Solid evidence has emerged Israel spied on U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran by using a powerful virus to infiltrate computers in hotels where talks were held.
Kaspersky, a Moscow-based cybersecurity firm, discovered it had been infected by a sophisticated virus last year, reports The Wall Street Journal. The firm realized it was dealing with an advanced version of Duqu, a virus U.S. officials say Israel uses to collect especially sensitive information.
After a investigation of computers worldwide, a Kaspersky team found the virus in three luxury European hotels. They had one thing in common: hosting discussions between the U.S. and Western powers over Iran’s nuclear capabilities, a deal Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu firmly opposes.
U.S. officials accused Israel of spying on negotiations and sharing the information with members of Congress to sabotage the potential nuclear agreement earlier this year.
Israeli officials deny spying on America or other allies, reports the WSJ. The Israeli embassy said they had no addition comment in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
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This morning, Saudi-owned TV news network Al-Arabiya reported that Iran had seized a US cargo ship traveling through the Strait of Hormuz and detained 34 Americans found onboard. Said the report, “Iran has fired at a US cargo ship and has directed it to Bandar Abbas port on the southern coast of Iran… Up to 34 American sailors are believed to be onboard the ship.”
However, the report was immediately contradicted by US officials at the Pentagon. According to Reuters, a Pentagon spokesperson said that the ship in question, the MV Maersk Tigris, bore a flag representing the Republic of the Marshall Islands and that no US citizens were onboard the vessel. Iranian officials have yet to comment on the incident. Politico pointed out the fact that the Marshall Islands vessel is being monitored by US maritime patrol aircraft and that US officials have dispatched the destroyer USS Farragut to the nearest possible location to the incident. A Pentagon official told The Boston Herald that the US has “certain obligations” to protect ships from the Marshall Islands, but that it is not yet known how those obligations might relate to this still-developing story.
A 2003 BBC profile on Al-Arabiya noted that, “Al-Arabiya was launched… with an investment of $300m by the Saudi-controlled pan-Arab satellite TV pioneer MBC, Lebanon’s Hariri Group, and other investors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states. It was set up as an all-news channel to compete directly with Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV.”
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been tempestuous lately, as Sunni superpower Saudi Arabia and Shia-majority Iran have been locking horns in what has been referred to as a proxy war in neighboring Yemen, with Saudi Arabia intervening directly and Iran allegedly funding a local uprising of Houthi rebels.
Though Saudi Arabia is a US ally, former US Senator Bob Graham (R-FL) and current US Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) recently told BenSwann.com‘s Joshua Cook in two different exclusive interviews that there are 28 classified pages from the 9/11 report that contain evidence potentially implicating a US ally, implied to be Saudi Arabia, in funding the 9/11 attacks. Saudi Arabia recently denied allegations that it participated in funding the 9/11 attacks in response to a recently-filed lawsuit by 9/11 victims’ families.
A recent poll found that 61 percent of Americans approve of the framework of President Obama’s agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program, while 34 percent oppose it, and that 65 percent of Americans do not want Congress to interfere with the agreement, while only 30 percent want Congress to block it before it is implemented.
The poll, which was conducted by Hart Research at the request of the group Americans United for Change, surveyed 806 registered voters in the United States, using both landline and cell phones, from April 6 to April 8.
The results indicated that 34 percent of the Americans surveyed oppose, and 61 percent favor the framework of the deal surrounding Iran’s nuclear program that was reached on April 2, between the US, Iran, and five other major powers: China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom. Out of the Americans who said they favored the deal, 28 percent strongly favor it, and 33 percent somewhat favor it.
The participants were asked to respond to a statement that summed up the framework of the deal, which said that over the next 10 to 25 years, it would “prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon,” place limits on “the level to which Iran can enrich uranium to far below what is necessary to make a nuclear weapon,” and it would significantly reduce Iran’s “uranium and plutonium production capabilities.” The deal would result in Iran submitting to “intrusive, short-notice inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency,” and in exchange, Iran would receive “gradual relief from US and international economic sanctions, as long as it complies with the terms of the agreement.”
81 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of Independents and 41 percent of Republicans favored the statement above. In contrast, 16 percent of Democrats, 35 percent of Independents and 52 percent of Republicans opposed the statement.
The survey found that according to voters, the most important parts of the deal are the provisions on inspection and verification. 69 percent of respondents favored the provision of the agreement that “allows for intrusive, short-notice inspections and monitoring of Iran’s compliance with the agreement by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and would result in expanded access to Iranian sites by international inspectors,” and 74 percent of respondents favored the provision that states that if Iran violates the agreement, “inspectors will find out, and decisive action against Iran – including strong international economic sanctions – can be taken quickly.”
65 percent of voters said that they do not want Congress to interfere with the agreement, and they would rather Congress “allow the agreement to go forward and closely monitor its implementation,” while 30 percent of voters said they wanted Congress to block the agreement now, before it is implemented.
82 percent of Democrats, 64 percent of Independents, and 47 percent of Republicans want Congress to let the deal go through, while 15 percent of Democrats, 27 percent of Independents and 48 percent of Republicans want Congress to step in and block the deal.
The results of the poll noted that voters continued to support the agreement, even after “hearing what opponents and supporters say about it,” which demonstrated an “important degree of durability and depth to the support measured in earlier questions.”
Remember that big disastrous US war in the Middle East and how officials at the time were assuring us it’d only take a few days? Sen. Tom Cotton (R – AR) remembers how popular those quick easy wars were in theory, and is pushing for one again.
Sen. Cotton is citing the mostly forgotten December 1998 US war on Iraq as the model, saying the US won after several days of attacking Iraq for “disobeying Security Council resolutions.”
The reason the war is mostly forgotten is because it killed a couple thousand people, didn’t resolve anything, and was just a brief escalation amid sanctions that killed far, far more.
The US attacked Iraq falsely in 1998 over WMDs, then kept harping about it for four and a half more years until the 2003 invasion and occupation, which was similarly launched over false claims of WMDs. It hardly seems a model for anything, though Cotton is keen for Obama to follow the example of Bill Clinton and kill a couple thousand people in Iran just to show how serious the US is.
As Rand Paul prepares to announce his run for the Republican nomination for president, his foes representing the neoconservative wing of the Grand Old Party are scrambling in an effort to hamstring his charge to the White House. Bloomberg is reporting that Rick Reed, head of 501(c)(4) group The Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, just released a television ad, seen above, which aims to portray Senator Paul as weak on foreign policy. The commercial, which features a mushroom cloud from a nuclear attack, seems to imply that a Rand Paul presidency would lead to a near-future in which Iran suddenly obtains intercontinental ballistic missile technology, develops a nuclear warhead, and unleashes a nuclear attack.
Said Reed in comments to Bloomberg, “Paul supports more negotiations with Iran while standing against more sanctions that would hold the Iranian regime accountable. That’s not a conservative position, that’s Obama’s position… His longstanding position on Iran and his agreement with Obama on Iran calls into question his judgment.”
Rick Reed’s bio on Townhall notes that he has “written and produced the advertising for Senator Lindsey Graham (SC).” Graham, a foreign policy hawk, said on Sunday’s episode of CBS News‘ Face the Nation that “everybody on our side, except maybe Rand Paul, could do better” than Obama at dealing with Iran. Reed made waves in 2004 as the architect of the “Swiftboat Veterans for Truth” ad campaign that challenged Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s Vietnam War service record in an effort to oppose his candidacy.
Paul spokesman Doug Stafford described the Senator’s position on Iran in comments to Bloomberg, “Senator Paul will be watching closely and believes any deal must make clear Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon, allows for full verification and is approved by Congress. He voted for sanctions both times they were put before Congress and believes only Congress should remove those sanctions.”
On February 26, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that Iran currently has no nuclear weapons program and that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomenei ended the nation’s nuclear weapons program in 2003. He said that Iran “wants to preserve options across the capabilities it would take to build [a nuclear weapon], but right now they don’t have one, and have not made that decision.”
On Monday, President Obama defended the framework of the deal surrounding Iran’s nuclear program that was reached on Thursday between the United States, Iran, and five other major powers: China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom. He also addressed Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s concerns regarding how forming a nuclear deal with Iran will affect Israel.
In an interview with Steve Inskeep, the host of NPR’s Morning Edition, Obama defended his pending deal with Iran, saying that he believes it is “the right thing to do for the United States, for our allies in the region and for world peace regardless of the nature of the Iranian regime.”
Obama said that his goal when he came into office was to “make sure that Iran did not get a nuclear weapon and thereby trigger a nuclear arms race in the most volatile part of the world.” He explained that while ideally Iran would see sanctions reduced and would start focusing on its economy, it has provided assurance that it is “peaceful in nature” thus far.
“We’re now in a position where Iran has agreed to unprecedented inspections and verifications of its program, providing assurances that it is peaceful in nature,” Obama said. “You have them rolling back a number of pathways that they currently have available to break out and get a nuclear weapon. You have assurances that their stockpile of highly enriched uranium remains in a place where they cannot create a nuclear weapon.”
Obama noted that, if the deal is agreed to, the US is “purchasing for 13, 14, 15 years assurances that the breakout is at least a year,” meaning that if Iran decides to break the deal, the US will have over a year to respond.
“It’s a hard argument to make that we’re better off right now having almost no breakout period, no insight, and letting them rush towards a bomb, than saying, over the course of 15 years, we have very clear assurances that they’re not going to do anything,” Obama said.
Regarding how nuclear negotiations with Iran have affected Israel, Obama said that while the idea of pushing Iran to recognize Israel is not unreasonable, he doesn’t feel that applying more pressure will lead to a better deal, which he said is the logic Netanyahu has put forth.
“So there’s still going to be a whole host of differences between us and Iran, and one of the most profound ones is the vile, anti-Semitic statements that have often come out of the highest levels of the Iranian regime,” Obama said. “But the notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons, in a verifiable deal, on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms. And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.”
Obama went on to say that he thinks it is “important to recognize that there are a whole host of countries in the Middle East that don’t yet recognize Israel,” and that the most important thing for Israel to keep in mind is that they have America, “the world’s most powerful country” to defend them.
While the White House is working to convince US lawmakers to accept the framework of the deal, Reuters noted that Iran’s negotiators have interpreted the outline differently, and have said, “Sanctions would be lifted immediately once an accord is signed.”
During a press conference on Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that sanctions would not be lifted immediately, and that there would have to be “sustained compliance” from Iran.
“It has never been our position that all of the sanctions against Iran should be removed from day one,” Earnest said. “That is their position, but it’s not one that we agree with.”
Declaring their war against the Houthis of Yemen last week, Saudi Arabia has presented the conflict as a sort of noble intervention, aiming to displace an Iranian proxy from power in favor of the internationally accepted, if not legitimately elected, President Hadi.
Yet the history of the Houthis shows that, far from an invention of Iran, their origins were entirely domestic in nature, a backlash against the political corruption that has defined the nation for decades. WikiLeaks documents from the US State Department underscore this history.
The Houthi movement has its origins in the 1993 parliamentary elections. Longtime dicator Ali Abdullah Saleh’s GPC party won a plurality, but in trying to ensure a weakened opposition Saleh negotiated a deal with Hussein al-Houthi, a powerful member of the opposition al-Haq Party. Houthi was to distance himself from Haq and back the GPC in return for support from the ruling party.
Houthi did as he was asked, and was stabbed in the back in the 1997 election, when Saleh’s office heavily campaigned against him, costing him his seat in parliament. Out of office, Hussein decided to travel abroad to complete his doctorate.
He returned in 2001, and quickly became an influential religious leader, aiming to unite the various independent clerics of Zaidi Shi’ism under a single banner. Successful in this, he began publicly condemning Saleh as a US puppet, while harshly condemning the US invasion of Iraq.
By 2004, the Yemeni military was moving against Houthi and his followers, and Hussein was killed on September 10, 2004, putting a temporary end to hostilities.
Hussein’s father, Badr al-Din Houthi started an uprising in 2005, and his brother Abdul Malik Houthi started an even bigger one in 2007. Their demands centered around equal treatment for their homeland, around Sadaa, which always got the short end of infrastructure investment.
By 2009 the region was in full-scale war, with Saleh vowing to defund public schools and all other basic social spending to pay for weapons to wipe the Houthis out.
Saleh often accused the Houthis of being an Iran proxy, though the US State Department confirmed that this was not the case, and indeed that the Houthis were arming themselves almost entirely through the black market, and purchase of arms from the Yemeni military itself.
With interests largely domestic (and often not even nationwide) and religion never more than tangentially related to their ideology, the Houthis never made sense as allies to Iran. The Zaidi brand of Shi’a Islam isn’t even particularly close to Iran’s own version, and Hussein Houthi’s opposition to the Iraq War, which benefited Iran greatly, reflects how very different the two are.
The Houthis were largely defeated in 2009, though they began to reassert themselves in 2011 during the Arab Spring. This was temporarily calmed by the 2012 ouster of Saleh and his replacement, in a single candidate “vote,” by General Hadi.
Hadi followed through on attempts to weaken the Houthis by implanting Sunni Islamist factions into the Sadaa area, which led to another war in 2014. This time, the Houthis won outright, and marched on the capital city of Sanaa. Here too, they were victorious.
The takeover of the capital set the stage for on-again, off-again battles with Hadi, and the Houthis were pushing heavily for constitutional reforms and free elections, a point on which Hadi resigned in January of 2015.
His resignation lasted a few weeks, then Hadi declared himself unresigned, moving to Aden and vowing to take the country. When the Houthis routed him yet again, Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia, and courted their military intervention to ensure his rule.
Never has serious evidence of Iranian involvement been seen, and the new claims that loyalists to Saleh are fighting alongside the Houthis are strange indeed, given their history of acrimony.
If Iran gets involved in the Houthi-Saudi war at all, it is because of their regional rivalry with the Saudis, as both sides are keen to wound the other when the opportunity presents itself. To this day, however, the Houthis maintain they have no ties with Iran, and intend to defend the country by themselves.
Following a report that claimed Israel spied on nuclear negotiations between the United States and Iran, and then gave the stolen classified information to Congressional Republicans, both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US House Speaker John Boehner have denied the allegations.
On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that according to both current and former senior White House officials, Israel has been spying on private nuclear negotiations between Washington, Tehran and other major powers.
According to the anonymous officials, the spying operation, which included “information from confidential U.S. briefings, informants and diplomatic contacts in Europe,” was part of Israel’s larger campaign to “penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal.”
The officials told the Wall Street Journal that the White House wasn’t as concerned about the fact that Israel spied on the negotiations, as it was about the fact that Israel then shared the stolen classified information with US lawmakers, in order to “drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program.”
On Tuesday, Mark Regev, a spokesman for Netanyahu, told WND that the Prime Minister “unequivocally and totally” denies the allegations. “This is a story by uncited, anonymous sources and doesn’t have an ounce of truth to it,” Regev said.
Boehner, who was responsible for breaking protocol and inviting Netanyahu to speak to Congress on March 3 about nuclear negotiations with Iran without first notifying the White House, is expected to visit Israel at the end of March on a Republican congressional delegation. He addressed the report on Tuesday, and said that he was “baffled” by it.
“Frankly I was a bit shocked, because, there was no information revealed to me whatsoever.” Boehner said. “I’m not sure what the information was, but I’m baffled by it.”
Though there was no formal announcement of any policy change accompanying it, the latest Worldwide Threat Assessment, issued by the office of the Director of National Intelligence, conspicuously did not list either Iran or Hezbollah as terrorist threats to the United States.
The 2014 report declared both were direct threats to the US and its allies, and Iran had been given an entire segment of the terrorism section in the previous years.
This year, the assessment on Iran praised the nation for its attempts to “dampen sectarianism” and to “deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia,” though they did warn that Iranian attempts to protect regional Shi’ites risked fueling a secfarian backlash against them.
Israeli officials said they believe the move is the result of a US shift toward a war with ISIS, against whom both Iran and Hezbollah are already fighting. Despite not being included in the threat assessment, Iran is still listed as a state-supporter of terrorism by the US State Department.
Washington DC- It is a story that few Americans have heard anything about. About 60,000 non-Jewish African migrants who have come to Israel since 2010 seeking asylum, have come under violent attacks and degrading situations.
Israeli filmmaker David Sheen has authored a U.N. report on the plight of these non-Jewish African migrants and the conditions they have been forced into since coming to Israel. He has now just finished a documentary on the matter.
He speaks with Ben Swann in about this story in an interview you won’t see anywhere else.
With progress having been made on the Iran negotiations, Republican Senators opposed to a deal have been threatening the administration left and right over it. Today, they took a different tack, issuing an open letter to Iran, warning them against the deal on the grounds that they’re just going to sabotage it in the future.
The letter was pushed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R – AR) and signed by 47 senators. Surprisingly, this included Sen. Rand Paul (R – KY), who had previously expressed opposition to Congressional attempts to sabotage the negotiations.
Just a month ago, Sen. Paul had admonished the Senate against standing in the way of negotiations in good faith. Now, with Iran a key issue in the upcoming presidential primaries, he seems to be wavering on the matter, and towing the party line.
Whether Zarif’s comments reflect the view of the entire Iranian government remains to be seen, however, and opposition from US hawks, and a threat to sabotage the deal, should only add to the calls from Iran’s own right-wing to ditch the negotiations on the grounds that the US can’t be trusted to keep its bargains.
The argument has been pushed for a long time by Iran’s Conservative parliamentarians, who have been averse to the deal. With US Republicans now confirming as much, and explicitly writing a letter saying they can’t be trusted to keep any deals reached by Obama, the talks will surely suffer at least somewhat.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today gave a speech to Congress that was remarkably similar to yesterday’s speech at AIPAC, complete with the attempts to liken Iran to Nazi Germany, and the demands to abandon the ongoing nuclear talks in favor of forcing Iran into a “better deal” through unspecified means.
Netanyahu declared that Iran is “busy gobbling up nations,” and has its eyes on subjugating the whole world. It should be noted, of course, Iran has exactly three allied nation-states, and the only recent one is neighboring Iraq, which has become close to Iran since the US installed a Shi’ite government there in the 2003 invasion/occupation.
While railing against Iran’s “march of conquest,” Netanyahu declared the nation “will always be an enemy of America,” and that the ongoing nuclear talks would ensure Iran would have nuclear arms.
Netanyahu went on with a falsehood-laden speech by claiming Ayatollah Khamenei tweeted, in English, for Israel to be “annihilated.” A quick survey of Khamenei’s tweets reveal, by contrast, that his tweets on Israel included: calling on all Christians, Jews, and Muslims to unite in criticizing Israeli war crimes, quoting Nelson Mandela calling for Palestinian self-determination, and in a direct response to the question of how to “eliminate” Israel, calling for a referendum among all people of all religions living there to form a new government, while explicitly saying Iran opposes military action against Israel.
While the speech was boycotted by a number of Congressional Democrats (58 by most counts), there was little White House response to the speech itself, while hawks all cheered Netanyahu’s statesmanship.
The administration seemed to be betting that saying Obama didn’t intend to even watch Netanyahu’s speech would be sufficient, and having done that seems content to once again let an Israeli leader dictate US policy without serious response.
House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress about nuclear negotiations with Iran has created controversy, due to the fact that it was extended without the knowledge of the White House. Despite the lack of protocol, Netanyahu’s speech is scheduled to take place on Tuesday.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, and he said that the White House does not want to see Netanyahu’s visit turned into “some great political football.”
While Kerry said that Netanyahu is welcome to speak in the United States, he admitted that the fact that the negotiations surrounding the visit went through the speaker of the House, instead of the White House was odd.
“We don’t want to see this turned into some great political football,” Kerry said. “Obviously, it was odd, if not unique, that we learned of it from the speaker of the House and that an administration was not included in this process.”
Kerry maintained that the Obama administration was “not seeking to politicize” Netanyahu’s visit, and claimed that the U.S. and Israel have the same goal in mind, which is trying to “prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”
Regarding comments from Iran about whether Netanyahu’s speech serves Iran’s interests, Kerry said he is not going to play the game of “walking into a debate about Iranian propaganda with respect to this visit,” and he emphasized the “unparalleled close security relationship” the U.S. has with Israel.
On Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner appeared on CBS’s Face The Nation. Although he was the one who invited Netanyahu to address Congress without notifying the White House, Boehner claimed that it is the White House’s response that has hurt relations between the U.S. and Israel.
“What I do wonder is why the White House feels threatened because the Congress wants to support Israel and wants to hear what a trusted ally has to say,” Boehner said. “It has been, frankly, remarkable to me to – the extent to which, over the last five or six weeks, the White House has attacked the prime minister, attacked me for wanting to hear from one of our closest allies.”
On Saturday, Politico reported that the number of Democrats who have pledged to boycott Netanyahu’s speech has risen to 30, with many of the members coming from the Congressional Black Caucus and claiming that Netanyahu’s visit without Obama’s consent is both an insult and a breach of protocol.
In 2012, Netanyahu declared Iran was a year away from nuclear weapons. Remember the iconic photo of Netanyahu at the UN with the ridiculous cartoon bomb? Weeks later Mossad shared information with the South African government that contradicted the claim, said Iran wasn’t even attempting to produce nuclear arms, and had never tried to enrich any uranium to anywhere near weapons grade.
Of course we knew all that long before Netanyahu made the claim. It seems like Mossad knew it too, but Netanyahu wasn’t going to let facts get in the way of a good speech.
Israel Stole South African Missile Technology Story: al-Jazeera
In 2010, documents reveal, Israel acquired stolen South African anti-tank missile plans. South African intelligence helped to cover up the theft, and kept prosecutors from releasing information about Israeli involvement when charging the thieves.
South African officials told reporters at the time that Israel had been approached but “was not interested.” The leak shows that not only was Israel interested, it bought the blueprints and Mossad got ahold of them. Mossad agreed to return the plans after they were caught, but only on the condition that Israeli middlemen involved would not be charged.
After the 2008-09 Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip, Judge Richard Goldstone was charged with investigating and reporting on the war crimes therein. You may remember this, as Israeli officials threatened the UN over the report and accused Goldstone, a South African Jew, of being an anti-semite.
South African cables report that even though Abbas did not, and indeed could not, publicly take a stand, he was privately lobbying against the Goldstone Report, fearing Israel would use it as an excuse to kill the peace process, and also fearing that pointing out war crimes committed against Hamas territory would strengthen Hamas’ bargaining position.
Iran Is No Threat to South Africa, But US Still Forced Them to Monitor Iranian Dealings Stories: al-Jazeera, The Guardian
Even though South African intelligence openly confirmed Iran posed no “discernible threat” to South African interests, Heavy US pressure forced them to follow through on dubious sanctions, and to dedicate huge amounts of resources to spying on every Iranian diplomat in the nation, as well as a large number of ethnic Persians.
Years of investigations turned up very little, and ended with the conclusion that Iran must not consider Africa a high priority.
CIA Tries to Get Access to Hamas Story: The Guardian
Even though the US government had banned all contact with Hamas, the CIA sought South African help in establishing contact with Hamas, asking the South African SSA to assist them in gaining access.
MI6 Blocked a South African Company’s Deal With an Iranian Petrochemical Company Story: The Guardian
South African company Electric Resistance Furnaces (ERFCO) was blocked from a contract with an Iranian petrochemical company by British MI6, which claimed the company was trying to buy equipment for rocket production. ERFCO was never given evidence that the company was doing anything illegal, but was heavily pressured by British intelligence to stop the deals, which they did.
Al Jazeera, a news broadcasting agency owned by the government of Qatar, has reported they have obtained hundreds of confidential and hidden documents, which the agency are calling the “Spy Cables.”
The report from Al Jazeera announcing the cables says the documents offer “an unprecedented insight into operational dealings of the shadowy and highly politicised realm of global espionage.” Al Jazeera also says they will release the documents over the next couple of days alongside the newspaper the Guardian.
The leaked documents, according to the Business Insider, come from many government agencies around the world, including Russia’s FSB, South Africa’s SSA, Britain’s MI6, and others. Documents from any American intelligence agencies though seem to be absent from the Spy Cables.
Even though documents from American intelligence agencies are not included, some of the documents point to the CIA working in correspondence with South Africa’s SSA agency. The documents also allegedly say the CIA had attempted to contact the group HAMAS, even though the U.S. government has labeled the group a terrorist organization.
Other documents say MI6 had attempted to recruit a spy in North Korea with the help of the South African government. MI6 reportedly met with a North Korean man and offered him an “undisclosed amount of money” for the man’s cooperation in a “long term clandestine operation.”
Another document claims Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu had exaggerated Iran’s nuclear production levels in a 2012 declaration made in front of the UN. A secret Mossad document released in the leak, however, says Iran was not at the time “performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.”
Al Jazeera writes they will only publish documents which they believe serve the public interest. They also write, “We believe it is important to achieve greater transparency in the field of intelligence…. Publishing these documents, including operational and tradecraft details, is a necessary contribution to a greater public scrutiny of their activities.”
More leaked documents will be released in the next few days on Al Jazeera and the Guardian.
WASHINGTON—February 15, 2015 – When Naghmeh Abedini married her husband Saeed in Iran, she never dreamed she would raise their future children as a single mother in Boise, Idaho, while her husband languished for years in an Iranian prison.
A native of Iran, Naghmeh and her family left when she was nine years old and spent a year in California before relocating to Boise. Her father was educated in the United States and obtained his master’s degree at Oregon State University prior to taking his family out of Iran. “He had a green card,” says Naghmeh, “We were not refugees.”
The real reason they left Iran, however, was due to the radicalization of their Muslim faith in the school system. “My brother was being brainwashed in elementary school,” says Naghmeh, “They started war recruiting for Jihad when he was eight years old.” Students were told that if they died for the cause they would “get to meet God.” They were forced to run through active mine fields as a school exercise. The land mines would occasionally detonate. “The government arrested any parents who complained,” says Naghmeh, “So our parents quietly packed up and left.”
Her parents were unhappy with the school system in California, also, and hoped a move to a smaller city would help preserve their culture and Muslim faith. Within ten years in Boise, however, both of Naghmeh’s parents, along with herself, her brother, and a sister had converted to Christianity.
In 2001, Naghmeh spent a year in Iran. Just before she returned to Boise, her cousin invited her to a government-approved Christian church service. She heard Saeed Abedini speak and was intrigued by his passion, so she introduced herself and asked him if he would watch out for her cousins. Later, she learned that Saeed was a pastor and a leader of the growing house church movement. He was also a former Muslim who once desired to kill Christians, but he converted in 2000. When she returned to Iran in 2003 for another visit, the sparks flew between them. He proposed marriage in June of that year, and they were married in Iran the following June in a government-sanctioned Christian church.
The Abedini’s life together in Iran was cut short when the country experienced a regime change in 2005 and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rose to power. Known for his religious hardline stances, Ahmadinejad was a main figure in the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran party, usually shortened to Abadgaran and widely regarded as the political front for the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (Revolutionary Guards.) The latter group was designated as a terrorist organization by the United States in 2007.
After Ahmadinejad was elected, the church the Abedinis married in was forced to close, as were other Christian churches in Iran, despite current law allowing the peaceful gathering of religious minorities. Overnight, Christians were seemingly not welcome or tolerated in the country, so the couple moved together to Boise. Their daughter Rebekka was born in 2006 and their son Jacob arrived in 2008, the same year Saeed became an ordained minister through the American Evangelistic Association.
In 2009, the entire family decided to visit Iran together and see Saeed’s family, as it had been four years since he had seen his parents who had yet to meet their grandchildren. When the Boise-based Abedini family arrived at the airport to fly home to Idaho, Saeed was arrested by Iranian intelligence police. “Please leave Iran,” Saeed told his wife and children, “It will make it easier on me.”
Saeed was placed on house arrest for a month in his parents’ home while investigators determined whether or not he was still establishing Christian church groups. Before he was released, the police advised him to focus on humanitarian efforts—a move that inspired Saeed to use his grandfather’s land and an existing building to open an orphanage in the Iranian city of Rasht.
Back in Idaho, Saeed began a three-year process riddled with paperwork hurdles and setbacks in an attempt to open the orphanage he envisioned. He visited Iran ten more times in an effort to complete the approval process for the orphanage. Naghmeh, Rebekah, and Jacob joined him in October 2011, as the Abedinis were convinced that the orphanage was close to being opened. “We really wanted our kids to be able to meet the orphans,” Naghmeh recalls. However, by February 2012, the approval was still pending. The Abedinis returned to Boise once more. Four months later, Saeed traveled to Iran to finish the orphanage once and for all. “That was the last time I saw him,” says Naghmeh.
He was due to return to Boise on July 29. However, on July 27, Saeed was arrested on a bus in Turkey after looking at land in Georgia. He was placed under house arrest once again. The Iranian government seized his U.S. Passport and he was questioned for months about his activities, without being charged with a crime.
He thought he would be able to resolve his detainment with one last interrogation, scheduled for September 26 at a location to be determined by a 9:00 a.m. phone call that same day. However, Revolutionary Guards forces raided his parents’ house in Tehran at 6:00 a.m. and took Saeed to an unknown location. Four days later, it was revealed that he was in solitary confinement at the notorious Evin Prison. Saeed was accused of “corrupting a whole generation against Islam,” a reference to his pre-Revolution house church activities.
Saeed was charged with undermining the national security of Iran. At his trial on January 21, 2013, Saeed and his attorney were only given one day to make their defense. He was convicted by Judge Pir-Abassi of Branch 26 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, and sentenced a week later to eight years in prison. Revolutionary Court trials are not public, there is no jury, and a single judge decides the cases—which are final and not eligible for appeal. Details about court proceedings are revealed at the sole discretion of the court. The government says it will release Saeed if he converts back to Islam, but he refuses.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is representing Naghmeh and her children. “This is a real travesty—a mockery of justice,” said ACLJ’s Executive Director Jordan Sekulow. “From the very beginning, Iranian authorities have lied about all aspects of this case, even releasing rumors of his expected release. Iran has not only abused its own laws, it has trampled on the fundamentals of human rights.”
Saeed Abedini has been reportedly beaten and tortured during his incarceration and is now housed in the Rajaei Shahr prison in Karaj, his sudden move a possible indication of defiance toward President Hassan Rouhani by the Revolutionary Guard. Saeed is denied any electronic or voice communications with the outside world, but his parents visit him almost weekly, bring him letters from home, and send his letters out—including one to President Obama just before this year’s National Prayer Breakfast.
Naghmeh is hopeful due to extensive support from Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, as well as remarks made by President Obama, that her husband’s release will be secured during upcoming negotiations with Iran. “We’re in a good place,” she says, “If Iran wants to make a deal, I want to make sure Saeed is not left behind.”
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was revealed to have conducted secret surveillance of Americans’ phone calls overseas, in an operation that was totally separate from the already publicized NSA program.
The Justice Department revealed the secret database in a criminal case this week, saying the DEA had been collecting information about Americans who were making calls to “certain countries” that they’d linked to drug trafficking.
The scope of the program remains uncertain, as only its base existence was revealed in the case, and the fact that Iran was one of the countries targeted in the program.
The program was active for years, though the Justice Department claims they ended the program in September of 2013. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D – VT) is pressing for additional information on the scheme.
Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter was finally formally nominated to replace Chuck Hagel as the head of the Defense Department today, after days of speculation.
Carter was the fallback nominee after several people reported as top choices of President Obama all publicly rejected the post. Though Senate Republicans are backing Carter as a choice, his status as the only person who would take the job is likely to undermine his authority.
Carter had been seen as a potential candidate when Hagel was selected, and left office shortly thereafter. He is seen as a fairly straightforward hawk, and in 2006 he pushed for the Bush Administration to attack North Korea over its nuclear program.
At the time, Carter even conceded that the attacks risked starting a major war on the peninsula that would lead to tens of thousands of deaths, but insisted it would “be worth it” to destroy North Korea’s nuclear plant.
In a statement today Jundallah, a high-profile Balochistan-based Islamist faction, announced that it is pledging loyalty to ISIS, and will back “whatever plans they have” going forward. The move follows reports from the Associated Press last week that the group’s leadership was meeting with ISIS members.
Jundallah is primarily a Balochistan separatist group, active in both Pakistan’s far west and in southeastern Iran. In recent years, the group’s attacks have mostly centered on Iran, and there is evidence they have been backed by Israel’s Mossad in doing so.
Jundallah was originally an ally of al-Qaeda, but had a falling out with them in 2003. The group then started getting funding from what they claimed were CIA agents, and there was ample evidence at the time that it was the US funding them.
It did not turn out to be the case, however. Rather, Jundallah was being funding in US currency by men with US passports who were actually Israeli spies, in what was seen as an attempt to frame the US for the backing of terror attacks inside Iran.
Foreign Policy reported Israel’s relationship with Jundallah continued to roil the Bush administration until the day it left office, and that it also ‘jeopardized’ US ties with Pakistan, another nation Jundallah was active in at the time.
Though Bush-era officials vowed to ‘take the gloves off’ with Israel over the incident, no public retaliation was even taken, which officials attributed to “political and bureaucratic inertia.”
Jundallah’s leadership at the time was captured by Iran, and was executed for committing terrorist attacks on Shi’ite mosques in Iranian Sistan-Balochistan. Exactly how big the group is anymore is unclear, but their profile is clearly much smaller than it was 5 years ago.
Still, their joining hands with ISIS gives ISIS a much higher profile in Pakistan, particularly in Balochistan, where reports are emerging from Jang of slogans in support of ISIS across Balochistan, and that the October 13 report prepared by the Baluchistan home department and sent to the federal security agencies had claimed a significant increase in ISIS activity in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan.
An unlikely fellowship may sprout between the U.S. and Iran as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has shown support for U.S. military intervention against ISIS in the Middle-East.
Iran’s foreign ministry official said, according to the BBC, Iran would not co-operate with the U.S. against the Islamic State, but the Ayatollah has authorized his top military commander to work with U.S., Iraqi, and Kurdish military forces to bring a stop to ISIS in the Middle-East.
This comes days after reports saying the Iraqi town of Amerli, which was under ISIS control, was liberated by a coalition of U.S., Iraqi, and Iranian military forces. The U.S. provided air power, performing airstrikes throughout the town, while Iraqi and Iranian militiamen liberated the town on foot. Iraqi President Faud Masum confirmed this according to CNN.
As the Economist points out, the militias are not Iranian military forces as we might think of them. These Iranian militiamen are not directly linked to the Iranian government, but they are either members of the al-Quds, a clandestine arm of Iran’s revolutionary guard, or they are followers of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who is considered one of the most central religious and political leaders in Iraq.
Al-Sadr is the leader of the Sadrist Movement and had served on many political councils in Iraq. He had issued a warning to ISIS in June, 2014, saying he and his forces would, “shake the ground under the feet of ignorance and extremism,” according to NBC News.
Shia militias in Iraq are not a new thing as they fought American forces in Iraq when America invaded the country in 2003. However, now these militiamen seem to be aligning themselves with Western forces in the area to fight the threat of ISIS.
Support from Iran against ISIS should come as no surprise given Iran follows the Shia sect of Islam, while ISIS follows the Sunni sect which views Shia Islam as heretical.