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Review Category : Iran

It is this Deal and War

Photo: Sean McCabe for POLITICO

On July 23, 2015, when the Obama administration was in the throes of trying to push, what they considered their signature, landmark, foreign policy achievement, the Iranian nuclear deal, through Congress, John Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and gave the members a stark choice: “It is either this deal or war”.

As it turns out, Congress never really had the opportunity to vote on the nuclear deal. The Obama administration in order to avoid the constitutionally -mandated Senate approval with a foreign power, simply used a linguistic trick, and avoided calling the agreement a “treaty”, but a “deal”.

Rather, the United States, leading the charge, injected itself as only one of six nations, so the international momentum for this deal would take on a life of its own. Then, before Congress even had the opportunity to vote on it, the Obama administration did an “end run” around Congress and took it to the United Nations for a vote.

In an incredibly revealing,  New York Times of May 5, 2015 article by David Samuels of Obama’s Deputy National Security Council Advisor, Ben Rhodes, Mr. Rhodes was very upfront about how the Obama White House orchestrating a campaign to manipulate the news media by generating  false stories to paint Iran as more benign, to a team of newly-minted, guileless reporters.

Rhodes admitted to Samuels that this campaign was manufactured by “legions of arms control experts (who) began popping up at think tanks and on social media”, and who became “sources for clueless reporters.” According to Rhodes, “We created an echo chamber. They were saying things and validated what we were giving them to say.”

Most people have ignored the profound and deeply consequential immorality of what the Obama administration had done here. Many historians have written critical analyses of  how  the Sulzberger family, the publishers of the New York Times, buried the stories f the holocaust on its back pages. However, they did not create false narratives about the Nazis regarding the holocaust.

Iran might shortly have the ability to create a nuclear holocaust, and the Obama administration is guilty of manufacturing stories to whitewash the Islamic Republic, and  kicked the can of what was  then an emerging  danger down  the road. It is quickly, however, becoming a clear and present danger.

We are now approaching 2020. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, (JCPOA) which was agreed upon in July of 2015 has 8 to 10 year sunset clause. Tha sunset is not in the too distant future.

So even if the Iranians were keeping to this extraordinarily generous deal, we would have a problem in a few years.

The truth, however, is that they are not keeping to the deal. When they were intent on selling the deal to a skeptical public, we were told by President Obama that there was going to be “anywhere, anytime inspections”.

Subsequently, we were told that the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA) would have 24 hours to get into a nuclear site. Then the Iranians succeeded in pushing the 24 hours to 24 days.

Ultimately, however, the Iranians were able to convince John Kerry and his team of negotiators that “military sites were off limits”.

If I were an Iranian nuclear scientist, and was working on something that I would like to hide from the IAEA, I would simply work on it on a “military site”.

Technically, according to the JCPOA, Iran is in violation of the deal if the IAEA formally requests access to a suspicious site. However, according to an August 31, 2017 Reuters report, the IAEA has not visited a military site since the deal was implemented “because it has no reason to ask”.

Said the official, “We are not going to visit a military site just to send a political signal.”

By not inspecting the military sites, however, they are sending a clear political signal. They are sending a signal that the agency that is set up for the sole purpose of monitoring illicit nuclear activity is asleep on the job because of their political cowardice.

They are sending a signal of vitiation and of appeasement

We all know that Iran has become vastly more enriched, emboldened and empowered in the region because of the nuclear deal, and that they have created a land bridge from Tehran, to Baghdad, to Damascus to Beirut and are involved in military adventurism throughout the region, in Yemen, Iraq, Syria  and  Lebanon.

On May 13th,  Iran  attacked four shipping vessels in the Persian Gulf, two carrying the flag of Saudi Arabia, one of Norway and one of the United Arab Emirates. They are obviously trying to flex their muscles by attacking our allies.

John Kerry, I am afraid you were wrong. Dead wrong. Because of your administration’s policy of Iranian appeasement, this might ultimately become an issue of this deal and war.

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What War with Iran Would Mean for the Kurds

Heightened tensions between the United States and Iran has put the Middle East on edge as the region prepares for the worst. After a war of words between the long-time adversaries, both have propped up their military presence and have alerted their allies and proxies, sending uncertain signals.

But like all major conflicts in the Middle East, the Kurds are likely to be dragged into the mess, whether they like it or not. The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) was created by the United States during the first Gulf war with the implementation of a no-fly zone against Saddam Hussein. Since then, the Kurds and Americans have shared a unique political and military partnership that has benefited both sides. This alliance, however, took an unfortunate turn in 2017 when the Kurds ignored international calls and moved ahead with an independence referendum, without the blessings of the United States. The skepticism from the Kurdish side towards the Americans is still very much alive. After all, strictly from a Kurdish perspective, how can the Kurdistan region afford to openly back the United States against its neighbor Iran, especially when the United States was nowhere to be found in 2017 at a time of need? That legitimate concern still haunts the two allies.

If there is an outright war between the United States and Iran, the Kurds will likely attempt to lay low unless Washington can guarantee 100 percent air and ground protection for decades to come, which is highly questionable. Unfortunately, America has a negative track record of betraying the Kurds when needed most. What is certain is that the Kurdistan region must not risk its stability and cannot afford to find itself in an ambiguous position similar to their brethren, the Kurds in Syria, who face the likelihood of American troop withdrawal.

We know that a war between the United States and Iran will be a costly and long one—after all, Iran is not Iraq, its military is much stronger, it has proxies across the region, its weaponry is more advanced, its terrain is rough and its population is large. Kurdistan will likely be called upon by the United States to hold down its mountainous region and give access to its airspace. Washington will also probably ask for an open border between the Kurdistan Region Government (KRG) and Iranian Kurdistan where the Peshmerga and Kurdish armed forces will keep watch, giving access to Iran through Kurdish held areas.

But this is easier said than done, as Iran has deep roots across the KRG between all parties, most notably the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by the Barzani clan and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan led by the Talabani clan. The United States will find it difficult to convince both these parties and their armed Peshmerga forces to simply push away Iran. In the past, Tehran has threatened the destruction of the KRI if they allowed Washington to use Kurdish areas as a launching pad against the Iranian regime. Moreover, Iran has acted on its threats by launching short-range missiles at armed Iranian-Kurdish forces based in the KRI.

Furthermore, tensions between Iran and America will dampen improved relations between KRG and Baghdad. Baghdad too will be forced to choose sides between the two states, and it may bring about the division of Iraq as a whole.

If it were up to the Kurds, they would choose to side with the Americans—but the ties they have with Iran are out of necessity and due to lack of trust with the United States. This has cornered not only Kurdish officials but the Kurdish population as well. Kurds are eager for the destruction of the Iranian regime—after all, it is the same regime which is responsible for thousands of Kurdish deaths. The most likely beneficiary of heightened tensions will be the Kurds in Iran, numbered at an estimated twelve million situated in the northwest, who too desire autonomy and independence. They have been training for the opportunity to strengthen their position and part ways with the Islamic regime militarily. This will possibly see a similar path to the one Kurds in Syria have taken—prove to the Americans they are the most pro-western, secular and reliable force to side with. The Kurds in Syria may benefit too, an increase of U.S. military presence in the Middle East will mean more ground troops in Syria, propping up American allies, including the majority Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Whether war occurs or not, a conflict with Iran only proves that the United States must never abandon its allies, especially the Kurds. Kurdish reliance on U.S. forces in the Middle East benefits both sides, and Kurds are no longer a small minority that can be overlooked. Kurds have proven to be kingmakers in regional conflicts, they have proven to be steadfast, and they are battle hardened. Washington must stand by its Kurdish allies today across the region so when the time comes the Kurds can be there for America.

Originally published: https://nationalinterest.org/feature/what-war-iran-would-mean-kurds-58802

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Designating Iran’s IRGC a Terror Organization Was a Smart Move

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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Mohammad Zarif’s ‘B Team’ Delusions

During his recent appearance on Fox News last Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sounded a conciliatory tone towards U.S. President Donald Trump, blaming tensions between the United States and Iran on a so-called “B team.”

Zarif described this group, which is comprised of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, as seeking to “lure President Trump into a confrontation that he doesn’t want.”

While he bashed Trump in other parts of the interview and insisted that Iran would never negotiate with him, Zarif also characterized Trump as being manipulated by others into war—a seemingly transparent effort to portray the U.S. president as a reasonable partner for diplomacy.

There are very good reasons why Zarif would seek to portray negotiations with Trump as palatable for Iran. The maximum economic pressure being applied against Iran by the Trump administration, including the reimposition of nuclear sanctions and the recent designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization, are hurting Iran’s economy.

Most importantly, Zarif knows that there is no way that Iran can possibly win a war in which the United States will be supporting our national security interests in the region, as well as those of our allies in the region. And he wants to avoid it at all costs.

But Zarif is wrong if he thinks that he is fooling anyone. Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal not just because it failed to dismantle Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, but also because it fueled Iran’s regional aggression. When he announced the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal last year, Trump observed that “since the agreement, Iran’s bloody ambitions have grown only more brazen.”

The conflicts in the Middle East—in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen—have all intensified in the wake of the nuclear deal and been fueled by the money Iran received because of the deal. The “B team,” as Zarif derisively calls them, isn’t pulling the wool over Trump’s eyes and leading him blindly into war. Rather, these nations agree with Trump that Iran’s aggression and destabilization have worsened since the nuclear deal was concluded. Like Trump, Bolton, Netanyahu and the Gulf princes all agree that Iran is the source of the aggression, and that it must be rolled back.

By accusing others of seeking confrontation when it is Iran that has been fueling the violence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, Zarif whitewashed his country’s role in fomenting instability throughout the Middle East.

This wasn’t the foreign minister’s only lie.

Fox News host Chris Wallace challenged Zarif point blank, saying, “The IRGC has killed more than 600 American soldiers in Iraq.” Zarif denied the charge, replying that the “IRGC has never killed Americans. IRGC is there to fight terrorism.”

Of course, it was Iranian-made weapons that have killed at least 600 Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, of course, the newly sanctioned IRGC doesn’t fight terrorism; it is a major source of terrorism. Whether it’s Hezbollah threatening Israel from Lebanon and Syria; the Houthi rebels threatening Saudi Arabia, the UAE and international shipping; or Iraqi Shi’ite militias threatening Iraqi Sunnis, the IRGC is arming and otherwise supporting them.

When Wallace pressed Zarif on the IRGC’s role in killing U.S. service personnel, Zarif replied, “I mean, that’s a new charge that the United States—and it’s a very dangerous accusation.” That’s not exactly a denial. In any case, what’s new is the number; a report a few weeks ago put the number of U.S. soldiers killed with the assistance of the IRGC at more than 600.

Throughout the interview, Zarif portrayed Iran as the wounded party. He said that the United States was not trustworthy because it had withdrawn from the deal. What he did not say was that information contained in the nuclear archives that Israel recovered from Tehran last year raised doubts about any semblance of Iranian compliance with the deal.

In addition to his dissembling over Iran’s foreign adventures, the foreign minister pretended to speak for the Iranian people. Sanctions, according to Zarif, are intended to “put as much pressure as it can on the Iranian people.”

But the Iranian people were protesting prior to the reimposition of the nuclear sanctions. They saw that the windfall that the regime reaped from the nuclear deal go towards foreign military adventures rather than to build a crumbling civilian infrastructure.

That’s why last year, instead of chanting “death to America,” protesters against the regime were saying “death to Palestine,” registering their disapproval of the regime’s generosity in destabilizing the Middle East.

Zarif is quite skilled at evading questions and lying. His performance on Fox News Sunday this week will surely reinforce that reputation. However, nothing he presented is likely to convince Trump, who understands the threat that Tehran poses to the Middle East. That is precisely why the United States just deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Persian Gulf.

Originally published: https://www.jns.org/opinion/mohammad-zarifs-b-team-delusions/

Photo: AP Photo / Petr David Josek

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The IAEA’S Blind Spots on Iran’s Nuclear Program

On April 9, Iranian President Rouhani boasted that “today and throughout the past year, we have launched 114 new technologies via the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. This is the message to the world: You have not succeeded, and you will not succeed in preventing the progress and development of the Iranian people and their nuclear program. If yesterday you feared our IR-1 centrifuges, well, here you go!”

He has reason to boast. The 2015 Iranian nuclear deal brokered by former President Barack Obama was extremely weak, but yet, given its weaknesses, the agency that was established to monitor Iran’s compliance has been exceedingly lax.

On April 4, The Wall Street Journal reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspected a warehouse in Tehran that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year said housed nuclear equipment and materials. When negotiating the Iranian nuclear deal, we had been assured constantly by President Obama of “anytime, anywhere inspections.”

Six months elapsed from the speech until the inspection. The question is what took the IAEA so long?

David Albright and Andrea Stricker of the Institute of Science and International Security noted in a paper published earlier this month that the IAEA inspection took place only after the Islamic Republic had the opportunity to empty the site and clean it up. “In short,” they wrote, “the IAEA visits in March 2019 are like looking for a horse when the barn door has been left open for many months.”

But this is far from the only failure of the IAEA to ensure that Iran was complying with the deal.

In his statement announcing the implementation of the nuclear deal in January 2016, President Obama said, “On January 16, 2016, the IAEA verified that Iran has completed the necessary steps under the Iran deal that will ensure Iran’s nuclear program is and remains exclusively peaceful.”

The problem is that we have learned subsequently that the IAEA did not, then, have full knowledge of Iran’s past nuclear-weapons work. In January of 2018, Israeli intelligence recovered a half-ton of material documenting the advances Iran made in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Subsequent examination of the archives by weapons’ experts at the Institute of Science and International Security, and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), found that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program was more advanced than previously thought.

In a paper published in February, Albright, Stricker and Olli Heinonen of FDD, wrote that “this new information in the archive indicates that Iran might still be in breach of its nuclear nonproliferation undertakings.”

Yet the IAEA still has not acted upon the information contained in the nuclear archive that was obtained by Israeli intelligence, even though it would give them greater insight into the full scope of Iran’s nuclear-weapons research.

The IAEA didn’t just fail to pursue the information in the archives. Even before Israel recovered the documents, the nuclear watchdog failed to verify other elements of Iran’s compliance.

An IAEA official told Reuters in August 2017 that the agency saw no need to demand access to Iran’s military sites. Following talks with then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, the IAEA official said, “We’re not going to visit a military site like Parchin just to send a political signal.”

By refusing to inspect military sites like Parchin, the IAEA is sending a much different political signal than what the official thinks. It signals a policy of appeasement.

These failures of the IAEA—the failure to follow up on the nuclear archive, the refusal to demand access to military sites and others—show that the agency that is supposed to verify Iran’s compliance with the deal has given too much leeway to the Islamic Republic.

It would appear that the IAEA’s role in the nuclear deal is to validate it—ensure that nothing, not even Iranian violations, undermines it—not to verify it.

In announcing the implementation of the deal, President Obama guaranteed that Iran would be “subjected to the most comprehensive, intrusive inspection regime.”

The record over the past three years is that the IAEA, the agency charged with the inspections, has been anything but “comprehensive” and “intrusive.” It has refused to investigate certain suspicions and, in the case of the warehouse, taken its time allowing Iran plenty of time to clean up illicit nuclear sites.

With all of these lapses, how can the IAEA be an effective force in preventing Iran’s development of nuclear weapons?

Originally published: https://www.jns.org/opinion/the-iaeas-blind-spots-on-irans-nuclear-program/

Photo: Getty Images

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Iran Is Obviously Violating the JCPOA

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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Phone Seminar: “The Syrian Withdrawal and the Rapidly Shifting Sands in the Middle East”

January 23, 2019

On December 19, 2018, President Donald Trump announced by tweet that he was withdrawing most of the 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.”

There are about 2200 U.S. soldiers in Syria. 2000 of these troops are in the northeast, where they 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 very rarely been exposed to combat situations. Four Americans were killed on Wednesday in an attack by ISIS in Syria, and six U.S. soldiers have died in combat since 2014.

Since his initial announcement, the President and his aides have somewhat walked back these tweets. Although some U.S. troops have begun to leave, it is unclear exactly how long it will take, and whether the 200 troops in al-Tanf are to be included.

What are the ramifications of a U.S. withdrawal from Syria? And what are the national security interests that favor the U.S. staying the course there? To explore these questions and more, EMET is honored to host Professor Efraim Inbar from Jerusalem for a phone seminar.

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Press Release: EMET Praises Israel for Deliberately and Aggressively Defending Itself Against an Iranian Attack

EMET Praises Israel for Deliberately and Aggressively Defending Itself Against an Iranian Attack
(Washington, DC, January 21, 2019) – Today, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), praised Israel for carrying out a series of airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria, and the deliberate and aggressive manner in which it responded to an Iranian attack targeting the Golan Heights yesterday.  On Sunday, Iran’s Al-Quds Force, an arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Forces (IRGC), launched a missile at northern Israel from Syria, in an area near Damascus, approximately 50 kilometers from the Golan.  This is the third time that Iran tried to attack Israel in the past year.  Israel’s Iron Dome intercepted the Iranian missile.On Monday, Israel responded to the attack by striking Iranian targets in Syria, including a military training camp, munition storage sites, and an intelligence site.  Following Israel’s strikes, Iran’s General Aziz Nassirzadeh said its Air Force’s “young generation are impatient and ready for a fight against the Zionist regime to wipe it off the Earth.”

“We have a defined policy: to harm Iranian entrenchment in Syria and to harm anyone who tries to harm us,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.  “We will not ignore such acts of aggression as Iran attempts to entrench itself militarily in Syria and given explicit statements by Iran that it intends to destroy Israel,” the Israeli Prime Minister added on Monday.

Iranian forces are just north of the Golan Heights, and are as far south in Syria as Quinetra.  The Iranian backed proxy, Hezbollah, has 150,000 missiles staring down at Israel.  Iran is essentially working to create an uninterrupted land bridge from Tehran through Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut to the Mediterranean.

“EMET applauds Israel for responding openly, aggressively, and forcefully against the Iranian entrenchment in Syria near their northern border.  The aggressive actions against the people of Israel by Iranian forces in Syria once more proves that the United States needs to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.  This would show American strength in the region without committing even one boot on the ground, and it would prove to the world that the United States does not abandon its friends and allies to the Iranian menace and its proxies,” Sarah Stern, the founder and president of EMET said.

“When there is daylight between the United States and Israel, that is when the enemies of both countries attack. It is well past time that the United States recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights to protect the national security interests of the U.S., and our one Democratic ally in the Middle East, Israel,” Stern added.

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About the Endowment for Middle East Truth
Founded in 2005, EMET’s mission is to educate policymakers in Washington and the general public about the importance of Israel to the United States in their common struggle against radical Islam. For more information, please visit, http://www.emetonline.org. Follow EMET on Twitter and Facebook.

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Press Release: EMET Expresses its Strong Disappointment with the Decision to Remove U.S. Troops from Syria

EMET Expresses its Strong Disappointment with the Decision to Remove U.S. Troops from Syria

(Washington, DC, December 19, 2018) – Today, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) expressed its strong disappointment with the decision by President Donald Trump to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.  In a Wednesday, December 19th tweet, the President said, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”  The White House then confirmed in a statement that the administration has “started returning United States troops home.”  EMET strongly believes this surprising and precipitous withdrawal of all of our troops from Syria endangers U.S. national interests as it is not in line with the American foreign policy principle of standing by our friends, in this case the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), as well as the State of Israel, and only gives oxygen to our enemies — the Islamic State, the Iranian mullahs, the Assad regime in Syria, Putin’s Russia and Turkey under Erdogan.

There are currently an estimated 2200 U.S. troops in Syria.  These troops are located in northeastern Syria in an area controlled by U.S. allies, the SDF, and at the al-Tanf border crossing with Iraq in southeastern Syria. In both areas, the U.S. troops play only a training and support role and have only very rarely been exposed to combat. Their primary mission is to train, equip and advise our partners on the ground.

The SDF is a strong U.S. ally that controls about 30% of Syria.  It includes both Syrian Kurds and others who live in that region.  Unlike the rest of Syria, civilians in SDF controlled territory have civil, religious, and voting rights.  When the IS was ascendant in Syria and Iraq, the Syrian Kurds – who later became the SDF – were the lone moderate force who successfully opposed the IS. At the behest of the U.S., the Syrian Kurds/SDF fought the IS to liberate Syrian civilians in Raqqa and other areas, despite the fact that there were no Syrian Kurds living in the area.  Thousands of Syrian Kurds/fighters from the SDF were killed or wounded in this fighting.

By removing U.S. troops from these areas in Syria, the U.S. endangers moderate forces in the region and empowers many bad actors.  First, this will likely allow the Islamic State forces to rebound, in a manner similar to what occurred when the U.S. removed troops from Iraq in 2011.  Second, this will encourage Islamist Turkish dictator Erdogan to attack the SDF, as Erdogan has always hated and feared any Kurdish groups.  Third, this will encourage the Assad regime, backed by its allies the Iranians and Russians, to attack the SDF and the al-Tanf pocket.  Fourth, this removal will allow Iran to solidify its ‘Shia crescent’ land bridge from Iran to Lebanon, on which it has transported soldiers and weapons and missiles, and thus endanger U.S. allies such as Israel and Jordan and Saudi Arabia.  Fifth, by removing U.S. troops so suddenly, and without concern for the danger it causes to U.S. allies, the U.S. is likely to be seen as an “unreliable ally” by the rest of the world. And finally, this decision should be examined carefully in light of the fact that Iran, which has gotten progressively more and more entrenched in Syria, has just successfully conducted a medium range ballistic missile test, which, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said, “is capable of carrying multiple warheads.”

Sarah Stern, founder and President of EMET stated, “We at EMET have often argued that there should be synergy between good foreign policy, national interest, and what is moral and right. Here there is no synergy.  By removing U.S. troops from Syria so precipitously, we are weakening the fight against the Islamic State.  It is more than likely that ISIS will now emerge in another form, or some other re-incarnation.  We are throwing our SDF allies, and other moderate forces, who have shed their blood fighting the Islamic State, to the wolves of Turkey, the Assad regime in Syria, Iran, and Russia. We are encouraging the world to believe that the U.S. is a feckless and inconsistent ally.  This decision will only add to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. And we are allowing Iran to complete its land bridge, thereby endangering other U.S. allies, including our one democratic ally in the region, Israel. And we are leaving Israel, in particular, much more exposed and vulnerable to attack.”

“EMET strongly encourages the President to reconsider his decision soon, before the progress that has been made in the fight against ISIS is damaged, the stability the SDF has created in northeast Syria is destroyed, the enemies of the U.S. are empowered, and the U.S. looks weak abroad,” Stern concluded.

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About The Endowment for Middle East Truth
Founded in 2005, EMET’s mission is to educate policymakers in Washington and the general public about the importance of Israel to the United States in their common struggle against radical Islam. For more information, please visit, http://www.emetonline.org. Follow EMET on Twitter and Facebook.

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To US Lawmakers, Keep Troops in Syria

Photo: ABC News

With the Republicans losing control of the House in January, expect calls for an ‘exit strategy’ from the Syrian civil war. A rapid exit would be a mistake. An immature withdrawal from Syria would be a catastrophic miscalculation parallel to that of 2011 when troops pulled out of Iraq under the Obama administration. In 2011, as Iraq witnessed a degree of stability thanks to US troop presence, the Kurds in the north advised the Americans to stay. These warnings were ignored, the Islamic State (ISIS) emerged just years later.

Today in Syria the war is gradually on the decline with only pockets of tension. The Assad regime is the clear victor over territories west of the Euphrates river, thanks to the aid of Russia and Iran. In the northwest, rebels and al Qaeda affiliates have managed to carve up territories with orders coming from Ankara, aiming to fulfill Erdogan’s Ottoman ambitions. However, in Northeast Syria, there exists stability far greater than that of 2011 Iraq. Controlled by our coalition partners the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), East of the Euphrates holds 2,000 US troops, a small but potent presence. It is in the United States national security interests to keep a long-term presence in Syria for the reasons below:

Control Iran

Iran is the single biggest threat to US national security interests in the Middle East. If the US decides to pack up and leave it will hand over to Iran 30 percent of Syrian territory. Syrian land is not all created equal. The land the US is protecting includes an estimated 52 percent of natural resources — not only oil but also agricultural land, major dams, pipelines, highways and access to the Euphrates. Iran aims to institutionalize its presence in Syria. Iran’s model for Syria is Hezbollah in Lebanon, coupled with the sort of underhanded methods Iran has used to undermine Iraq. A US withdrawal would offer Iran access to substantial resources at a time when their economy is teetering.

A troop pullout would also embolden the Ba’athist regime in Syria to overtake territory in the northeast. Both to push back Assad’s ambitions of reconquering all of Syria, and to hinder Iran’s expansionist agenda, America must stay in Syria. The United States mustn’t indirectly give Iran the greenlight to permanently set up camp in another Arab state. The US has an opportunity to prevent Iran from further escalating tensions in an already-ravaged Middle East.

Befriend the Kurds

The United States most reliable and stable ally has been the Kurds. The US-Kurdish military partnership has drastically improved since 2011, and the fight against ISIS has only reinforced that they are a reliable and resilient minority. The Kurds in Syria have defended their historical territories east of the Euphrates while battling not only the Islamic State but other terror organizations, Iranian backed groups, and the Assad regime. Continuing to support the Kurds allows US soldiers to stick to their ‘train, advise and equip’ policy.

According to Wladimir van Wilgenburg, an on-the-ground based reporter and analyst, with extensive experience in northeast Syria states that “the SDF are a unified force, they provide the security for all ethnic and religious minorities, they allow journalists and NGOs to work freely in the areas they control, they have zero tolerance for corruption and looting, and have a great recruiting track record.” As the conflict winds down, the US can transform its military partnership with the SDF into a political relationship by supporting the governing system, the Syrian Democratic Council.

The alliance with the Kurds gives the US another advantage: it gives their presence legitimacy. As long as the SDC continues, US troops are in Syria with the permission of over 4 million local citizens. This is just. The Assad regime no longer has a legitimacy in the northeast. The SDC alliance shows that Assad’s argument that the US is in Syria without authorization is not valid. The US effort is legitimized by the very governing system that Assad would like to destroy.

Originally published: https://securitystudies.org/opinion-to-us-lawmakers-keep-troops-in-syria/

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