Iranian Terrorism Courtesy of the Obama Deal

Iran Using Nuclear Deal Sanctions Relief to Fund Terrorism?

Iranian IRGC units have been fighting in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the region. Photo: Twitter.

JNS.org – As the Trump administration considers its options regarding Iran, how much of Iran’s sanctions relief from the 2015 nuclear deal is funding Tehran’s support for sectarian conflict and terrorism across the Middle East?

Last week, President Donald Trump imposed new sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile program and its human rights violations. The sanctions come amid Iran’s reported efforts to fuel the Temple Mount crisis, and its agreement to bolster relations with Hamas.

Iran and its terror proxy Hezbollah also continue to back President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Syrian civil war, although Russia’s military support for Assad is far more important for Iran’s involvement there than the sanctions relief that Tehran obtained in the nuclear deal.

“I think what has been crucial for the expansion of Iran’s role in Syria, more than anything, has been the air support [Assad] has received from Russian President Vladimir Putin,” said Meir Javedanfar, a lecturer on Iranian politics at Israel’s IDC Herzliya research college.

Javedanfar estimates that, so far, Iran has received less than $20 billion of the $150 billion in sanctions relief that it secured in the nuclear deal. Even if all of the sanctions relief money had been released immediately, he said, it “wouldn’t have been enough to save Syria.”

While the released funds have aided the Iranian regime, Javedanfar said that President Hassan Rouhani’s government is plagued by around $100 billion in debt carried over from former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s tenure. The new sanctions leveled by the Trump administration will hamper Rouhani’s ability to attract foreign investment, but hardline entities such as Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) “will be happy since less economic growth will give them more ammunition against the government,” he said.

“The IRGC is responsible for these additional sanctions that were imposed,” Javedanfar said. The sanctions were levied after Iran fired a ballistic missile with a banner calling for Israel’s destruction. Javedanfar added: “The real intention of this launch, in practice, was to target Rouhani’s economic achievements.”

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, said that it remains unclear how much of Iran’s sanctions relief funds have been diverted to causes such as Palestinian terrorism. But he said that “sanctions relief coupled with the campaign to ‘normalize’ Iran has enabled its fighters, money and weapons to go largely unchecked throughout the region.”

The Trump administration’s new sanctions are part of “a desperately needed strategy, since for over a decade, Iran’s regional ambitions and military programs took a back seat to the nuclear issue,” Taleblu said.

Ronen A. Cohen, an Iran expert and the chair of the Department of Middle East Studies at Israel’s Ariel University, said that “Iran will promote terror with or without the sanctions.” Cohen added that since 2015, Iran has spent less on regional terrorism due to Rouhani’s strategy to strengthen the Iranian economy through trade.

“Iran has a pragmatic strategy in the Middle East, and will invest money only where it gains something in return, irrespective of sanctions,” Cohen said.

Last week, Israel Hayom quoted a Palestinian Authority security official as claiming that Iran invested “millions of shekels” to inflame the tensions surrounding the Temple Mount. According to the report, tens of thousands of Muslim protesters received prepackaged meals along with notes citing a quote attributed to 1979 Iranian Revolution leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini: “With the help of Allah, Palestine will be liberated! Jerusalem is ours.”

Taleblu said that Iran’s Shiite regime “uses the Palestinian issue to drive a wedge between the Arab world and Israel, as well as to mask … ethno-sectarian differences with its Sunni Arab neighbors, and bolster its Islamist standing in the region.”

Iran has championed the Palestinian cause since its inception, and an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal “would rob Tehran of that card and render naked its regional aspirations,” said Taleblu.

“Iran’s longstanding provision of money and weapons to Palestinian terror groups tells you one thing: Iran has more to gain from perpetual conflict in the Levant and eastern Mediterranean than peace,” he said.

IDC Herzliya’s Javedanfar said that he has seen no real evidence that Iran was behind the recent tensions in Jerusalem. Rather, he said, Iran exaggerated its role in the Temple Mount crisis since “it feels isolated in the region because of its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and his atrocities against Sunni Muslims.”

Iran’s claims regarding the Temple Mount, Javedanfar said, show “how desperate the Iranian regime has become.”

Iranian Hegemony Courtesy of Obama

Two Years after Nuclear Deal, Iran Seeking Regional Dominance

By Keyvan Salami

New York – July marks the second anniversary of the controversial nuclear deal between Iran and P5+1, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).A deal which not only did not stop Iran’s nuclear program, but it only delayed it and at the same time provided billions of dollars to the regime to pursue its destructive policies in the region.

The Obama Administration and other advocates of the appeasement policy claimed that this agreement would bring serious changes to Iran’s behavior, including its actions in the Middle East. Two years on, it is increasingly evident that these claims, hollow and baseless on some levels, have fallen short.

The deal and the misguided policy that it influenced have emboldened Iran in many areas, especially its malign regional activities. The agreement not only failed to improve the Iranian people’s economic status, but it actually granted the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) billions of dollars to pursue its destructive policies in the region.

After spending the billions in windfall from the nuclear deal, Iran has begun meddling with its neighboring countries. Superficially, Iran has become a regional power, but what is the reality? Is Iran truly a regional powerhouse, and is there an ulterior motive behind the involvement in other countries’ affairs?

A quick look at Iran’s modern history suggests that its current actions in the region might actually signal that it possesses less power than is thought. Since the start of their rule, the mullahs based their regime on two pillars: crushing any domestic opposition and creating crises abroad. The adoption of such polices embodies the very nature of this regime. The mullahs’ regime is a backward-minded regime belonging to the Middle Ages which opposes social liberties and developments.

The system is based on Velayat-e Faqih (custodianship of the clergy) and it places all religious and legal authority in the hands of the Supreme Leader. What this means, in both theory and in practice, is that the Ali Khamenei (like Ruhollah Khomeini before him) plays a direct role in all the country’s affairs; and no individual, group, or committee in the country has the right to question or hold him accountable.

By contrast, Iranian society is a sizable demographic of young, highly educated citizens seeking increased development and more social liberties. This regime cannot match the contemporary society’s needs and considers force and suppression to be the only methods of maintaining their grip on power.

To perpetuate the systematic and widespread suppression inside the country, the mullahs rely on external crises to divert public attention. As a result, the “export of revolution”—more precisely the “export of terrorism”—and “creating crises outside of Iran” became Tehran’s official policy. There are numerous examples of the consequences of this policy.

The Iran-Iraq war, for example, lasted eight years, leaving millions on both sides either dead or injured, and many more displaced. Hundreds of cities and villages were destroyed, and damages were estimated at $1 trillion for Iran alone. It also contributed to the establishment of Hezbollah and general interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs, the rise of Houthis in Yemen, the ascendancy of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and the subsequent Syrian Civil War.

Former regime Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini described the war as “God’s blessing.” During the war, Tehran brutally crushed its opposition through mass executions; in the summer of 1988 alone, 30,000 political prisoners were massacred across the country. The victims were mainly members and supporters of the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI-MEK).

Other international crises have served the regime in the same way. Tehran has brought carnage and suffering to thousands of innocent people in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and other Arab countries with their attempts to maintain their power.

Senior Iranian officials argue, “One reason we have been in Syria… and Iraq, and carried out these measures, is that instead of fighting the enemy in the streets of Tehran, Kermanshah, Arak, Qum, Sanandaj and Tabriz, we have taken the fight to Deir ez-Zur, Raqqa, Aleppo, Homs and Mosul….”

Iran’s tactics and daliances in other countries affairs are not due to the nation’s inherent strength. supporting regime change is the only real policy to stand against their export of terrorism.

Change to: Iran is not a regional power and its meddling in other countries affairs is not a sign of their dominance, but on the contrary it’s a smoke screen to hide their internal instability and weakness. As a result, the only real policy to stop Iran’s export of terrorism is a change in the government and regime in Iran.

The annual Iranian Resistance gathering on July 1 clearly demonstrated how regime change is within reach. Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, was the keynote speaker of the conference. She emphasized that the only way to liberate the Iranian people from religious tyranny and to establish peace and tranquility in the region is to overthrow the Velayat-e faqih (absolute clerical rule).

The overthrow of this regime is necessary, feasible and within reach, and that a democratic alternative and an organized resistance exists to topple it, she underscored.

The parties behind the democratic alternative are working to establish freedom and democracy in Iran. Their plans will bring harmony to various ethnic groups, end discord and divide between Shiites and Sunnis, and eliminate tensions between Iran and its neighbors, Mrs. Rajavi concluded.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent any institution or entity.

© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Iran’s Hegemony in Iraq

Tehran’s New Scheme For Iraq

In his visit to Moscow this week, Iraqi Vice President Nuri Al-Maliki peddled what he presented as his big idea: inviting Russia to build “a significant presence’ in Iraq to counter-balance that of the United States.

Since Maliki is reputed to be Tehran’s candidate as the next Iraqi prime Minister his “invitation” to Russia cannot be dismissed as a mere personal whim.

With ISIS driven out of Mosul and, hopefully, soon to be driven other pockets of territory it still controls in Iraq, the decks are being cleared for the forthcoming general election that would decide the shape of the next government in Baghdad. Fancying itself as the “big winner” in Iraq, the Tehran leadership is working on a strategy to make that fancy a reality.

That strategy has three key elements.

The first is to create a new, supposedly “liberal” and “non-sectarian” Shi’ite coalition to dominate the next parliament and, through that, the next government in Baghdad. That requires a reshuffling of political cards and the discarding of some old outfits.

In an editorial last Tuesday the Islamic Republic official news agency IRNA, argued that “old formations” that had come into being during the struggle against Saddam Hussein and the subsequent post-liberation crisis were no longer capable of dealing with “new realities in Iraq.”

It was on the basis of that analysis that Ammar al-Hakim, a leading politician-cum cleric announced his separation from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the formation of a new party named “National Wisdom Movement “(Tayar al-Hikmah al-Watani).

Hakim who hails from an old and respected dynasty of clerics originally from Shiraz argues that time has come to “break barriers of sects and ethnicities” in favor of the concept of “citizenship”. Tus he comes close to advocating the concept of “uruqah” (Iraqi-ness) that has long been a theme of such Iraqi Shiite politicians as Ayyad Allawi and Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

Tehran sources expect the “new model” to be adopted by other Shiite parties and groups. Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi is reportedly studying the creating of a new “secular” formation away from his original political home in the Ad-Da’awah (The Call) Party which has always been a clearly sectarian formation.

Talks are already under way for the merger of Abadi’s support base with the Sadrist Movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr, scion of another distinguished clerical dynast originally from Mahallat, southwest of Tehran. According to unconfirmed reports the new Abadi-Sadr coalition will be called “Freedom and Reconstruction”, a clearly non-sectarian identity.

Tehran’s hope is that Maliki will transform his wing of the Ad-Dawah into yet another “non-sectarian” outfit to support his bid for premiership, presumably with support from Hakim.

The apparent de-sectarianization of pro-Iran Shiite parties will make it difficult for Allawi and other genuinely non-sectarian Shiite politicians, who are hostile to Iranian influence in Baghdad, to appeal to the Shiite majority on the basis of citizenship and “uruqah”.

The new “de-sectarianization” gambit will also put pressure on Kurdish parties at a time some of them are campaigning for an “independence” referendum. It would be more difficult to sell the idea of an “independent” mini-state of Kurdistan to the international public opinion at a time that Iraq is seen to be moving towards a non-religious democratic and pluralist political system.

The gambit will also make it more difficult for Arab Sunni sectarians to garner support in the name of resisting a Shiite sectarian takeover of government in Baghdad. Salim al-Juburi, a leading Arab Sunni politician and Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, is reportedly moving towards the creation of a non-sectarian party of his own.

The second element of the Iranian strategy is to almost oblige the clerical authority in Najaf (Marja’iyah) to endorse, even reluctantly, a Shiite political leadership clearly committed to Iran. Tehran knows that no government in Baghdad would have a chance of success without at least tacit blessing from Grand Ayatollah Ai-Muhammad Sistani.

Sistani has consistently refused to play the sectarian card and has advised politicians of all shades to think in terms of national rather than religious considerations. Thus, Tehran’s decision to “de-sectarianize” the Iraqi parties it supports will be a concession to Sistani.

Tehran is offering yet another concession to Sistani by abandoning its campaign to influence the Grand Ayatollah’s succession. The initial Iranian candidate for succession, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahrudi, a former senior official of the Islamic Republic, has been quietly cast aside and is reported to be in declining health.

Without formally saying so, Iran now admits that the issue of Sistani’s succession must be sorted out by the “howzah” (seminary) in Najaf possibly with some input from Qom and certainly not through diktat from Tehran.

The third element of the strategy is to draw Russia into Iraq as a façade for Iranian influence.

Tehran leaders know that the vast majority of Iraqis resent the emergence of Iran as arbiter of their destiny. Russia, however, is seen as remote enough not to pose a direct threat to the internal balance of power in Iraq. Yet, because Russia has no local support base in Iraq, it would have to rely on Iranian guidance and goodwill to play a leading role there.

A new Baghdad government composed of “non-sectarian” Shiite leaders promising a better deal for Arab Sunnis and Kurds, and backed by Russia, will be a better cover for the spread and consolidation of Iranian influence in Iraq.

There is, of course, no guarantee that the new Tehran strategy will work. Many Iraqis, including some among those reputedly close to Iran, believe that Iraq itself can and must aspire after becoming a major player in the Middle East rather than playing Sancho Panza to the “Supreme Guide” in Tehran.

Iraqi leaders also see no logic in turning the United States and Arab states into enemies just to suit Tehran’s doomed empire-building project, especially at a time that the Islamic Republic seems to be heading for the choppy waters of Khamenei’s succession.

Remember:

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Often go awry
And leave us nought but grief and pain,
For promised joy.

Amir Taheri

Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987. Mr. Taheri has won several prizes for his journalism, and in 2012 was named International Journalist of the Year by the British Society of Editors and the Foreign Press Association in the annual British Media Awards.

Iranian Hegemony in Syria (Revelation 8:4)

CIA Director Mike Pompeo Warns of Growing Iranian Presence in Syria, Iraq

John Hayward

The discussion ranged from defeating ISIS and countering Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The University of Western Australia

Stephens began by asking Pompeo to identify the United States’ enemies in Syria, a question for which Pompeo said there was no singular answer. Obviously, the defeat of the Islamic State is America’s top priority at the moment, but the second name offered by the CIA director was Iran.

Today you have Iran extending its boundary, extending its reach, now making an effort to cross the borders and link up from Iraq,” said Pompeo. “It’s a very dangerous threat to the United States. Just yesterday, one more time we learned that Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, and they now have a significant foothold in Syria.”

Pompeo segued from Iran to Russia, saying he hoped the U.S. could find ways to work alongside the Russians in Syria, but “we really don’t have the same set of interests there.”

“When the decision was made to allow the Russians to enter into Syria, now coming on four years ago, it fundamentally changed the landscape, and it’s certainly been worse for the Syrian people,” he said.

Pompeo restated that point more forcefully later, during his question-and-answer session with the audience, recalling an editorial he co-wrote in 2013 saying that President Barack Obama should have acted in Syria, but instead he invited the Russians to step in and address the chemical weapons issue.

“The previous president instead chose to invite the Russians in, and that was a major turning point. That’s not a political statement, it’s a factual observation. It was a major turning point in the capacity of America to influence events in Syria. And so today we find ourselves in the position where we’re working to develop partners and those who are willing to work alongside us to get an outcome that’s in the best interests of America,” he said.

Pompeo said America’s objective in Syria, beyond defeating ISIS, should be enhancing the stability of the Middle East, an objective shared by America’s partners in the region as well as European allies.

Interestingly, he was somewhat ambivalent about whether the Kurds can be counted as an American friend in Syria, arguing that it is not accurate to speak of them as a unified individual element because of their complex internal politics. “Suffice to say there are places where we are definitely working alongside them and which they’re going to help us achieve the outcome that America wants,” he said.

On the biggest Syrian question, Pompeo deferred questions about whether America will push for the end of Bashar Assad’s dictatorship to the State Department. He quoted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s assessment that Assad is “not a stabilizing influence” and agreed it is “difficult to imagine a stable Syria that still has Assad in power.”

He is a puppet of the Iranians. Therefore, it seems an unlikely situation where Assad will be sitting on the throne and America’s interests will be well-served,” Pompeo said.

He expressed concerns about Iran’s use of proxy forces like Hezbollah and Shiite militia groups in Syria, citing the threat posed by these forces to Israel and the Gulf states. He noted other Iranian proxy forces have gained a disturbing foothold in Iraq as well.

“This administration is going to have the task of unwinding what we found when we came in,” he said. “We’re working diligently to get the right place there. I will tell you that some of the actions we have taken have let folks know that we are at least back working this problem in a way that wasn’t the case six months ago.”

As for Russia’s interests in Syria, Pompeo pithily summed them up as: “They love a warm-water naval port, and they love to stick it to America.”

Asked if there was any evidence Russia has pursued a serious strategy against the Islamic State, instead of concentrating its fire on the more “moderate” opponents of the Assad regime, Pompeo bluntly answered, “No.”

However, he said he hoped there were other areas where counterterrorism cooperation with the Russians could be productive and explained it was his duty to work with them if they could provide valuable information about terrorist threats to Americans at home and abroad.

“We live in a world where the Russians have a massive nuclear stockpile and are firmly entrenched in Syria,” he pointed out. “They’ve retaken Crimea. They have a foothold in southeast Ukraine. Those are facts on the ground. America has an obligation to push back against that, not to allow that continued expansionism that has taken place, and to be serious in the way that we deal with them.”

“If we can do that by me working with someone who doesn’t share my value set, but works for the SVR, I’ll do it,” Pompeo said. (The SVR is Russia’s external intelligence agency, analogous to the CIA.)

Turning back to ISIS, Pompeo warned there are signs the terrorist organization is already mutating and spreading into other parts of the world to survive its inevitable defeat in Raqqa, naming Libya, the Sinai peninsula, and the hinterlands of Iraq and Syria as particular concerns.

“We broke the back of al-Qaeda. We crushed them. We didn’t do it just by taking out a handful of folks. We took down their entire network. That’s what we’re going to do again,” he promised.

He stressed that the Islamic State remains dangerous even without its “caliphate” territory, but America is “infinitely better off” with that territory liberated because holding cities in Iraq and Syria helped the Islamic State build the infrastructure it uses for recruiting and terrorist attacks around the world.

Pompeo said that, although the State Department has certified continued Iranian compliance with the JCPOA (i.e. the Iran nuclear deal), the Trump administration remains committed to pushing back against Iran in many areas. A longtime skeptic of the nuclear deal, he humorously compared Iran’s technical compliance with the behavior of a poor tenant who complies with the rules just enough to avoid eviction.

“Grudging, minimalist, temporary, with no intention really of what the agreement is designed to do,” he said. “It was designed to foster stability and have Iran become a re-entrant to the Western world, and the agreement simply hasn’t achieved that.”

Pompeo said it was not easy to articulate what would achieve those goals but stressed that “continued appeasement, continued failure to acknowledge when they do things wrong” will never be the right strategy. He expressed confidence that the Trump administration could engineer a fundamental shift in the Iranian situation.

Stephens turned to North Korea, suggesting that the competence of its nuclear and missile programs has improved to an alarming degree over the past few years. Pompeo said this was a result of “willing partners — suppliers, engineers, talented physicists who were able to come provide them with ways to get up the learning curve faster.”

He revealed that President Trump “rarely lets me escape the Oval Office without a question about North Korea. It is at the front of his mind.”

By contrast, he said previous administrations have “whistled past the graveyard” of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, but it is too close to realizing those goals for the Trump administration to take the same approach.

“It would be a great thing to denuclearize the peninsula, to get those weapons off of that, but the thing that is most dangerous about it is the character who holds the control over them today,” Pompeo said. “From the administration’s perspective, the most important thing we can do is separate those two — separate capacity and someone who might well have intent, and break those two apart.”

Pompeo said it was still possible to interrupt North Korea’s march to a nuclear arsenal without resorting to military intervention, noting that there is a great difference between building a few nuclear missiles and development a large, reliable missile force along the lines of the American or Russian inventories. He suggested focusing on reducing North Korea’s access to the supplies and expertise it would need to develop anything beyond its first crude ICBMs. He also suggested the North Korean people might have some appetite for overthrowing their brutal dictatorship.

Asked if Russia attempted to intervene in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Pompeo said yes, adding they tried to interfere with many previous elections as well. “They’ve been at this a long time, and I don’t think they have any intention of backing off,” he noted.

Pompeo explained that the cost of effective political interference in other nations has been greatly reduced by the Internet.

“It used to be it was expensive to run an ad on a television station. Now you simply go online and propagate your message,” he said. “They have found an effective tool, an easy way to reach into our systems and into our culture to achieve the outcomes they are looking for.” Later, in response to a question from the audience, he said the CIA is working with German intelligence agencies to investigate possible Russian interference in German elections, although he could not comment on the status of that investigation.

Stephens proposed that one of those tools is WikiLeaks and asked if Pompeo sees that website and its founder Julian Assange as witting or unwitting agents of Moscow.

“WikiLeaks will take down America any way they can and find any willing partner to achieve that end,” Pompeo declared. “If they can work with the Chinese, they’re happy to do it. If they can work with the Iranians, they’ll be part and parcel. If they can work with young American students in our colleges and on our campuses, they’re happy to work for them. You only need to go to WikiLeaks’ Twitter account to see that every month, they remind people that you can be an intern at the CIA and become a really dynamite whistleblower.”

“This is the nature of these non-state hostile intelligence services,” he said:

I think our intelligence community has a lot of work to figure out how to respond to them. We have spent decades figuring out how to respond to nation-state intelligence services that come after us. We have authorities, and rules, and processes that are focused on countries and regions. We now need to make sure that we understand that some of the intelligence threat, some of the threat to America is coming from these folks who don’t have constituents, people who live in their country but rather are free-range chickens, running around the world with resources to spare, and who don’t intend well for the United States of America, and are happy to use cyber or other means to achieve their ends.

Pompeo noted that the First Amendment makes it difficult to combat the spread of information obtained by organizations like WikiLeaks, so it is imperative for the intelligence community and other government agencies to maintain information security and keep that information from being released into the wild. He expressed hope that potential leakers would consider their responsibilities to America and make the right decision about jeopardizing national security.

“We have a publication – you work for it, Bret – that published the name of an undercover officer at the Central Intelligence Agency. I find that unconscionable,” Pompeo said, and then stared at Stephens for a few tense moments while the Aspen Security Forum audience applauded.

Stephens retorted that President Trump was known to declare, “I love WikiLeaks!” on the 2016 campaign trail after it began releasing documents from the Democratic National Committee.

“I don’t love WikiLeaks,” Pompeo said flatly.

Pompeo agreed with Stephens that a pattern of recent incidents suggest the U.S. intelligence and defense communities have an “insider threat” problem, although he stressed that excessive compartmentalization can result in a catastrophic failure of agencies to share vital information, as in the case of the run-up to 9/11. “We’re working inside my organization to make sure we have that balance correct,” he said.

“I come home every night, my wife says, ‘How was your day? What did you do?’ I can’t tell her what I did, but I can tell her that my day was great because America is awesome, and the people who work at the CIA are doing amazing things. I just can’t always share them with you,” said Pompeo, bringing a round of applause from the audience. He stressed that some of those “amazing things” are very much directed against Russian cyber-espionage.

Later, when pressed by an audience question from former 9/11 Commission member Richard Ben-Veniste about President Trump’s dismissal of the investigation into Russian election interference as a “witch hunt,” Pompeo argued that it was not out of bounds for the many high officials served by the intelligence community to challenge its work.

“It is not always the case that our answers are binary,” he said, pointing out that some of the findings in the intelligence community’s analysis of the 2016 election were expressed with more confidence than others. However, he repeated with some exasperation that he personally does not doubt the findings that efforts were made by Russia to meddle in the election.

“I think if you watch this administration’s actions with respect to Russia, it is no comparison in respect to how this administration has dealt with Russia and the previous one,” Pompeo said.

Turning to the war against terrorism, Pompeo provocatively stated that he does not believe in the “lone wolf” designation for many of the terrorists who have struck across the Western world in the past decade.

“I’ve never seen a wolf alone,” he noted. “They always know how to find the pack and where to find them. Someone is always helping each of these folks, so networks still exist.”

However, Pompeo added that terrorism has changed “to the extent it is less centralized, more diffuse, just like effective corporations in America today that have decentralized.” To combat that threat, he said he is working to “decentralize the Central Intelligence Agency, so we can be as nimble as our adversary.”

Iran’s Hegemony in Syria 

Khamenei ordered missile strikes on IS targets in Syria

Dwayne Harmon24 June 2017, 10:39 Newburgh Gazette

“If the regime continues attacking our positions in Raqqa province, we will be forced to retaliate”, SDF spokesman Talal Silo said.

The US military has repeatedly warned forces fighting on Assad’s side to stay away from a “deconfliction zone”, agreed with Russian Federation, near a garrison used by US Special Forces and US-backed armed groups around Al-Tanf.

Syrian Information Minister Mohammad Ramez Tourjman said Iran’s missile strikes against ISIS positions in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor have sent a strong message to the government of Donald Trump to drop any potential plan for launching an attack on Iran or mounting a campaign to isolate the Islamic Republic on the global arena.

It came in response to the terrorist attack in Tehran earlier this month that was claimed by Daesh.

Iran has called in the Swiss charge d’affaires, who looks after USA interests, to protest against comments by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson backing “peaceful transition” in the Islamic republic.

Tensions between longtime rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran have escalated in recent weeks after the Saudis and their Gulf partners cut ties to Qatar, citing, in part, its association to Iran and Tehran’s alleged link to terrorism.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif defended the attack in a Twitter post on Monday.

Syrian state television, quoting army sources, said they had resumed the offensive, which took place as USA and Russian officials were holding another round of secret talks on creating a “de-escalation zone” in southwestern Syria that would include Daraa.

The Pentagon said a US F-15 aircraft, flying over Syrian territory, fired on the drone after it displayed hostile intent and advanced on coalition forces.

While the US military’s shootdown of a Syrian jet on Sunday was a rarity in modern warfare, the first in 18 years, it was not an isolated incident. Led by the IRGC, about 10,000 Iranian combat troops are in Syria fighting alongside thousands of fighters from Hezbollah, Lebanon’s Tehran-affiliated Shi’ite militia, and assorted Shi’ite militias.

Russian Federation reacted angrily to the USA shootdown of the Syrian jet, which the Pentagon said was dropping bombs near the US -backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a mixed Kurdish-Arab militia fighting Islamic State.

Israel’s military Chief of Staff is disputing Iranian claims of successfully launching missiles at militants in Syria.

The operation “targeted Takfiri forces in the Deir Ezzor region in Eastern Syria”.

The coalition’s presence in Tanf, on the Damascus-Baghdad highway, was meant to stop Iranian-backed groups from opening an overland route between Iraq and Syria, intelligence sources have said. After the drone was shot down on Tuesday, Russians made an announcement that the United States coalition warplanes will be tracked and targeted flying west to the river Euphrates.

Still, analysts caution that Tehran’s rhetoric may be more for domestic consumption.

“The military and our security forces are constantly monitoring the activity of Iran in the region”, Netanyahu said, according to a statement released by the Likud.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the main opposition, is planning a conference in Washington to provide information about Iran’s missile program which is advancing at a rapid pace.

Iran’s Hegemony n Syria

Iran’s Khamenei ordered missile strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria: Guards

Reuters

FILE PHOTO - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the death anniversary of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran, Iran, June 4, 2017. TIMA via REUTERS

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the death anniversary of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran Thomson Reuters

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered weekend missile strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, Revolutionary Guards said, contradicting a previous report that they were authorised by the country’s security council.

The Guards fired six mid-range surface to surface missiles from western Iran into Syria’s Deir al Zour province on Sunday night, the first attack of its kind carried out by the Islamic Republic in years.

The Guards statement, published on Wednesday by Sepah News, ran counter to a statement by President Hassan Rouhani who said earlier that the strikes were authorised by the Supreme National Security Council, which includes the heads of the three branches of government as well as the head of the Guards and other ministers.

Senior Guard commanders said on Monday that the missile strikes were intended to send a message to “terrorists” who carried out attacks in Tehran two weeks ago as well as their regional and international supporters, a reference to Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Khamenei’s personal directive for the missile strikes, as reported by the Guards, highlighted their symbolic importance.

The complex attacks in Tehran included shootings and at least one suicide bombing at the Iranian parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, south of the capital. Eighteen people were killed.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for these attacks but senior Iranian officials pointed a finger at Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Republic’s biggest regional rival.

Tensions between mostly Shi’ite Iran and Saudi Arabia, which is predominantly Sunni, have ramped up in recent months as both countries compete for power and influence across the region. The two countries support opposite sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Field operatives from the Quds Force, the branch of the Guards responsible for operations outside Iran’s borders, gathered intelligence on the targets inside Syria before the strike, the Guards’ statement said.

More than 170 “terrorists” including some commanders were killed in the missile strike, their statement said. Reuters could not independently verify the claim.

(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

The Syrian Truth Finally Comes Out

Assad says US ‘not serious’ about fighting terrorism

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said a suspected chemical weapons attack was a “fabrication” to justify a US strike on his forces, in an exclusive interview with AFP in Damascus.

The embattled leader, whose country has been ravaged by six years of war, said his firepower had not been affected by the attack ordered by US President Donald Trump, but acknowledged further strikes were possible.

Assad insisted his forces had turned over all their chemical weapons stocks years ago and would never use the banned arms.

The interview on Wednesday was his first since a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun.

“Definitely, 100 percent for us, it’s fabrication,” he said of the incident.

“Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack,” added Assad, who has been in power for 17 years.

At least 87 people, including 31 children, were killed in the alleged attack, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

But Assad said evidence came only from “a branch of Al-Qaeda,” referring to a former jihadist affiliate that is among the groups that control Idlib province, where Khan Sheikhun is located.

Images of the aftermath, showing victims convulsing and foaming at the mouth, sent shockwaves around the world.

But Assad insisted it was “not clear whether it happened or not, because how can you verify a video? You have a lot of fake videos now.”

“We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhun. Were they dead at all?”

He said Khan Sheikhun had no strategic value and was not currently a battle front.

“This story is not convincing by any means.”

A handout picture released by the Syrian presidency's press office shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during an interview with AFP in the capital Damascus on April 12, 2017© Provided by AFP A handout picture released by the Syrian presidency’s press office shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during an interview with AFP in the capital Damascus on April 12, 2017The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has begun an investigation into the alleged attack, but Russia on Wednesday blocked a UN Security Council resolution demanding Syria cooperate with the probe.

And Assad said he could “only allow any investigation when it’s impartial, when we make sure that unbiased countries will participate in this delegation in order to make sure that they won’t use it for politicised purposes.”

He insisted several times that his forces had turned over all chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013, under a deal brokered by Russia to avoid threatened US military action.

“There was no order to make any attack, we don’t have any chemical weapons, we gave up our arsenal a few years ago,” he said.

“Even if we have them, we wouldn’t use them, and we have never used our chemical arsenal in our history.”

The OPCW has blamed Assad’s government for at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 involving the use of chlorine.

The Khan Sheikhun incident prompted the first direct US military action against Assad’s government since the war began, with 59 cruise missiles hitting the Shayrat airbase three days after the suspected chemical attack.

Assad said more US attacks “could happen anytime, anywhere, not only in Syria.”

But he said his forces had not been diminished by the US strike.

“Our firepower, our ability to attack the terrorists hasn’t been affected by this strike.”

Iranian Horn Backs Syria (Daniel 8:4)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed his support over the phone for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s killing of this country’s people, claiming the Idlib chemical attack is “false and without evidence”, outrageously accusing the opposition for the attack.

The use of chemical weapons… was aimed to diverse the general public’s attention from the truth. We must not permit terrorists use such weaponry, then accuse others and provide pretexts for measures in violation of international regulations,” he said. (Iranian state media – April 9)

Rouhani is the same criminal who has for 38 years accused the Iranian opposition of oppressing and killing the Iranian people, and considers deceiving the international community on Tehran’s nuclear program as one of his main prides.

In other developments, Mohammad Reza Ne’matzadeh, Rouhani’s Minister of Industries and Mines made startling remarks on April 8th in an interview with the Aftab News website associated to Rouhani’s faction.

“Rouhani once said in a cabinet meeting how he asked [Khamenei] what is in our interest. Should I participate or not? [Khamenei] emphasized you must participate as a candidate. I am certain that if [Khamenei] said, for example, don’t participate, it is not in our interest, he would have accepted it immediately. He makes no decision on major issues without [Khamenei’s] blessing,” he said. While emphasizing on Rouhani’s complete abidance of Khamenei’s instructions on various issues regarding the nuclear negotiations, Ne’matzadeh added, “Since 1963 Rouhani was a student of Khomeini and followed his instructions. Afterwards, wherever he had any role or responsibility, it was always according to Khamenei’s approval.”

Last month Iranian MP Mahmoud Sadeghi cited Rouhani in a meeting with other MPs how he had sought Khamenei’s opinion before taking part in the 2013 presidential election.

According to Sadeghi in response Khamenei said, “I have and never had any problems with you. We can work together.”

“Khamenei emphasized on his old friendship with Rouhani and not only does he have no negative opinion about him, in fact he thinks positive of Rouhani,” Sadeghi added. (“Arman Rooz” – March 12)

Rouhani’s phone call with the Syrian dictator and providing his utmost support for this war criminal, parallel to Khamenei blessing his candidacy, all prove that various factions of the mullahs’ establishment are no different in their domestic crackdown and plundering the Iranian people’s wealth, they also commonly support exporting terrorism and fundamentalist, and fully back Assad and his massacre of the Syrian people.

They understand very well that with Assad overthrown the pillars of their own religious fascist establishment ruling Iran will be shaken. A few months ago Khamenei admitted if his regime fails to fight in Syria, they will be forced to fight in Tehran, Fars, Khorasan and Isfahan. (State-run media – January 5)

Assad and his senior ranks, alongside Khamenei, Rouhani and Revolutionary Guards commanders, are the main perpetrators behind the killing of 500,000 Syrians and more than half the country’s population being displaced, and they must face justice. Their criminal record is far worse than many of those tried in the Nuremberg hearings.

“Rouhani said to his cohorts he obtained Khamenei’s approval to run,” the Iranian Resistance said in an April 7 statement, adding Ebrahim Raisi also announced his candidacy only after obtaining Khamenei’s agreement to participate in the sham presidential election.

Iran Threatens Response To Trump’s Attack

Shia CrescentIran, Russia Threaten ‘Lethal Response’ to Further U.S. Action in Syria

BY: Adam Kredo Follow @Kredo0
April 10, 2017 5:00 am

Joint Russia-Iranian forces operating in Syria warned the Trump administration over the weekend that further American strikes on the war-torn country will unleash a “lethal response,” according to official statements aimed at ratcheting up tension with the United States following a string of fresh airstrikes on Syrian strongholds.

Iranian and Russian forces working together in Syria on behalf of embattled leader Bashar al-Assad issued a stern warning to the United States and threatened to take their own action against American military forces.

“We will respond to any aggression powerfully, as Russia and Iran would never allow the U.S. to dominate the world,” read a statement issued by the Syria-Iran-Russia Joint Operations Room, a combination of forces operating on behalf of Assad in Syria. The statement was first published in Iran’s state-controlled media.

The statement raises the stakes of continued U.S. intervention in Syria, as Iran and Russia become further entrenched in the battle to bolster Assad and keep him in power. Iran and Russia also announced this weekend new military alliances aimed at bolstering Tehran’s fleet of amphibious airplanes.

While the Trump administration has not ruled out further military intervention in Syria, it remains unclear how willing the White House will be to isolate further Iranian and Russian forces operating together inside Syria. U.S. coalition forces in nearby Iraq also remain vulnerable to reprisal attacks by the thousands of Iranian forces operating in that country alongside local militias.

The joint Russian-Iranian group in Syria hinted that it believes the United States may be behind the chemical attack that prompted military action.

“We believe that the events [chemical weapons use] in [Syria] have been plotted by certain states and bodies to be used as a pretext to attack Syria,” according to the statement, which suggests the United States may have orchestrated the attack in order to justify military intervention.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei also condemned the U.S. strike on Sunday, warning the Trump administration about further military action.

“What Americans did was a strategic mistake, and they are repeating the same mistakes done by their predecessors,” Khamenei was quoted as saying during a meeting with senior Iranian armed forces commanders in Tehran.

Khamenei also said that U.S. forces in the region were conspiring with anti-Assad terrorist forces.

“Former U.S. officials created ISIL or helped it, and present officials are reinvigorating ISIL and similar groups,” Khamenei alleged.

Multiple Iranian military officials adopted a similar stance over the weekend and vowed to continue fighting alongside Russia on behalf of Assad in Syria.

A delegation of more than 220 Iranian lawmakers also moved to condemn the U.S. attack over the weekend and demanded an independent investigation into the measures.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in a phone conversation Sunday with Assad, vowed to continue Iranian support for the Syrian president.

“The Iranian people are still standing by the Syrian nation,” Rouhani was quoted as telling Assad.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the latest strike by the United States could serve to push Russia and Iran closer in their alliance, which has grown since the landmark Iran nuclear deal.

“In the aftermath of the recent Tomahawk cruise missiles strikes by the U.S., Iranian officials have voiced their condemnation of the U.S. as was expected, but will also seek to capitalize on a recent highly public trip by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Moscow,” Ben Taleblu said.

“While not a formal alliance, the Syrian theater is one area where Russian and Iranian interests overlap,” he explained. “With the expiration of a United Nations mandated arms ban in 2020, we can expect to see this Russo-Iranian relationship deepen significantly. U.S. policymakers would be wise to exploit whatever cleavages exist in the relationship until then.”

Obama’s US Policy is History (Ezekiel 17)

US sends message to North Korea, China with Syria strike

Agencies

The US missile strike on Syria contained a clear message for North Korea and its main ally China, but not one strong enough to push Pyongyang off its nuclear weapons path, analysts said Saturday.

While the timing was largely coincidental, the fact that US President DonaldTrump ordered the strike while hosting a summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping carried particular resonance given that the North’s nuclear ambitions — and how best to thwart them — was among the top agenda items of their meeting.

And exercising the military option added some extra weight to Trump’s recent threat of unilateral action against Pyongyang if Beijing fails to help kerb its neighbour’s nuclear weapons programme.

Kim Yong-Hyun, a professor at Dongguk University said the strike against Syria was a statement of intent that was meant for a wide readership.

“It signals to Pyongyang that the US has a new sheriff in town who isn’t hesitant about pulling his gun from the holster,” Kim said.

But while the move might give the North pause, it is unlikely to deter a leadership that views nuclear weapons as the sole guarantee of its future survival.

“In the long term, US military actions overseas won’t help kerb the North’s nuclear pursuit,” Kim said.

Nuclear determination

The North has carried out five nuclear tests — two of them last year — and expert satellite imagery analysis suggests it could well be preparing for a sixth.

And Pyongyang has shown no sign of reining in a missile testing programme ultimately aimed at securing the capability to deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental United States.

If Thursday’s strike was a warning to other countries, it was one that Pyongyang, which regularly cites US hostility as the driving force behind its nuclear weapons development, is quite familiar with.

“Trump’s attack on Syria is unlikely to have any significant effect on a North Korea that is already well versed in the threat posed by the United States,” said Joel Wit, a senior fellow at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

At the time of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the then North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il disappeared from public view for around six weeks — and was widely believed to have gone into hiding for fear of a US attack.

Chang Yong-Seok, a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification at Seoul National University, said Kim’s son, current leader Kim Jong-Un, had no reason to take such precautions. “Armed with nuclear weapons, he would hardly flinch at the attack in Syria,” Chang said.

As if to underline the point, North Korean state media released photos of a smiling Kim inspecting a mushroom farm.

Warning to China?

The question then arises as to what impact the US president’s willingness to exercise his military muscle may have on China’s thinking.

China is North Korea’s economic lifeline and as such enjoys more leverage over its maverick neighbour than any other country.

Like his predecessors in the White House, Trump wants China to do more to influence the North’s behaviour, but has gone further than others in threatening to go it alone if Beijing fails to step up to the plate.

In that context, the strike against Syria may resonate more firmly in Beijing than Pyongyang.

It’s a signal that Trump’s administration will not only talk, they will act”, said Wang Dong, Associate Professor and Director of the School of International Studies at Peking University.

While China has clearly lost patience with Pyongyang’s nuclear provocations, it is extremely wary of any response that might bring about North Korea’s collapse and chaos on its doorstep.

“From the Chinese point of view, there is still room to explore a path for a diplomatic solution”, Wang said.

Jia Qingguo, a professor of International Relations at Beijing University, said the North’s nuclear arsenal and highly sensitive geopolitical position meant the fallout of any military action could be catastrophic. “A small kick could provoke big disasters. It’s not like Iraq,” Jia said.

Although China’s state media went strong on photos and coverage of the Xi-Trump summit, it gave little space to news of the strikes against Syria, with few editorials or commentaries.

One exception was the nationalist-leaning Global Times which suggested that Trump’s “show of force” was rash and ill-considered.

“This was Trump’s first major move in international affairs, and it leaves an impression that the decision was made in haste and not without contradiction,” the newspaper said.