Russia’s 4 Syrian ceasefire zones – Kremlin spin

Russian Gen. Sergei Rudskoy

DEBKAfile, May 6, 2017:

The widely reported Kremlin plan to set up four safe or “de-escalation” zones, that were supposed to have gone into effect in Syria Friday night, May 5, turns out to be nothing but a propaganda ploy. The spin factor leaps to the eye from the small print of the plan that was released by Gen. Sergey Rudskoy, head of Russian General Staffs Operations Division, Friday night.  He outlined four steps that may never take off

1. Observation points will be set up to monitor the ceasefire (in the four designated de-escalation zones).

So when the putative safe zones were to have started operating Friday night, there were no observation points to monitor them.

2. The boundaries of the zones will be determined in accordance with the observation points.

This means that the zones don’t exist.

3. By June 4, a working team made up of officers of the three guarantors, Russia, Turkey and Iran, will be created to administer the observation points.

Who can tell what will happen in Syrian in a month’s time.

4. Only after the observation groups of the three sponsor-nations’ armies finish mapping the ceasefire zones can it be determined whether the plan is doable or not.

Still no zones.
The Russian propaganda machine worked overtime this weekend to convince the Western media that the ceasefire zones plan had won the support of the United States and Saudi Arabia.

The truth is that US President Donald Trump did not commit himself one way or another when he talked on the phone with President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, May 2, although most of their conversation was devoted to Syria, rather than the North Korean crisis. There was no agreement between them on any Syrian issue, except for a decision that American and Russian forces in the war-torn country would stay out of each other’s way.
In sum, Moscow’s ceasefire zones plan, though effectively propagandized, has changed nothing in Syria’s bloody predicament.

With so much still up in the air, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talked by phone Friday to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, after which he gave the following statement: “The secretary looks forward to further meetings with the foreign minister to discuss the respective roles of the United States and Russia in de-escalating the conflict and supporting the talks in Geneva to move the political solution forward.”

Tillerson made no mention of any safe zones which Moscow claims to be setting up with Ankara and Tehran, or of the Russian-sponsored Syrian peace conference in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Rebel groups, supposed to be holding a dialogue with Assad regime representatives, walked out of its fourth round last week. And the Trump administration appears unwilling to throw its support behind the Russian-sponsored peace initiative, preferring to stand solidly behind the UN-sponsored Geneva process.

Turkey and Iran, the other two “sponsors” of the Astana framework, and putative “guarantors” of the safe zones, are strangely silent about the roles assigned them by the Kremlin. And no wonder. As rivals in the Syrian arena, their forces are ranged against each other in both Syria and Iraq. It is hard to see them working shoulder to shoulder alongside Russian officers to monitor safety zones which are still pie in the sky.

The situation at the moment is this: In Iraq, Turkish and Iranian troops – essentially pro-Iranian militias under the command of Revolutionary Guards officers – glare at each other across two warfronts, Tel Afar and Sinjar. In Syria, each of their armies is poised to grab Al-Bab in the Aleppo province.

The only real change in Syria’s military situation is a surreptitious one, which may present a fresh, wide-ranging peril: The Lebanese Shiite Hizballah has agreed to place the 8,000 members fighting in Syria for Bashar Assad under direct Iranian command. This is part of a radical reorganization of all the military outfits Iran has deployed in Syria, whereby all the Shiite militias including Hizballah fall henceforth directly under a single centralized Iranian command.
This fundamental shift in the military balance in Syria was initiated by Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Suleiman, commander of Iranian forces in Syria and Iraq. He convinced supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that there was no other way to safeguard Iran’s military supremacy in the Syrian war arena, guarantee a land bridge to Lebanon, or mobilize tactically for future confrontations with Israel.
The Syrian ruler also submitted to this step. Therefore, Hizballah and the Shiite militias will henceforth operate under the orders of the Iranian military mission which has its seat at Syrian High Command Headquarters in Damascus.

This “reorganization” opens the door for Hizballah officers to assume Iranian army uniforms and act as “ceasefire monitors” if Russia’s fictitious safe zones ever get off the ground.

Iran-North Korea Military Link Suspected by Pentagon

(screengrab of Fox News video post)

Newsmax, by Karl Nelson, May 5, 2017:

Pentagon suspicions of a military connection between Iran and North Korea have been heightened by Tuesday’s attempted Iranian launch of a cruise missile from a type of “midget” submarine operated only by North Korea.

The missile test – which failed – provided the Pentagon with more evidence into North Korea’s influence in Iran, according to Fox News.

The same type of submarine sunk a South Korean warship back in 2010.

While others have worried about a North Korean missile capable of reaching the U.S., experts worry that if Iran or North Korea can launch nuclear warheads into Earth orbit they can knock out all power grids and communication lines below.

It’s suspected that North Korea could “place a satellite into orbit with a nuclear payload,” yet again this year, which is being viewed right now as the number one threat to U.S. security, said Henry Cooper, former director of the Pentagon’s Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, per The Daily Star.

“Both nations could deliver an EMP attack on the United States by simply detonating a nuclear weapon carried by one of their satellites as it passes over the United States,” said Cooper.

“I believe we have had a clear warning of the nature of this threat for years, and are collectively continuing to ignore and take ineffective countermeasures to deal with it,” he added. “We are essentially defenseless against this plausible threat.”

Adm. Harry Harris, head of American forces in the Pacific, said the U.S. has no “short- or medium-range” missiles located on any land because it endorses the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF).

However, Iran and North Korea aren’t under any such treaty.

“We are being taken to the cleaners by countries that are not signatories to the INF,” said Harris.

In January, Iran tested a ballistic missile the Pentagon believes was based on a North Korean design, and last summer Iran conducted another launch similar to a North Korean design, which was apparently successful.

“The very first missiles we saw in Iran were simply copies of North Korean missiles,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a missile proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, per Fox News. “Over the years, we’ve seen photographs of North Korean and Iranian officials in each other’s countries, and we’ve seen all kinds of common hardware.”

“In the past, we would see things in North Korea and they would show up in Iran,” Lewis said. “In some recent years, we’ve seen some small things appear in Iran first and then show up in North Korea and so that raises the question of whether trade – which started off as North Korea to Iran – has started to reverse.”

Iran Using U.S. Cash to Fund Unprecedented, Massive Military Buildup

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani / Getty Images

Tehran seeks to completely overhaul, revamp military might to counter U.S.

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, May 3, 2017:

Iran is using the billions in cash resources provided under the landmark nuclear deal to engage in an unprecedented military buildup meant to transform the Islamic Republic’s fighting force into an “offensive” juggernaut, according to a largely unreported announcement by Iranian military leaders that has sparked concern among U.S. national security insiders and sources on Capitol Hill.

Iranian officials announced late last month that Iran’s defense budget had increased by 145 percent under President Hassan Rouhani and that the military is moving forward with a massive restructuring effort aimed at making it “a forward moving force,” according to regional reports.

Iranian leaders have stated since the Iran deal was enacted that they are using the massive amounts of cash released under the agreement to fund the purchase of new military equipment and other armaments. Iran also has pursued multi-million dollar arms deals with Russia since economic sanctions were nixed as part of the deal.

Leading members of Congress and U.S. officials working on the Iran portfolio suspect that at least a portion of the Obama administration’s $1.7 billion cash payment to Iran  has been used to fund and support terrorists in the Middle East.

The latest disclosure about Iran’s military buildup is further fueling concerns that U.S. cash assets returned to the country—which were released with no strings attached by the Obama administration—are helping Iran pursue a more aggressive military stance against U.S. forces in the region.

“President Obama flat-out caved in to Iran when he handed them the disastrous nuclear deal and $1.7 billion in cash payments that could assist Iran’s military,” Rep. Sean Duffy (R., Wis.), an opponent of the nuclear deal, told the Washington Free Beacon. “So it’s no surprise that the world’s lead sponsor of terrorism would feel emboldened to become more aggressive in the region and flex its military muscle.”

Iranian Brigadier General Kiumars Heidari announced the military buildup during Iran’s annual Army Day. While the announcement did not grab many headlines in the Western media, national security insiders have been discussing the announcement for weeks, according to conversations with multiple sources.

Iran’s goal is to turn its army into an “offensive” force, a major shift from its historic role as a support agent for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, or IRGC, Iran’s extremely well funded primary fighting force.

Iran hopes to revamp its army from top to bottom, including improving logistical capabilities, weaponry, and other armaments.

Mahan Abedin, an Iran analyst writing in Middle East Eye, described the announcement as a major shift in Iranian military policy that would allow the Islamic Republic to intervene in the Persian Gulf region, where the U.S. military has a significant presence.

“This is a major policy announcement with far-reaching consequences for foreign policy and internal defense-related power dynamics,” Abedin wrote. “If implemented properly, Heidari’s proposed modernization policy would not only radically alter Iranian defense doctrine, but just as importantly, it would also reverse the army’s subservient relationship to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).”

Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert on rogue regimes, told the Free Beacon that it should come as no surprise that Iran is diverting the cash it received under the nuclear deal to its military industry.

The disclosure comes as “no surprise to anyone who studied Iran” and should have been anticipated by the Obama administration, which largely sought to downplay the importance of giving Iran billions in cash resources, Rubin said.

“First, there’s history: Between 1998 and 2005, European Union trade with Iran more than doubled and the price of oil quintupled,” Rubin explained. “Iran took that hard currency windfall and invested the bulk of it in its nuclear and missile programs. The person coordinating Iran’s strategy? Hassan Rouhani who was at the time secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.”
“Obama and Kerry might as well have wired the money directly into the accounts of those seeking to enhance Iran’s military, kill Sunnis, or sponsor terrorism,” Rubin said.

One senior congressional source tracking the matter expressed concern about the safety of U.S. forces in the region, which already are routinely harassed by Iranian military personnel.

“This is certainly grounds for concern,” the source said. “An Iranian military buildup coupled with an offensive posture is a threat to the United States and our allies. This also serves as an important reminder of why the Obama administration’s cash infusion to Iran was so dangerous.”

The cash windfall provided by the United States and European countries is “fungible and hence can be used for everything from sponsoring terror proxies to developing ballistic missiles,” the source warned. “Congress will continue to take action to counter Iranian terrorism and ensure this regime never acquires a nuclear weapon.”

Iran’s military announcement has already sparked a renewed push on Capitol Hill to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran.

“The Iranians know that the party will end this fall, when Congress will pass bipartisan legislation that begins to roll back Iran’s military growth,” one senior congressional adviser working on the sanctions effort told the Free Beacon.

“The Obama administration avoided any serious action for years, and so Iran kept growing its arsenal and using it against our allies, against Syrian civilians, and increasingly against our military,” said the source. “Now they’re rushing to accomplish as much as they can before Congress and the Trump administration get around to reversing Obama’s policies.”

Also see:

Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program: On Course, Underground, Uninspected

Center for Security Policy, by Clare Lopez, April 24, 2017:

The Iranian regime’s nuclear weapons program, born in secrecy and kept hidden for years, has never skipped a beat and today continues on course in underground and military facilities to which inspectors have no access. On 21 April 2017, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the oldest, largest, and best organized democratic Iranian opposition group presented startling new evidence that the jihadist regime in Tehran is violating the terms of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) agreement reached in July 2015 among the P-5 +1 (Permanent Five Members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), and Iran.

As will be recalled, it was the NCRI that first blew the lid off Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program in 2002, at a time when it had been in progress for at least fourteen years (since 1988), unbeknownst to most of the world, including the IAEA. Virtually all of the Iranian nuclear sites now known publicly were only retroactively ‘declared’ by the mullahs’ regime after exposure: the Natanz enrichment site, Isfahan conversion site, Fordow enrichment and Research and Development (R&D) site, Lavizan-Shian, and more. Regularly corroborated additional revelations since 2002 by the NCRI have built a record of credibility that should prompt a closer official look at these new reports by the U.S. State and Defense Departments, National Security Council (NSC), and White House.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of NCRI’s Washington office, provided a devastating expose of the ongoing activities of the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND), the Tehran-based element of the Iranian Ministry of Defense that has primary responsibility for the regime’s nuclear weapons development. The SPND, established in February 2011, was officially sanctioned by the U.S. Department of State in August 2014 for engaging in nuclear weapons R&D.   Mohsen Fakhrizadeh (aka Dr. Hassan Mohseni), the founder and director of the SPND and a veteran IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps) brigadier general, was designated individually under UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1747 in 2007 and by the U.S. in July 2008 for his involvement in Iran’s proscribed WMD activities. Despite these designations, and the IAEA’s failure to resolve the many critical indicators of “Possible Military Dimensions” related to Iran’s nuclear program as specified in the November 2011 IAEA Board of Governors report, the July 2015 JCPOA inexplicably lifted sanctions against the SPND.

It is hardly surprising, then, to learn that the SPND not only continues critical weaponization research involving nuclear warheads, triggers, and explosives, but has expanded that work at each of seven subordinate locations. One of these, revealed by the NCRI in 2009 but never declared to the IAEA, is the Center for Research and Expansion of Technologies on Explosions and Impact (Markaz-e Tahghighat va Tose’e Fanavari-e Enfejar va Zarbeh or METFAZ), which works on triggers and high-impact, non-conventional explosives. The current METFAZ director is a Ministry of Defense engineer named Mohammad Ferdowsi, whose expertise is in high explosives. Ferdowsi also serves as chairman of the board of directors of the High-Explosive Society of Malek Ashtar University (affiliated with the Defense Ministry).

After conclusion of the July 2015 JCPOA, much of METFAZ’s personnel and work was moved to the Parchin military facility for better cover and security. Parchin Chemical Industries, an element of Iran’s Defense Industries Organization (DIO), was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 2008 for importing “a chemical precursor for solid propellant oxidizer, possibly to be used for ballistic missiles.” Parchin is the location where the IAEA long suspected Iran was conducting test explosions for nuclear detonators. In October 2014, Iran finally admitted to using Parchin to test exploding bridge wires, but implausibly claimed they were not for weapons development. Equally incredibly, the IAEA concluded a secret side deal with Iran that allowed it to collect its own samples at Parchin—in which the IAEA in fact did find evidence of enriched uranium. But despite that and more evidence, the JCPOA was concluded and sanctions against Parchin Chemical Industries were lifted.

Within Parchin are twelve separate military and missile complexes. According to the NCRI’s new information, METFAZ has established a new location within one of these that is near the center of Parchin and referred to simply as the “Research Academy” in SPND internal communications. Located on the sprawling Parchin complex some 30 miles southeast of Tehran, the new METFAZ center is called the Chemical Plan of Zeinoddin and is located in a section called Plan 6. It’s completely fenced in and protected by heavy security under control of the IRGC’s Intelligence Service. What goes on there is concealed from the IAEA, and likely with good reason.

Old and New Locations for the SPND

METFAZ’s Research Academy Location within Parchin Plan 6 Area

Lambasting the Iranian regime for its ongoing regional aggression and support to terrorist organizations, as Secretary of State Tillerson did on 20 April 2017, is certainly a step in the right direction. Noting that after ten years, Iran can break out and build all the bombs it wants is also a useful observation. But neither of those comes close to fulfilling the Trump campaign pledge to “rip up” the JCPOA – or hold Iran accountable for its violations of the JCPOA. Secretary Tillerson’s 18 April letter to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, certifying that Iran was in compliance with the 2015 deal, simply cannot be squared with the NCRI’s latest revelations, which it has shared with both the U.S. government and the IAEA. Indeed, the independent Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) issued a March 3, 2017 report in which it explicitly states about the IAEA’s 24 February 2017 Quarterly report, “Nowhere in the report does the IAEA state that Iran is fully compliant with the JCPOA, and it should not make that judgement.”

The real problem with the JCPOA—and why it needs to be ripped to shreds—is not what’s in it: it’s what’s been left out or exempted in any number of secret side deals that the U.S. and IAEA concluded with the Iranians. Among critical issues either explicitly permitted or simply not covered in the JCPOA are the following:

  • Iran keeps its entire nuclear infrastructure intact
  • Iran keeps all its centrifuges and is allowed to work on newer models
  • Iran can deny IAEA inspectors access to any site it seeks to keep off-limits
  • Iran can continue its ballistic missile nuclear weapons delivery system research, development, and testing
  • Iran’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and ballistic missile collaboration with North Korea is not mentioned in the JCPOA
  • Iran’s ongoing support for terrorism is off-limits for the JCPOA

The Trump administration must make good on its campaign promises with regard to Iran, its nuclear weapons program, and the JCPOA. The U.S. with its international partners and the IAEA must demand that Iran fully implement all UN Security Council Resolutions (including the one prohibiting Iran from any nuclear enrichment activities); accept the Additional Protocol; and allow unhindered access for IAEA inspectors to all suspected centers and facilities.

Beginning to fill relevant USG positions with officers untainted by association with the failed JCPOA or Iran Lobby affiliates like NIAC (National Iranian American Council) is an imperative and urgent first step. Announcing U.S. intent to end all activities associated with the JCPOA, hold Iran to account for its human rights abuses, involvement in the 9/11 attacks, and continuing support for terrorism would be natural subsequent policy positions.

We look forward to the results of the JCPOA policy review that Secretary Tillerson has announced.

Also see:

Team Trump and Iran: Obama and the ‘swamp’ have just scored a huge win

Center for Security Policy, by Fred Fleitz, April 29, 2017:

Despite Donald Trump’s insistence during the presidential campaign that the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – was the “worst deal ever” and Iran’s failure to fully comply with this agreement, the Trump administration Tuesday certified to Congress that Iran is in compliance with the agreement and will continue to receive sanction relief.  The administration added, however that the agreement is under review.

Make no mistake: this is a huge win for the Obama administration and the permanent foreign policy bureaucracy – the so-called swamp – who desperately want to protect this flawed and dangerous agreement at all costs.

The certification probably indicates the outcome of the Trump administration’s review of the JCPOA is a forgone conclusion just like a similar review in 2001 by the Bush administration of a deeply-flawed nuclear agreement with North Korea.

The publicly known reasons that Iran is not in compliance with the JCPOA include:

  • Iran is not allowing International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors access to military sites.  If Iran is engaged in covert nuclear weapons work, this is where it is taking place.  As long as Iran refuses to allow the IAEA unfettered access to all military sites, it is not in compliance with the JCPOA and the international community cannot be confident that Iran’s nuclear weapons program has been halted.
  • According to a March 3, 2017 report by the Institute for Science and International Security, Iran has produced and stockpiled more heavy-water than it is allowed under the JCPOA and is storing some heavy-water outside of Iran. Heavy-water is a proliferation concern because it can be used in a nuclear reactor design that produces large amounts of plutonium, a nuclear weapons fuel.
  • The Institute report also said that although a February 2017 IAEA report claimed Iran was in compliance with a commitment to limit its stockpile of reactor-grade uranium to 300 kg, it only met this cap because the JCPOA’s Joint Commission granted Iran exemptions to exclude several quantities of enriched uranium from the cap. Concerning the IAEA’s reporting on this issue, the Institute report said the IAEA was being forced to use “convoluted and potentially deceptive language.”

In his press conference Wednesday, Sean Spicer seemed to contradict an earlier statement by the State Department that it determined Iran is in compliance with the agreement. Both Spicer and State are ignoring violations like those listed above that should have caused the Trump administration to declare Iran in noncompliance with the JCPOA months ago.

Although the above violations are serious, it is worth stressing that Iran can continue making progress in its nuclear weapons program without violating the JCPOA since the deal allows it to enrich uranium with over 5,000 centrifuges, develop and test advanced centrifuges and construct a plutonium-producing heavy-water reactor.

As Israeli Ambassador to the United States put it in an April 14, 2017 Wall Street Journal oped, the JCPOA “is so inherently flawed that Tehran doesn’t even have to break it. Honoring it will be enough to endanger millions of lives.”

As I explained in my book “Obamabomb: A Dangerous and Growing National Security Fraud,” the Obama administration was fully aware of these concerns but agreed to the JCPOA anyway because it desperately wanted a legacy Iran nuclear deal for President Obama and probably did not view Iran’s nuclear weapons program as a serious threat.

Foreign policy careerists – the swamp — share the Obama administration’s views on the Iran deal and are working hard to protect it. They are claiming the only alternative to this agreement is war with Iran and that withdrawing from the deal would isolate the United States. In a November 2016 article I explained why these arguments are false and why it is urgent that the Trump administration kill or substantially renegotiate the fraudulent Iran deal.

Unfortunately, it appears that some Trump officials have been convinced to stick with the deal.

A major reason for this is because almost all foreign policy posts responsible for the Iran deal are staffed by Obama administration holdovers due to the failure of the Trump administration to fill jobs at the State and Defense Departments.

When Secretary of State Tillerson certified Iran was in compliance with the JCPOA on Tuesday, he added that U.S. Iran policy “is under review.”

Wednesday, Tillerson tried to respond to conservative criticism of his compliance finding by stating that Iran remains a state sponsor of terror and the JCPOA is an incredibly flawed agreement.

I don’t take any comfort from these statements because they remind me of the 2001 review by the Bush administration of the disastrous nuclear deal with North Korea – the Agreed Framework – which allowed North Korea to keep its nuclear weapons and was violated by Pyongyang while the ink was drying on the agreement.

The 1994 Agreed Framework was also strongly opposed by congressional Republicans and was supported by the foreign policy establishment which claimed there was no alternative to this deeply flawed pact.

The Bush administration repeatedly said North Korea was in compliance with this deal even though it wasn’t and completed a policy review in June 2001 that kept the deal but promised tougher enforcement.

The Agreed Framework collapsed when the U.S. presented North Korea with evidence that it had a covert uranium enrichment program that violated this agreement.

North Korea used the time and huge concessions it gained from the Agreed Framework to accelerate its nuclear weapons and missile programs. It conducted its first of five nuclear tests in 2006.

I fear history is about to repeat itself.

Tuesday’s certification that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA and statements by some Trump officials may indicate the Swamp will once again convince a Republican administration to keep a deeply flawed nuclear agreement with a rogue state negotiated by a prior Democratic administration.

Meanwhile, I believe Iran’s nuclear weapons program continues, probably in close coordination with North Korea.

Fortunately, there is still time for President Trump to get this right and fulfill his campaign promises to tear up, or substantially renegotiate, the fraudulent nuclear deal with Iran.

The first thing he should do is to tell Secretary Tillerson to immediately start filling State Department jobs that deal with the Iran deal with appointees who support the president’s position on this issue. — Tillerson also must be told to stop declaring that Iran in compliance with this agreement.

Most importantly, President Trump must publicly restate his strong opposition to the JCPOA to make it clear to his appointees and the Swamp that he will not tolerate a nuclear agreement with Iran unless it actually halts Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and also addresses Iran’s missile program, support of terrorism and its efforts to destabilize the Middle East.

***

Also see:

U.S. Considers Re-Imposing All Sanctions on Iran, Dismantling Nuke Deal

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during a parade on the country’s Army Day / Getty Images

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

The Trump administration is considering re-imposing a massive set of economic sanctions on Iran that were lifted by the Obama administration as part of the landmark nuclear agreement that gave Tehran billions in economic support, according to U.S. officials who told the Washington Free Beacon that Iran’s military buildup and disregard for international law could prompt U.S. reprisal.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Congress in a letter sent Tuesday that Iran is complying with requirements for its nuclear program imposed under the nuclear accord. However, Tillerson emphasized that Iran continues to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.

Tehran’s malign activities across the Middle East and elsewhere have prompted the Trump administration to place all aspects of the nuclear agreement under critical review, which is viewed by some as a first step to nixing some controversial aspects of the accord, including the massive sanctions relief package.

U.S. officials familiar with the review told the Free Beacon that Iran’s continued support for terrorism has become a sticking point for the Trump administration as it reviews the agreement and the previous administration’s policy toward Iran.

“I think the key is what comes next,” one senior White House official familiar with the interagency review told the Free Beacon. “The question of ongoing sanctions relief will be critical—Iran has already gotten significant economic benefits from the nuclear deal and we need to take a hard look at what Iran is doing with the resources that continue to flow in.”

The Trump administration has been paying close attention to Iran’s ongoing military buildup, including its continued work on ballistic missiles and other offensive weapons aimed at interfering with U.S. operations in the Persian Gulf region.

“Yesterday was the annual Army Day celebration—also known as Death to Israel day—and they paraded some pretty serious new hardware through the streets,” the White House official disclosed. “That has to be a significant concern.”

The White House’s national security apparatus will closely monitor Iran’s behavior as it makes a decision about re-imposing sanctions lifted by the Obama administration.

Tillerson’s emphasis on Iran’s terror operation is “a first step, but we have to remain focused on the threat Tehran poses to America and our allies,” the official said.

Obama administration officials, while selling the nuclear deal to Congress, vowed that Iran would roll back its nefarious activities if it received relief from sanctions.

Tillerson informed Congress this has not happened. After receiving billions in cash assets and other economic relief, Iran invested heavily in its military and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, which continues to meddle in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and a host of other countries.

“Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods,” Tillerson told Congress. “President Donald J. Trump has directed a National Security Council-led interagency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

“When the interagency review is completed, the administration looks forward to working with Congress on this issue,” Tillerson wrote.

***

Also see:

Boeing Trying to Sell Planes to Leading Official of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps

Getty Images

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam  Kredo, April 12, 2017:

U.S airline manufacturer Boeing is coming under renewed criticism following disclosures that its latest deal with Iran is being inked with a senior regime official and leading member of the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has sponsored terrorism across the Middle East and is responsible for helping to kill U.S. soldiers.

Boeing’s latest deal—which the Washington Free Beacon first reported last week has been put under a critical review by the Trump administration—is being inked with Iran Aseman Airlines, which is owned and controlled by the state. The CEO of Aseman Airlines is Hossein Alaei, a “prominent and longtime member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” or IRGC, according to several members of Congress who are petitioning the Trump administration to cancel the sales.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) expressed concern that Boeing’s sale of around 60 new planes to Aseman Airlines will bolster the IRGC’s global terrorism operation and help the Iranian regime transport weapons and troops to conflict areas such as Syria.

The lawmakers called on the Trump administration to immediately suspend licenses permitting these sales and conduct a review of Iran’s effort to use commercial aircraft for illicit activities.

“Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, has systematically used commercial aircraft for illicit military purposes, including to transport troops, weapons, and cash to rogue regimes and terrorist groups around the world,” the lawmakers wrote. “The possibility that U.S.-manufactured aircraft could be used as tools of terror is absolutely unacceptable and should not be condoned by the U.S. government.”

Rubio and Roskam asked the administration to “suspend current and future licenses for aircraft sales to commercial Iranian airlines until your administration conducts a comprehensive review of their role in supporting Iran’s illicit activity.”

Instead of granting Boeing a license for these sales, the United States should take immediate steps to “revoke authorizations and re-impose sanctions on Iranian airlines found guilty of such support, and should bar U.S. companies from selling aircraft to Iran until the Iranian regime ceases using commercial airliners for illicit military purposes,” according to the letter.

The latest information about Boeing’s deal with Aseman Airlines and IRGC leader Alaei has only heightened concerns about the danger of the Trump administration approving the sales.

Alaei served as commander of the IRGC Navy until 1990. During that time, Alaei oversaw the harassment of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf and efforts by the IRGC Navy to plant mines in international waters.

Alaei also served as the head of the IRGC’s general staff and a deputy minister of defense before assuming control of Iran’s Aviation Industries Organization, which is currently subject to U.S. sanctions.

Alaei serves as a lecturer at Iran’s Imam Hossein University, the IRGC’s national defense college, which also has been sanctioned by the United States.

“With his deep ties and service to the IRGC, Hossein Alaei’s position as CEO of Aseman therefore casts a dark shadow on the corporate ownership of and control over the airlines, and raises significant concerns that Iran Aseman Airlines is part of the IRGC’s economic empire and a tool used to support its malign activity abroad,” according to Rubio and Roskam.

Boeing also is pursuing deals with Iran Air, the country’s flagship carrier, and Mahan Air. Both have been sanctioned by the United States.

These carriers have been accused of using “commercial aircraft to transport weapons, troops and other tools of war to rogue regimes like the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al Assad, terrorist groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, and militant groups like the Houthi rebels in Yemen,” the lawmakers wrote.

Boeing could bolster Iran’s illicit activities and help the country revamp its aging fleet of planes, according to the lawmakers.

“There is no reason to believe Iran has ceased its malicious activity,” Rubio and Roskam wrote. “Compelling evidence indicates that commercial Iranian airliners remain pivotal in delivering military support to terrorist groups and dictatorships around the Middle East.”

“Iran’s commercial airlines have American blood on their hands,” they wrote.