Shut up Ann! I think Trump can do more than one thing at a time
Say it with me kids! What could possibly go wrong?
Obama can still inflict a great deal of damage between now and January 20 — and he appears bent on doing it:
Iran is to receive a huge shipment of natural uranium from Russia to compensate it for exporting tons of reactor coolant, diplomats say, in a move approved by the outgoing U.S. administration and other governments seeking to keep Tehran committed to a landmark nuclear pact.
If there is a Nobel Prize for sheer stupidity, trying to prevent the ayatollahs from building nuclear weapons by bribing them with uranium ought to win it.
Two senior diplomats said the transfer recently agreed by the U.S. and five other world powers that negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran foresees delivery of 116 metric tons (nearly 130 tons) of natural uranium. U.N. Security Council approval is needed but a formality, considering five of those powers are permanent Security Council members, they said.
He really does hate this coutry
This is how Iranian President Hassan Rouhani describes the diplomatic swindle, known as the “Iran nuclear deal.”
The Koranic term (in Arabic Fatah al-Mobin) refers to one of Prophet Mohammed’s successful guerrilla raids on a Meccan caravan in the early days of Islam.
Rouhani claims the “deal” represents “the greatest diplomatic victory in Islamic history.” Leaving aside the hyperbole, a fixture of the mullahs’ rhetorical arsenal, Rouhani has reason to crow.
If not quite moribund as some analysts claim, the Islamic Republic had been in a rough patch for years.
For more than a year, the government was unable to pay some of the 5.2 million public sector employees, notably teachers, petrochemical workers and students on bursaries, triggering numerous strikes.
Deprived of urgently needed investment, the Iranian oil industry was pushed to the edge with its biggest oil fields, notably Bibi Hakimeh and Maroun, producing less than half their capacity.
Between 2012 and 2015, Iran lost 25% of its share in the global oil market.
Sanctions and lack of investment also meant that large chunks of Iranian industry, dependent on imported parts, went under. In 2015 Iran lost an average of 1,000 jobs a day.
Last month, the nation’s currency, the rial, fell to an all-time record low while negative economic growth was forecast for the third consecutive year.
Having increased the military budget by 21%, Rouhani was forced to delay presentation of his new budget for the Iranian New Year starting March 21.
Against that background that Obama rode to the rescue by pushing through a “deal” designed to ease pressure on Iran in exchange for nothing but verbal promises from Tehran. Here is some of what Obama did:
* Dropped demands that Iran reshape its nuclear program to make sure it can never acquire a military dimension. As head of Iranian Atomic Energy Agency Ali Akbar Salehi has said: “Our nuclear project remains intact. The ‘deal’ does not prevent us from doing what we were doing.”
* He suspended a raft of sanctions and pressured the European Union and the United Nations to do the same.
* He injected a badly needed $1.7 billion into Iranian economy by releasing assets frozen under President Jimmy Carter and kept as possible compensation for Americans held hostage at different times. The cash enabled Rouhani to start paying some unpaid salaries in Iran while financing Hezbollah branches and helping the Assad regime in Syria.
* Obama released another tranche of $30 billion, enabling Rouhani to present his new budget with a reduced deficit at 14% while increasing the military-security budget yet again, by 4.2%.
* Banking sanctions were set aside to let Iran import 19,000 tons of American rice to meet shortages on the eve of Iranian New Year when consumption reaches its peak.
* Obama’s lovefest with the mullahs helped mollify the Khomeinist regime’s image as a sponsor of international terror and a diplomatic pariah.
What is the rationale behind Obama’s dogged determination to help the mullahs out of the ditch they have dug?
Some cite Obama’s alleged belief that the US has been an “imperialist power,” bullying weaker nations and must make amends.
Others suggest a tactic to strengthen “moderates” within the Iranian regime who, if assured that the US does into seek regime change might lead the nation towards a change of behavior.
Whatever the reasons, what Obama has done could best described as appeasement-plus.
In classical appeasement you promise an adversary not to oppose some of his moves, for example the annexation of Czechoslovakia, but you do not offer him actual financial or diplomatic support.
Obama has gone beyond that.
In addition to saving Iran from running out of money, on the diplomatic front he has endorsed Tehran’s scenario for Syria, is campaigning to help Iran choose the next Lebanese president, and has given the mullahs an open field in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Secretary of State John Kerry talks of Iran as “the regional power,” to the chagrin of Washington’s Middle East allies.
What if the “deal” actually weakens the “moderates” that Obama wants to support, supposing they do exist?
Obama’s imaginary “moderates” are not in good shape. The Council of Guardians that decides who could run for election next month has disqualified 99% of the so-called “moderate” wannabes, ensuring the emergence of a new Islamic parliament and Assembly of Experts dominated by radicals as never before.
Meanwhile, the annual “End of America” festival, Feb. 1 to 10, is to be held with greater pomp.
With more resources at its disposal, Tehran is intensifying its “exporting the revolution” campaign. Last week it announced the creation of a new Hezbollah branch in Turkey and, for the first time, made the existence of a branch in Iraq public. Tajikistan was also publicly added to the markets where Khomeinist revolution should be exported.
There are no “moderates” in Tehran, and the Islamic Republic cannot be reformed out of its nature. For the remainder of Obama’s term least, expect a more aggressive Islamic Republic.
Did the mullahs deceive Obama? No, this was all his idea.
Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged on Thursday that Iran will likely use some of the tens of billions of dollars its receives as a result of sanctions relief under the nuclear deal to sponsor terrorists.
“I think that some of it will end up in the hands of the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] or of other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists to some degree,” he told CNBC in Davos, Switzerland. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented.”
Kerry said there were no indications yet that released funds were being directed “to that kind of endeavor” but that he was “sure at some point some of it will.”
He went on to suggest that the impact in the region of such funding would be limited, pointing to the much larger military spending by Gulf Arab states in comparison to Iran.
“The Saudis alone spend $80 billion a year on defense. The entire Gulf state community spends 130 billion a year on defense,” he said. “Iran spends 15 billion a year on its military activities. So it’s so incredibly disproportionate.”
The U.S., by working with its Gulf state partners, would be able to guarantee their security, he said. It would “stand by them, even as we look for this potential other shift in behavior.”
In Washington, Republican senators responded scathingly.
“Talk about stating the obvious,” the Associated Press quoted Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) as saying, adding that even when Iran’s economy was crippled by sanctions it was funding “guns, not butter.”
“To have them actually now say, ‘Well, we think some of this might go to terrorism.’ D’uh. I mean, really?”
At a press conference with several Senate colleagues focusing on Iran, Ayotte said it had been obvious from the outset.
“Finally Secretary Kerry acknowledged what all of us who have opposed this [nuclear] agreement from the beginning saw was obvious – that when they got this economic relief and lifting of the sanctions that in fact some of that money was going to support their terrorism in the region,” she said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) disputed that Iran’s use of the freed-up funds for terror was merely likely, saying in words directed at Kerry that it was “certain that they will use this money to support terrorism. You might as well as have written the check to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad yourself; you might as well have funded Hezbollah yourself.”
“So all of this cash going into the ayatollah’s pockets won’t stay long,” Graham said. “It’s not going into roads and bridges in Iran, it’s going into war machines throughout the Mideast and to think otherwise is completely naïve.”
In Davos, Kerry said Iranian President Hasan Rouhani had indicated that he wants to use the nuclear deal “as a departure point for something new” – although he conceded that “just saying it doesn’t make it happen. You have to now test it and see where we’re going.”
Kerry told the network Iran would likely get $55 billion in sanctions relief, not the considerably larger sums sometimes reported.
“It’s not 150 billion, it’s not 100 billion. Iran will get approximately – according to the Treasury Department and all of the analysis of our intelligence community – about $55 billion,” he said.
“Why won’t they get the 100 [billion] that some people refer to? Because a large chunk of it is already committed to China, to other countries through loans and long-term commitments that have been made.”
‘This is a sovereign country that will make their own decisions’
The IRGC which Kerry referred to is not itself designated a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) under U.S. law, despite efforts by Republican lawmakers to prod the administration into doing so. (While in the U.S. Senate, Kerry opposed such a move, as did then-Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden; Hillary Clinton did not.)
Iran is a primary sponsor of violent anti-U.S. Shi’ite militias in Lebanon (Hezbollah) and Iraq (Khata’ib Hezbollah and others). It has also long supported Palestinian terror groups such as Hamas. Hezbollah, Khata’ib Hezbollah and Hamas are all designated FTOs.
Shortly after the nuclear deal was announced last July, Kerry downplayed concerns about sanctions relief money benefitting terrorists, arguing that the Iranian government had more pressing priorities.
“If President Rouhani and his administration do not [use the freed-up funds to] take care of the people of Iran, they will have an enormous problem,” he told the BBC at the time.
In similar comments earlier last year, White House press secretary Josh Earnest conceded that the administration would not be able to prescribe how Iran uses the money its sanctions relief windfall, but said it was “common sense” to expect Tehran would use it to improve the ailing economy, not to increase funding for terrorism or for other destabilizing actions in the region.
“I’m not going to make any predictions about what they are going to do, and I’m certainly not going to be in a position to prescribe what they should do,” he said. “This is a sovereign country that will make their own decisions.”
Back in October, Iran put the Obama administration in a tough spot. Tehran test-fired a next generation, surface-to-surface ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
The new weapon – dubbed “Emad” – is capable of hitting arch nemesis Israel and although the launch didn’t violate the letter of the nuclear accord, it did apparently violate a UN resolution and that, in turn, prompted a number of US lawmakers to call for a fresh set of sanctions on Tehran.
Of course this isn’t the best time to be slapping the Iranians with more sanctions, which is presumably why The White House delayed a decision on the matter last week.
First, the implementation of the nuclear deal is supposed to bring sanctions relief for Tehran. Any new punitive measures will jeopardize the agreement. If the deal falls apart, it would be a severe blow to Obama’s presidential legacy.
Furthermore, heightened tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia in connection with the latter’s decision to execute a prominent Shiite cleric, have plunged the Muslim world into chaos. Were the US to hit Iran with sanctions now, it might very well come across as a kind of backdoor way of supporting the Saudi position in the middle of a worsening diplomatic crisis.
Knowing that Washington is in a bind, the Iranians have pushed ahead with their vaunted ballistic missile program. As we’ve noted on a number of occasions, Iran has one of the largest ballistic missile arsenals in the Middle East. Here’s the breakdown courtesy of the US Institute Of Peace:
* Shahab missiles: Since the late 1980s, Iran has purchased additional short- and medium-range missiles from foreign suppliers and adapted them to its strategic needs. The Shahabs, Persian for “meteors,” were long the core of Iran’s program. They use liquid fuel, which involves a time-consuming launch. They include:
* The Shahab-1 is based on the Scud-B. (The Scud series was originally developed by the Soviet Union). It has a range of about 300 kms or 185 miles
* The Shahab-2 is based on the Scud-C. It has a range of about 500 kms, or 310 miles. In mid-2010, Iran is widely estimated to have between 200 and 300 Shahab-1 and Shahab-2 missiles capable of reaching targets in neighboring countries.
* The Shahab-3 is based on the Nodong, which is a North Korean missile. It has a range of about 900 km or 560 miles. It has a nominal payload of 1,000 kg. A modified version of the Shahab-3, renamed the Ghadr-1, began flight tests in 2004. It theoretically extends Iran’s reach to about 1,600 km or 1,000 miles, which qualifies as a medium-range missile. But it carries a smaller, 750-kg warhead.
* Although the Ghadr-1 was built with key North Korean components, Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani boasted at the time, “Today, by relying on our defense industry capabilities, we have been able to increase our deterrent capacity against the military expansion of our enemies.”
* Sajjil missiles: Sajjil means “baked clay” in Persian. These are a class of medium-range missiles that use solid fuel, which offer many strategic advantages. They are less vulnerable to preemption because the launch requires shorter preparation – minutes rather than hours. Iran is the only country to have developed missiles of this range without first having developed nuclear weapons.
* This family of missiles centers on the Sajjil-2, a domestically produced surface-to-surface missile. It has a medium-range of about 2,000 km or 1,200 miles when carrying a 750-kg warhead. It was test fired in 2008 under the name, Sajjil. The Sajjil-2, which is probably a slightly modified version, began test flights in 2009. This missile would allow Iran to “target any place that threatens Iran,” according to Brig. Gen. Abdollah Araghi, a Revolutionary Guard commander.
* The Sajjil-2, appears to have encountered technical issues and its full development has slowed. No flight tests have been conducted since 2011. IfSajjil-2 flight testing resumes, the missile’s performance and reliability could be proven within a year or two. The missile, which is unlikely to become operational before 2017, is the most likely nuclear delivery vehicle – if Iran decides to develop an atomic bomb. But it would need to build a bomb small enough to fit on the top of this missile, which would be a major challenge.
* The Sajjil program’s success indicates that Iran’s long-term missile acquisition plans are likely to focus on solid-fuel systems. They are more compact and easier to deploy on mobile launchers. They require less time to prepare for launch, making them less vulnerable to preemption by aircraft or other missile defense systems.
* Iran could attempt to use Sajjil technologies to produce a three-stage missile capable of flying 3,700 km or 2,200 miles. But it is unlikely to be developed and actually fielded before 2017.
In fact, Iran’s missile cache is so large, they’re running out of places to “hide” them. “We lack enough space in our stockpiles to house our missiles,” General Hossein Salami said on Friday. “Hundreds of long tunnels are full of missiles ready to fly to protect your integrity, independence and freedom,” he added.
Yes, “hundreds of tunnels”, like those we highlighted in “Caught On Tape: Inside Iran’s Secret Underground Missile Tunnels.”
The video shown above was first shown on the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) channel whose cameras were permitted inside the underground base.
“Those who threaten Iran with their military option on the table would better take a look at Iran’s ‘options under the table,’ namely the missile arsenals. Iran’s known military power is only the tip of the iceberg,” the Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh told reporters.
On Tuesday, we got a look at yet another Iranian “missile city” when Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani inaugurated a new site. Here’s footage from the event:
As Middle East Eye reports, the new “city” will be used to store the Emad: “Iran’s military has revealed a secret underground ‘missile city’ used to store a new generation of ballistic missiles which the US says are ‘nuclear capable’ and whose test-firing last year broke a UN resolution.” Here’s more:
The Revolutionary Guards Corps on Tuesday released pictures and video of the underground bunker after a visit by Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.
Iran’s Tasnim news agency said the bunker, which it dubbed a ‘missile city’, stores the Emad ballistic missile, which has a range of 2,000km and was first successfully tested on October 10. The US says the missiles are advanced enough to be fitted with nuclear warheads.
It is the second such bunker to be publicised in three months, after the Guards in October revealed a facility dug into an unnamed mountain to store and protect Iran’s advanced weaponry.
Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Guards’s aerospace division, said the facility was only one of many bases scattered across the country.
The publicising of the existence of the bunker comes at a sensitive time in relations between Iran and world powers, who signed an agreement in July to largely curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
And that, in short, should tell you everything you need to know about the degree to which Tehran is prepared to negotiate with Washington vis-a-vis the country’s ballistic missile program.
Iran has always maintained its missile arsenal is for defensive purposes only and thus represents a completely legitimate effort to protect the country from the myriad hostile states in the region. The events that unfolded over the weekend underscore why Tehran is so keen on bolstering its defenses.
But defensive or no, the video shown above represents yet another slap in the face for the Obama administration and will only serve to infuriate already irate lawmakers in the US who, unlike the administration, aren’t in the mood to make any new “friends” in the Mid-East.
Just when you think Obama’s Iran deal couldn’t get any worse, his own State Dept. reveals that Iran didn’t sign the deal nor is it ‘legally binding’. It’s just a set of ‘political commitments’ or something:
NRO – President Obama didn’t require Iranian leaders to sign the nuclear deal that his team negotiated with the regime, and the deal is not “legally binding,” his administration acknowledged in a letter to Representative Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) obtained by National Review.
“The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document,” wrote Julia Frifield, the State Department assistant secretary for legislative affairs, in the November 19 letter. Frifield wrote the letter in response to a letter Pompeo sent Secretary of State John Kerry, in which he observed that the deal the president had submitted to Congress was unsigned and wondered if the administration had given lawmakers the final agreement.
Frifield’s response emphasizes that Congress did receive the final version of the deal. But by characterizing the JCPOA as a set of “political commitments” rather than a more formal agreement, it is sure to heighten congressional concerns that Iran might violate the deal’s terms.
“The success of the JCPOA will depend not on whether it is legally binding or signed, but rather on the extensive verification measures we have put in place, as well as Iran’s understanding that we have the capacity to re-impose – and ramp up – our sanctions if Iran does not meet its commitments,” Frifield wrote to Pompeo.
Of course we couldn’t trust Iran in the first place, but for Obama, who touted this deal as the only way to keep Iran from getting nukes, to not even get their signatures attesting to their ‘commitment’ to this so-called deal seems ludicrous. And for his State Department to then say it’s not legally binding? Just what assurances did Obama think he was getting from the Iranians to even make the guarantees he made and his numerous statements defending this deal?
Here’s the letter obtained by the NRO:
Some senior U.S. officials involved in the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal have privately concluded that a key sanctions relief provision – a concession to Iran that will open the doors to tens of billions of dollars in U.S.-backed commerce with the Islamic regime – conflicts with existing federal statutes and cannot be implemented without violating those laws, Fox News has learned.
At issue is a passage tucked away in ancillary paperwork attached to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, as the Iran nuclear deal is formally known. Specifically, Section 5.1.2 of Annex II provides that in exchange for Iranian compliance with the terms of the deal, the U.S. “shall… license non-U.S. entities that are owned or controlled by a U.S. person to engage in activities with Iran that are consistent with this JCPOA.”
In short, this means that foreign subsidiaries of U.S. parent companies will, under certain conditions, be allowed to do business with Iran. The problem is that the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act (ITRA), signed into law by President Obama in August 2012, was explicit in closing the so-called “foreign sub” loophole.
Indeed, ITRA also stipulated, in Section 218, that when it comes to doing business with Iran, foreign subsidiaries of U.S. parent firms shall in all cases be treated exactly the same as U.S. firms: namely, what is prohibited for U.S. parent firms has to be prohibited for foreign subsidiaries, and what is allowed for foreign subsidiaries has to be allowed for U.S. parent firms.
What’s more, ITRA contains language, in Section 605, requiring that the terms spelled out in Section 218 shall remain in effect until the president of the United States certifies two things to Congress: first, that Iran has been removed from the State Department’s list of nations that sponsor terrorism, and second, that Iran has ceased the pursuit, acquisition, and development of weapons of mass destruction.
Additional executive orders and statutes signed by President Obama, such as the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, have reaffirmed that all prior federal statutes relating to sanctions on Iran shall remain in full effect.
For example, the review act – sponsored by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Foreign Relations Committee, and signed into law by President Obama in May – stated that “any measure of statutory sanctions relief” afforded to Iran under the terms of the nuclear deal may only be “taken consistent with existing statutory requirements for such action.” The continued presence of Iran on the State Department’s terror list means that “existing statutory requirements” that were set forth in ITRA, in 2012, have not been met for Iran to receive the sanctions relief spelled out in the JCPOA.
As the Iran deal is an “executive agreement” and not a treaty – and has moreover received no vote of ratification from the Congress, explicit or symbolic – legal analysts inside and outside of the Obama administration have concluded that the JCPOA is vulnerable to challenge in the courts, where federal case law had held that U.S. statutes trump executive agreements in force of law.
Administration sources told Fox News it is the intention of Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran’s foreign minister and five other world powers, that the re-opening of the “foreign sub” loophole by the JCPOA is to be construed as broadly as possible by lawyers for the State Department, the Treasury Department and other agencies involved in the deal’s implementation.
But the apparent conflict between the re-opening of the loophole and existing U.S. law leaves the Obama administration with only two options going forward. The first option is to violate ITRA, and allow foreign subsidiaries to be treated differently than U.S. parent firms. The second option is to treat both categories the same, as ITRA mandated – but still violate the section of ITRA that required Iran’s removal from the State Department terror list as a pre-condition of any such licensing.
It would also renege on the many promises of senior U.S. officials to keep the broad array of American sanctions on Iran in place. Chris Backemeyer, who served as Iran director for the National Security Council from 2012 to 2014 and is now the State Department’s deputy coordinator for sanctions policy, told POLITICO last month “there will be no real sanctions relief of our primary embargo… We are still going to have sanctions on Iran that prevent most Americans from… engaging in most commercial activities.”
Likewise, in a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy last month, Adam Szubin, the acting under secretary of Treasury for terrorism and financial crimes, described Iran as “the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism” and said existing U.S. sanctions on the regime “will continue to be enforced… U.S. investment in Iran will be prohibited across the board.”
Nominated to succeed his predecessor at Treasury, Szubin appeared before the Senate Banking Committee for a confirmation hearing the day after his speech to the Washington Institute. At the hearing, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) asked the nominee where the Obama administration finds the “legal underpinnings” for using the JCPOA to re-open the “foreign sub” loophole.
Szubin said the foreign subsidiaries licensed to do business with Iran will have to meet “some very difficult conditions,” and he specifically cited ITRA, saying the 2012 law “contains the licensing authority that Treasury would anticipate using… to allow for certain categories of activity for those foreign subsidiaries.”
Elsewhere, in documents obtained by Fox News, Szubin has maintained that a different passage of ITRA, Section 601, contains explicit reference to an earlier law – the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, or IEEPA, on the books since 1977 – and states that the president “may exercise all authorities” embedded in IEEPA, which includes licensing authority for the president.
However, Section 601 is also explicit on the point that the president must use his authorities from IEEPA to “carry out” the terms and provisions of ITRA itself, including Section 218 – which mandated that, before this form of sanctions relief can be granted, Iran must be removed from the State Department’s terror list. Nothing in the Congressional Record indicates that, during debate and passage of ITRA, members of Congress intended for the chief executive to use Section 601 to overturn, rather than “carry out,” the key provisions of his own law.
One administration lawyer contacted by Fox News said the re-opening of the loophole reflects circular logic with no valid legal foundation. “It would be Alice-in-Wonderland bootstrapping to say that [Section] 601 gives the president the authority to restore the foreign subsidiary loophole – the exact opposite of what the statute ordered,” said the attorney, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations over implementation of the Iran deal.
At the State Department on Thursday, spokesman John Kirby told reporters Secretary Kerry is “confident” that the administration “has the authority to follow through on” the commitment to re-open the foreign subsidiary loophole.
“Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the president has broad authorities, which have been delegated to the secretary of the Treasury, to license activities under our various sanctions regimes, and the Iran sanctions program is no different,” Kirby said.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the G.O.P. presidential candidate who is a Harvard-trained lawyer and ardent critic of the Iran deal, said the re-opening of the loophole fits a pattern of the Obama administration enforcing federal laws selectively.
“It’s a problem that the president doesn’t have the ability wave a magic wand and make go away,” Cruz told Fox News in an interview. “Any U.S. company that follows through on this, that allows their foreign-owned subsidiaries to do business with Iran, will very likely face substantial civil liability, litigation and potentially even criminal prosecution. The obligation to follow federal law doesn’t go away simply because we have a lawless president who refuses to acknowledge or follow federal law.”
A spokesman for the Senate Banking Committee could not offer any time frame as to when the committee will vote on Szubin’s nomination.