Iran Threatens to Walk Away From Nuke Deal, Retaliate Against U.S. for New Sanctions

Ali Khamenei / AP

Ali Khamenei / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, December 2, 2016:

Iran is threatening to walk away from the nuclear deal with the United States and pursue forms of retaliation, including a national boycott of American goods, as a result of Congress’s overwhelming vote on Thursday to level new sanctions against Iran for another 10 years, according to multiple comments by senior Iranian officials.

Following the Senate’s 99-0 vote to renew economic sanctions on Tehran, senior Iranian officials said the United States is in violation of last summer’s nuclear deal and that Iran is prepared to retaliate, which could include abandoning the agreement.

The comments come as the Obama administration scrambles to preserve the deal in its final months in office, ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, who has been assembling a cabinet filled with fierce opponents of the accord.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t see any necessity to reveal this issue [its reactions] but we have made necessary predictions before, meaning that we are well prepared to show reaction,” Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, was quoted as saying on Friday in the country’s state-controlled press.

The new sanctions, Salahi said, “explicitly violate the nuclear deal.”

Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani hotly criticized the United States during Iran’s weekly national Friday prayer service, urging the country’s leaders to retaliate against America.

“Nothing but hostility is expected from the U.S., but as said before, now it’s time for retaliation,” the cleric was quoted as saying.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered similar remarks last month, as the Obama administration was working behind-the-scenes to prevent Congress from pursuing the new sanctions.

“If this extension is implemented and comes into force, it will certainly be a violation of the nuclear deal and they should know that the Islamic Republic of Iran will certainly show reaction,” Khamenei said at the time.

Iran’s Parliament is now taking steps to counter the sanctions by enacting its own national boycott of U.S. goods.

The “double-urgency plan” would ban all U.S. consumer goods from Iran.

“Given the U.S. hostile measure, meaning extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) for another 10 years, a double-urgency plan to ban purchase of the U.S.-made consumer goods has been prepared in the parliament,” Mohammad Reza Tabesh, a senior Iranian parliament member, was quoted as telling Iran’s state-controlled press on Friday.

The plan is expected to overwhelmingly pass Iran’s Parliament.

Iran’s military is also taking increasingly hostile steps on the heels of the sanctions vote.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp’s naval faction is increasing patrols outside of Iranian waters in a bid to stop any vessels from coming near the Islamic Republic.

“The Iranian Navy, along with the IRGC Navy, are monitoring all moves by the regional and trans-regional states in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, the Sea of Oman, and the Northern parts of the Indian Ocean, and do not allow any vessel to approach the Islamic Republic of Iran’s borders or inflict damage on our interests and resources,” Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, the commander of Iran’s Navy, said during a Friday speech.

The comments come as Iran makes provocative maneuvers against U.S. forces in the region. Late last month, Iranian vessels pointed an anti-aircraft weapon at U.S. helicopters that were flying nearby in a move the Pentagon described as highly provocative and dangerous.

Also see:

Yes, Trump’s Going to Dump the Iran Deal

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Center for Security Policy, by Fred Fleitz, November 14, 2016:

In the days following Donald Trump’s victory, a variety of experts — mostly Trump critics — pronounced that, despite Trump’s frequent statements during the presidential campaign that the July 2015 nuclear deal with Iran is one of “the worst deals ever made by any country in history,” he has no choice but to stick with the agreement after he assumes office.

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif was one of the first to insist as much, claiming a Trump administration cannot back out of the nuclear deal because it is not a bilateral agreement between the United States and Iran but “an international understanding annexed to a Security Council resolution.”

Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council (which The Weekly Standard’s Lee Smith once described as “the tip of the spear of the Iran lobby” in the United States) echoed Zarif’s statement. In a November 11 Foreign Policy article, he argued Trump can undermine the Iran deal but cannot directly dismantle it because the JCPOA is a multilateral agreement “codified by the UN Security Council.” Any attempt by a Trump administration to renegotiate the deal would violate international law and isolate the United States, Parsi said.

Even some conservative experts have suggested Trump probably won’t try to significantly modify or discard the nuclear agreement, but will instead try to goad Iran into withdrawing by strictly enforcing the deal.

But Trump senior national-security adviser Walid Phares poured cold water on speculation that Trump plans to walk back his statements about the Iran deal, when he commented on Facebook over the weekend that the “Iran Deal will be dismantled.”

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This firm statement by Phares confirmed previous statements he and Mr. Trump have made that the deal is a dangerous agreement that needs to be either significantly renegotiated or abandoned. As an expert who has followed the Iran nuclear program for many years inside and outside of government, I would like to expand on their statements by offering three key points about the nature of the deal and ten guidelines for renegotiating it.

1. The Iran deal is a dangerous fraud.

Donald Trump was exactly right when he called the Iran deal a “horrible” and “disastrous” agreement. The U.S. agreed to huge concessions to get this agreement, from no restrictions on Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism to no inspections of military facilities. There were secret side deals withheld from Congress that permitted Iran to inspect itself for past nuclear-weapons work and receive secret planeloads of cash in exchange for freeing U.S. hostages. To get the $150 billion in sanctions relief Iran wanted, there was another secret side deal — also withheld from the U.S. Congress — which granted Tehran exemptions for failing to meet some of the agreement’s key requirements.

So what did the United States get for these concessions?

Not much. The Obama administration claims the deal keeps Iran a year away from a nuclear deal for ten to 15 years. But in fact, the time to an Iranian nuclear bomb will drop dramatically under the deal, since Iran will be able to enrich uranium, develop advanced centrifuges, and, with Chinese assistance, finish construction of a heavy-water nuclear reactor that will produce one-quarter of a weapon’s worth of plutonium per year.

It will be very hard to verify the agreement since military sites — where Iran is likely to conduct covert nuclear-weapons work — are off limits to inspectors. The deal dumbed down the IAEA’s quarterly Iran reports, making it difficult for the world to know the true extent of Iran’s compliance. Certainly, there already have been reports of significant Iranian cheating.

Further, the deal was supposed to improve Iran’s international behavior.

Instead, from ballistic-missile tests to increased support to Hezbollah, Bashar al-Assad, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Tehran’s behavior in the Middle East has significantly worsened. Just in the last year, Iran has captured and held at gunpoint ten U.S. sailors and fired anti-ship missiles at American and UAE ships. Is this what a new era of cooperation with Iran was supposed to look like?

2. The deal is not legally binding on us.

Knowing that a bipartisan majority of Congress opposed the nuclear deal and that the U.S. Senate would never ratify it as a treaty, the Obama administration arranged to go around the Senate by negotiating the deal as an executive agreement endorsed by the U.N. Security Council. Because Security Council resolutions are binding on all U.N. members, it could therefore be argued that the nuclear deal was binding on the United States even though it had not been ratified by the Senate.

But that is not how our constitutional order works. American presidents historically have decided which international agreements are to be treated as treaties, but the Iran deal specified that it be ratified by the Iranian parliament.

If President Obama wanted to make a long-term international agreement binding on the United States, he needs consent from Congress. Anything else is a serious affront to the Constitution, and no U.N. endorsement changes that.

(This is not the only example of President Obama’s lawless approach to international agreements: The Paris climate-change agreement was deliberately negotiated to make it binding on the United States without Senate ratification and difficult for a future U.S. president to cancel. The same principles apply, however, and I expect President Trump pull out of the climate agreement as soon as possible.)

3. It’s not a true multilateral agreement.

The Obama administration also attempted to entrench the Iran deal making it a multilateral agreement, but this was just window-dressing.

The deal is technically a multilateral pact agreed to by Iran, the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany, but it is actually a bilateral agreement negotiated almost entirely between the United States and Iran. Iran has only looked to the United States for additional concessions since the deal was announced, and if we want to end the deal, we can.

So it is clear the deal must be either discarded or substantially renegotiated, and that we have every right to do so.

The first steps to renegotiation should be (1) assembling a new anti-Iran coalition of our European allies, Israel, and the Gulf states, and (2) imposing new sanctions on Iran in response to its nuclear program, ballistic-missile program, sponsorship of terrorism, and belligerent behavior. Russia and China could be allowed into the new coalition, but they should not be given a veto over any new agreement. This coalition also must be kept out of the United Nations.

Building the new coalition and renegotiating the agreement won’t be the easiest task, but given Iran’s belligerent behavior and the power new U.S. sanctions can have, a strong president and secretary of state can do it.

An agreement that truly addresses the threat from Iran’s nuclear program and the wider threats Iran poses will require reversing all of the irresponsible concessions made to Iran by the Obama administration.

Such negotiations must start from the following ten guidelines:

  1. Iran must cease all uranium enrichment and uranium-enrichment research.
  2. Iran cannot have a heavy-water reactor or a plant to produce heavy water.
  3. Iran agrees to robust verification, including “anytime, anywhere” inspections by IAEA inspectors of all declared and suspect nuclear sites.
  4. Iran must fully and truthfully answer all questions about its past nuclear-weapons-related work.
  5. Iran must agree to limitations on its ballistic-missile program.
  6. Sanctions will only be lifted in stages, in response to Iranian compliance with the agreement.
  7. Iran must agree to end its meddling in regional conflicts and its sponsorship of terror.
  8. Threats by Iran to ships in the Persian Gulf, U.S. naval vessels, and American troops must stop.
  9. Iran must cease its hostility toward Israel.
  10. Iran must release all U.S. prisoners.

Renegotiating or terminating the Iran deal will not just end the threat from a dangerous international agreement.

It will signify that this agreement was an aberration by an incompetent U.S. president who tried to subvert the U.S. Constitution, and it would send a powerful message to the world that the Obama administration’s policies of American weakness and appeasement are over.

Trump critics have argued that renegotiating or terminating the nuclear deal would isolate the United States and hurt America’s global stature. But in reality, President Obama’s foreign policy has already undermined America’s reputation around the world.

Fixing or killing the Iran nuclear deal will be President Trump’s first step toward restoring America’s global leadership.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then Hillary lost.

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Obama’s Secret Muslim List

unnamed-57Front Page Magazine, by Daniel Greenfield, November 2, 2016

Like a warped Islamic version of Santa Claus, Obama had a secret Muslim list. And his people checked it at least twice. The list was of Muslims who were prospects for important jobs and appointments.

It included a Muslim who had described Israel as an “Apartheid State,” Iran’s “go-to guy in New York financial circles” and a number of figures linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

It was the ultimate religious test from an administration that had vocally rejected them.

Obama had claimed that having religious tests for migration was “shameful” and “not American.”

“When I hear folks say that, well maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims,” he huffed from Turkey. His Muslim host country was run by a bigoted sponsor of Islamic terror.

“We don’t have religious tests,” he insisted.

Except we did and we do. Obama also had religious tests. His religious tests excluded Christians and favored Muslims. That is why his Syrian refugees were between 98% and 99% Muslim with only 68 Christians and 24 Yazidis, even though both groups are real victims of the Muslim religious war.

Syria is 10% Christian and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. Yet only 68 have made it past Obama’s iron curtain. That’s either an Islamic religious test or the world’s greatest coincidence.

But would the man who piously lectured us on the evils of religious tests really have a religious test?

Of course he would.

The hacked emails include a list of “Muslim American candidates for top Administration jobs, sub-cabinet jobs, and outside boards/agencies/policy committees.”

The list was sent to John Podesta who headed the Obama-Biden Transition Project. It had been put together by a woman who had sat on the Commission on International Religious Freedom, but boasted that she had, “Excluded those with some Arab American background but who are not Muslim (e.g., George Mitchell). Many Lebanese Americans, for example, are Christian.”

How “shameful.” How “not American” of Barack Hussein Obama.

“Most who are listed appear to be Muslim-American, except that a handful (where noted) may be Arab American but of uncertain religion (esp. Christian),” she assured Podesta.

Religious tests are only out of line when they exclude Muslims. Not when they exclude Christians.

That’s the pattern which emerged from the Obama-Biden Transition Project and Obama’s refugee policy. There has been a clear pattern of administration bias against Christians and Jews. And in favor of Muslims. That bias has been obvious in a foreign policy which backed Islamic supremacist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood over more moderate governments at the expense of non-Muslim populations.

This policy led to the displacement and death of countless Christians, and the persecution of entire communities, by an administration which then denied safe harbor to the victims of its own policies.

Administration bias replicated that same bigoted policy at home when it favored Islamic candidates.

Obama appointed Farooq Kathwari, the first name on the “Muslim list” sent to Podesta, to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The “Muslim list” email had warned that, “Kathwari’s then 19-year-old American-educated son Irfan (aka Imran), was killed in 1992 fighting Jihad against the Russians in Afghanistan.” The actions of his son, who may have been with the Mujahedeen but was also apparently outraged over India’s defense of Kashmir, is of less relevance than Kathwari’s appearance at an ISNA conference and another conference co-sponsored by the Muslim Students Association. Both groups are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

He co-chaired the American Muslim Task Force whose members included Salam Al-Marayati, Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which has defended Hamas and Hezbollah, Yahya Basha, president of the American Muslim Council and a former board member of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and assorted other Islamists.  Its report complained that Muslims were inhibited from donating to “charities” run by Islamic terrorist groups such as Hezbollah. Yahya Basha also appeared on Obama’s Muslim list.

Also listed was MPAC’s Aslam Abdullah who had claimed that “Zionists,” Christians and Hindus were behind the War on Terror. He had described Israel as an “apartheid state” and a “racist state.”

The second Muslim on the list, Cyrus Amir-Mokri, was named assistant treasury secretary. He became the first Iranian to be named to such a high position and defended the Iran nuclear sellout. Mokri attended a meeting with members of the Iran Lobby at the White House. He also reportedly advised Obama on Iranian sanctions.

Obama had famously told NASA boss Bolden that one of his three tasks at the space agency was Muslim self-esteem. But Bolden almost didn’t make it in. The Muslim list included two alternative candidates for NASA administrator. One of them, Dr. Charles Elachi of JPL was dismissed as “possibly Christian.” Indeed Elachi, who grew up admiring John Wayne and believes that American success is possible because it isn’t “held back by the long-standing, ingrained systems and beliefs found in the Middle East” would have been a rather poor fit. But it is deeply shameful and un-American that his potential NASA appointment questioned his religion. That is an inappropriate religious test that Obama must apologize for.

The other name on the list however is Firouz Naderi, an Iranian board member of the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans which advocated in support of the Iran nuke sellout.

Eboo Patel, whose name would frequently appear on lists of Islamists in the Obama administration, first made an appearance on the Muslim List. Despite his Islamist ties, he got the posting at the Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships. Also listed were Keith Ellison, Andre Carson and Larry Shaw. Shaw sits on the board of CAIR.

Dilawar Syed, the first name to appear on the list of possible appointments, was named to Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Syed is a co-founder and chair of the Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Victory Fund which has come out for Hillary Clinton. The secret Muslim list describes him as “animated by policy issues relating to the Muslim world.” A similar description is appended to the bio for Kashif Zafar who served as a Co-Chair of the South Asian American Leadership Council at the DNC.

Also on the list was Hamid Biglari. Bloomberg described Biglari as “Iran’s Man in New York” and as the Iranian president’s “go-to guy in New York financial circles.” Biglari was a key Iran Lobby figure.

The recently revealed secret Muslim list is deeply troubling. There should be no religious test for political appointments. Yet Obama had one. And his people sought to screen out Christians and favor Muslims.

This represents behavior that is in Obama’s own words, “shameful” and “not American.” One can’t help but conclude that, based on his own principles, Obama is shameful and not American.

Did Russian’s Half A Million To Her Advisor Influence Hillary On Iran?

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Americans need to know whether Hillary Clinton and Thomas Pickering put America’s interests first, or those of Russia and Iran.

The Federalist, by Christine Brim, October 27, 2016:

The Clinton campaign has been complaining bitterly about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s possible ties to WikiLeaks’ daily dumps of campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails. My new investigative report, “Clinton’s Shadow Diplomat: Thomas Pickering and Russia’s Pipeline Sales to Iran and Syria, exposes Hillary Clinton’s own damaging ties to Russia and Iran while she was secretary of State. Her Foreign Affairs Policy Advisor Thomas Pickering was a paid director for the Russian company Trubnaya Metallurgicheskaya Kompaniya (TMK) from June 30, 2009 to June 26, 2012. TMK is majority-owned by Russian billionaire oligarch Dmitry Pumpyansky, a close Putin ally.

I discovered extensive proof of TMK’s business dealings in Iran and Syria while Pickering was on its board, including TMK sales of oil and gas pipelines to Iran that were specifically prohibited under U.S. laws and executive orders. Pickering was deeply involved with TMK. According to TMK records, he attended 143 of the 145 board meetings. Pickering is estimated to have been paid more than half a million dollars for his service to TMK from 2009 to 2012, based on TMK’s compensation rules. He has since claimed to have donated it all to an unnamed charity.

Clinton’s, President Obama’s, and Pickering’s interests converged during the time Pickering was on TMK’s board of directors. Clinton had announced the Russian “reset” in March 2009; Obama pleaded with Iran for a new beginning two weeks later; and Pickering joined TMK, which was publicizing its sales to Iran and Syria in numerous documents, in June of that year.

Yes, We Sell to Countries Americans Sanction

Pickering combined his commercial, nonprofit, and policy roles into a seamless whole, all with the common goal of ending economic sanctions against Iran and reversing U.S. Iran policies. He was Clinton’s foreign affairs policy advisor and email correspondent, a board member for two Iranian advocacy groups, a paid consultant to Boeing (now a $25 billion Iranian aircraft contractor, thanks to Pickering’s advocacy), a well-known “behind-the-scenes” negotiator with Iranian representatives, and a paid director for a Russian company—TMK—that was actively exporting pipelines to Iran and Syria.

TMK’s customers and sales were not secret. In marketing materials, legal documents, a tenth anniversary PowerPoint presentation, catalogs, and webpages, TMK openly stated it had “major” and “main” pipeline customers in Iran and Syria. Iranian customer websites named TMK as a vendor. Steelorbis.com, an online steel industry newsletter, published six different reports from 2009 to 2013 listing specific prices for TMK pipes delivered to an Iranian port. Here’s just one example, an excerpt from the February 18, 2011 article published when Pickering was a TMK director:

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In a February 5, 2010 $412,500,000 convertible bond offering circular issued by its financing subsidiary TMK Bonds S.A, TMK even formally disclosed that it was selling to Iran and Syria, stating “As a globally operating organization, we also conduct business with customers in Iran and Syria. The U.S. Department of State designates these countries as state sponsors of terrorism and subjects them to export controls.”

TMK’s U.S. division, TMK IPSCO, has plants in Pennsylvania, Texas, Arkansas, Ohio, Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Kentucky. TMK pledged its U.S. assets as guarantors for international financing in at least two offers. Several executive orders on Iranian economic sanctions prohibit “any approval, financing, facilitation, or guarantee by a United States person, wherever located, of a transaction by a foreign person [company].”

Were Pickering’s Iran Dealings Illegal?

The Iranian ebusiness website pipeiran.com listed the Khatam-al Anbiya as a client and TMK’s Volzhsky Pipe Plant and TMK’s Romanian Division as vendors. Khatam-al Anbiya is the engineering and construction firm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). On October 21, Adam Szubin, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, stated “You cannot do business with IRGC companies….If you do, and you’re doing so knowingly, you are risking the most draconian sanctions in our toolkit, and that governs not just U.S. persons but actors all around the world.”

TMK’s customers in Iran were government-owned companies, and so were the ones in Syria. TMK’s three Iranian customers during the years Pickering served on the board were all listed by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as “Specially Designated Nationals”: the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), Petropars, and Pars Oil and Gas Company. U.S. persons are generally prohibited from conducting any kind of business with “Specially Designated Nationals.”

Similarly, TMK’s three Syrian customers were listed by OFAC as “Specially Designated Nationals” in 2011, while Pickering was on the Board: the Syrian Gas Company, the Syrian Petroleum Company, and the Al Furat Petroleum Company.

Pickering apparently did not disclose his links to TMK and TMK’s sales to Iran when he testified on Iran before Sen. John Kerry’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 28, 2012 while he was still a TMK director. That information might have been relevant (though it wasn’t legally required) for Kerry’s committee, since in his testimony Pickering recommended that, in return for hypothetical limits on Iran’s nuclear program:

Some freezing or easing of sanctions might be a fair quid pro quo for such steps… It would also help if we begin to consider freezing or relaxing the imposition of some sanctions in return for real progress in making their nuclear program more open and more fully inspected and in improving relations with Iran in other areas …My recommendation is that we now take the sanctions pressure and turn it into a useful diplomatic tool to begin serious diplomatic negotiations with Iran.

It Sure Pays to Work in Government

Emails released from Clinton’s private server show that Pickering was emailing, meeting, and coordinating foreign travel with Clinton and her staff from the beginning of her time as secretary of State and arguing for an end to economic sanctions on Iran all during the same years he was on TMK’s board of directors. Starting in December 2011, he also served in official capacity on Clinton’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board. Clinton appointed Pickering chairman for the Benghazi Accountability Review Board three months after he left TMK.

There’s much more in the investigative report “Clinton’s Shadow Diplomat” on these dangerous liaisons between Clinton and Pickering, and Russia’s pipeline sales to Iran and Syria. The bottom line for the American public and policymakers is this: Did Hillary Clinton and Thomas Pickering put America’s interests first, or those of Russia and Iran?

Pickering’s actions with Hillary Clinton, TMK, various Iranian groups, Boeing and all the rest were not an exception to how Washington insiders operate. Pickering’s actions were an exceptionally well-crafted version of what insiders do every day, and not just in Washington—in Moscow and Tehran, too. Some are just better at it, and Pickering is one of the best. Washington insiders don’t want to blow the whistle on Pickering. They want to be Pickering. And some of them are worse.

Christine Brim is a founder of Paratos LLC, a risk communications consultancy. Previously she served at the Center for Security Policy as a vice president and chief operating officer.

Iran’s proxy missile attacks

Missile Attack Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

Missile Attack Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

The Islamic regime seeks control of Middle East waterways

Washington Times, by James A. Lyons, October 25, 2016:

The recent missile attacks attributed to Yemeni Houthi rebels, with assistance from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah, demonstrate Iran’s classic use of proxies to promote its political agenda. The Houthi rebels denied any involvement in the missile attacks. However, they certainly were not fired by camel herders. The Houthis never would have launched an attack on the U.S. Navy without being ordered to do so by their Iranian sponsors. To think otherwise would be delusional.

Iran has the failed to honor the Obama administration’s nuclear weapons agreement. There is actually no agreement, since nothing has been signed. With Russia’s support in Syria, Iran clearly feels emboldened to challenge the United States directly. And with the $150 billion sanctions relief windfall, plus planeloads of hard cash totaling more than $33 billion, Iran can easily expand its role as the leading state sponsor of terrorism, which is what we are witnessing in Yemen. The Iranian use of proxies has cost thousands of American lives, but, fortunately, this time they failed.

Clearly, Iran wants to be able to control the strategic Bab al Mandab Strait, which would give it de facto control of the Suez Canal. More than 10 percent of the world’s maritime shipping passes through that strait on a daily basis. Such control, when combined with control of the Strait of Hormuz, would give Iran control of all Arab oil shipments as well as all Israeli shipping emanating to and from the port of Eilat in the Red Sea. Iran would also like to see our 71-year alliance with Saudi Arabia terminated.

With the help of the IRGC and the Iranian proxy terrorist group Hezbollah, two radar sites were recently constructed outside of Yemen’s two principal Red Sea ports, Mokha and Hudaydah, which are currently under the control of the Houthi rebels. These sites, according to various reports, were operated by IRGC and Hezbollah radar and missile teams. The missiles fired were an upgraded version of the Chinese C-802 anti-ship missile. It should be remembered that on July 14, 2006, Hezbollah successfully fired a C-802 missile against the Israeli missile ship INS Hanit, inflicting heavy damage.

Despite Iran’s assurance about not providing weapons, the Houthis received a delivery the week prior to the missile attacks, the largest shipment of Iranian weapons to date. Obviously, this shipment, apparently undetected by our intelligence resources, included Scud D surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 800 kilometers as well as the upgraded Chinese C-802 anti-ship missiles. The Scuds went to the northern border to be used against Saudi Arabia, and the C-802 anti-ship missiles went to the Houthi’s Ansar Allah faction, which is under the direct control of the IRGC.

The same day missiles were fired against the USS Mason, Oct. 9, the Houthis, with the assistance of the IRGC, fired Scud-D missiles at the Saudi town of Ta’if, which is 700 kilometers from the Yemeni border — but, more importantly, only 70 kilometers from the holy city of Mecca. The message to the Saudis was clear. Iran intends to challenge the Saudis’ control of Islam’s most holy sites.

The Red Sea is a very narrow strategic body of water. It is only 62 kilometers from the Saudi coast to Africa. All shipping can be threatened and easily attacked with the current inventory of missiles transferred to Yemen.

The Houthis have also landed and taken control of Perim Island in the mouth of the Bab al Mandab Straits. Since the main maritime route is only 20 kilometers wide at this point, it serves as a natural choke point and a threat to all shipping as long as it remains under Houthi-Iranian control.

How did we get involved in this classic Sunni-Shia sectarian war? Very briefly, in late 2014, Shia Houthi rebel forces captured the capital city of Sana’a. The Houthis, backed by Iran, are fighting against the internationally recognized government of Yemen’s Sunni president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. In March 2015, the Saudis led a campaign to overthrow the Houthi rebels. President Obama, in an attempt to get Saudi Arabia’s support for his nuclear weapons agreement with Iran, agreed to support the Saudi effort. We proceeded to provide limited intelligence, in-flight refueling, command and control guidance and some weapons.

The missile attack on our forces in the vicinity of the Bab al Mandab Straits is another manifestation of Iran’s contempt for America and disregard for international norms. Further, with little to fear from an Obama administration response, they clearly have been emboldened to further their hegemonic objectives by challenging our forces directly. While the Houthi’s missile attack on the United Arab Emirate’s HSV-2 Swift Catamaran vessel was successful on Oct. 1, their attack on the USS Mason was, fortunately, a failure. While it took us four days to respond, the USS Nitze’s tomahawk missile strikes destroyed the three Iranian radar sites, which eliminated the immediate threat to shipping in the area.

This was a minimum response — a tit for tat — which will most likely invite more attacks, since C-802 missiles can be fired without radar. When an enemy attacks one of our U.S. Navy ships, our response must be overwhelming. =We should have destroyed not only the radar sites but also any missile-launching sites and any associated ammo storage sites. Any known Iranian installations should have been destroyed. Electrical utility grids that provide power to support Houthi rebels and Iranian forces in the two areas should also be destroyed. The Houthi installation on Perim Island should be eliminated. The message must be clear: “Don’t tread on me.”

James A. Lyons, a U.S. Navy retired admiral, was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.

The Battle of Mosul

7fb89ca7-549c-4fff-a20f-b1551b8a4554Townhall, by Cliff May, Oct 26, 2016:

Ayman al-Zawahiri was correct. Believed to be ensconced in the tribal lands of Pakistan, the leader of what’s sometimes called al Qaeda Central has dedicated his life to a jihad that he hopes and prays will lead to the founding of a new and mighty Islamic empire. But he understands the value of strategic patience.

In particular, he recognized that establishing a caliphate before conditions were favorable for its survival and expansion could only be unhelpful, causing Muslims to doubt whether spreading Islamic domination in the 21st century is a divinely blessed mission.

By contrast, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, 45, has been a young man in a hurry. As leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, he chafed at taking orders from the 65-year-old successor to Osama bin Laden. In 2014, he broke with al Qaeda, declared a caliphate, the Islamic State, with himself as caliph. And now he and his fledgling empire are in peril.

A coalition of forces is closing in on Mosul, the only major Sunni-majority city in Iraq still under Islamic State control. It is probably only a matter of time — and blood — before Mosul is liberated, a term that should be used advisedly in the Middle East.

The Islamic State is believed to have fewer than 7,000 fighters in Mosul. How many will seek martyrdom (after using human shields for as long as possible) and how many will run from the more than 30,000 coalition troops — troops much better equipped and supported by American air power? Hard to say.

Those who flee may head for towns along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that remain Islamic State strongholds. Others will try to reach Syria, especially Raqqa, the caliphate’s de facto capital, northeast of Damascus.

An offensive against Raqqa is being contemplated. But who will lead that effort? And who will govern Raqqa after the Islamic State is gone? These are difficult questions that ought to be answered within a broader strategic framework.

Imagine that the Battle of Mosul is followed by a Battle of Raqqa and that the Islamic State ends up with little or no territory still under its control. What do its surviving fighters do then? Perhaps some will slink back to wherever they came from, defeated and disillusioned. Others may become guerrillas, perpetrating acts of terrorism within the region and plotting a comeback. Still others could decide to put their skills and experience to use in a more distant land, perhaps one that mistakes them for refugees.

We don’t know how much destruction will be visited on Mosul over the days ahead, but it’s likely that hundreds of thousands of people will be displaced. The agencies charged with caring for them are already burdened to the breaking point.

Mosul and the nearby Nineveh Plain are the historic homeland of the Assyrian Christians. The U.S. Congress, the Obama administration and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom have all recognized that these and other Christian communities of the Middle East, as well as Yazidis and other religious minorities, are facing genocide. Such recognition should guarantee that saving Christians and their communities is a high priority. That does not appear to be the case at present. It’s easy to champion diversity for Washington, Toronto and Berlin. To do so for Muslim-majority lands is more challenging.

Though the forces assembled for the Battle of Mosul view the Islamic State as their common enemy, their alliance remains tenuous. The Peshmerga, the army of Iraqi Kurdistan, is constituted of tough fighters whose most important mission is consolidating and defending historically Kurdish lands. Elements of the Iraqi military are reportedly flying Shia flags, a sight not reassuring to Mosul’s Sunnis. Also joining the coalition are Popular Mobilization Forces, Shia militias, the most powerful of which are controlled by Iran. Just a few years ago, they were killing American troops, using such weapons as EFPs, explosively formed penetrators — highly lethal bombs supplied by Iran’s ruling mullahs.

If the Battle of Mosul goes as expected, the Islamic State’s loss, while significant, also will be al Qaeda’s gain. Dr. Zawahiri (he was a physician before he was a revolutionary) should have an easier time attracting recruits and funds once it becomes indisputable that the rival founded by Dr. Baghdadi (he was a theologian before he was a revolutionary) has not lived up to its promise.

Also benefiting from the decline of the Islamic State will be the Islamic Republic of Iran, which aims to establish a new Persian empire, albeit one based on religious allegiance. Most immediately, the clerical regime is attempting to construct what has been called a “Shia crescent” including Iraq, where its influence has only grown since the 2011 withdrawal of American troops, and Syria, where it is defending the dictatorship of its client, Bashar Assad (with significant Russian assistance). Beyond Syria is Lebanon, where Hezbollah, Iran’s foreign legion, is more powerful than the national armed forces and is preparing for a future showdown with Israel. In addition, Iran provides support to Houthis fighting a civil war in Yemen, and to Hamas in Gaza.

So while the Battle of Mosul is likely to be a military victory for the alliance President Obama supports, it would be unwise for him to claim — once again — that “the tide of war is receding.” The free peoples of the world, as well as those who might like to be, are in for an extended conflict, one that will have to be fought on multiple battlefields against a list of jihadi groups and regimes. Perhaps the next American administration will develop a serious strategy to defeat our enemies. I’m not suggesting that’s probable, only that it’s not impossible.
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Also see:

Clinton’s Shadow Diplomat: Thomas Pickering and Russia’s Pipeline Sales to Iran…

2033376978Center for Security Policy, October 25, 2016:

“Clinton’s Shadow Diplomat” is a hard-hitting investigative report from the Center for Security Policy, exposing the ties of former Ambassador Thomas Pickering to a Putin-linked Russian company that sold oil and gas pipelines to Iran and Syria when Pickering was on its Board of Directors. The report reveals Pickering’s overlapping roles: as Clinton’s Foreign Affairs Policy Advisor, as an Advisory Board member for two Iranian advocacy groups, as a paid Director for a Russian firm selling pipeline to Iran and Syria, as a paid consultant to Iranian aircraft contractor Boeing, and as a Senate committee hearing witness, all with a common goal of ending economic sanctions on Iran and reversing U.S. Iran policies.

As meticulously documented in “Clinton’s Shadow Diplomat,” Pickering was a paid Director for the Russian-owned company Trubnaya Metallurgicheskaya Kompaniya (TMK) from June 30, 2009 to June 26, 2012. TMK is majority-owned by Russian billionaire oligarch Dmitry Pumpyansky, a close Putin ally.

The investigation discovered extensive proof of TMK’s business dealings in Iran and Syria while Pickering was on the Board, including a financial offering disclosure, catalogs, marketing materials, websites, press releases, legal documents, reports from the steel industry press and Iranian customer websites. Sales of oil and gas pipelines to Iran were specifically prohibited under U.S. laws and executive orders.

According to TMK’s records, Pickering attended 143 of the 145 TMK Board meetings. Pickering is estimated to have been paid over half a million dollars for his service to TMK, based on TMK’s compensation rules.

“Clinton’s Shadow Diplomat” documents TMK’s relationships with three Iranian customers, all listed by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as “Specially Designated Nationals” during the years Pickering served on the Board: the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), Petropars, and Pars Oil and Gas Company.

The investigation also shows TMK’s relationships with three Syrian customers listed by OFAC as “Specially Designated Nationals” in 2011, while Pickering was on the Board: the Syrian Gas Company, the Syrian Petroleum Company, and the Al Furat Petroleum Company. U.S. persons are generally prohibited from conducting any kind of business with “Specially Designated Nationals.”

Thomas Pickering was appointed by Clinton as Chairman for the Benghazi Accountability Review Board three months after he left TMK. Starting in December 2011, he also served in official capacity on Clinton’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board. Emails released from Clinton’s private server show that Pickering was emailing and meeting with Clinton and her staff from the beginning of her time as Secretary of State, arguing for an end to economic sanctions on Iran, during the same years he was on TMK’s Board of Directors.

“Clinton’s Shadow Diplomat” raises questions for the American public and policymakers about Thomas Pickering’s and Hillary Clinton’s priorities. Did they put America’s interests first, or those of Iran and Russia?

“Clinton’s Shadow Diplomat” author Christine Brim is the former Chief Operating Officer for the Center for Security Policy. For more information contact christinebrim1@gmail.com (202-379-6776) or the Center for Security Policy at info@securefreedom.org (202-835-9077).

Download “Clinton’s Shadow Diplomat” at http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/clintons-shadow-diplomat/

MOSUL: Iraqi Military Displays Shi’ite Flags In Advance on Sunni Region

jihad-flagThe flags belie the Baghdad government’s promise that it will repair sectarian relations if it regains control of the Sunni regions of Iraq. Iran’s Shi’a militias are set to join the fray, which can only deepen the rift.

CounterJihad, October 24, 2016:

Here are CounterJihad we have been warning for some time about the growing influence of Shi’a militias within Iraq, as they proclaim that their first loyalty is to Iran and its clerical leadership.  The power that these sectarian militas are exercising within Iraq makes it difficult to believe that the government in Baghdad will be able to remain independent from Iran, as the militias are a dagger pressed at Baghdad’s throat.

This story is worse than that.  This story is about the flying of sectarian flags by Baghdad’s own official state military.

Iraqi soldiers fighting to retake the largely Sunni city of Mosul from Islamic State are mounting Shiite flags on their vehicles and raising them atop buildings, stoking the sectarian divisions that Iraq’s government has vowed to repair….  Flying on tanks or over government checkpoints and homes in recently reclaimed Sunni villages, they often dwarf Iraqi flags next to them.

The flags are rankling Sunnis as well as Kurdish Peshmerga fighters taking part in the assault. Sunnis said the display undermines the message of national unity against Islamic State and reinforces their long-held impression that they don’t belong in Iraq’s state and security structure.

Further testing the alliance, Iraqi Shiite militias said Friday they were set to join the battle to dislodge Islamic State from Mosul.

This development underlines just how we got to a caliphate in western Iraq to begin with.  The Sunni forces fighting against the Baghdad government were brought to the peace table out of an outrage with al Qaeda in Iraq’s brutality against them.  They agreed to support the Baghdad government in return for fair treatment, instead of being suppressed as an ethnic minority.

The US military, which in those days had multiple divisions within Iraq, conducted patient negotiation with militants formerly aligned with al Qaeda in Iraq.  The agreements the US military negotiated for the Sunnis were designed to effect a reconciliation between the government and the tribes.  Agreements included promises of jobs, assistance for communities recovering from the war, and many other things that the government agreed to provide in return for the support of these former enemies.  The United States helped to negotiate all these agreements, and promised to see that they would be kept faithfully.

Instead, our Secretary of State — one Hillary Clinton — failed to produce either a new Status of Forces agreement that would permit US troops to remain in Iraq, or an agreement that would allow State Department personnel to move about the country safely to observe whether agreements were being kept.  In the wake of the precipitous withdrawal of US forces, Prime Minister Maliki moved to arrest Sunni leaders in government, and broke all his promises to the tribes.

The result was that the western part of Iraq once again became fertile ground for an Islamist insurgency.

The Baghdad government is responsible for the actions that undermined Sunni faith in the system it represented.  It compounded the problem by allowing these Iranian-backed Shi’a militias to conduct punitive war crimes against Sunni villages that had supported Saddam’s regime.  At least the militias were plausibly acting on their own, however, rather than as agents of the state.

Shi’a flags above Iraq’s army as it proceeds into Mosul means that no peace is possible regardless of the outcome of the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).  This is the endorsement of a sectarian war by the official arm of the Baghdad government.  Even if ISIS loses, the Sunnis will have to fight on in order to avoid being subjugated by a central government that has become their actual enemy.

Also see:

Iran Seeking ‘Many Billions of Dollars’ in Ransom to Free U.S. Hostages

 (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Source close to IRGC puts bounty on remaining U.S. hostages

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, October 19, 2016:

Iran is seeking “many billions of dollars” in payments from the United States in exchange for the release of several U.S. hostages still being detained in Iran, according to reports by Iran’s state-controlled press that are reigniting debate over the Obama administration’s decision earlier this year to pay Iran $1.7 billion in cash.

Senior Iranian officials, including the country’s president, have been floating the possibility of further payments from the United States for months. Since the White House agreed to pay Tehran $1.7 billion in cash earlier this year as part of a deal bound up in the release of American hostages, Iran has captured several more U.S. citizens.

Future payments to Iran could reach as much as $2 billion, according to sources familiar with the matter, who said that Iran is detaining U.S. citizens in Iran’s notorious Evin prison where inmates are routinely tortured and abused.

Iranian news sources close to the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, which has been handling prisoner swaps with the United States, reported on Tuesday that Iran expects “many billions of dollars to release” those U.S. citizens still being detained.”

“We should wait and see, the U.S. will offer … many billions of dollars to release” American businessman Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer, who was abducted by Iran after the United States paid Iran the $1.7 billion, according to the country’s Mashregh News outlet, which has close ties to the IRGC’s intelligence apparatus.

The Persian language news report was independently translated for the Washington Free Beacon.

Six hostages have been sentenced to 10 years in prison by Iran in the past months, including the Namazis.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told NBC News in late September that his government is in talks with the United States to secure future payouts, a disclosure that may have played a role in the White House’s recent decision to veto legislation to block future ransom payments to Iran.

“We’re currently conducting conversations and various dialogues in order to return this money to Iran,” Rouhani was quoted as saying. “Perhaps these dialogues can be still conducted simultaneously on parallel tracks while we’re conducting those same conversations in order to free the sums of money that are still owed to us.”

One senior congressional adviser familiar with the issue told the Free Beacon that Iranian officials have been pressing for another $2 billion from the United States for months.

“Iranian officials including Foreign Minister [Mohammad Javad] Zarif have been bragging for months that they’re going to force the U.S. to pay them several billion dollars more,” the source said. “Now officials across the spectrum in Iran—from IRGC hardliners to the ostensibly moderate President Rouhani—are talking about those billions, and maybe several more, alongside chatter about the U.S. hostages.”

“Even some family members of the hostages talk that way, which is completely understandable given what they’re going through, but it doesn’t change the fact that the administration is gearing up to give Iran another ransom in the hundreds of millions and maybe again billions,” the source added.

Rumors of future ransom payments to Iran come as Congress continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding the $1.7 billion cash payment, a portion of which was delivered by plane to Iran just hours before it released several U.S. prisoners.

The Free Beacon recently disclosed that details of this payment and other details bound up in the hostage release are being stored in a highly secure location on Capitol Hill, preventing many from accessing the documents, which are not classified but are being treated as such.

The three documents show that the cash payment was directly tied to the prisoner release, adding fuel to claims of a ransom payment, according to sources who have viewed them.

Iran experts who spoke to the Free Beacon said that Iran senses weakness in the United States and is angling to squeeze more money from the administration before it leaves office.

“Paying $1.7 billion to Iran to release the U.S. prisoners has encouraged Iran to arrest more Americans,” said Saeed Ghasseminejad, an associate fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Iran senses weakness in the U.S. leadership as it constantly tests the administration through a chain of provocative actions. To put an end to Iran’s abduction program, the administration should make it clear, by action and not words, that it does not reward Iran for its bad behavior.”

Conceding to Iran’s demands will only bolster the hardline regime, Ghasseminejad said.

“The administration must show strength in response to Iran’s other provocative actions in the region,” he said. “The administration also should warn American citizens and green card holders that Iran is a very dangerous place for them to travel or do business. However, such warning contradicts the administration’s continuous efforts to encourage investors and big banks to do business with Iran. The administration also should impose sanction on the entities and individuals involved in this abduction program.”

Five Major Foreign Policy Reveals from the Wikileaks Clinton Email Dump

Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty

Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty

Breitbart, by John Hayward, October 17, 2016:

As emails hacked from the account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta continue to trickle into the public eye, major revelations regarding Hillary Clinton’s policy preferences on handling foreign policy, particularly rogue states, have come to the fore.

Below, five of the biggest reveals from the Wikileaks email dumps so far:

5. Clinton on Israeli-Palestinian talks says “A Potemkin process is better than nothing”: As with almost every major Democratic figure, Clinton thinks the “solution” to the Palestinian problem involves manipulating and pressuring Israel. However, emails produced by WikiLeaks suggest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu feels Clinton is “more instinctively sympathetic to Israel than the White House,” and the worst moment in his relationship with her came when she was “heavily scripted and reading from points prepared by the White House.” That’s funny, because President Obama and his defenders have been loudly insisting they were the best friends Israel ever had.

4. Clinton hearts Cuba: It is clear that Clinton will be useful to special interests that want to make money in Cuba, and enrich the dictatorship in return. Clinton’s team was also very happy to use Cuba as a political prop, in part because, as one special interest contact put it, “it would drive Rubio, Cruz, and others nuts.” The brutality and repression of the Castro regime mean absolutely nothing to these people, and yet they portray themselves as morally superior proponents of human rights. To read anything from the WikiLeaks dump referencing Cuba, you’d think the horrors of totalitarian communist repression were carried out by distant ancestors of the Castros, and it’s faintly amusing that anyone would still be hung up on it.

3. The project for “progressive Islam”: The most interesting thing about this leaked email is that Clinton’s inner circle and their connections in the Islamic world think “progressive Islam” is necessary, because on the record, Clinton claims Islam is already pretty darn progressive. Everything bad associated with Islam is supposedly the work of people who aren’t true Muslims. The interesting conclusion to be reached from following these discussions is that global Islam is much more complicated, and messy, than the official pronouncements of Democrats would indicate. As long as Democrats are single-mindedly determined to pander to Muslim-Americans, convinced the “anti-Muslim backlash” is a graver threat than terrorism, and above all else clubbing political opponents with accusations of anti-Muslim bigotry, they’ll remain dangerous on both national security, and the more subtle clash of civilizations.

2“Foreign govt donors: all the money is in”: Does anyone really doubt all that foreign money pouring into the Clinton Foundation is going to have a profound impact on American foreign policy, if Hillary Clinton gets into the White House? We’ll be lucky if the new Clinton Administration steering lucrative overseas contracts to Foundation donors is the worst of it.

1. Clinton said Iran could only be contained by bombing their nuclear facilities: Hillary Clinton’s conversation with Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein in 2013 included her suggestion that Iran should be made to feel more “pain” by “not in any way occupying or invading them but by bombing their facilities.” Painless aerial bombardment is the Democrats’ favorite foreign policy tool, along with supplying weapons to local fighters who will serve as America’s deniable, easily abandoned boots on the ground. Neither of those strategies works very well, as Blankfein observed to his credit… and Clinton agreed with his assertion that bombing-only campaigns have never “worked in the history of war.” It’s as muddled as everything else Hillary Clinton says on foreign policy, but it’s arguably a more aggressive stance than Obama doctrine.

Kerry Negotiating Ceasefire w/Death to America Terrorists After They Attack US Ships

kerry_whitehousegov

Front Page Magazine, by Daniel Greenfield, October 14, 2016:

John Kerry never changes. Whatever happens, he can always be found rushing to appease the enemies of this country. After Iranian backed Houthi Islamic Jihadists attacked a US ship, Kerry has jumped into action to do his usual thing

As the U.S. launched missile attacks Thursday on Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, behind the scenes Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to negotiate a temporary cease-fire and reinvigorate a political process to end the country’s civil war.

The conflict has dragged on for over two years now, since the Shiite rebels seized control of the capital of Sanaa in September of 2014. The conflict escalated in March 2015 and since then over 4,000 civilians have been killed, the U.N. has said.

“What the Secretary has been pushing hard for is to get back … to a cessation of hostilities, a 72-hour cessation of hostilities which can at least then create some kind of climate where a political dialogue or a dialogue can begin again,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said Thursday.

Here’s whom Kerry wants a dialogue with. The Houthis are not “rebels”, they’re Islamic Jihadists, backed by Iran. Their slogan is, “Allah Akbar, Death to America, Death to Israel, A curse upon the Jews, Victory to Islam.”

But part of that is Kerry and Obama’s slogan too. Meanwhile Obama’s NSC put out a statement warning the Saudis about further attacks on the Houthis.

U.S. security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check. Even as we assist Saudi Arabia regarding the defense of their territorial integrity, we have and will continue to express our serious concerns about the conflict in Yemen and how it has been waged. In light of this and other recent incidents, we have initiated an immediate review of our already significantly reduced support to the Saudi-led Coalition and are prepared to adjust our support so as to better align with U.S. principles, values and interests, including achieving an immediate and durable end to Yemen’s tragic conflict. We call upon the Saudi-led Coalition, the Yemeni government, the Houthis and the Saleh-aligned forces to commit publicly to an immediate cessation of hostilities and implement this cessation based on the April 10th terms.

Maybe Kerry and the Houthis can bond over their mutual hatred of America.

Glick: From Yemen to Turtle Bay

showimage-ashx_

Iran’s game is clear enough. It wishes to replace the US as the regional hegemon, at the US’s expense.

Truth Revolt, by Caroline Glick, October 14, 2016:

Off the coast of Yemen and at the UN Security Council we are seeing the strategic endgame of Barack Obama’s administration. And it isn’t pretty.

Since Sunday, Iran’s Houthi proxies in Yemen have attacked US naval craft three times in the Bab al-Mandab, the narrow straits at the mouth of the Red Sea. The Bab al-Mandab controls maritime traffic in the Red Sea, and ultimately controls the Suez Canal.

Whether the Iranians directed these assaults or simply green-lighted them is really beside the point. The point is that these are Iranian strikes on the US. The Houthis would never have exposed themselves to US military retaliation if they hadn’t been ordered to do so by their Iranian overlords.

The question is why has Iran chosen to open up an assault on the US? The simple answer is that Iran has challenged US power at the mouth of the Red Sea because it believes that doing so advances its strategic aims in the region.

Iran’s game is clear enough. It wishes to replace the US as the regional hegemon, at the US’s expense.

Since Obama entered office nearly eight years ago, Iran’s record in advancing its aims has been one of uninterrupted success.

Iran used the US withdrawal from Iraq as a means to exert its full control over the Iraqi government. It has used Obama’s strategic vertigo in Syria as a means to exert full control over the Assad regime and undertake the demographic transformation of Syria from a Sunni majority state to a Shi’ite plurality state.

In both cases, rather than oppose Iran’s power grabs, the Obama administration has welcomed them. As far as Obama is concerned, Iran is a partner, not an adversary.

Since like the US, Iran opposes al-Qaida and ISIS, Obama argues that the US has nothing to fear from the fact that Iranian-controlled Shiite militias are running the US-trained Iraqi military.

So, too, he has made clear that the US is content to stand by as the mullahs become the face of Syria.

In Yemen, the US position has been more ambivalent. In late 2014, Houthi rebel forces took over the capital city of Sanaa. In March 2015, the Saudis led a Sunni campaign to overthrow the Houthi government. In a bid to secure Saudi support for the nuclear agreement it was negotiating with the Iranians, the Obama administration agreed to support the Saudi campaign. To this end, the US military has provided intelligence, command and control guidance, and armaments to the Saudis.

Iran’s decision to openly assault US targets then amounts to a gamble on Tehran’s part that in the twilight of the Obama administration, the time is ripe to move in for the kill in Yemen. The Iranians are betting that at this point, with just three months to go in the White House, Obama will abandon the Saudis, and so transfer control over Arab oil to Iran.

For with the Strait of Hormuz on the one hand, and the Bab al-Mandab on the other, Iran will exercise effective control over all maritime oil flows from the Arab world.

It’s not a bad bet for the Iranians, given Obama’s consistent strategy in the Middle East.

Obama has never discussed that strategy.

Indeed, he has deliberately concealed it. But to understand the game he has been playing all along, the only thing you need to do listen to his foreign policy soul mate.

According to a New York Times profile published in May, Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes is the president’s alter ego. The two men’s minds have “melded.”

Rhodes’s first foreign policy position came in the course of his work for former congressman Lee Hamilton.

In 2006, then-president George W. Bush appointed former secretary of state James Baker and Hamilton to lead the Iraq Study Group. Bush tasked the group with offering a new strategy for winning the war in Iraq. The group released its report in late 2006.

The Iraq Study Group’s report contained two basic recommendations. First, it called for the administration to abandon Iraq to the Iranians.

The group argued that due to Iran’s opposition to al-Qaida, the Iranians would fight al-Qaida for the US.

The report’s second recommendation related to Israel. Baker, Hamilton and their colleagues argued that after turning Iraq over to Iran, the US would have to appease its Sunni allies.

The US, the Iraq Study Group report argued, should simultaneously placate the Sunnis and convince the Iranians of its sincerity by sticking it to Israel. To this end, the US should pressure Israel to give the Golan Heights to Syria and give Judea and Samaria to the PLO.

Bush rejected the Iraq Study Group report. Instead he opted to win the war in Iraq by adopting the surge counterinsurgency strategy.

But once Bush was gone, and Rhodes’s intellectual twin replaced him, the Iraq Study Group recommendations became the unstated US strategy in the Middle East.

After taking office, Obama insisted that the US’s only enemy was al-Qaida. In 2014, Obama grudgingly expanded the list to include ISIS.

Obama has consistently justified empowering Iran in Iraq and Syria on the basis of this narrow definition of US enemies. Since Iran is also opposed to ISIS and al-Qaida, the US can leave the job of defeating them both to the Iranians, he has argued.

Obviously, Iran won’t do the US’s dirty work for free. So Obama has paid the mullahs off by giving them an open road to nuclear weapons through his nuclear deal, by abandoning sanctions against them, and by turning his back on their ballistic missile development.

Obama has also said nothing about the atrocities that Iranian-controlled militia have carried out against Sunnis in Iraq and has stopped operations against Hezbollah.

As for Israel, since his first days in office, Obama has been advancing the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations. His consistent, and ever escalating condemnations of Israel, his repeated moves to pick fights with Jerusalem are all of a piece with the group’s recommended course of action. And there is every reason to believe that Obama intends to make good on his threats to cause an open rupture in the US alliance with Israel in his final days in office.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s phone call with Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday night made this clear enough. In the course of their conversation, Netanyahu reportedly asked Kerry if Obama intended to enable an anti-Israel resolution to pass in the UN Security Council after the presidential election next month. By refusing to rule out the possibility, Kerry all but admitted that this is in fact Obama’s intention.

And this brings us back to Iran’s assaults on US ships along the coast of Yemen.

Early on Sunday morning, the US responded to the Houthi/Iranian missile assaults by attacking three radar stations in Houthi-controlled territory. The nature of the US moves gives credence to the fear that the US will surrender Yemen to Iran.

This is so for three reasons. First, the administration did not allow the USS Mason destroyer to respond to the sources of the missile attack against it immediately. Instead, the response was delayed until Obama himself could determine how best to “send a message.”

That is, he denied US forces the right to defend themselves.

Second, it is far from clear that destroying the radar stations will inhibit the Houthis/Iranians.

It is not apparent that radar stations are necessary for them to continue to assault US naval craft operating in the area.

Finally, the State Department responded to the attack by reaching out to the Houthis. In other words, the administration is continuing to view the Iranian proxy is a legitimate actor rather than an enemy despite its unprovoked missile assaults on the US Navy.

Then there is the New York Times’ position on Yemen.

The Times has repeatedly allowed the administration to use it as an advocate of policies the administration itself wishes to adopt. Last week for instance, the Times called for the US to turn on Israel at the Security Council.

On Tuesday, the Times published an editorial calling for the administration to end its military support for the Saudi campaign against the Houthis/Iran in Yemen.

Whereas the Iranian strategy makes sense, Obama’s strategy is nothing less than disastrous.

Although the Iraq Study Group, like Obama, is right that Iran also opposes ISIS, and to a degree, al-Qaida, they both ignored the hard reality that Iran also views the US as its enemy. Indeed, the regime’s entire identity is tied up in its hatred for the US and its strategic aim of destroying America.

Obama is not the only US president who has sought to convince the Iranians to abandon their hatred for America. Every president since 1979 has tried to convince the mullahs to abandon their hostility. And just like all of his predecessors, Obama has failed to convince them.

What distinguishes Obama from his predecessors is that he has based US policy on a deliberate denial of the basic reality of Iranian hostility. Not surprisingly, the Iranians have returned his favor by escalating their aggression against America.

The worst part about Obama’s strategy is that it is far from clear that his successor will be able to improve the situation.

If Hillary Clinton succeeds him, his successor is unlikely to even try. Not only has Clinton embraced Obama’s policies toward Iran.

Her senior advisers are almost all Obama administration alumni. Wendy Sherman, the leading candidate to serve as her secretary of state, was Obama’s chief negotiator with the Iranians.

If Donald Trump triumphs next month, assuming he wishes to reassert US power in the region, he won’t have an easy time undoing the damage that Obama has caused.

Time has not stood still as the US has engaged in strategic dementia. Not only has Iran been massively empowered, Russia has entered the Middle East as a strategic spoiler.

Moreover, since 2001, the US has spent more than a trillion dollars on its failed wars in the Middle East. That investment came in lieu of spending on weapons development. Today Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missiles in Syria reportedly neutralize the US’s air force.

US naval craft in the Bab al-Mandab have little means to defend themselves against missile strikes.

The US’s trillion-dollar investment in the F-35 fighter jet has tethered its air wings to a plane that has yet to prove its capabilities, and may never live up to expectations.

Israel is justifiably worried about the implications of Obama’s intention to harm it at the UN.

But the harm Israel will absorb at the UN is nothing in comparison to the long-term damage that Obama’s embrace of the Iraq Study Group’s disastrous strategic framework has and will continue to cause Israel, the US and the entire Middle East.

 

US strikes three radar sites in Houthi-controlled part of Yemen

07b471aabad84e558627fb4f9d68508b_18Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, October 14, 2016:

The US has launched missiles against three radar sites in the Houthi-controlled part of Yemen. The strikes came in response to two attacks on the USS Mason, which operates in international waters off the Red Sea coast of Yemen. The Houthis are also thought to have fired rockets at an United Arab Emirates military vessel earlier this month.

The US military “targeted radar sites involved in the recent missile launches threatening USS Mason and other vessels operating in international waters in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb,” according to a statement by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook. The Bab al-Mandeb is a strait located between Yemen and the Horn of Africa. “These limited self-defense strikes were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships, and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway,” Cook continued.

Cook added that the “United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic, as appropriate, and will continue to maintain our freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandeb, and elsewhere around the world.”

Separately, the US Navy released a video, just over one minute long, of the USS Nitze launching Tomahawk cruise missiles at the radar sites. The cruise missile were fired just hours after the USS Mason was forced to respond to an incoming missile for the second time this week. No one was injured in the failed missile attacks, but the USS Mason had to employ “defensive countermeasures.”

The Houthi rebels in Yemen have been backed by Iran. And their rise to power in the country was a blow to the US government’s counterterrorism strategy. The Obama administration relied on President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s government as a key, on the ground partner in the fight against al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

But in late 2014 and early 2015, the Houthis seized large swaths of Yemen from Hadi’s government. AQAP capitalized on the instability by launching its own offensive throughout the southern part of the country. The al Qaeda branch controlled contiguous territory along the coast from April 2015 until April 2016, when an Arab-led coalition moved to dislodge the jihadis. AQAP’s fighters slipped away from strategic locations, such as the port city of Mukalla, in order to fight another day. AQAP portrayed the move as an effort to protect local residents and civilian institutions, such as mosques and markets, from the ravages of war.

Subsequently, Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza released an audio message in which he accused Saudi Arabia of attacking al Qaeda’s men at a time when they were “preoccupied” with the Houthis. Hamza portrayed the ground assault launched by the Saudi-led coalition that entered Mukalla as boon to the Houthis, even though the Saudis are opposed to the Houthis’ expansion.

In addition to AQAP, the Islamic State took advantage of the turmoil in Yemen by establishing a small upstart branch comprised of AQAP defectors and others.

The State Department has formally accused Iran of backing the Houthis. In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2012, State said that “Iran actively supported members of the Houthi tribe in northern Yemen, including activities intended to build military capabilities, which could pose a greater threat to security and stability in Yemen and the surrounding region.” The report also cited an incident from July 2012, when Yemen’s Interior Ministry “arrested members of an alleged Iranian spy ring, headed by a former member of the IRGC” (Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).

However, Foggy Bottom dropped the language about Iran’s sponsorship of the Houthis from the 2015 version of Country Reports on Terrorism. Asked why similar language was not included in the report for 2015, acting coordinator for counterterrorism Justin Siberell responded: “There’s a serious concern about Iran’s activities in Yemen, yes.”

In February, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper delivered the US Intelligence Community’s “Worldwide Threat Assessment” to Congress. Clapper noted that Iran “continues to back the [Houthis],” has shipped “lethal aid” to them, and referred to the “Iranian-backed [Houthi] insurgency.”

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

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Russian media reporting:

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Iranian Proxies Fire Missiles At US Navy Ships

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The USS Mason, purpose-designed for missile defense, fired three missiles in order to protect itself and its fellow ships.

CounterJihad, October 12, 2016:

The USS Mason, an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, fired three missiles in self-defense against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who launched cruise missiles at it and other US navy warships.  The Arleigh-Burke destroyers are built around the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, and are also equipped with weapons and countermeasures designed to handle cruise missiles.  The attack represents the first time these systems have actually been used in combat to protect a Navy ship.

The attack on the Mason comes after the outright destruction of a UAE warship by a similar missile attack carried out by the Houthi rebels.  The HSV-2 Swift, designed by the US Navy but in use by the UAE’s government, was destroyed by an explosively-formed penetrator (EFP) warhead.  This warhead follows the same form as the infamous roadside bomb that was characteristically used by Iranian proxy forces in the murder of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The EFP involves a copper plate that is worked in such a way as to collapse into a slug when fired from a tube by a high explosive.  That slug can then punch through the strongest armor.  In the roadside bomb, it would be used to attack American armored troop transports in order to kill the soldiers inside.  The cruise missile warhead is designed to go off once the outer part of the warship penetrates ship armor, sending EFPs in multiple directions to punch holes through the hull in many places.

The Swift was engaged in transporting medical aid at the time it was destroyed by Iranian proxy forces.  The deployment of the Mason and its fellow ships was in response to the destruction of the Swift.  In addition to another destroyer, the afloat forward staging base USS Ponce has been sent to assist the coalition operating against the Houthi in Yemen.  They are part of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group.

The attack is part of a game of increasing attacks on American forces intended to drive them out of the region.  Iran has led the effort here, both through its actual warships and through proxy units like the Houthi, its Iraq-based Shia militias, and the Syrian air force.  In addition to Iran and its proxies, the Russians have been aggressively seeking to drive American warships from contested waters.  Last year Iran went so far as to intercept and kidnap American sailors operating in US Navy boats near Iran.

The conflict in Yemen is explosive because it pits Sunnis against Shias, on the border with Saudi Arabia, in a way that would allow Iranian influence to flank the Saudis.  A coalition of Sunni powers is fighting against the tribal Houthi, who participate in a form of Shia Islam that is rather milder and less apocalyptic than Iran’s own.  The civil war in Yemen has drug on for years, and shows no sign of being resolved.  The increasingly aggressive tactics, now targeting even US ships, may be intended to derail support for the Sunni coalition in a way that would allow for a Houthi victory.

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