About the author  ⁄ Adam Turner

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

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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Recently, after holding American citizen Andrew Brunson in prison for over two years, the Turkish regime finally let him go.

In response, President Trump tweeted, “There was, however, great appreciation on behalf of the United States, which will lead to good, perhaps great, relations between the United States & Turkey!”

Hopefully, the President is going to limit his actions to this simple tweet of appreciation.

Andrew Brunson was nothing more than a hostage of the Turkish President. Brunson’s trial was a sham, with ridiculous charges and evidence. President Erdogan clearly intended to trade Brunson for Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish imam in exile in Pennsylvania, whom Mr. Erdogan accuses, without credible evidence, of plotting an anti-Erdogan 2016 coup in Turkey. The fact that Brunson was finally released when the Turks wanted to curry favor with Trump doesn’t change that he was unjustly grabbed and imprisoned in the first place.

The Turks’ release of Brunson is related to the disappearance of Saudi citizen and U.S. resident, Jamal Khashoggi.

“The Khashoggi affair has presented a unique opportunity to undermine Saudi influence, potentially creating a regional power void for Turkey to fill,” according to Axios.

But, according to The Federalist, to fill that power void, Turkey had “to improve their position by giving the Trump administration something it wanted.”

So, they gave up Brunson. However, it should be noted that Brunson is not the only U.S. citizen held hostage by the Turks. Serkan Golge and Ismail Kul, two Turkish-American scientists, are still being imprisoned by the Erdogan regime. There are also three Turkish citizens who work in the U.S. consulate that are being held.

So, the U.S. shouldn’t be rewarding Turkish hostage taking, especially because we have countless examples of earlier instances where the U.S. rewarded hostage takers and suffered later for it. For example, leading up to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran held a number of hostages, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. When the Iran deal was finalized, the Obama administration shelled out $1.7 billion to Iran, in cash, to ransom four hostages. The Obama administration claimed this was not ransom; however, the money was not released to Iran until the U.S. had confirmation that the Iranian plane carrying the Americans had taken off, and Iranian officials told the press the cash was “a ransom payment.”

What was the result of this ransom payment to Iran? Nothing good for the U.S.

Soon after, Iran began to grab more hostages.

Further, Iran continued to vocally demonstrate their hostility to the U.S., and to actively wage war against our forces and interests in the region, despite the U.S. ransom payment, and the JCPOA’s other monetary rewards.

Likewise, the Turks under President Erdogan are also not going to change their anti-American stripes, even if the U.S. gives them some rewards for their release of Andrew Brunson.

President Erdogan has very different political interests than does the U.S. He is a proponent of radical Islam, and is a determined opponent of democracy and human rights. In fact, according to the former U.S. National Security Advisor, Turkey is taking on a “new role” as a key funder of Islamist ideology that targets western interests.

Although Turkey is part of NATO, the Turks have not been good allies in years, as they threaten fellow NATO member Greece, interfere in the use of the Incirlik base by other NATO allies like Germany and the U.S., conduct joint military exercises with China, and buy the s-400 missile system from Russia. (Eventually Turkey hopes to produce the s-500 as well.) The Turkish regime continues to threaten Israel. His regime continues to vow to buy oil from Iran, despite the sanctions that the Trump administration are reinstituting. And his country still allows ISIS recruits to cross its border into Syria, at a rate of about 100 a month.

The Turks also have a tremendous rivalry with the various Kurdish forces in the region, including the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, which are both strong allies of the U.S. Turkey has long feared that independence/autonomy for these Kurds would in turn inspire the same in Turkey’s large and growing Kurdish minority. As a result, Erdogan has attacked the Syrian Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) multiple times, and is reportedly planning to use the jihadists groups in Syria, including al-Qaeda associates, against them (the SDF). Turkey has even gone so far as to threaten to attack U.S. forces in Syria for their willingness to work with the SDF.

The fact that the Turks finally released Andrew Brunson when it became convenient for them to do so does not mean that Turkey is any better an ally of the U.S. than it was the day before Jamal Khashoggi disappeared. It isn’t. And the U.S. shouldn’t be rewarding President Erdogan’s consistent bad behavior.

Originally published: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/turkey-erdogan-hostages-trump/2018/10/22/id/887439/

Photo: The Milli Chronicle

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s September 21 opinion editorial in The Washington Post is extremely dishonest – in its depictions of Iran and of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran deal.

The dishonesty begins in the very title of the piece, when Rouhani – the figurehead leader of Iran who actually reports to the Iranian dictator, the Ayatollah Khamenei – claims that “Iran is keeping its nuclear commitments.”

This is simply not true. Iran is actually in violation of many of the commitments it made during the 2015 Iran deal. Most importantly, contrary to the clear language of the deal – see Q, 74 that permitted inspections at military sites which “will not be aimed at interfering with Iranian military or other national security activities” – Iran has banned the international inspectors from inspecting any of the military sites in Iran. These sites are exactly where any nuclear weapons development would be occurring. Rather than push back against this Iranian violation, the international inspectors have timidly avoided the issue by refusing to ask for any inspections of those sites.

Also, without these inspections of military sites, the international community has no way of knowing if Iran is keeping its other nuclear commitments.

But that is not all. Iran has also produced excessive heavy water, which it was allowed to sell on the open market for substantial monetary gain. Iran has exceeded the limits on advanced centrifuge research and development by building and operating larger numbers of such centrifuges than the deal allows. Iran is violating Section T of the deal, which explicitly bans Iran from “activities which could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”

German intelligence has frequently reported that despite the JCPOA prohibitions, Iran has continued illicit attempts to buy nuclear and missile technology outside of JCPOA-approved channels. And Iran has violated the UN Resolution enshrining the agreement, by shipping weapons and even ballistic missiles all around the Middle East.

And there are other breaches as well.

IN THE FIRST paragraph of the Post op-ed, Rouhani also laughably lauds Iran as a nation that has a “tradition of respect for the rule of law and norms of international law.” This would be news to any objective observer of the Middle East. In 1979, in its very first year in existence, student ideologues from the Islamic Republic of Iran violated the sanctity of the US Embassy to seize American hostages, whom they held for 444 days. These students were supported and eventually directed by then-Iranian dictator, the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Starting that same year, almost 40 years ago, the Islamic Republic of Iran has had the distinction of being the “leading state sponsor of terrorism” throughout the world. Iran birthed Hezbollah, which prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001, had killed more Americans than any other terror organization. Hezbollah has also killed Europeans, South Americans and, of course, many Middle Easterners as well.

Iran supports additional terror groups like Hamas, the Polisario Front in Morocco, al-Qaeda and many others. It backed terror groups in Afghanistan and Iraq, which during the post-US invasions, killed or wounded hundreds if not thousands of American soldiers. Iran also has frequently attacked international vessels in the Persian Gulf, including taking hostage American and British sailors. And it has supported the war crimes of the Assad regime in Syria, which includes using chemical weapons to slaughter children.

Later in the op-ed, Rouhani claims that the US government “has officially reneged on its international commitments, most notably UN Security Council resolution 2231,” and through its “illegal exit” from the Iran deal. Both of these claims are dishonest. Regarding the latter, the Iran deal “is not a treaty or an executive agreement” or in any way “legally binding” – it is an unsigned document between the Obama administration, Iran and several other governments. The Obama administration made no attempt to make this deal constitutional – and thereby more permanent – by using the treaty process, or even by enshrining it as an executive agreement. Successive US administrations, therefore, are not required to follow the JCPOA.

THE US ALSO is not reneging on its international commitments. Part of the UN resolution is simply the JCPOA which, as we know, is not legally binding. The rest of the resolution does have some obligatory parts; however, none of these legally-required sections have been violated by the US.

When it comes to implementing the JCPOA, the relevant language from the UN resolution simply “calls upon all Members States, regional organizations and international organizations to take such actions as may be appropriate to support the implementation of the JCPOA, including by taking actions commensurate with the implementation plan set out in the JCPOA and this resolution, and by refraining from actions that undermine implementation of commitments under the JCPOA…” Note that this language does not require that any nation support the JCPOA: it just “calls upon them” to do so.

Finally, the idea that “Iran has not engaged in any external aggression during the past 250 years” and has “peace” in its arsenal is belied by the very violent and aggressive record of the Islamic Republic. Once again, see Iran’s 40 years as the leading terror state, partly documented above.

Rouhani’s Washington Post op-ed is nothing more than pure propaganda from an enemy (regime) against the United States. It certainly should not be taken seriously by anyone truly knowledgeable about the truth.

Originally published: https://www.jpost.com//Opinion/Rouhanis-deceptive-UN-speech-568416

Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

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It has become conventional wisdom that in 1953, the United States’ CIA led a coup to overthrow the then-Prime Minister of Iran, Mossadegh, for nationalizing the Iranian oil industry, and that many of the U.S.’s problems with the current Iranian government stem from this coup. Former President Barack Obama believes this conventional wisdom. So does much of Hollywood, as demonstrated by the popular film “Argo.”

The latest media outlet to echo this popular notion is the Associated Press.

According to the AP, “more and more officials across Iran’s political spectrum are reevaluating and invoking Mossadegh’s stand as they oppose Trump.” The article then quotes two of those officials — Iranian President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif. Rouhani has asserted that “The U.S. owes the Iranian nation for its intervention in Iran,” while Zarif has complained on Twitter that “The US overthrew the popularly elected democratic government of Dr. Mossadegh, restoring the dictatorship & subjugating Iranians for the next 25 years.”

The only problem with this conventional wisdom is that it is all wrong.

First of all, technically, there was no coup.

Mossadegh was the Prime Minister of Iran, and as such, under the constitution then in place, he could constitutionally be removed by the Iranian Shah. And the Shah did, indeed, dismiss Mossadegh. In fact, the only unconstitutional behavior came from Mossadegh, who refused to step down, and ordered the arrest of the officers who tried to deliver the Shah’s notice of dismissal. This prompted the Shah to flee Iran. Opponents to Mossadegh then organized protests against the Prime Minister. When Mossadegh called out the army to restore order, the army instead ousted him.

Second, the CIA was not really the driving force behind the removal of Mossadegh. One CIA agent, in his biography, took credit for the protests that eventually led to the removal of Mossadegh. But declassified documents from the CIA demonstrate just the opposite. During the crisis, the CIA station in Tehran reported the anti-Mossadegh protests “contained a large element of spontaneity and there seemed to have been a genuine reaction of shock and dismay on part of the Tehran populace when the Shah left Iran for Iraq.” They also admitted that the “CIA cut out of military preparations by [General Nader] Batmangeliche and Zahedi.” And CIA acting director Charles Cabell briefed President Eisenhower that “an unexpected strong upsurge of popular and military reaction to Prime Minister Mossadeq’s government has resulted according to late dispatches from Tehran in the virtual occupation of that city by forces proclaiming their loyalty to the Shah, and to his appointed Prime Minister Zahedi.”

Third, as I have written before, it is beyond hypocritical for officials from the Islamic Regime to claim to be offended by the Mossadegh’s removal. This is because the Iranian regime’s founding father, the Ayatollah Khomeini, and indeed, much of the Shia clergy of Iran in the 1950’s, opposed Mossadegh and/or participated in his removal.

Khomeini himself was not actually involved in the 1953 protests. However, he was a strong opponent of the Prime Minister. Years later, Khomeini was interviewed about Mossadegh, and he “famously remarked that Mossadegh deserved to be slapped” because “‘had he survived, he would have slapped Islam.’” Khomeini’s criticism was in reference to Mossadegh’s secular left background, and Mossadegh’s plans to remove the ban on alcohol and enfranchise women.

But that is not all. The leading Shia clerics of that period, including Ayatollah Borujerdi and Ayatollah Kashani, played an active role in the plotting against Mossadegh. Both men are revered in the Islamic Republic. Initially, the clerics organized a religious faction in opposition to the prime minister in the parliament. Later, they sponsored some of the protests against him. By the end, and right before Mossadegh’s removal, the CIA station was reporting, “Religious leaders now desperate. Will attempt anything. Will try [to] save Islam and Shah of Iran.”

Rouhani or Zarif are almost certainly aware of these facts. Rouhani is himself a cleric; but both men must be religious to have attained high office in the Islamic Republic. They know who Mossadegh was, and what he tried to do, and how the Islamic Regime really feels about this secular leftist.

But these officials are also familiar with the guilt many Americans have about the “1953 Iranian coup.” And how they can use this guilt to benefit their own regime.

Once again, officials of the Iranian regime are trolling the gullible Americans.

Originally published at: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/coup-mossadegh-shah-iran/2018/08/31/id/879738/

Photo: STF/AFP/Getty Image

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Recently, Turkey released imprisoned U.S. citizen Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor of a small church in Turkey with about 25 congregants, to house arrest.

Brunson however, is still on trial on charges of aiding terror groups and engaging in espionage. Brunson was grabbed by the Turkish authorities about two years ago, right after an attempted coup against the Turkish President and quasi-dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has spent the past two years in a Turkish prison. Turkey claimed that Brunson has illegal links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and to Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, both of which are bitter enemies of Erdogan. If he is convicted of his “crimes,” Brunson may be imprisoned for a term of 35 years.

Brunson is clearly being railroaded by the Turks.

An expose of the charges against the pastor revealed that among them are that:

  • Brunson received a picture of a dish that is the signature dish of a terrorist organization in Turkey;
  • Brunson appeared in a photo with a man with a yellow, red, and green scarf, which are the PKK colors;
  • Brunson published Bibles in the Kurdish language.

In other words, this is nothing more than a kangaroo court trial. Which shouldn’t be too surprising, considering that in Turkey, insulting the president is a crime punishable by up to four years in prison, and even school children have been prosecuted.

Then again, the Turkish President has made it clear that Brunson is not really an accused criminal at all; he is a political hostage. Erdogan has offered to trade Brunson for Fethullah Gulen, who currently lives in Pennsylvania. Erdogan has accused Gulen, Erdogan’s former ally, of being the instigator of the attempted Turkish coup. But he has produced no convincing evidence for the U.S. to mandate an extradition of Gulen.

Needless to say, allied nations don’t take as hostage citizens of their allies. For that matter, civilized nations don’t take hostages, period.

President Erdogan is not really a U.S. ally, however. He has been in power since 2003, and in those fifteen years, he has aided the Shia Islamist regime of Iran in evading international sanctions; facilitated ISIS’ expansion through oil smuggling and being a conduit for new ISIS recruits and supplies; and threatened U.S. troops with violence for their assistance to the Kurds. Under his leadership, as noted by the former U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Turkey has taken on a “new role” as a main sponsor of funding for radical Islamist ideology. Included in this is that Turkey has developed good relationships with federally designated terror organizations such as Hamas, and the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.

Erdogan has also demonstrated his lack of trustworthiness as an ally by purchasing the S-400 missile system from Russia, which is a violation of Turkey’s duties as a NATO member. The missile system cannot be made interoperable with NATO and U.S. assets deployed in Turkish territory. It also conflicts with Turkey’s purchase of 100 F-35 fighter jets. These jets, which are the latest in NATO technology, would have to be connected to the S-400 system. But this would compromise the jet’s security, as any data collected by the S-400 system and obtained by Russia could help expose the joint strike fighter’s vulnerabilities. To make things even worse, Erdogan has proposed that Turkey and Russia work together on the S-500 missile system.

President Trump and other U.S. officials lobbied Turkish officials for months to release Brunson, and Trump himself tweeted about it, saying that the situation was a “total disgrace,” and threatened sanctions if Brunson was not released. Congress, in a provision in the final National Defense Authorization Act, also called on Turkey “to release wrongfully detained U.S. citizens including Andrew Brunson and Serkan Golge.”

Finally, a deal was made at the NATO summit, which would pair the release of Brunson (from all legal jeopardy) with the release of a Turkish terrorist in Israel. But then Erdogan reneged on that deal. (Although Erdogan claims there was no deal).

So, the question is, what is the U.S. planning to do about Turkey’s hostage taking and other bad behavior?

There needs to be real consequences to Turkey’s persecution of Andrew Brunson, and any other American unfairly held in a Turkish prison. Both the Trump administration and Congress are considering sanctioning Turkey if Brunson is not released. They should do so, immediately.

At some point, however, the U.S. is going to have to address the elephant in the room — Turkey’s continued membership in NATO. Unfortunately, the NATO Treaty has no way to remove any members, unless the nation in question is willing to leave (as France once did).

But NATO allies don’t behave like Turkey has, under Erdogan.

Just ask Andrew Brunson.

Originally published at: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/turkey-erdogan-nato/2018/08/01/id/874925/

Photo: Mike Hutchings/AFP/Getty Images

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Iranian Foreign Minister — and chief propagandist — Javad Zarif is very upset with the U.S. and the Trump administration.

We know this because of the long, rambling letter he produced, responding to a speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that outlines the U.S.’s twelve conditions for a new nuclear deal with the Iranian regime. In his letter, Zarif compiled a total of twenty-seven conditions for any deal with the U.S. Many of these requirements are absurd on their face.

One of Zarif’s criticisms was as follows:

The United States must abandon its policy of resorting to the threat or use of force — which constitute a breach of the preemptory norms of international law and principles of the Charter of the United Nations — as an option in the conduct of its foreign affairs with or against the Islamic Republic of Iran and other states.

If only Iran followed its own foreign minister’s advice.

Just last week, Iran made it very clear that it believes strongly in using both threats of force and force itself.

First, an Iranian diplomat and other Iranian nationals were arrested for plotting a bomb attack on a rally held by an exiled Iranian opposition group in France. The Belgian authorities found 500 grams of the powerful homemade explosive TATP and an ignition mechanism hidden in a toiletry bag in a car.

The rally, which attracted thousands of participants, took place in Villepinte, just outside of Paris. Many prominent Americans attended this event, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former FBI Director Louis Freeh.

The Iranian diplomat arrested was the “third counselor” based in Vienna, Austria.

Then, Iran threatened the world’s oil supply. After supposed “moderate” Iranian President Rouhani hinted at it, not one, but two, prominent Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) leaders explicitly threatened the oil supply. “If they want to stop Iranian oil exports, we will not allow any oil shipment to pass through the Strait of Hormuz,” IRGC commander Ismail Kowsari said.

And Qasem Soleimani, the IRGC Quds force commander wrote in a letter to Rouhani that was made public that the IRGC “is ready to implement a policy that hinders regional oil exports if the United States bans Iranian oil sales.”

It is particularly important to stress that in both of these cases, Iran is targeting nations and people who are actually sympathetic and catering to it. Iran threatened the oil supply because of the U.S. decision to remove itself from the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) and reimpose sanctions in May.

Much of the oil that comes through the Gulf is going to European and Asian nations, four of whom — China, France, Germany, and the UK — are still participating in the JCPOA, and virtually all of the other nations support the JCPOA. And the bombing could have killed or injured hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent Europeans in Villepinte, presumably mostly French.

Then again, none of this should be a surprise, as, contrary to Zarif’s statement, Iran has a long history of “resorting to the threat or use of force.”

As is well-known, the Iranian regime organizes rallies every February to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, arranges June rallies during its celebration of al-Quds day, and also organizes demonstrations every November to commemorate the taking of the American hostages in 1979. At all three events, the crowds shout “Death to America” and “Death to (Israel).”

Even when the U.S. was trying to make nice with the Iranians, under the Obama administration, the Iranians didn’t let up. During that time, the Iranians chanted “Death to Obama,” and “Death to Kerry.” Also, Iranians set up a booth to throw shoes at President Obama, hung Obama in effigy, and used an image of Obama to throw darts at.

And, certainly, Iran is not known for making idle threats. During the 1980s, Iran previously attacked international ships carrying oil through the Persian Gulf. During the 1980s and 1990s, it used its proxy Hezbollah to kill and injure hundreds of Americans and others.

During the U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Taliban controlled Afghanistan, Iran supplied Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFP’s) and other weapons to Iraqi and Afghani terrorists that killed more than 1100 U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. These EFP’s also killed British troops.

Today, Iran is bankrolling the Syrian regime that has killed hundreds of thousands of its own people, Shia militias in Iraq, Yemen’s Houthis, and Hamas. Today, Iran is training Sunni Muslim Taliban on the condition that they “should put more focus on attacking American and NATO interests in Afghanistan . . . ”

Zarif can say whatever he wants. But facts are facts, and Iran’s record of threatening other nations and attacking other nations (sometimes through proxies) is easily available for all to see.

There is a reason that Iran has been called the leading state sponsor of terrorism for the last three decades.

Originally published at: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/efp-jcpoa-kerry/2018/07/12/id/871420/

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