Iran Abandons Last Signs of Democracy

2583After Reelection, Iran’s President Rouhani Abandons Promise to Free Green Movement Leaders

Asked what he would do to free opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hosseini Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard, who have been detained for more than six years for leading the peaceful, mass protests against the disputed result of the 2009 presidential election, Rouhani suggested that a solution depended on cooperation from other branches of state.

“The country is ruled by laws and we should all submit to them,” he said on May 22. “The executive, legislative and judicial branches have their own responsibilities. We are moving forward on the basis of the Constitution.”

“I am responsible for the rights of every citizen, even Iranians living abroad,” added Rouhani. “Wherever I see the rights of Iranians being violated, I will take action within my powers. In cases related to the judiciary, I will respond by direct communication or in joint meetings. The next government plans to implement the Charter on Citizens’ Rights. In this respect, the rights of all people are important to me.”

Rouhani made no reference to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, whose adamant opposition to freeing the three has kept them detained in legal limbo.

At a presidential campaign rally at Sharif University in Tehran on May 13, 2013, Rouhani said he hoped he could free the three within the first year of his presidency: “We can provide conditions such that over the next year, individuals who were imprisoned or put under house arrest for the 2009 events are released.”

Chants for freedom for Mousavi and Karroubi were a fixture amongst Rouhani supporters throughout the election campaign, and celebrations of his victory.

Amid Rouhani’s virtual silence on the issue during his first term, other politicians raised it a number of times, including conservative Deputy Parliament Speaker Ali Motahari, who has repeatedly spoken of the need for a solution.

In an interview on May 8, 2017, Motahari repeated his suggestion that the issue could be resolved through negotiation.

“Some steps have been taken towards resolving the house arrests and we have to listen to the reasoning by the opposing side,” he said. “We have to move towards improving the conditions in the country and prevent issues before they turn into a crisis.”

Motahari has previously explained that Khamenei is the driving factor behind the continuing house arrests.

“One of the obstacles against their freedom has been the insistence by some officials that if they do not apologize and repent, it will damage the state and the supreme leader,” said Motahari. “It isn’t wrong to have an opinion about the 2009 incidents different than those of people in power…keeping [Mousavi, Rahnavard and Karroubi] under house arrest for six years is neither compatible with the law nor with religious teachings.”

At the May 22 press conference, the newly reelected president was also asked about his policies on protecting the rights of the artistic community, particularly those in the music and film industries.

“One of the outcomes of this year’s elections was that everyone was at peace with music,” responded Rouhani. “However, we are not too fond of cheap music. Some say that’s fine as well, but in any case, I am certain our new government will give more support to the cultural community.”

“The situation did improve for music and cinema in our previous four years, but we will make greater efforts in the next four,” he added.

Since 2013, when Rouhani was voted into office promising a more open society, numerous state-sanctioned musicians, including popular artists Alireza Ghorbani and Sirvan Khosravi, saw their concerts canceled at the last moment.

Religious conservatives have justified their attacks on musicians by quoting vague statements and decrees by senior religious leaders. Khamenei has himself often warned about the alleged dangers of music, saying it will “lead people away from the path of God.”

Rouhani also said his government would adopt proposals based on educational guidelines provided by the UN 2030 Agenda—vehemently opposed by conservatives—that do not violate Islamic principles.

“The ministers of foreign affairs, science and education wrote to the supreme leader explaining to His Excellency at length that the Islamic Republic of Iran has reserved the right to ignore parts of agenda 2030 that do not conform with our culture and national values,” Rouhani said.

On the issue of women in the workforce, Rouhani said his government would do more to increase women’s employment prospects.

“It’s wrong to think that men have a higher status or that they are more capable than women,” he said.

At the same time, Rouhani echoed Khamenei’s sexist views by claiming certain jobs are more suitable for men than women: “Of course men are better at some professions and women are better at others. (God) has given both their own special qualities.”

“But women are not lower than men and keeping them inside the house does not make sense from social or legal standpoints,” he added.

Islam Controls Iran (Daniel 8)

Khamenei: It does not matter who will become president, the winner is the regime

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that it is not important who will become president after Iran’s presidential election on Friday. He believed it was only important that Wilayat al-Faqih system should win by raising the level of voter participation in the ballot.

According to Iran’s Tasnim news agency, Khamenei stated in a speech on Wednesday, “In the end, a candidate will get a majority of votes and win, but the real winner in this process, regardless of who wins the majority of votes, are the Iranian people – and the main winner is the regime of the Islamic Republic.”

“The Iranian leader criticized the attack of candidates on each other during the debates and how they exposed corruption files, considering that, “some of the things that were said are not appropriate to the Iranian people,” stressing that, “everyone has to observe the law and be disciplined in the electoral process.”

Khamenei warned of unrest during the election, saying, “It is likely that someone will try to violate the law, but we trust in the capacity of our security system. We have to be careful, for the Iranian people have so many enemies.”

The Iranian leader often saw the elections as a renewal of allegiance by the people to Wilayat al-Faqih, even though there is no candidate who comes from the popular groups, that is, outside the system of the regime and its political groups.

In spite of this atmosphere, many officials of the Iranian regime fear the recurrence of the events of 2009, when millions of people protested, initially against what was said to be a falsification of the results of the Iranian elections, but soon turned into a popular uprising against the entire regime. The uprising was brutally suppressed by the Revolutionary Guard, the Basij, and the security and intelligence services.

The Green Movement Obama Abandoned (Ezekiel 17)

Image result for green movement iranWill Iran’s Green Movement resurface?

My first active experience with Twitter was in 2009. I logged on to the site to find out how to engage with it, and my first search was “Iran’s election.” I had heard about young men and women demonstrating vigorously against the ruling regime. I was impressed by the name of the Green Revolution that erupted against the results of the presidential elections in favor of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Twitter was a place of expression, mobilization and debate, and conveyed what was happening in Iran to the outside world. We saw slogans of “Death to the dictator,” and followed how young men and women were beaten. How can we forget the photo of the young protester Nada, who lay dying in the street after being shot by police, and who became a symbol of the Green Movement? Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali

Khamenei did not forget the 2009 experience, in which Twitter was a sensitive mediator. Under Ahmadinejad’s second problematic presidency, the Internet was controlled to isolate Iranians from themselves and from the world. We are days away from Iranian presidential elections, the second since 2009. The mullahs have done everything in their power in recent years to avoid a new Green Revolution, namely via extensive control over the Internet and a lot of public activity.

The mullahs have done everything in their power in recent years to avoid a new Green Revolution, namely via extensive control over the Internet and a lot of public activity.

Diana Moukalled

Iran’s social networking sites have evolved into an election tool. They were an important factor in Hassan Rouhani’s presidential victory in 2013, as his opponents failed to properly utilize them. Iranians are now active in the elections via the unbanned sites Instagram and Telegram. Whereas the state-run radio and television broadcaster IRIB is biased toward certain candidates, Rouhani’s supporters have turned to these sites to strike a balance. Since the 1979 revolution, all Iranian presidents have managed to get a second term. But the situation seems complicated this year, with strong conservative candidates against Rouhani, namely cleric Ibrahim Rabi who is close to Khamenei, and Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf.
Four years ago, Rouhani said he would work to lift the Internet ban, and Iranians had the right to easily obtain information from around the world. But he cannot make this decision alone; it is up to Khamenei. It may be said, and rightfully, that Khamenei’s ability to control the internal situation and prevent protests is strong, but there are those who are minimizing the extent of popular resentment amid the resurgence of many figures who were active in the 2009 Green Movement.

• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. She can be reached on Twitter @dianamoukalled.

The Unstoppable Iranian Horn (Daniel 8:3)

ANALYSIS: The Iranian regime’s unstoppable path to nuclear weapons

By Tony Duheaume Thursday, 4 May 2017

It matters not where any national leader stands as far as the Iran deal is concerned, the greatest concern to the international community should be why Iran has been seeking the capability to build nuclear weapons for more than two decades.

During the early 1990s, the Israeli secret service reportedly obtained Iranian government documents, stating that Iran had acquired several nuclear warheads from the former Soviet Union. The documents were authenticated by experts in the US, all of which were said to be correspondence between officials in the Iranian government and leading commanders of the IRGC, verifying that the missiles had been successfully acquired. Although these weapons were no longer operational due to age, they were still useful to nuclear scientists as a blueprint for a future weapon.

It is now believed that during the 1980s, when Iranian boffins were struggling to master nuclear technology, Iran obtained the know-how to overcome its problems in the more difficult aspects of nuclear technology, and from then on, the two countries shared future technological advances.

Since the founding of the Islamic Republic, Iran has been working all out to become the Middle East’s most powerful military nation, so with it its constant confrontational policies concerning the export of terrorism, and its meddling in the politics of neighboring countries, it has led to it having to face many foes throughout the region.

So adding that to the fact that a number of its near neighbors are armed with nuclear weapons, including its arch enemy Israel, it made perfect sense to the regime’s hawks to arm Iran in a similar manner.

It was in 1985, Iran began its gas-enrichment program, and when this was discovered many years later, the regime went on the defensive, claiming that its nuclear program was solely for it wanting to become self-sufficient in its energy needs, and for the purpose of medical isotopes.

When questioned as to why it had kept its nuclear program a secret, the leadership claimed it was under no obligation to declare it under the terms of the IAEA safeguards agreement. The agreement stated that it only had to inform the IAEA of the existence of its facilities, six months before any nuclear material was actually being produced and so as far as the Iranian administration was concerned any infringements were minor.

During the time of its secret nuclear sites being discovered, when questioned about its refusal to answer many crucial questions on its program, the regime claimed it hadn’t spoken out due to it being an intrusion of its rights. This was in addition to the fact that it didn’t want commercial secrets being leaked to its opponents, and also the fact that it wanted to safeguard the security of the sites in question.

Energy self-sufficiency

Then when it came to the need for such a program, the regime’s claims for it to be solely for self-sufficiency in its energy needs, and medical purposes just didn’t hold up under scrutiny. Even with the Bushehr reactor up and running, which it wasn’t at the time, it would only result in the production of 3 percent of Iran’s electricity needs, and that the rest of the facilities that were in action or in the pipeline, was not feasible for civilian use.

So much about Iran’s nuclear program just didn’t add up even with the fact that there was no evidence at the time that it was operating a reprocessing program meant little. The regime had been known to be seeking to acquire hot-cell heavy manipulators and lead glass shielding windows from a foreign state, which would be required should it be wanting to embark on such a program.

Suspicions arose as to why the regime would want to acquire such components, which it claimed was for the use of producing medical isotopes. However, after studying specifications for the project, which the IAEA had acquired from a foreign state, it showed that the hot cells being fitted out had walls of 1.4 metres in thickness, which were more suited to the handling of spent fuel, rather than for the purpose of radioisotope production, and pointed towards a military use rather than a medical one.

Then in the summer of 2002, the Iranian dissident group the MEK revealed the existence of a series of nuclear sites in Iran, and within a year it was discovered that Iran was in the process of conducting uranium enrichment at Natanz.

An unidentified IAEA inspector cuts the connections between the twin cascades for 20 percent uranium enrichment at the Natanz facility, some 322 kilometers south of Tehran on Jan. 20, 2014. (AP)

With suspicions beginning to be raised even further that Iran was at work developing nuclear weapons, this further heightened when it was discovered that the regime was mining uranium at Saghand as well as operating a yellow cake production plant in the vicinity of Ardakan, and with a pilot uranium enrichment plant up and running in Natanz, it was also operating a commercial scale enrichment facility close by.

To produce nuclear weapons, enriched uranium is essential, and it takes a full-blown nuclear program to produce it. Uranium ore is a natural element much like iron, often taken from the ground in open cast mining; but it needs to be processed to extract pure uranium from the base material.

Centrifuges are essential in processing of uranium. They are cylindrical tubes that whirl at great speed, separating out or purifying the desired uranium isotopes. Iran’s Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant was designed to hold around 3,000 centrifuges, producing in the region of 19.75 percent enriched uranium, which Iran claimed is part of the process to produce medical isotopes.

Where nuclear weapons are concerned, their design requires the use of weapons grade uranium to make them functional, and it takes 90 percent enrichment of uranium to take it to weapons grade, which would take only a matter of weeks to produce in Iran’s new and advanced centrifuges.

Doubling down on centrifuges

Back in August 2012, Iran was known to have doubled the number of centrifuges at its Fordow plant in just three months, increasing the number to 2,000. Until the time of the Iran Deal, the number had increased to 2,800, with Fordow running at full capacity.

During that period of time, Iran had increased its supply of a more purified form of enriched uranium, which was much easier to convert into weapon’s grade fissile material. But at this present time, with the regime now mass producing much more efficient centrifuges, with more than 10,000 installed at the Natanz facility alone, they had enough low-enriched uranium to produce at least six nuclear weapons.

Before the Iran Deal, with Iran having built at least five secret facilities, where work was believed to have been carried out on the development of nuclear weapons, it can only be said that the Iran deal has put this work on hold, as most of Iran’s nuclear program is still continuing in a limited capacity. Should the deal eventually collapse, it would only take Iran a matter of months to reinstate its nuclear activity, and the road to a bomb would be fast coming.

So with these nuclear sites carved into the side of mountains, with the regime protecting them with state of the art air defences throughout the country, it leaves them virtually immune to airstrikes. This made it difficult to completely halt Iran’s nuclear program through a bombing campaign would be near impossible, due to the regime’s instalment of the Russian S-300 long-range air defence system.

So adding this to the fact that Iran has already developed its own long-range air defense system, named the Bavar-373 (Bavar meaning “Belief) – and has claimed it is far superior to the Russian S-300, it also gives it the ability to operate both on and off roads. And with the system using Sayyed-3 missiles, which have been successfully tested, it utilizes target acquisition radar, target engagement radar, and phased array radar to direct the primary functions of the system. The system can strike mid-altitude targets with great accuracy, is able to down bombers as well as various other combat aircraft including drones and cruise missiles.

But as far as the Iran deal is concerned, the Iranian regime is in a win-win situation, because as far as an armed confrontation is concerned, it is fast heading toward becoming untouchable. So the only way to bring an end to its nuclear program, other than through a one-sided deal that only benefits its clerical leadership, would be through sanctions or hostilities.

But whatever option is chosen, a regime change would be needed at the end of it, in order to deter Iran from the nuclear path in the future, and at the moment, this seems to be a long way off.

Last Update: Thursday, 4 May 2017 KSA 08:28 – GMT 05:28

The Iranian Horn Continues To Grow (Daniel 8:4)

Image result for iran deal obamaIran Using Cash From Nuclear Deal to Grow Militarily (Thanks Obama)

Sarah Lee
3 minutes

No longer content to stand in the streets, burn American flags and complain about the “Great Satan,” Iran is going on the offensive by building up their military, and they’re using cash obtained through Obama’s nuclear deal to do it.

Iran is using the billions in cash resources provided under the landmark nuclear deal to engage in an unprecedented military buildup meant to transform the Islamic Republic’s fighting force into an “offensive” juggernaut, according to a largely unreported announcement by Iranian military leaders that has sparked concern among U.S. national security insiders and sources on Capitol Hill.

The Free Beacon report goes on to say that, since Obama’s “historic” nuclear deal — the one he insisted would prevent Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon — the little tyrannical country that could has increased their defense budget 145 percent, and that they are now free to pursue millions in arms deals with Russia since sanctions were lifted as part of Obama’s nuclear agreement with them.

Iran received billions in cash as part of the nuclear deal, and the Obama administration went to some lengths to withhold that information from Congress. The administration was keen to convince the American taxpayers and their colleagues on the Hill that the payout was a ransom to secure the release of hostages.

“It has been seven months since President Obama announced that he was giving the Islamic Republic of Iran almost $2 billion,” Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told the Free Beacon on Wednesday. “And we are just now finding out damning details about how $400 million, which is less than half of the total, was sent to Iran using foreign aircraft and foreign currencies.”

According to The Free Beacon, “leading members of Congress and U.S. officials working on the Iran portfolio suspect that at least a portion of the” payout went to fund Iran’s recent beefed-up defense capabilities.

Coming on the heels of news that Iran is claiming better accuracy with their snazzy new missiles, one wonders what the Obama administration thought they were actually accomplishing striking a deal with a country that has always professed a profound dislike of the United States and her allies.

Or if they even cared.

The Cost of Obama’s Nuclear Deal

Obama Lied, Americans Died: Released Iranians Tied to Terror, Nuclear Proliferation

“Obama, the senior official and other administration representatives weren’t telling the whole story on Jan. 17, 2016, in their highly choreographed rollout of the prisoner swap and simultaneous implementation of the six-party nuclear deal,” Politico’s Josh Meyer reports.

The seven men released on that day as a “humanitarian” gesture were deeply tied to Iran’s nuclear arms efforts, and one was connected with procurement for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that killed American soldiers in Iraq.

“They didn’t just dismiss a bunch of innocent business guys,” a former federal law enforcement supervisor who was centrally involved in the hunt for Iranian arms traffickers and nuclear smugglers told Politico. “And then they didn’t give a full story of it.”

Politico noted that federal prosecutors and agents were shocked and furious when they learned of the release; many of them had reportedly spent years, others decades, “working to penetrate the global proliferation networks that allowed Iranian arms traders both to obtain crucial materials for Tehran’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs and, in some cases, to provide dangerous materials to other countries.”

Politico wrote:

Three allegedly were part of an illegal procurement network supplying Iran with U.S.-made microelectronics with applications in surface-to-air and cruise missiles like the kind Tehran test-fired recently, prompting a still-escalating exchange of threats with the Trump administration. Another was serving an eight-year sentence for conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware. As part of the deal, U.S. officials even dropped their demand for $10 million that a jury said the aerospace engineer illegally received from Tehran.

But that was not all.

Politico also noted that “in a series of unpublicized court filings, the Justice Department dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 other men, all of them fugitives.”

Those fugitives had allegedly sought to lease Boeing aircraft for an Iranian airline that authorities believe supported Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

Another, Behrouz Dolatzadeh, was reportedly charged with conspiring to buy thousands of U.S.-made assault rifles and illegally import them into Iran.

Amin Ravan was charged with smuggling U.S. military antennas to Hong Kong and Singapore for use in Iran. According to Politico, he was also responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans. “U.S. authorities also believe he was part of a procurement network providing Iran with high-tech components for an especially deadly type of IED used by Shiite militias to kill hundreds of American troops in Iraq,” Politico wrote.

The report also found that Obama’s Iran deal destroyed counter-proliferation efforts that ultimately made Iran’s path to nuclear arms easier.

Breitbart News has reported on new findings out of Iran indicating that the Iranian regime is violating the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), the formal name for the nuclear deal, by covertly developing nuclear material near the “off-limits” Parchin military site.

According to the Politico investigation, some current and former officials believe Loretta Lynch, who served as the nation’s top law enforcement official at the time, “failed in her responsibility as attorney general to protect the integrity of the Justice Department’s investigations and prosecutions from any political interference.”

At the same time, Lynch was allegedly also protecting then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton from an email scandal that contributed to her devastating loss on Election Day 2016.

President Donald Trump has called the Iran deal the “worst deal ever negotiated.”

As it turns out, he may have been right.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Facebook and Twitter.

Tillerson Threatens To Go After Iran

Image result for iran nuclear

Tillerson slams Iran nuclear deal as ‘failed approach,’ vows ‘comprehensive review’

Published April 19, 2017

FoxNews.com

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ratcheted up criticism Wednesday of the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran, publicly confirming the Trump administration is conducting a “comprehensive review” and declaring they have “no intention of passing the buck.”

In some of his toughest language yet, Tillerson said at a brief press conference that the Iran deal “fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran,” and only delays it becoming a nuclear state.

He faulted the agreement for “buying off” a foreign power with nuclear ambitions, saying: “We just don’t see that that’s a prudent way to be dealing with Iran.”

The statement comes after he said in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis, that the administration has undertaken a full review of the agreement to evaluate whether continued sanctions relief is in the best interest of the U.S.

In the same notification, the administration said Iran is complying with the landmark nuclear deal negotiated by former President Obama, and the U.S. has extended sanctions relief to Tehran in exchange for curbs on its atomic program.

But Tillerson noted in his letter, and repeated during his appearance Wednesday, that Iran continues to foment violence around the world.

“Iran spends its treasure and time disrupting peace,” he said Wednesday. “Iran’s nuclear ambitions are a grave risk to international peace and security.”

While not saying definitively whether the administration is inclined to uphold or scrap the deal, Tillerson said they will meet the challenge of Iran with “clarity and conviction” once the review is done.

“The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran,” he said, claiming the deal represents the “failed approach” of the past.

Tillerson also likened Iran’s behavior to that of North Korea. He said an unchecked Iran could pursue the same path as Pyongyang “and take the world along with it.”

As a candidate in the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump was an outspoken critic of the deal but had offered conflicting opinions on whether he would try to scrap it, modify it or keep it in place with more strenuous enforcement. Tuesday’s determination suggested that while Trump agreed with findings by the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Iran is keeping to its end of the bargain, he is looking for another way to ratchet up pressure on Tehran.

The nuclear deal was sealed in Vienna in July 2015 after 18 months of negotiations led by former Secretary of State John Kerry and diplomats from the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France and Russia — and Germany. Under its terms, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program, long suspected of being aimed at developing atomic weapons, in return for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Trump Reviews Iran Deal

The Trump administration is reviewing the Obama-era nuclear weapons agreement with Iran to determine whether they will stop the deal’s suspension of U.S. sanctions, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said today.

Tillerson said administration officials would review the deal despite also announcing that Iran is complying with the terms of the 2015 agreement reached under President Obama.

“Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods,” Tillerson wrote in a Tuesday night letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The terms of the nuclear agreement require the State Department to update Congress on Iran’s compliance every 90 days. Tillerson’s letter noted that Iran is meeting the deal’s requirements.

Tillerson wrote that Trump has directed an inter-agency review of the Iran deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, to “evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran … is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

What’s the Iran deal again?

In 2015, the United States and five other nations — the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany — lifted crippling economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran drastically limiting its nuclear activities.

Around $100 million worth of Iranian oil money and other assets were frozen prior to the agreement. In order to unfreeze that money, Iran agreed to several terms, including:

  • Dropping nearly 75 percent of its uranium centrifuges — equipment used to produce nuclear fuel for power plants or weapons.
  • Reducing its uranium stockpile by 98 percent for 15 years and keeping its level of uranium enrichment low enough to only fuel nuclear power plants, not weapons.
  • Redesigning its existing heavy-water reactor so it can’t make weapons-grade plutonium and pledging not to build more reactors for 15 years.
  • Complying with regular monitoring from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the international watchdog for nuclear power.
  • Allowing IAEA inspectors access to any site within 24 days of an inspection request.

These sanctions don’t eliminate Iran’s access to nuclear energy, but it does significantly reduce the country’s “breakout time” — the time needed to build a nuclear weapon. According to the Brookings Institution, the deal increased Iran’s breakout time to at least one year.

What does the Trump administration think about it?

Trump has been a vocal critic of the Iran nuclear deal for years, calling it a “disaster” throughout his presidential campaign in 2015 and 2016.

Since he has come into office, he has continued to blast the deal.

In July last year, Trump told CNN that the Iranians “are laughing at the stupidity of the deal we’re making on nuclear. We should double up and triple up the sanctions and have them come to us. They are making an amazing deal.”

Trump’s Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis, has also criticized the deal and Iran’s actions in the Middle East. At a press conference this morning, speaking on Iran’s support of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, Mattis said “everywhere you look, if there’s trouble in the region you find Iran.”

What comes next?

At today’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump may believe that Iran is cheating on the deal.

“That’s why he’s asking for this review,” Spicer said. “If he didn’t, if he thought everything was fine, he would have allowed this to move forward. I think he’s doing the prudent thing by asking for a review of the current deal and what’s happening.”

Spicer said the administration will be conducting the review over the next 90 days, and will have more to report at the end of that period.

At a press conference this afternoon, Tillerson suggested that the current nuclear agreement “fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran and only delays their goal of becoming a nuclear state.”

“An unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea and take the world along with it,” Tillerson said. He went on to say that the Iran deal “is another example of buying off a power who has nuclear ambitions, we buy them off for a short period of time and then someone has to deal with it later. We just don’t see that that’s a credible way to be dealing with Iran.”

Earlier this week, a senior White House official told Foreign Policy that the Trump administration is considering taking a harder stance on the deal — implementing the agreements in an “incredibly strict” way — or expanding sanctions against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is an Iranian military branch intended to protect the country’s Islamic system.

There is some speculation that the Trump administration may expand sanctions in response to Iran’s ballistic missile testing and it’s funding for terrorist acts. The administration already implemented new sanctions on Iran in early February for testing a missile.

Additional sanctions wouldn’t necessarily violate the terms of the Iran deal, but it is possible that they could push Iran to drop out of the agreement and begin to develop nuclear weapons.

Spicer said sanctions have been “an effective tool,” but added that the administration recognized the possible consequences of increasing sanctions.

“Obviously we’re well aware of any potential negative impacts that an action could have,” Spicer said. “So regardless of whether it’s an economic, political or military action, you always weigh all those kind of options.”

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.

Preparing For War With Iran

america-vs-iranNew Iran Sanctions Bills Could Kill the Nuclear Deal, Pave the Way to War

by Tyler Cullis

Congress is in an apparent race with the Trump administration to see who can pose the greater threat to the sustainability of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)–the nuclear accord between the United States, other major world powers, and Iran.

Last week, Congress introduced separate House and Senate bills that would impose new sanctions on Iran. The most imminent danger to the JCPOA is the Senate bill–the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 (S.722), co-sponsored by Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The proposed Senate legislation would risk upending the U.S.’s obligations under the JCPOA and undoing the long-term restrictions the JCPOA imposed on Iran’s nuclear program, all the while setting the stage for renewed conflict between the two countries.

Several provisions of the Senate bill are troubling. Contrary to the bill’s sponsors, the proposed legislation is not consistent with the JCPOA – containing provisions that would place the U.S. in clear violation of its JCPOA commitments. Just as troubling, the bill would mandate the President to utilize existing sanctions authorities targeting Iran with greater force, all the while providing new sanctions authorities to the President to target the Islamic Republic – an effective green light to the hardline aspirations of the Trump administration. Finally, the bill would take the unprecedented step of designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – a branch of Iran’s armed forces – a terrorist group. Absent significant revisions to the bill, the Senate legislation will not only undermine the fundamentals of the nuclear accord, perhaps fatally. It could also quickly engulf the United States in a military conflict with Iran.

Challenge to the JCPOA

On Transition Day, which is either 8 years from Adoption Day or upon a finding from the IAEA that Iran’s nuclear program is being used for exclusively peaceful purposes, whichever is earlier, the United States is required to remove certain Iranian parties from its sanctions lists. Most, if not all, of these entities were designated for involvement in Iran’s nuclear program, but some were also involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program. To the extent that their designation was related to ballistic missiles, this bill would prohibit the President from de-listing those parties on Transition Day, unless the President can provide certification that they have not engaged in activities for which they have been designated in the three-month period preceding their de-listing. If the President cannot provide such certification, then the President would be prohibited from de-listing those parties, placing the U.S. in clear violation of its JCPOA obligations.

Most troubling, this provision–if enacted–will likely provoke an Iranian response. Iran has been careful to reciprocate each U.S. action with its own reaction (see e.g., Iran’s imposition of sanctions on U.S. companies following the U.S. Treasury’s recent announcement of new sanctions designations.) In this case, any reciprocal measure will likely involve Iran’s promised reneging of its own JCPOA commitments. In doing so, both the U.S. and Iran risk undermining the confidence that has so far sustained the JCPOA and prevented either side from terminating the agreement.

Green Light to Trump?

The bill would also mandate the President to impose sanctions on activities related to Iran’s ballistic missile program in a manner that could lead to the re-imposition of sanctions lifted under the JCPOA. Section 4 of the bill requires the President to impose blocking sanctions on persons that engage in activities that have materially contributed or pose a risk of materially contributing to the activities of the Government of Iran with respect to its ballistic missile program, as well as persons who knowingly provide financial, material, technological, or other support for, or goods or services in support of, a person so sanctioned. For example, this provision would mandate the President to impose sanctions on Iranian banks that provide financial services – including, as a benign example, payment of employee salaries at designated Iranian government entities – in ways that would violate the JCPOA. Under the JCPOA, the United States is prohibited from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions lifted under the nuclear accord, including the de-listings of certain Iranian entities (e.g., most of Iran’s financial institutions). In mandating the President to broadly impose sanctions on Iranian parties even tangentially related to Iran’s ballistic missile program, this bill risks placing Washington in violation of its JCPOA commitments.

Perhaps more importantly, this provision would also effectively provide a green light to the Trump administration to take a much harder line against Iran for its non-nuclear activities. Some in Congress might think that is a good thing, but the context is everything. First, this puts the JCPOA itself at risk, as the U.S. has certain affirmative obligations under the nuclear accord to prevent interference with Iran’s realizing the full benefits of the sanctions-lifting and refrain from adopting policies or taking actions intended to make the normalization of trade and economic relations between Iran and the rest of the world more difficult. Imposing broad new sanctions on Iran would clearly contradict these basic principles of the agreement. Second, it was not more than a few months ago when the Trump administration put Iran “on notice,” a forewarning of the ambitions of some in the administration to set the stage for a possible military showdown between the two countries. In urging the President to more broadly sanction Iran, Congress risks empowering these more extreme hardline elements in the White House. So far, President Trump has mimicked the prior administration in his use of the sanctions tool; bipartisan support for cracking down on Iran via this legislation could quickly turn the tide and give his administration the confidence to pursue a more aggressive stance toward Iran that could well trigger a military conflict.

Designating IRGC a Terrorist Group

The bill would also designate the IRGC a terrorist group. The bill’s proponents have been willfully obtuse as to the effect of this particular provision (§ 8 of the bill), but it is nonetheless true.

Specifically, the bill would require the President to impose the sanctions identified in Executive Order 13224 on the IRGC and its officials, agents, and affiliates. EO 13224 is the foundational order to the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 594, and persons designated pursuant to the Order are routinely known as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs). Organizational SDGTs are U.S.-designated “terrorist groups.” The bill’s proponents have variously argued that (1) Congress is not mandating the President to designate the IRGC an SDGT, but instead only to impose the sanctions outlined in EO 13224 to the IRGC; or (2) that the SDGT designation cleverly avoids designating the IRGC a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). This is, at the same time, deliberately misleading and beside the point. First, in order to implement this provision, the President will designate the IRGC pursuant to EO 13224 – i.e., as an SDGT. Congress will not be able to wash its hands of this command; it has directed the President. Second, whether to designate the IRGC an FTO or an SDGT is beside the point: considering current sanctions on the IRGC, there are few actual sanctions consequences as a result of either designation. The concerns with designating the IRGC a terrorist group are “extra-legal.”

What are those concerns? Designating the IRGC a terrorist group has zero sanctions consequences, but important real-life ramifications. Currently, the IRGC is designated under no less than three separate U.S. sanctions programs and is subject to robust secondary sanctions. Designating the IRGC an SDGT will thus only duplicate existing sanctions, adding nothing. However, as the U.S. defense establishment has long warned, there could be important consequences to labeling the IRGC a terrorist group, including, but not limited to, possible retaliation against U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq, who are vulnerable to Iran-backed militias. If such a scenario came to pass, the potential for open hostilities between the U.S. and Iran would have been effectively triggered by the (legally inconsequential) designation of the IRGC as a terrorist group.

Passage of the Senate bill would thus render the U.S. non-compliant with its JCPOA obligations, while also providing an effective stamp of approval to President Trump to utilize his sanctions authorities to target Iran in ways that could fatally undermine the JCPOA and pave the path towards war. Important revisions will need to be made in the weeks ahead if Congress intends to avoid responsibility for unraveling the Iran nuclear accord.