Tag Archives: Iran

Pompeo’s “Unrealistic” Iran Demands Set Stage For Regime Change

During a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a well-known conservative think tank in Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out a laundry list of demands to Iran on Monday, just a few short weeks after the U.S. pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – better known as the Iran nuclear deal.

The demands, described by Pompeo as “basic requirements,” include Iran’s full withdrawal from Syria, the release of all U.S. citizens imprisoned in the country, the end of Iran’s support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen, ending the “enrichment” of uranium, allowing “the IAEA with unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country” and promising to never process plutonium.

Pompeo also noted that a Iran’s failure to comply with these demands would result in the “strongest sanctions in history” being imposed on Iran that would cause the country to struggle to “keep its economy alive.”

“The sting of sanctions will be painful if the regime does not change its course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen to one that rejoins the league of nations. These will indeed end up being the strongest sanctions in history when we are complete,” Pompeo said.

This strategy, the Trump administration’s “Plan B” for dealing with Iran following its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, has been regarded as unachievable and unrealistic as Iran is all but certain to reject the ultimatum.

Indeed, Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council asserted that Pompeo’s “requirements” are intentionally unrealistic as his speech was “clearly designed to ensure there cannot be any new negotiation.”

“If you maximize pressure and set unachievable demands, you solely pave the way for war. That is the objective of Trump, and that’s been the objective of his cheerleaders in Saudi and Israel,” Parsi added.

Parsi’s concerns appear warranted given one of Pompeo’s questionable demands that Iran end military support of Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Though long labeled an Iran “proxy” by the corporate media, the Houthis are a movement unique to Yemen that share a religious identity with Iran and little more.

Thomas Juneau, a former analyst for Canada’s Department of National Defence, wrote in the Washington Post that “Tehran’s support for the Houthis is limited, and its influence in Yemen is marginal. It is simply inaccurate to claim that the Houthis are Iranian proxies.” He further stated that Iran’s assistance “remains limited and far from sufficient to make more than a marginal difference to the balance of forces in Yemen, a country awash with weapons.”

Even the U.S. State Department has acknowledged that the Houthis have not been not armed by Iran but are instead largely armed by purchases from the black market and the Yemeni military. Furthermore, the Saudi blockade of Yemen ensures that support from Iran, were it to be offered, would not even be able to make it into the Houthi-controlled portion of the country.

Given his “wildly unrealistic” list of policy demands, Pompeo’s speech has largely been regarded as further evidence that the Trump administration has adopted a “regime change” policy towards Iran. This has been expected for some time, as news broke last week that National Security Adviser John Bolton had been circulating a plan throughout the National Security Council that calls for making regime change an explicit part of the administration’s Iran policy.

Pompeo, as well as Bolton, have long been advocates for regime change in Iran, as have other powerful figures closely connected to the Trump administration such as former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani who now serves as one of Trump’s lawyers.

Earlier this month, Giuliani openly stated that Trump and his administration were “committed” to bringing regime change to Iran during a speech to the Mujahedeen Khalq (MEK), a “cult-like” group of Iranian exiles that was listed as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” by the U.S. until 2012 for its use of terror tactics that have resulted in the deaths of both Iranians and Americans. During his recent speech to the group, Giuliani led a chant of “regime change,” underscoring the desired result of the MEK and its contacts in Washington.

Bolton also recently spoke to the MEK during a gathering of the group in France last year. In that speech, Bolton told members and supporters of the group: “The declared policy of the United States should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran. […] The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change and, therefore, the only solution is to change the regime itself. […] And that’s why, before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran!”

Pompeo’s recent speech seems to be an indication that Bolton, with help from other like-minded officials in the Trump administration, is seeking to fulfill his regime change promise sooner rather than later.

Rand Paul Announces He’ll Oppose Trump’s State Dept. & CIA Nominees

Washington, D.C.— Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced on Wednesday that he would oppose President Trump’s nominees to head the State Department and CIA, potentially impeding their path to Senate confirmation.

“I will oppose both Pompeo’s nomination and Haspel’s nomination,” Paul said.

Trump announced the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, and nominated CIA Director Mike Pompeo, an aggressive foreign policy hawk, to serve as his new Secretary of State – while nominating Gina Haspel, the CIA’s deputy director, to serve as the new head of the CIA after Pompeo moves to the State Department.

Paul said he was “perplexed” how Trump could nominate Pompeo given his support for regime change in Iraq as well as support and advocacy for regime change in Iran. The libertarian leaning Republican senator said Pompeo’s support of regime change contradicts the skepticism Trump expressed on the campaign trail toward foreign interventions and regime change.

“It perplexes me that he is now nominating someone for secretary of State who has advocated and pushed for regime change in Iran,” Paul said.

Haspel, who oversaw the U.S. torture program at a secret CIA prison and later destroyed the recorded evidence, is a lighting rod for controversy given her intimate participation in the torture of individuals suspected by the US of being connected to terrorism. Paul noted his opposition for Haspel’s nomination due to her role in the Bush-era CIA torture program at black site prisons.

“My opposition to her is over her direct participation in interrogation and her gleeful enjoyment of someone being tortured,” said Paul.

“I find it just amazing that anyone would consider having this woman as the head of the CIA,” Paul said. “Certainly, there is a career officer at the CIA who did not directly participate in waterboarding that we can nominate,” he continued. “Rewarding someone who was in charge of something so heinous is a really big mistake.”

CBS News reports that Paul’s opposition to Haspel’s nomination could put her potential confirmation as head of the CIA in jeopardy if all 49 Democratic Senators voted against Haspel – with only one other Republican, aside from Paul, needing to vote no to block her nomination. Paul did not rule out a filibuster to prevent Pompeo from being confirmed.

Tension Simmers Between Israel and Iran, Syria

Last week, Israel attacked a Syrian government facility that it claimed was used in the production of chemical weapons. That claim was unusual considering that Syria’s chemical weapons and its ability to produce them were dismantled under UN supervision in 2013. This attack was just one of many attacks Israel has launched against government-held territory since Syria’s conflict began nearly seven years ago.

Though the Syrian government, led by Bashar al-Assad, has declined to respond to these unilateral attacks or Israeli violations of Syrian airspace in the past, all that changed last Saturday when Syria’s Air Defense Force shot down an Israeli Air Force jet. The F-16 jet, which had reportedly illegitimately entered Syrian airspace near the Syrian capital of Damascus, later crashed in Israeli territory after its two pilots ejected.

As a result, Israel launched multiple retaliatory strikes against other Syrian military installations near Damascus. Multiple rounds of missile launches were confirmed and reports indicates Israel was pounding the Damascus countryside with artillery for much of the day. There were also reports of Israel launching missiles into central Syria that also targeted the Syrian military; NPR reported that “Israeli airstrikes in Syria killed at least six members of the Syrian military or allied militia members” during the Saturday incident.

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) issued a statement during Saturday’s morning chaos:

“The IDF will act determinately against such severe violations of Israeli sovereignty by Iran and Syria and will continue to act as necessary. The IDF is ready for various scenarios and will continue to act according to situation assessments.” Meanwhile, the Syrian government accused Israel of unwarranted ‘aggression’.”

Though casual observers of the Syrian conflict may find Saturday’s events as having come out of nowhere, those who have closely followed the conflict are likely aware of longstanding discord related to the background between Israel and Syria.

Five years before the conflict in Syria, the government of Israel worked with other countries to overthrow the Assad government; Wikileaks cables indicate this strategy included creating sectarian strife in the country and isolating Syria from its strongest regional ally, Iran. Israel has long sought to officially annex the Syrian land it seized in the Golan Heights – due to their sizable oil reserves. However, Assad is a major obstacle to that annexation as well as Israel’s other regional ambitions.

The plan sought the involvement of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Egypt in fomenting the “breakdown” of the Assad regime as a way of weakening both Iran and Hezbollah— with the effect of empowering both Israel and the Gulf monarchies, two seemingly antagonistic forces in the region that are becoming increasingly allied.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was on board with the plan, as revealed by emails published by WikiLeaks. One of those emails stated that “The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad.”

It also noted that “A successful intervention in Syria would require substantial diplomatic and military leadership from the United States.” It added that “arming the Syrian rebels and using western air power to ground Syrian helicopters and airplanes is a low-cost high payoff approach.”

However, that “low-cost high payoff approach” has not gone as planned. Instead, Assad has managed to consolidate large parts of Syrian territory once lost to the “rebels,” the vast majority of which are terrorist groups or their affiliates.

Israel has grown more focused on regime change in Syria, as evidenced by the “dozens and dozens” of attacks they have launched against Syria and last year’s threats to assassinate Assad by bombing his residence.

Following the weekend’s developments regarding Israel and Syria, Tillerson was quick to declare that he was “quite concerned” about the clash that unfolded between Israel and Syria and Iran.

“I think this again illustrates why Iran’s presence in Syria is only destabilizing to the region. We think Iran needs to withdraw its military, its militia from Syria and allow the hope for the peace process to take hold in Geneva,” Tillerson said.

Tensions have appeared to dissipate for the time being; Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin was responsible for diffusing a “simmering conflict between Israel and Iran in Syria” that “could have erupted into another regional war” by making a “furious phone call” to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a report by Business Insider. However, given the recent escalation between Israel and Iran/Syria, a regime change war may not be out of the question, complete with U.S. involvement.

Indeed, the U.S. is the largest sponsor of the IDF, giving Israel $10 million in military aid per day. The U.S. is also committed to remaining involved in Syria as seen in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s announcement to retain U.S. troops and their recent attack this past Wednesday on Syrian military positions that included Russian soldiers – an attack which came soon after Israel’s. If such a war came to pass, it may not remain a regional war between just Israel and Syria for very long.

Iran: Aggravating New US Sanctions ‘Illegitimate’

by Jason Ditz

The Iranian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement today condemning the US for following up its Saturday removal of nuclear sanctions against Iran with the imposition of a new round of sanctions on Sunday, saying the move was “aggravating and propagandistic.”

There is considerable dispute over the US sanctions, which cite a UN resolution forbidding Iran from developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. It was been argued that this makes the sanctions nuclear-related, and a violation of the P5+1 nuclear deal, and Iran insists that the missile isn’t nuclear capable in the first place, meaning the resolution doesn’t apply.

The statement by Iran’s foreign ministry is that they consider the sanctions “illegitimate” at any rate, and that Iran intends to continue to develop its conventional missile systems to improve its overall defensive capabilities.

That the US waited less than 24 hours after ending sanctions to impose new ones is a big boost to Iran’s ultraconservative factions ahead of next month’s elections, as they declared them vindication to their opposition to the nuclear deal on the grounds the US couldn’t be trusted to keep up its end of the bargain.

Clinton Says U.S. Should Impose New Sanctions on Iran Over Ballistic Missile Program

2016 Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday that the U.S. should impose new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and over allegations of its involvement in the disappearance of Robert Levinson, an American who went missing in Iran in 2007.

Iran is still violating UN Security Council resolutions with its ballistic missile program, which should be met with new sanctions designations and firm resolve,” said Clinton on Saturday according to The Hill, just hours after U.S. sanctions on Iran expired under President Obama’s nuclear deal.

Clinton said that she believes President Obama should not thank Iran for releasing hostages under the nuclear deal’s terms or for releasing 10 U.S. Navy sailors who allegedly entered Iranian waters last week.

[RELATED: Iran Releases 10 U.S. Navy Sailors Held for ‘Trespassing’ on Iranian Waters]

These prisoners were held unjustly by a regime that continues to threaten the peace and security of the Middle East. Another American, Bob Levinson, still isn’t home with his family,” said Clinton.

ABC News notes that Iranian officials claim to have no knowledge of Levinson’s whereabouts and maintain that he is not in Iranian custody.

U.S. officials say that Levinson was working as a private investigator when he went missing in Iran, but his family says that he was working for the Central Intelligence Agency.

[RELATED: Bernie Sanders Beating Clinton in N.H., Tied In Iowa]

The treatment of our Navy sailors earlier this week was offensive, including the release of demeaning and provocative videos,” added Clinton. She said that if she is elected president, her attitude towards Iran would be to “distrust and verify.”

However, Clinton praised President Obama’s nuclear deal and called it an “important achievement of diplomacy.

According to USA Today, on Sunday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury imposed new targeted sanctions against 11 individuals and companies who it claims were involved in facilitating an Iranian ballistic missile program.

For more election coverage, click here.

Iran Releases 10 U.S. Navy Sailors Held for ‘Trespassing’ on Iranian Waters

After allegedly drifting into Iranian waters when their two boats experienced mechanical problems, the 10 U.S. Navy sailors that were being held have been released from the custody of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs Office released a statement claiming that the 10 U.S. Navy sailors were “safely returned to U.S. custody today, after departing Iran,” and that there are “no indications that the sailors were harmed during their brief detention.”

“The sailors departed Farsi Island at 8:43 a.m. GMT, aboard the two Riverine Command Boats that they had been operating when they lost contact with the U.S. Navy,” the statement said. “The sailors were later transferred ashore by U.S. Navy aircraft, while other sailors took charge of the RCBs and continued transiting toward Bahrain, the boats’ original destination. The Navy will investigate the circumstances that led to the Sailors’ presence in Iran.”

As previously reported, the 10 sailors were taken into custody by Iran on Tuesday, when they were traveling from Kuwait to Bahrain when they lost contact with the U.S. Navy near Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf. U.S. defense officials said the sailors consisted of nine men and one woman who were traveling in two riverine patrol boats.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who worked closely with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif on the Iran nuclear deal, said he is “very pleased that our Sailors have been safely returned to U.S. hands.”

“As a former Sailor myself, I know the importance of naval presence around the world and the critical work being done by our Navy in the Gulf region,” Kerry said. “I’m proud of our young men and women in uniform and know how seriously they take their responsibilities to one another and to other mariners in distress.”

Vice President Joe Biden said on “CBS This Morning” Wednesday that there was “no apology” given for the two U.S. boats entering Iranian waters, and that Iran realized the sailors “were there in distress and said they would release them and released them like ordinary nations would do.”

“There’s nothing to apologize for,” Biden said. “When you have a problem with the boat you apologize the boat had a problem? No, and there was no looking for any apology. This was just standard nautical practice.”

President Obama has yet to comment publicly on the incident, and he did not mention it during his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Pentagon Claims 10 U.S. Navy Sailors, 2 Boats Taken Into Custody by Iran

The Pentagon claimed that Tehran has promised to return two boats and 10 U.S. Navy sailors who were taken into Iranian custody after their boats experienced mechanical problems and drifted into Iranian waters.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told The Associated Press that the small boats were between Kuwait and Bahrain, near Farsi Island, when they experienced mechanical problems and the U.S. lost contact.

A U.S. defense official said the ten sailors consisted of nine men and one woman who were traveling in two riverine patrol boats.

U.S. officials do not know the exact location of the sailors, but Cook said they have been in contact with Iran and they have been assured that the sailors will be “returned promptly.”

“We have been in contact with Iran and have received assurances that the crew and the vessels will be returned promptly,” Cook said.

When reporting on the capture, the semi-official Fars news agency reportedly claimed that “these two boats were seized by Revolutionary Guard naval forces near Farsi Island 2 km inside Iranian territorial waters.”

Iranian Navy Vessels Fire Rockets Near U.S. Carrier

U.S. officials confirmed a number of Iranian military vessels unguided rockets near a U.S. carrier traveling through international waters on Dec. 26th as the USS Harry S. Truman passed through the Strait of Hormuz.

The actions were called “unsafe” and “certainly unnecessarily provocative” by the official.

The incident occurred when the vessels approached within 1,500 yards of the carrier and proceeded to fire the rockets in the opposite direction of the ship.

The Strait of Hormuz is “an internationally recognized maritime traffic lane,” the official said.

Officials said around 10:36 a.m. local time, Iranian navy vessels approached the Truman and it’s battle group.

“They were observed quickly approaching their location as they transited the Strait of Hormuz into the Arabian Gulf,” said the official.

Iran warned of a “previously unannounced live-fire exercise over maritime radio and requested for nearby vessels to remain clear,” at 10:45 a.m.

Forty minutes after the initial warning, a second warning was given at which time the ships began launching their rockets.

The official said that the number of rockets launched is unclear, and added that the rockets were directed away from the battle group and other commercial ships in the area. Following the launch, the Iranian ships departed the area.

The U.S. has had a several month gap without a carrier in the Persian Gulf following the exit of the USS Theodore Roosevelt in October. This differs from decades of operational history in which the U.S. has maintained a carrier presence in the Gulf, at times fielding two battle groups in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Shortly after the exit of the Theodore Roosevelt in early October, a ballistic missile test was conducted by the Iranians.

On Tuesday, the Truman conducted its first operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria since arriving on station. The U.S. carrier is joined by France’s aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle which is also conducting missions against ISIS.

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Iraqi Foreign Minister: France, U.S., Iran Were Warned About Impending Attacks

Iraq’s Foreign Minister has stated that Iraq’s intelligence service shared details of impending attacks within France, the United States and Iran.

Speaking at this weekend’s peace talks in Vienna, Austria, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said Iraq received intelligence about possible attacks and shared the information with the respective governments.  The comments came one day after attackers in Paris, France killed 129 people using firearms and suicide bombers.

“Information has been obtained from Iraqi intelligence sources that the countries to be targeted soon, before it occurred, are Europe in general, specifically France, as well as America and Iran,” Jaafari said in Vienna. Reuters first reported on the comments. Similar statements can be found in a post on Jaafari’s website.

Jaafari did not elaborate on the intelligence but called for a “global response” to the Islamic State.

France has now declared war on the Islamic State, and President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are reportedly in talks to formulate a strategy to resolve the civil war in Syria and the growing threat from IS. In addition, world leaders met this weekend to discuss a timetable for elections and a transition government.

Missing from of the conversation surrounding the attacks in Paris is an acknowledgement that the U.S. government has helped fund rebels which led to the creation of the Islamic State, as well as helped created the situation through disastrous foreign policies as part of the failed War on Terror.


US Claims Russian Missiles Failed, Crashed in Iran

by Jason Ditz

One day after widespread media reports about Russia using cruise missiles to attack ISIS from ships in the Caspian Sea, US media outlets are reporting that US officials say some of the missiles failed en route and slammed into Iran. They further claimed “there may be casualties.”

The cruise missiles are known to have flown over Iranian and Iraqi airspace on their way to targets across Syria, and US analysts were expressing surprise about the capabilities of the Russian missiles, saying they’d never known they had such a long range.

Bizarrely, however, there has been no report in the Iranian media of any of these missile crashes, nor indeed has any Russian outlet reported any of the missiles failing. There were thus no actual media reports suggesting damage or casualties in Iran, nor indeed any missile crashes at all.

This has to raise questions about the US claims, as the Obama Administration has been shown increasingly desperate to portray Russia’s military involvement in Syria as doomed to failure, and may be pushing out the claims of errant missiles without much evidence that it actually happened.

Russian Official Accuses U.S. of Bombing Desert, ‘Pretending’ to Bomb ISIS

Alexei Pushkov, the head of the lower house of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, told French website Europe 1 that the United States’ airstrike campaign was a failure, and the U.S. was only “pretending” to stop the advancing Islamic State.

“I think it’s the intensity that is important. The U.S.-led coalition has pretended to bomb Daesh (IS) for a year, without results,” Pushkov told Europe 1. “If you do it in a more efficient way, the results will be known,” he added.

Pushkov’s comments come days after Russia began its own airstrike campaign against IS in Syria. Russian officials have stated that they expect the campaign to last three to four months. Pushkov told Europe 1 that the U.S.-led coalition had launched more than 2,500 air strikes and had little success.

The International Business Times reported:

“Speaking at the UN in New York on 1 October, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the country would also attack other terrorist groups, including al-Nusra Front (an al-Qaeda affiliate) and ‘other terrorist groups recognised by the UN Security Council or Russian law.’

‘If it looks like a terrorist, if it acts like a terrorist, if it walks like a terrorist, if it fights like a terrorist, it’s a terrorist, right?’ Lavrov responded when asked to define what constitutes ‘other terrorist groups’.”

[RELATED: War Crimes Probe Urged After US Airstrikes Kill 22 Civilians in Kunduz Hospital]

These comments have created concern among U.S. officials that Russia may target groups who oppose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including the U.S.-funded Free Syrian Army (FSA). Pushkov said, “The main target are the Daesh groups situated closest to Damascus. We need to eliminate this group or at least neutralise it and afterwards we’ll see what Syria’s future is.”

[RELATED: Russia Says ‘Volunteers’ Likely to Fight in Syria]

According to a translation of Pushkov’s Twitter provided by Sputnik, Pushkov stated, “[Senator John] McCain accused us of striking out at US-trained insurgents… However, since they have either run away or joined al-Qaeda, hitting them is a mission impossible.”

“The US-led coalition spent a whole year pretending they were striking ISIL targets but where are the results of these strikes?” Pushkov wondered.

Sputnik also reports that a Russian defense ministry spokesman said that the Russian air force had targeted Islamic State military equipment, communication facilities, arms depots, ammunition and fuel supplies, and had done so without hitting civilian targets.

The BBC reported that Assad called the U.S.-led coalition’s air strikes “counter-productive” measures which have only spread terrorism. Assad is now calling for a coalition between Syria, Russia, Iran and Iraq must succeed “or else the whole region will be destroyed.”


House Rejects Iran Deal in Symbolic Vote

Also Plans to Vote to Forbid Obama Implementing Pact

by Jason Ditz

The House of Representatives has voted today on the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, rejecting the bill 162-249. The vote has no practical impact, as the Senate failed in a cloture vote yesterday, and subsequently will not be passing a resolution on the pact before the deadline.

The 60-day deadline for Congressional review of the deal expires on Thursday, and the House vote is yet another failure, since they failed again to get a veto-proof majority needed to override a promised presidential veto.

The House is also planning to pass another resolution which will forbid the president from lifting any sanctions on Iran until after the 2017 inauguration. This would effectively prevent the US from abiding by the Iran deal, though there has been no indication the Senate will address this attempt, and again it probably won’t get a veto-proof majority.

Beyond that, House Republicans are also talking about filing a lawsuit trying to get the court to forbid the US from complying with the Iran deal on the grounds that the White House never provided them with copies of confidential IAEA deals with Iran. This too seems a long-shot, but reflects the Congressional leaders’ determination, after losing the battle on blocking the deal, to keep trying to undermine it.

IAEA: AP’s Claims on Iran ‘Self-Inspection’ False

Amano ‘Disturbed’ by Bogus Allegations

by Jason Ditz, August 20, 2015

Wednesday’s massive scandal surrounding IAEA access to Iran’s Parchin military site, stemming entirely from an Associated Press story by George Jahn, was already falling apart by evening, with the AP cutting many of the bogus allegations from the initial story.

In the initial version, Jahn claimed the number of samples from the site would be limited to seven, and that Iranian scientists would be the ones to analyze those samples. He went on to allege that no IAEA inspectors would be allowed in Parchin at all, and that Iran would “inspect itself.”

A few hours later, the AP overwrote the initial story with one removing many of the claims. By evening, the article consisted of a single sentence accusing self-inspection, and a bunch of statements from US hawks condemning the “revelation.” This reporter was already pointing out that claim was false.

When the IAEA finally chimed in today, they confirmed as much, with IAEA Chief Amano Yukiya saying he was “disturbed” by the false claims and attempts at “misrepresentation” of the deal, saying that the IAEA actually would be given access to Parchin.

Jahn’s allegations appear to have stemmed from a claim last month that Iran would be collecting soil samples at Parchin, which the AP reporter incorrectly identified as a “nuclear site.” This part was itself misleading, but partially true given the current, admittedly limited understanding of the IAEA-Iran agreement.

Parchin is a conventional military site, and Iran is accused of having once performed explosive tests there on potential triggers for a nuclear explosion. Iran denies this too, but has provided the IAEA with access a few times in the past to Parchin.

The problem is that access to the conventional military site can quickly turn into espionage against Iran’s conventional defense forces, and much of the late discussion on the P5+1 deal centered on how Iran could provide limited, but sufficient, access to such sites.

The IAEA was never expected to get full access to Parchin, with US officials saying they wouldn’t let international inspectors have unrestricted access to their military sites either. The IAEA will be given direct access to many of the parts of the massive facility they seek, but some samples may be provided by Iran to limit inspectors’ access to classified, but perfectly legal, weapons research.

The biggest scandal remaining appears to be from the Associated Press itself, which quietly overwrote most of Jahn’s allegations, but never offered any sort of retraction, let alone any statement explaining how a series of false, unsourced claims came to be published in the first place.

Obama, Congress Dispute Renewal of Iran Sanctions Law

Obama Wants Delay in Renewal of Expiring Law

by Jason Ditz, August 12, 2015

The White House and Congress have spent so much time fighting over the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran recently, that another issue has almost completely slipped everyone’s minds. The Iran Sanctions Act  is set to expire in late 2016.

That’s set to be the new Obama vs. Congress battle, as while both sides agree the act can be extended and just ignored by the White House, to allow more ease of “snap back” sanctions against Iran in the future, the biggest hawks in Congress are hoping for a big extension, and quick, to show how much they oppose Iran.

The White House is urging caution, believing such a move would risk provocation a reaction from Iran, and an international perception that the US Congress is trying to renege on the nuclear deal, even though that vote isn’t coming until next month.

Though the Republican leadership in Congress is expected to virtually uniformly vote against the nuclear deal, it is not expected to be enough to block it. The votes on the extension of the Sanctions Act are unclear, but there is concern it will have added amendments from hawks aimed at harming the nuclear deal.

Defense Secretary: Deal Imposes No Limits on US Attacking Iran

Joint Chiefs Chairman: Attacking Iran Still a Act of War

by Jason Ditz, July 29, 2015

Once again seeking to reassure the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Iran deal won’t get in the way of a potential US attack on Iran, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter today insisted the deal provides “no limits” to US attacks, and that the US has such a “robust” amount of military force in the area they can hit anywhere in Iran at any time.

Carter has repeatedly talked up the idea of the US following on to the nuclear deal with a unilateral military strike on Iran for some unspecified reason, and presented the notion multiple times in the week after the deal’s announcement, during which he visited Israel and sought to assure them that war as still in the works.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey appeared to talk back the notion of a sudden attack, however, declaring in his own testimony that a US attack on Iran would be “an act of war,” while going to great lengths to avoid taking a position on the wisdom of launching such a war.

Dempsey and other officials also presented as part of the narrative on the deal that it makes war less likely, a talking point for the administration which doesn’t seem to be sitting well with many in Congress, for whom a massive new war is an end unto itself.

U.N. Security Council Unanimously Votes To Endorse Iran Nuclear Deal

The 15 members that make up the United Nations Security Council voted in favor of adopting a deal between Iran and major world powers that intends to limit Iran’s nuclear ability, in exchange for lifting international oil and financial sanctions.

The deal, which was called “historic” by both the European Union’s foreign policy chief and Iran’s foreign minister, was settled on Tuesday between Iran, the United States, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom after 20 months of negotiations, four target dates and three extensions.

The Hill reported that the vote “sends a strong signal of international support for the agreement,” and that some U.S. lawmakers have criticized the Obama administration for “pushing for U.N. action before Congress has a to chance to weigh in.

Reuters noted that the UN will be able to re-impose penalties “during the next decade if Tehran breaches the historic agreement” and that no sanctions relief can be implemented until the International Atomic Energy Agency “submits a report to the Security Council verifying that Iran has taken certain nuclear-related measures outlined in the agreement.”

U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power said that although the deal “does not address many of our profound concerns,” it would ultimately make the world “safer and more secure.”

Power also said that if Iran “abides by the commitments” that it agreed to in the deal, then it will find both the international community and the United States “willing to provide a path out of isolation and toward greater engagement.”

The nuclear deal, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will start lifting sanctions on Iran in 90 days, after the “respective capitals and legislatures have had a time to review the deal’s provisions,” according to Power.

While several members of Congress were irked at the fact that the U.N. Security Council was taking a vote on the nuclear deal before they had time to weigh in on it, Secretary of State John Kerry said that he felt it was their right to vote.

“I mean honestly, it’s presumptuous of some people to suspect that France, Russia, China, Germany and Britain ought to do what the Congress tells them to do,” Kerry said. “They’re individual countries and they have sovereignty. They’re members of the United Nations and they have a right to have a vote.”

Along with Republicans in Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been very critical of the nuclear deal, calling it a “historic mistake for the world,” and saying it will not stop “Iran’s aggression.”

Beginning Monday, Congress has 60 days to review the deal’s provisions before Obama can begin removing congressional sanctions. Obama has said that he will veto any congressional legislation seeking to block the agreement.

The Hill noted that President Obama, Vice President Biden and other officials have recently begun an “aggressive lobbying push to rally Democrats,” including a “rare golf outing” over the weekend between Obama and three Democratic House lawmakers.

Obama Says Reporter ‘Should Know Better’ Than To Ask About American Hostages In Iran

During a press conference on Wednesday, CBS White House correspondent Major Garrett asked President Obama why he was “content” celebrating the current deal with Iran when the release of four American hostages was not included in the provisions.

“As you well know, there are four Americans in Iran – three held on trumped up charges according to your administration, one, whereabouts unknown,” Garrett said. “Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content, with all of the fanfare around this deal to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation, unaccounted for, in relation to these four Americans?”

Obama responded, saying that he had to give Garrett credit for the way he crafted his questions.

“The notion that I am content, as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails – Major, that’s nonsense,” Obama said. “And you should know better. I’ve met with the families of some of those folks. Nobody’s content, and our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try to get them out.”

The deal, which was announced on Tuesday by Iran, the United States, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom, will limit Tehran’s nuclear ability, in exchange for lifting international oil and financial sanctions.

During Wednesday’s news conference, Obama said that he believes the deal is “our best means of assuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon,” and he welcomes a “robust debate” with the “politically motivated opposition” in Congress.

“The bottom line is this – this nuclear deal meets the national security interests of the United States and our allies,” Obama said. “It prevents the most serious threat of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. That’s why this deal makes our country safer and secure.”


Following the news conference, Garrett told CBS anchor Contessa Brewer that politicians such as President Obama have a habit of “creating straw men,” or “taking something that they feel rhetorically works to their advantage and using it.”

“My question did not suggest he was content with the captivity of those four Americans,” Garrett said. “My question was about the contentment or the satisfaction or the realization that it was necessary within the context of this deal to leave them unaccounted for was the essence of the question.”

Garrett acknowledged that his question struck a nerve with the President, and said that was his intention.

“The families of those four Americans have heard the President say he’s not content, and he will work overtime to win their eventual release,” Garrett said. “It does not appear to me to be a sideline issue in the whole context of the conversation about this Iran nuclear deal. Was it provocative? Yes. Was it intended to be as such? Absolutely.”

The 6 Most Problematic Statements In Obama’s Iran Speech

By Blake Neff

Obama gave an optimistic speech Tuesday morning, hailing a newly-reached nuclear deal with Iran as an historic accomplishment.

Many have praised the new deal, and there’s a near-universal hope in the West that it will be successful in its goal of halting Iranian nuclear ambitions. Still, many have expressed doubts about parts of the deal, and Obama’s speech glosses over areas of the deal that warrant significant scrutiny.

We’ve parsed Obama’s optimistic speech to add context:

1. “Because of this deal, inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location. Put simply, the organization responsible for the inspections, the IAEA, will have access where necessary, when necessary.”

The Associated Press acknowledges that most observers consider the inspections regime a “victory for Iran.” Any request by UN inspectors to visit an Iranian nuclear site may be contested, with the visit approved by the Joint Commission consisting of representatives from each party to the Iran deal. The approval process could be rejected, and even if approved, allows a potential window of 24 total days prior to international intervention, giving Iran significant time to conceal any violations of the deal.

2. “It’s now more than 50 years since President Kennedy stood before the American people and said, ‘Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.’ He was speaking then about the need for discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union, which led to efforts to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons.”

Even Obama’s fellow dems are wary of comparing this deal with past nuclear negotiations. David Rothkopf, CEO of the FP Group (which publishes Foreign Policy) and a Democrat until recently, has warned that relating this deal to those with the USSR is folly.

3. “As Iran takes steps to implement this deal, it will receive relief from the sanctions that we put in place because of Iran’s nuclear program … if Iran violates the deal, all of these sanctions will snap back into place.”

This “snapback” of sanctions should Iran violate the deal are a key part of the agreement, but reimposing them could be tougher in practice than in theory. As pointed out by The Wall Street Journal, there is huge interest in both the energy industry and elsewhere to invest in Iran and build substantial business operations. These groups will have strong incentives to lobby against reimposed sanctions.

Plus, as Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic argues, even if sanctions return, the idea of a true snapback is a “fiction”: “The U.S. could reimpose sanctions on Iran if Tehran cheats on the deal, but it would be reimposing these sanctions on what will be a much-richer country, one that could withstand such sanctions for quite a while.”

Rothkopf has made a similar warning, Tweeting that a snap back is an “intellectually dishonest” … “fantasy.”

4. “Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region.”

Experts, including some in the U.S. government, are already warning that, whether Iran’s nuclear capacity is restricted or not, today’s deal is unlikely to stop the ongoing race for nuclear capacity in the Middle East.

“The rhetoric isn’t changing,” one official told NBC News. He warned that major regional powers like Turkey and Egypt are skeptical of the deal and still believe Iran wants a bomb. As a result, they may try to start their own nuclear programs. Others warned that Saudi Arabia, which helped fund Pakistan’s nuclear development, could try to call in its “IOU” by asking for one of Pakistan’s bombs, or at least assistance with nuclear technology.

The only likely way the U.S. could avoid proliferation would be to make strong military guarantees for every country in the region, something experts told NBC is unlikely with the declining U.S. presence in the region.

The upshot of all this: The Iran deal might stop proliferation, but it’s hardly the sure thing Obama hopes it is.

5. “[This deal] has the full backing of the international community.”

Not true. Whatever the opinions of other leaders, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been absolutely apoplectic over the deal, calling it a “mistake of historic proportions,” and aggressively blasting it over Twitter.

6. “Because of this deal, Iran will remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges — the machines necessary to produce highly enriched uranium for a bomb — and store them under constant international supervision. Iran will not use its advanced centrifuges to produce enriched uranium for the next decade. Iran will also get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium.”

The statement is accurate, but it glosses over key concessions the U.S. has made to Iran. It’s heavy water plant at Arak (used to make plutonium) is to be redesigned to limit its weapons potential, but it won’t be dismantled. Its underground Fordow enrichment plant also remains operational, though it’s supposed to be converted to “peaceful” purposes.

Not only are facilities allowed to remain open, but Iran is allowed to continue certain nuclear research. For example, the deal allows Iran to conduct R&D on new types of centrifuges, and they only even have to seek permission if they plan to produce working prototypes for new designs they create.

Follow Blake on Twitter




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Iran, World Powers Reach Historic Nuclear Deal

After 20 months of negotiations, four target dates and three extensions, Iran, the United States, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom announced that they reached a historic deal on Tuesday that will limit Tehran’s nuclear ability, in exchange for lifting international oil and financial sanctions.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said “Today is a historic day,” and called it a great honor “for us to announce that we have reached an agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif agreed that the deal is a “historic moment,” but cautioned that it was “not perfect.” He concluded, “Today could have been the end of hope, but now we are starting a new chapter of hope.”

Addressing the deal from the White House on Tuesday morning, President Obama said it “is not built on trust, it is built on verification,” and that in addition to cutting off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon, the terms of the agreement state that Iran will remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges and will dispose of 98 percent of its stockpile of uranium. As a result, Obama said that Iran will receive “phased in sanctions relief.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told media in Vienna that although Russia and China pushed to end an arms embargo on Iran as soon as possible, “the West insisted that the embargo should stay,” the Iranians “agreed to compromise” and the embargo will be kept in place for the next five years, during which Iran will be able to import arms during that time “on the condition of the notification and the verification with the U.N. Security Council.”

Throughout the process of negotiations, the deal has faced opposition from congressional Republicans. Congress now has 60 days to review the provisions in the deal before Obama can begin removing congressional sanctions.

Obama said that he would veto any congressional legislation seeking to block the agreement and that no deal “means a greater change of more war” in the Middle East.