Media Covers Fake Mike Flynn Story, Ignores Bombshell on Secret Obama/Iran Meetings

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

PJ Media, by David Steinberg, January 25, 2017:

If mainstream media truly wishes to repair its image with the general public, these outlets must recognize they do not merely suffer from a “bubble” reinforced by overwhelmingly liberal staffing, or from supposedly insufficient outreach to working class communities.

The mainstream’s issues are apparent in their content choices, suggesting an intractable problem. Following decades of allowing the Democratic Party to select the day’s narrative, they possess no measure of professional competence for objectively judging the importance of information.

The media’s remarkably different responses to the following two stories offer a definitive example:

1. Retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, President Trump’s national security adviser, made a series of phone calls and texts to Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak on December 29, 2016. On that day, then-President Barack Obama had revealed that he was issuing sanctions against Russia for its supposed hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

2. Per the Washington Free Beacon: “Two high-level Iranian government backers, including a former Islamic Republic official and another accused of lobbying on Tehran’s behalf, were hosted at the Obama White House for more than 30 meetings with top officials at key junctures in the former administration’s contested diplomacy with Iran …

“Sources familiar with the nature of the meetings told the Washington Free Beacon that both Parsi and Mousavian helped the White House craft its pro-Iran messaging and talking points that helped lead to the nuclear agreement with Iran. These efforts were part of a larger pro-Iran deal ‘echo chamber’ led by senior Obama administration officials who were tasked with misleading Congress about the nature of the deal …”

Just about every mainstream outlet has covered the Michael Flynn story with multiple articles: Newsweek, CNN, Daily Beast, CBS News, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and others — a thorough search returns dozens of high-profile sources that published highly trafficked pieces.

Several pundits demanded answers, pointing to the calls as further evidence of Donald Trump having aligned himself with Vladimir Putin’s dictatorial regime, and having allowed Putin to direct elements of his campaign and his coming presidency. Later, these same outlets announced that an “FBI investigation” into Flynn’s calls and texts had commenced.

But this week, we learn the hysteria about Flynn and the FBI appears to have been unwarranted. The outlets which had previously inflated the story have since backed down.

As you read their follow-up stories below, note the cause of their initial hysteria: you know of the Mike Flynn story simply due to journalistic ineptitude — specifically, the journalists’ ignorance of diplomatic practices — combined with their predetermined acceptance of the Trump/Russia narrative.

Yesterday, per NBC News:

FBI Finds Nothing Amiss in Flynn-Russia Eavesdrop: Official

The FBI eavesdropped on telephone calls between President Donald Trump’s national security adviser and the Russian ambassador but found nothing improper, a U.S. intelligence official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said late Monday that there was never a formal “investigation” of the calls in December between retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn and Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador in Washington.

According to the source, who was confirming a Washington Post report earlier Monday, intelligence officials merely listened inas part of routine eavesdropping on Kislyak.

The former official, who requested anonymity to speak about sensitive information, said it was not uncommon for diplomats or other U.S. officials to garner such attention to if they are recorded talking to foreign counterparts. Rarely anything comes of this, however, because U.S. officials have wide latitude in how they communicate as part of their jobs.

And this is how the Washington Post article referenced above described the calls:

The FBI’s counterintelligence agents listen to calls all the time that do not pertain to any open investigation, current and former law enforcement officials said. Often, said one former official, “they’re just monitoring the other [foreign official] side of the call.”

Both Flynn, a former head of the Pentagon’s intelligence agency, and Kislyak, a seasoned diplomat, are probably aware that Kislyak’s phone calls and texts are being monitored, current and former officials said. That would make it highly unlikely, the individuals said, that the men would allow their calls to be conduits of illegal coordination.

Has the damage been done, however? When you hear “Mike Flynn,” do you immediately consider him through the lens of this story?

Objectively, you should not, and further, you should not trust anything you have heard regarding Mike Flynn that traces to those outlets. They have shown both incompetence on the subject and vulnerability to a cynical Democratic Party narrative intended to damage Donald Trump’s presidency.

Re-watch the Clinton-Trump debates: Clinton pulls focus towards Russia to minimize coverage of the scandalous content of John Podesta’s emails. Further, following Trump’s victory, President Obama announced the aforementioned sanctions against Russia, knowing such sanctions brought no tangible punishment to Putin — then-President Elect Trump could rescind them within a month’s time. Obama’s motivations bear no rational explanation beyond continuing the narrative of Trump as an illegitimate president and pawn of Vladimir Putin.

Obama was successful — these outlets proved to have been primed to run with later information, such as the Mike Flynn story, to further the Trump/Russia narrative.

Now, return to yesterday’s exclusive story from Adam Kredo of the Washington Free Beacon:

Seyed Mousavian, a former Iranian diplomat and head of its national security council, was hosted at the White House at least three times, while Trita Parsi, a pro-Iran advocate long accused of hiding his ties to the Iranian government, met with Obama administration officials some 33 times, according to recently updated visitor logs.

The implications of this story, considering Obama adviser Ben Rhodes later opened up about the extent of the Obama administration’s duplicity with the public on the Iranian nuclear deal, are objectively relevant to anything else an America voter may read or believe regarding our national security. The Obama administration was surreptitiously welcoming counsel from two enemies of the state while crafting a treaty supposedly intended to prevent that enemy — a genocidal regime with a messianic bent — from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Here’s how that Ben Rhodes article described how Obama misled America (link is to David Reaboi of The Federalist):

In the spring of last year, legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters. ‘ We created an echo chamber,’ [Rhodes] admitted, when I asked him to explain the onslaught of freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal. ‘ They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.’

Rhodes has become adept at ventriloquizing many people at once. Ned Price, Rhodes’s assistant, gave me a primer on how it’s done. The easiest way for the White House to shape the news, he explained, is from the briefing podiums … “But then there are sort of these force multipliers,” he said, adding, “We have our compadres, I will reach out to a couple people, and you know I wouldn’t want to name them—”

“I can name them,” I said, ticking off a few names of prominent Washington reporters and columnists who often tweet in sync with White House messaging.

Price laughed. ‘I’ll say, “Hey, look, some people are spinning this narrative that this is a sign of American weakness,”’ he continued, “but—”

“In fact it’s a sign of strength!” I said, chuckling.

These same “often-clueless” reporters the Obama administration was “ventriloquizing” were just utilized as gleeful political pawns yet again. Mike Flynn’s brief calls and texts with the Russian ambassador should have immediately been dismissed as common diplomatic activity; they weren’t, in service of a cynical political end sought by not just the Democratic Party, but by the media outlets themselves.

However, the Obama White House meetings with Mousavian and Parsi — dozens of meetings — can not rationally be attributed as common diplomatic contact. Even after Ben Rhodes spilled his secrets — and not due to the weight of guilt, but due to pride in his work — we still do not know the extent of the Obama administration’s deceitful behavior during the passage of a bill that holds ramifications for global stability.

To summarize, the information uncovered by Adam Kredo is real news.

The Flynn story has been exposed as nothing notable beyond its potential as a political club; it was fake news.

As of this moment, not a single mainstream outlet has picked up the Adam Kredo story.

PJ Media and other “new media” outlets have, though.

As the mainstream continues to humiliate itself in an attempt to maintain a monopoly on information exiting Washington, D.C., the general public — and certainly, the voters — has developed an awareness that the mainstream’s status as gatekeeper has always been artificial. It certainly never had anything to do with competence.

Accused Hezbollah Operative Slated to Speak In Washington, D.C.

Azmi Bishara, an Israeli Arab and former lawmaker, speaks with journalists as he arrives to attend the emergency Arab leaders summit on Gaza in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Jan. 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Azmi Bishara, an Israeli Arab and former lawmaker, speaks with journalists as he arrives to attend the emergency Arab leaders summit on Gaza in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Jan. 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Washington Free Beacon, by  Adam Kredo, October 6, 2016:

A former Arab member of Israel’s parliament who was forced to flee the country after he was accused of working as a top Hezbollah operative is slated to speak next week in Washington, D.C., raising questions about how he obtained permission to enter U.S. soil.

Azmi Bishara, who is accused by Israel’s Shin Bet secret service of helping Hezbollah plot terrorist operations, is confirmed to speak next week at Washington’s downtown Marriott hotel as part of a conference organized by The Arab Center of Washington, D.C.

An official from the Arab Center confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon that Bishara will be attending the event, raising questions about how an individual linked to a U.S.-designated sponsor of terror obtained permission to enter America.

Bishara was initially slated to speak alongside former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, who the Free Beacon has learned cancelled his appearance. The talk was to focus on the promotion of democracy in the Arab world, according to a current conference schedule.

McFaul’s image was removed from the conference’s webpage several hours after the Free Beaconmade an inquiry into the event.

Bishara remains listed as a speaker.

Bishara, who has been living in Qatar since he fled Israel in 2007, is accused by Israel of helping Hezbollah select targets during its 2006 assault on the Jewish state. Israel is still seeking to detain Bishara and charge him for these terror offenses. Israeli authorities have said they will arrest Bishara if he returns to the country, where he could face the death penalty, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The State Department declined to tell the Free Beacon if it granted a visa to Bishara. It remains unclear how he has gotten official permission to be in the United States, as Qatar, his current place of residence, is not part of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.

A State Department official told the Free Beacon that visas are granted on a case-by-case basis, but remain confidential.

“We are unable to provide information on individual cases because visa records are confidential under U.S. law,” an official told the Free Beacon. “Visa applications are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with U.S. law.”

Additionally, “Section 222 (f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) prohibits us from disclosing details from individual visa cases,” the official said.

One foreign policy insider familiar with the situation questioned how Bishara obtained entry to the United States.

“The Obama administration’s tilt toward Iran is so extreme that now a visa has been given to a Hezbollah terrorist so that he can visit Washington D.C.,” the source said. “The administration’s love affair with Iran is a disgrace to our country and a danger to our security.”

Bishara, a former chairman of Israel’s Balad political party, is accused by Israel of aiding Hezbollah agents during the 2006 war.

“Bishara allegedly provided ‘information, suggestions and recommendations,’ including censored material, to his contacts in Lebanon during the war,” according to Haaretz.

He currently serves as the general director at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Qatar.

Huma Abedin’s Father: “Arab states must police the upholding of Sharia, or Islamic law”

abedin-1Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, Sept. 28, 2016:

Syed Abedin, the father of top Hillary Clinton aide Huma, outlined his view of Sharia law and how the Western world has turned Muslims “hostile” during a wide-ranging video interview that shines newfound light on the reclusive thinker’s world views, according to footage exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Abedin, a Muslim scholar who was tied to the Saudi Arabian government until his death in 1993, has remained somewhat of a mystery as the media turns its eye to his daughter Huma, a top Clinton campaign aide who recently announced her separation from husband Anthony Weiner following his multiple sex scandals.

Syed Abedin explained his views on the Muslim world and spread of Islam during a 1971 interview titled The World of Islam, which was first broadcast on Western Michigan University television.

pic2

Abedin said that Arab states must police the upholding of Sharia, or Islamic law, and explained why the majority of Muslims view Israel and the Western world in primarily “hostile” terms.

The video provides a window into the Abedin family’s ideology, which has been marred by accusations it is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Abedin, who was then a professor in the university’s college of general studies, said that Western intervention in the Arab world has sparked a backlash among many faithful Muslims.

“The response to the West has been of two kinds,” Abedin said. “By and large the response has taken more of a hostile form.”

“The first impulse of the average Muslim in the Islamic world is that this kind of borrowing [culturally] would be somehow an alien factor into our social fabric and thereby destroying the integrity of our ethos … the integrity of our culture,” he added.

In a separate discussion on the state’s role in a person’s life, Abedin said it is necessary to police the application of Sharia law.

“The state has to take over” as Muslim countries evolve, he argued. “The state is stepping in in many countries … where the state is now overseeing that human relationships are carried on on the basis of Islam. The state also under Islam has a right to interfere in some of these rights given to the individual by the Sharia.”

“Suspicion” runs rampant in the Muslim world, Abedin said, citing it as a reason why Western governing values have not been quickly adopted in the region.

“In the contemporary Islamic world, religious leadership is of very crucial significance because any change that will be abiding, that will make any positive contribution to the development of Muslim life, must come from that source, and that is one reason why ideologies like socialism or communism that have been introduced into the Muslim world have never really taken root,” Abedin said. “They have always been considered as foreign importations. … It’s a kind of suspicion.”

Abedin also discussed the clash between modernity and the Islamic world.

“When you talk of an Islamic state … does it have to have a caliph?” he asked. “What does it mean? What is the Islamic concept of good in the present day world?”

Any cultural change, Abedin concluded, will have to be validated by the tenets of Islam.

“The main dynamics of life in the Islamic world are still supplied by Islam,” he said. “Any institution, as I said before, any concept, any idea, in order to be accepted and become a viable thing in the Islamic world has to come through … Islam.”

Abedin’s views on religion have become a central topic among those who have questioned Clinton’s choice to elevate Human Abedin into such a prominent role.

The Abedins helped create the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, a publication accused of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and of promoting a hardline Islamic ideology.

Huma Abedin served as an assistant editor of the journal for 12 years and also played a role in its offshoot, the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, a think-tank established in Saudi Arabia by an accused financier of the al Qaeda terror group, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Iran May Have Received as Much as $33.6 Billion in Cash, Gold Payments From U.S.

John Kerry, left, and Javad Zarif / AP

John Kerry, left, and Javad Zarif / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, Sept. 8, 2016:

Iran may have received an additional $33.6 billion in secret cash and gold payments facilitated by the Obama administration between 2014 and 2016, according to testimony provided before Congress by an expert on last summer’s nuclear agreement with Iran.

Between January 2014 and July 2015, when the Obama administration was hammering out the final details of the nuclear accord, Iran was paid $700 million every month from funds that had previously been frozen by U.S. sanctions.

A total of $11.9 billion was ultimately paid to Iran, but the details surrounding these payments remain shrouded in mystery, according to Mark Dubowitz, executive director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

In total, “Iran may have received as much as $33.6 billion in cash or in gold and other precious metals,” Dubowitz disclosed.

New questions about these payments are emerging following confirmation from top Obama administration officials on Thursday that it was forced to pay Iran $1.7 billion in cash prior to the release of several U.S. hostages earlier this year. The administration insisted that cash had to be used for this payment.

Top administration officials were adamant that the cash payments were the best way to ensure that Iran got immediate access to this money due to its ongoing difficulty accessing international funds still sanctioned by the West.

Lawmakers and others are now pressing the administration to disclose how a slew of other payments to Iran were made in the years leading up to the final nuclear accord.

“In July, the Associated Press cited U.S. officials who estimated that Iran ‘brought home less than $20 billion.’ Were these funds repatriated to Tehran in cash or in gold and precious metals? Through the formal financial system? Or through some combination?” Dubowitz asked in his testimony before the House Financial Services Committee.

“The administration should also clarify if the $20 billion dollars is inclusive of the $11.9 billion in [Joint Plan of Action] funds, or if the $20 billion was in addition to the $11.9 billion,” he said. “Either way, it is important to understand how funds were sent. The worst-case scenario here is that Iran may have received as much as $33.6 billion in cash or in gold and other precious metals.”

At least some of this money was likely sent in cash and other assets, according to Dubowitz.

The Obama administration was forced to disclose on Thursday that current sanctions and banking restrictions prohibited it from transferring funds to Iran via electronic methods.

The cash payment of $1.7 billion earlier this year was the easiest way to ensure Iran got immediate access to the money, according to these officials.

“Iran had to have it in cash,” Paul Ahern, assistant general counsel for enforcement and intelligence at the Treasury Department, told lawmakers. “Iran was very aware of the difficulties it would face in accessing and using the funds if they were in any other form than cash, even after the lifting of sanctions.”

A cash delivery “was the most reliable way that they received the funds in a timely manner and it was the manner preferred by the relative foreign banks,” Ahren said.

Given the situation, it is likely that the multiple past payments to Iran were conducted in a similar fashion, according to Dubowitz.

“If the White House could only send cash to Iran from the start of the JPOA period through the Tribunal payment that could amount to a grant total of 33.6 billion,” he said. “Did any of this money go through the formal financial system? If so, the administration is not being truthful about the 1.7 billion. If many billions arrived in Iran on pallets [of cash] this would be a pretty astounding revelation.”

Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and expert on rogue regimes, said that cash payments of this nature are “highly irregular.”

“There’s no reason it needed to be paid now. After all, successive administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have delayed payments so as to avoid funding Iranian terrorism,” Rubin said. “Likewise, if the United States freezes accounts linked to al Qaeda or Hamas, releasing it and saying, ‘It’s their money anyway,’ would not be a tenable explanation. Cash payments are highly irregular.”

The Iranians have been clear that they “perceived the payment to be a ransom” despite the administration’s protestations, Rubin explained.

“Not only has the delivery of the millions of dollars been perceived as a ransom, provided as an incentive to seize more hostages …. but because the money was delivered in cash the payment bolstered the strength of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and augmented its ability to finance and conduct terrorism,” he said.

Congress Moves to Block Obama Admin’s ‘Ransom Payments’ to Iran

Marco Rubio / AP

Marco Rubio / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, Sept. 6, 2016:

Congress is set to consider new legislation that would block the Obama administration from awarding Iran billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars in what many describe as a ransom payment, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) will introduce on Tuesday new legislation that would prohibit the Obama administration from moving forward with all payments to Iran, according to the bill, which would also force Iran to return billions of dollars in U.S. funds that have already been delivered to Tehran by the White House.

Rubio’s bill—a version of which is also being introduced in the House by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.)—would mandate that Iran pay American victims of terrorism some $53 billion in reparations for past attacks planned and coordinated by the Islamic Republic.

The legislation comes amid a growing scandal surrounding the Obama administration’s decision to pay Iran $1.7 billion earlier this year as part of an effort to free imprisoned U.S. hostages. The payment, details of which were kept secret from Congress and the American people, is expected to become the focus of several congressional investigations in the coming weeks.

“President Obama’s disastrous nuclear deal with Iran was sweetened with an illicit ransom payment and billions of dollars for the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism,” Rubio said in a statement provided to the Free Beacon. “The U.S. government should not be in the business of negotiating with terrorists and paying ransom money in exchange for the release of American hostages. Doing so puts more Americans in danger, as President Obama himself admitted.”

The State Department recently reissued a travel warning for U.S. citizens traveling to Iran due to the possibility of kidnapping and imprisonment by the Iranian government.

Rubio said his new bill “would stop the Obama administration from making any further payments to Iran from the [Treasury Department’s] Judgment Fund until Iran returns the ransom money it received and pays the American victims of Iranian terrorism what they are owed.”

“President Obama may have attempted to appease our enemy with pallets of cash secretly delivered on an unmarked cargo plane, but Iran continues to cheat on the nuclear deal, harass our military, hold Americans hostage, and fund terrorism around the world,” Rubio added. “Iran should be held accountable, and the Obama administration’s misguided policies must be stopped.”

Rubio’s bill, called the No Ransom Payments Act, is co-sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R., Texas), Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.), John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), and Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.).

“Congress is taking a clear stand—demanding Iran return the more than $1 billion the Obama Administration wrongly gave them and putting a stop to any and all future money this administration, or any administration might want to give to state sponsors of terrorism like Iran,” Pompeo, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told the Free Beacon. “The American people know this is an unacceptable use of their taxpayer dollars and we wholeheartedly agree. It is unprecedented and dangerous for President Obama to be doling out millions to the Islamic Republic of Iran—in the dead of night, under wraps, and in cash. Kansans expect and demand better from their government.”

Rubio on Tuesday also filed a separate piece of legislation that would stop the Obama administration from permitting U.S. corporations and banks from selling Iran aircraft and mechanical parts.

The Obama administration has sought to issue waivers to remove sanctions on companies and banks that could facilitate these transactions with Iran.

Congressional leaders and regional experts have warned that Iran routinely uses its national air carrier, Iran Air, to conduct terror operations and transport military forces into war zones in Syria and elsewhere.

Adam Kredo is senior writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Formerly an award-winning political reporter for the Washington Jewish Week, where he frequently broke national news, Kredo’s work has been featured in outlets such as the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and Politico, among others. He lives in Maryland with his comic books. His Twitter handle is @Kredo0. His email address is kredo@freebeacon.com.

Report: United Nations-Backed Orgs Promoting Terrorism, Anti-Semitism, Violence

Flags of member states fly outside United Nations headquarters / AP

Flags of member states fly outside United Nations headquarters / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, Sept. 1, 2016:

“Bigots, anti-Semites, and terrorist advocates” are “spreading hatred and inciting violence” from within the halls of the United Nations with full backing of the international organization, according to a report that shines new light on the lack of proper administrative oversight at Turtle Bay.

Accredited advocacy groups permitted to operate at the U.N. have been using the international organization as a platform to legitimize anti-Semitism, hatred of the Jewish state, and support for terrorism, according a new report issued by Human Rights Voices, a group that monitors bias at the U.N. and the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.

“Most striking for an organization founded on the ashes of the Holocaust, the UN enables its accredited NGOs [non-governmental organizations] to play a central role in promoting modern anti-Semitism,” the report states. “Although the preamble of the UN Charter promises the equal rights of nations large and small, UN-accredited NGOs foster the destruction of the UN member state of Israel.”

The report provides evidence showing how a range of U.N.-backed groups use the institution to promote hatred and violence, a claim long made by supporters of the Jewish state.

“There are numerous examples of UN-accredited NGOs engaging in anti-Semitism, promoting violence and terror, demonizing the UN member state of Israel, and advocating its destruction,” according to the report, which provides screenshots and images of this behavior.

Many of the materials are still publicly accessible and continue to be distributed by these organizations, according to the report.

The report notes that many of the U.N. member states responsible for granting accreditation to these anti-Israel and anti-Western groups have questionable human rights records.

“The states running the UN accreditation processes are frequently countries that inhibit free speech and curtail the freedom of association in their own backyards, and deliberately use their UN powers to protect themselves in the international sphere,” the report noted. “Current members of the most prolific UN NGO accreditation operation include such NGO-abusing states as China, Cuba, Iran, Russia, and Sudan. Iran is currently a Vice-Chair.”

Accredited status gives these advocacy groups special access at the U.N.’s New York headquarters, permitting them to serve as observers at meetings, participate in official conferences, and consult with top U.N. officials, among other benefits.

U.N. accredited organizations flagged in the report have compared Israelis to Nazis and have claimed that Israel commits acts of genocide. Other international organizations in the report portray Israel as Nazi Germany and promulgate age-old anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jewish people.

Read more

Iran Expanding Terror Network in Latin America

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, is welcomed by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, in Havana, Cuba / AP

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, is welcomed by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, in Havana, Cuba / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, Aug. 23, 2016:

Iran is solidifying its foothold in Latin America, sparking concerns among U.S. officials that the Islamic Republic will enlist these regional allies in its push to launch terror attacks on U.S. soil, according to conversations with congressional sources.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has been on a diplomatic tour through key Latin American countries known for hostility towards the United States, including Cuba, Venezuela, and a host of other countries believed to be providing shelter to Iranian terrorist proxies such as Hezbollah.

As Iranian-ally Russia boosts its spy operation in the region, sources have raised concerns about the rogue nations working together to foster anti-U.S. unrest.

Zarif’s trip through the region has raised red flags among some senior congressional sources familiar with the region. For example, Zarif took aim at the United States and touted the regime’s desire to align with anti-American countries during his stay in Cuba.

One senior congressional source who works on the issue said to the Washington Free Beacon that Iran is seeking to recruit “potential terrorists who want to cause the U.S. harm.”

Increased ties between Iran and these Latin American nations are setting the stage for terrorists to penetrate close to U.S. soil with little detection.

These individuals “can travel easily to Venezuela, and once there, they can get to Nicaragua or Cuba without passports or visas, which poses a national security risk for our nation,” the source explained.

Iran has also reopened its embassy in Chile, a move that has only added fuel to speculation among U.S. officials that the Islamic Republic is making moves to position its global terror network on America’s doorstep.

“The threat to U.S. national security interests and our allies should be setting off alarm bells,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), chair of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement about Zarif’s Latin American tour.

“The Obama administration has failed to prevent Russia and China from expanding in our Hemisphere, and now Iran is once again stepping up its efforts to gain a greater presence to carry out its nefarious activities,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “I urge the White House to stop downplaying the Iranian threat and take immediate action to prevent the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism from establishing a regional safe haven in the Americas.”

Asked to comment on Zarif’s trip and the potential repercussions on Monday, a State Department official said to the Free Beacon that the administration had no comment.

Ros-Lehtinen said the high-profile trip by Zarif should serve as a warning.

“The timing of Zarif’s trip is significant as Iran could use many of these rogue regimes to circumvent remaining sanctions, undermine U.S. interests, and expand the drug trafficking network that helps finance its illicit activities,” she said. “Tehran’s classic playbook is to use cultural centers, new embassies or consulates, or cooperative agreements on various areas to act as façades aimed at expanding Iran’s radical extremist network.”

The renewed concerns about Iran’s footprint in Latin America comes nearly two years after the State Department said Tehran’s influence in the region was “waning.”

“The timing of Zarif’s trip speaks volumes,” said the senior congressional aide who would discuss the issue only on background. It “is worrisome that as we just celebrated the 22nd year of the horrific terrorist attack against the AMIA Jewish community center in Argentina, Iran can now have personnel nearby in a new embassy in Chile.”

“Just recently, a Hezbollah member was picked up in Brazil, an explosive device was found near the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, and Hezbollah members are reportedly traveling on Venezuelan passports,” the source added. “It was not too long ago that Venezuela offered flights to Iran and Syria, and as of last week, Hezbollah cells were found in the West Bank where Venezuela lifted its visa requirements for Palestinians.”

Zarif slammed the United States on Monday during a speech in Havana.

“Iran and Cuba could prove to the U.S. that it cannot proceed with its policies through exerting pressure on other countries,” Zarif said, according to Iran’s state-controlled media.

“Now the time is ripe for realizing our common goals together and implement the resistance economy in Iran and materialize [Cuban dictator Fidel] Castro’s goals of reconstruction of the Cuban economy,” Zarif added.

Zarif went on to note that Iran “has age-old and strong relations with the American continent and the Latin American countries.”

Zarif is reported to have brought along at least 60 Iranian officials and executives working in the country’s state-controlled economic sector.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Free Beacon that Iran has boosted efforts to engage Latin America in the wake of last summer’s nuclear agreement.

“Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif is aggressively continuing Iran’s diplomatic outreach, a policy which began early in the Rouhani administration and was kicked into high gear in the aftermath of the JCPOA—last summer’s nuclear deal,” he said. “Zarif’s sojourn into the Western hemisphere follows on the heels of his May visit to the region. Zarif’s trip symbolically commences in Havana, Cuba, where the Iranian foreign minister harped on themes of steadfastness and resistance to American legal and economic pressure.”

The Iranian leader’s goal is to “build on this experience to help promote an anti-American and anti-capitalist world order,” he added. “What’s most clear however, is that in addition to seeking to solidify the anti-American political orientation of these states, Iran aims to capitalize on the increasingly detached stigma of doing business with it in the aftermath of the nuclear accord. Therefore, we can expect to see trade deals or memorandums of understanding inked. In short, Iran will be looking to deepen to its footprint in Latin America.”