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Review Category : Iran

State Dept. Undermining Kurds, Our Long Time Allies

“The United States is deeply disappointed that the Kurdistan Regional Government decided to conduct today a unilateral referendum on independence, including in areas outside of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in September.

The United States State Department says what the State Department says, but what they say is usually wrong.

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The Enemies of Kurdistan are the Enemies of the US

“The Kurds have no friends but the mountains,” goes a traditional Kurdish saying. No friends but the mountains and Israel would be more accurate.

Israel stood alone when its political leadership embraced the Kurdish quest for self-determination. A “brave, pro-Western people who share our values,” is how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Kurds. The deep affinity is mutual. Israeli flags were raised during pro-independence rallies in the Kurdistan region, the US and across Europe.

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Has America Helped to Arm the Iranian Beast?

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives passed HR 1698, the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act, a bill authored by the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, that will sanction Iranian and foreign companies, banks and individuals that support Iran’s illicit ballistic missiles program. The bill, which was passed by an overwhelming vote of 423-2, also prohibits entry to the United States of those who have supported Iran’s ballistic missiles program.

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The End of the Perilous Fictions Surrounding the Nuclear Deal with Iran

A week and a half ago, President Donald Trump took the first, crucial step towards ending a significant portion of the foreign policy legacy that had been bequeathed to the nation by his predecessor President Barack Obama: the nuclear deal with Iran. What has been largely forgotten by the public is that this particular foreign policy mire was built upon a fiction. The fiction upon which the deal was based was clearly outlined in a seminal article by David Samuels in the May 15 2016  issue of The New York Times Magazine entitled, The Aspiring Novelist who Became Obama’s Foreign Policy Guru.

The expose by Samuels focused on Ben Rhodes, the previous administration’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, and how he created a narrative to support the nuclear deal. While reading the article, it became increasingly clear that the nuclear deal with Iran had very little to do with Iran’s behavior or its commitments, but everything to do with a particular foreign policy objective that Obama wanted to achieve upon assuming office. It was all about the narrative—and had very little or nothing to do with reality.

Early in the article, Rhodes was described as trying to suppress the story of the Iranians taking ten sailors on two United States Navy riverine boats in the Persian Gulf. The seizure of the sailor took place days before the parties to the nuclear deal were to begin implementing the deal. But there was an even more immediate concern: later that day Obama was set to deliver the final State of the Union speech of his presidency, which was supposed to be “an optimistic, forward-looking” speech. Samuels described how Rhodes and the administration viewed their priorities: “A challenge to that narrative arises: Iran has seized two small boats containing 10 American sailors. Rhodes found out about the Iranian action earlier that morning but was trying to keep it out of the news until after the president’s speech.”

Samuels in the article further outlined how the “innovative campaign to sell the Iran deal” was “largely manufactured for the purpose of selling the deal.”

He elaborated:

The way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal presented — that the Obama administration began seriously engaging with Iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political reality in Iran, which came about because of elections that brought moderates to power in that country — was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal. Even where the particulars of that story are true, the implications that readers and viewers are encouraged to take away from those particulars are often misleading or false. Obama’s closest advisers always understood him to be eager to do a deal with Iran as far back as 2012, and even since the beginning of his presidency.

In the real world we are living in today—not the ideal world in which we are all the same, and in which no evil  exists—this sort of fiction writing serves as a paltry substitute for informed, realistically-based foreign policy and is irresponsible, reckless, and ultimately, immoral.

Foreign policy is not a town hall meeting. It is one thing when running for a local government office in American politics to exaggerate one’s opponents’ flaws, or mishaps. It is quite another in the dangerous world of foreign policy to whitewash a sworn enemy of the United States, whose leaders believe in a fundamentalist version of Shiite Islam, who want to create a Shia caliphate and to obliterate the Kafir –  the infidel -through a military buildup of both conventional and unconventional forces, including nuclear weapons.

All so that a former President can put a checkmark after one of his objectives.

This deception of the American people and the international community is patently immoral, particularly when it had been clear for over a decade that Iran has been intent on acquiring nuclear weapons.

We are not talking about the acquisition of small arms, but of allowing a rogue state to create an industrial scale nuclear infrastructure. Lives depend upon responsible foreign policy.

The profound immorality of the Obama administration was on display in June of 2009 throughout Iran, when, after the sham elections, millions of young, democracy-loving Iranians took to the streets in protest of the brutal rule of the Mullahs.  Beautiful Iranians had their skulls crushed in, and were carted off to the notorious Evin prison, sometimes never to be seen from or heard again. Many were holding up the sign” Obama. Where are you?” Finally, after more than a week of this brutality, Obama said something that can only be described as tepid, and measured, at best. Apparently, even then, Obama had wanted to cozy up to the Mullahs, and felt that the lives of these young beautiful dissidents were simply a price he had to pay for his foreign policy objective.

“He feared the demonstrations would sabotage his secret outreach to Iran,” columnist Eli Lake later observed.

It was not only the tone deafness ear to the human suffering and cries of the Iranian dissident population, nor the grave policy consequences of the Iranian nuclear deal that was so callous, cold-hearted and calculating. The method by which it was sold was also troubling. This deal had been presented to the American people and our policymakers in a way that evaded the Constitution of the United States and compromised our national sovereignty.

By making deal between six nations (the P5 plus 1: the U.S., Russia, China, France, Great Britain plus Germany) and Iran, as opposed to a treaty, the Obama administration bypassed Congress, making it nearly impossible for the legislature to exercise their responsibility of oversight and review. This was done to prevent the United States from acting unilaterally in case Iran would be been in violation of the deal.

This was further complicated by Obama making an end-run around Congress and going directly to the UN Security Council to enshrine it by a vote.

Although the U.S. was the essential driver of the deal, it is now increasingly difficult to get out of it because America is just one of 6 parties to the deal. This was Obama’s calculation all along.

The framers of the Constitution had situations like this in mind when they asserted that a treaty had to be ratified by 2/3 of the Senate. It is also why members of the U.S. Congress felt that they needed to reassert their constitutionally mandated role of oversight and review in the form of the Iranian Nuclear Review Act of 2015, known in shorthand as Corker-Cardin.

Contrary to popular belief, President Trump did not de-certify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, (JCPOA) or withdraw from the nuclear agreement on October 13. He simply did what he had been legally mandated to do under Corker-Cardin: to certify whether or not the lifting of Iranian sanctions is in the national security interest of the United States.

But the most deadly omission in this entire charade is that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not actually been doing the job of verifying Iran’s compliance with Section T of the nuclear deal, which addresses activities such as computer simulations of nuclear explosions or designing multi-point explosive detonation systems, activities which are necessary to the development of a nuclear weapon. The IAEA also has never visited any military site since the implementation of the deal nearly two years ago. These are sites where the suspected nuclear activity has been ongoing, but where the Iranians claim are off-limit to nuclear inspectors because they have deemed them “military sites”.

According to a report by David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security, of September 21, 2017, “as of the last quarterly report in August 2017, the IAEA had not visited any military site in Iran since Implementation Day, risking the de facto creation of no-go zones in Iran, a development that would render verification of the JCPOA moot. There is concern that this reflects Iranian bullying on the issue, where the Iranian regime takes a position that it will not allow inspectors access to military sites and the IAEA does not want to create a conflict the entire deal by asking to go.”

Why is the IAEA and most of the world cowering to the Iranian bully? Why have the spineless European leaders isolated President Trump for telling the truth about Iran? Is it just that a new market has opened up for business? Or is it that they are just buying time?

Everyone knows that Iran’s nuclear clock has been ticking for two years now, and that in just another 6 to 8 years, this deal gives Iran a legally sanctioned path to nuclear weapons.

The Iranian nuclear deal was a Munich Pact built on the quicksand of selling a “narrative” to a public that does not know how to recognize evil when it stares us in the face. And does not recognize the distinction between truth and fiction.

If Trump follows through on his October 13 speech and strengthens the terms of deal, it will go a long way towards rolling back Iran’s nuclear and non-nuclear threats to the world.

Sarah N. Stern is Founder and President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, EMET, a pro-American and pro-Israel think tank and policy shop in Washington, DC.

Originally published at: http://www.thetower.org/5560-the-end-of-the-perilous-fictions-surrounding-the-nuclear-deal-with-iran/

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Letter: 45 National Security Experts Urge President Trump to Withdraw From Nuclear Deal with Iran

September 21, 2017

The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC

Dear President Trump:

We are writing to you as national security experts, many who worked in the nuclear weapons, arms control, nonproliferation and intelligence fields, to express our strong opposition to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) and to ask that you withdraw the United States from this dangerous agreement as soon as possible.

We also call on your administration to declare to Congress next month that Iran has not been complying with this agreement and that it is not in the national security interests of the United States.

We strongly supported your statements during the 2016 presidential campaign that the JCPOA was one of the worst international agreements ever negotiated and as president that you would either withdraw from or renegotiate this deal.  Your campaign statements accurately reflected that the JCPOA is a fraud since it allows Iran to continue its nuclear weapons program while the agreement is in effect by permitting it to enrich uranium, operate and develop advanced uranium centrifuges and operate a heavy-water reactor.  Such limited restrictions as the deal actually imposes on Iran’s enrichment program will expire in eight years.  In addition, the JCPOA’s inspection provisions are wholly inadequate.

We also note that a joint July 11, 2017 letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson from Senators Cruz, Rubio, Cotton and Perdue outlined significant violations of the JCPOA by Iran, the most important of which is Iran’s refusal to permit IAEA inspections of military facilities.

In addition, although the JCPOA did not require Iran to halt its belligerent and destabilizing behavior, President Obama and Secretary Kerry repeatedly claimed it would lead to an improvement.  This has not happened.  To the contrary, after the JCPOA, Iran’s behavior has significantly worsened.  Tehran stepped up its ballistic missile program and missile launches.  There was a 90% increase in Iran’s 2016-2017 military budget.  Iran has increased its support to terrorist groups and sent troops into Syria.  Harassment of shipping in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea also increased, including missiles fired at U.S. and Gulf state ships by the Houthi rebels, an Iranian proxy in Yemen.

Moreover, in light of major advances in North Korea’s nuclear program, we are very concerned that North Korea and Iran are actively sharing nuclear weapons technology and that Iran is providing funding for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.  CIA Director Mike Pompeo suggested this possibility during a September 11 Fox News interview.

We are unconvinced by doom-and-gloom predictions of the consequences of a U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA.  The sky did not fall when you withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord.  Claims that Iran will step up its nuclear program or engage in more belligerent behavior must be considered against the backdrop of what Iran is allowed to do under the JCPOA and its actual conduct since this “political understanding” was announced.

Some Iran deal advocates argue that the United States should remain in the JCPOA and instead try to amend it to fix its flaws over several years.  A few contend you could decertify the agreement to Congress, but remain in the deal and then try to amend it.  Since Iran has made it clear it will not agree to changes to the JCPOA, we believe these proposals are unrealistic.  Continuing to legitimate the agreement is not conducive to its renegotiation.  The day will never come when the mullahs agree to amend the sweetheart deal they got in the JCPOA.

Ambassador John Bolton has drawn up a plan to implement a far more effective, comprehensive and multilateral approach to address the threat from Iran.  This approach includes strict new sanctions to bar permanently the transfer of nuclear technology to Iran.  He also calls for new sanctions in response to Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and efforts to destabilize the Middle East, especially in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Unlike the JCPOA, which was negotiated with no input from America’s allies in the Middle East, Ambassador Bolton outlines a multilateral campaign to forge a new comprehensive approach to the threat from Iran that includes the Gulf States and Israel to assure that their security interests are taken into account.

We agree with Ambassador John Bolton that strong international sanctions, a tough negotiating strategy and a decisive American president who will not engage in appeasement is the best approach to rein in Iran’s belligerent behavior and induce it to joining negotiations on a better agreement.

As national security experts who understand the urgency of addressing the growing threat from Iran, we urge you to implement the Bolton plan, withdraw from the dangerous Iran nuclear deal and not certify Iranian compliance to Congress next month.  It is time to move beyond President Obama’s appeasement of Iran and to begin work on a comprehensive new approach that fully addresses the menace that the Iranian regime increasingly poses to American and international security.

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Is Kirkuk a Melting Pot, or a Pressure Cooker?

Kirkuk, the oil rich province in dispute for nearly a century, may be the upcoming scene of one of Iraq’s longest-brewing post-ISIS conflicts. Located in northern Iraq under the de jure authority of the central government, the province is currently protected by the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Peshmerga forces. Kirkuk may provide a battleground for an upcoming struggle that may be necessary to formalize the divorce between Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, and Erbil, the Kurdish capital. The President of the KRG, Masoud Barzani has shown no sign of parting ways with the city, promising to protect and return it to Kurdistan. Barzani vowed “any force that thinks of taking Kirkuk by force will be faced by the whole of Kurdistan. We will defend it until the last one of us.” Whether through force or dialogue, the Kurds seem determined to push back external meddling.

The city of Kirkuk itself has historically housed a Kurdish majority with a Turkoman minority from the Ottoman Empire, later facing an influx of Arabs, first accompanying the British with the discovery of oil, then with Saddam Hussein’s Arabization campaign. Over time, the lack of Kurdish influence over the city has weakened Kurdish culture, diminishing Kurdish hopes of regaining what they believe is, historically, theirs. It was not until 2014 that this all changed; with the rise of ISIS came the collapse of the Iraqi army. The region witnessed their retreat, first from Mosul and later Kirkuk, leaving a security vacuum waiting to be filled –  the Kurds seized the moment, declaring to protect the city and promising to never again lose hold of Baba Gurgur (the Kurdish name for Kirkuk, meaning Father of Eternal Fire).

There are ethnic, religious, and resource-based struggles inflicting the whole of Iraq – especially the city of Kirkuk. This can only mean one thing: the city is ripe for conflict. As the Kurds gear up for an upcoming independence referendum on September 25th, their military gains have made them vulnerable on multiple fronts. Under the protection of the Peshmerga, Kirkuk’s society and security has improved dramatically; the city has witnessed infrastructural developments including new roads, malls, and hotels, as well as remarkable social harmony where Arabs, Turkmans and Kurds are seen living side-by-side in peace. The Governor of Kirkuk, Dr. Najmadin Karim – a Kurd himself – has managed to create a sort of sanctuary city, distant from the preconceived narratives of a conflicted province riddled with historic grievances. The governor has taken it two steps further, first by raising the Kurdish national flag alongside the Iraqi flag on government buildings – signaling a strong Kurdish authority – and second by announcing that Kirkuk, a disputed territory under the Iraqi Constitution Article 140, will officially take part in the Kurdish independence referendum.

The Kurds are not historically known to have kind neighbors. The call to include Kirkuk in what is already a controversial referendum has received the unwanted attention of Iran, Turkey, Baghdad and their proxies. This is a worrying development for the Kurds – external influence has the ability to unravel the cohesion established by the Kurds inside the city.

Baghdad deems that Kurds have taken advantage of the collapse of the country since 2014, and that these attempts by Governor Dr. Karim will only benefit ISIS. A Sunni Iraqi MP Mohammed Karbouli stated that this issue, “would trigger ethnic fighting and extend the life of the Islamic State” while Prime Minister Haider Abadi’s spokesperson Saad Hadithi called the decision “illegal and unconstitutional.”

Iran, playing a major role in shaping internal Iraqi politics since the withdrawal of US troops in 2011 under the Obama Administration, is also opposed to the move. Iran has threatened to unleash its Shiite proxy, the infamous Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) if necessary. The PMF is legally the responsibility of the central government of Baghdad, but is fully funded by Tehran. Shiite nationalism has threatened to further ignite conflict based on ethnic lines.

Turkey, an economic partner to the KRG and a strong influencer among the city’s Turkman minority, has warned through its Foreign Ministry that “the persistent pursuit of this dangerous movement will not serve the interests of the KRG or Iraq.” The rival Turks staunchly believe Kirkuk is historically Turkish, purging Kurdish claims and recently reaffirmed by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli, that “Kirkuk is Turkish. It will not be subjected to assimilationist aims and ethnic cleansing.”

In what was thought to be an upcoming victory among Iraqis and Kurds with the defeat of ISIS near, the reality seems to hint that Iraq will return to its normal pre-ISIS discords established by Saddam and left by former PM Nouri Maliki. But this “normal” has a new face, one that is fashioned by external coercions. Differing historical powers have ruled Kirkuk at one point or another throughout its history, but none are willing to lessen their hold.

Kurds face a challenging dilemma – they must calculate the value of Kirkuk. For Kurds living inside the city, the participation in the independence referendum means two things. First, it is reclaiming a long historical right, in essence correcting a false narrative forced by Arabs and Turks. Second, the push to be a part of an independent Kurdistan acts as a bridge – one that may once again unite them with their fellow countrymen.

The Kurds require support from the US if they are willing to risk the stability achieved in both Kirkuk and the KRG, a backing they do not have. Possible military action against Kirkuk is not in any parties’ interest. Since 2014, Kurds have established a safe haven protecting all minorities, and disrupting the stability would only be perceived as an attack on the city’s citizens and not the Kurdish authority. This would likely only strengthen the position of the Kurds. Baghdad, Tehran and Ankara may have to accept the reality on the ground – that Kurds have proven to be a highly effective fighting forces against ISIS. The Kurds have successfully governed Kirkuk looking beyond ethnic divisions and embraced the diversity, something both Arabs and Turks have failed to do throughout history.

If the dispute over Kirkuk takes a violent path it will inevitably continue to destabilize not only the KRG but Iraq too and will likely spillover to Turkey and Iran, giving birth to another sectarian and ethnic war no side can afford – or wants. A peaceful solution through open dialogue is certainly the right path. If confronted, do Kurds have it in them to continue onto another war, post-ISIS?  The next war may be more difficult, costly, and will no longer be held to a coalition between the PMF, Iraqi Army, and the Peshmerga. Their fighting forces will likely be far more isolated. Nonetheless, it carries with it the very real possibility of defining a future Kurdish state.

Originally published at Raddington Report.

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