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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flynn Resignation Raises Tough Questions for FBI, Intel Services

Michael Flynn

Breitbart, by Joel Pollak, February 14, 2017:

The resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Monday evening raises troubling questions about the role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the intelligence services.

Flynn ostensibly resigned because he provided Vice President Mike Pence with “incomplete information” about a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador, which turned out to include a discussion of recent sanctions, contrary to his earlier denials. Trust is crucial; the resignation was warranted.

That said, the sanctions were largely bogus, and were applied not just to punish Russia for spying on the U.S. (both countries clearly spy on each other), but to substantiate the Democratic Party’s sore-loser conspiracy theory that Russia was responsible for electing Donald Trump.

There is no concrete evidence to support that theory, and there is no evidence (yet) that Flynn did anything but discuss sanctions in the most general terms. He did not break the Logan Act, nor any other law, apparently.

Whether Flynn deliberately concealed the contents of his conversation from Vice President Pence, or merely forgot what had been said, he was “caught” because the Department of Justice had been eavesdropping on the conversation. And one of the officials responsible for ordering the eavesdropping was none other than Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who forced President Trump to fire her when she defied her duty to enforce his executive order on immigration, however, controversial.

Four possibilities emerge. One, which the media and the Democrats (largely one and the same) clearly believe, is that Flynn really was a potential Russian plant, perhaps indicating much deeper Russian penetration of the campaign and administration.

A second possibility is that things really are what they seem, on the surface, to be. Russia’s unusual response to the sanctions — declining to retaliate — was so bizarre that it warranted investigation, which then raised legitimate suspicions about Flynn.

The remaining possibilities are more worrying. The third explanation is that President Obama deliberately, and cleverly, used the bogus sanctions as a “blue dye” test to expose which strings Russia might try to pull to relieve them. Flynn, with a prior relationship with the Russian government, may have been a natural, innocuous point of contact — or perhaps something more.

The fourth and most worrying explanation is that the government was not merely monitoring the communications of Russian diplomats, but of the Trump transition team itself. The fact that the contents of Flynn’s phone conversation — highly sensitive intelligence — were leaked to the media suggests that someone with access to that information also has a political axe to grind.

Democrats are clamoring for a deeper investigation of Russian ties to Trump. But the more serious question is whether our nation’s intelligence services were involved in what amounts to political espionage against the newly-elected government.

We know that there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of federal bureaucrats already using shadow communications systems. How far does that “shadow government” go?

The FBI, CIA and other agencies ought to reassure Congress, or come clean.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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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.

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Congress Seeks Fight Over Obama Effort to Give Iran Access to US Markets

The Capitol in Washington is illuminated during a thunderstorm with the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building reflected on the rain-covered windows, late Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 24, 2016.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Capitol in Washington is illuminated during a thunderstorm with the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building reflected on the rain-covered windows, late Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, March 28, 2016:

Leading foreign policy voices in Congress say they are preparing to fight against an Obama administration effort to provide Iran unprecedented access to U.S. financial resources as part of an expanded package meant to address new demands from the Islamic Republic’s for greater economic concessions, according to several conversations between the Washington Free Beacon and top lawmakers.

The Obama administration is currently exploring new options to grant Iran more sanctions relief than promised under the comprehensive nuclear agreement reached last year, just days after Iran’s Supreme Leader gave a speech accusing the United States of interfering with Iranian banking.

Top foreign policy voices in Congress told the Free Beacon in recent days that they are exploring a range of responses if the Obama administration goes through with reported plans to grant Iran further concessions beyond the purview of the nuclear deal, which dismantled key nuclear-related U.S. sanctions against Iran. At least part of this action could violate current U.S. laws, they said.

The planned concessions could include access to the U.S. dollar and financial markets, which the Obama administration promised would never take place under the deal, according to recent disclosures first reported by the Associated Press.

The Iranian government has recently heightened complaints that it is not being granted enough relief from international economic sanctions as a result of the recently implemented nuclear deal.

The Obama administration’s latest move to placate the Iranians comes on the heels of a Free Beaconreport last week disclosing that U.S. officials engaged in secret talks with Iran for years before agreeing in January to pay it nearly $2 billion in taxpayer funds.

The reports have generated harsh responses from lawmakers, who say that the administration’s plans would endanger American economic influence and put the entire international financial system at risk from Iran’s illicit finance and money laundering activities.

“Any administration effort to get foreign financial institutions or foreign-based clearing houses to enable Iran’s terror-sponsoring regime to conduct transactions in U.S. dollars ignores American laws and the Financial Action Task Force,” Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) told the Free Beacon.

“Such an effort would benefit Iran’s terror financiers while fundamentally undermining the USA PATRIOT ACT 311 finding that Iran’s entire financial sector is a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern,” Kirk said.

It would also undermine “the Financial Action Task Force’s ongoing calls for international countermeasures to protect financial sectors from Iran’s terrorist financing,” explained Kirk, who is backing a new effort in Congress to increase sanctions on Iran as a result of its recent ballistic missile tests, which violate United Nations resolutions.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, warned that the Obama administration’s latest move could set the stage for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, or IRGC, to gain a foothold in the U.S. economy.

“As if a windfall of over $100 billion in sanctions relief was too small, and the massive cash influx into Iran from new business deals too paltry, President Obama appears to be looking for ways to make further concessions to Iran,” said Pompeo, who also has backed new legislation to sanction Iran. “This would be comical if it wasn’t so dangerous.”

“American and international businesses can’t ignore the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ vast control of the Iranian economy and the threat Iranian banks pose to the international financial system,” Pompeo continued in a statement to the Free Beacon.

“In contrast with the absurd policies of the Obama administration, I work with my colleagues in Congress to protect America’s national security interests—just as we have in response to Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests.”

Pompeo is independently investigating the Obama administration’s recent $1.7 billion payment to Iran, which he and others viewed as a “ransom payment” for the Islamic Republic’s recent release of several captured Americans.

Other longtime Iran critics in Congress also expressed concern over administration efforts to provide Iran with even more economic freedom.

“Further sanctions relief would mark the death knell for U.S. sanctions and would represent a boon to the Iranian regime and its Revolutionary Guard Corp,” Rep. Ron DeSantis, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Free Beacon. “The lengths to which the Obama administration is willing to go to empower Iran is breathtaking.”

Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) explained that the “administration has lost all credibility on Iran” as a result of its efforts to accommodate Iranian demands.

“President Obama and Secretary Kerry have played the pied piper so many times now,” Roskam told the Free Beacon. “Western companies have to make the determination themselves whether or not they want to make their employees and shareholders complicit in funding terrorism.”

When asked to comment on concerns in Congress, a State Department official told the Free Beaconthat it is aware of lawmaker requests for more information on “additional sanctions relief.”

The official added that as long as Iran continues to adhere to the nuclear agreement, the United States “will continue” to do the same.

Obama administration officials first guaranteed last year that Iran would not be permitted to conduct foreign transactions in dollars. This promise, however, is being reevaluated as the administration seeks to keep Iran from walking away from the nuclear deal.

Obama Joins Israel Boycott, Labels West Bank Goods

Associated Press

Associated Press

Breitbart, by Jordan Schachtel, Jan. 28, 2016:

In a step towards joining an Israel boycott, the U.S. is now requiring goods originating from the West Bank (also known as Judea and Samaria) to be labeled separately from products from the rest of Israel, following the European Union’s crackdown on products from the disputed territories.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection service, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has issued new mandates requiring that West Bank products not be marked “Israel,” citing a notice from the year 1997 that offers such instructions.

The memo from DHS, titled, “West Bank Country of Origin Marking Requirements,” reads:

“The purpose of this message is to provide guidance to the trade community regarding the country of origin marking requirements for goods that are manufactured in the West Bank.”

According to the instructions, “It is not acceptable to mark” goods from the West Bank as having been from “Israel,” “Made in Israel,” or from “Occupied Territories-Israel.”

In its statement, U.S. Customs threatens, “goods that are erroneously marked as products of Israel will be subject to an enforcement action carried out by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”

“Goods entering the United States must conform to the U.S. marking statute and regulations promulgated thereunder,” the statement adds.

Groups advocating “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” (BDS) against Israel have demanded separate labeling of Israeli goods from the West Bank and the Golan Heights as a step toward a total boycott of Israeli products.

Israel maintains that under international law, the West Bank is “disputed,” and not “occupied,” since there was no legitimate sovereign in the territory when Israel took control of it in self-defense after Jordan attacked Israel in 1967.

Many of the products that will be affected are made within areas of the West Bank, such as the Etzion bloc, are likely to be part of Israel under any peace agreement.

The new instructions were published by DHS over the weekend, following complaints from Palestinian and fringe leftist outfits that the U.S. was not complying with a 1995 law that calls for the marking of goods from the West Bank, Israel National News reports.

In November, the European Union mandated the labeling of Israeli products from the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Critics, including presidential candidates, have argued the labeling of products only from “Israeli areas” of the West Bank, and not Palestinian-controlled territories, is a discriminatory and anti-Semitic act.

The EU now refuses to allow the label “Made in Israel” on products made anywhere outside of the pre-1967 lines.

Following the implementation of EU labeling mandates, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the actions an “exceptional and discriminatory step.”

“This will not advance peace; it will certainly not advance truth and justice,” he added.

Last week, the State Department effectively endorsed the anti-Israel labeling measures.

On Wednesday, to mark Holocaust Remembrance day, President Obama pledged to confront worldwide anti-Semitism:

“Here, tonight, we must confront the reality that around the world, anti-Semitism is on the rise. We cannot deny it,” he said from the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

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Cruz Pressures Congressional Leadership to Delay Iran Deal Vote

Ted Cruz / AP

Ted Cruz / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, September 10, 2015:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) is petitioning the Republican leadership to delay an upcoming vote in Congress on the recent Iranian nuclear agreement due to what he says is the Obama administration’s failure to provide lawmakers with all documents pertaining to the deal, according to a copy of a letter sent by Cruz on Thursday.

Cruz, in a letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and Rep. John Boehner (R., Ohio), urged the top Republicans to delay the vote and instead work to tighten sanctions on Iran in order to prevent it from receiving billions of dollars promised to it by the Obama administration.

Cruz lays out three legal maneuvers that could be used to delay congressional action on the deal—thereby stalling it—and prevent the Obama administration from unilaterally lifting U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The Republican presidential candidate also threatens to take legal action against the CEOs of leading banks should they comply with the Obama administration’s order to unfreeze Iranian assets, which Cruz argues is illegal.

Iran is set to receive around $150 billion in sanctions relief. International restrictions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and its top leaders also would be lifted as part of the deal.

Cruz suggests that, by not submitting documents related to side deals made between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the administration has failed to comply with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. “Therefore,” Cruz argues, “the 60-day clock for congressional review has not yet begun to run. And, critically, as a result, federal law prohibits the Obama administration from lifting sanctions.”

The issue of secret side deals made between Iran and the IAEA has been a key sticking point for critics of the deal. The United States is not permitted to know the details of these side deals, which govern inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites, and Iran has threatened to harm any IAEA official who discloses the nature of the agreements.

Cruz goes on to suggest that McConnell “introduce a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that, if the agreement had been introduced as a treaty, it should not be ratified,” according to the letter.” This will put everyone on record and will make clear that there is insufficient support in the Senate for approving the agreement as a treaty.”

As a last resort, U.S. banks could be held legally liable for unfreezing Iranian assets, which Cruz calls a violation of U.S. law.

“We can assume, based on his past practice, that President Obama will simply ignore the law and declare that he is lifting sanctions under the agreement anyway,” Cruz writes.” On that assumption, we should make clear to the CEOs of banks holding frozen Iranian funds that their misplaced reliance on the president’s lawlessness would not necessarily excuse them from the obligation to comply with existing federal sanctions laws.”

“And if they release billions in funds to Khamenei, they risk billions in civil (and possibly even criminal) liability once President Obama leaves office,” the letter continues. “Having spent years advising major corporations in private practice, I can tell you that their general counsels will likely tell them their legal exposure is real, which could well result in the banks deciding not to release the funds to Iran, the president’s lawless waivers notwithstanding.”

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OBAMA’S SWINDLE: CONGRESS CUT OUT OF THE IRAN DEAL

AP/Susan Walsh

AP/Susan Walsh

Breitbart, by Joel Pollak, July 17, 2015:

President Barack Obama’s announcement that he will approach the UN Security Council to approve the nuclear deal with Iran, and rescind past resolutions and international sanctions, before Congress approves the agreement, came as something of a surprise to many. When Congress passed Sen. Bob Corker’s Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, and President Obama signed it into law in May, the public understanding was that Congress would have the final say.

It turns out that the President had no such intention. He is exploiting a loophole in the law, which states that the Act only applies to “statutory sanctions”—i.e. those passed by Congress. Other sanctions are within the power of the president to impose or remove. (There is another loophole, too: even statutory sanctions have a waiver provision that allows the president to remove them for reasons of national security.) Corker is reportedly angry, but there is nothing that he can do.

At the time the Corker bill was passed, critics (including this author) focused on the fact that the bill lowered the threshold for passing an international agreement. Instead of requiring a two-thirds majority for approval in the Senate, the Iran deal would now require a simple majority for approval in both houses, and a two-thirds majority to rejectthe deal by overriding the president’s veto.

Other critics, notably Andrew C. McCarthy, warned that the text President Obama gave to Congress would not necessarily be the one that he submitted to the UN Security Council.

But even that criticism assumed Obama would present the Iran deal to Congress first. Instead, he is going to the UN first, avoiding Congress entirely regarding core aspects of the deal.

That means that when Congress considers the deal, it will not be able to review the entire agreement. Certain aspects will be out of its hands and impossible to reverse.

Moreover, if Congress rejects the deal, it will not be able to send world powers back to the negotiating table. The best it can to is retain the sanctions the U.S. has imposed unilaterally—yet the president can still use waivers to lift those.

Unless the UN vote is delayed, there is only one way for Congress to exercise its full oversight powers on the Iran deal: the agreement could be introduced into the Senate as a treaty. That is the only way to stop Obama from implementing the agreement. But that, in turn, depends on Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell allowing such a vote to come to the floor—which he will not.

The problem remains that under the Corker bill, it does not matter whether Congress rejects the Iran deal. Obama will use what he claims to be his executive powers to implement the deal, regardless.

The battle on Capitol Hill may still be worth having, because a deal that fails in Congress will lack legitimacy, especially if two-thirds both houses overrides Obama’s veto. That would embolden Obama’s successor to end the deal, as some Republicans have vowed to do.

Realistically, however, there is only a small chance that a Republican president would revoke the Iran deal unilaterally in 2017, even if he or she could overcome international pressure to retain it, since doing so would provoke Iran to withdraw from the deal and race to the bomb.

The real purpose of the congressional fight over the Iran deal, then, is twofold.

First, Congress must expose the weaknesses of the deal, as well as the many blatant lies told by Obama and his toadies.

For example, there are no “anywhere, anytime” inspections, as promised to us by Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. We are now told by Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman that these promises were just “rhetorical flourishes,” and we have also learned U.S. inspectors will be barred from even entering Iran.

Obama and his hapless team must own this terrible deal—and must be publicly shamed for it, to deter future presidents from the disastrous course of appeasement with America’s sworn enemies.

The second purpose—unspoken, perhaps unwitting thus far—is to prepare the basis for Israel to take unilateral action.

By exposing the Iran deal as a fraud, Congress can lay the foundation for Israel’s later arguments justifying a pre-emptive strike on Iran. It is a cop-out: the U.S. is better able to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, and Israel bears greater risk of retaliation. But it may be the only way to use this calamitous episode in U.S. foreign policy to any positive effect.

Once it is clear to all that the Iran deal is a sham, but that Obama is determined to implement it anyway, the most difficult question will be managing U.S.-Israel relations once Israel strikes.

Will Obama wink and nod? Or will he punish Israel? The time to consider those questions is now.

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