About the author  ⁄ Adam Turner

Adam Turner is the general counsel & legislative affairs director for the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

The roots of the latest Iran-U.S. crisis go back to 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump walked away from the Iranian nuclear deal, one of the signature achievements of his predecessor Barack Obama, and re-imposed harsh sanctions on the country.

(CNN, Bianca Britton, June 25, 2019)

This talking point from the media is getting old, fast.

It is also completely untrue. The “roots of the Iran-U.S. crisis” go back much further than 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump removed America from the flawed JCPOA and re-imposed sanctions. In reality, they go back to 1979, when the current Iranian regime seized and abused American hostages.

The real reason that the United States, and the world at large, is facing a crisis with Iran is because the current Iranian regime is, and always has been, a radical, evil, violent and terror-supporting Islamist regime.

Let us focus on just one brutal example.

In 1985, Robert Stethem, a U.S. Navy diver, was on TWA Flight 847, returning from a project in Greece. That flight was hijacked by Hezbollah, a foreign-designated terrorist group in Lebanon that is “Revolutionary Iran’s most successful export,” as it is largely funded and largely controlled by the Iranian regime.

During the hijacking, Stethem and other U.S. military personnel were singled out for punishment as the flight flew back and forth to various airports. Stethem was tied up with elastic baggage straps and beaten a number of times. The straps were so tight that at one point, he cried out. Besides using their fists and feet, the hijackers beat Stethem with an armrest torn from a seat with sharp metal screws on the outside. When he collapsed, nearly unconscious, one of the hijackers jumped up and down on his ribs. After the first beating, Stethem, barely able to walk, was helped back to the coach section with several broken ribs and one hand completely numb. He had to be fed by another passenger.

In the evening, the Hezbollah hijackers brought Stethem back to the front of the airplane for another beating. He was again bound and blindfolded. Sometime after 2:30 a.m. in Beirut, the hijackers shot Robert Stethem—the bullet piercing his head behind the right ear and exiting on the other side of his head. One fellow passenger stated that “there were terrible blood-curdling screams … it was a long scream … I heard this three times, and I’ll never forget it.” The hijackers then tossed Stethem, still moaning, out the door and down onto the runway, where he lived in pain for another 10 minutes.

The current regime in Iran and Hezbollah are solely responsible for the 1985 torture and murder of Robert Stethem. That is because the current regime in Iran is led by the very same people who founded or supported the Islamic Republic in 1979, created Hezbollah in the 1980s, and ordered Hezbollah and other proxies to conduct acts of terrorism. The current Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was president of Iran in 1985. The current Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, was another one of the founders of the regime and an official of it in 1985. The current foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who charms Western audiences with his supposed “moderation,” was a diplomat of that regime in 1985.

Robert Stethem’s torture and murder is not the only such criminal conduct by the Iranian regime or its proxies. At this point, there are (at least) tens of thousands of victims of Iranian sponsored terror. Just focusing on the United States, Iran has killed hundreds of innocent victims. In the 2000s, it was responsible for the deaths of more than 600 American soldiers who were murdered in Iraq by Iranian IEDs. In the 1980s and 1990s, besides Stethem, Hezbollah killed more Americans than any other terrorist group.

A nation that sponsors and directs such terrorism is an inherently evil regime.

So, when a news agency or foreign government claims that legal, moral and non-violent U.S. actions are the root cause of a U.S-Iranian crisis, where the Iranian regime has conducted illegal, violent and immoral actions—in this case, Iranian directed attacks on innocent international shipping and innocent foreigners—they are just plain wrong. The root cause of this crisis is that the Iranian regime is an evil regime that sponsors violence and terrorism.

Violence and terrorism that can kill innocent people, like Robert Stethem.

That is the “root of the Iran-U.S.” crisis.

Originally published: https://www.jns.org/opinion/ever-hear-of-robert-stethem-of-how-he-was-treated-by-the-iranians/

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Photo: EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

Many critics of the Trump administration have made the argument that the U.S. decision to remove itself from the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) and to reimpose sanctions on Iran has unnecessarily provoked Iran.

Supposedly, it is because of these unnecessary provocations that the Iranian regime has unleashed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and its Iranian proxy terror groups on international shipping in the PersiaGulf, the Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea, thereby endangering the world’s oil supply. They have also prompted the IRGC to shoot down a U.S. drone.

However, this argument is simply not true.

First of all, legally and morally speaking, it makes no sense to blame the U.S. for the Iranian regime’s aggression.

That is because we don’t assign blame to the non-violent party for “provoking” the intentional violent actions of the other party, under U.S. law, or under international law. Otherwise, we would be encouraging and excusing violence. And regardless of whether you agree with these actions, removing the U.S. from a political document like the JCPOA — which is not even an executive agreement — and re-imposing U.S. sanctions are both legal and non-violent acts.

Perhaps another example will make it clearer.

Osama Bin Laden declared war against the U.S. in 1998, citing a number of reasons. Among them — the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia, U.S. support of Israel, and the economic sanctions the U.S. imposed after the 1991 Gulf War against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Does that mean that the U.S., which indeed did these three things, provoked the September 11, 2001 attacks? No serious person would ever make this argument.

Second, since the founding of the Iranian regime in 1979, the regime has consistently supported terrorism against the U.S. and other nations. Thus, the regime’s support for terror far precedes both U.S. sanctions and the JCPOA.

The State Department has long listed Iran as the “leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

In the 80’s, Iran set up, and directed, Hezbollah, a Lebanese terror group. Hezbollah bombed the U.S. marine barracks in Beirut and killed 241 American servicemen who had been sent to Lebanon for peacekeeping purposes. Pretty much simultaneously, Hezbollah also bombed another building in Beirut, which killed 58 French soldiers.

Also, during the late 80’s, Iran went after international oil shipping with mines, one of which struck a U.S. ship, injuring U.S. sailors. This prompted the U.S. to respond with Operation Praying Mantis, which resulted in the destruction of Iranian ships and other assets. In 1996, Hezbollah bombed the Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, murdering another 19 U.S. servicemen. During the U.S. occupation of Iraq (from 2003 to the present), at least 600 hundred American soldiers were killed by roadside bombs or other weapons that were constructed, and supplied, by Iran to Iraqi rebels. The Iranian regime also has supported the Taliban in Afghanistan, going so far as to offer to pay $1,000 for each U.S. soldier killed.

Soldiers from many other nations, including the United KingdomAustralia, and Canada, have also suffered casualties in Afghanistan as a result of Iranian actions.

Even during the time between the announcement of the JCPOA, and the Trump administration’s removal from it, the Iranian regime was still committing acts of violence against the U.S. and other nations. As mentioned above, the Iranian regime continued to supply terrorists in Afghanistan that killed U.S. and other troops. The Iranians also seized more U.S. — and other nation’s — hostages, to replace hostages ransomed the same day as the deal went into effect.

The Iranians were aggressive in the Persian Gulf, with U.S. forces operating in and around the Strait of Hormuz often being approached by Iranian warships and aircraft in an “unsafe or unprofessional manner.” This happened 22 times in 2015, 36 times in 2016, and 14 times in 2017, before stopping in 2018. A U.S. Navy ship once had to fire warning shots to ward off IRGC boats. Another time, the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fired two missiles at a U.S. Navy destroyer operating in the Red Sea — though neither missile hit the ship. Many of the missiles supposedly fired by the Houthis may have been fired by the IRGC or Hezbollah. The Iranian regime also seized U.S. sailors from two small ships. And there have been at least two assassination plots in Europe that were broken up over this time.

Third, it is completely irrational to blame the U.S., or any other country for that matter, for Iranian violence, because the Iranian regime has an ideology that actually supports and encourages terror attacks and violence.
The Iranian regime is driven by an expansionist doctrine to export the Iranian Revolution.

Iranian IRGC-Quds Force Commander Qassem Suleimani has admitted, “We are witnessing the export of the Iranian Revolution throughout the region, from Bahrain and Iraq to Syria, Yemen, and North Africa.”
Further, Iran’s leadership, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are “convinced that the End of Days has come… (and) the Shia messiah… will appear soon to establish a global Islamic kingdom known as the caliphate. What’s more, they believe the way to hasten the coming of the Twelfth Imam is to annihilate Israel (which they call the “Little Satan”), and the United States (which they call the “Great Satan”).”

The Iranian regime has had a long and consistent history of violent actions directed against the U.S. and other nations. To blame the U.S., or any other nation — especially one that is a victim of Iranian regime sponsored violence — for any of that violence is both morally wrong and erroneous.

Originally published: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/iran-jcpoa-terrorism/2019/07/08/id/923739/
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Photo: File: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

Many experts and government officials have argued that the U.S. (and its allies) should renegotiate a stronger Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with the Islamist regime in Iran. They often make the argument that — as President John F. Kennedy once memorably said — we should “never fear to negotiate.”

I am not sure I agree with this argument.

Dialogue is just one tool of statecraft. For that reason, it should never be categorically excluded. However, in every situation, there must be an evaluation of the context, to see if it would be a positive or a negative at this moment.

Is the U.S. negotiating from a position of strength or weakness? Is the opponent both willing and able to really compromise? Are there any downsides to negotiating?

Let’s examine these three questions as they currently relate to Iran and the JCPOA.

There is no question that today, the U.S. is acting from a position of strength.

After removing the U.S. from the JCPOA, the Trump Administration has re-imposed sanctions — and imposed new sanctions — on Iran. The U.S. has placed sanctions on Iran’s petrochemicals, such as ammonia, methanol and urea, and oil, shipping, bankinggold and other precious metals, such as steel, iron, aluminum and copper.

As a result of this “maximum pressure,” Iran’s economy has slipped into recession. Inflation has gone up to 32% and unemployment is over 12%. 70% of Iranian factories, workshops and mines have been forced to shut down or have gone bankrupt. The IMF has reported that Iran’s economy shrunk by 3.9% in 2018, and has predicted that the Iranian economy will shrink by 6% in 2019.

Because of all of this economic pressure, many Iranians have taken to the streets to protest the Iranian government’s mismanagement of the economy, its corruption, and its decision to send much of the money it earned from the Iran deal to terror groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and Yemen.

At demonstrations, some Iranian civilian protestors have chanted “Death to Palestine” and “Leave Syria, think of us,” according to independent videos showing the protests.

The U.S. also has developed a credible military threat against the Iranian regime.

The U.S. has a sizable military force in the region, and recently responded to the Iranian and Iranian proxy threats and/or actual violence by sending another 2,500 troops to the Middle East, and a new carrier battle group.

Perhaps more importantly, President Trump has shown he is not afraid to use force against a rogue regime. Of crucial importance was Trump’s decision to bomb the Assad regime in Syria for their use of chemical weapons. As many should remember, President Obama initially drew that red line in Syria, but then he backed down from enforcing it. This made the U.S. look weak throughout the region.

Unfortunately, the Iranian regime is very unlikely to really compromise on its drive to develop nuclear weapons. Certainly, the culture of the Iranian regime theocrats, and that of Iranians themselves, does not favor compromise. As Bernard Lewis has written, the Iranian regime is comprised of “a group of extreme fanatical Muslims who believe that their messianic times have arrived… with these people in Iran, mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent factor, but rather an inducement. They feel that they can hasten the final messianic process.”

And, as Harold Rhode has written, “In Iran, compromise is seen as a sign of submission and weakness. Compromise actually brings shame on those (and on the families of those) who concede.”

Further, there is a logic to Iran producing nuclear weapons.

The Iranian regime realizes that if it develops nuclear weapons, the regime will be unassailable. The people of Iran won’t be able to revolt and remove them. And no nation, whether it be the U.S., Israel, or Saudi Arabia, will be able to attack them without risking nuclear annihilation. The Iranian regimes knows this, as it has seen and learned from the contrasting examples of the communist regime in North Korea, and the Qaddafi regime in Libya.

And finally, as Michael Rubin has laid out in his book, “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes,” the Iranian regime has had a long history of rebuffing U.S. and European attempts at diplomacy, or fooling the diplomats with illusionary agreements and vague promises, including with the JCPOA. There is a reason that Iranians are well known for their haggling prowess and the bazaar. It is extremely unlikely that this time, under President Trump, it will be any different.

There is also a huge risk to engaging with the Iranian regime diplomatically at this point in time. Olli Heinonen, the former deputy head of the UN’s atomic watchdog — the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — has said that despite assertions to the contrary by the current leadership of the IAEA, Tehran has not been adhering to the 2015 nuclear deal; Iran is actually weaponizing uranium enrichment without making a weapon, and could amass within six to eight months the amount of enriched uranium needed to produce nuclear weapons, “if they put in their maximum effort.”

Presumably, Iran would continue this development during any period of negotiations. Even worse, new negotiations between the U.S. and Iran would probably result in at least a partial suspension of sanctions. This would give the Iranian regime even more money to spend on its development of nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, at this point in time, negotiations with the Iranian regime are extremely unlikely to be successful. Negotiating with them would simply give the regime more time to develop nuclear weapons. Instead, I would advise the Trump administration to continue its “maximum pressure” strategy, and to try to collapse the Iranian regime. The U.S. should also fund some of the anti-regime Iranian groups. Aside from military action, that is probably the only way to prevent the radical Iranian regime from eventually building, and using, a nuclear weapon.

Originally published: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/iran-jcpoa-deal-negotiate/2019/06/20/id/921277/

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Recently, the United States designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization. The U.S. decision was predicated on the fact that the IRGC “actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft.”

Although it is unusual for the U.S. to designate the arm of a nation as a terrorist organization, this action was not unprecedented. The U.S. had already designated part of the IRGC, the Quds Force, for its sponsorship of terrorism.

Needless to say, the Iranian regime was not happy with this decision. Prior to the decision, Iranian officials warned of a “crushing” response should the United States go ahead with the designation.

After the designation was made, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei labeled it “a vicious move,” and the Iranian Armed Forces’ general staff, which oversees the IRGC, said it would “use all its means to fight” against the U.S.’ CENTCOM, which Iranian lawmakers promptly voted to declare was a terrorist organization. An IRGC commander also warned “Mr. Trump, tell your warships not to pass near the Revolutionary Guards boats.”

These threats produced the desired result among the foreign policy experts. Dennis Ross, who has worked for every American President from George H. W. Bush to Barack Obama, warned that “(the designation of the IRGC) is likely to produce an Iranian response. Most likely in Iraq, where the Iranians will push on the vulnerability of our presence both politically and militarily. The former, by pushing in the parliament legislation forcing the US to leave; the latter, by potentially having its Shia militia proxies attack American forces and by building their rocket presence in western Iraq.”

The only problem with this argument is that the Iranian’s and their terror allies already have a long history of making threats against the U.S., and, oftentimes, following through on those threats.

Starting in 1979, the Iranian regime began to sponsor demonstrations in Iran where crowds chanted “Death to America.” At least two times each year this occurs — every November, to commemorate the taking of the American hostages in 1979, and every February, to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought the current Iranian regime to power.

And the Iranian regime was not making idle threats.

In the 1980’s, the IRGC created Hezbollah in Lebanon. Prior to 9/11, Hezbollah had the distinction of having killed more U.S. citizens than any other terror organization. Most significantly, in 1983, Hezbollah’s bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut murdered 241 American Marines and others.

In 1996, IRGC-sponsored terrorists detonated a load of 15 tons of explosives, killing 19 U.S. military personnel at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.

In 2001, the IRGC played a role in the 9/11 attack. In 2004, a U.S. court held that the IRGC was liable for the deaths of 1,008 people whose families sued, because Iran provided assistance, including training, to the 9/11 hijackers.

From 2003 to 2011, the IRGC provided Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), including the more deadly Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs), and other equipment and training to Iraqi militias, which resulted in the deaths of at least 608 American soldiers. Many of these Iraqi militiamen are now part of the Popular Mobilization Forces that Iran is using to build its influence in Iraq.

Since 2011, there have been fewer Iranian sponsored attacks in Iraq against the U.S., although they have not ceased. In 2018, one of the Iraqi militias, trained and funded by Tehran, fired mortars into an area in Baghdad close to the U.S. embassy.

Also during this time period, but continuing through today, Iran, which had previously opposed the Sunni Muslim Taliban in Afghanistan, reversed course to support and train them. This assistance, which again includes IEDs and EFPs, has resulted in many U.S. deaths. Most disturbingly, Iran has put an actual bounty on the head of U.S. soldiers, paying Taliban fighters $1,000 for each one they kill. Thousands of Americans, both soldiers and contractors, have been killed in Afghanistan, although there is no estimate of the number of deaths caused by Iran.

Even when the Iranians were negotiating the Iran deal with the U.S. under President Obama, they did not cease their threats or aggression towards the U.S. A few weeks after the Iran deal, the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, tweeted a graphic of President Obama with a gun to his head. A few months later, Khamenei declared that the “U.S. is the embodiment of the enemy of the Islamic peoples and of Iran. It must be fought with military, cultural, economic, and political jihad, he said, adding that Islamic Iran is not interested in reconciling with it.”

And once again, during those immediate post-deal years, the Iranian navy was increasingly aggressive against the U.S. Navy. U.S. forces operating in and around the Strait of Hormuz were often approached by Iranian warships and aircraft in an “unsafe or unprofessional manner.” According to the Navy, this happened 22 times in 2015, 36 times in 2016, and 14 times in 2017, before stopping in 2018. At one point, the Iranians even violated international law by grabbing two U.S. Navy ships and ten sailors until releasing them the next day. While in custody the sailors were, intimidatedhumiliated and made to “apologize.”

Since 1979, the Iranian regime has been the leading state sponsor of terror, which hates and targets the United States and its interests. The Iranian regime created the IRGC to sponsor and fund this terror. By designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, the Trump administration is just recognizing that reality. This is a smart decision; it would have been ludicrous for the U.S. to refrain from designating the IRGC because it feared threats of terror and violence coming from a nation and its organ that is already threatening and attacking the U.S.

Originally published: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/iran-irgc-foreign-terrorist-organization/2019/05/06/id/914742/

Photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

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Photo: (John Grummitt/Dreamstime.com

Recently, the Trump administration made news by breaking with fifty years of U.S. policy and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The Golan Heights, of course, is mountainous territory that Israel conquered in a defensive war from Syria back in 1967. Israel extended Israeli law to the area in 1980, thereby annexing it.

Periodically, those in the peace process camp would propose that Israel trade the Golan for peace with the Assad regime. Luckily, Israel never did so; otherwise, today the Islamic Republic of Iran would be stationing its men and missiles on the Heights, and threatening not just Israel, but Jordan as well. But even though the U.S. had a national interest in keeping the Israelis in the Golan, it took President Trump, with his willingness to go against the conventional wisdom, to recognize the reality of the situation, and stop being afraid of the (supposedly) explosive “Arab Street.”

Recognizing reality is a good thing. And we need a whole lot more of it, when it comes to the Middle East. All too often, foreign policy makers in the U.S. get stuck in the past, and refuse to reevaluate policies that have long since become moot or counterproductive.

Here is one example: in 2005, after the (likely) Hezbollah orchestrated assassination of Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri, the people of that nation — including most religious groups in Lebanon, with the possible exception of the Shia community — went to the streets to protest the continuing occupation of Lebanon by Syria, and to demand more democracy. As a result, Syrian troops were pulled out, and eventually, Saad Hariri, Rafik’s son, became Prime Minister. Hezbollah, the terrorist militia that Iran had established in Lebanon, which was aligned with the Syrians, was weakened considerably.

In 2006, to build on these positive developments, the U.S. began supplying military aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).

U.S. policy makers hoped that this aid, which over the years has included Hellfire missiles, A 29 Super Tocano aircraft, and M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, would help to make the LAF a powerful counterbalance to Hezbollah. This should not be surprising, as Hezbollah is a bitter enemy of the U.S., having more American blood on its hands than any other terror group excepting al-Qaeda.

In the end, however, the LAF proved to be no match for Hezbollah.

Today, Hezbollah basically controls the Lebanese nation, and the LAF has essentially become an “auxiliary” of the terror militia. The cooperation between Hezbollah and the LAF has become so close that the two sometimes patrol the same villages togethershare uniforms and equipment, and conduct joint military operations.

But the U.S. continues to provide military aid to the LAF, a total of $1.7 billion so far.

If Hezbollah goes to war against Israel, as Hezbollah often threatens to do, it is likely that U.S. military equipment will be used by that terror organization against our strongest democratic ally in the Middle East. Needless to say, this is not in line with the United States’ national interest.

Here is another example; prior to the 2000’s, Turkey was a strong NATO partner of the U.S. But beginning in 2003, when (now) President Recep Erdogan first gained power, that nation slowly began to turn against the U.S., and against the West and democracy itself.

In 2003, Turkey refused to allow the U.S. to use the Incirlik military in the invasion of Iraq.

Since then, Turkey has violated international oil sanctions on Iran, allowed men and supplies to flow through Turkey to reinforce the Islamic State, and now threatens to buy the S-400 missile system from Russia. Plus, Turkey continues to attack U.S. allies in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces, because the SDF started as a Kurdish militia, and Erdogan hates and fears the Kurds. Turkey also routinely threatens other U.S. allies, like Greece and Israel. Turkey has even grabbed American hostages.

Yet many in the U.S. government continue to pretend Turkey is still a trusted ally of the U.S. Both President Trump, and former President Obama, have relied on President Erdogan’s advice when formulating U.S. foreign policy. Reportedly, Erdogan was able to persuade President Trump to call for the removal of all the U.S. troops from Syria, which would have given Turkey the opportunity to invade and crush the SDF. Fortunately, President Trump reconsidered his decision.

Had this troop removal taken place, it would have been a huge mistake by the U.S. The U.S. had gone to great trouble to persuade the SDF to be the ground forces against the Islamic State in Raqqa and elsewhere in Syria. If, after the completion of that war against the physical caliphate (but with ISIS still a threat), the U.S. then abandoned the SDF to the Turks, the word would have gone out that the U.S. was not a loyal ally. Further, unlike in Afghanistan or Iraq, there was little pressure on the administration to remove these troops, as there have been few casualties since they were sent to Syria in 2014. Finally, by keeping the U.S. troops there, other enemy nations like Iran, Russia, and the Assad forces are blocked from expanding their areas of control in Syria.

The U.S. needs to recognize the reality of Lebanon and Turkey. At this time, both nations are led by enemies of the United States. President Trump needs to act accordingly.

Originally published: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/lebanon-turkey-golan-heights-trump/2019/04/03/id/910048/

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Recently, the CIA Director, Gina Haspel, and the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, made news by testifying before Congress regarding Iran.

During the hearing, Haspel stated that Iran, “at the moment, technically they’re in compliance” with the deal. Coats said, “We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.”

I would love to know their evidence for these assertions.

For one thing, we already know of many Iranian violations (or likely violations) of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA). The Iranians have produced excess heavy water, illegally, at least twice, which they sold for profit. The Iranians have exceeded the limits on advanced centrifuge research and development, by assembling more than a half dozen IR-8 rotor assemblies and operating 13-15 IR-6 centrifuges in a single cascade. (Luckily, their efforts have largely been a failure.) Iran is likely violating Section T of the deal, which explicitly bans Iran from “activities which could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device,” such as using computer models that simulate a nuclear bomb, or designing multi-point, explosive detonation systems. German intelligence has reported that in 2015 and 2016, when the U.S. was still part of the JCPOA, Iran attempted more than one hundred times to obtain illicit nuclear technology, which may be in violation of the deal. In 2015, Tehran violated the deal by refusing to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigating the Possible Military Dimensions of the nuclear program. (In 2018, Israel exposed much of what the Iranians had been hiding from the IAEA.)

Most recently, as an Iranian official admitted, Iran did not dismantle the core of the plutonium reactor at Arak, as required by the deal. He even bragged about tricking the international inspectors and the West with photoshopped pictures from the Arak plutonium reactor’s core.

For another, the IAEA inspectors — and the West itself — are severely limited in their ability to monitor Iranian compliance with the deal. This is because Iran has barred any outside inspectors from inspecting military sites in Iran. As an Iranian official said rather dramatically, “Iran’s military sites are off limits. All information about these sites are classified. Iran will never allow such visits. Don’t pay attention to such remarks that are only a dream.” Other Iranian leaders have echoed these statements.

This Iranian refusal to allow international inspections of its’ military sites is itself a violation of the Iran deal. The relevant language of the JCPOA states (see Annex I, Q Access, pg. 23):

“Requests for access pursuant to provisions of this JCPOA will be made in good faith, with due observance of the sovereign rights of Iran, and kept to the minimum necessary to effectively implement the verification responsibilities under this JCPOA. In line with normal international safeguards practice, such requests will not be aimed at interfering with Iranian military or other national security activities, but will be exclusively for resolving concerns regarding fulfilment of the JCPOA commitments and Iran’s other non-proliferation and safeguards obligations. The following procedures are for the purpose of JCPOA implementation between the E3/EU+3 and Iran and are without prejudice to the safeguards agreement and the Additional Protocol thereto. In implementing this procedure as well as other transparency measures, the IAEA will be requested to take every precaution to protect commercial, technological and industrial secrets as well as other confidential information coming to its knowledge.”

This language does not by itself create an exemption for military sites.

Immediately after this paragraph, the process of IAEA inspections is detailed in the JCPOA. In summary, for undeclared nuclear facilities, including military sites, the IAEA is granted access, although the process may be lengthy — as long as 69 days — if the Iranians dispute the need. Once again, there is no language carving out an exception for military sites.

Unfortunately, rather than expose the Iranians, the IAEA has instead provided cover to Iran by simply refusing to ask for inspections of any military sites. However, this does not make the Iranian ban on international inspections of military sites any less of a violation of the JCPOA.

Many of these violations, including exceeding the limits on advanced centrifuges and violating section T, would also seem to be “key activities” that are “necessary to produce a nuclear device.”

So is the Iranian testing of ballistic missiles (although it is not a violation of the JCPOA or of UN Resolution 2231). Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has written:

“The ballistic-missile program is particularly problematic. Given that the Iranians are exploiting a loophole that the Obama administration permitted in the relevant UN Security Council resolution to plow ahead with developing missiles potentially capable of delivering nuclear weapons, it is wholly false for advocates of the deal to argue that the JCPOA has halted, frozen, or suspended Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. Such a program has three main parts—development, weaponization, and delivery—and ballistic missiles are an integral part of that. In other words, critical aspects of the program are moving ahead, deal or no deal.”

If ballistic missile testing is an “integral part” of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, then it would presumably also be a “key activity” that is “necessary to produce a nuclear weapon.”

Of course, the CIA Director and the DNI have access to classified information that the rest of us don’t. But it is hard to believe that this classified information contradicts all of the open source information mentioned above. And it is important to remember that the CIA and U.S. intelligence has been wrong before, whether it be in Iraq, in North Korea, in India, or in Iran itself.

U.S. intelligence needs to reevaluate their findings regarding Iran and its nuclear weapons program. The simple fact of the matter is that Iran is violating the JCPOA, and it is also “currently undertaking the key activities … necessary to produce a nuclear device.”

Adam Turner is the General Counsel and Legislative Affairs Director for the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

Originally Published at: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/gina-haspel-dan-coats-iran-jcpoa/2019/02/14/id/902775/

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Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

On December 19, 2018, President Donald Trump announced by tweet that he was withdrawing all the estimated 2,200 American troops currently in Syria.

The president wrote, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” Trump also promised in a video message on Twitter that, “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now. We won.”

About 2,000 of these troops direct the air and land war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in coordination with the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF). The remaining 200 are at al-Tanf, a crucial base at the Syrian-Iraqi border which blocks Iran from completing its land bridge to Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. In both areas, the U.S. troops have only very rarely been exposed to combat situations.

Since his initial announcement, the president and his aides have somewhat walked back these tweets.

For that, I am glad. I strongly believe the U.S. should keep its troops in Syria.

As I see it, there are at least three national interests that favor the U.S. staying the course there.

First, the U.S. clearly has a national interest in destroying ISIS. ISIS had conducted numerous attacks — both in the Middle East and outside of it — against Americans, killing and wounding many of them. It even executed some U.S. reporters. And unfortunately, ISIS is still a threat; the UN has reported that ISIS may have up to 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria, plus there are ISIS sympathizers in the U.S.

Second, the U.S. has a national interest in keeping true to its alliance with the Kurds/SDF. It is important to remember that the Syrian Kurds originally only had an interest in pushing back ISIS from Kurdish majority areas. But at the behest of the U.S., the Kurds aligned with other moderate Syrian forces to create the SDF and act as the ground forces for the U.S.-led fight against ISIS in non-Kurdish areas as well. They went as far south as Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State, which is overwhelmingly Arabic in population. Thousands of Syrian Kurds/fighters from the SDF were killed or wounded in this fighting.

In return for the SDF efforts, the U.S. promised to supply the SDF with weapons and equipment and to provide the air power for strikes against ISIS. But the U.S. provided another service to the SDF as well. By stationing troops within SDF controlled territory, the U.S. was able to deter attacks from other bad actors, especially Turkey. This allowed the SDF to focus on destroying ISIS.

However, in SDF dominated areas that didn’t have U.S. troops, like in Afrin, Turkey was able to invade and crush the SDF. This invasion delayed the SDF’s campaign against ISIS. Therefore, if the U.S. removes the troops from the other areas controlled by the SDF, the Turks are likely to invade again, and the fight against ISIS would be further delayed.

Even worse, removing U.S. troops from Syria would disincentivize the SDF, and other observing groups/nations, from making any future deals with the unreliable U.S. This seems to violate the Trump doctrine. According to Sebastian Gorka (see 29:00), the Trump doctrine calls for the U.S. to help our friends fight their own wars for themselves. It is specifically meant to create trust between the U.S. and our allies. Removing the U.S. troops would do just the opposite with our SDF allies who are fighting their wars for themselves and for the U.S., but are also relying on the U.S. for support.

Third, the U.S. has a national interest in not allowing its enemies/rivals, such as Russia and Iran, to gain control or influence over more Syrian territory. Russia, of course, has long been a super power opponent of the U.S. Iran, meanwhile, is even more dangerous. The Iranian regime preaches “death to America” and has sponsored numerous acts of war against the U.S. If the U.S. troops leave Syria, the SDF will be forced to cooperate with those two nations and their puppet, the Assad regime. In fact, it is already happening. Removal of the U.S. troops will also allow Iran to solidify its ‘Shia crescent’ land bridge from Iran to Lebanon, on which it has transported soldiers, weapons, and missiles, and thus endanger the U.S., international shipping, as well as U.S. allies such as Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, among others.

An evaluation of the costs further demonstrates the wisdom of keeping U.S. troops in Syria.

Since 2014, the Defense Department has spent roughly $45 billion in Syria, or roughly $7 billion a year, out of a full annual defense budget of $600-700 billion. More importantly, there have been very few U.S. casualties in Syria. Only 6 American’s have been killed since 2014. (Another 4 U.S. soldiers have died while serving as volunteers with the SDF.)

I understand that many Americans are tired of the “endless” wars in the Middle East. And I get that they are greatly concerned with the high cost of these wars for American ‘blood’ and ‘treasure.’ But the U.S. troops in Syria are safeguarding important U.S. national interests, and they are doing so at virtually no cost to the U.S. We should not be removing them at this time.

Originally published at: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/syria-trump-troops-isis/2019/01/16/id/898488/ 

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The murder of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents has dominated foreign policy news for months. Prominent members of Congress are increasingly upset that the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia has interfered with the rigorous pursuit of justice for Khashoggi. After all, they argue, Jamal Khashoggi was a US resident, so there should be consequences for the man who, according to the CIA, planned his murder – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman – the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. Many of these members of Congress also argue that Khashoggi’s murder is so serious that the strong, longtime, US-Saudi relationship must be re-evaluated if there is no justice.

But the Khashoggi case is hardly unique. In fact, there is a similar, but far more serious, situation that resulted in the deaths of two American citizens and the wounding of several others. This occurred on August 9, 2001, when a Sbarro Pizzeria in Jerusalem was pulverized by a suicide bomber.

On that day, Malki Roth, a 15-year-old girl; Judith Greenbaum, a pregnant 31-year-old woman; other American citizens; and many Israelis went to the Sbarro Pizzeria to enjoy some American-style pizza. The Pizzeria, on Ben Yehuda Street, was one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in Jerusalem and was a popular place, especially for families with children. At approximately 2 p.m., at the height of the lunch hour, a blast went off. A Palestinian terrorist named Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri had triggered a powerful bomb that was hidden in his guitar case, which was also packed with nails, nuts and bolts in order to cause maximum damage.

Fifteen people were killed in the blast, eight of them children, and 130 more people were wounded. Malki Roth was a teenager so thoughtful and loving that she often helped her mother care for her handicapped sibling. And Judith Greenberg, an only child who arrived in Israel with her husband as part of her graduate studies, who was five months pregnant at the time. Another four US citizens – David Danzig, Matthew Gordon, Joanne Nachenberg and Sara Nachenberg – were wounded. To this day, Joanne Nachenberg remains in a vegetative state.

Ahlam Tamimi, a Palestinian Arab citizen of Jordan, was the terrorist planner of this operation. She was a 20-year-old student at the time and a supporter of Hamas. Tamimi had even accompanied the suicide bomber there, leaving just before the blast. We know all of this because Tamimi has brazenly bragged about it time and time again, in television and radio interviews, many of which come up in a simple Google search.

Tamimi has spoken about how she spent nine days looking for the perfect place to maximize deaths, how disappointed she initially was when it was first reported that there were only a few deaths, and how important it was to her and the bomber that religious Jews be in the blast area. In all her videos she expressed delight at her actions. In one particularly chilling video, Tamimi was asked if she knew how many children she killed. Her response was “three,” and when she was corrected with the true number – eight – a huge, self-satisfied smile crossed her face.

In late 2002, Tamimi was sentenced by an Israeli court to 16 multiple sentences for her part in this massacre. However, on October 19, 2011, she, together with 1,026 other terrorists, were traded for Gilad Schalit, the Israeli soldier held by Hamas.

 

When Ahlam Tamimi was released she was deported to Jordan, where she received a hero’s welcome. As a terrorist, she received money from the Palestinian Authority, at least $52,681, under the “pay-for-slay” program. The Hamas television station Al-Quds gave Tamimi her own television show, which aired every Friday and, until recently, was broadcast around the world. She married her cousin, Nazir Tamimi, who also had been serving time in an Israeli prison for killing an Israeli citizen, and who also was released in exchange for Gilad Schalit. Their wedding was broadcast throughout the Arab world.For decades, we at the Endowment for Middle East Truth have worked exhaustedly to get justice for the families of the Americans killed and wounded in Israel and the disputed territories by Palestinian terrorists like Ahlam Tamimi. We have successfully worked with Congress on multiple letters to the Department of Justice, and twice inspired hearings on the subject. At the second hearing, Arnold Roth, the father of Malki, was brought in to testify. At that hearing, for the first time ever, Brad Wiegmann, the deputy assistant attorney-general in the National Security Division, who supervises these prosecutions, was called to account for the DOJ’s lack of prosecution and was forced to provide a future report to the subcommittee.

Largely because it is so egregious, there has been some progress in the Tamimi case. In 2013, after the congressional letters, Tamimi was indicted by the Obama administration, and her extradition was requested from Jordan. In 2017, after the hearings, the indictment was made public by the Trump administration. But the Jordanian government has refused to extradite Tamimi, claiming there is no valid extradition treaty with the US. They refused, even though the US and Jordan signed an extradition treaty in 1995 that the State Department and the DOJ still recognize as valid. They refused even though in 1995, in 2006 and in 2015, Jordan extradited three criminal terrorists to the US that were wanted there. And they refused even though the Jordanian government receives more than a billion dollars a year in aid from the US

This injustice cannot be allowed to stand.

Ahlam Tamimi is a brutal terrorist murderer who has killed and wounded American citizens. She has reveled in her crimes and urged others to follow in her footsteps. Letting her live unmolested, celebrated and financially rewarded in Jordan is obscene. If the US needs to punish the man Mohammed Bin Salman who planned the murder of US resident Jamal Khashoggi, and the nation Saudi Arabia that protects him, then our nation should also punish Ahlam Tamimi who killed and wounded US citizens, and Jordan, the nation that is protecting her. Justice demands nothing less.

Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth. Adam Turner is its general counsel & legislative affairs director.

Originally published at: https://www.jpost.com/Opinion/When-diplomacy-interferes-with-justice-574420
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