Iran Installs Advanced Anti-Aircraft Missiles… Around “Iran Deal” Site

00e9dfe31050c9a64a085a55fcc54526CounterJihad, Aug. 29, 2016:

Why would you need to protect this place from an airstrike if you’re doing what you promised?

Right after the Iran Deal was signed by President Obama — who is the only person to have signed it, as the Iranian parliament passed an alternative version that calls for the end of Israel’s nuclear program rather than their own — Russia announced the sale of advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.  These missiles are not Russia’s state of the art missiles, but they are good enough to be thought capable of taking down everything in Israel’s air force.  In the United States, only three aircraft are thought good enough to evade them:  the F-22, the F-35, and the B-2 bomber.  Deploying these missiles, in other words, is a major hedge against airstrikes by either Israel or the United States on an Iranian facility.

So where are they being deployed?  Right around the Fordow nuclear site.

According to research by Omri Ceren, a managing director at The Israel Project, in a factsheet distributed to journalists and others, Iran is deploying its S-300 missiles around one of the major facilities that the “Iran Deal” was supposed to neutralize.  It’s underground, it’s fortified, and now it has defenses around it that are capable of neutralizing the entire Israeli air force — and most of the United States air force, to boot.

Convincing Russia to avoid an Iranian deployment of S-300 missiles was once a foreign policy achievement of which the Obama administration boasted.  It was abandoned almost immediately once the Obama administration realized that the Russians were serious about defending Iran’s nuclear program, with the President himself saying that he was surprised it took so long.

Russia is now deploying air assets in Iran, as they have been doing in Syria for some time.  The clear move is to ensure that the northern Middle East becomes an Iranian crescent.

Ledeen notes the “Shi’ite Freedom Army,” a kind of Iranian Foreign Legion that intends to field five divisions of between twenty and twenty-five thousand men each.  Overall command will belong to Quds Force commander Qassem Suliemani, currently a major figure in the assault on Mosul, having recovered from his injury in Syria commanding Iranian-backed militia in the war there.  The fact of his freedom of movement is itself a Russian-Iranian demonstration that they will not be governed by international law:  Suliemani is under international travel bans for his assassination plot against world diplomats, but was received inMoscow and now travels freely throughout the northern Middle East.

Turkey, meanwhile, has been effectively cut off by Iran’s and Russia’s success in the opening game of this global chess match.  As late as the Ottoman Empire, the Turks looked south through Iran and Iraq to power bases as far away as Arabia.  Now the Ayatollahs are going to control a crescent of territory from Afghanistan’s borders to the Levant, leaving the Turks locked out.

The war is proceeding without us.  The Russians and the Iranians are locking it up.  Does the US continue to have any will to act in its interests in the Middle East?  Does it still know how?

All-out Turkish-Kurd war. Barazani goes to Tehran

5DEBKAfile, Aug. 29, 2016:

An all-out Turkish-Kurdish war has boiled over in northern Syria since the Turkish army crossed the border last Wednesday, Aug. 24 for the avowed aim of fighting the Islamic State and pushing the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia back. Instead of falling back, the Kurds went on the offensive and are taking a hammering. This raging confrontation has stalled the US-led coalition offensive against ISIS and put on indefinite hold any US plans for campaigns to drive the jihadists out of their Syrian and Iraqi capitals of Raqqa and Mosul.
The Kurdish militia ground troops, who were backed by the US and assigned the star role in these campaigns, are now fully engaged in fighting Turkey. And, in another radical turnaround, Iraqi Kurdish leaders (of the Kurdish Regional Republic) have responded by welcoming Iran to their capital, in retaliation for the US decision to join forces with Turkey at the expense of Kurdish aspirations.
The KRG’s Peshmerga are moreover pitching in to fight with their Syrian brothers. Together, they plan to expel American presence and influence from both northern Syria and northern Iraq in response to what they perceive as a US sellout of the Kurds.

DEBKAfile’s military analysts trace the evolving steps of this escalating complication of the Syrian war and its wider impact:

  • Since cleansing Jarablus of ISIS, Turkey has thrown large, additional armored and air force into the battle against the 35.000-strong YPG Kurdish fighters. This is no longer just a sizeable military raid, as Ankara has claimed, but a full-fledged war operation. Turkish forces are continuing to advancing in three directions and by Sunday, Aug. 28 had struck 15-17km deep inside northern Syria across a 100km wide strip.
    Their targets are clearly defined: the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northwest Syria and the Kurdish enclave of Qamishli and Hassaka in the east, in order to block the merger of Kurdish enclaves into a contiguous Syrian Kurdish state.
    Another goal was Al-Bab north of and within range of Aleppo for a role in a major theater of the Syrian conflict. To reach Al-Bab, the Turkish force would have to fight its way through Kurdish-controlled territory.
  • The Turks are also using a proxy to fight the Syrian Kurds. Thousands of Syrian Democratic Army (SDF) rebels, whom they trained and supplied to fight Syria’s Bashar Assad army and the Islamic State, have been diverted to targeting the Kurds under the command of Turkish officers, to which Turkish elite forces are attached.
  • A Turkish Engineering Corps combat unit is equipped for crossing the Euphrates River and heading east to push the Kurds further back. Contrary to reports, the Turkish have not yet crossed the river itself or pushed the Kurds back – only forded a small stream just east of Jarablus. The main Kurdish force is deployed to the south not the east of the former ISIS stronghold.
  • Neither have Turkish-backed Syrian forces captured Manbij, the town 35km south of Jarablus which the Kurds with US support captured from ISIS earlier this month. Contrary to claims by Ankara’s spokesmen, those forces are still only 10-15km on the road to Mabij.
  • Sunday, heavy fighting raged around a cluster of Kurdish villages, Beir Khoussa and Amarneh, where the Turks were forced repeatedly to retreat under Kurdish counter attacks. Some of the villages were razed to the ground by the Turkish air force and tanks. At least 35 villagers were reported killed.
  • In four days of fierce battles, the Kurds suffered 150 dead and the Turkish side, 60.
  • DEBKAfile military sources also report preparations Sunday to evacuate US Special Operations Forces and helicopter units from the Rmeilan air base near the Syrian-Kurdish town of Hassaka. If the fighting around the base intensifies, they will be relocated in northern Iraq.
  • Fighters of the Iraqi-Kurdish Peshmerga were seen removing their uniforms and donning Syrian YPG gear before crossing the border Sunday and heading west to join their Syrian brothers in the battle against Turkey.
  • The KRG President Masoud Barazani expects to travel to Tehran in the next few days with an SOS for Iranian help against the US and the Turks. On the table for a deal is permission from Irbil for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to win their first military bases in the Iraqi Kurdish republic, as well as transit for Iranian military forces to reach Syria through Kurdish territory..

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Also see:

John Bolton: Iran Deal ‘Worst Appeasement in American History’

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Breitbart, by Adelle Nazarian, Aug. 25, 2016:

LOS ANGELES, California — Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton declared Sunday that the Iranian nuclear deal is the “worst act of appeasement in American history.” Bolton was speaking at the Luxe Hotel on Sunday for the American Freedom Alliance‘s conference, titled “Islam and Western Civilization: Can They Coexist?”

Bolton, who is also a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, elaborated on the threat that radical Islam and political Islam pose to the United States of America, Europe and the whole of Western civilization. In doing so, he explained the propaganda inherent in the term “Islamphobia,” and dismissed the “lone-wolf” concept of radical Islamic terrorism.

Bolton said there is plenty of evidence from western intelligence, among other sources, that the Iranian regime is violating the terms of the deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “I don’t think they ever intended to comply with its central provisions. They made minimal concessions to begin with and in exchange they got over $100 billion.”

Pressing further, Bolton criticized the recent ransom paid for American captives.He joked: “The good news is: each and every one of you is worth $100 million to the Obama Administration. The bad news is: Iran understands this.”

On a serious note, Bolton said: “All of our adversaries, and even our friends, are appalled by what they’ve seen. And the abandonment of our decades-long, bipartisan policy of not negotiating with terrorists. But it was all part of the nuclear deal.” He predicted there are many more surprises that will come up.

Bolton also explained that the “nature of the threat here is extraordinarily broad” and that “it has  been growing” because in the last eight years it has faced “no effective American opposition whatsoever.” That unfettered dynamic has resulted in a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. “Turkey and the Saudis and Egyptians, and likely other governments throughout the region, have also embarked on their own nuclear programs missions,” he said.

Regarding the threat of radical Islam, Bolton told the audience,  “I think it’s important to say, at the outset every time the subject comes up, that we are talking about politics and ideology here. This is not a question about religion. And those who say that ‘when you talk about radical Islam you are insulting Muslims all over the world,’ are simply engaged in propaganda.” Bolton added that these are “exactly Muslims, themselves, who have felt the worst effects of Islamic terrorism and who suffer under its rule in places as diverse as Iran and the caliphate that ISIS now holds.”

Bolton explained that individuals who do not wish to have a clear understanding of the true nature of radical Islam are “quick to obscure” it. “It’s a struggle for how the religion is perceived around the world,” Bolton noted.

He pointed out that Muslim leaders like King Abdullah of Jordan and Egypt’s President and former military general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi have called for a transformation within Islam, going so far as pointing out that this is a civil war that must be embraced and led by the people themselves.

He also lauded al-Sisi for being “courageous enough a couple of years ago to join the Coptic Christians in their celebration of Christmas and say ‘we are all Egyptians together,’ and thus putting a target on his own back with the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Bolton said that to suggest phrases like “lone-wolf terrorists and self-radicalized terrorists” when explaining these attacks is like comparing them with “spontaneous combustion: they were normal people one day and then the next day they became terrorists.” The West, he said, had failed “to understand the ideological nature of this war.”

Turning the spotlight onto President Barack Obama, Bolton said “the president says his objective is to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS. The problem with his strategy is his first three words: ‘degrade and ultimately’. The answer to ISIS is to destroy it as rapidly as possible. The reason you want to do that is because every day that we delay allows ISIS to implement strategies in Europe.”

Bolton added: “Innocent civilians are at risk because of our unwillingness to take appropriate military action.”

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz

From Vlad Tepes:

What’s the Plan for Winning the War?

iranian-nuclear-weaponDoes anyone in the administration recognize that we’re in one?

CounterJihad, Aug. 25, 2016:

Michael Ledeen makes a clever observation:

Everyone’s talking about “ransom,” but it’s virtually impossible to find anyone who’s trying to figure out how to win the world war we’re facing.  The two keystones of the enemy alliance are Iran and Russia, and the Obama administration, as always, has no will to resist their sorties, whether the Russians’ menacing moves against Ukraine, or the Iranians’ moves against us.

The moves are on the chessboard, sometimes kinetic and sometimes psychological warfare.  Like a chess game, we are in the early stages in which maneuver establishes the array of forces that will govern the rest of the game.  Russia’s deployment of air and naval forces to Syria stole a march on the Obama administration.  Its swaying of Turkey, which last year was downing Russian aircraft, is stealing another.  Its deployment of bombers and advanced strike aircraft to Iran is another.  That last appears to be in a state of renegotiation, as Ledeen notes, but that too is probably for show.  The Iranians have too much to gain in terms of security for their nuclear program, at least until they’ve had time to build their own air force.

Iran is making strategic moves as well.  Ledeen notes the “Shi’ite Freedom Army,” a kind of Iranian Foreign Legion that intends to field five divisions of between twenty and twenty-five thousand men each.  Overall command will belong to Quds Force commander Qassem Suliemani, currently a major figure in the assault on Mosul, having recovered from his injury in Syria commanding Iranian-backed militia in the war there.  The fact of his freedom of movement is itself a Russian-Iranian demonstration that they will not be governed by international law:  Suliemani is under international travel bans for his assassination plot against world diplomats, but was received in Moscow and now travels freely throughout the northern Middle East.

Turkey, meanwhile, has been effectively cut off by Iran’s and Russia’s success in the opening game of this global chess match.  As late as the Ottoman Empire, the Turks looked south through Iran and Iraq to power bases as far away as Arabia.  Now the Ayatollahs are going to control a crescent of territory from Afghanistan’s borders to the Levant, leaving the Turks locked out.  One might have expected the Turks to respond by doubling their sense of connection to Europe and NATO.  Instead, the purge following the alleged coup attempt is cementing an Islamist control that leaves the Turks looking toward a world from which they are largely separated by the power of this new Russian-Iranian alliance.  The Turks seem to be drifting toward joining that alliance because being a part of that alliance will preserve their ties to the Islamic world.

For now, the Obama administration seems blind to the fact that these moves are closing off America’s position in the Middle East.  This is not a new policy.  Eli Lake reports that the Obama administration told the CIA to sever its ties to Iranian opposition groups in order to avoid giving aid to the Green revolution.  Their negotiation of last year’s disastrous “Iran deal” has led to Iran testing new ballistic missiles and receiving major arms shipments from Russia.  Yet while all these moves keep being made around them, the Obama administration proceeds as if this were still just an attempt to crush the Islamic State (ISIS).  The commander of the XVIIIth Airborne Corps has been given a task that amounts to helping the Iranians win.  Our incoherent policy has left us on both sides in Syria.  Our only real ally in the conflict, the Kurds, stand abandoned by America.

Who is even thinking about how to win the war?  Will the legacy of the Obama administration be a shattered NATO, a Turkey drawn into Russia’s orbit, an Iranian hegemony over the northern Middle East, and a resurgent Russia?  It certainly looks to be shaping up that way.  Russia is playing chess while the US is playing whack-a-mole.  The absence of a coherent governing strategy is glaring.

U.S. Navy ship fires warning shots at Iranian vessel

Footage taken aboard the USS Nitze shows of Islamic Revolutionary Guard vessels.    via REUTERS TV

Footage taken aboard the USS Nitze shows of Islamic Revolutionary Guard vessels. via REUTERS TV

This is what concessions to jihadis gets you: more aggression. They have to – Qur’an verse 47:35 commands Muslims not to retreat when it is they who have the upper hand – Clare Lopez

Reuters, by Idrees Ali , Aug. 26, 2016:

A U.S. Navy ship fired warning shots toward an Iranian fast-attack craft that approached two U.S. ships, a Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday, in the most serious of a number of incidents in the Gulf area this week.

“They did feel compelled ultimately to fire three warning shots and the reason for that is… they had taken steps already to try and de-escalate this situation,” spokesman Peter Cook told reporters.

Tensions have increased in the Gulf in recent days despite an improvement in relations between Iran and the United States.

Years of mutual animosity eased when Washington lifted sanctions on Tehran in January after a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions but serious differences still remain over Iran’s ballistic missile program, Syria and Iraq.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the USS Squall patrol craft fired three warning shots from a .50 caliber gun in the northern Gulf on Wednesday after warning flares did not work.

The incident started with three Iranian vessels, but there was only one around by the time the warning shots were fired, the official said. He described the Iranian behavior as “unsafe, unprofessional, and not routine.”

At one point, the Iranian vessel came within 200 yards (193 meters) of a U.S. ship, the official said.

Another interaction took place between an Iranian and U.S. ship on Wednesday, the defense official said but gave few more details.

The Pentagon earlier this week accused Iranian vessels of harassing a U.S. warship near the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Iran’s defense minister said those Iranian vessels were just doing their job.

“If an American ship enters Iran’s maritime region, it will definitely get a warning. We will monitor them and, if they violate our waters, we will confront them,” Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said in a statement reported by the Iranian Students’ News Agency.

A State Department spokeswoman said it was not clear what the intentions of the Iranian ships were, but the behavior was unacceptable.

“We believe that these type of actions are of concern, they unnecessarily escalate tensions,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told a briefing.

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First on CNN: US fires warning shots at Iranian vessel after close encounter

Fired up Levin SMOKES ‘despotic’ Obama for playing besties with terrorist Iran

obama jeeringConservative Review, by Phil Shiver, Aug. 25, 2016:

“Yes, I come to the microphone today FED UP over what’s happening to our country, and who’s doing it,” said Mark Levin during his radio program Wednesday night.

“This administration is so corrupt, so despotic, it operates in secret,” Levin exclaimed in reference to congressional investigators trying to uncover the trail of $1.3 billion in payments to Iran without aid from the Obama admin.

Obama allowing Iran to walk all over us shouldn’t surprise anybody, however. Playing besties with Iran has, in fact, been his most recognizable foreign policy achievement. “Obama from the beginning of his presidency tried to turn the country’s ruling clerics from foes to friends … it was an obsession,” read Levin citing Eli Lake of Bloomberg Politics.

Listen to the full clip of Levin tearing into Obama below:

But the Republican Party must take some of the blame, argues Levin, for “their failure to remove a lawless, dangerous man from the oval office out of nothing but sheer cowardice.”

Americans will be paying the consequences of that for a long time to come.

Phil Shiver is a writer for the CR Wire. His interests are Christian Ministry, Common Sense Politics, and anything active. Follow him on Twitter @kpshiver3.

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The administration claims the payment saved taxpayers; James Rosen has the details for ‘Special Report’

Also see:

Keep Iran at arm’s length

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, left, reviews Revolutionary Guard cadets during a graduation ceremony in Tehran in 2015.  Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via The Associated Pres

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, left, reviews Revolutionary Guard cadets during a graduation ceremony in Tehran in 2015.
Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via The Associated Pres

National Post, by Shabnam Assadollahi and David B. Harris, August 22, 2016:

Even before the West made the last in the continuing series of concessions that became the disturbing P5+1 Iranian nuclear deal, a campaigning Justin Trudeau asserted more than a year ago that he would “re-engage” with Iran and reopen Canada’s diplomatic mission in Tehran. The mission was closed by a Harper government fearful of state-supported assaults on Canada’s representatives there, and concerned about Iran’s subversive activity in this country.

The ensuing pre-election storm sent the candidate’s Liberal party minders scrambling.  A Trudeau government would move cautiously, they assured us. There would be no precipitous re-establishing of relations with the regime commonly dubbed the leading state-sponsor of terror.

But by mid-February, Stéphane Dion, Trudeau’s foreign affairs minister, was all about “engagement” and — relying on the Iran nuke deal — ended significant Canadian Iran sanctions. And later, even as Canadian professor Dr. Homa Hoodfar was held in Iran and Ontario’s superior court authorized victims of Iranian-backed terror to extract compensation from non-diplomatic Iranian assets, Dion admitted that the Trudeau government was in official talks with the regime. These talks are apparently aimed at re-establishing relations between the countries.

Despite various countries’ diplomatic presence in Iran during the sanctions years, the regime’s human rights-abuse continues. Weeks after Trudeau’s June 2015 declaration, 40 of Iran’s state-run media organizations jointly solicited British-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie’s killing by putting a $600,000 bounty on his head. Executions in Iran increased to almost 1,000, including children. Gays, Baha’is and others are hunted. Officials animated by Islamist religious doctrine prevent young, soon-to-be-executed female political prisoners from going to paradise by having them raped before being murdered: no virginity, no paradise.

Internationally, Tehran’s dictatorship is implicated in extensive violence: assassinations in Germany and France, major bombings in Lebanon and Argentina and operations in the United States. With Hezbollah, its terrorist progeny, Iran increasingly operates in South America. No surprise: in the 1990s, wrote Sohrab Ahmari, current Iranian president Hassan Rouhani was a key player in a “campaign of terror against Iranian dissidents in Europe.” Today, Iran and Hezbollah prop up Syria’s Assad by facilitating sectarian bloodletting. Tehran threatens the Persian Gulf region and reinforces Yemen’s butchery.

Meanwhile, Iran masquerades as a nuclear-nonproliferation “partner.” But Iran’s Fordow, Natanz, and Arak atomic facilities were built in secret, in violation of international law. Reports say Iran plans to develop deployable electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) weapons, which could cripple power grid infrastructure and electronic equipment across thousands of kilometres. In April, American EMP experts reminded the Canadian Senate’s national security committee about U.S. Congressional EMP Commission warnings: EMP weapons could utterly destroy the U.S. — and presumably, Canadian — electrical grid on which our technological civilization depends for its literal survival. In the meantime, and contrary to UN Security Council resolutions, Iran tests ballistic missiles, at least one with a promise to destroy Israel inscribed on its side.

To cap things off, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei advertises Iran’s terror support. “Hezbollah and its pious youth,” he told the Union of Islamic Pupils’ Associations, “are shining like the Sun and they are a source of honour for the Muslim world.”

All this, when Tehran should be on its best behaviour, if only to advance its sanctions-busting, militarist objectives.

Nor has Canada been spared the ayatollahs’ untoward attentions.

Iranian regime-backed Canadian residents intimidate dissident expatriates in Canada. Hamid Mohammadi, a former senior Iranian diplomat in Ottawa, was exposed calling on Iranian Canadians not to integrate. He apparently wants them to infiltrate the Canadian government and work subversively for the motherland. Before it was shuttered, Iran’s Ottawa embassy was pushing its education agenda — including glorifying child-martyrdom — in a cultural program at Ottawa’s Lady Evelyn public school. Iran’s Hezbollah terror organization continues to operate and fund raise in Canada, as well.

Rapprochement with Iran – through exchanges of ambassadors or otherwise – will bring no advantage other than to the fortunes of the mullahs’ malevolent, emboldened rule. Tehran’s fanatical, aggressively destabilizing regime, and its friends and influencers in Canada, already have enough of a presence in this country and beyond.  Rather than weaken, we must limit the ayatollahs’ avenues into our nation, contain this global threat, and embrace sound international efforts to encourage constructive democratic change in Iran.

Former Iranian political prisoner Shabnam Assadollahi is an award-winning human rights defender in Canada, where she writes and broadcasts. Lawyer David B. Harris directs the Intelligence Program, INSIGNIS Strategic Research Inc., and recently testified before the U.S. Senate homeland security committee.

Iran Expanding Terror Network in Latin America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Dept Warns: Iran Seeking to Capture U.S. Citizens

Hassan Rouhani / AP

Hassan Rouhani / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, Aug. 22, 206:

The State Department issued a warning on Monday urging U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to Iran, which has made the detention of Americans a priority.

The latest travel advisory, which emphasizes Iran’s desire to capture U.S. citizens, comes on the heels of a growing scandal over the Obama administration’s decision to pay Iran $400 million in cash on the same day that it freed several U.S. hostages.

The payment has been cast by lawmakers and others as a ransom payment and prompted concern among U.S. officials that Iran is making arresting Americans a priority.

The travel warning is meant to “highlight the risk of arrest and detention of U.S. citizens, particularly dual national Iranian-Americans,” according to a State Department announcement on Monday. “Foreigners, in particular dual nationals of Iran and Western countries including the United States, continue to be detained or prevented from leaving Iran.”

“U.S. citizens traveling to Iran should very carefully weigh the risks of travel and consider postponing their travel,” the warning adds. “U.S. citizens residing in Iran should closely follow media reports, monitor local conditions, and evaluate the risks of remaining in the country.”

Iran continues to imprison Americans, particularly those holding dual Iranian citizenship, according to the State Department.

“Iranian authorities have detained and harassed U.S. citizens, particularly those of Iranian origin,” the travel warning states. “Former Muslims who have converted to other religions, religious activists, and persons who encourage Muslims to convert are subject to arrest and prosecution.”

The Obama administration expressed particular concern about commercial airlines doing business with Iran. This warning comes as American companies such as Boeing continue to pursue million-dollar business deals with the Islamic Republic.

“The U.S. government is concerned about the risks to civil aircraft operating into, out of, within, or over Iran due to hazards from military activity associated with the conflicts in Iraq and Syria,” the warning states. “The FAA has advised U.S. civil aviation to exercise caution when flying into, out of, within, or over the airspace over Iran.”

The warning emphasizes that “the U.S. government’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Iran in the event of an emergency is extremely limited.”

U.S.-Backed Kurds to Assad Forces: ‘Surrender or Die’

DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/GETTY

DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/GETTY

In a critical battle, Washington’s most effective allies in Syria turn their attention away from fighting ISIS and toward the militias of Bashar al-Assad.

The Daily Beast, by Wladimir Van Wilgenburg, Aug. 23, 2016:

HASAKAH, Syria – U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters have Syrian President Bashar Assad’s militias under siege in the northern Syrian city of Hasakah, and they are leaving them two options: “Surrender or die.”

In a conflict where alliances shift kaleidoscopically and the potential consequences of unwanted clashes are apocalyptic, this battle has raised the possibility Washington will be drawn into a direct conflict with the Syrian regime even as the Obama administration continues to focus its war effort on the forces of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS.

The Americans’ key allies in the Syrian theater, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, are now very clearly fighting both ISIS and Assad. The lines of demarcation are increasingly hard to draw in Hasakah — and above it.

On Thursday, U.S. planes scrambled over the region when Syrian Air Force SU-24 attack planes launched strikes near the city.

A Defense Department spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, suggested that “coalition personnel” were on the ground there. He did not get into specifics, but as we have reported previously, numerous American and European advisors are very close to the action in Syria.

“We view instances that place coalition personnel at risk with the utmost seriousness,” Davis added, “and we do have the inherent right of self-defense when U.S. forces are at risk.”

Davis said this is the first time U.S. planes have been scrambled in response to Syrian bombing, and pointed out that the coalition has never before seen the Assad regime take such action against the mainly Kurdish YPG.

Only a few days ago, these Kurdish forces—in alliance with some Arab contingents backed by U.S. airstrikes and supported by U.S. and other Western special forces—played a major role taking the strategic city of Manbij away from the fighters of the so-called Islamic State.

Now very confident, seasoned and well armed, the Kurds appear about to achieve a victory not just over Assad’s beleaguered partisans in Hasakah, but by extension against his strategic backers from Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah—and Russia.

All the parties understand what a crucial turning point this represents.

Previously, the Assad regime and its supporters had acquiesced in the Kurdish operations against ISIS. Damascus was aware that the Kurds’ goal is to establish a federal autonomous (if not indeed independent from Damascus) region called Rojava along the northern Syrian frontier. That’s no secret.

But Damascus clearly thought it could address other threats first, putting its priority on crushing any remotely credible opposition, then perhaps turning on ISIS, which it initially helped foster, then taking care of the Kurdish problem one way or the other.

The Hasakah fighting has brought that tacit agreement to an end.

Moscow, hoping a deal might yet be made for a truce, sent a delegation last week to try to broker a ceasefire, but there was none to be had.

The Kurds now reject any form of agreement and demand regime forces leave the province of Hasakah altogether, giving the YPG and its political arm, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), complete control.

Note that Hasakah province is rich in oil and gas resources. Prior to the Syrian war, nearly half of Syria’s oil came from here. If Rojava is to survive, that oil and gas will be an important source of income, and the Kurds are not inclined to give it up.

The Assad regime “is increasingly weak and the regime’s external supporters have little ability to support the regime’s armed forces there,” Michael Stephens, the head of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in Qatar, told The Daily Beast. And the events of the last couple of days would seem to bear that out.

When the Russian-brokered truce failed, even as the Syrian regime jets started to hit Kurdish positions and American or other coalition aircraft took to the air to warn them off, the Kurdish offensive continued.

Here in Hasakah, it’s clear the fighting between the YPG and the regime forces is much more intense than skirmishes in April. This time the battle has gone on for six days.

YPG officials say there are only a few pockets of Syrian government control left in a municipality that used to have a population of 200,000 people, and those holdouts are low on supplies.

“They used to say we are friends with the regime, but we are not a friend, we are supported by the people,” local commander Loqman told me before manning a heavy machine-gun on a pick-up truck and blasting away at government positions.

On television Sunday, the exhausted looking Syrian governor of Hasakah, Mohammad Za’al Ali, desperately pleaded with the Kurds to stop the fighting.

“Kurds in Hasakah are Syrians and cannot operate without the government,” he insisted on Kurdistan24, one of the few local TV stations operating in northern Syria. “Kurds cannot impose their control by force.”

But local commander Loqman said that the Kurds would not stop the fight. “What’s the job of the regime here? They have killed thousands of people, made millions of people homeless,” he said. “We should kick them out, that is my view.”

He also complained about the presence of foreign Shia militia fighters backed by Iran. These Syrian lands are his home, he said. “What is the work of Hezbollah here; what is the work of Russia here to kill civilians by airstrikes in Aleppo?”

In Hasakah’s dusty streets, local fighters wearing black scarves were keeping their heads down.

The town has a large Christian population, and one of the fighters, a Kurd with green eyes, wore a defiant white t-shirt: “Blasphemer,” it said. He also wore several crosses around his neck as he moved toward the front line. Christians fleeing the city center had given crucifixes to fighters, a local commander said.

Sniper fire is a major concern, and there’s a common belief the sharpshooters are foreigners.

“Iranian snipers hit civilians, no matter if they are Kurdish or Arabs,” says a 22-year-old Arab who goes by the pseudonym Adam. “There are Iranians, Afghans, Iraqis, Lebanese from Hezbollah, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard,” he said, although I was not able to confirm this on this ground.

Dozens of Arabs from Hasakah and other towns have joined the Kurdish forces, but often won’t talk on the record for fear of government reprisals against their families in areas still controlled by the regime.

“I joined to protect our honor, because the Syrian regime is oppressing the people, killing civilians, and hitting them with air strikes,” Adam said.

On Sunday afternoon there were no Syrian airstrikes and fighting slowed down, with occasional sniper and heavy machinegun fire. “From yesterday until now the airstrikes did not hit us,” said Loqman.

“The fighting stopped now because there are civilians; we most stop the war because there are civilians,” said Saydo, the other local commander, who speaks English. “But in the night the fight will begin again,” he said as we talked near the city’s central market.

Hussam Hassan, 50, a Kurdish civilian who was wearing a pink towel on his shoulders to deal with the sweat from the blazing heat, said he hoped to return to his house again soon.

“We flee because of the security,” he said near a Kurdish police checkpoint. “We are afraid, and I have children. There are airstrikes, artillery, and bullets.” He left by taxi to a village 15 kilometers away.

Sihanouk Dibo, a Kurdish official of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) accused the Syrian government of attacking the Kurds in agreement with Iran and Turkey, which opposes the declaration of a federal system for the Kurds and is hostile to the YPG/PYD, which is very closely allied with the insurgents of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) operating insider Turkey.

“They don’t want a democratic federal region from Qamisli until Afrin,” Dibo said, referring to two major towns in northern Syria. They don’t want us to cut all the roads for terrorists,” Dibo said, noting that many ISIS recruits from abroad initially came into Syria through Turkey.

On Sunday evening, as predicted, heavy fighting resumed again in the city center and continues now, with the Kurds steadily advancing against Syrian government fighters.

“The regime has only a few points left, and is running out of water and food,” Ismael Resho, a YPG commander told The Daily Beast.

The battle may be ending for now, but the kaleidoscope continues to turn, and the war goes on.

The Turkey-Russia-Iran Axis

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Dramatic developments alter the strategic balance in the Middle East.

Front Page Magazine, by Kenneth R. Timmerman, Aug. 22, 2016:

A techtonic shift has occurred in the balance of power in the Middle East since the failed Turkish coup of mid-July, and virtually no one in Washington is paying attention to it.

Turkey and Iran are simultaneously moving toward Russia, while Russia is expanding its global military and strategic reach, all to the detriment of the United States and our allies. This will have a major impact across the region, potentially leaving U.S. ally Israel isolated to face a massive hostile alliance armed with nuclear weapons.

Believers in Bible prophecy see this new alignment as a step closer to the alliance mentioned in Ezekiel 37-38, which Israel ultimately defeated on the plains of Megiddo.

Today’s Israel, however, is doing its best to soften the blow by patching up relations with Turkey and through cooperation with Russia.

Here are some of the moves and countermoves that have been taking place in recent weeks on a giant three-dimensional chessboard with multiple players and opponents.

Russia-Turkey: It now appears that Russian intelligence tipped off Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan just hours before the planned coup against his regime. When the coup plotters got wind of the Russian communications with Erdogan loyalists at the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), they moved up the coup from the dead of night to 9 PM, when the streets were packed.

For Erdogan, the Russian warning came just in the nick of time, allowing him to flee his hotel in Marmaris minutes before twenty-five special forces troops loyal to the coup-plotters roped down from the roof of his hotel to seize him.

With streets in Istanbul full of people, Erdogan’s text and video messages calling on supporters to oppose the coup had maximum impact.

After purging the military and government of suspected enemies, Erdogan’s first foreign trip was to Russia, where on August 8 he thanked Putin for his help. “The Moscow-Ankara friendship axis will be restored,” he proclaimed.

Two days later, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu blasted NATO for its “evasive fashion” of responding to Turkish requests for military technology transfers, and opened the door to joint military production with Russia.

Cavosoglu accused NATO of considering Turkey and Russia “to be second class countries,” and pointed out that Turkey was the only NATO country that was refusing to impose sanctions on Russia for its annexation of the Crimea and invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has also been in talks with Turkey to base Russian warplanes at the NATO air base in Incirlik, Turkey, where some 2400 U.S. personnel have been quarantined since the failed July 15 coup attempt as Turkey continues to demand that the U.S. extradite alleged coup-plotter Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania.

These talks have alarmed the Pentagon, which on Thursday reportedly ordered the emergency evacuation to Romania of the estimated 50-70 nuclear B-61 “dial-a-yield” gravity bombs stockpiled at the base.

If confirmed, the nuclear withdrawal from Turkey constitutes a major strategic setback for the United States, with Russia poised to replace the United States as Turkey’s main military partner after 60 years of NATO cooperation.

Russia-Iran: The warming of the Russia-Turkey relationship comes as Russia simultaneously is making advances in Iran.

The two countries have a long and often troubled history. The 1921 Soviet-Iranian treaty, which ended long-standing tsarist concessions in Iran, also included a mutual defense pact. Triggered briefly during World War II, the Soviets seized the opportunity to foment a Communist coup in Iranian Azerbaijan in 1948 and only withdrew after President Truman threatened to use nuclear weapons.

Successive Iranian regimes remained suspicious of Soviet intentions for the rest of the Cold War.

In recent years, Iran and Russia have joined together to evade international sanctions, with Russian banks clearing payments for Iranian oil purchases and serving as a conduit for Iranian government purchases abroad.

Last week, the specter of the 1921 defense treaty suddenly came alive when the Russia and Iran announced they had signed a new military agreement to allow Russian jets to use the Nojeh airbase in western Iran for attacks on Syrian rebels.

This is the first time that the Islamic regime in Iran has allowed a foreign power to use Iranian territory as a base for offensive military operations against another country in the region, and the move lead to tensions in the Iranian parliament.

For Russia, the move dramatically reduced flight times for the Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers it had been flying against ISIS targets in Syria from Mozdok airbase in Ossetia, 2000 km away. Iran’s Nojeh air base, outside Hamadan, is less than 900 km from the war zone.

The shorter flight times also meant shorter warning for the Syrian rebels. Russian media reports have alleged that the United States has been providing “satellite surveillance data” to the Syrian rebels of the Russian bombing runs, allowing them to disperse “suspiciously too often” before the heavy bombers arrived on target from Mozdok.

The shorter distance cuts the flight time – and thus the warning time – by 60%, according to former Pentagon official Stephen D. Bryen. “The flight from Iran is between 30 to 45 minutes tops. If, therefore, the US is warning the rebels of impending Russian air strikes, the time to get the message to them and to actually be able to move their forces out of harms way, is far less and maybe too short for finding effective cover,” Bryen wrote in a recent blogpost.

Conclusion: Russia is on the verge of realizing a multi-generational dream of reaching the “warm waters” of the Persian Gulf through Iran.

Iran-Iraq: Adding to these dramatic developments was the announcement last week by a U.S. military spokesman, Colonel Chris Garver, that Iran now controls a military force of 100,000 armed fighters in neighboring Iraq. While the United States has allowed this Iranian expansion under the pretext Iran was helping in the fight against ISIS, clearly Iran can use this massive organized force to exercise its control over Iraq as well.

While none of these events was directly caused by the United States, clearly the lack of U.S. leadership emboldened our enemies, whose leaders have a much clearer strategic vision than ours of where they want the region to go.

Meanwhile, the Russian government continues to pursue the massive ten-year, $650 billion military modernization program that Putin announced in December 2010, despite reduced oil revenues. Those plans include eight new nuclear submarines, 600 new fighter jets, 1000 helicopters, as well as new tanks and other ground equipment.

Most of the new equipment is based on new designs incorporating advanced technologies, not existing weapons systems.

Just this week, U.S. intelligence officials reported ongoing construction of “dozens’ of underground nuclear command bunkers in Moscow and around the country apparently for use in the event of a nuclear wear. General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. European Command, called Russia’s evolving doctrine on the first use of nuclear weapons “alarming.”

All of this does not mean that the United States and Russia are headed toward a direct confrontation. The more likely consequence, given the sweeping Russian powerplay with Turkey and Iran, is that the United States will simply abandon the region to Putin’s Russia and his Turkish and Iranian allies.

The consequence of that abandon will undoubtedly motivate Saudi Arabia to develop nuclear weapons as a counterweight to Iran.

Nero fiddled as Rome burned. Obama plays golf. Both leaders will leave ashes in their wake.

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Confirmed: That $400 Million in Pallets of Foreign Cash Was a Ransom Payment

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The President lied while wagging his finger at us.

CounterJihad, Aug. 19, 2016:

“In basic English, you’re saying you wouldn’t give them $400 million in cash until the prisoners were released, correct?”

That’s correct.”

With those words, State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed two things about the $400 Million cash payment to Iran.  First, it was a ransom for hostages.  Second, the President directly lied to the American people about it.

Families “know we have a policy that we don’t pay ransom. And the notion that we would somehow start now, in this high-profile way, and announce it to the world, even as we’re looking in the faces of other hostage families whose loved ones are being held hostage, and saying to them ‘We don’t pay ransom,’ defies logic,” Obama added at the time.

As the New York Post reports, the President not only lied to the American people, he even lectured the press for raising the question.

Here at CounterJihad, we pointed out that the President broke US law and knowingly endangered American lives by this action.  Three days later, former Federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy spelled out the specific laws that President Obama violated in great detail.  Now it is clear that the President lied about it, too.

American officials would not permit the Iran Air officials to take possession of the money and depart for Iran until they received word that a Swiss Air flight on which the U.S. hostages were boarded in Iran was “wheels up.” Only after the American officials were notified that the hostages’ plane had taken off were the Iranians allowed to take custody of the money. As Senators Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Mike Lee (R., Utah) have pointed out in pressing the administration for answers about this transaction:

Although the administration has denied there was any quid pro quo, the close temporal proximity of the payment to the release of the hostages suggests otherwise.  As the Justice Department is never remiss to point out in court, an illicit quid pro quo can be inferred from the timing of the quid and the quo

So, to recap, the President himself said that the US government has a policy of not paying ransom for hostages.  He explained the reasoning for this policy in that paying ransom for hostages endangers American lives by making it more likely that people will take Americans hostage.  He then undertook to pay a ransom for hostages, lying about it to the American people and even chiding the free press for having the gall to bring it up.

This is clearly an impeachable offense.  The President knew what he was doing.  He knew it was wrong.  He did it anyway, and he kept it secret from both Congress and the American People.  In doing so, he violated both the law and the basic rules of statecraft.  That violation of the law raises this to the level of ‘high crimes or misdemeanors’ necessary to justify an impeachment.  The endangerment of American lives makes it more than a harmless oversight.  More Americans since have been taken hostage by the regime in Iran, an effect so obvious and predictable that even Mr. Obama knew it was going to happen if he paid the ransom.

He did it anyway.

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Another Example of the Obama Admin’s Dishonest Campaign to Sell Iran Nuke Deal

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Center for Security Policy, by Fred Fleitz, Aug. 18, 2016:

Over the last few months, a lot of new information has come out on how the Obama White House misled the American public, Congress and the news media about the nuclear deal with Iran before Congress voted on the agreement last September.

According to a May 5, 2016 New York Times profile of National Security Council Adviser Ben Rhodes, the Obama administration used false narratives to promote the nuclear deal and conducted a campaign to manipulate and mislead journalists as part of a media “echo chamber.”

Several liberal organizations helped facilitate this echo chamber.  One of the most notorious was the far-left Ploughshares Fund which sought and received funding from liberal philanthropist George Soros. This included an April 2015 request for $750,000 to use mainstream media to counter opponents of the nuclear deal and parrot White House talking points.

Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS) has called for an investigation on whether large payments by Ploughshares to National Public Radio slanted NPR’s coverage of the nuclear deal and kept congressmen who opposed the agreement off the air.

The latest disclosure on how Ploughshares funding may still be distorting the debate over the nuclear deal concerns a Washington Post contributor.

According to an August 16, 2016 Washington Free Beacon by Adam Kredo, Allen Weiner, a Standord law professor and Ploughshares-funded expert, recently penned a Washington Postop-ed defending the nuclear deal but the Post failed to mention that he is on the payroll of the Ploughshares Fund.  According to Kredo, Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (where Weiner acts as a senior lecturer), received $100,000 from Ploughshares in 2015.  Weiner received a $15,000 payment from Ploughshares for a 2007 paper.

In an email to Kredo, Weiner denied speaking to anyone at Ploughshares about the nuclear deal or knowing the group’s position on the agreement.  Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt disputed Kredo’s claim that Weiner is on the Ploughshares “payroll” and said he saw no conflicts of interest.

However, on August 11, 2016, the Washington Post ran an op-ed co-authored by Weiner that defended a $400 million payment to free four U.S. prisoners held by Iran as “American diplomacy at its finest.”  Many experts believe this payment amounted to ransom and have harshly criticized the Obama administration for concealing it from Congress.

The $400 million was secretly flown to Tehran from Geneva in an unmarked plane.  The payment was made in small denominations of euros and Swiss francs.  The plane transporting the American prisoners was not allowed to take off until after the planeload of cash landed.  Iran says this was a ransom payment.  The Justice Department opposed the timing of this payment because it looked like ransom.  Weiner ignored these facts and repeated the absurd Obama administration position that this was not a ransom payment but represented America repaying an old debt to Iran.

With the Obama administration under fire for the controversial $400 million it paid to Iran, I have no doubt someone recruited Weiner as part of its Iran deal echo chamber to draft his Washington Post op-ed defending its dubious rationale for this payment.  This op-ed did not appear out of thin air.

Was Weiner on the Ploughshares “payroll” to promote the Iran deal?  There’s no evidence of this (at least yet) and he denies it.  However, given the unusual timing of his piece mimicking administration talking points that the $400 million was not a ransom payment, it seems likely Weiner is part of the White House media echo chamber to mislead the American people and Congress about the Iran deal.

Weiner’s article also suggests this echo chamber is still being used to generate false narratives for the White House to defend the nuclear deal.  Further investigation by journalists may prove that the Ploughshares Fund is still funding these distortions.

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Russia Deploys Jets, Heavy Bombers to Iran

russia-airstrikesCounterJihad, by Bruce Cornibe, Aug. 16, 2016:

Russia has deployed long-range Tupolev 22M3 heavy bombers to a military airfield in Iran.  These bombers, already in use against opposition and Islamic State (ISIS) targets in Syria, will have a shorter deployment to target and thus a quicker turnaround time from the Iranian airfield.  The base, Hamedan Airfield, is located in Western Iran near the Iraqi border.

Though openly intended for combat against ISIS and the Syrian opposition, the Russian deployment represents a further cementing of both the growing alliance between Russia and Iran, and of Iran’s strategic defense-in-depth for its nuclear program.  Russia has been securing Iran against a military option should it walk away from its promises on the so-called ‘nuclear deal.’  The reason this is significant is that the deal front-loads Western payments and other benefits for Iran, but becomes less and less sweet as the deal progresses in time.  Iran will obtain large cash payments and assistance in building new fission plants in the first years of the deal, for example.  However, its incentive to continue to abide by the deal is reduced as these benefits are paid off.

Russia’s major contribution to Iran’s strategic defense so far has come in missile sales and protection of Iran’s internal development of ballistic missiles.  The air defense missiles sold by Russia to Iran, the S-300, are thought capable of defeating all fourth generation fighters.  That means Iran should be able to protect itself against all American fighter-bombers except the F-22 and F-35, and the B-2.  It should also be able to protect itself against air strikes by the entire Israeli Air Force fleet.

Their ballistic missiles are wildly inaccurate and carry a small payload, making them ideal only for nuclear weapons use.  Iran however denies any intent to develop nuclear weapons, even though the missiles it is developing are really not sensible for use with any other weapons.  Thus, the frequently-stated claim that these ballistic missiles will provide an offsetting counter-strike capability to Iran is not true.  They are not accurate enough for that.  What would provide a convincing counter-strike capability are Russian heavy bombers operating from Iran in alliance with Iran.

Iran and Russia are using the war against ISIS to reshape control of the northern Middle East in their joint interest.  The failure of the United States strategy has been clear for some time, and this new move only tightens their control.

The news comes a week after it was announced that Iran’s Qassem Suliemani, commander of the elite Quds Force, would be guiding the assault on ISIS positions in Mosul.  Suleimani is under an international travel ban due to his leadership of an Iranian plot to assassinate diplomats worldwide.  His presence in Iraq shows that the Iraqi government is willing to allow Iran to violate international law in order to receive its support.  Syria and Russia have also allowed Suleimani to travel to their countries.

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From Russian outlet, RT:

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Jihadi jumble: Syria’s endless war begins on the Turkish border

The rubble following an airstrike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of al-Kalasa in Aleppo. Picture: Yasser Ibrahim

The rubble following an airstrike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of al-Kalasa in Aleppo. Picture: Yasser Ibrahim

So where is all this heading? Bassam Haji Mustafa, an ethnic Kurd and a senior member of the Islamist Nour al-Din al-Zenki militia group in Aleppo, in conversation with Inquirer, accurately notes the presence of four “projects” in fragmented Syria today — “the Assad regime and its allies; the (Kurdish-led, US-supported) Syrian Democratic Forces; Islamic State; and the rebellion”.

The Australian, by Jonathan Spyer, August 13, 2016:

The town of Gaziantep is located 30km from Turkey’s border with Syria. Over the past five years it has become an epicentre for the unfinished business of the Syrian civil war.

When the history of this most savage of wars is written, there will be a chapter on these dusty border towns and how they came to form way stations for so much of the traffic travelling to or escaping from the killing zones.

I recently visited Gaziantep and the town of Kilis on the border. My purpose was to try to ascertain the current state of the Syrian rebellion against the Assad regime.

Gaziantep in high summer is shimmering in the heat, its many minarets pouring forth the call to prayer. Syrian refugees gather in the evenings to smoke nargileh (hookah) and talk and argue about where things are heading. Deeper down, outside of unaided vision, the complicated politics and logistics of the Syrian war are playing out all around.

Kilis, a short drive south, is the last stop before the war. It feels more Syrian than Turkish. Arabic is spoken everywhere. The apartment blocks with their stone stairs and peeling paint and the tiny shops make it look like a northern Syrian town. The offices of the rebel groups are to be found among them. The shooting begins 5km to the south.

At the beginning of the Syrian war, Gaziantep’s small international airport was one of the main entry points for jihadis from all over the world looking to cross the border to join the fight against Bashar al-Assad. They would arrive in the town, put up in one if its many shabby hotels and await the call from this or that organisation to take the road to Kilis and then across the border. Now the Turkish authorities, pressured by the West, have cracked down on this particular traffic. The airport attack in Istanbul in June cemented the process whereby Islamic State went from tolerated presence in Turkey to deadly enemy.

Islamic State, in invisible form, is in Gaziantep too. Every so often, its presence becomes manifest. In late December, it murdered Naji Jerf, a prominent journalist and critic of the movement, in downtown Gaziantep. Two more people were killed in a suicide bombing in May. “You should be careful here. Its less normal than it feels,” the receptionist tells me with a smile.

Five years since the start of the uprising against the Assad regime, the world’s attention has largely moved on. The war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has sidelined the fight against Assad. What remains of the rebellion is boxed up, frustrated and exhausted, deployed in northwest and southwest Syria, or waiting in these towns across the border in Turkey.

“Of course, if we thought logically, we’d never have begun the revolution,” Yasser Ibrahim of Nour al-Din al-Zenki, one of the Islamist rebel militias, tells Inquirer. “We went out bare-chested in front of the regime. We lost a lot — but we’re continuing.”

They surely are. The Syrian rebels have in recent days broken a government siege on rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo. The rebellion’s entry into Syria’s second city in late 2012 represented perhaps its single most significant advance. The government strangle­hold on the city threatened to reverse this. It lasted a week. So the rebellion is far from broken and remains, despite it all, a potent force.

Where all this is heading, however, is far less clear.

Tangled lines of support
The first and most immediately noticeable element of the Syrian rebellion in northwest Syria is its bewildering variety. An enormous number of rebel groups, all with ringing and grandiose names in Arabic but varying greatly in size and orientation, are engaged. Unity has remained elusive.

The networks of foreign support for the rebels — from the US, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia — are equally confused and confusing. The US maintains a Military Operations Command centre in southern Turkey through which weaponry is supplied to certain vetted rebel militias. There are about 40 such groups. Representatives of Arab and other western countries are also present in the MOC centre.

In a covert operation headed by the CIA, these vetted groups are the beneficiaries of the BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles that have exacted a heavy toll on regime armour in Latakia, Idlib and Aleppo provinces. There are additional lines of support from Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to the powerful Salafi jihadist forces that Washington does not support. ­Finally, there are groups that receive support from the US as well as one or another of these regional players.

But there is no tidy distinction between US-supported and non-US-supported groups, as one might expect. There is a continuum. The groups have the same hierarchy of enemies (Assad at the top, then Islamic State). And they co-operate at ground level. Weaponry finds its way into the hands of the strongest.

The guns and assistance provided by the US and the regional backers have been sufficient to prevent the rebellion from facing defeat at the hands of Assad. But since the Russian intervention, which began in September last year, an outright rebel military victory appears beyond reach.

In the meantime, people on the ground are dying. “The MOC supports us, but the world isn’t seeing the shelling of the schools and children and public buildings by the Russian planes,” says Ezadin al-Salem of the Jabhat al-Shamiya rebel alliance as we sit in his office in Gaziantep.

The rebels, in all their multifarious and confusing variety, are at present locked into two grinding wars of attrition — against Assad and against Islamic State — with no apparent light at the end of the tunnel.

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Jonathan Spyer is a journalist, author and Middle East analyst. Based in Jerusalem, he is director of the Rubin Centre for Research in International Affairs and a fellow at the Middle East Forum

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