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Ever Hear of Robert Stethem? Of How He Was Treated by the Iranians?

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

(CNN, Bianca Britton, June 25, 2019)

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

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

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

Let us focus on just one brutal example.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lessons in the Appeasement of Iran

Photo: loavesofbread.swiss-image.ch

When I was a little girl growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust, I often asked my parents a troubling question: Why did the international community do nothing to stop Hitler?

They would usually answer with a bewildered shrug.

I was named after my Aunt Sarah, who was murdered by the Nazis. Apparently, she never got the chance to march under the notorious gates of Auschwitz marked with the duplicitous message, Arbeit Macht Frei (“Work Makes You Free”). When the Einsatzgruppen, the group of Nazis specifically trained to hunt down Jews, first invaded Poland, they went to my aunt’s shtetl, the village of Borschchtav. There, together with her neighbors, she was asked to strip down naked and dig a hole. These Nazis were so lustful in their passion to exterminate every Jew from the face of the earth that they would line them up, summarily shoot them in the backs of their heads and watch as they fell into the ditch the Jews themselves had just been forced to dig.

According to Father Patrick Desbois, a French Catholic priest and professor at Georgetown University, who has made it his personal mission to uncover these unmarked graves that dot the European landscape, there are at least 1.5 million Jews lying in ditches under cornfields of houses in unmarked graves that have not been recorded. That makes 7.5 million Jewish souls snuffed out during the Holocaust.

Some 74 years after the Holocaust, the European landscape is once again dotted with unabashedly shameless and foul signs of anti-Semitism.

The newly elected chairman of the European Union, Josep Borrell Fontelles, recently said in an interview in Politico, “We are not children following what they [the Americans] say. We have our own prospects, interests and strategy, and we will continue working with Iran. It would be very bad for us if Iran wants to develop a nuclear weapon. … Iran wants to wipe Israel out, nothing new about that. You have to live with it.”

In other words: As long as Iran is not aiming their nuclear warheads directly at Madrid, it’s perfectly acceptable.

He seems to be saying that we can live with another 7.5 million dead Jews (which, chillingly, is roughly today’s Jewish population of Israel).

He, along with many other world leaders, appears exceedingly resentful about the role that America has longed played as a moral leader in foreign policy and believes strongly in multilateralism. On Nov. 6, shortly after America had imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran, the Spanish Foreign Minister said, “We reject any kind of position that resembles an ultimatum from anyone, and also from the United States.”

The Islamic Republic of Iran has found a particularly soft spot in his heart. On the recent advent of the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, Borrell tweeted, “Today marks 40 years of the Islamic revolution of #Iran. The regional power has changed a lot during this time. In 1976, the literacy rate was 35%, now it is 84%.”Iran is a key country in the Middle East region. He has had an essential role in the #Siria (sic) war, helping Assad while the Americans are pulling out.”

He then compared the relationship that America has had with Iran to that it has had with Vietnam. These are two regions of the world that the newly elected head of the European Union feels have had an indelible effect on America’s psyche, with the Vietnam War ending in 1975 and the Iranian revolution occurring in 1979. He seems to find it difficult to understand why three American Presidents have visited Vietnam, and none have visited Iran since the revolution.

This is a preposterous analogy. I may be missing something, but I haven’t heard any recent reports of the Vietnamese holding Americans hostage, working on a nuclear bomb, arming and equipping Hezbollah and Hamas, attacking shipping vessels in international waters or regularly leading their people ins chant of “Death to America.”

If this is what the European Union has elected for its leader, we are in for some very tough sailing ahead. The Iranians are blazingly defying the limits imposed upon them by the Joint Comprehension Plan of Action (JCPOA), as they are assiduously stepping up their time to have enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb. According to a July 10 report by the Institute for Science and International Security, the Iranian nuclear plant at Fordow, which was according to the JCPOA, supposed to have been converted into a “nuclear physics and technology center for international collaboration,” very little or nothing has been converted. It houses a tunnel complex with gas centrifuges, and it has been bolstering a support area to protect the facility from aerial bombardment.

The Iranians are masters of double speak and have brazenly manipulated most of the international community into blaming the United States for violating the terms of the deal. That is because the Trump administration had the courage to break away from a deal that was far too weak to begin with and about which we have ample evidence to believe that the Iranians were cheating.

In the words of Sir Winston Churchill, “He who appeases the crocodile is only eaten last.”

Originally published: https://www.jns.org/opinion/lessons-in-the-appeasement-of-iran/

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It Is Immoral and Illogical to Blame the US for Iranian Aggression

Photo: EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

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

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

However, this argument is simply not true.

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

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

Perhaps another example will make it clearer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/iran-jcpoa-terrorism/2019/07/08/id/923739/
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Why is the E.U. behaving as the Defense Attorney for Iran?

It is interesting to observe that the moment Iran decided to withdraw from the nuclear deal, on Monday, leaders of the European Union became the pro bono defense attorneys for the Islamic Republic.  The news that Iran has followed through on its threat to violate the limit imposed on its stockpile of enriched uranium was greeted by the European Union with the response of  “let’s do anything to keep this deal alive.”

When this deal was negotiated, we had been assured of immediate, “snap back sanctions”  by President Obama, if Iran violated the deal. Yet, instead of holding Iran accountable for its violations, the top European nations are seeking to give Iran a second chance.

The international community can use a refresher course about just what sort of a regime we are dealing with here.  Iran is governed by an apocalyptic, tyrannical, theocracy that believes that they will bring their Messiah,  the  12th Imam,  by converting the entire world to Shia Islam and obliterating the non-believers. In their religious zeal, they hang gays, publicly lash women who have been raped, and arbitrarily sentence political prisoners and religious minorities  to  exceedingly harsh  prison sentences.

The day that Iran decided to step up its production of highly enriched uranium to exceed the limits of the nuclear deal, a senior Iranian official, Mojtaba Zonour, said that “if the United States attacks Iran, only one half hour will remain in Israel’s lifespan”.

Yet, in some sort of Kafkaesque inversion, many of our European allies see the United States as the culprit, here, because the US kept careful tabs on Iranian violations of a deal, and Iran as the hapless  ictim.

The truth is that Iran has – despite what has been reported – not been complying with the deal. To be certain, it is correct that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not found Iran to be in material breach of the JCPOA. But that’s more because the IAEA has not been looking too carefully at what Iran has done.

There is evidence that Iran has carried out military nuclear research at Parchin, but the IAEA, charged with assuring Iran’s compliance with the deal, refused to even ask for access. This is shocking given that it is precisely sites like Parchin where Iran has conducted illicit nuclear weapons research.

It would be more accurate to say that the IAEA has not found any Iranian violations because it hasn’t looked for them. For example, in 2017, an IAEA official said that his organization would not demand that Iran grant it access to military sites “We’re not going to visit a military site like Parchin just to send a political signal.”

In addition, as Michael Doran pointed out about the nuclear archive that Israel spirited out of Iran last year in an article published last month in Mosaic magazine:

The archive reveals, among other things, that Iran never abandoned its nuclear-weapons program but simply restructured it, emphasizing dual-use activities that have allowed Tehran to claim with a modicum of plausibility that its nuclear activities are “peaceful” and “civilian.” The JCPOA helped advance this deception by bestowing international legitimacy on facilities like the Fordow bunker.

While Zarif is very good in his role of spokesman for an aggrieved Iranian regime, reality is quite a bit different from the way he presented it.

But Zarif is not acting alone. He is helped by what Doran describes as a “coalition of open minds” dedicated to preserving the nuclear deal. Members of this coalition, he observes, “agree with the Europeans that Trump, not Iran, is to blame for the military escalation in the Gulf.”

This belief is false.

As noted previously, Iran was never in compliance with the nuclear deal. The U.S. withdrawal just ended the sham that the deal was actually preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. For one thing,  the Iranians closed off military sites to the International Atomic Energy Administration inspectors

Furthermore, the JCPOA called on all parties “to refrain from any action inconsistent with the letter, spirit and intent of this JCPOA that would undermine its successful implementation.” Surely the ballistic missile tests violated the spirit of the agreement.

In violation of UN Resolution 2231, the United Nations has found evidence showing that Iran was the source of weapons shipped to the Houthi rebels. According to the resolution Iran is barred from exporting weapons for at least eight years after implementation of the deal.

Taken together, Iran has violated both the JCPOA itself and the UN resolution that implemented the deal. Its stockpiling of enriched uranium above the deal-imposed limit is Iran’s latest show of contempt for international law and norms.

It’s time for the world to stop making excuses for Iran and snapback all international nuclear sanctions on the Islamic Republic. It is only this kind of severe economic measure that can hope to force Iran to stop enriching uranium and open up all of its facilities to international inspectors.

The crisis can be defused. Iran can abide by the terms of the deal it agreed to and then there will be no need to reimpose sanctions. Or it can refuse and suffer the consequences.

Originally published: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/why-is-the-e-u-behaving-as-the-defense-attorney-for-iran/

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Trump Must Collapse Iranian Regime by Continuing ‘Maximum Pressure’

Photo: File: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

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

I am not sure I agree with this argument.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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