Tag Archives: Iran Deal

The Trump Way to Neutralize The Iranian Threat

Today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered one of the most important speechesof this century.  In its course, he drew the starkest possible contrast between President Trump’s approach to the threat posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran and that of his predecessor. Whereas the latter was defined by a fraudulent “deal” that focused on a single part of the mullahs’ malevolence – and did so ineffectively at that, the former is a clear-eyed and courageous blueprint for actually and comprehensivelyneutralizing that threat.

Mr. Pompeo spoke forcefully about the defects of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or, as I prefer to call it, the Obamabomb deal.  He explained that: the Iranians had entered into it “in bad faith”; that they had lied about never wanting nuclear weapons and “continue to lie”; and that the resulting accord (which his predecessor acknowledged was nothing more than a “political understanding”) “merely delayed the inevitable…[Iran’s] quick sprint to the Bomb.”

The Secretary went on to condemn the JCPOA for being unverifiable, for providing many billions of dollars that have been spent on Iranian-sponsored terrorism and regional instability, for allowing continued nuclear enrichment, and for leaving untouched Iran’s ballistic and cruise missile systems designed to deliver nuclear weapons over ever-longer distances.  He aptly described the bet President Obama made on his approach to Iran “a loser with massive costs” for America, Europe and the entire world.

Mr. Pompeo spoke directly to the Iranian people at several points in his remarks, observing that such outcomes were neither in their interest nor what they want.  He assured them that the United States agrees and that they “deserve better.”

To that end, Secretary Pompeo mapped out a set of twelve requirements that will guide U.S. policy towards Iran going forward. As he pointed out, “The length of the list is simply a scope of the malign behavior of Iran. We didn’t create the list, they did.”

Taken together, these requirements will ensure the Iranians have “no path to nuclear weapons, not now, not ever.”  No enrichment.  No sites off-limits to inspectors. No more missile testing and production. And a cessation of other threatening Iranian activities that are destabilizing the Middle East and endangering the vital interests of the civilized world.

To advance this agenda, the United States will employ the heaviest sanctions in history against the ayatollahs and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the other instruments of state repression that keep them in power.  It will enlist all like-minded partners around the world – a critical departure from relying on the unreliable European nations that were party to the JCPOA, Britain, France and Germany. And, unlike Barack Obama, President Trump will explicitly reach out to and work with the people of Iran against a regime that is now “running scared.”

To those who contend these demands are unrealistic, the Secretary of State called to mind the fact that such requirements enjoyed widespread international support prior to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  And, in light of the intensifying threat that misbegotten “deal” has enabled, civilized nations have no choice but to demonstrate “steely resolve,” reinstitute sanctions, hold any that violate them to account and work with the people of Iran to “strangle the capacity to do harm” of those like IRGC Quds Force Commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

The Center for Security Policy has long advocated these sensible policies.  It is gratifying to see them embraced by President Trump, now supported by two of the Center’s most revered colleagues, his estimable Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton.  We look forward to helping this superb team deliver on its commonsensical and strategically necessary alternative to the Obamabomb fraud.

Is al-Shabaab shipping uranium to Iran?

On August 31st, in a letter to the U.S. Ambassador Somalia’s foreign minister, warned that Al-Shabaab forces have captured areas in the centrally located, Galmudug region of Somalia, where surface-exposed uranium deposits  can be found.

According to the report al-Shabaab is looking to strip mine triuranium octoxide for transport to Iran. Yellowcake uranium used in the preparation of nuclear reactors, is composed of about 70-90% triuranium octoxide. When this uranium is processed it can be enriched into isotope U-235 and processed to yield weapons-grade uranium.

The Somali foreign minister urged intelligence and military assistance to halt shipments of uranium compounds to Iran. The State Department did not dispute the statement, but refused to comment.

The relationship between Iran and al-Shabaab is deserving of close attention. One of Iran’s primary commercial shipping routes runs through the Arabian sea, via the Gulf of Aden, passing directly by Somalia. In 2006, the Iranian government reportedly attempted to supply the insurgent Islamic Courts Union (ICU) militia with weapons in exchange for uranium deposits, in violation of a 1992 UN arms embargo. Iran later denied supplying weapons or receiving uranium from Somalia. The Islamic Courts Union youth wing was al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab became an independent organization, split from the ICU, and aligned with al-Qaeda in 2012. Al-Qaeda since 9/11 has continued to receive support from Tehran and after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 many al-Qaeda terrorists fled to Iran. Iran’s defense budget ranges from $14-$30 billion  and funds go to supporting terrorist organizations and insurgent fighters.

In 2016 the United Nations Security Council expressed concern  over an Iranian shipment of arms to Somalia, and denounced Tehran’s efforts to obtain substantial amounts of uranium from Somalia in return for supplying weapons to al-Shabaab.

Trade between the Iranian and Somalian government from 2016 has increased by 38% and Iran exported $30 million dollars in goods to Somalia in the past year.

Under the Iranian nuclear agreement written under the Obama administration, prohibits the enrichment of uranium, which is presumably the purpose of the Iranian pursuit of triuranium oxide. The deal requires that Iran’s uranium stockpile is kept under 300 kg of up to 3.67% enriched uranium hexafluoride, which is what triuranium oxide is converted to. Procuring triuranium oxide illicitly from a designated terrorist group is one way for the Iranians to continue to feed their nuclear program in contravention of the Iran deal.

Al-Shabaab translated means “the youth.” The jihadist terrorist organization seeks to overthrow the Somali government and impose sharia law on the country. It is designated as a U.S. foreign terrorist organization and labeled as Africa’s deadliest terror group in 2016 with over 4,200 accounted deaths in that year.  Al-Shabaab was believed to have between 6,000 and 12,000 fighters in 2016, dominating control over many rural areas in southern Somalia. The group is to have historically financed its operations by extracting valuable resources from territory it holds and there is no reason to believe they would not also attempt to do so with superficial uranium deposits as well.

Center’s Fred Fleitz discusses instances of the Obama administration abusing US intelligence

The Center’s Senior Vice President for Policy and Programs Fred Fleitz was interviewed on Fox and Friend this morning to discuss other instances of the Obama administration abusing US intelligence for domestic spying.  In this interview,  Fleitz refers to his December 30, 2015 National Review Online article “Did the White House use the NSA to spy on Congress about the Iran deal?”  Click HERE to read this article.

The New York Times’ Dishonest Reporting on the Iran Nuclear Deal

You may have read that in response to criticism about its biased coverage of the Trump campaign, the New York Times has rededicated itself to honest reporting.

After you get up off the floor from laughing hysterically, consider this story that ran days after the Times’ renewed commitment to ethical journalism: On November 14, the New York Times ran an article with the headline: “76 Experts Urge Donald Trump to Keep Iran Deal.” In the second paragraph, the article claims this report was signed by “former officials from both major political parties.”

Not until the sixth paragraph does the story mention that this report was issued by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).

This is the kind of dishonest reporting we have come to expect from the New York Times.

NIAC, well known as the head of the Iran lobby in the United States, aggressively campaigned for the Iran nuclear deal. The Times misleadingly describes it as “a Washington group that has advocated improved relations with Iran, even while sharply criticizing Iranian leaders over human rights issues.”

The NIAC report reads like it was written by the Iranian foreign ministry. Not only does it call for President Trump to stick with the Iran deal and not impose new sanctions, the report ignores a sharp increase in belligerent behavior by Iran since the nuclear agreement was announced, suggests the U.S. should ignore Iran’s ballistic-missile program, and calls for close U.S.–Iran cooperation on Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

According to the report, U.S.–Iran relations have reached their highest point in 37 years due to the nuclear agreement. I don’t think the crews of U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea who have been harassed by Iranian ships and had missiles fired at them from Yemen would agree.

On Iran’s gross human-rights violations, the report essentially calls for the Trump administration to ignore them and instead makes the bizarre recommendation that President Trump take steps to show that America does not seek to harm innocent Iranians by speeding up the sale of civilian airliners to Iran.

The 76 “experts” who signed the NIAC report are mostly on the far left, including Noam Chomsky, Joseph Cirincione, Juan Cole, and John Esposito.

The article identified Lawrence Korb, Lawrence Wilkerson, Chas Freeman, and Gary Sick as experts who signed the report and served in Republican administrations. The Times did not mention that these men are now firmly on the left.

Korb may have been a Republican at one time but now works for the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress and was a surrogate for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

Wilkerson, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, joined the far Left as a fierce critic of the Republican party after Powell stepped down. He has called for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to be charged with war crimes over the Iraq War.

Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and assistant defense secretary for international affairs in Republican administrations, blamed the “Israel Lobby” for forcing him to withdraw from accepting a top intelligence post in the Obama administration.

And then there is Gary Sick, who the Times identifies as “a Columbia University scholar who served on the National Security Council under Reagan as well as Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.” Sick is better known for circulating a false story in 1980 that that the Reagan campaign persuaded the Iranian government to not free U.S. hostages until after the 1980 election to ensure President Carter’s defeat.

How could the Times fail to mention this report was issued by a group that is essentially Iran’s main lobbying arm in the United States? How could it ignore the strong pro-Iran bias in this report? How could the Times not mention the troubling backgrounds of the signatories like Wilkerson, Freeman, Sick, and others?

Most importantly, why did the Times article not admit the NIAC report has zero credibility and will be completely ignored by the Trump administration?

The answer to these questions is that the New York Times has no interest in changing its ways and doing honest reporting. It remains a propaganda organ of the Left. Fortunately, the Times has lost so much credibility that few take articles such as its NIAC-report story seriously.

For a fair and balanced discussion of how President Trump should deal with Iran, see my November 14, 2016, National Review article, “Yes, Trump’s Going to Dump the Iran Deal.”

Yes, Trump’s Going to Dump the Iran Deal

In the days following Donald Trump’s victory, a variety of experts — mostly Trump critics — pronounced that, despite Trump’s frequent statements during the presidential campaign that the July 2015 nuclear deal with Iran is one of “the worst deals ever made by any country in history,” he has no choice but to stick with the agreement after he assumes office.

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif was one of the first to insist as much, claiming a Trump administration cannot back out of the nuclear deal because it is not a bilateral agreement between the United States and Iran but “an international understanding annexed to a Security Council resolution.”

Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council (which The Weekly Standard’s Lee Smith once described as “the tip of the spear of the Iran lobby” in the United States) echoed Zarif’s statement. In a November 11 Foreign Policy article, he argued Trump can undermine the Iran deal but cannot directly dismantle it because the JCPOA is a multilateral agreement “codified by the UN Security Council.” Any attempt by a Trump administration to renegotiate the deal would violate international law and isolate the United States, Parsi said.

Even some conservative experts have suggested Trump probably won’t try to significantly modify or discard the nuclear agreement, but will instead try to goad Iran into withdrawing by strictly enforcing the deal.

But Trump senior national-security adviser Walid Phares poured cold water on speculation that Trump plans to walk back his statements about the Iran deal, when he commented on Facebook over the weekend that the “Iran Deal will be dismantled.”

This firm statement by Phares confirmed previous statements he and Mr. Trump have made that the deal is a dangerous agreement that needs to be either significantly renegotiated or abandoned. As an expert who has followed the Iran nuclear program for many years inside and outside of government, I would like to expand on their statements by offering three key points about the nature of the deal and ten guidelines for renegotiating it.

1. The Iran deal is a dangerous fraud.

Donald Trump was exactly right when he called the Iran deal a “horrible” and “disastrous” agreement. The U.S. agreed to huge concessions to get this agreement, from no restrictions on Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism to no inspections of military facilities. There were secret side deals withheld from Congress that permitted Iran to inspect itself for past nuclear-weapons work and receive secret planeloads of cash in exchange for freeing U.S. hostages. To get the $150 billion in sanctions relief Iran wanted, there was another secret side deal — also withheld from the U.S. Congress — which granted Tehran exemptions for failing to meet some of the agreement’s key requirements.

So what did the United States get for these concessions?

Not much. The Obama administration claims the deal keeps Iran a year away from a nuclear deal for ten to 15 years. But in fact, the time to an Iranian nuclear bomb will drop dramatically under the deal, since Iran will be able to enrich uranium, develop advanced centrifuges, and, with Chinese assistance, finish construction of a heavy-water nuclear reactor that will produce one-quarter of a weapon’s worth of plutonium per year.

It will be very hard to verify the agreement since military sites — where Iran is likely to conduct covert nuclear-weapons work — are off limits to inspectors. The deal dumbed down the IAEA’s quarterly Iran reports, making it difficult for the world to know the true extent of Iran’s compliance. Certainly, there already have been reports of significant Iranian cheating.

Further, the deal was supposed to improve Iran’s international behavior.

Instead, from ballistic-missile tests to increased support to Hezbollah, Bashar al-Assad, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Tehran’s behavior in the Middle East has significantly worsened. Just in the last year, Iran has captured and held at gunpoint ten U.S. sailors and fired anti-ship missiles at American and UAE ships. Is this what a new era of cooperation with Iran was supposed to look like?

2. The deal is not legally binding on us.

Knowing that a bipartisan majority of Congress opposed the nuclear deal and that the U.S. Senate would never ratify it as a treaty, the Obama administration arranged to go around the Senate by negotiating the deal as an executive agreement endorsed by the U.N. Security Council. Because Security Council resolutions are binding on all U.N. members, it could therefore be argued that the nuclear deal was binding on the United States even though it had not been ratified by the Senate.

But that is not how our constitutional order works. American presidents historically have decided which international agreements are to be treated as treaties, but the Iran deal specified that it be ratified by the Iranian parliament.

If President Obama wanted to make a long-term international agreement binding on the United States, he needs consent from Congress. Anything else is a serious affront to the Constitution, and no U.N. endorsement changes that.

(This is not the only example of President Obama’s lawless approach to international agreements: The Paris climate-change agreement was deliberately negotiated to make it binding on the United States without Senate ratification and difficult for a future U.S. president to cancel. The same principles apply, however, and I expect President Trump pull out of the climate agreement as soon as possible.)

3. It’s not a true multilateral agreement.

The Obama administration also attempted to entrench the Iran deal making it a multilateral agreement, but this was just window-dressing.

The deal is technically a multilateral pact agreed to by Iran, the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany, but it is actually a bilateral agreement negotiated almost entirely between the United States and Iran. Iran has only looked to the United States for additional concessions since the deal was announced, and if we want to end the deal, we can.

So it is clear the deal must be either discarded or substantially renegotiated, and that we have every right to do so.

The first steps to renegotiation should be (1) assembling a new anti-Iran coalition of our European allies, Israel, and the Gulf states, and (2) imposing new sanctions on Iran in response to its nuclear program, ballistic-missile program, sponsorship of terrorism, and belligerent behavior. Russia and China could be allowed into the new coalition, but they should not be given a veto over any new agreement. This coalition also must be kept out of the United Nations.

Building the new coalition and renegotiating the agreement won’t be the easiest task, but given Iran’s belligerent behavior and the power new U.S. sanctions can have, a strong president and secretary of state can do it.

An agreement that truly addresses the threat from Iran’s nuclear program and the wider threats Iran poses will require reversing all of the irresponsible concessions made to Iran by the Obama administration.

Such negotiations must start from the following ten guidelines:

  1. Iran must cease all uranium enrichment and uranium-enrichment research.
  2. Iran cannot have a heavy-water reactor or a plant to produce heavy water.
  3. Iran agrees to robust verification, including “anytime, anywhere” inspections by IAEA inspectors of all declared and suspect nuclear sites.
  4. Iran must fully and truthfully answer all questions about its past nuclear-weapons-related work.
  5. Iran must agree to limitations on its ballistic-missile program.
  6. Sanctions will only be lifted in stages, in response to Iranian compliance with the agreement.
  7. Iran must agree to end its meddling in regional conflicts and its sponsorship of terror.
  8. Threats by Iran to ships in the Persian Gulf, U.S. naval vessels, and American troops must stop.
  9. Iran must cease its hostility toward Israel.
  10. Iran must release all U.S. prisoners.

Renegotiating or terminating the Iran deal will not just end the threat from a dangerous international agreement.

It will signify that this agreement was an aberration by an incompetent U.S. president who tried to subvert the U.S. Constitution, and it would send a powerful message to the world that the Obama administration’s policies of American weakness and appeasement are over.

Trump critics have argued that renegotiating or terminating the nuclear deal would isolate the United States and hurt America’s global stature. But in reality, President Obama’s foreign policy has already undermined America’s reputation around the world.

Fixing or killing the Iran nuclear deal will be President Trump’s first step toward restoring America’s global leadership.

Former New York Times Reporter Declares Thou Shalt Not Criticize Obama’s Iran Deal

In an October 23 Washington Post book review, former New York Times reporter Elaine Sciolino is sharply critical of a new book on Iran by Wall Street Journalwriter Jay Solomon, The Iran Wars, because he criticizes the July 2015 nuclear deal with Iran (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) instead of devoting his book to praising the deal as a magnificent achievement as all good reporters are expected to do. Sciolino accuses Solomon of having a “dark perspective” on the nuclear deal and claims “those who hope to sabotage the nuclear agreement under a new administration will find this book useful.”

Sciolino’s attack on Solomon’s book is strange because The Iran Wars is about much more than the nuclear deal and contains strong (and mostly unfair) criticism of the George W. Bush administration’s approach to Iran and the Iraq War. On the Iran deal, while Solomon is tough and factual, he often pulls his punches and leaves out some of the strongest criticisms.

For some reason Sciolino ignored Solomon’s dubious claims that the Bush administration invaded Iraq to weaken Iran and that Bush officials missed an historic opportunity for U.S.–Iran cooperation after the 9/11 attacks. She also omits Solomon’s credible account of how Iran and Syria exploited the aftermath of the Iraq War. As a card-carrying member of the foreign-policy establishment, one would think that Sciolino would jump to praise Solomon for making these points.

Instead, Sciolino devotes her entire article to attacking Solomon and his book. Her strongest criticism is that Solomon didn’t interview enough people, especially Iranians.

Sciolino sniffs that Solomon apparently only made one visit to Iran and that his book has a “paucity of official Iranian voices.” This is a ridiculous argument given how dangerous it is for American citizens to travel to Iran and the 2015 arrest of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian who was held in an Iranian prison for 18 months before he was freed in January 2016.

Sciolino argues “other foreign voices might have enriched [Solomon’s] narrative” because the nuclear talks were such a long and complex international endeavor. In this vein she faults Solomon for reporting that Secretary Kerry’s negotiating team belittled the French for “insubordination during the nuclear talks” instead of explaining what she claims was France’s role in building the foundation for the nuclear deal through the 2003 France-Germany-U.K. EU-3 initiative.

It’s amusing that Sciolino mentioned France and the EU-3 talks since Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s current president and chief Iranian nuclear negotiator in 2003, has admitted that Iran used these failed talks to buy time to expand its nuclear program and to conceal information about this program from the IAEA.

I have no doubt Sciolino complained about Solomon’s supposed lack of interviews to maintain the fiction that the JCPOA is legitimately a multilateral agreement when it is in fact, as Solomon details, a U.S.-Iran deal negotiated almost exclusively by American and Iranian negotiators. Other nations signed on as window dressing.

Sciolino also seems to prefer a book composed of quotes by apologists for the JCPOA rather than one that gives the facts about how the agreement was negotiated, what’s actually in the deal and its troubling and dangerous aftermath.  Sciolino probably believes that if Solomon had been spun more by U.S. and international diplomats, he would have written a book that hewed to the White House’s misleading narrative about the JCPOA instead of reporting on how the Obama administration repeatedly gave in to Iranian demands to get this very weak agreement.

As someone who also has written a recent book on the Iran nuclear deal, Obamabomb: A Dangerous and Growing National Security Fraud (now in its second edition), I had different problems with Solomon’s book.

First, I thought Solomon gave administration accounts too much credibility in light of widespread criticism (which he does not mention) of Obama officials repeatedly misleading and lying to Congress and the American people about the nuclear negotiations and the final deal.

Sciolino should have been pleased that Solomon does not mention New York Times reporter David Samuels’ May 5, 2016 profile of National Security Council advisor Ben Rhodes in which he reported that Rhodes oversaw a White House “echo chamber” to manipulate the news media by generating false narratives to promote the Iran deal which it distributed to know-nothing reporters.  Instead, Solomon innocuously refers to the echo chamber as the White House “anti-war room” which Solomon says Obama officials used mobilize a campaign to defend the JCPOA.

Solomon also does not cite any of the strong congressional critics of the JCPOA. He depicts congressional opposition as Republican when it was in fact bipartisan and included the top Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It was Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, for example, who made what may be the damning criticism of the nuclear deal when he said “If Iran is to acquire a nuclear bomb, it will not have my name on it.”  Unfortunately, this quote does not appear in Iran Wars.

However, I give Solomon credit for reporting that the White House tried to typecast all opponents of the JCPOA as warmongers and that Jewish leaders worried that the White House’s campaign defending the JCPOA “was taking on a not-so-subtle anti-Semitic tone with its references to moneyed lobbyists and their ties to Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

Sciolino should have been heartened that the words “secret side deals” appear nowhere in Solomon’s book. He makes no mention of how Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Congressman Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) accidently learned from IAEA officials about secret side deals to the JCPOA allowing Iran to inspect itself for evidence of past nuclear weapons-related work.  He also omits how the secret side deal issue intensified opposition to the JCPOA because the Obama administration refused to turn over secret side deal documents to Congress for a congressional review as required by law.

Solomon does make a brief reference to Associated Press reporter George Jahn writing about a leaked IAEA document on Iranian “self-inspections” and how Obama administration supporters tried to discredit this story by accusing Jahn of being an Israeli agent and the document being a forgery.

Solomon also disclosed how the Obama administration punished other journalists who wrote articles critical of the nuclear talks. Solomon says he was kicked off Secretary Kerry’s airplane for violating a “zone of silence” rule which barred journalists on Kerry’s plane from asking uncomfortable questions about U.S.–France differences in the nuclear talks. He said that New York Times reporter David Sangar was subjected to a coordinated White House–State Department Twitter assault after Sangar reported Iran might not have the technical capabilities to dispose of its nuclear stockpile as required by the JCPOA.

Solomon emailed me that his book had a July 2016 data cutoff which is why other secret JCPOA side deals that were withheld from Congress (several of which Solomon was the first to report on for the Wall Street Journal) are not mentioned in Iran Wars. These include the planeloads of $1.7 billion in cash flown to Iran in January 2016 as an apparent ransom payment to win the release of U.S. prisoners; exemptions granted to Iran on failing to meet several requirements of the nuclear deal so it would receive $150 billion in sanctions relief last January; and the lifting of UN sanctions on two Iranian banks that have financed Iran’s ballistic missile program.

While Solomon does not go as far as I would prefer in discussing the JCPOA’s enormous flaws and how it has worsened international security, he makes many important points. He notes that it will be difficult to verify this agreement since the Obama administration agreed to drop a longtime demand by the IAEA and the West that Iran answer questions about its past nuclear weapons-related work.  Solomon says the so-called snap-back provision which is supposed to re-impose sanctions in the event of Iranian cheating is unlikely to ever be used.  Solomon correctly portrays the decision to separate Iran’s missile program from the nuclear deal as a huge and dangerous U.S. concession.  Solomon also describes the significance of other huge concessions made by the Obama administration and how Arab states were “stunned” by the terms of the agreement.

Concerning the aftermath of the JCPOA, Solomon gets it half right. Sciolino should be pleased that Solomon agrees with her when he said Iran appears to be complying with the agreement and that the administration’s claim that it will take Iran a year to construct a nuclear bomb appears to be accurate.

There is strong evidence to the contrary, although not all of it was available before Solomon’s July 2016 data cutoff date. I explained much of this evidence in a July 14, 2016 NRO article, including how Iran has placed military facilities off-limits to IAEA inspectors, and is permitted to continue to enrich uranium and develop advanced centrifuges under the deal. I also discussed reports by German intelligence and the Institute for Science and International Security of Iranian cheating on the JCPOA. I therefore believe a strong case can be made that the JCPOA has failed to meet its goal of resolving international concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons program since the agreement leaves too many avenues for Iran to cheat, has very weak verification and there are already multiple, credible reports of Iranian cheating.

On the other hand, I agree with Solomon that Iran’s behavior has become much more belligerent and destabilizing since the JCPOA was announced, including arresting American citizens, stepped up missile tests and increased support to Syria’s Assad regime and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.  This behavior has worsened since Solomon’s book went to print due to an increase in naval incidents in the Persian Gulf between American and Iranian vessels and Houthi rebels firing anti-ship missiles at American and UAE ships.  Solomon was exactly right when he wrote, “There are also real risks that a much bigger and broader war is brewing in the region, and that the United States will inevitably be drawn in.”

In response to these criticisms of the nuclear deal’s aftermath, Sciolino accuses Solomon of “stressing the negative. Instead, she ignores reality by praising the deal for improving U.S.-Iran relations and making the Middle East and the world more secure by keeping Iran from producing a nuclear bomb over the term of the agreement.

It’s interesting that Sciolino won’t settle for Solomon concluding the JCPOA is working and his depiction of Obama administration Iran policy as generally positive but bumbling.  In Sciolino’s mind, this is a great agreement that no one should question.  This means she wants Solomon to be like other mainstream reporters and limit his writing to promoting this line and not confuse the American people with the facts about how this agreement came about, what was really agreed to and the agreement’s actual prospects.

Solomon’s book isn’t perfect but it is still an important contribution to mostly one-sided accounts of the JCPOA which roundly praising it as a legacy achievement for President Obama that avoided a war with Iran.  Since problems with the nuclear agreement are likely to continue to grow due to increased Iranian cheating and belligerent behavior – especially in the Persian Gulf — expect to see more articles by foreign policy Brahmin like Sciolino to enforce the Obama administration’s false narrative about the JCPOA against books like Jay Solomon’s that discuss inconvenient facts about the Iran nuclear agreement that the administration and its supporters do not want the American people to know.

Another Day, Another Secret Obama Side Deal with Iran

According to a September 30 Wall Street Journal article, the Obama administration signed a secret agreement with Iran to lift U.N. sanctions from two Iranian banks — Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International — that helped finance Iran’s ballistic-missile program. U.S. and Iranian officials signed this deal on January 17, 2016, the same day Iran released four U.S. prisoners.

U.S officials in January said the prisoners were swapped for the release of seven Iranian prisoners by the U.S. and the removal of 21 persons — mostly Iranian nationals — from an INTERPOL wanted list for violating U.S. laws barring transfers of WMD technology and weapons to Iran.

The American people and Congress did not learn until August that the U.S. prisoners were not allowed to leave Iran until a planeload of $400 million in cash sent by the United States had landed in Iran. This payment — and two more over the next month — has been strongly condemned by Republican congressmen as U.S. ransom payments to a state sponsor of terror.

Commenting on the $400 million cash payment to Iran, the prisoner swap and the lifting of sanctions from the Iranian banks, a senior U.S. official told the Journal, “The timing of all this isn’t coincidental. Everything was linked to some degree.”

The Journal also quoted unnamed Obama officials who justified lifting sanctions against the two Iranian banks to “harmonize the U.N. sanctions list with the U.S.’s” and because “Washington believed Iran had earned more sanctions relief because Tehran had been implementing the terms of the nuclear agreement.” The Obama administration lifted U.S. sanctions against Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International in July 2015. The U.N. Security Council voted to lift these sanctions on January 17, 2016.

This suggests the removal of sanctions against the Iranian banks was part of a broad ransom agreement to free U.S. prisoners held by Iran.

The secret agreement to lift sanctions against the Iranian banks also violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, passed in July 2015 which endorsed the JCPOA. This resolution stipulated that U.N. missile-related sanctions against Iran would remain in place for eight years. In addition, lifting sanctions against the two banks broke promises to Congress by Obama officials that the nuclear deal would only lift nuclear-related sanctions against Iran and that U.N. missile sanctions would remain in place for eight years.

The secret deal to lift missile sanctions against the Iranian banks joins a long list of secret JCPOA side deals that the Obama administration illegally withheld from the U.S. Congress and the American people. These include allowing Iran to inspect itself for nuclear weapons work; the dumbing down of IAEA Iran reports; exemptions granted to Iran on its JCPOA obligations so it would receive $150 billion in sanctions relief; sending Iran planeloads of $1.7 billion in cash to free four imprisoned Americans; and an agreement allowing Iran to construct advanced centrifuges in 2027. One has to wonder how many more secret side deals have yet to be disclosed.

I argue in my new book on the Obama administration’s nuclear diplomacy with Iran is national-security fraud. This latest secret side deal is more compelling evidence of this.

Why Was Iran Given Secret Exemptions from Key Nuclear-Deal Requirements?

In an important report issued yesterday, the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington, D.C. arms-control think tank, revealed that Iran was secretly granted exemptions to the July 2015 nuclear agreement (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) so it could meet compliance requirements for what the agreement calls “Implementation Day” — when Iran was to receive an estimated $150 billion in sanctions relief.

Not coincidentally, the same day Implementation Day was announced (January 18), U.S. officials also announced a swap of 18 Iranian prisoners held by the United States for five U.S. citizens who had been illegally held by Iran. An additional 14 Iranians were removed from an INTERPOL wanted list.

The Institute report cites an unnamed official who said that without these exemptions, some of Iran’s nuclear facilities would not have been in compliance with the JCPOA by Implementation Day.

The exemptions were granted by the JCPOA’s “Joint Commission,” composed of the parties to the agreement: Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and Russia. Some of the exemptions were significant and allowed Iran to not report activities with nuclear weapons-related applications. These exemptions were:

  • Allowing Iran to violate a cap of 300 kg for its enriched-uranium stockpile under certain circumstances.  The Commission gave Iran an exemption for reactor-grade enriched UF6 (uranium hexafluoride, the feed material for enrichment centrifuges) in the form of low-level and sludge waste.  This may have been a minor violation although the report said the amount of this material is unknown.
  • Ignoring “lab contaminant” UF6 enriched to 20 percent uranium-235 judged as “unrecoverable.” Although this may also be a minor violation, the report says the amount of this material and how it was judged unrecoverable is not known.
  • Exemption for large “hot cells.” The JCPOA allows Iran to operate or build hot cells (shielded chambers used to handle radioactive substances), but to ensure they are used for peaceful purposes such as producing medical radionuclides, Iran agreed that for 15 years these cells will be limited to no more than six cubic meters. The Commission gave Iran an exemption to operate 22 larger hot cells. According to the Institute report, these larger cells could be secretly misused for plutonium-separation experiments. The Institute also raised concerns that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is not adequately monitoring Iran’s hot cells and that Iran is exploiting this exemption to win approval to operate more hot cells with volumes greater than six cubic meters. This is a potentially serious exemption because plutonium-separation experiments have only one purpose: developing the capability to produce plutonium nuclear-weapons fuel. The report also noted two other secret decisions by the Joint Commission.
  • The Commission agreed to a loophole on a 130-ton cap for Iran’s heavy-water stockpile by allowing Tehran to store large amounts of heavy water in Oman that remain under Iran’s control. Heavy water is a nuclear proliferation concern because it is used in a reactor design that produces large amounts of plutonium. Under the JCPOA, Iran will be permitted to operate a redesigned heavy-water reactor that will produce less plutonium than the original design and will require less heavy water. The Institute also expressed concern that Iran is producing more heavy water than it needs and far faster than experts had predicted. The Institute worries that this loophole and America’s purchase of some of Iran’s heavy-water risks legitimizing Iran as a seller of heavy-water on the global market without Tehran demonstrating that it will abide by international nonproliferation norms for the sale and procurement of this substance.
  • The Commission established a technical working group to evaluate a small amount of enriched uranium remaining in the equipment of a nuclear plant. The Institute said it is unknown whether the working group will give Iran an exemption for this enriched uranium.

THE JCPOA’S DISTURBING PATTERN OF SECRECY

Except for the hot-cells exemption and the heavy-water loophole, these issues are probably minor violations that the Commission could have easily publicly justified. The fact that this was done in secret is consistent with a pattern that began earlier this year when observers noted that the IAEA’s Iran reports became much shorter and no longer contains key figures and details on Iran’s nuclear program. I explained in a March 9, 2016 NRO article that the IAEA probably started dumbing down its Iran reports because the West conceded to Iran’s demand for vague IAEA reports during the nuclear talks in a secret side deal that the Obama administration failed to disclose to Congress.

One the most notorious JCPOA secret side deals, discovered by accident during a July 2015 trip to IAEA headquarters by Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Congressman Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), concerned an agreement between the IAEA and Iran allowing Iran to inspect itself for evidence of past nuclear weapons work. Obama officials said that because this was a confidential agreement between Iran and the IAEA, they were unable to send a copy to Congress. I wrote in NRO last August that this agreement probably was in fact a ploy by the Obama administration to conceal a controversial aspect of the JCPOA from Congress by moving it into an agreement that Congress could not access. This secret side deal infuriated many Republican congressmen who believed it violated the Corker-Cardin Act’s requirements that the administration turn over to Congress all documentation associated with the JCPOA for a congressional review before Congress voted on the agreement last September.

And of course there is the shipment of $400 million in cash secretly flown to Tehran from Geneva last January to win the release of four Americans held by Iran. This secret payment, revealed on August 3, 2016 by the Wall Street Journal, amounted to ransom and was not briefed to Congress. Making the story worse was a later revelation by journalist Claudia Rosett of 13 transfers of $99,999,999.99 from the Treasury Department to the State Department on January 19, 2016 to pay an undisclosed “foreign claim.” It is widely believed these 13 payments represent an additional $1.3 billion payment to Iran which Congress was also not informed of.

WAS CONGRESS NOTIFIED ABOUT THE IMPLEMENTATION-DAY EXEMPTIONS?

It is unclear whether and how the Obama administration informed Congress about the JCPOA’s secret exemptions and loopholes described in the Institute’s report.

The report says the Obama administration “informed Congress of key Joint Commission decisions on Implementation Day but in a confidential matter.” This indicates Congress was not informed before Implementation Day about the exemptions. I also note Implementation Day (January 16, 2016) fell on a Saturday, which means there was no one around in Congress that day to receive notification of the exemptions.

I am concerned that the report’s language indicates the Obama administration did not provide full details of the Joint Commission’s decisions to Congress and that any information it did provide was not made available to most members — it probably was contained in classified documents sent only to top congressional leaders, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committees.

James Rosen reported on Fox News’ Special Report last night that a congressional source told him senior congressional aides were briefed on the Joint Commission’s decisions. However, Rosen also noted that Democratic senator Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), one of the JCPOA’s leading critics and a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was never briefed on the Commission’s decisions or the exemptions.

Congress needs to get to the bottom of this. My guess is that the alleged briefings given to senior congressional staff probably were incomplete and, like most JCPOA documents, mired in incomprehensible technical jargon to confuse the issue of the exemptions. If Senator Menendez did not know about the exemptions, I refuse to believe a clear briefing was provided on them to Congress.

WHY THE SECRECY SURROUNDING THE NUCLEAR DEAL?

The bottom line in the Institute for Science and International Security’s report is that the excessive secrecy of the JCPOA is preventing the American people and the U.S. Congress from assessing Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement. I agree. The IAEA provided minute details of Iran’s compliance with its nuclear agreements for many years until January 2016. Although some experts have said this information is not being released because of Iranian demands, when controversial matters such as new exemptions granted Iran and the $400 million ransom payment are kept secret and not clearly disclosed to Congress, the only explanation is that this information is being deliberately withheld to protect the nuclear agreement from Congress.

That’s obviously what happened with the exemptions which indicate major new weaknesses in the nuclear deal. If Congress knew about this last January it would have led to hearings and negative press coverage which would have spoiled the victory laps the administration was taking to celebrate Iran’s “compliance” with the president’s legacy nuclear agreement with Iran. This lack of transparency is an effort by the administration to maintain the fiction that the JCPOA is a great achievement by preventing Congress and the American people from knowing how weak and dangerous this agreement really is.

That’s not the way our system of government is supposed to operate. Congress is a co-equal branch of government and has oversight responsibility of the Executive Branch under the Constitution. It is unacceptable for the Executive Branch to collaborate with foreign powers, U.S. enemies, and international organizations to hide crucial national security information from congressional oversight. This is just the latest reason why, if he wins the presidency, Donald Trump should tear up this dangerous and fraudulent nuclear deal on his first day in office.

We have a deal with Iran. So why is it defending a nuclear site with anti-aircraft missiles?

Iran’s state-controlled media announced on August 29 that Iran has deployed an advanced Russian surface-to-air missile defense system, the S-300, to protect its underground Fordow uranium enrichment facility from airstrikes.

The S-300 is the most advanced Russian anti-aircraft system that Moscow exports.  It has long been understood that Iran sought these missiles to protect its nuclear sites from airstrikes by the United States and Israel. 

So, if the Obama administration’s claims are true — that the July 2015 nuclear deal with Iran halted the threat from Iran’s nuclear program — why is Iran increasing its defenses of this sensitive nuclear site?

There are two reasons. First, the nuclear agreement is a fraud. Second, Tehran is preparing to gut it.

In my new book “Obamabomb: A Dangerous and Growing National Security Fraud” I explain how the threat from Iran’s nuclear deal will actually grow while the nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) is in effect because Iran is permitted to continue to improve its capability to produce nuclear fuel by enriching uranium, developing advanced uranium centrifuges, and operating a heavy-water reactor. 

The verification provisions of the JCPOA are very weak and Iran has placed military facilities – where nuclear weapons work is likely to take place – off-limits to IAEA inspectors.

The agreement also ended IAEA investigations of Iran’s past nuclear weapons work even though a December 2015 IAEA report said this activity continued at least until 2009.

There have been recent signs of Iranian cheating on the nuclear deal. For example, a June 2016 German intelligence report said there were intensive efforts by Iran to covertly acquire nuclear technology in Germany in 2015 and that this activity probably is continuing. 

In addition, Iranian firms that had been sanctioned for illicit nuclear and missile procurement but were relieved of these sanctions by the JCPOA “are now very active in procuring goods in China,” according to a report by the Institute for Science and International Security. 

The Institute also reported in a July 2016 memo an attempt by Iran to covertly acquire tons of high-strength carbon fiber, a substance used to make uranium centrifuge parts.  Under the JCPOA, purchases of high-strength carbon fiber by Iran must be approved by the parties to the agreement. 

There also have been a series of incidents – including recent harassment of U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf by Iranian ships – that contradict predictions made by Obama officials in July 2015 that the nuclear deal would improve Iranian behavior and U.S.-Iran relations.

The acquisition and deployment of S-300 surface-to-air missiles to defend the Fordow facility is the latest evidence that Iran does not plan to abide by the JCPOA.

The Fordow facility was secretly constructed under a mountain near the city of Qom in violation of Iran’s nuclear treaty obligations.  U.S., UK and French leaders announced its existence in September 2009. 

Designed to be a heavily-protected plant to enrich uranium, there is no doubt that the purpose of this facility is to produce nuclear weapons fuel.  President Obama said in December 2013 that Iran did not need the Fordow facility to have a peaceful nuclear program. However, Iran was permitted to continue to operate this facility under the JCPOA, although half of its 2,710 centrifuges were put into storage and its remaining centrifuges are limited to enriching materials other than uranium for use as medical isotopes for 15 years.  Iran could reverse these measures in a few months and resume enrichment.

If Iran has truly agreed not to enrich uranium at Fordow for 15 years, there obviously was no reason to deploy advanced anti-aircraft missiles at this site now unless it was planning on violating the JCPOA in the near future.

Fordow was already a difficult target for U.S. and Israeli airstrikes and would probably take multiple strikes by America’s largest bunker buster bomb – the 15-ton GBU-57 MOP (massive ordnance penetrator) – to destroy.  Only the B-2 stealth bomber and the aging B-52 can carry the MOP.

Stealth U.S. aircraft such as the B-2, F-22 Raptor, and F-35 reportedly can evade the S-300 but they could be vulnerable if Iran deployed enough S-300 systems. 

There has been talk of Israel destroying Fordow with bunker buster bombs by repeatedly bombing a single point at this facility. Although Israel does not have the MOP nor a bomber capable of carrying this weapon, it does have the 5-ton GBU-28 bunker buster bomb which can be carried by its F-15E fighters.  However, the S-300 poses a serious threat to fourth-generation fighters like the F-15.  Israel will be able to evade the S-300 when it receives its first fifth-generation F-35s in December 2016 but the F-35 cannot carry the GBU-28 bunker buster.  Bunker busters for the F-35 are under development but are many years away from deployment.

I believe these factors indicate Iranian leaders are contemplating violating or terminating the JCPOA in the short to medium term by resuming uranium enrichment at Fordow and want to prevent Israel from responding with airstrikes and discourage the United States from doing so.

When would Iran do this? Certainly not before Barack Obama leaves office because Tehran is using the Obama administration’s desperation to protect the president’s legacy nuclear deal to exact more concession from the United States. 

Iranian leaders probably will view a Hillary Clinton presidency as a third Obama term and may move quickly to terminate the JCPOA and resume uranium enrichment at Fordow shortly after her inauguration.

If he wins the election, Donald Trump’s tough terms to renegotiate the JCPOA probably will lead to its termination. 

Although Iran would not fear a U.S. military response if it resumed enrichment at Fordow under President Obama or under a Hillary Clinton presidency, this would not be the case under a President Trump. 

In all likelihood, regardless of the deployment of the S-300s, Iranian leaders probably fear Trump would order airstrikes to destroy Fordow and other Iranian nuclear facilities if it violated the JCPOA and possibly if it refused to agree to a much stronger nuclear agreement. 

Without a crystal ball, there is no way to predict for certain what will happen with the Iranian nuclear deal under a Clinton or Trump presidency.  However, in light of the deployment of the S-300s, the weakness of the JCPOA, and Iran’s increasingly belligerent behavior over the last year, we can say with certainty that President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran is an enormous fraud that will lead to huge security challenges for his successor.

Ransom Payment Highlights Hillary’s Ownership of Disastrous Iran Deal

Amid recent scrambling by President Obama and his senior officials to deny that a secret planeload of foreign currency worth $400 million sent to Iran in January to win the release of four innocent Americans was a ransom payment, there also has been maneuvering by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to insulate her from any blowback from the nuclear deal with Iran.

We saw this last week when Clinton surrogates and their media allies argued that although Clinton supports the agreement, which she claims “put a lid” on Iran’s nuclear program, she can’t be held responsible for the so-called ransom payment because she left the State Department in early 2013 and the Iran nuclear deal was negotiated between 2013 and 2015.

This circling of the wagons has included attacking Donald Trump for saying Clinton was responsible for the nuclear talks that resulted in the ransom payment. Trump expressed this in an August 3 tweet, “Our incompetent Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was the one who started talks to give 400 million dollars, in cash, to Iran. Scandal!”

Glenn Kessler, in an August 3 Washington Post ‘Fact Checker” column, quickly awarded Trump four “Pinocchios” for this tweet for being false, explaining that:

Clinton stepped down as secretary of state in early 2013. The deal involving the American detainees — including The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian — was announced in January this year, three years after the end of her tenure. Clinton did initiate negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program — though substantial talks with Iran did not take place until after she left.

I have been in touch with Kessler to dispute his article because it suggests the nuclear agreement with Iran (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) and the ransom payment are mostly the result of a separate set of negotiations that occurred after Clinton left office. This is not true.

I explain in my new book on the JCPOA Obamabomb: A Dangerous and Growing National Security Threat that Clinton owns the nuclear deal as much as Obama does because the major decisions and concessions that produced this agreement were made while she was Secretary of State. This included naming the negotiators for the nuclear talks and approving two major U.S. concessions to Iran in 2011 – guaranteeing Iran the right to enrich uranium and agreeing to close the IAEA’s investigation of Iran’s past nuclear weapons work.

These concessions led to an extremely weak nuclear accord that allows Iran continue increasing its capability to make nuclear weapons by letting it enrich uranium, develop advanced uranium centrifuges and operate a plutonium-producing reactor. Iran also received over $150 billion in sanctions relief as part of the deal that it likely is using to fund terrorism and its WMD programs.

In addition, despite promises by the Obama administration that the nuclear deal would improve U.S.-Iran relations and Iran’s behavior, this obviously has not happened. Iran’s behavior has grown worse since the nuclear deal was announced with its ballistic missile tests, increased support to terrorists and the Assad regime and threats to shipping in the Persian Gulf. And let’s not forget the 10 U.S. sailors who Iran detained and humiliated last January.

Clinton has tried to claim credit for setting stage for the JCPOA by saying she and President Obama brought Iran to the negotiating table with a “dual track” strategy of sanctions and diplomacy. This is untrue, since Clinton and Obama actually fought hard to prevent Congress and the EU from imposing sanctions on Iran before later backing these sanctions when they could not stop them.

Moreover, after the administration decided to support sanctions imposed by Congress, it repeatedly weakened them with waivers. This undermined America’s negotiating position in the nuclear talks.

According to the Clinton campaign website, if elected President, Hillary Clinton will “vigorously enforce the nuclear agreement and implement a broader strategy to confront Iran’s bad behavior in the region, particularly the threat it poses to Israel.” These are empty promises because the verification provisions of the Iran deal are exceeding weak and Tehran has placed military sites off-limits. Iran also has promised to withdraw from the nuclear agreement if sanctions are reimposed.

There is already evidence of massive Iranian cheating on the nuclear agreement and indications that Tehran may be planning to withdraw from it. Obama and Clinton are ignoring this evidence so they can claim the nuclear deal is a success because Iran is in full compliance. By turning a blind eye to evidence of Iranian cheating on the nuclear deal, Clinton reiterated her complicity in this agreement.

The best way for the next president to deal with the fraudulent nuclear deal with Iran is to tear it up on his or her first day in office and begin negotiations on a new agreement which actually addresses the nuclear threat from Iran.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said if he wins the 2016 presidential election he will renegotiate the Iran deal because it is one of the worst international agreements ever negotiated. My book Obamabomb has ten steps to guide such a re-negotiation by Mr Trump if he wins the election.

If Clinton wins in November, she is certain to keep the Iran deal in place and continue the Obama administration’s appeasement of Iran that led to this agreement.  This means the security situation in the Middle East will significantly worsen under a Clinton presidency as Iran gets closer to producing a nuclear weapons arsenal.