White House Examining Plan to Spark Regime Change in Iran

 

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Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, May 10, 2018:

The Trump administration is examining a new plan to spark regime change in Iran following America’s exit from the landmark nuclear deal and reimposition of harsh economic sanctions that could topple a regime already beset by protests and a crashing economy, according to a copy of the plan obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The three-page white paper being circulated among National Security Council officials in the White House offers a strategy by which the Trump administration can actively work to assist an already aggravated Iranian public topple the hardline ruling regime through a democratization strategy that focuses on driving a deeper wedge between the Iranian people and the ruling regime.

The plan, authored by the Security Studies Group, or SSG, a national security think-tank that has close ties to senior White House national security officials, including National Security Adviser John Bolton, seeks to reshape longstanding American foreign policy toward Iran by emphasizing an explicit policy of regime change, something the Obama administration opposed when popular protests gripped Iran in 2009.

The regime change plan seeks to fundamentally shift U.S. policy towards Iran and has found a receptive audience in the Trump administration, which has been moving in this direction since Bolton—a longtime and vocal supporter of regime change—entered the White House.

It deemphasizes U.S military intervention, instead focusing on a series of moves to embolden an Iranian population that has increasingly grown angry at the ruling regime for its heavy investments in military adventurism across the region.

“The ordinary people of Iran are suffering under economic stagnation, while the regime ships its wealth abroad to fight its expansionist wars and to pad the bank accounts of the Mullahs and the IRGC command,” SSG writes in the paper. “This has provoked noteworthy protests across the country in recent months.”

Jim Hanson, SSG’s president, told the Free Beacon that the Trump administration has no appetite for U.S. military intervention in Iran, but is very focused on efforts to rid Iran of its hardline ruling regime.

“The Trump administration has no desire to roll tanks in an effort to directly topple the Iranian regime,” Hanson said. “But they would be much happier dealing with a post-Mullah government. That is the most likely path to a nuclear weapons-free and less dangerous Iran.”

One source close to the White House who has previewed the plan told the Free Beacon that the nuclear deal, also known as the JCPOA, solidified the Iranian regime’s grip on power and intentionally prevented the United States from fomenting regime change

“The JCPOA purposefully destroyed the carefully created global consensus against the Islamic Republic,” said the source, who would only speak on background about the sensitive issue. “Prior to that, everyone understood the dangers of playing footsie with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. It’s now Trump, Bolton, and [Mike] Pompeo’s job to put this consensus back in place.”

Bolton is said to be acutely aware of the danger the Iranian regime poses to the region, the source said.

“John is someone who understands the danger of Iran viscerally, and knows that you’re never going to fundamentally change its behavior—and the threats against Israel and the Saudis especially—until that revolutionary regime is gone,” the source said, adding that “nothing’s off the table right now if Israel is attacked.”

A second source close to the White House and familiar with the thinking on this issue told the Free Beacon the administration recognizes the chief impediment to the region is Iran’s tyrannical regime.

“The problem is not the Iran nuclear deal it’s the Iranian regime,” said the source, who would only speak on background. “Team Bolton has spent years creating Plans B, C, and D for dealing with that problem. President Trump hired him knowing all of that. The administration will now start aggressively moving to deal with the root cause of chaos and violence in the region in a clear-eyed way.”

Regional sources who have spoken to SSG “tell us that Iranian social media is more outraged about internal oppression, such as the recent restrictions on Telegram, than about supporting or opposing the nuclear program. Iranian regime oppression of its ethnic and religious minorities has created the conditions for an effective campaign designed to splinter the Iranian state into component parts,” the group states.

“More than one third of Iran’s population is minority groups, many of whom already seek independence,” the paper explains. “U.S. support for these independence movements, both overt and covert, could force the regime to focus attention on them and limit its ability to conduct other malign activities.”

American policy towards Iran has failed to explicitly support Iranian opponents of the regime who are thirsty for a change.

“U.S. policy toward Iran currently does not publicly articulate two components vital to success: That a new birth of liberty based in self-determination for the Iranian people should be official policy; and that military action should be anticipated if other measures fail,” the paper states.

In addition to preventing Iran from ever building a nuclear weapon, the Trump administration must articulate a credible military threat should Iran choose to launch full-scale attacks on Israel and U.S. forces.

“A credible hard power option exists,” according to the plan. “That option does not consist of large invasion forces or long, costly occupations.”

Without a regime change, the United States will continue face threats from Iranian forces stationed throughout the region, including in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon.

“The probability the current Iranian theocracy will stop its nuclear program willingly or even under significant pressure is low,” the plan states. “Absent a change in government within Iran, America will face a choice between accepting a nuclear-armed Iran or acting to destroy as much of this capability as possible.”

U.S. officials must make efforts to publicly differentiate between Iran’s ruling regime and its people, a point that was also emphasized by Trump in his statement about exiting the deal earlier this week.

“Any public discussion of these options, and any messaging about the Iranian regime in general, should make a bright line distinction between the theocratic regime along with its organs of oppression and the general populace,” according to the plan. “We must constantly reinforce our support for removing the iron sandal from the necks of the people to allow them the freedom they deserve.”

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Netanyahu to announce ‘significant’ new info on Iran’s nuclear program

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on April 29, 2018. (Amit Shabi/Pool/Flash90)

PM to speak live at 8 p.m.; TV reports say he will reveal intel, based on trove of documents obtained by Israel, that proves Tehran is not adhering to accord with world powers

Times of Israel, by Alexander Fulbright, April 30, 2018:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will announce a “significant development” regarding Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in a live speech at 8 p.m. Monday, his office said.

Netanyahu will give the statement at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv.

According to Hadashot news and Channel 10 news, Netanyahu will reveal intelligence information, based on a large cache of documents recently obtained by Israel, which he believes proves Iran has duped the world regarding the state of its nuclear program.

Channel 10 reported that Netanyahu will speak in English, in order for the announcement to reach a worldwide audience.

Ahead of his remarks, Netanyahu cancelled a speech he was to make at the Knesset and his Likud party called off its weekly faction meeting due to the security tensions. The opposition Zionist Union and Yesh Atid parties withdrew their proposed no-confidence vote in the government. Given the “sensitive” security situation, it was appropriate to “show a unified front,” said Zionist Union MK Yoel Hasson.

Earlier Monday, Netanyahu convened an unscheduled meeting of Israel’s decision-making security cabinet at the Defense Ministry HQ.

Netanyahu’s announcement will come a day after he met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said US President Donald Trump will withdraw from the nuclear accord on May 12 barring significant changes.

Both Trump and Netanyahu have harshly criticized the 2015 nuclear deal, taking aim at its “sunset” clauses and saying it does not address Iran’s ballistic missile program or involvement in numerous regional conflicts.

The premier also spoke with Trump by phone Sunday, with the White House saying the two discussed Iran’s “destabilizing activities” in the region.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) is seen with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on April 29, 2018. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

The imminent Netanyahu announcement also comes after an airstrike in Syria early Monday, attributed by some to Israel. The strike destroyed some 200 surface-to-surface missiles and killed 16 people, including 11 Iranians, according to a New York Times report.

Iran denied that any of its soldiers were killed or that its bases had been targeted in the raids, although Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei later warned the Islamic Republic’s foes they will be “hit multiple times” if they attack Iran.

That attack came after an earlier airstrike this month on an Iranian military facility in Syria that was blamed on Israel, in which Iran acknowledged seven of its soldiers were killed and vowed to respond to the attack.

Screen capture from video purporting to show a missile strike in Syria, April 29, 2018. (Twitter)

In the wake of Iran’s warning, Israeli officials have informed the United States and Russia that Israel will respond to any attack from Syria by Iran or its proxies, the Haaretz daily reported Monday.

According to the officials quoted by the newspaper, Israel could launch a widespread attack on Iranian sites in Syria if attacked, with the main targets being bases established by Tehran for weapons transfer and storage.

The report said the extent of a response by Israel to any attack on its territory by Iran or its proxies has been debated recently in Israeli political and security circles, with political elements favoring attacking targets in Iran itself, while the security establishment opposes expanding the battlefield against the Islamic Republic.

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Caroline Glick: Time to Leave the Iran Deal

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Breitbart, by Caroline Glick, April 29, 2018:

Newly-confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s travel schedule mainly signals how concerned the Trump administration has become about the growing probability of war breaking out imminently between Israel and Iran, with Iran’s Syrian and Lebanese proxies fighting on Iran’s behalf against the Jewish state.

Pompeo went straight to Andrews Air Force base from his confirmation ceremony at the Supreme Court last week to embark on his first diplomatic mission.

He travelled to Brussels for a summit of NATO members and is scheduled to continue on to Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia before returning to Washington late next week.

Several Israeli media outlets claimed Pompeo’s decision to visit Israel during his first trip abroad as Secretary of State is an expression of his support for the Jewish state.

While that may be true, the administration is also worried about the region.

Speaking to Congress Thursday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that war between Iran and Israel, in Syria is “very likely.”

The likeliness of war, he said, owes to the fact that “Iran continues to do its proxy work there [in Syria] through Hezbollah,” and is “bringing advanced weapons for Hezbollah through Syria.”

Israel, he said, “will not wait to see those missiles in the air and we hope Iran would pull back.”

During the same testimony, Mattis repeated his support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the nuclear deal with Iran, which the Obama administration — together with France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China — concluded with the Iranian regime in 2015.

Mattis argued that the nuclear deal limits Iran’s nuclear capabilities through its inspections regime. In his words, “It is written almost with an assumption that Iran would try to cheat. The verification, what is in there, is actually pretty robust as far as our intrusive ability to get in,” to Iran’s nuclear installations is concerned.

It is notable that Mattis addressed the prospect of war between Israel and Iran in Syria and the JCPOA in the same testimony.

Throughout the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran, and since the deal was concluded in July 2015, its supporters have insisted that Iran’s support for terrorism, its regional aggression, and its ballistic missile program have to be dealt with separately from Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program.

During his address to the Munich Security Conference in February, former Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the U.S. negotiating team with Iran, defended that position. Kerry said that singling out Iran’s nuclear program and ignoring the rest of its rogue activities “was not a concession, but was a matter of strategic thinking.”

Kerry has acknowledged that Iran used the billions of dollars it received as a result of acceding to the nuclear agreement to finance terror. But, he insisted at the Munich conference, Iran’s nuclear program was so advanced by the time the talks began in earnest, that the only way to stop Iran from developing a nuclear arsenal without bombing its nuclear facilities was by concluding a deal that dealt only with limitations on its nuclear progress and ignored all the other things Iran does to destabilize the Middle East.

That is, according to the circular reasoning Kerry and his colleagues employed during the nuclear talks with Tehran and continue to employ today, any attempt to restrain Iran’s rogue operations in terror, regional aggression, and ballistic missile development – which all exacerbate the risk of war — endanger the nuclear deal. And without the nuclear deal, there will be war.

In other words, the nuclear deal was necessary to prevent war, while any effort to prevent war threatens the nuclear deal, by Kerry’s illogic.

And now as Mattis told Congress, and as Pompeo’s hasty trip to the Middle East make clear, even as the U.S. has maintained the nuclear deal, the prospect of war has become a near certainty.

Which brings us to the question of the desirability of retaining the nuclear deal.

President Donald Trump set a May 12 deadline for U.S. and European negotiators to improve the nuclear deal in key areas. These include improving the inspections regime and eliminating the deal’s so-called “sunset clauses,” which lift all restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities between 2025 and 2030. If, as appears likely, the U.S. and its allies to do not agree on changes to the nuclear deal, Trump will abandon it. His act will cause the reinstatement of U.S. sanctions against Iran’s banking and oil sector, which were suspended with the conclusion of the nuclear deal.  Although France and Germany have pledged to remain loyal to the agreement, the practical effect of such a move by the U.S. will be to end the deal.

In light of Trump’s apparent determination to walk away from the nuclear deal in two weeks, Mattis’s defense of it before Congress was notable for several reasons.

First Mattis’s defense of the deal’s verification regime was disingenuous. Contrary to Mattis’ claims, the agreement’s verification mechanisms are not strong. The nuclear deal does not allow UN inspectors to freely access nuclear sites. Under the deal, Iran can label any nuclear site it wishes a “military site.” And under the agreement, UN inspectors need to request permission to enter military sites and Iran can refuse them access.

An appeals procedure to an Iranian move to block access to “military sites” is drawn out — and in the event Iran’s veto of inspections is overruled, Iran can delay UN inspectors’ arrival for 24 days, more than ample time for the Iranians to remove or conceal anything they don’t want inspectors to see.

As a consequence, the UN inspectors’ claim that Iran is in compliance with the agreement does not mean that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons. It simply means that within the narrow limits of UN inspection power, Iran is cooperating with inspectors.

Military sites are not the only sites that UN inspectors are blocked from visiting. The deal does not permit UN inspectors to visit suspected nuclear sites.

As Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained in his speech before the joint houses of Congress in 2015, Iran hid the existence of its key nuclear facilities – at Isfahan and Qom – from the International Atomic Energy Agency. Given its track record, the notion that Iran does not have other covert nuclear installations is absurd. And under the deal, if such installations are discovered by foreign intelligence agencies, Iran is not required to permit UN inspectors to see what is happening inside them.

Finally, the question of inspections, while important, is not central to the problematic nature of the nuclear deal. Under the deal, Iran retains its nuclear installations. It is permitted to develop the means to produce far more advanced centrifuges than the ones it was known to be operating in 2015.

So even if Iran follows the deal to the letter, it will still be able to develop nuclear weapons as soon as the nuclear restrictions it accepted as part of the deal expire in seven years.

Far from blocking Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal, the deal guarantees Iran will become a nuclear power.

Given that the inspection regime is not “robust,” and that even if it were robust, it still wouldn’t prevent Iran from developing a nuclear arsenal, Mattis’s decision to lump together his position on the nuclear deal with his warning of imminent war between Israel and Iran indicate that Mattis views the two issues as related.

Specifically, Mattis’s defense of the deal signals that he agrees with Kerry’s view that the risk of war will rise if Trump abandons the nuclear deal.

If Mattis – and Kerry – are right, then Trump should simply maintain faith with the nuclear deal as the Germans and French are hoping he will.

But are Mattis and Kerry right?

If Trump maintains the nuclear deal, he will empower the Iranian regime. He will signal to the Europeans that Iran is open for business and give a lifeline to the rapidly collapsingIranian economy. Trump will communicate to the Iranian regime and the Iranian people alike that the U.S. is deterred by the regime’s threats.

Conversely, abandonment of the nuclear deal by the U.S. will weaken, if not cripple the regime. Reinstituting U.S. sanctions against Iran will hasten the downfall of the Iranian economy, which is already coming apart at the seams. Iran’s current economic woes owe to its limited access to foreign currencies through the international banking system. Further U.S. economic sanctions will limit that access still further, and send hundreds of thousands of Iranians into the streets to protest as what is left of their rial-backed savings are rendered worthless by skyrocketing inflation.

If the regime is destabilized, its desire to go to war against Israel will likely diminish rather than increase. During the countrywide anti-regime protests last December and January, the demonstrators protested against the regime’s diversion of billions of dollars away from the public to pay for the war in Syria and to underwrite Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis. The protesters called out, “No Gaza, No Lebanon, No Syria, My life for Iran!”

At the UN Security Council on Thursday, Israel’s UN Ambassador Dani Danon revealednew details about Iran’s burgeoning military presence on Syria. “There are over 80,000 extremists from all over the Middle East who are members of Shia militias in Syria under Iranian control,” he said.

Danon shared satellite imagery of what he claimed is an Iranian recruitment center just five miles outside Damascus. His presentation dovetailed with satellite imagery released by the Israeli military earlier in the month detailing five Iranian-controlled air bases in Syria. The release of the air base data was interpreted as a signal to the Iranians that Israel intends to bomb the bases if Iran carries out its threat to retaliate for Israel’s air assault on the Iranian drone base T-4 outside Palmyra, Syria immediately after the US-led airstrikes on Syria’s chemical weapons installations on April 7.

All of these recent events, and the rising threat of war, show that opponents of the Iran nuclear deal were correct and that Kerry’s circular reasoning, which prevented the U.S. and its allies from taking effective action against any of Iran’s nuclear and non-nuclear operations, was dead wrong.

Not only does the nuclear deal pave Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal rather than block it, by enriching Iran, the deal also rewarded Iranian aggression and increased the chance of a major regional war.

The way to diminish that prospect is not to empower the Iranians still further by maintaining the deal. The way to diminish the chance of war is by weakening Iran. Leaving the deal, while standing with Israel and with opponents of the regime inside Iran, means doing just that.

Frank Gaffney: President Trump May Be ‘Undermined by His Own Subordinates’ After Strong UN Speech

Breitbart, by John Hayward, Sept. 20, 2017:

Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney joined SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam on Wednesday’s Breitbart News Daily to review President Trump’s address to the UN General Assembly.

Kassam asked if Trump’s strong words against Iran during the speech presaged the end of the Iran nuclear deal.

“This is the question,” Gaffney replied. “Action is not so much what one needs to wonder about. I think there will be action. The question is, is it action consistent with what the president said yesterday?”

“This has been what’s so frustrating, I know, to all of us listening to this program and part of the Make America Great Again movement, is the president is being repeatedly and in fact serially undermined by his own subordinates,” he explained.

“He makes these speeches, or he makes these pronouncements, or he tweets the sorts of things that are redolent of the campaign, and what he stood for, and what he promised – only to have H.R. McMaster, or Jim Mattis, or particularly Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, almost immediately sallying forth and saying, ‘Well, what the president really meant to say was exactly the opposite,’” Gaffney lamented.

“In this case, of course, we have Rex Tillerson sitting down with the so-called ‘Perm 5 Plus One,’ which is U.N.-speak for the gang that put together this Iran deal – I call it the ‘Obama bomb deal’ – plus the Iranian foreign minister. Obviously, the pressure is going to be intense, not just from the Iranians but from the Europeans, to walk back from what the president said,” he warned.

“I pray that Rex Tillerson won’t do it because I think the president got it exactly right. This is a defective deal. It is an embarrassment to the United States that Barack Obama perpetrated it – and, by the way, that Republicans in Congress enabled him to get away with imposing it upon the rest of us. We need to get out from that thing right away. I think John Bolton had that exactly right, and I commend everyone his alternative approach. I hope that’s what Rex Tillerson will be promoting, but I don’t hold my breath on it,” said Gaffney.

Kassam mentioned the argument advanced by French President Emmanuel Macron that the North Korean crisis makes the case for keeping the Iran deal alive because Iran’s nuclear ambitions are now held in check by the kind of oversight North Korea has never received.

“Rubbish,” Gaffney snorted. “This is forgetting the actual lessons of all of this, of course, which are that indeed we made a deal with the North Koreans that was supposed to prevent them from getting the bomb, not unlike we’ve done with the Iranians, and it did not work out.”

“To the contrary, we’ve now got them with not only atomic weapons and missiles with which to deliver them, but now it appears a hydrogen bomb,” he argued. “The so-called ‘strategic patience’ of the Obama administration, unfortunately, followed on the heels of incompetence and malfeasance under both the Clinton administration that made that deal with the North Koreans, and the George W. Bush administration, so there’s a bipartisan fault here. This is not a model to be extolled or held up as the way to deal with Iran.”

Kassam found President Trump’s strong condemnation of socialism to be the most remarkable and encouraging moment of his speech, especially given that a majority of the nations in the UN General Assembly consider themselves socialist to some degree.

“It was tough love, without probably the love,” Gaffney quipped. “The president was laying out the hard truth, and it was incredibly important that he did so – and that he did so to the socialists in that place.”

“Not only are there large numbers of socialists, or communists for that matter, in the UN I mean, it basically is a socialist enterprise. It’s all about redistribution of wealth and power under the auspices of successive socialists, including the guy who is currently running it – the Secretary-General is an old socialist from Portugal. These are people who, I believe, actually think this is the way of the future, so it was very important,” he said.

“But again, it has to be backed up. Let me just say, I think in addition to not having his subordinates undermine him – which they do again, and again, and again, without any consequences – we also have to take actions, Raheem,” he told Kassam.

“I mean, it’s one thing to be telling the North Koreans and ‘Rocket Man’ that you’re toast if you think about pursuing with those hydrogen bombs threats to us. It’s another to actually put into place the capabilities to assure that everybody understands that that’s not an empty threat,” he stressed.

“The rhetoric has been more or less good,” Gaffney judged. “I think you’re absolutely right that the MAGA movement was heard, and brought back ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ That’s a twofer. One, it’s important in its own right to be calling the enemy what it is, and also that it demonstrates how important the base is. We need to make sure the president is hearing us all the time. I know that he does through your channel, but we need it more elsewhere. In this case in particular, we have got to make sure that we are backing up with credible military capabilities the rhetoric that the president is using.”

Kassam turned to Gaffney’s recent blog post, “Freedom’s Friends Must Denounce, Not Dignify, the SPLC and CAIR.”

“We’ve been talking a lot, and rightly so, about what’s being done to freedom of speech – arguably sort of the foundational freedom in our Constitution and for our republic,” Gaffney said.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center and Islamist Muslim Brotherhood sharia supremacist groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR, have been making – I’m sorry to say even under this administration, under a Republican-controlled Congress – great strides to try to impose the kind of restrictions you’re very familiar with, of course, on your side of the pond,” he said, referring to speech codes in the United Kingdom, where Kassam resides.

Gaffney said these speech restrictions “are designed to basically promote sharia blasphemy restrictions: you must not give offense, particularly to Muslims.”

“The Southern Poverty Law Center has been central to that agenda. They have been working assiduously to defame people who speak the truth about these sorts of issues,” he charged.

“Rod Rosenstein, amazingly, went to what was billed as a civil rights conference in Birmingham last week and gave a speech,” Gaffney said, referring to the Deputy Attorney General. “It was mostly about civil rights, but by his presence, he dignified an event that was holding up both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Council on American Islamic Relations. They had speakers, they were participants in this program, they were considered to be just great champions of civil rights – when, in fact, they are trying to take away that key civil right of freedom of expression. It’s scandalous.”

Of the recent revelations that President Trump appears to have been correct about the Obama Justice Department wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign, Gaffney said, “I think what we’re seeing dribbling out slowly, inexorably, is evidence that the Obama administration was engaged in political warfare.”

“I mean, ‘dirty tricks’ doesn’t begin to describe it,” he said, describing the Obama administration’s conduct as “political warfare that makes Nixon’s plumbers in Watergate look like pikers.”

“These were people that were using the instruments of the State, the Deep State if you will – the intelligence community, the law-enforcement community, and of course the National Security Council, Ben Rhodes and his whole disinformation operation and political warfare capabilities – to destroy those like Donald Trump and his campaign that they feared might actually prevent them from having a third term,” Gaffney charged.

“This is why it’s so important to get to the bottom of this, and not be distracted by these deflections, and misinformation, and special prosecutors who are off on a red tear to get us away from the reality that Barack Obama and his minions are Watergate on steroids,” he said. “We need to know the full truth of it.”

Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Eastern

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Trump May Be Laying The Groundwork To De-Certify Iran Deal

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during ceremonies in honor of the victims of the 9/11 attacks on the 16th anniversary of the attack at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts – UP1ED9B13ALNJ

Daily Caller, by Saagar Enjeti, Sept. 12, 2017:

The Trump administration appears to be gearing up for a more aggressive stance towards the Islamic Republic of Iran, which may begin with U.S. de-certification of the regime’s compliance with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.

President Donald Trump is reportedly considering a proposal developed by his senior national advisors to confront Iranian-backed militias in war-zones like Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. The proposal would have the U.S. intercept Iranian arms shipments to malign terror groups and allow U.S. ships to act more “forcefully” when harassed by the Islamic Republic in the Persian gulf.

The proposal was characterized as a “broad strategy” and echoes concerns Trump has floated in the past in connection with the nuclear deal. The president himself said in July he “would be surprised” if he certified Iran’s compliance to Congress in the coming months saying “I think they’re taking advantage of this country.”

The proposal’s leak to Reuters also comes just days after U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley laid out a comprehensive way forward on Sept. 5 for the administration if it decides to de-certify the regime’s compliance.

Haley forcefully declared:

We must consider the regime’s repeated, demonstrated hostility toward the United States. We must consider its history of deception about its nuclear program. We must consider its ongoing development of ballistic missile technology. And we must consider the day when the terms of the JCPOA sunset. That’s a day when Iran’s military may very well already have the missile technology to send a nuclear warhead to the United States – a technology that North Korea only recently developed.

The administration has long held the view that Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal must be viewed in a broader lens that accounts for its malign activity in the Middle East and aggressive ballistic missile program. The administration’s stance echoes experts’ concerns that claims of Iranian compliance with the agreement are narrowly focused.

“While Iran might be complying with the letter of the JCPOA [Iran deal] it’s been routinely violating its spirit, and that’s very problematic,” United Against A Nuclear Iran Policy Director Jason Brodsky previously explained to The Daily Caller News Foundation. Brodsky claimed that while Iran’s violations of the U.N. resolution codifying the nuclear deal may not show explicit Iranian procurement or development of nuclear material, it demonstrates a regime that continues to pursue programs that pose a threat to the U.S.

If Trump decides not to certify Iran’s compliance, “it would signal one or more of the following three messages to Congress,” Haley said. “Either the Administration believes Iran is in violation of the deal; or the lifting of sanctions against Iran is not appropriate and proportional to the regime’s behavior; or the lifting of sanctions is not in the U.S. national security interest.”

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Haley: Iran Has Uninspected & Undeclared Nuclear Sites

Iran: Inspection of mass production of ballistic missiles (Photo: VAHID REZA ALAEI/AFP/Getty Images)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, Sept. 10, 2017:

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley claimed in August that Iran has “numerous undeclared [nuclear] sites that have not been inspected,” the first time the U.S. government has officially accused Iran of actively hiding parts of its nuclear program since the deal was enacted.

That is a big accusation, but it received very little attention. Peculiarly, the claim did not appear in her later remarks on September 5 to the American Enterprise Institute.

Iranian Opposition Group Reports Secret Nuke Work

The National Council of Resistance in Iran, a group that wants to replace the current regime with a secular democracy, publicly released detailed information about Iran’s alleged covert nuclear activities in April.

NCRI says that the newly-identified site is inside the Parchin military base, the place that Iran has been most resistant to granting outside access. It is known that Iran worked on the high explosives necessary for a nuclear weapon’s “trigger” at Parchin.

NCRI says that the effort was simply moved from one location within Parchin to another because the regime believes there is an “extremely low” chance of the IAEA inspectors entering the area.

The opposition group obviously has a political agenda, but it has a strong track record and it would want to avoid a self-inflicted wound by being caught in a lie.

A nuclear expert with Los Alamos National Laboratory, Frank Pabian, said in 2010 that NCRI is “right about 90 percent of the time.” In 2002, NCRI accurately revealed two secret nuclear sites; the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and the heavy water facility at Arak.

The NCRI’s claim about activity in Parchin is substantiated by satellite imagery that discovered suspicious activity at Parchin in July 2015. Scientists assessed that “these activities could be related to refurbishment or clean-up prior to any IAEA inspection or the taking of environmental samples.”

Earlier in February 2015, NCRI identified an alleged secret uranium enrichment site that has been operating since 2008. The revelation happened as the U.S. and Iran came close to agreeing to the nuclear deal.

Iran Refuses Access to Military Sites

The U.S. government is publicly stating that the inspectors should have broad access to Iranian military sites suspected of housing nuclear activity. The inspectors have not visited a single one since the JCPOA went into effect.

However, the IAEA may only request access if it believes it has adequate evidence of nuclear work at a specific site. Under the deal, which has the official name of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the IAEA does not have the authority to inspect sites on a whim. And if it does request a visit, Iran can delay for up to 24 days or even longer without facing consequences.

As of now, the U.S. is not reported to have provided such intelligence to the IAEA or to have requested a specific inspection.

A quote from an anonymous IAEA official indicates that agency personnel want to prevent the Trump Administration from finding a pretext for abandoning the deal. An unidentified official said, “If they want to bring down the deal, they will. We just don’t want to give them an excuse to.”

By raising the issue of access to military sites, the U.S. has pushed Iran to unequivocally state that it will deny access to military sites altogether.

The Institute for Science and International Security’s analysis of the latest IAEA report is highly critical of the agency’s last report for omitting crucial details. The institute is considered one of the most reputable organizations on nuclear issues in the world.

It says that access to military sites is essential for verification, and that “it is likely that some of the conditions in Section T [of the JCPOA] are not currently being met and may in fact be violated by Iran.” Section T addresses dual-use equipment that can be used for pursuing nuclear weapons.

Iran’s refusal to grant access to any military sites means that Iran is violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s Additional Protocol, an act that does not violate the JCPOA per se but does make Iran fall short of the standards set by Congress for continuing the deal.

The significance of Iran’s refusal to grant access to military sites can only be understood when the complicated arrangement is grasped.

Two Agreements: The JCPOA & Corker-Cardin

The continuation of the nuclear deal (the JCPOA) requires Iranian compliance with two sets of the standards:

The first is obviously the JCPOA itself.

The second is the Nuclear Agreement Review Act, also known as the Corker-Cardin bill which was passed under the Obama Administration so that Congress would could approve or reject U.S. participation in the deal. Iran must meet standards beyond the deal for congressional approval to continue.

The Corker-Cardin bill requires the administration to certify that Iran is meeting the following four benchmarks:

  • Iran is fully implementing the agreement,
  • Iran has not committed a material breach of the agreement,
  • Iran has not taken any action that could significantly advance its nuclear weapons program, and
  • Suspension of sanctions against Iran is appropriate and proportionate to measures taken by Iran with respect to terminating its illicit nuclear program and vital to U.S. national security interests.

Importantly, the Corker-Cardin bill also requires Iranian compliance with agreements “related” to the nuclear deal. That would include the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s Additional Protocol, which is referenced seven times in the JCPOA’s section on nuclear-related measures. Iran’s blanket refusal to grant access to military sites is a statement that it will not comply with the Additional Protocol.

“With Iran rejecting IAEA access to military sites, President Trump would now be lying to Congress and the American people if he recertifies Iranian compliance in October,” said Omri Ceren, the Israel Project’s senior adviser monitoring the deal, to the Clarion Project.

U.N. Ambassador Haley also said the U.S. has “devastating evidence of Iranian violations” of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which arguably qualifies as a JCPOA-related agreement. It prohibits ballistic missile testing and arming of terrorists that Iran is clearly engaged in.

Let’s review again where we are at for those who understandably find this confusing.

  • If the U.S. has sufficient evidence that Iran is conducting nuclear work at undisclosed sites, then Iran is in violation of the JCPOA itself.
  • The U.S. must then present this evidence to the IAEA, which—if convinced—will request an inspection that, according to Iran’s public statements, the regime will reject.
  • If access is denied past 24 days, the U.N. might declare Iran in violation of the JCPOA and then might reimpose sanctions, effectively ending the deal.
  • What is more likely to happen is that the Trump Administration will declare that Iran is not meeting the standards of the Corker-Cardin arrangement—the standards that must be met for Congress to authorize continued U.S. participation in the deal.

The Trump Administration has twice certified that Iran is meeting these standards, as is required every 90 days. Haley’s comments indicate that certification is unlikely in October.

The Trump Administration can declare Iran in violation of “related agreements” and/or state that the suspension of sanctions on Iran is no longer believed to be in America’s national security interests (the fourth benchmark).

So, does that mean the nuclear deal with Iran is probably over in October? Not necessarily.

The Next Step

As Haley explains, if President Trump does not certify that these benchmarks are being met, then Congress has a 60-day period to decide whether to re-impose sanctions that were lifted under the deal.

“Congress could debate whether the nuclear deal is in fact too big to fail. We should welcome a debate over whether the JCPOA is in the U.S. national security interest,” Haley said.

On the surface, it seems that killing the deal would be a no-brainer.

Haley pointed out that, because of the sanctions imposed on Iran prior to the deal, the Iranian GDP fell by over 4 percent. Two years after the deal, it grew by almost 5 percent. The deal is likely saving the Iranian regime and its ideology of Shiite Islamic Revolution as Western businesses flock to set up contracts.

Over the long-term, the agreement disarms the West more than it disarms the Iranian regime, resulting in an Iran on steroids. Its nuclear infrastructure remains, enabling the regime to quickly produce an arsenal of nuclear bombs.

In fact, last February, four top experts declared Iran a “nuclear missile state.”

The Iranian regime can match its words of “Death to America” with action by launching an apocalyptic Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) strike, an option advocated in its military manuals and one that its military has been rehearsing since at least 2008.

But, as Haley understands:

“The truth is, the Iran deal has so many flaws that it’s tempting to leave it. But the deal was constructed in a way that makes leaving it less attractive. It gave Iran what it wanted up-front, in exchange for temporary promises to deliver what we want. That’s not good.”

The deal has left us in a difficult position.

Even if the deal is scrapped, Iran has already greatly benefited from the influx of income. The lucrative international business contracts made in the wake of the agreement make it questionable whether the international community will partake in future sanctions, especially if the U.S. is seen as the party responsible for the deal’s collapse.

Iran may move quickly ahead in developing a nuclear arsenal while the U.S. is still heavily engaged in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Proponents of the deal will point out that at least it restricts what Iran does with its declared facilities. Yet, provoking Western action as a pretext for overtly making nukes may have been a part of Iran’s script all along.

If the deal isn’t scrapped, then the Iranian regime gets stronger by the day.

The regime is already increasing spending on ballistic missiles, the Revolutionary Guards Corps and its Qods Force responsible for supporting terrorists and extremist militias, drone development and expandingits military footprint in the region. Meetings with North Korean officials appear to be on the uptick, as are links with terrorist groups like the Taliban, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In addition , the regime continues to maintain its relationship with Al-Qaeda.

Whether President Trump certifies Iranian compliance or not—and whether Congress scraps the deal or not—we are headed for an increasingly bumpy road ahead.

How to Get Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal

National Review, by John Bolton, Aug. 28, 2017:

Although candidate Donald Trump repeatedly criticized Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement, his administration has twice decided to remain in the deal. It so certified to Congress, most recently in July, as required by law. Before the second certification, Trump asked repeatedly for alternatives to acquiescing yet again in a policy he clearly abhorred. But no such options were forthcoming, despite “a sharp series of exchanges” between the president and his advisers, as the New York Times and similar press reports characterized it.

Many outside the administration wondered how this was possible: Was Trump in control, or were his advisers? Defining a compelling rationale to exit Obama’s failed nuclear deal and elaborating a game plan to do so are quite easy. In fact, Steve Bannon asked me in late July to draw up just such a game plan for the president — the option he didn’t have — which I did.

Here it is. It is only five pages long, but like instant coffee, it can be readily expanded to a comprehensive, hundred-page playbook if the administration were to decide to leave the Iran agreement. There is no need to wait for the next certification deadline in October. Trump can and should free America from this execrable deal at the earliest opportunity.

I offer the Iran nonpaper now as a public service, since staff changes at the White House have made presenting it to President Trump impossible. Although he was once kind enough to tell me “come in and see me any time,” those days are now over.

If the president is never to see this option, so be it. But let it never be said that the option didn’t exist.

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— John R. Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.