Sources: US enforcement of Iran arms embargo slipped during nuclear talks

Iranian military parade showcasing missiles. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Iranian military parade showcasing missiles. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Jerusalem Post (Oct 5) — Addressing concerns that a landmark nuclear deal reached this year could boost Iran’s military power, the Obama administration reassured critics that it would maintain and enforce its remaining tough sanctions against the country.

Yet the US government has pursued far fewer violations of a long-standing arms embargo against Iran in the past year compared to recent years, according to a review of court records and interviews with two senior officials involved in sanctions enforcement.

The sharp fall in new prosecutions did not reflect fewer attempts by Iran to break the embargo, the officials said. Rather, uncertainty among prosecutors and agents on how the terms of the deal would affect cases made them reluctant to commit already scarce resources with the same vigor as in previous years, the officials said.

The more relaxed enforcement raises questions over how strictly the arms embargo and other remaining sanctions will be applied in future, since the nuclear deal still needs to be implemented and Iran will likely remain sensitive to a tough sanctions regime.

In the 2014-15 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, US law enforcement officials filed fresh charges just twice against those suspected of attempting to smuggle weapons and related technology from the United States to Iran, according to court records.

Eight such cases were brought in 2013-14. By comparison, around 10 to 12 such cases were brought in each of the preceding six years.

“There’s been a precipitous drop-off,” said one of the senior US officials, who declined to be identified. “The facts are the facts – there’s no other explanation.”

The official added there was already a “reticence” in some agencies and US federal prosecutors’ offices to pursue the cases because they are so tough to build and time-consuming.

“And if we’re going to normalize things with Iran soon, people are asking, ‘Is it worth it?'”

The nuclear deal, reached in July after two years of concerted negotiations, tasks Iran with dismantling much of its nuclear infrastructure in return for the removal of many of the international sanctions placed on it over the past five years.

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Iranian Nuclear Experts Take Samples From Parchin Without IAEA Inspectors Present, Atomic Agency Says

Samples were taken from the Parchin plant in Iran.

Samples were taken from the Parchin plant in Iran.

Iranian nuclear experts have taken environmental samples from the military base at Parchin without United Nations inspectors being present, the spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy agency was quoted as saying on Monday.

The procedure for taking the samples, which could shed light on whether Iran’s nuclear program ever had a military dimension, has been under intense discussion since Tehran reached a nuclear deal with world powers in July.

Read full story at Reuters.

Boosted by nuke deal, Iran ups funding to Hezbollah, Hamas

Operating on assumption sanctions will be lifted, Tehran increases support to proxies, while freezing out Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

Hezbollah fighters

Hezbollah fighters

The Times of Israel (Sep 22) — Since the deal was signed, Iran has significantly increased its financial support for two of the largest terror groups in the region that have become political players, Hamas and Hezbollah. In the years before the deal was signed, the crippling sanctions limited this support, which had significantly diminished along with Iran’s economy. But Tehran’s belief that tens, or hundreds, of billions of dollars will flow into the country in the coming years as a result of sanctions relief has led to a decision to boost the cash flow to these terror organizations.

This support, for example, has enabled Hezbollah to obtain highly developed new armaments, including advanced technologies that many militaries around the world would envy. Al-Rai, a Kuwaiti newspaper, reported Saturday that Hezbollah has received all the advanced weaponry that Syria has obtained from the Russians. The report cited a security source involved in the fighting in Zabadani, on the Syria-Lebanon border, where Hezbollah is fighting the al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State, and other groups. It is evidently the growing Iranian financial support that is enabling the Lebanese Shiite militia to purchase advanced weapons, including ones that were hitherto outside of its reach.

The increased Iranian financial support for Hezbollah in the wake of the deal is not unrelated to other political developments in the region. The growing sense of security in Iran with regard to its political status has also been bolstered by a Russian decision to increase its involvement in Syria, and may be what drove Iran to send hundreds of members of its Revolutionary Guard Corps to play an active role in the Syria fighting. Iran, along with Hezbollah and Moscow, has decided to dispatch sizable forces to the Syrian front in the past few weeks to prevent the collapse of Bashar Assad’s regime.

The Shiite-Russia axis has been anxiously watching the Islamic State creep toward Damascus in recent months, and saw the territory controlled by Assad, an important ally, diminished to the coastal region of Latakia south of the capital. The Iranians and Russians grasped that not only was Damascus endangered, but also access to the Alawite regions, from Homs to Damascus — thus the urgency for intervention, including with troops on the ground…

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Khamenei-run conglomerate one of Iran deal’s biggest winners

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

The Times of Israel (Sep 16) — One of the main beneficiaries of the easing of sanctions on Iran in the framework of the nuclear deal reached with world powers in July will be Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

According to a Reuter’s investigation, sanctions relief includes the lifting of restrictions on one of the most secretive and wealthy organizations in the Islamic Republic, the “Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam,” also called Setad or EIKO.

Founded in 1989, the network’s assets were estimated in 2013 at some $95 billion and are controlled exclusively by Khamenei himself.

The nuclear accord lifts secondary sanctions – that is, sanctions on non-US companies that do business with the Iranian conglomerate – on Setad itself and some 40 companies it owns in whole or part, the news agency reports.

Under the terms of the deal, Setad is to be removed from the US Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list, allowing it to open overseas bank accounts and other take other financial actions outside Iran without its partners risking US sanctions.

US companies, financial institutions and individual citizens are still forbidden from dealings with the conglomerate.

Setad “has little connection to Iran’s nuclear program but is close to Iran’s ruling elite,” Reuters reports. Its delisting thus “feeds into US Republicans’ criticism that the deal will empower Iran’s hardliners and help fund its regional ambitions.”

US sanctions on Setad were introduced in June 2013 as an attempt to pressure Khamenei personally to back the then-stalled nuclear talks with world powers.

The conglomerate “produces billions of dollars in profits for the Iranian regime each year,” said then-under secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence David Cohen at a Senate Banking Committee hearing.

The sanctioning of Setad was intended to put pressure on Khamenei personally. While it is not clear if his own net worth will change, Setad serves as a key arm of his power. Its assets were estimated in 2013 to be worth some $95 billion, largely built from the “systematic seizure of thousands of properties belonging to religious minorities, business people, and Iranians living abroad,” Reuters says.

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Khamenei: Israel won’t survive next 25 years

Taking to Twitter, Iranian leader says Zionists won’t find serenity until destruction, calls US ‘Great Satan’ and rejects any talks with Washington beyond nuke deal

The Times of Israel (Sep 9) — Israel will not survive the next 25 years, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday, making a series of threatening remarks published online.

In a quote posted to Twitter by Khamenei’s official account, Khamenei addresses Israel, saying, “You will not see next 25 years,” and adds that the Jewish state will be hounded until it is destroyed.

The quote comes against a backdrop of a photograph apparently showing the Iranian leader walking on an Israeli flag painted on a sidewalk.

“After negotiations, in Zionist regime they said they had no more concern about Iran for next 25 years; I’d say: Firstly, you will not see next 25 years; God willing, there will be nothing as Zionist regime by next 25 years. Secondly, until then, struggling, heroic and jihadi morale will leave no moment of serenity for Zionists,” the quote from Iran’s top leader reads in broken English.

The quote was apparently taken from a speech given earlier in the day.

The remarks came as US lawmakers began to debate supporting a recent nuclear agreement between Tehran and six world powers. Critics of the deal have pointed to fiery anti-US and anti-Zionist rhetoric as proof that the regime should not be trusted.

The White House and other deal boosters argue that the pact, meant to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, is based on verification, not trust.

khamenei twKhamenei’s statements also reaffirmed his view that the US is a “Great Satan” and that there would be no detente with Washington beyond the nuclear talks.

“We approved talks with the United States about [the] nuclear issue specifically. We have not allowed talks with the US in other fields and we [do] not negotiate with them,” Khamenei said in statements published on his website.

On Twitter, Khamenei said talks with the US were a “means of infiltration and imposition of their wills.”

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Secret Agreement between Iran and IAEA to Let Iranians Conduct Inspections Themselves

iaeaAP (August 22) — An AP report has revealed that the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency has agreed with Iran that Iranian experts and equipment will be used to inspect Iran’s Parchin military site, located not far from Tehran, where Iran is suspected of conducting covert nuclear weapons activity more than a decade ago.

Here are some questions and answers about the document, and what it means for the larger deal between Iran, the United States and five other world powers to limit Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for easing sanctions against Iran.

WHAT HAVE IRAN AND THE IAEA AGREED?

According to a draft document viewed by AP, Iran has agreed to cooperate with the U.N. in answering longstanding allegations about possible past work to develop nuclear weapons at its Parchin plant — but only with the Iranians conducting the inspections themselves. Iran would collect its own environmental samples on the site and carry out other work usually done by IAEA experts. The IAEA will be able to review the Iranians’ work after the fact. The deal on Parchin was between the IAEA and Iran. The Obama Administration was not a direct party to the agreement, but apparently was aware of it.

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The Nuclear Deal: No Pause in Iran’s Vow to Destroy Israel

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (Aug 17):

Tehran July 10, 2015

Tehran July 10, 2015

  • Ayatollah Khomeini’s founding vision – that the eradication of Zionism is an inevitable precondition for redeeming contemporary Islam – still guides Iran’s current religious, political and military establishment. Today, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei bears the torch and is the chief agitator for the extermination of Israel, spreading this message worldwide over social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, in books, and addressing various audiences in English, Arabic and Persian. The Iranian religious, political, intellectual and military elite support and repeat Khamenei’s messages.
  • When negotiating with Western powers, Iran sugar-coats its belligerent ideology, presenting it as the “Iranian Peace Plan.” As part of this peace plan, Iran calls for” a just and permanent solution of the Palestinian question,” which in practice means the elimination of the Jewish state.
  • On July 25, 2015, Facebook pages and websites associated with the Revolutionary Guards reported the statement of commander Mohammad Ali Jafari: “Once the Supreme Leader orders all forces to start jihad, we can reduce Israel to dust within 24 hours. Our missiles have been eager to be launched for years.”
  • Hojatoleslam Ali Shirazi, Khamenei’s representative in Iran’s Al-Quds Force, said on February 26, 2015: “We shall not rest until the banner of Islam flies over the White House. This is the wish of the Islamic Community.”
  • Mohsen Rafighdoost, one of the founders of the Revolutionary Guards, declared at a press conference on Januar 21, 2015: “The countdown to the annihilation of Israel has begun….Now, we wish to be in the front line of the fight for liberating Jerusalem.”

Click here to read the full article.

IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, terrorism, and the Middle East, is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and at Foresight Prudence.

Israeli vice PM: Don’t trust Iran’s words – look at its actions

By Silvan Shalom, Israel’s vice prime minister and interior minister for the Guardian (Aug 10):nuclear-dove-Ben-Jennings-009

  • We in Israel have been at the receiving end of gun and missile fire for decades. In that time we have learned, the hard way, that it is only our actions that ensure our survival, not written promises. Our neighborhood does not play by Western rules, and as the only democracy in the region we know all too well what it is to fight an enemy that abuses our values.
  • In our region, one regime stands out above all others in its destructive role. The ayatollahs in Tehran would have us believe that they are a peace-loving regime, and that the Vienna nuclear deal is proof of their benign intentions. But reality is telling us a different story, one that totally contradicts this narrative.
  • If we are to understand the Iranian regime, we must look at what it is doing, not just saying, and ask ourselves whether its actions are compatible with Western interests and values. Iran is the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism, arming and supporting Hizbullah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Syrian regime, and Houthi rebels in Yemen. It employs the Revolutionary Guards to perpetrate acts of terrorism throughout the world.
  • Tehran’s military nuclear record is well documented: the regime has been working clandestinely for decades to develop a nuclear weapon. Rouhani himself boasted of how in previous rounds of negotiations he took advantage of talks in European capitals to secretly advance the nuclear military project.
  • The West must look beyond its economic interests, and ask itself what values it has in common with the ayatollahs in Tehran. Iran has not signed up for peace. Iran is merely utilizing the tools given to it by Western democracies in order to stave off international pressure.
  • We must be clear eyed when it comes to Tehran’s intentions. If the past teaches us anything about the current regime, it is this: the terror will continue, as will Tehran’s destructive regional role, and the military nuclear project will be close on its heels.

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Netanyahu: This Iran Nuclear Deal Will Bring War

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in a webcast on Tuesday.

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Summary:

  • The nuclear deal with Iran doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb. It actually gives Iran two paths to the bomb. Iran can get to the bomb by keeping the deal or Iran could get to the bomb by violating the deal.
  • Keeping the deal allows Iran to maintain and eventually expand a vast and increasingly sophisticated nuclear infrastructure. This infrastructure is unnecessary for civilian nuclear energy, but it’s entirely necessary for nuclear weapons. Astonishingly, the deal gives Iran’s illicit nuclear program full international legitimacy and makes it far easier for Iran to build dozens, even hundreds of nuclear weapons in a little over a decade.
  • Iran has a second path to the bomb, one that would give it a nuclear weapon in far less time. Iran could violate the deal. Now, people argue that Iran will be prevented from cheating because we’ll have good intelligence and unprecedented inspections. But honestly, for years none of us discovered the massive underground nuclear facilities Iran was building at Fordo and at Natanz, or that the Syrians were building a nuclear reactor for plutonium production. So it’s very precarious to bet the deal’s success on intelligence. Neither intelligence nor inspections prevented North Korea from building atomic bombs despite assurances that they wouldn’t be able to do so.
  • The deal also gives Iran a massive infusion of cash and Iran will use this cash to fund its aggression in the region and its terrorism around the world. As a result of this deal, there’ll be more terrorism. There will be more attacks. And more people will die.
  • Here in Israel, Isaac Herzog, the leader of the Labor opposition, the man who ran against me in this year’s election, has said that there is no daylight between us when it comes to the deal with Iran. This is simply not a partisan issue in Israel. A huge majority of Israelis oppose the deal.
  • The deal’s supporters claim that those who oppose this deal want war. That’s utterly false. We in Israel don’t want war because it’s we who are on the front lines. We face Iran’s terror on three borders. We face tens of thousands of Iranian rockets aimed at all our cities. We face Iran, whose regime repeatedly calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, whose terrorist proxies try to kill Jews every day, and who is also the leading state sponsor of anti-Semitism.
  • Israelis are going to be the ones who pay the highest price if there’s war and if Iran gets the bomb. The claim that we oppose this deal because we want war is outrageous. Israel wants to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program and Israel wants peace. This deal will advance neither goal. I oppose this deal because I want to prevent war, and this deal will bring war.

Click here for original source and full transcript.

The problem: Iran’s underlying motives

By Ido Aharoni who is the consul general of Israel in New York.

IRAN/New York Daily News (Aug 2) — Here is why you should be worried about the Iran nuclear deal: The agreement does not prevent Iran over time from threatening America and her allies with nuclear war. It does not permanently prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

But there’s more.

The most significant problem with this agreement, which is discussed far too little, is that it does nothing to address, much less curb, Iran’s expansionist, anti-Israel, anti-American motivations.

Every security expert will tell you that in order for your enemy to succeed, three preconditions have to exist: First, the enemy has to have the desire to attack; second, the enemy must have the capabilities to carry out the attack; finally, the enemy has to have the opportunity to attack.

While the Iran deal might temporarily delay the capabilities and opportunity parts of the equation, it does nothing about the most important element of the three: the very nature of its regime. An agreement that does not effectively address the root of the problem is incomplete at best, dangerous at worst.

Israel’s minister of defense, Moshe Yaalon, put it simply: “The international community looks at Iran as the solution; we see Iran as the problem.”

Iran’s ayatollah-led regime has been, by far, the biggest destabilizing force in the Middle East and the leading producer of state-sponsored terrorism in the world. It is not about democracy and freedom; it systematically suppresses the moderate, student-driven reform movement inside the country.

If anything, allowing the Iranian regime to walk away with a huge diplomatic achievement will further undermine those fighting for freedom and democracy in Iran — and cement the hostile strategies of the current rulers.

The mullahs’ goals are Islamic rule and regional domination. This is what they use the long and deadly arm of the Revolutionary Guard Corps in neighboring and nearby countries to attempt to obtain. And that meddling is utterly undisturbed by the nuclear deal.

This was sadly demonstrated by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s outrageous public statement, only days after the deal was reached, justifying “death to America” and vowing to continue to see the United States as Tehran’s enemy — despite the agreement, and perhaps more vigorously as a result of it.

The leaders of Iran have openly declared that they have no intention of stopping their war against the Western world. They have no intention to stop their brutal violation of human rights. They have no intention to stop the incitement against America and other free and open societies.

Iran is the only member state in the United Nations to formally seek the extinction of another member state. The nuclear deal doesn’t change that.

Even on the nuclear issue alone, this agreement is far too lenient. It allows Iran to restart a new and robust nuclear program in just a few short years. Soon, the Iranians will be allowed to stockpile an unlimited amount of highly enriched uranium with which they will be able to build an entire arsenal of nuclear weapons as well as ballistic missiles. Anyone who plans to live through the 2020s will see an Iran able to threaten America and her allies with these abilities.

The international community surrendered on several principles it had previously declared to be nonnegotiable: Under the agreement Iran will be allowed to continue to enrich uranium, maintain, operational centrifuges and stockpile nuclear materials. The list of concessions goes on and on and on.

But exacerbating these failures is the fact that the international community has essentially bolstered rather than challenged the core world-view of the expansionist, repressive, anti-Western, anti-American, anti-Israeli, Islamist regime.

All of which greatly increases the likelihood that when, a few years down the road, Iran obtains nuclear weapons, that regime will continue to be at the helm in Tehran.

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UN may allow Iran to take its own nuclear site samples

This is the latest evidence of just how terrible the Iran nuclear deal is. This is insanity.

“Oversight of soil-sampling by IAEA could include video monitoring, but potentially allows Iranian tampering in process”

Satellite image of the Parchin facility, April 2012 (AP)

Satellite image of the Parchin facility, April 2012 (AP)

AP (July 30) — Iran wants its own officials to take soil samples at a site where it is alleged to have experimented with ways to detonate a nuclear weapon, and the UN agency probing the suspicions may agree provided it is allowed to monitor the process, two officials told The Associated Press Tuesday.

The investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency is part of the overarching nuclear deal reached earlier this month between Iran and six world powers. Iran denies any such work but has agreed to give the IAEA access to the Parchin military complex.

Several US senators cited Obama administration officials last week as saying Iran could conduct its own soil sampling at Parchin. The officials who spoke to the AP said a final agreement has not yet been reached between Iran and the IAEA.

The officials said stringent oversight of the soil-sampling could include video monitoring. They did not say what reasons Iran gave for wanting to take its own samples. The samples would be analyzed by the agency for traces left by any nuclear experiments.

The officials come from IAEA member nations and are tasked with following Iran’s nuclear program. They demanded anonymity because their information is confidential. The IAEA had no immediate comment.

David Albright, whose Institute for Science and International Security is often consulted by the US government on proliferation issues, said the IAEA “could instruct Iran in where and how to take the sample, as they would an inspector. They could try to keep a close watch on how Iran follows the instructions.”

At the same time, “the IAEA could not exclude Iran tampering with the sample in some way,” he said.

Iran has refused to give IAEA experts access to people, documents and sites allegedly linked to the suspected weapons work for nearly a decade. But in its quest for the end to nuclear-related sanctions, it agreed earlier this month to work with the agency, and IAEA chief Yukiya Amano has said he expects to be able to deliver a report by December.

The alleged weapons work and the IAEA’s investigation are not central to the nuclear deal, which calls for the US and other world powers to end economic and military sanctions in exchange for concessions from Iran in its nuclear program. Tehran says its program is entirely peaceful, but the US and most other nations believe it is aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons.

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Iran nuke deal is a missed opportunity — and worse

The deal won’t stop Iran from attaining a nuclear bomb, but it will lend the country unearned international legitimacy.

irannegotiations.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxBy: Rafael Barak for The Toronto Star Tue Jul 21 2015

Last week, Canadians woke up to breaking news of a deal reached over Iran’s nuclear program.

To understand why Israel sees this agreement as a threat to global peace and security, let me share with you five key questions:

Does the agreement stop Iran from attaining a nuclear bomb?

No, plain and simple.

Over the years, the international community constructed a robust system of sanctions, squeezing the Iranian economy and bringing the Iranian regime to the negotiating table. The aim was to dismantle Iran’s military nuclear program.

Just as this objective was finally within reach, the negotiators changed their approach. They handed the Iranian regime a dream deal that will quickly end the sanctions, the one form of leverage, while leaving most of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure in place.

Now Iran is all but guaranteed a nuclear bomb.

Assuming it doesn’t cheat, it can simply wait ten years — continuing to advance its nuclear capabilities — and then quickly become a nuclear superpower with full international legitimacy.

Does the deal stop Iran from cheating?

Again, the answer is no.

The negotiators were initially guided by a strong awareness of Iran’s long history of deceiving the international community — including its clandestine underground enrichment facilities at Fordow and Arak.

What was supposed to be “anywhere, anytime” inspections with just 24 hours’ notice, became a bureaucratic process that can last at least 24 days. Now, even if we learn about Iran’s undeclared sites, the regime has nearly a month to hide the evidence.

This is especially disconcerting for Israel. As a small country, two-thirds the size of Vancouver Island with half our 8.2 million citizens located in the central core, Iran’s ability to build and deliver just one nuclear warhead can mean our total demise.

Will the ayatollahs use the $150 billion of sanction relief to help the Iranian people?

Here, too, the answer is no.

It is not a coincidence that some of the deal’s fiercest opponents are Iranian democracy advocates. Despite the election of President Hassan Rouhani, a so-called “reformer,” these dissidents know that the regime has only upped its oppression of women, political activists, religious minorities, and members of the LGBT community.

Moreover, the world’s experience with North Korea demonstrates that a generous economic package to feed and help the population, including half a million tons of heavy oil, didn’t find its way to the people who need it the most, nor did it stop that country from breaking commitments and going nuclear.

Will the deal succeed in making Iran a regional partner for peace?

Absolutely not.

Iran is playing a direct role in the instability raging across the Middle East — propping up the embattled Assad regime in Syria, building up Hezbollah’s arsenal of over 100,000 missiles aimed at Israel, supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and playing dangerous games in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those who live under this shadow, not just Israel but many Arab countries, stand united against this bad deal that gives international legitimacy and transforms Iran — the region’s main source of instability — from the problem to being a wishful part of the solution.

For Israel, this is a significant game changer that hands the Iranian regime — which was never shy in calling for our annihilation and denying the Holocaust — an exceptional geopolitical asset.

Israel and the Jewish people deeply understand the link between rhetoric and action. We pay close attention to the fact that four days before the announcement of the deal, President Rouhani was leading mobs in the streets of Tehran in chanting “Down with America, Death to Israel.” Two days ago, with the ink on the deal not even dry, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated his regime’s commitment to its allies and to continue its collision course with the West.

Is war the only alternative to this agreement?

Not at all. Diplomacy is always the best option.

The alternative has always been a better deal — one that rolls back Iran’s military nuclear program and links the easing of sanctions to a total change in Iran’s behaviour vis-à-vis Israel, its Arab neighbours, and its own population.

Rafael Barak is the ambassador of Israel to Canada.

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Iran’s Rouhani gets his way on nuclear weapons

88ad8d94a59945f5834389217a9e0004-88ad8d94a59945f5834389217a9e0004-0By Yehuda Yaakov for the Boston Globe JULY 20, 2015

For more than a decade I have had the opportunity to be intimately involved with the Iranian crisis. So it’s probably understandable how alarming I find the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran.

The agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran makes far-reaching concessions in all areas meant to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability. It does not adequately limit Iran’s research and development capabilities. It does not exclude to a sufficient degree Iran’s weaponization activity. It does not ensure a tight enough monitoring and verification mechanism.

The deal impairs Israel’s national security. It prominently bears the fingerprints of perhaps the most intriguing Iranian figure of this 13-year crisis: Hassan Rouhani. President of Iran since August 2013, it was Rouhani who originally devised his country’s nuclear negotiating strategy when Tehran’s illicit nuclear activities were uncovered in August 2002. It is Rouhani who shepherded the crisis to the conclusion he always sought.

Rouhani, a long-standing member of the Islamic Republic’s inner circle, has had a career that mirrors the strategic development of his country and indicates a close familiarity with its military nuclear program. The previous highlight of this career was the period between 1989 and 2005, when he led Iran’s National Security Council. During that time — especially from 2003 to 2005 — he repeatedly maneuvered the international community to ensure the program’s advancement. He did this mostly by exploiting his interlocutors’ strong desire to resolve the crisis — and by reaching agreements he would later break.

When Rouhani campaigned for president, his platform was explicitly based on a belief that his strategy had worked, and that Iran would find its way out of sanctions if only he were elected and given the necessary leeway. It is therefore no surprise that within hours of the deal, he tweeted:

[This admin believes in dialogue. I myself headed the very first #nuclear

negotiating team back in 2003–when no sanctions had been imposed.

4:32 AM – 14 Jul 2015]

This was apparently Rouhani’s way of saying: I promised, I delivered.

Indeed, he has.

Rouhani is known not only for his adept handling of nuclear negotiations; among experts, he is also famous for bragging about his success afterwards. So it was in late 2004, when he revealed a dozen or so areas of concrete advancement made in the nuclear program even as Iran was supposed to be fulfilling its negotiated commitments.

It was the same on the day this new agreement was announced, when he publicly made it clear that Iran had achieved the four objectives it set out to attain: advancing its nuclear activities, lifting sanctions, canceling UN Security Council resolutions, and closing the UN’s Iranian nuclear file. In other words, to paraphrase Rouhani, the international community is removing sanctions, while Iran is keeping its nuclear program.

One more word about Rouhani: He’s no pacifist. He hasn’t shied away from expressing public support for Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the lot. He has also threatened Israel, and more than once.

So it was no surprise to see this tweet on the day many in the international community were celebrating the supposed dawn of a new era:

[To our neighbours: Do not be deceived by the propaganda of the

warmongering Zionist regime. #Iran & its power will translate into

your power 5:06 AM – 14 Jul 2015]

Rouhani understands the weight of this “power” and knows all too well what Iran’s military nuclear program is for. He is also aware that nuclear capabilities in Tehran’s hands will undermine regional security in the Middle East.

Israel knows this too.

Iran continues to seek our destruction. We are not bound by this deal with Tehran. Plain and simple.

Yehuda Yaakov is Israel’s consul general to New England.

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Iran nuclear pact: Tale of the scorpion and the frog

kerryiranThe Miami Herald (July 20) — Few residents of the Middle East are unfamiliar with the story of the scorpion and the frog. It was first referred to in the Talmud (Nedarim 41a), the seminal ancient Jewish legal text compiled in the fourth century.

In it, a scorpion desiring to cross a river meets a hungry frog. Unable to swim, the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across the river on his back. In return the scorpion promised the frog that he would provide him with the food he needs from the plentiful hunting ground on the other side. The frog, however, is wary. “If you sting me during the crossing, I will surely drown.” The scorpion then answers the frog with perfect logic: “But if you drown, my dear frog, I will also drown.”

The reassured frog then agrees to allow the scorpion onto his back and he begins the swim. Halfway through the crossing, the scorpion stings the frog, paralyzing him, and the two begin to sink. With his last breaths the stunned frog cried out to the scorpion “Why did you sting me!?” The scorpion angrily retorted “We are both dying because of you! Although you thought I was logical, you should have seenthat I was still a scorpion!!”

This parable comes to mind when Israelis assess the nuclear deal just reached with Iran. The Iranian regime is the foremost sponsor of terrorism in the world, is on a march of conquest in the Middle East, officially denies the Holocaust, flagrantly violates the human rights of its own citizens, is directly involved in the murder of tens of thousands of Syrian civilians, and vows to annihilate the one and only Jewish state. When Iran tries to build nuclear weapons, it must be stopped.

From Israel’s perspective, the negotiations between the world powers and Iran, meant to prevent a Tehran from gaining nuclear weapons have not achieved their vital objective. Quite the opposite, they appear to have paved the path to Iranian nuclear proliferation. Close examination of the agreement with Iran reveals just how dangerous it is:

▪ Iran can now choose between two paths to the bomb, one through violating the agreement and the second, through respecting it. Violating the terms would require overcoming the limited inspection mechanism, which is plausible, since Iran has done this in the past. While respecting the terms would allow Iran to have an unlimited ability to enrich uranium with full international legitimacy after about 10 years. For Iran, waiting a decade to effortlessly achieve its long-standing nuclear goals is not very long at all.

▪ The agreement’s inspection mechanism must provide Iran up to 24 days warning before inspectors can visit newly identified suspicious sites. This is like giving a drug dealer several weeks’ notice before searching his house. The agreement also requires divulging to the Iranians the intelligence information on the basis of which the inspection is requested.

▪ The agreement fails to condition the lifting of the economic sanctions and the other restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program upon any actual change in Iran’s belligerent behavior. The deal does not have a “stick” requiring Iran to cease its regional aggression or its worldwide campaign of terrorism before offering its many economic and nuclear “carrots”.

▪ The agreement provides Iran with hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, direct investment, oil sales and unfrozen assets. This cash windfall will naturally fund unrepentant Iran’s terrorism and aggression that continue to undermine regional and global stability.

▪ The agreement allows Iran to continue developing advanced centrifuges, which will enable Iran to enrich much more uranium much faster once the deal expires.

▪ Israel is not alone in recognizing the dangers posed by the deal. Iran’s Arab neighbors are no less concerned. When Arab states and Israel agree; it’s worth paying attention.

▪ Arab nations threatened by Tehran’s growing power in the Middle East are likely to seek nuclear parity with Iran, sparking a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region.

While Israel truly appreciates the global efforts made to confront the Iranian threat, and has encouraged them, it now has no choice but to raise its voice in warning. The recent agreement has fallen far short of its goals. Tragically, the savage Iranian scorpion has skillfully convinced the logic-loving Western frog that it’s safe to carry him on its back. It is Israel’s hope that its global allies in the search for peace and stability in the Middle East will urgently realize and address the shortcomings in the Iran nuclear deal before it stings us all.

CHAIM SHACHAM IS CONSUL GENERAL OF ISRAEL TO FLORIDA AND PUERTO RICO.

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Trusting Iran to stop terrorism is like inviting an arsonist to join the fire brigade

Iran remains one of the world’s most prolific sponsors of terrorism. How can we expect it to stop once they have a nuclear deal?

By Dore Gold for the Telegraph (UK)

Iran's Shahab-3 surface-to-surface missile is seen displayed in Tehran during a military parade.

Iran’s Shahab-3 surface-to-surface missile is seen displayed in Tehran during a military parade.

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, has written an op-ed in the Financial Times which sets forward a distinct sequence for ostensibly resolving the daunting security challenges of the Middle East.

First, the P5+1 – the group of powerful nations negotiating with Iran – should come to a deal over its nuclear program. As a result, he argues, Tehran will “open new horizons” and join “the international battle” against “the increasingly brutal extremism that is engulfing the Middle East.”

The idea that Iran is a partner in the fight against terrorism is not only disingenuous but also absurd. What Zarif is seeking is a leap of faith by his Western readers, who are asked to believe that a country which has been repeatedly identified as the largest state supporter of terrorism in the world will suddenly be altered by an agreement over its nuclear program into an ally against terrorism. He is asking the world to simply trust Iran that this transformation is about to happen.

There is no evidence that the trust Zarif seeks is warranted in any way. Iran operates globally through cells controlled by the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), often backed by operatives of Hizbollah. During the nuclear negotiations, this network has not been reduced in size; it operates in some 30 countries and on five continents – Iranian-backed attacks have taken place in such diverse locations as Argentina, France, Austria, Bulgaria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, India, Thailand and even the United States.

Indeed, in October, 2011, the US uncovered a plot by an IRGC operative to recruit members of a Mexican drug cartel to conduct a mass casualty attack in Washington DC aimed at the Saudi Ambassador to the US. Since that time IRGC activity has only intensified. Yet another Iranian terrorist cell was discovered in Cypus just last month.

Some in the West hope that since Iran is led by a Shiite government it can be recruited in the fight against Sunni extremism, including against the Islamic State (Isil). This analysis often overlooks Iran’s proven willingness to cross the Sunni-Shiite divide to promote Sunni jihadism as well. Just after 9/11, Sunni extremists, including al-Qaeda, fled Afghanistan and sought asylum in Iran. These included Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the future commander of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which eventually became Isil. Iranian backing for Sunni jihadists, with arms and training, has extended to Hamas and Islamic Jihad as well as to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

A nuclear deal is likely only to intensify Iranian support for global terrorism for two reasons. First, the lifting of sanctions on Iran will result in a windfall of cash for the Iranian treasury, which could reach $150 billion in the first year. As Iran decides which Middle Eastern insurgency to back with its IRGC units, it often has to establish priorities because it is operating under clear economic constraints. These constraints will be removed as Iran obtains the wherewithal to fully fund and even expand its terrorist activity worldwide.

Second, in past decades, states supporting terrorism feared retaliatory operations by the West, such as the US attack on Libya in 1986. Deterrence could be created. But if Iran becomes a nuclear threshold state, as a result of its impending agreement with the P5+1, what are the chances that deterrence of this sort will hold? Iran will seek to act with impunity as the terrorism it sponsors acquires a protective nuclear umbrella.

Zarif is the last Iranian official who should talk about rejecting terrorism. Last January, he paid a highly publicized visit to Lebanon and laid a wreath at the grave of Imad Mughniyeh, the mastermind of Hizbollah terrorism, who was responsible for the attacks in the 1980s on American and French forces in Beirut, hijacking civilian aircrafts and taking international hostages.

Winston Churchill has been attributed with the saying that he refused to be impartial between the fire brigade and the fire. To take his distinction a step further, depending on Iran to fight terrorism is like making an arsonist part of the fire brigade. There is no basis for believing this will possibly work. Iran must unequivocally abandon its backing of international terrorism if it ever wants to rejoin the world community.

Dr. Gold is the Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel

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Israeli ambassador: The four major problems with the Iran deal

By Ron Dermer who is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the nation in a televised speech after a nuclear agreement was announced in Vienna. (AP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the nation in a televised speech after a nuclear agreement was announced in Vienna. (AP)

The Washington Post (July 15) — Israel has long been concerned that the “P5+1” powers would negotiate a bad deal with Iran. But the deal announced today in Vienna is breathtaking in its concessions to an Iranian regime that is the foremost sponsor of terror in the world, is on a march of conquest in the Middle East, is responsible for the murder and maiming of thousands of U.S. soldiers, and vows and works to annihilate the one and only Jewish state.

There are four major problems with this deal. First, it leaves Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure. This is not the hoped for “dismantle for dismantle” deal, in which the sanctions regime would be dismantled in exchange for the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear-weapons making capability. Rather, this deal leaves Iran’s nuclear capabilities essentially intact (the conversion of the Arak heavy-water facility being the notable exception). In fact, this deal allows Iran to improve those capabilities by conducting research and development on advanced centrifuges and building intercontinental ballistic missiles, whose sole purpose is to carry nuclear warheads.

To keep Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions in check over the next decade, the P5+1 countries — the five U.N. Security Council members plus Germany — are relying on intelligence and inspectors. Here, the historical record does not bode well. The United States and Israel have two of the finest intelligence agencies in the world. But it was years before either knew that Iran had secret facilities at Natanz and Fordow .

As for inspections, Iran has been deceiving the International Atomic Energy Agency for years and has consistently refused to come clean about the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program — a commitment that Iran has once again been permitted to dodge before signing this agreement.

Given this history of deception, it is particularly disturbing that the promised “anytime, anywhere” inspections regime has degenerated into what has been aptly described as “sometime, somewhere” inspections.

The second problem with this deal is that the restrictions being placed on Iran’s nuclear program are only temporary, with the most important restrictions expiring in 10 years.

There is no linkage whatsoever between the removal of these restrictions and Iran’s behavior. In 10 years, Iran could be even more aggressive toward its neighbors, sponsor even more terrorism around the globe and work even harder to destroy Israel, and the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program would still be automatically removed.

A much more dangerous Iran would then legally be allowed to build a massive uranium enrichment program that would place it just weeks away from having the fissile material for an entire nuclear arsenal. As President Obama himself has admitted, the breakout time would then be “almost down to zero.”

That is why this deal does not block Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb. It paves it. By agreeing to temporary restrictions on its nuclear program today, Iran has cleared its path to many nuclear bombs tomorrow. Iran won’t have to sneak into or break into the nuclear club. Under this deal, it could simply decide to walk in.

That leads to the third problem with the deal. Because states throughout our region know that the deal paves Iran’s path to the bomb, a number of them will race to get nuclear weapons of their own. The most dangerous region on earth would get infinitely more dangerous. Nuclear terrorism and nuclear war would become far more likely. In fact, if someone wanted to eviscerate the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, this deal is definitely a great place to start.

Finally, the deal transfers to the Iranian regime’s coffers $150 billion that is now frozen in foreign bank accounts. Iran has a $300 billion to $400 billion economy. A $150 billion cash bonanza for the regime is the equivalent of $8 trillion flowing into the U.S. treasury.

Those funds are unlikely to be spent on new cancer research centers in Tehran or on funding a GI bill for returning members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Instead, tens of billions are likely to flow to the Shiite militias in Iraq, the Assad regime in Syria, the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Palestinian terror groups in Gaza and other Iranian terror proxies in the region.

Billions more will go to strengthening Iran’s global terror network, which it has used to perpetrate terror attacks on five continents in more than 30 cities, from Buenos Aires to Burgas, Bulgaria, to Bangkok.

Rather than force Iran to face the hard choice of guns or butter, this deal will enable it to have more dangerous guns, more lethal rockets, more sophisticated drones and more destructive cybercapabilities. Removing the arms embargo on Iran magnifies this problem by orders of magnitude.

Any one of these problems would be sufficient to make this a bad deal. But all four make this deal a disaster of historic proportions.

Israel has the most to gain if the Iranian nuclear issue is peacefully resolved. But this deal does not resolve the issue. It makes things much worse, increasing the chances of conventional war with Iran and its terror proxies today and dramatically increasing the chances of a nuclear-armed Iran and a nuclearized Middle East tomorrow.

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Five Principles for a Good Nuclear Deal with Iran

aipac-american-israel-public-affairs-committee1American Israel Public Affairs Committee – AIPAC

Congress must continue to insist on a good deal that eliminates every Iranian pathway to a nuclear weapon. When reviewing the deal, Congress must ensure that each of the following five minimum criteria is met:

 

  1. Inspections and Verification – Inspectors must be granted unimpeded access to suspect sites for “anytime, anywhere” inspections, including all military facilities.
  1. Possible Military Dimensions – Iran must completely explain its prior weaponization efforts. Otherwise, it will be impossible to establish a baseline to measure Iran’s true capabilities and future actions.
  1. Sanctions – Sanctions relief must only begin after the International Atomic Energy Agency certifies that Iran has complied with its commitments under the agreement.
  1. Duration – A deal must last for decades to ensure that Iran does not become a nuclear threshold state with a virtually instant breakout time after 12 or 13 years.
  1. Dismantlement – Iran must dismantle its nuclear infrastructure such that it has no path to a nuclear weapon.

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Ex-Advisers Warn Obama That Iran Nuclear Deal ‘May Fall Short’ of Standards

Five former members of President Obama’s inner circle of Iran advisers have written an open letter expressing concern that a pending accord to stem Iran’s nuclear program “may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good’ agreement” and laying out a series of minimum requirements that Iran must agree to in coming days for them to support a final deal.

IranKerryZarifNuclearTalksRTR4V44L-198x132Signatories include Dennis Ross, who oversaw Iran policy at the White House during the first Obama term; former CIA director David Petraeus; Robert Einhorn, a State Department proliferation expert who helped devise and enforce the sanctions against Iran; Gary Samore, Obama’s former chief adviser on nuclear policy; and Gen. James E. Cartwright, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Public Statement on U.S. Policy Toward the Iran Nuclear Negotiations”

Endorsed by a Bipartisan Group of American Diplomats, Legislators, Policymakers, and Experts

Washington Institute for Near East Policy (June 24):

The emerging agreement will not prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapons capability. It will not require the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear enrichment infrastructure. It does not address Iran’s support for terrorist organizations, its interventions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, its ballistic missile arsenal, or its oppression of its own people.

The emerging nuclear agreement must provide the following:

  1. Monitoring and Verification: The inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must have timely and effective access to any sites in Iran they need to visit in order to verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement. Iran must not be able to deny or delay timely access to any site anywhere.
  1. Possible Military Dimensions: The IAEA inspectors must be able, in a timely and effective manner, to take samples, to interview scientists and government officials, to inspect sites, and to review and copy documents as required for their investigation of Iran’s past and any ongoing nuclear weaponization activities. This work needs to be accomplished before any significant sanctions relief.
  1. Advanced Centrifuges: The agreement must establish strict limits on advanced centrifuge R&D, testing, and deployment in the first ten years, and preclude the rapid technical upgrade and expansion of Iran’s enrichment capacity after the initial ten-year period.
  1. Sanctions Relief: Relief must be based on Iran’s performance of its obligations. Suspension or lifting of the most significant sanctions must not occur until the IAEA confirms that Iran has taken the key steps required to come into compliance with the agreement. Non-nuclear sanctions (such as for terrorism) must remain in effect and be vigorously enforced.
  1. Consequences of Violations: The agreement must include a timely and effective mechanism to re-impose sanctions automatically if Iran is found to be in violation of the agreement, including by denying or delaying IAEA access.

Click here for the full open letter.