EMET

About the author  ⁄ Adam Turner

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

Iranian President Rouhani has invited countries in the Middle East to join what he called the security coalition of HOPE — a rough acronym for the Hormuz Peace Endeavor.  Rouhani has described this as a coalition that “will secure freedom of navigation, flow of energy and the regional stability in the Persian Gulf.”  He has also suggested that Iran should serve as one of the leaders of this coalition because “Iran during the last four decades fought against terrorism unequivocally…Iran is a country that has brought peace in the region.”

Coming from Iran, this proposal is rich in irony. 

(October 10, 2019 / Newsmax)

Iran, of course, is the main terror sponsoring nation that is interrupting the freedom of navigation, the flow of energy and regional stability, in the Persian Gulf and in the Bab el Mandab.  In the latest attack, the Iranians used drones and missiles to knock out about half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production.  Iran’s attack on Saudi oil facilities took 5.7 million barrels per day of production offline and pushed oil prices (briefly) 18% higher.  Although Iran’s Yemeni proxy, the Houthis, claimed credit for the attack on Saudi Arabia, the evidence was so strong that Iran was behind it that even the Western European leaders of France, Germany, and the UK, all of whom who continue to be part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, were forced to acknowledge Iran’s complicity.

What this means is that if Iran seriously wanted to promote freedom of navigation, the flow of energy and regional stability, it doesn’t need to form a coalition.  It just needs to stop its aggression and promotion of terrorism through the Middle East (and worldwide). 

Unfortunately, we know the Iranian regime is never going to do that.  But, recognizing that the U.S. does have a national interest in keeping the oil and natural gas lanes in the Middle East flowing to the U.S. and the rest of the world – to prevent a major economic downturn – the question then becomes, what should the U.S. do to disincentivize future Iranian aggression, which may be imminent?

So far, President Trump has responded by expanding the list of sanctions the U.S. has put on Iran, all part of the “maximum pressure” campaign, which has pushed the Iranian economy into a recession.  Further, the U.S. plans to bar senior Iranian officials and their immediate family from entering the United States as immigrants or non-immigrants.  The President has also sent U.S. troops to protect Saudi Arabia, and has been promoting the idea of an Arab NATO, or a U.S. led multinational maritime effort, originally called Operation Sentinel, to ensure freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf region, the Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Oman.  

All of these are good ideas.  But more actions may be necessary.  Here are five other options for the U.S.

First, the U.S. could diplomatically engage the Iranian regime. 

Second, the U.S. could act to sabotage the Iranian regime.  For example, it could unleash another cyberattack, along the lines of Stuxnet, or, more recently, its’ alleged cyberattack against a spy group tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.  Or, the CIA, or other U.S. forces, might support and/or train Iranian dissident groups.

Third, the U.S. could invade Iran and oust the Iranian regime, a la the 2001 Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, or Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

Fourth, the U.S. could conduct some sort of lesser military action against the Iranian regime.  A good example of this was Operation Praying Mantis in 1988, which dissuaded Iran from challenging the U.S. Navy or from targeting oil shipping for many years.  In retaliation for Iran’s earlier mining of the Persian Gulf, which resulted in a U.S. ship being damaged and many of its crew being injured, the U.S. Navy destroyed two Iranian surveillance platforms, sank two of their ships, and severely damaged another.  In addition to going after the Iranian navy, other possibilities suggested include the U.S. specifically targeting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or the Kharg Island terminal, through which more than 90% of Iranian oil exports go.  The U.S. could conduct these attacks in the open, or with official deniability, i.e., in the “gray zone”, as does Iran.

Fifth, the U.S. could attack some of the Iranian proxies throughout the Middle East.  For example, Lebanese Hezbollah, Iranian backed forces in Syria, or Iranian backed forces in Iraq.  Israel frequently conducts these kinds of attacks as well.  In each case, Israel does so to enforce its red lines.  For example, in Syria, the Israeli red line is that Assad and his Iranian-backed allies must honor a decades-old agreement that sets out a demilitarized zone along the frontier and limits the number of forces each side can deploy within 25 kilometers (15 miles) of the zone.  Once again, the U.S. could do this openly or in the gray zone.

In my view, several of these actions may already be eliminated.  Diplomacy seems counterproductive at this juncture, as “Iranians negotiate only after defeating their enemies… Signaling a desire to talk before being victorious is, in Iranian eyes, a sign of weakness or lack of will to win.”  Also, a full scale invasion of Iran makes little sense, as we have seen in Iraq how expensive, in both blood and treasure, it can be.  And a more limited U.S. attack against Iranian proxies also seems pointless, as it is well known that “Iran is willing to sacrifice Arab Shiites but not Persian Shiites.” 

This leaves just two viable options.  The U.S. could sabotage the Iranian regime, and/or the U.S. could conduct a limited strike against the Iranian regime.  In that order, I would recommend them to President Trump.

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During the post-U.S. removal from the Iran deal, the Iranian regime has behaved abysmally, even by its already low standards.

(September 18, 2019 / Newsmax)

While Iranian President Rouhani was touring Europe, demanding that the Europeans provide funding to Iran, his regime was planning a terror attack in Europe, which might have led to hundreds of European and American casualties.

The Iranian Islamic Republican Guard Corps and their allies have grabbed, harassed, or bombed international shipping in the Strait of Hormuz or in the Bab al Mandab. They have also shot down a U.S. drone, and even grabbed hostages.

The Iranian leadership has continued its ballistic missile testing, which goes hand and hand with nuclear weapons development. The Iranian leadership has refused to cooperate with the IAEA, barring them from inspecting some nuclear weapons development sites that were recently exposed by Israel. The Iranian regime, which is the leading state sponsor of terrorism, has been expanding its support to militia/terror groups in GazaSyriaLebanon, and Yemen to menace Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other U.S. allies. And the Iranian regime has been smuggling oil through the U.S. or European sanctions (on Syria).

The Iranian leadership has “partially withdrawn” from the Iran deal, by violating key parts of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA), most recently by using advanced centrifuges in uranium enrichment. Not that this makes any sense — there is no such thing as a partial withdrawal. A nation may only withdraw, or not withdraw, from a deal. Nevertheless, to cease its partial withdrawal, Tehran has demanded that the U.S. lift the sanctions and return to a 5+1 format involving the nuclear deal parties, and that the Europeans must “either buy oil or give us credit,” within a certain time.

And most recently, Iran was behind the attacks on major Saudi oil facilities that cut global oil supplies by 5%.

So, what is Europe’s response to all this bad behavior? Nothing but more appeasement.

The European Union has promoted the idea of an Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) whose purpose is to facilitate “legitimate trade” with Iran for any EU member and non-EU members as well. INSTEX is a barter system created by the Western Europeans, where, in any trade, money gets paid into the home country’s account, and it doesn’t cross the border in or out of Iran.

Britain has caved on enforcing EU sanctions that barred any oil sales to Syria. Originally, the British seized an Iranian ship that was illegally transporting oil to Syria. The Iranians then grabbed a British ship in retaliation. The British released the Iranian ship, after Iran gave a written promise that the ship would not deliver the oil to Syria. But the promise was insincere, as the Iranian ship eventually dropped off its oil in Syria, thereby breaking the sanctions, and earning themselves $130 million (or giving their puppet Assad a huge gift of oil). Meanwhile, Iran has only released some of the crew from the British ship.

France has offered $15 billion in credit to Tehran for it to end its partial withdrawal and to return to the JCPOA. The entire official budget of Iran is roughly $45 billion, so that would be a huge lifeline for the Iranian regime.

Unfortunately, this European financial appeasement of rogue and dangerous actors is not unique. It is actually steeped in ancient European history. As I once wrote, “(o)ver a thousand years ago, the (then) violent Danes would promise to stop their pillaging and plundering, supposedly permanently, but in practice temporarily, if their prey paid them off… (but) if the victim paid the geld, the Danes were generally not true to their word, and would return to the plundering and pillaging ….” This concept was immortalized by poet Rudyard Kipling in his poem, “Dane-geld,” whose final line was the lesson to be learned: “That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld, You never get rid of the Dane.”

The concept of Dane-geld is directly applicable to European attempts to pay off the Iranian regime today. It won’t work any better this time than it did with the Danes.

In 2015, the Iranians received more than $115 billion from the U.S. and other nations, to agree to the JCPOA. The hope, as President Obama articulated, was “ideally, we would see a situation in which Iran, seeing sanctions reduced, would start focusing on its economy, on training its people, on reentering the world community, to lessening its provocative activities in the region… it is possible that if we sign this nuclear deal, we strengthen the hand of those more moderate forces inside of Iran.”

Despite all this money, none of these hopes were realized under the JCPOA. What resulted was just more Iranian sponsored aggression, terrorism, and other bad behavior.

It’s been a thousand years since the Danish Vikings were marauders demanding and receiving the Dane-geld. It has been a hundred years since the Rudyard Kipling poem first articulated the lesson of the Dane-geld. And it has been four years since the JCPOA demonstrated the truth of that saying, as it relates to the Iranian regime.

It would be nice if Europe finally learned its lesson.

Originally Published: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/iran-dane-geld-france-europe/2019/09/18/id/933303/

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The U.S. has long had a major problem.  We are not considered a dependable ally.

(August 22, 2019 / American Thinker)

This first became widely known when the U.S. decided to remove our troops from the war in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1970s.  Many of our allies in those nations were left high and dry, to be persecuted or slaughtered by the communists.  In Cambodia, after the U.S. left, the genocidal forces of Pol Pot killed up to two million people.  

More recently, in 2011, U.S. troops were prematurely recalled from Iraq, abandoning the persecuted minorities there.  This allowed ISIS to establish the caliphate and slaughter and terrorize the population, especially Shia Muslims, Yazidis, and Christians.  Because ISIS was an avowed enemy of the U.S., beheaded several of our citizens, and conducted terror attacks against us, the U.S. eventually had to return to stop it.

Ironically, America becomes an undependable ally often because the American people have moral values and do not want to fight or police other nations.  Also, as a democracy, the U.S. public is sensitive to American casualties.  So when a war goes on too long, with many casualties, we often turn against the war, regardless of its importance or which side is winning.

This need not be what happens, in Syria, today.

The U.S. has about 1,000 American troops in Syria.  American troops were first introduced in 2014 to provide supplies, training, and air support to the Kurdish fighters in Syria and, later, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which included the Kurds, Syrian Sunni Arabs, Christians, and Yazidis as well. 

These U.S. troops have done a fantastic job, in tandem with the SDF.  In 2017, at the behest of the U.S., U.S. forces and the SDF conquered Raqqa, the capital of the ISIS caliphate.  In 2019, they seized the last land area in Syria controlled by ISIS.  

It is important to realize that the SDF had no reason on its own to conquer these areas, which are heavily Sunni Arab.  They did this at the behest of the U.S. 

Another important point is that from 2014 through today, only eight U.S. citizens have been killed in Syria.  This is because only very rarely were the U.S. forces anywhere near the front lines.

The SDF, through its civilian political party, the Syrian Democratic Council, has set up a self-governing area in Syria, constituting about a third of Syria.  Although the SDC rule of this area has not been perfect, it has been much more secular, democratic, and pro–human rights than any other group in Syria or Iraq.  What is especially notable in this area is that women, who, outside Israel, are largely discriminated against throughout the Middle East, are given real power in the SDC government. 

This SDF-controlled area notably includes 80% of the oil supplies in Syria.

But now, the Turks, led by their Islamist dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, are pressuring the U.S. to abandon the SDF.  President Erdoğan wants to create a “safe zone” that would extend 20 miles south from the Turkish border.  And he wants this area to be free of SDF forces.  The problem with this is that the “safe zone” that Erdoğan wants to create would incorporate a huge majority of the Kurdish population.  As we have seen from Afrin, if the Turks are successful in creating this zone, they will ethnically cleanse the native Kurdish population, which Erdoğan has long hated and feared, and replace them with the 3.5 million Sunni Muslim Arabs who are refugees in Turkey.  Also, as we have seen in Afrin, the Turks will replace the budding Syrian democracy with Turkish rule that is Islamist, is largely undemocratic, and does not respect human rights

This is the same Turkish regime that has increasingly become a fierce U.S. opponent, assisting both ISIS and Iran; buying the S-400 missile system from the Russians; threatening its neighbors, including Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and the various Kurdish entities (all of which are pro-American); and backing the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Middle East.

The Turks are not the only ones who want the U.S. troops out of Syria.  The Russians, the Iranians, and the Assad regime also want them gone.  These dangerous actors hope to eventually reconquer most of this area for Assad. 

The U.S. has agreed to a Turkish “safe zone” but has been ambiguous about the specifics.  When it comes to the latter, the U.S. needs to keep true to its ally, the SDF.  Otherwise, this would endanger U.S. forces — what nation would want to ally itself with us during future conflicts?  If the U.S. abandons the SDF, it will allow Turkey to wipe out the SDF; ISIS to rebound in the south of the SDF controlled area; or the Russians, the Iranians, and Assad to gain control of this area. 

It would also allow our enemies to gain control of the oil fields.  I suspect that President Trump would rightly be concerned about this

The U.S. should limit the safe zone in Syria to the smallest area possible and tell Turkey to stay out of any other SDF-controlled lands in Syria.  If Turkey refuses to listen, sanctions can be imposed.  And the U.S. troops in the area should stay put.  Otherwise, once again, the U.S. will become an undependable ally.

Originally published:https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2019/08/what_the_usa_can_do_for_the_kurds_in_syria.html

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“The Senate on Monday did not override President Trump’s vetoes of three measures to block arms deals benefiting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, an expected but nonetheless serious setback for those who had hoped Congress would punish Saudi leaders for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” The Washington Post reported on July 29, 2019.

(August 6, 2019 / Newsmax)

Contrary to the tone of The Washington Post article, this is a good thing.

There is no question that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a “bad” nation. They have done what they have been accused of. The Saudis have invaded Yemen, admittedly to support its’ legitimate president and government, and sometimes indiscriminately bomb its’ cities. And the Saudi leadership almost undoubtedly had Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, killed in a particularly brutal manner.

There is also no question that the Saudis are deplorable in other ways as well.

They have a horrendous human rights record at home. In Saudi Arabia, it is illegal for non-Muslims to be citizens, women have few rights, and the Shia Muslim minority is discriminated against religiously, in the areas of education, the administration of justice, and employment. Saudi clerics have sometimes even sanctioned the killing of Shia Saudi citizens. Saudi Arabia has the third highest rate of executions in the world behind China and Iran, according to Amnesty International. The death penalty is even used for non-crimes, such as practicing witchcraft. Children can be put to death; a boy was beheaded for simply protesting the government. Other protestors have been killed by crucifixion or by having their head impaled on a spike. Stoning remains a punishment for women accused of adultery.

And Saudi Arabia has been a malignant force throughout the world when it comes to spreading Wahhabism, or radical Sunni Islam. Wahhabism’s explosive growth began in the 1970s when Saudi charities started funding Wahhabi schools and mosques worldwide. Among those educated by Saudi propaganda was Osama Bin Laden. Granted, the Saudis have gotten a little better, recently. But they still spend millions, if not hundreds of millions, to educate people in a dangerous and anti-U.S., anti-Israel, and anti-West ideology.

But with all this said, President Trump is quite right to continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia. Because it is not all about Saudi Arabia; any national interest calculus by the U.S. must also address the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The fact is the Saudis are only in Yemen because of Iran. The Shia Islamist Iranian regime has been sending advanced weapons and military advisers to supply and train Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement. The Houthis control about half of the population of that nation, and a large chunk of that land, including the former capitol of Sana’a. Under Iranian tutelage — and sometimes under direct orders — the Houthis have attacked plenty of Saudi targets, and more concerning for the U.S., oil shipping in the area through the Bab al-Mandab strait and in the Red Sea. An estimated 4.8 million b/d of crude oil and refined petroleum products flowed through this waterway in 2016. The Houthis have even gone so far as to attack a U.S. ship.

What is worse, the Iranian regime is also in Yemen in the hopes that it can threaten Saudi Arabia, a huge world producer of oil. Yemen has always been the soft underbelly of Saudi Arabia. In the 60’s, Egypt’s then-dictator Gamal Abdul Nasser invaded Yemen, threatening the Saudis, and prompting them to support the Yemeni forces arrayed against Egypt. Eventually, Egyptian forces were forced out. Today, Iran hopes to succeed where Egypt failed. In particular, it hopes to inspire and support the Shia Muslim majority population in the Eastern Province of the Saudi kingdom to rise up against the Saudi King. This area of Saudi Arabia is especially valuable, as it has most of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s oil, and is directly adjacent to the Persian Gulf.

Needless to say, although the U.S. no longer relies on oil from the Middle East, the U.S. still has a national interest in preventing the Iranian regime from disrupting the oil flow throughout the world and creating economic chaos.

And that is not all.

Iran is at war with the U.S. Over the years, the Iranian regime has seized hostages from our Embassy in Tehran, sponsored and directed the attacks that murdered and maimed hundreds of Americans by foreign designated terror group Hezbollah, and supplied and trained Iraqi rebel terror groups who killed over 600 U.S. soldiers in Iraq. For that matter, the Houthis are no friends to the U.S. Not only have the Houthis fired on a U.S. ship, but they are also known for their chant, “Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam!”

And although the Saudis can be a dangerous sponsor of terrorism, the Iranian regime is the premier state sponsor of terrorism, worldwide. It has long been a menace to its neighbors in the Middle East, including the U.S.’s strongest ally, Israel, and also to the European nations, including those that continue to support the Iran deal. Recently, while the Iranian president was touring Europe to drum up support for more European aid to Iran, his regime was plotting to bomb an anti-Iranian regime rally near Paris, which would have killed and wounded probably hundreds of innocent Europeans (and some Americans). Like Saudi Arabia, the Iranian regime also promotes radical Islam; the only difference is that Iran promotes radical Shia Islam instead of the Sunni version.

Finally, the U.S. also has an interest in selling weapons and supplies to Saudi Arabia to boost the U.S. economy.

Even the moral argument is basically a wash. The Houthis and the Iranians have human rights records that are similar, if not worse, than the Saudis. In Iran, gays are hung on cranes, Baha’is are eradicated, and political prisoners are tortured and killed by the regime. The Houthis are no better. They have the distinction of having recruited more than 30,000 child soldiers since war broke out, far more than the Saudis. And, like the Saudis, they are also quite willing to bomb and starve their own people.

As Winston Churchill once memorably said, “If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.” The same sentiment applies here. Saudi Arabia is not a “good” nation, but it is much better for the U.S. national interest that the Saudis win in Yemen, rather than the Iranians. The U.S. should act accordingly.

Originally published: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/saudi-arabia-yemen-iran-united-states/2019/08/06/id/927503/

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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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