before such specifics came to light, which they did thanks not to the administration, but to the efforts of the press, and a number of persistent questioners in Congress — to whom the administration sent tardy and evasive replies.

Questions continue to swirl around this cash-for-Iran arrangement. Was it a ransom for American prisoners released by Iran on the same day the Obama administration announced the $1.7 billion settlement? (The Obama administration has repeatedly asked the public to swallow the logical fallacy that because it is not U.S. policy to pay ransom, this was not a ransom).

Why did the administration — until outed in August and September in a series of stories by the press — make a secret of the cash, the conduits and the dates of delivery? What were — what are — the full terms of this confidential arrangement? Which, according to a Sept. 29 report in The Wall Street Journal, included, as part of a package of three secret documents signed in Geneva, U.S. backing for the lifting of UN sanctions on two Iranian state banks blacklisted for financing Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Why have the relevant texts of all this wheeling and dealing been kept secret? Why has the administration repeatedly stonewalled questions from Congress? What were the machinations behind Obama’s claim, after The Wall Street Journal on August 3 broke the story of the first tranche of $400 million in cash for Iran, that the U.S. government had no choice but to pay Iran with a mountain of hard-currency banknotes? Based on what internal calculus did the administration refuse to provide public confirmation for another few weeks — until after the news broke in the press — that the additional $1.3 billion in taxpayers funds had also been paid in cash? On the basis of what information, precisely, did Attorney General Loretta Lynch certify that Treasury paying out those tax dollars to Iran was in the interest of the United States?

The government of terror-sponsoring Iran knows the answers to many of these questions. The American public does not. But we can reasonably speculate that as this cash-for-Iran saga unfolded, it left a trail of records within the Obama administration. Classified, quite likely — but surely there are some illuminating documents that someone with the proper clearances might wish to read.

Once upon a time, we would have called this a paper trail; these days it would more likely be digital. But at the very least, there ought to be the secret texts, the related justifications, requisitions and all the to-and-fro that would presumably be involved in the State Department, the Pentagon and Treasury (at the behest of the Justice Department, on behalf of State, with the blessing of President Obama), secretly organizing cash shipments totaling $1.7 billion for Iran — and then, for months, despite persistent questions from Congress and the press, covering it up. Add to that the overlap — or was it, as appears more likely, the coordination? — of all that clandestinely conveyed cash with the return of American hostages. Then amplify this scene dramatically, to include the manufacturing of the mothership Iran nuclear deal itself, and the related handling of sanctions (which, as the 2014-2015 Iran talks stretched out from the initially planned six months to 17, appeared, despite administration protests to the contrary, to be ever more casually enforced).

Which brings us back to America’s presidential election a mere three days ago, in which it sure looks like Obama and his team were blind-sided by Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton. Misled by their own narratives, by their echo chamber in the press, by erroneous polls, by the same arrogance that begat the presidential rule of pen-and-phone and Ben-Rhodes-narratives, Obama and his team were expecting a handover to Hillary. She might not agree with them on everything, but as a former insider herself, as a candidate who was running to continue Obama’s trajectory and cement his legacies, she wasn’t someone whose access to the Iran file was likely to cause anyone currently in the White House to lose sleep (provided she’d really ditched her non-secure home-server proclivities).

And then Hillary lost.

Read more

Obama’s self-serving plan to close Gitmo a threat to national security

Photo: WireImage

Photo: WireImage

New York Post, by Paul Sperry, November 11, 2016:

With just 2¹/₂ months remaining in his term, President Obama has arrived at what many intelligence officials believe is an “irreducible minimum” number of Guantanamo Bay prisoners who can’t be transferred because they’re considered too dangerous, or their home countries like Yemen are too unstable to repatriate them.

But that hasn’t stopped the president from trying to whittle down the terrorist population at the prison even further in his quest to permanently shutter it.

During his time in office, Obama has slashed the number of detainees from 241 to just 60. Of those, 20 are queued for release, leaving 40 who are considered the worst of the worst terrorists, including 9/11 co-conspirators.

The recidivism rate of the Muslim men previously released is high. Almost 1 in 3 has returned to violent jihad. Freeing or transferring the remaining prisoners to less secure facilities is exceedingly risky.

Obama himself noted seven years ago that these otherwise “forever detainees” pose a “clear danger to the American people.”

The terrorists in this high-risk category, he explained, “received extensive explosives training at al Qaeda training camps, or commanded Taliban troops in battle, or expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden, or otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans.”

So how will the president fulfill his campaign vow to close the prison without further jeopardizing national security? One way is lowering the standards his parole board uses to assess the continuing threat prisoners pose to America.

Take Moath Hamza Ahmed al-Alwi, an al Qaeda fighter from Yemen who served as a bodyguard for bin Laden in Afghanistan before 9/11. His case is up for review before the board now, along with three other Yemeni nationals. His intelligence file warns he “has made several statements since early 2016 that suggest he maintains an extremist mindset.” It also notes a Alwi has committed a number of disciplinary infractions at Gitmo, including threats against guards.

However, under a new policy, his infractions were “pardoned at the start of Ramadan as part of an incentive for detainees to improve their conduct,” according to a recently declassified document. So suddenly, al-Alwi appears before the parole board with a record of good, not bad, behavior.

Normally, detainees who, as Obama said, make it “clear they want to kill Americans” have no chance at parole. But that didn’t stop the parole board he set up — the so-called Periodic Review Board — from clearing al Qaeda commander Muhammad al-Rahman al-Shumrani for release earlier this year.

Despite proclaiming, “When I get out of here, I will go to Iraq and Afghanistan and kill as many Americans as I can,” al-Shumrani was transferred to his native Saudi Arabia.

The board has become increasingly lenient as White House pressure to empty Gitmo mounts.

In 2014, for example, it decided after hearing the case of detainee Fayez al-Kandari that the al Qaeda recruiter and bin Laden aide was too dangerous to transfer. But suddenly in 2015, the board made an about-face, claiming that Kandari had “demonstrated a willingness to examine his religious beliefs and engaged more openly with the board.” He was deemed no longer a threat and transferred to Kuwait.

As The Post has reported over the past year, hard-core al Qaeda terrorists, including bin Laden bodyguards, have been kicked from custody on the flimsiest of excuses. Sympathetic parole board members have been impressed with their sob stories of wanting to return home to the Mideast to care for their sick mothers. Or their sudden ambition to give up the jihad and work on “milk and honey farms,” or plant flowers and arrange them for weddings.

Obama knows it’s a dumb bet to trust these killers. His own intelligence czar reported in September that 213 of the 693 detainees released from Gitmo have joined anti-US terror groups. That means 31 percent have gone back to fighting against us, some with deadly results. The recidivism rate is much higher if you include those known to have communicated with terrorists or made anti-US propaganda statements after release.

Even Democrats have expressed security fears over closing Gitmo, and have joined Republicans in blocking Obama’s efforts. The president now faces the option of acting unilaterally and forcing the prison’s closure through executive action — and moving the prisoners to US soil despite widespread opposition.

In his remaining days in office, we will see if Obama puts securing his political legacy among antiwar leftists ahead of the security of securing the nation.

Paul Sperry is the author of “Infiltration.”

Former New York Times Reporter Declares Thou Shalt Not Criticize Obama’s Iran Deal

3337073081Center for Security Policy, by Fred  Fleitz, October 26, 2016:

In an October 23 Washington Post book review, former New York Times reporter Elaine Sciolino is sharply critical of a new book on Iran by Wall Street Journal writer Jay Solomon, The Iran Wars, because he criticizes the July 2015 nuclear deal with Iran (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) instead of devoting his book to praising the deal as a magnificent achievement as all good reporters are expected to do. Sciolino accuses Solomon of having a “dark perspective” on the nuclear deal and claims “those who hope to sabotage the nuclear agreement under a new administration will find this book useful.”

Sciolino’s attack on Solomon’s book is strange because The Iran Wars is about much more than the nuclear deal and contains strong (and mostly unfair) criticism of the George W. Bush administration’s approach to Iran and the Iraq War. On the Iran deal, while Solomon is tough and factual, he often pulls his punches and leaves out some of the strongest criticisms.

For some reason Sciolino ignored Solomon’s dubious claims that the Bush administration invaded Iraq to weaken Iran and that Bush officials missed an historic opportunity for U.S.–Iran cooperation after the 9/11 attacks. She also omits Solomon’s credible account of how Iran and Syria exploited the aftermath of the Iraq War. As a card-carrying member of the foreign-policy establishment, one would think that Sciolino would jump to praise Solomon for making these points.

Instead, Sciolino devotes her entire article to attacking Solomon and his book. Her strongest criticism is that Solomon didn’t interview enough people, especially Iranians.

Sciolino sniffs that Solomon apparently only made one visit to Iran and that his book has a “paucity of official Iranian voices.” This is a ridiculous argument given how dangerous it is for American citizens to travel to Iran and the 2015 arrest of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian who was held in an Iranian prison for 18 months before he was freed in January 2016.

Sciolino argues “other foreign voices might have enriched [Solomon’s] narrative” because the nuclear talks were such a long and complex international endeavor. In this vein she faults Solomon for reporting that Secretary Kerry’s negotiating team belittled the French for “insubordination during the nuclear talks” instead of explaining what she claims was France’s role in building the foundation for the nuclear deal through the 2003 France-Germany-U.K. EU-3 initiative.

It’s amusing that Sciolino mentioned France and the EU-3 talks since Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s current president and chief Iranian nuclear negotiator in 2003, has admitted that Iran used these failed talks to buy time to expand its nuclear program and to conceal information about this program from the IAEA.

I have no doubt Sciolino complained about Solomon’s supposed lack of interviews to maintain the fiction that the JCPOA is legitimately a multilateral agreement when it is in fact, as Solomon details, a U.S.-Iran deal negotiated almost exclusively by American and Iranian negotiators. Other nations signed on as window dressing.

Sciolino also seems to prefer a book composed of quotes by apologists for the JCPOA rather than one that gives the facts about how the agreement was negotiated, what’s actually in the deal and its troubling and dangerous aftermath.  Sciolino probably believes that if Solomon had been spun more by U.S. and international diplomats, he would have written a book that hewed to the White House’s misleading narrative about the JCPOA instead of reporting on how the Obama administration repeatedly gave in to Iranian demands to get this very weak agreement.

As someone who also has written a recent book on the Iran nuclear deal, Obamabomb: A Dangerous and Growing National Security Fraud (now in its second edition), I had different problems with Solomon’s book.

First, I thought Solomon gave administration accounts too much credibility in light of widespread criticism (which he does not mention) of Obama officials repeatedly misleading and lying to Congress and the American people about the nuclear negotiations and the final deal.

Sciolino should have been pleased that Solomon does not mention New York Times reporter David Samuels’ May 5, 2016 profile of National Security Council advisor Ben Rhodes in which he reported that Rhodes oversaw a White House “echo chamber” to manipulate the news media by generating false narratives to promote the Iran deal which it distributed to know-nothing reporters.  Instead, Solomon innocuously refers to the echo chamber as the White House “anti-war room” which Solomon says Obama officials used mobilize a campaign to defend the JCPOA.

Solomon also does not cite any of the strong congressional critics of the JCPOA. He depicts congressional opposition as Republican when it was in fact bipartisan and included the top Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It was Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, for example, who made what may be the damning criticism of the nuclear deal when he said “If Iran is to acquire a nuclear bomb, it will not have my name on it.”  Unfortunately, this quote does not appear in Iran Wars.

However, I give Solomon credit for reporting that the White House tried to typecast all opponents of the JCPOA as warmongers and that Jewish leaders worried that the White House’s campaign defending the JCPOA “was taking on a not-so-subtle anti-Semitic tone with its references to moneyed lobbyists and their ties to Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

Sciolino should have been heartened that the words “secret side deals” appear nowhere in Solomon’s book. He makes no mention of how Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Congressman Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) accidently learned from IAEA officials about secret side deals to the JCPOA allowing Iran to inspect itself for evidence of past nuclear weapons-related work.  He also omits how the secret side deal issue intensified opposition to the JCPOA because the Obama administration refused to turn over secret side deal documents to Congress for a congressional review as required by law.

Solomon does make a brief reference to Associated Press reporter George Jahn writing about a leaked IAEA document on Iranian “self-inspections” and how Obama administration supporters tried to discredit this story by accusing Jahn of being an Israeli agent and the document being a forgery.

Solomon also disclosed how the Obama administration punished other journalists who wrote articles critical of the nuclear talks. Solomon says he was kicked off Secretary Kerry’s airplane for violating a “zone of silence” rule which barred journalists on Kerry’s plane from asking uncomfortable questions about U.S.–France differences in the nuclear talks. He said that New York Times reporter David Sangar was subjected to a coordinated White House–State Department Twitter assault after Sangar reported Iran might not have the technical capabilities to dispose of its nuclear stockpile as required by the JCPOA.

Solomon emailed me that his book had a July 2016 data cutoff which is why other secret JCPOA side deals that were withheld from Congress (several of which Solomon was the first to report on for the Wall Street Journal) are not mentioned in Iran Wars. These include the planeloads of $1.7 billion in cash flown to Iran in January 2016 as an apparent ransom payment to win the release of U.S. prisoners; exemptions granted to Iran on failing to meet several requirements of the nuclear deal so it would receive $150 billion in sanctions relief last January; and the lifting of UN sanctions on two Iranian banks that have financed Iran’s ballistic missile program.

While Solomon does not go as far as I would prefer in discussing the JCPOA’s enormous flaws and how it has worsened international security, he makes many important points. He notes that it will be difficult to verify this agreement since the Obama administration agreed to drop a longtime demand by the IAEA and the West that Iran answer questions about its past nuclear weapons-related work.  Solomon says the so-called snap-back provision which is supposed to re-impose sanctions in the event of Iranian cheating is unlikely to ever be used.  Solomon correctly portrays the decision to separate Iran’s missile program from the nuclear deal as a huge and dangerous U.S. concession.  Solomon also describes the significance of other huge concessions made by the Obama administration and how Arab states were “stunned” by the terms of the agreement.

Concerning the aftermath of the JCPOA, Solomon gets it half right. Sciolino should be pleased that Solomon agrees with her when he said Iran appears to be complying with the agreement and that the administration’s claim that it will take Iran a year to construct a nuclear bomb appears to be accurate.

There is strong evidence to the contrary, although not all of it was available before Solomon’s July 2016 data cutoff date. I explained much of this evidence in a July 14, 2016 NRO article, including how Iran has placed military facilities off-limits to IAEA inspectors, and is permitted to continue to enrich uranium and develop advanced centrifuges under the deal. I also discussed reports by German intelligence and the Institute for Science and International Security of Iranian cheating on the JCPOA. I therefore believe a strong case can be made that the JCPOA has failed to meet its goal of resolving international concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons program since the agreement leaves too many avenues for Iran to cheat, has very weak verification and there are already multiple, credible reports of Iranian cheating.

On the other hand, I agree with Solomon that Iran’s behavior has become much more belligerent and destabilizing since the JCPOA was announced, including arresting American citizens, stepped up missile tests and increased support to Syria’s Assad regime and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.  This behavior has worsened since Solomon’s book went to print due to an increase in naval incidents in the Persian Gulf between American and Iranian vessels and Houthi rebels firing anti-ship missiles at American and UAE ships.  Solomon was exactly right when he wrote, “There are also real risks that a much bigger and broader war is brewing in the region, and that the United States will inevitably be drawn in.”

In response to these criticisms of the nuclear deal’s aftermath, Sciolino accuses Solomon of “stressing the negative. Instead, she ignores reality by praising the deal for improving U.S.-Iran relations and making the Middle East and the world more secure by keeping Iran from producing a nuclear bomb over the term of the agreement.

It’s interesting that Sciolino won’t settle for Solomon concluding the JCPOA is working and his depiction of Obama administration Iran policy as generally positive but bumbling.  In Sciolino’s mind, this is a great agreement that no one should question.  This means she wants Solomon to be like other mainstream reporters and limit his writing to promoting this line and not confuse the American people with the facts about how this agreement came about, what was really agreed to and the agreement’s actual prospects.

Solomon’s book isn’t perfect but it is still an important contribution to mostly one-sided accounts of the JCPOA which roundly praising it as a legacy achievement for President Obama that avoided a war with Iran.  Since problems with the nuclear agreement are likely to continue to grow due to increased Iranian cheating and belligerent behavior – especially in the Persian Gulf — expect to see more articles by foreign policy Brahmin like Sciolino to enforce the Obama administration’s false narrative about the JCPOA against books like Jay Solomon’s that discuss inconvenient facts about the Iran nuclear agreement that the administration and its supporters do not want the American people to know.

Sen. Rubio: Iran Deal an “Unfolding Disaster”

800px-marco_rubio_official_portrait_112th_congress

The Senator blasts ‘outrageous, illegal’ actions by the Obama administration.

CounterJihad, October 19, 2016:

It is not every day that you see a sitting Senator accuse the President of the United States of having broken the law.  Senator Marco Rubio of Florida did so in a recent piece published by CNN.  Oddly enough, the accusations of lawlessness take a back seat to the charge that the President’s lawless policy on Iran is failing to achieve its aims.

Here are the claims of lawbreaking, with which he opens:

Outrageous, potentially illegal, actions by this administration have become so commonplace that many Americans have become numb to the recent news regarding this President’s policy toward Iran.  We now know the President authorized a$1.7 billion cash ransom payment to Iran, then his administrationlied about it to Congress….  This endangers every American overseas by incentivizing kidnappers and encouraging hostage-takers, and since Iran’s release of five US hostages in January, multiple American citizens have been thrown into Iranian jail cells. Providing cash to Iran has also allowed the mullahs to circumvent the international financial system as they shuttle much-needed resources to their terrorist proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

We recently learned President Obama dismantled a key part of the ballistic missile sanctions against Iran eight years early…. Once again, the White House lied to the American people about its concessions to the Iranian regime.

Senator Rubio in fact understates the case.  This is in keeping with his efforts to position himself as a responsible Republican, one acceptable to the press.  Rubio has recently rebuked Presidential candidate Donald Trump for claiming that the US election is rigged, and has likewise claimed that it is irresponsible to talk about the leaks provided by Wikileaks because they might be a Russian information warfare effort.  Both of these are very popular positions among the media, and are in fact the positions of the Clinton campaign as well as the Democratic leadership.  Asserting them allows Rubio to appear to be a bipartisan, centrist figure.

This makes all the more surprising his charge that the President is breaking the law, though it does help to explain why he has presented the case far more gently than he might have done.  Take the so-called “side deals” with Iran.  The administration classified those deals, which prevented public discussion of them.  Yet they were not classified from Iran, which of course knew what the deals contained because they were a party to them.  US law does not permit classification of information to avoid political embarrassment.  It appears that the administration violated the law even in negotiating the deal, then, in order to prevent a public debate on the wisdom of its side deals.

The administration also violated the law in not providing those deals to Congress.  The law governing the negotiations required a mandatory handover of all information, including side agreements, so that Congress could consider the deal and vote on whether to approve it.  (In the event, Congress never did vote to approve the deal:  the vote was filibustered by the President’s partisans in Congress).

As for lying to Congress, the administration certainly did that, as the French confirmed.

Rubio is also right about the “giant pallets of cash,” which certainly did land in the hands of America’s worst enemies in Iran:  the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Iran’s terror-supporting shadow army.  It certainly was a hostage payment, just as the Senator suggests.  And it has indeed provoked a wave of new arrests of Americans and those with American ties, a kind of hostage taking under color of law.  All of these charges are perfectly true.

Yet Rubio’s real criticism is that all of this lawbreaking and all of these lies by the administration have failed to achieve any of the goods that the deal was supposed to achieve.

Iran has continued to develop ballistic missiles….  Earlier this year, Iran launched two missiles, one inscribed with “Israel must be wiped out” in Hebrew…. Iran has also maintained its support of Hezbollah, a terrorist organization that has destabilized the government in Lebanon and is working with Russia and Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.
A senior Iranian official has also stated that Tehran has been providing intelligence to Russia for military targeting, helping Moscow support Assad and his slaughter of innocent Syrians….
In Yemen, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels continue to prolong a conflict that has no end in sight…. In recent days, the Houthis fired missiles at US Navy ships on multiple occasions. However, even as American sailors are attacked by an Iranian proxy, potentially using Iranian-provided weapons, the administration pretends none of this is happening, and is reluctant to condemn Iran publicly.

There, too, he is correct.  It should be shocking that Iran was allowed to buy advanced S-300 missiles from Russia as a consequence of this deal.  These missiles can defeat almost all American, and all Israeli, aircraft that might be used against Iran’s nuclear sites.  How much more shocking, then, that Iran installed those S-300s around one of the very sites the deal was supposed to render harmless.  Could there be a clearer sign of their intent to continue to use that site for weapons development?

Iran’s Supreme Leader has told his people that only a traitor or a fool thinks Iran’s future lies in diplomacy instead of in missiles.  How much of that vast cash ransom went to supply those who are even now firing Iranian-made cruise missiles at US warships at sea?

The administration has indeed been lawless, and it has been foolish.  It is good to see a Senator pointing it out.  But what will the Senate do to hold the administration accountable?  What will it do to reverse this foolish course?

Obama rolls dice on foreign policy in secretive presidential directive

obama3IPT, by Pete Hoekstra
Washington Examiner
October 3, 2016

The once-fledgling Islamic State would never evolve from its “junior varsity” status to the Islamic terrorist hegemon that it is today without the wisdom, guidance, and support of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, a highly secretive classified document reveals.

The Islamic State currently features 43 affiliates in 20 countries and continues to control Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq. When Obama assumed office, ISIS attracted roughly 1,000 fighters and was referred to as al Qaida in Iraq, or the Islamic State of Iraq, as it was contained to one country.

Obama and Clinton in 2010 then outlined their new and untested approach to Middle East policy in the document titled Presidential Study Directive-11. In an op-ed dated March 6, 2011, David Ignatius with The Washington Post helpfully delves into PSD-11. He writes, “This is the president as global community organizer — a man who believes that change is inevitable and desirable, and that the United States must align itself with the new forces shaping the world.”

Obama then announced America’s new policy during a global apology tour that U.S. protocol in the Middle East and with the Muslim world would change dramatically.

The United Arab Emirates-based publication, Middle East Briefing, in an analysis of Freedom of Information Act documents and other sources, found that under PSD-11 the State Department would lead an effort to build “civil society” — particularly nongovernmental — organizations to alter the internal politics of targeted countries.

Under PSD-11, the Obama administration deliberately pivoted from a strategy that focused on maintaining stability in the Middle East to a strategy emphasizing U.S. support for regime change — regardless of the impact it might have on the region’s stability. That is why we have gone from a general state of stability in the region in 2009 to the Middle East chaos we have now. Officials did not concern themselves with questions over whether new regimes would be allies or foes of the U.S. – or U.S. intelligence agency warnings about the jihadist chaos such regime change might unleash. They chose to believe the few rosy sunglass analyses.

Ignatius referred to intelligence analysts who said at the time, “…Islamic extremists don’t seem to be hijacking the process of change.” He quotes one intelligence analyst who discounted the threat from the Muslim Brotherhood. The West had previously ostracized the movement over its violent tendencies.

Individuals who reviewed documents released under FOIA concluded that State believed “that the Muslim Brotherhood was a viable movement for the U.S. to support throughout North Africa and the Middle East.” As a result, “American diplomats intensified contacts with top Muslim Brotherhood leaders and gave active U.S. support to the organization’s drive for power in key nations like Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Syria…” It represented a major shift in decades long U.S. policy.

In the ensuing months, the Obama-Clinton administration then abandoned Iraq and prioritized promoting regime change in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Syria above stability in the Middle East. It engaged with the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaidaelements and other syndicates that it naively considered harmless and erroneously believed would foster democratic reforms.

Today the countries that America deserted or knocked over — Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria — are failed states. Tunisia remains a work in progress, and Egypt is slowly recovering from its disastrous experiment with Muslim Brotherhood leadership.

PSD-11 and the resulting decisions based upon it reshaped the Middle East substantially. Its flawed and naive analysis and the policies that sprang from it created conditions that fostered the rapid expansion of Islamist terror, specifically ISIS, and have sent the Middle East into barbaric turmoil.

The first principle enshrined in PSD-11 included Obama’s belief that this is “your revolution” which led America to abandon Iraq. Standing on the right side of history by switching sides and partnering with the Muslim Brotherhood underpinned his second major guiding principle.

The reported enshrinement of these two theoretical propositions in PSD-11 as a new national security strategy were dramatic reversals of longstanding bipartisan agreement among lawmakers.

The answer as to why ISIS gained power and influence, and why stability in the Middle East has disastrously deteriorated, does not require extensive analysis. As an official in the Obama White House indicated at the time, “It’s a roll of the dice, but it’s also a response to reality.” The Obama-Clinton administration gambled with America’s national security by embracing radical jihadists, and the world lost.

The approach as outlined by PSD-11 resulted in perhaps the greatest foreign policy catastrophe in the last 40 years. At least in Iraq the U.S. removed one of the world’s worst dictators in history, a man responsible for heinously murdering hundreds of thousands of his own people. There would be no such benefit derived from Obama and Clinton’s new strategy.

With PSD-11 the administration engaged with radical Islamists who predictably, rather than pursuing democratic reforms, took advantage of the opportunity to fundamentally transform the region and its threat environment back to the Middle Ages.

America flipped sides and the world is paying a huge price for a devastatingly naive miscalculation based upon little more than a “roll of the dice.”

It’s time to declassify and release PSD-11.