Sarah: Good afternoon, and welcome to yet another extremely topical, timely, and important Met webinar. On June 13th. State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller said that rumors about an interim deal with the Iranians are false and misleading. Yet we’ve read several highly reputable reports that the Iranians and Americans have been meeting secretly. Several stories have gotten out that Iran, which now of course holds one of the most brutal human rights records in the world. And just the first six months of this year, they’ve executed by hanging 354 people will now be able to enrich their uranium to 60% level of purity. As I have often quoted, one of the people I respect so much in history, Andre Sakharov the former Soviet physicist in human rights, activist who said the best way to understand a country’s foreign policy is to look at the way they treat their own internal dissident population.
The 60% limit is an entirely new and heart stopping threshold quite far from the 3.6% level that was allowed for in the 2015 JCPOA and just a few short days away from the lethal 90% level. We have also read reports that there might be a hostage deal, perhaps to sweeten the bitter blow to the American public of a deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran. This deal will involve South Korea, which reportedly was posed to release approximately 7 billion in frozen Iranian funds and Iraq, which was posed to release 2.75 billion. Although we’ve been told by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in his hearing in January of 2021, that we will be getting a quote longer and stronger deal. All of a sudden, we’re told that there will be a shorter and weaker quote mini deal. According to federal law IRA which was passed in the aftermath of the JCPOA.
Any sort of agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran must be submitted to Congress within five days for review. If it’s found that the Iranians have violated any of the stipulations in the JCPOA, there must be immediate snapback sanctions. Are there secret negotiations with Iran? What stage are we at and what are we and Congress to do about this? Here to walk us through all of this is Richard Goldberg, one of I think America’s greatest Patriots. And most brilliant analysts that we have. Rich had worked with Senator Marker and before that with Congressman Marker to implement the strongest. And he was the chief architect of, I should say, the strongest Iranian sanctions that we’ve ever known. He has been a staff, a associate, and he was with actually the White House from 2019 to 2021.
He was a member of the NSC and he coordinated President Trump’s maximum pressure campaign to Iran among many other things. And he’s also targeted the Central Bank of Iran, the Swift Financial Messaging Service, and entire sectors of the Iranian economy. Rich holds a BS in journalism and an MA in public Policy administration from Northwestern University. He is an officer in US Navy Reserve with military experience, excuse me, on the joint staff and in Afghanistan. Welcome back, Richard. It is always a supreme pleasure and honour to have you. So Richard what do about the details about an pending nuclear deal with Iran?
Richard: Yeah, thanks for having me. Thanks for all the work you do, Sarah and everybody on the call today. Right now, I would say it’s 50 50, whether or not we are negotiating a deal with Iran or whether we are actually already implementing a deal with Iran. I say that because you have to follow the money and the money shows you whether or not there’s already a deal underway. And so far we have seen confirmed reports of almost 3 billion or over 3 billion moving from Iraq at the Iranians request to pay off Iranian debt. And we just saw a report two days ago of 10 billion out of Iraq now being made accessible to Iran. And so the indicators to me are that we may already be in the midst of a deal, though that is not confirmed. What is the deal?
What is the mini deal that we heard prime Minister Netanyahu refer to it as, what is this understanding that we’ve seen in some press reports avoiding the term deal the term agreement and why the administration would want to go on the record to say there is no interim deal being negotiated and obviously the legal implications of that and the term of art of agreement or deal being used here from the legal ramification of Congressional oversight. Well, we understand from various press reports all being linked together with diplomatic sources throughout the west confirming this. The only people apparently in the world who don’t confirm this to the press are the Americans but everyone else who’s been briefed by the Americans is able to confirm it to western media. And we see these reports confirmed also in Arabic language press and in version language press.
When you see things happening in Iraq, in Qatar, in Oman or in Iran, these things happen. They are reported in the local press. They’re translated, and they match what we have seen in Western press reports. So that’s the picture we put together to say what this deal really looks like. This is basically a cash for nuclear pause. And when I say nuclear pause, I don’t mean they’re pausing enrichment in Iran. They get to continue enriching and growing their stockpile of low enriched uranium. They get to continue enriching and growing their stockpile of high enriched uranium, both at 20% and at 60%. Understanding that 60% enriched uranium technically on a technical basis, is 99% of the way to 90% weapons grade uranium. So they’re almost there. They’re basically there. They’re at the doorstep of producing weapons, grade uranium and simply to get the Iranians to not produce 90% weapons grade uranium.
That’s the concession. The Americans are willing to unlock billions of dollars of frozen funds. Where are those funds located? How does Iran get the cash for this effectively extortion racket or a protection racket? Depending on how you look at it the money starts in Iraq. We’ve seen reports of 2.76 billion already being made available to the Iranians with an additional 7 billion there totaling almost 10 billion of Iranian cash that’s been sitting in Baghdad. Why does Iranian money sit in Baghdad? By the way, there’s another 7 billion in Seoul, South Korea. You hear about this in the press. Why does this money exist there? Because of the US sanctions architecture built over many years, and when the United States left the Iran deal and all of our sanctions came back, it became impossible out of a compliance with US sanctions perspective for any bank in the region bank in Asia that was holding funds on behalf of Iran, payment for oil payment for electricity in the case of Iraq oil in the case of South Korea, to transfer that money back to Iran to allow the Iranians to repatriate those funds.
And so at first they were made available for local purchases whether in Iraq or in South Korea or elsewhere. And then in 2019, when the United States closed down, its all of its loopholes to its sanctions especially in the oil export side. That money in South Korea became completely trapped, couldn’t be used for anything. It just been sitting in escrow. And then in order to allow the Iraqis to continue to import electricity and natural gas from Iran, there was a deal made to allow the Iraqis a sanctions waiver that’s issued every few months by the US government where they’re allowed to import that energy supply. So long as this is sort of the deal, we cut with Baghdad, they observe the same escrow account model that we use in South Korea and other importers of Iranian crude. So they can’t allow that money to get touched by the Iranians.
They’re, the Iranians are technically getting paid. There’s money going into an escrow account, but it just sits there in Baghdad. Doesn’t move. So Iran is obviously in a cash crunch. We’ve seen reports of them struggling. They also had faced for months domestic instability, and we’re looking for additional cash to be able to calm the streets not have to compound their domestic instability of the uprising we saw from last fall by cutting subsidies and incurring additional economic protests on top of the political protests. And so they’re looking for ways to get cash. The money that’s sitting in these escrow accounts is the easiest way to get quick cash for them, or at least to pay off bills. There’s two ways of giving them cash. We could just allow them to take the money back to Tehran.
But we understand from press reports in this arrangement. The money is not going back to Tehran. It’s going to be made available for Iran to use to pay off in invoices, debts, anything at once, so long as it’s under some sort of banner or rubric of humanitarian related, which is a very broadly defined term. In this case, we saw reports that the money in Iraq that was already used, the 2.76 billion was being used to pay off certain natural gas debts in Turkmenistan being used to pay off membership dues for large international organizations. And we imagine that the Iranians are basically coming to the Iraqis with a list of invoices. The US is somehow providing approval to process those invoices and money flows out of Iraq at the benefit of the Iranians on their balance sheet. we have not seen any reports so far of the 7 billion moving outta South Korea, only that 10 billion account in Iraq.
And there’s one more tranche of money we haven’t talked about yet. It’s another 7 billion supposedly tied to this whole negotiation. And that would come out of the International Monetary Fund. The International Monetary Fund for those watching who are familiar with the IMF, has innovated something called special drawing rights something that was helping countries with liquidity. You saw it in vogue during the COVID pandemic. it’s essentially a quick fix bailout for a country. It increases their own capital commitments to the bank, but gives them SDRs, Special Drawing Rights, which is a kind of a fake currency, a basket of currencies IMF monopoly money which still has to get traded in for hard currency in some way potentially dollars, euros, et cetera. And supposedly under this arrangement, Iran will be getting $7 billion in these SDRs and special drawing rights out of the IMF.
There are public reports out of Iran of a finance minister, the Central Bank governor, discussing already getting the money. No one in Washington is willing to discuss this or confirm it. We know the Central Bank of Iran governor visited Washington about a month ago for meetings at the IMF on this issue. but we cannot get confirmation out of the US government or out of the IMF, whether that money has actually been withdrawn, has been cashed in where that issue stands today. So you put it together, 10 billion, 7 billion, 7 billion, you’re over 20 billion, you’re 24 billion here of quick fix cash being made available to Iran. Solely for a concession of not producing weapons grade Iran. So what’s missing in all of that terrorism, they get to obviously continue being the world’s state sponsor of terrorism. And mind you, ongoing assassination plots against Secretary Pompeo, ambassador Bolton, Brian Hook, and others in the former administration they get to continue providing armed drones to Russia to attack Ukraine.
They get to continue everything below 90% weapons grade uranium, so that stockpile continues to grow. The number of bombs that they can make continues to increase. And for those who have watched these reports closely, Iran is also currently constructing a new enrichment facility deeper underground than their Fordo underground facility. One that, according to Western Press reports is feared to be impenetrable to even US military action. Now, we don’t know if that’s true or not. The details would matter on that, but certainly the Israelis would be paying attention to that construction because if it’s potentially impenetrable to US military action, that would likely mean impenetrable to Israeli military action, that site is currently being constructed. If it’s allowed to be completed, that could be a complete disaster and sort of game over picture for their weaponization next steps. And that is not covered by the arrangement that construction is allowed to continue.
The sunset provisions of the JCPOA we recall, those are still in motion. So even though the JCPOA everybody agrees is dead well the body is dead, but the soul lives on, I guess you could say because the security council resolution governing the sunsets continues. So we already had the arms embargo expire in 2020. This October we’re facing down the missile embargo that we already have in play right now with for controversy of Iran providing these armed drones to Russia, Russia, and Iran saying it’s not covered by the missile embargo the US and Europe claiming it’s a violation of the current resolution. Well, whoever’s right, doesn’t matter because come October, the Iranians and Russians will absolutely be right. There won’t be any international restriction on these transfers, and there won’t be any international restriction on the potential transfer of ballistic missiles from Iran to Russia.
The short range ballistic missiles we feared would be used en-masse by Putin against Ukraine. And the flip side is also true. China and Russia are freed up to provide missile components advanced missile technologies of various kinds to Iran and certainly on the Chinese side something we need to watch closely, in addition to the Russians concern over hypersonic and other types of missiles to contribute to Iranian lethality in the future. What else is not covered here? Obviously the human rights situation in Iran, for those who had said, we stand with the Iranian people, we stand with Iranian women to turn around and release $24 billion potentially to the people who continue every day to oppress brutally, those Iranian women shows on its face. How fraudulent those claims were of support to the people of Iran.
Why is this happening? What is going on here? Well, in the end, 90% enriched uranium had long been viewed as a military red line for the United States, and certainly for Israel, it is not to say it would be the only military red line. It is possible to see other activities that bring around so close to the nuclear threshold that allowing them to take place would potentially eliminate your military option in the future. And so those would also trigger, but 90% was also always sort of this view. If we had a military deterrent today to 90% enriched uranium, that Iran believed you would not need to cut any deal to keep Iran from enriching to 90%. Just this morning, I don’t know if you saw the news, the Iranian Naval forces tried to seize two more oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
We’ve seen this happening in recent months. US seized Iranian vessel was unloaded in Houston last Thursday probably connected to the IRGC and DOJ action to seize that tanker, this potentially continuing retaliation. But since the last time around it seized oil tankers, the US had increased its naval patrols in and around the straight of ramus. And immediately, even despite firing on one of the us owned and operated tankers this morning, a Chevron VLC, the minute the US Navy responded to the distress calls and showed up on the scene and made clear its position of what it was willing to do, if the Iranian forces did not abandon their positions, the Iranian forces left very quickly, did not want to engage with the United States Navy. Iran has long feared US military power.
They seek other asymmetric ways to terrorize us and respond to our military power and undermine it. But in the end, they do not want to face the medal of United States military. We have forgotten that in Washington, unfortunately. And so, if you need to pay Iran to stay away from 90%, if you need to forego the snapback of UN Security Council sanctions for fear that Iran would enrich to 90% as a retaliation. One thing is true. You have no military deterrent in effect. Iran does not believe you are willing to use military action. If they did, you wouldn’t have to resort to these types of extortionary tactics. So where does that leave us today? Due to the fact that the administration is calling this an understanding? Really, they’re not calling it anything but inside diplomatic circles it’s being called an understanding. What do we have? We have the NSC, the National Security Council, all the White House senior Director for the Middle East, sort of guru for the Middle East.
Brett McGurk, having secretly gone for talks to Oman, passed messages through the stone of Oman who flew to Tehran and carried those messages on to the Supreme leader. And we have these ongoing talks, both in Oman and in Qatar over how to release the cash and how much cash will be released and what the Iranians will be willing to do or not. All of that is sort of being viewed legally as just things happening, ship passing in the night. The US is releasing 10 billion out of Iran. It happens, oh, Iran’s not producing 90% rich uranium today. That’s great. Great news. Clearly messages have all been received. There’s no deal here. We didn’t shake hands. There’s no document that assigns all of this together. People have passed messages. Confidence building measures from the United States have gone forward. And reciprocal confidence building measures have been now received from the Iranians.
That is how legally the administration internally is justifying what it is doing, when in fact they have cut a deal without notifying Congress and have released assets of the Iranians for Iranian benefits without first getting congressional approval or subjecting itself to congressional disapproval, I should say, under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act for allowing that money to flow. Is that legal? Is that possible? Well, the details of a nara matter the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, it says that the United States President cannot release any money to Iran, cannot issue a sanctions waiver, cannot use any sanctions relief that’s tied to a sanctions law that Congress passed without first submitting this agreement to Congress for review and a potential vote over 30 days. Their two step approach here is one, to say, well, we have no agreement. And number two, for the money you see being released, we are not issuing any special sanctions suspensions tied to Iranian nuclear concessions.
Everything we’re doing has a different purpose in mind. In Iraq, we’ve been issuing waivers for Iraq to import electricity and gas for five years now. This is just another waiver that you’ve always seen. Yes, you’re seeing reports that now suddenly Iran has access to all 10 billion, and the money’s moving out of Baghdad. But that’s more of an administrative matter that has nothing to do with the waiver, which was already issued even by President Trump. South Korea how is $7 billion magically going to leave accounts that belong to the National Iranian Oil Company, which itself is subject to US terrorism sanctions today for financing the IRGC Coutts Force? Magically, that’s just going to be part of our humanitarian exceptions to sanctions. We’ve always said that Iran can use its money to purchase humanitarian goods. We’re just making sure we facilitate that exception. And so somehow money is going to move out of South Korea to a bank in Qatar, in Doha.
The Iranians are going to submit their invoices to Doha that’s going to pay for imports and goods that are supposedly humanitarian nature. We’ve seen already what that means in Iraq. And there’s no sanction suspensions here. We haven’t done anything. There’s no waivers. Money is just moving. IMF there’s a different law on the books there that’s called into question years ago when Congress was very upset that the US had done nothing when the World Bank had approved loans to Iran after an earthquake. At the beginning of the millennia there was a law passed to prohibit, or at least to force compel the US executive director at any international financial institution to vote no to oppose any money being provided to a state sponsor of terrorism. That it covers the IMF as well in addition to the World Bank.
How is the IMF going to just hand over $7 billion here? How is the US allowing that to happen? The US executive director is required to oppose that under law. Do they consider the SDRs to be somehow different than funds as defined in the law? It’s not clear. No one’s really challenged them on that yet. So unfortunately, there’s a lot of side stepping of US law going on. Congress has certain powers and recourse to take that on the power of hearings, the power of subpoenas, the power of document requests, taking witness testimony. there are potential litigation steps that may or may not prove effective depending on how they view themselves as Congress being harmed potentially by the US government invading in Ara money being released seeking a temporary restraining order against the Treasury Department to stop any more money from being released.
I think there are a lot of people thinking about these legal ideas and whether or not they would work and who would be bringing such a suit and whether it’s worth doing such. And there’s other things that could be done as well, which we can talk about, but I think that that’s the frame of what we have here. We have a very, very basic extortion protection racket where the US is making cash available and getting nothing in return except more and more headaches, a greater threat, and Iran simply not producing 90% [inaudible].
Sarah: Right. A phenomenal encapsulation of what’s been going on. Many, many questions. One is, it’s pretty obvious despite many exhortations from FDD from met from JSA, from many organizations, that there should be a plan B aside from diplomacy. Do you think that there will ever be a plan B under this administration? Would the Israelis be forced, basically to tackle the Iranian nuclear threat on their own? And are the Israelis capable of doing this without American backing?
Richard: Yeah, I mean, what definitely indicates is that there’s no ability to have a plan B because there is no political will to threaten the use of military force, even potentially at 90%. Now, I’ve heard rumors that maybe the US has an offhanded way said that all options are on the table. And if they go to 90%, you’ve seen a public report that the American said through the Oman’s, there’d be real consequences, whatever that means, trying to suggest that, that’s military force potentially. But clearly, other than the Navy’s response in the Gulf, which has been quite good, I must say where the US and the UK are working together to protect shipping lanes, which is very important obviously to the global economy, which perhaps is why the Biden administration is able to move itself in that direction but is seeking de-escalation in all other areas with Iran is that they simply don’t want a crisis.
They don’t want to have to confront this problem. They’re worried about all our things. The number one priority right now, and it’s a criticism of this administration, but it would be a criticism of any administration likely at this moment as a president in reelection focused on stability and avoiding crisis, keeping the economy on track keeping other issues at bay, at least until November of next year. That is obviously a priority for the administration at this point. You see that in other areas as well. There’s de-escalation with China going on, there’s de-escalation across the board. And so the answer is no, there is no plan B, there probably never was going to be a plan B if there’s no willingness to use military force against the nuclear program and make the Iranians believe that. That is not to say that our plan B is the use of military force.
Let no one misconstrue that. But it has to be the bottom line that is believed by Tehran. Because that opens up other options of non-military power. If you concede that, if you don’t have that there is this sort of logic which the administration somehow has never really understood. This is true of the Obama administration as well. If you do not have a military deterrent on the table, the Iranians will keep taking more and more. They will keep pushing the envelope further and further. If there’s no true military deterrent for 90%, the money is not going to be enough at some point, not snapping back is not going to be enough at some point. They will go to 90% at a time of their choosing, believe me, you will not respond militarily. And so you actually increase the risk of military action by not having the threat of military action.
That is a true doctrine, cross foreign policy that is not understood by many people in Washington. And so what do the Israelis have to do now? You’ve seen Netanyahu try to downplay this. He’s not fighting this very hard, very publicly. I think he’s sort of paid lip service to it for his political base. Obviously he is against any deal with Iran. He is against ally for Iran we understand that. But there’s clearly other things that are happening here. is there a true US commitment policy that’s been given to Netanyahu that he’s alluded to where Israel has freedom of action to do whatever it wants to do, where Biden has said, I’m not fixing this problem, but if you feel motivated to, we’re not going to stop you. We’re not going to get in your way. We want cooperation.
We want at least a heads up to protect our armed forces in the region, but you got to do what you got to do. Did he get that commitment? Seems very confident that commitment’s been given. That would be great if that was true, at least for Israel and certainly for the US if the US is not willing to do this and has to rely on Israel to do it. Secondarily, the clock is still ticking on this facility being constructed. So the known problem sets have their own timelines and their own military capabilities that are needed by the Israelis at certain times. Fordo facility, the towns facility, manufacturing facilities, their missile sites, other things that might be on target list at some point. But if Iran’s allowed to complete this new underground site and introduce nuclear material there and nuclear equipment there, that could be potentially game-changing. So I will be shocked if the Israelis do not act against that site even during this understanding by the United States and Iran. And I think if they fail to do that, if they allow that facility to go hot the way that Florida was allowed to go hot, that could be a game changing dynamic that would be very bad for the US as well.
Sarah: All right, Rich, to what degree do the revelations about the alleged violations of Robert Malley, again, alleged passing on classified information to the Iranians set back, the plan for nuclear agreement, non-agreement, minor agreement with Iran?
Richard: Yeah, let me start by saying this. I don’t know what Robert Malley is accused of. I don’t know what the details are of the investigation, the review of his security clearance that’s going on. There are people in the intelligence community and in high level positions that walk out of a meeting with a document in their pocket that they weren’t supposed to walk out of. They didn’t know it sat on their desk. It was a mistake that can provoke a security clearance review and potentially revoke revocation. There are other ways of mishandling classified information that could be saying something you weren’t supposed to say using means of communication that are not secured for whatever information is being passed, et cetera. So we don’t know the details here.
We just know that there’s some sort of mishandling classified information reportedly in a review. We also don’t know if somebody reported him or accused him, and he could be accused wrongly. So I say that by saying, any one of us could be in government and be accused somebody who is a political detractor and suddenly be embroiled in something that was not correct. So until I know more details I don’t necessarily give him the benefit of the doubt. But I’m not going to engage in that speculation. Merely because his ideology alone is worthy of indictment and condemnation. And we are where we are today simply because his ideology that believes Iran is not an inherent threat and an inherent enemy of the United States, and that it’s terrorist tentacles throughout the Middle East are not inherently terrorist tentacles is so bad for us national security and the fact that he was made us special envoy, his policies reflect White House policies are the reason why we are where we are today.
That said, it’s my understanding that he has been taken off this portfolio for a long time. How long, exactly is not clear, but it’s been a couple months before this start all came out. And so the secrecy around what’s going on here, the cover-up, the misleading of the press, telling people that he had a family health issue or suggesting to people they have a family health issue, which is why he was on leave, is the most concerning piece here. And it’s part of this entire secrecy and misleading, and misstatements being made by the administration on this file to the press, which should provoke major congressional investigations. And we saw a pretty powerful statement issued a couple days ago from Chairman McCall on the House Foreign Affairs Committee responding to the Maui incident, and starting to say, we’re going to have a much broader investigation here of what’s going on.
And we saw a similar comment from Senator Rubio the ranking of the Senate intelligence Committee. But I would say that because Mally has was taken off of this a couple months ago based on this or whatever was going on the portfolio was being run out of the White House, and all that we’re seeing as part of this ‘mini deal or understanding’ has been brokered by Brett McGurk. Probably working very closely with Jake Sullivan, the now security advisor, who you’ll recall brokered the last secret deal with Iran back in 2013 before the JCPOA, again, through the Omanis[?] sort of reliving history. It’s the same playbook. And so does Malli being out of the picture mean that our Iran policy has gotten better? No. Ultimately, Rob Malle was carrying out the policy approved by the president of the United States.
That was always true. He was working in concert with the National Security Council, and the NSC is now running the policy and running this extortion deal with the Iranians. So no, unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to change the policy. What I think will change is the decision by Congress to finally start demanding answers. They have been slow walked in Congress into a deal without notification, without oversight, not sort of raising holy hell, the way that Congress should given their oversight prerogative and the law. And I think that the news surrounding Mally tied together with the secrecy of the talks with Iran in general, is now going to prompt expanded demands for documents, witnesses and answers from the administration. And transparency in this case will be good.
Sarah: Wonderful. All right. Very recent news, as you know the Israelis have just completed today operation in Janine, and the White House has only expressed support for Israel security and right to defendants people against Hamas, Palestinian, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups. Also, as you had spoken about in a relatively recent webinar, the Israelis in the US have participated in the most military operation together in history operation Juniper Oak, and the United States have a very strong partnership with US Central Command. How does all of the Square with the Iranian negotiations, is this some kind of so horrific to lull us to sleep while the Israelis are pretty much left hanging out on their own with regard to the major existential threat that they’re confronted with the Iranian nuclear threat?
Richard: To a large extent, yes. I think the answer is largely yes. And I’ve sort of perceived this evolving ever since the Saudis announced their de-escalation pack with Iran a couple months ago. Everyone will remember that news that came out. Everybody’s surprised by that. And having gone to Saudi Arabia met with officials, sort of heard from a Saudi perspective, their motivations behind that pact, what they expect out of it, what they think it will produce to me signaled a decision by not just our golf partners, but ultimately the United States as well, to do as much as possible to deescalate for Iran so that Iran would deescalate towards them and us in certain ways. And in our case, and narrowly, just 90% enriched uranium for the Saudis and the Emiratis, it has to do with missile attacks and drone attacks from the Houthis and Yemen which means that there is complete freedom now by the Iranians to focus 100% of their time and effort on Israel.
And so what we are seeing is the beginning or first phase already completed of the Counter Octopus Doctrine campaign by the Iranians. The Octopus Doctrine, you may recall, was something that was declared by now former Prime Minister Bennett, when he was in power that there would be a new Israeli doctrine of taking the fight inside Iran rather than simply fighting the tentacles of the octopus on Israel’s borders. And we saw some increased activity in the clandestine realm inside Iran. Some spectacular events that have continued to take place as part of that doctrine. Iran, I think wants to fight back. They wanted increase power to the tentacles to take away the stress on the head of the octopus by the Israelis, keep the Israelis focused on their own borders. And so that’s why you saw originally that first multi-front confrontation just a few weeks ago.
And you’ve seen the Supreme leader and others talk about increasing support to terror groups in the West Bank trying to destabilize the West Bank so that Israel not only has to worry about Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria, but now also has to worry about the West Bank from an Iran threat perspective changing the dynamic dramatically. After what had been a fairly successful maintenance of stability and calm since the second Intifada in the West Bank. When the Israelis go into the West Bank, that is a different narrative that emerges in Arab media, in western media than just continued strikes against Gaza, which unfortunately people have sort of gotten used to over the years. Hamas runs Gaza, Hamas gets too emboldened. Hamas fires lots of rockets, Israel responds. There’s a brief war. People sort of understand that what’s going on there.
Syria has its chaos alone from the Civil War, ISIS, Iranian threats, missiles, drones. The Syria piece is sort of accused. Hezbollah are running Southern Lebanon and Lebanon in general. Hezbollah viewed as a complete, wholly owned Iranian proxy by the Arab world. Again, it’s a different dynamic when Israel goes into the West Bank to confront Iranian terror into Judea and Samaria that is different materially. It’s just the way it is spun today in the Arab press. This is viewed as Israeli, ‘terrorizing the Palestinian people’. Why there is a decision by the Arab media, by our Gulf partners to disconnect the Iranian sponsored terrorism in the West Bank from Iranian sponsored terrorism everywhere else in the region is a very good question to ask your Gulf partners. But that is what we have seen. The Saudis condemned the recent operation in Janine in the last 24 hours, calling it a terrible escalation against the Palestinians. The UAE has repeatedly condemned Israel for going into the West Bank over recent months to clear out this terror infrastructure. Now, it doesn’t mean the Abraham Accords are falling apart. They still continue. It doesn’t mean that Saudi Israel normalization might not still happen.
Talks and secret are still going on, supposedly. But this sort of cycle of Iran forcing the Israelis to respond in the West Bank and Judean Samaria creating additional tensions, international pressure back on the Israelis while now being confronted with threats on every single border, is part of the Iranian strategy at this moment, and is a benefit of what we are providing in the United States of ‘de-escalation’, and what the Saudis and the Emiratis have have provided as well. My last point to make on this is that we should expect to see additional actions in places like Janine. The understanding that the Israelis discovered so much weaponry, so many explosives when they went in there, streets lined with IEDs blowing up booby trapped areas of Janine. This has been a very well supplied terror operation, well coordinated with supposedly reportedly Iranian support, influence material funding.
I understand how you get stuff smuggled into Gaza, right? Either by the water or by Egyptian tunnels. We understand how things come into Southern Lebanon. We understand how things go into Syria. How does, material come into the West Bank? Only two options, Jordan or through Israel itself. If it’s Jordan, and it appears to be Jordan with major smuggling potentially tied to the Iranians going on, that is a big policy question that we need to confront, and we’re going to be doing a lot more deep dive on that, some analysis on that coming days and weeks. but the Jordanians may have a big problem on their hands if this terror infrastructure is being built with smuggling coming from Jordan.
Sarah: Excellent. Okay. We have been watching for the last since 1994, how Jordan has been getting very much a free pass a lot of its nefarious activities including the harboring of [inaudible] the terrorist who was responsible for the Sparrow Pizzeria bombing that killed at least two American citizens. And actually a third one, just succumbed, is that the right verb tense came to her wounds just last week, Hannah Hanberg. And this was also the color of Milky Roth and Judith Greenbaum. So we have been trying, unfortunately and many members of Congress have helped us to write to Ambassador Dina Twar of Jordan about these issues. But there has never been any kind of appropriate response. So it is now my supreme honor to hand the podium over to Hussein Abubakr my wonderful and courageous colleague here, Hussein.
Hussein: Thank you very much, Sarah, and thank you very much, Richard, for such a timely presentation. Thank you very much for all our audience who joined us today and sent us all of your questions. We received a lot of questions. Richard, I’m not sure we’re going to have all the time to go through all of them. The first question that we received, actually, the question that I like very much, and it is basically asking, well, since Biden administration very clearly will never use force against Iran to stop their program since there’s not much power of deterrence left well, perhaps this deal, this informal agreement, best thing that we can do. And we could do that in order to prevent for just a little bit the possibility of a nuclear Iran. What do you think?
Richard: Yeah, so basically, I understand the premise of the question.
Richard: Which is you could even ask this way, isn’t this bad deal better than the far worst bad deal they were negotiating last year?
Richard: And in some ways that sort of reflects, I think what you see from Netanyahu, right? That really does embody his comments. This is a mini deal. We can deal with it. It’s not as bad as what they’re negotiating. It’s not bad [inaudible]. There is a kernel of truth to that, but it also ignores time. It ignores time. It also opens up the question of whether or not this in some way politically constricts other actors from doing things that would disrupt this arrangement. So if in fact, the Israelis do temper their activities, if in fact there’s any US decision to have the Israelis stand down or ask them to not be as overt in their clandestine activities inside Iran, not launch any military action, et cetera then obviously it’s a setback, obviously it’s a problem.
If Iran crosses any red lines of nuclear capability and weaponization during this period, then obviously it’s a catastrophic failure. Essentially you would be subsidizing effectively Iranian maligned activities and keeping the status quo in place. So it’s US subsidies for the status quo. I guess another way of looking at it. Yeah, could you hold the status quo and still recover from it with a new president? It’s possible you’ve lost another sunset at that point. You’d be coming in in 2025, and October of 2025 is another sunset. And that sunset includes the snapback itself at the security council. So you would have between January and October to figure out what your policy is, understand how much Iran has benefited from two to four years of relaxed sanctioned enforcement, what their capability is today, what their threats are today what it would require of the US military to stop Iran based on where it’s at, the amount of uranium is stockpiled, the number of centrifuges it has built and deployed from today on through next November into January of 2025.
So that’s a big risk to take with your reward being more money for terrorism, more money for bad things with Russia, more money for sanctions evasion with Russia and China, the laundry list of bad things. So if you have a policy belief, which is in Iran with less money is better for US national security, this is negative because you could also accomplish the status quo by simply threatening the use of military force. Yes, I understand you’re saying the assumption is that Biden will never use military force. So isn’t this better? I don’t know, is it better, wouldn’t it be better for the Israelis to actually just strike or to have some other threat that this would take place? I don’t see this being net positive for us. I think it’s true to say it could be worse. I don’t think that makes us better.
Hussein: Another question that we received, how confident we are in our ability to actually tell that Iran isn’t already enriching to the 90% level?
Richard: So we have an understanding of where Iran currently enriches uranium to the best of our knowledge. There have been no reports from any intelligence community, ours, the Israelis, other Western intelligence communities that there are additional sites that we don’t know of yet where Richmond has taken place. Is it possible? It is possible. Obviously Iran in the past has done this without us knowing, but it’s been a while. And so for the declared nuclear sites, we have an ongoing inspections regime from the International Atomic Energy Agency. They show up from time to time. They have technical readings that they look at. And so they measure very carefully how much uranium was in a certain place, at what levels and what configuration of centrifuge is the last time they were there, what that looks like today, what the difference is.
And they’re obviously looking for verification that the program remains attacked. There’s not something missing that there’s been no diversion of material. There’s been no diversion of centrifuges that everything is counted for. If anything goes missing, that’s your indication of some sort of a sneak up going up. And so when the intelligence community says to us, we have no indication that Iran is currently developing a nuclear weapon, that is to say, we believe that we are seeing what Iran is doing in the enrichment realm that’s out in the public domain. They want us to see it. They extract concessions from us based on the threat that they put in front of us. And that they’re increasing their capabilities to have the option of this sneak out or breakout or whatever you want to call it, at some point in the future. And they continue looking for ways to buy for time until that capability is at 100%. So is it possible we’re missing something? It is definitely possible. it remains unlikely at this point, at least in the enrichment realm.
Hussein: Thank you. Well, about the mini deal, assuming that, that goes through are there any enforcement or monitoring mechanism attached to it? Or is it just a purely good word of the running regime?
Richard: Yeah, there would be no enforcement. There’s no written document we’re told. This would just simply be an understanding. I’ll give you an interesting example of how this is going to to our disadvantage, which is why the minute you get into a racket like this, you’re always the weaker party, historically true in criminal settings of all kinds. The UK and the EU have decided they’re not going to pursue any snapback of UN sanctions in October, right? That’s off the table because they fear along with Washington that the snapback would trigger 90% enrichment. So therefore, unless they go to 90% first, there will be no snap. Okay? So you’ve conceded the next sunset. But because of the political dynamic in Europe, because of Ukraine, they can’t just sit there and say, oh, sorry, we let the missile embargo expire and the Iranians are going to terrorize the Ukrainians more.
We did nothing about it. They’re picking a fight over whether or not their own sanctions, EU sanctions and UK sanctions on Iranian defense entities and missile entities will stay in place come October. What is that about? The JCPOA actually requires all parties to remove sanctions, not just the UN sanctions, but their own sanctions this October. And so there’s a whole list of annex of the JCPOA that lists out all the people that are supposed to come off sanctions, by the way the United States is supposed to as well, not just the UK and Europe. So watch for that. People like Mohsen Reza Day, who’s no longer with us but is still on the sanctions lists for some countries are supposed to come off of sanctions and a whole list of entities. The UK and the EU are saying, oh, you know what?
We’re going to break the JCPOA away and we’re going to keep those sanctions in place. Because we can’t remove these sanctions while Iran does what it does with Russia to attack Ukraine. We’re going to let the sunset expire, but our sanctions will stay in place. Okay. Put aside the interesting conversation, which is what? They’re going to break the JCPOA themselves, but stay in the JCPOA and keep the sunsets going and not snap back. So the Iranians are no longer keeping the JCPOA, the Brits and the Europeans no longer keep the JCPOA, but we keep the JCPOA alive anyways cause we fear 90%. I mean, this is getting ludicrous. See that as it may, this is now the new debate. The Iranian shah in London this morning in the Guardian reportedly, has put out statements to the Brits saying, don’t you dare violate the JCPOA only we can do that.
Don’t you dare keep your sanctions. If you do, you might endanger the very good atmospherics going on right now in Oman, the nod being to the US indirect arrangements. So this is what they’re going to do all to our disadvantage. Anything hostile, anything perceived as hostile, anything pressure, this will always be something the Iranians call up their lockets and say, oh, you can’t do this to us. I thought you didn’t want us to go to 90%. Oh, we don’t like this. You’re going to have to give us something else. If you still don’t want us to go to 90%, cause you’re breaking your word here. That’s going to be the enforcement mechanism, and it’s all Tehran’s enforcement and us paying more.
Hussein: Now, since we’re running out of time, I’m going to go ahead and ask you the last question received, the multiple questions asking basically about the role of the US Congress in all of this. What do you believe is the discourse faction for United States Congress, especially for the Republicans and Democrats who are very wary for on and one is strongest Iran policy?
Richard: Yeah, number one the oversight committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee whoever has jurisdiction to issue subpoenas should be issuing subpoenas for documents related to this ongoing talks with the belief that there is conspiracy to violate the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act and the International Financial Institutions Act. We talk about the IMF money demand holding hearings and demanding witnesses to answer questions on these. And if they won’t answer the questions have that be on national television so the American people see what’s going on behind closed doors with one of our top adversaries. Number three, explore all legal options available for Congress to go to court, to stop money flowing to the Iran. That’s money that is owed to terrorist victims of Iran. Not to the regime itself.
And I would say go forward and pass resolutions of disapproval of what we’re seeing. Put everyone on record right now saying we are against the release of funds. We are against any funds that are indirectly helping Iran fund attacks on Ukraine. A press Iranian women, no money out of any of these accounts. If Iran’s still plotting to assassinate US officials, no money if they’re allowed to do anything, even below 90%, let alone 90%. And reaffirm a military deterrent needs to be restored against Iran put Democrats on record, put Republicans on record send that to the administration, force the Senate into a vote as well. There’s legislative options that you could try to tack on to amend in NARA to stop money flowing. But I think that’s already a pretty good checklist of what Congress can do. Ultimately, the monies may already be flowing. This may already be happening but there needs to be accountability and consequences for sidestepping Congress.
Sarah: Right. Rich, thank you so much. As you know that’s one of the things that amed has been working vociferously on. And we will actually had two meetings this morning before our webinar and two meetings this afternoon. And the work goes on and on and on. And both sides of the aisle have actually claimed to us that they want to enforce an era. So we have got to remind them that these secret agreements, whether or not they’re written, are still agreements and that an era has to be enforced. And we need a free and open public debate and congressional hearings particularly about what is being discussed in secret with an enemy of the United States. So I can’t thank you enough, Rich for your wisdom and your sage advice and FDD for your excellent work.
We love to call upon your expertise. So I want to ask all of our listeners to not only continue to support the good work of firstname.lastname@example.org, but to continue to support the good work of FDD where you are a veritable brain trust of resources that we call upon all the time. And we applaud your wonderful work and particularly your work Rich. We go back a very long way and I’ve watched as you’ve made an enormous contribution, rather to the national defense and security of both the United States and the state of Israel. And I thank you enormously for that. Okay. And we will see you next week, same time same place. And we have amazing speakers lined up through the month. Thanks so much. Okay, we take care now. Bye.
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