Saturday, April 04, 2015

Tikrit: from IS frying pan to Iranian fire

From Reuters, 3 April 2015:

A vehicle belonging to Shi’ite militia fighters pulls the body of an Islamic State fighter, who was killed during clashes with Iraqi forces, in Tikrit April 1, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer 

On April 1, the city of Tikrit was liberated from the extremist group Islamic State. The Shi'ite-led central government and allied militias, after a month-long battle, had expelled the barbarous Sunni radicals. 

Then, some of the liberators took revenge.

Near the charred, bullet-scarred government headquarters, two federal policemen flanked a suspected Islamic State fighter. Urged on by a furious mob, the two officers took out knives and repeatedly stabbed the man in the neck and slit his throat. The killing was witnessed by two Reuters correspondents.  

...Since its recapture two days ago, the Sunni city of Tikrit has been the scene of violence and looting. In addition to the killing of the extremist combatant, Reuters correspondents also saw a convoy of Shi'ite paramilitary fighters – the government's partners in liberating the city – drag a corpse through the streets behind their car.

Local officials said the mayhem continues. Two security officers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Friday that dozens of homes had been torched in the city. They added that they had witnessed the looting of stores by Shi'ite militiamen.

Later Friday, Ahmed al-Kraim, head of the Salahuddin Provincial Council, told Reuters that mobs had burned down "hundreds of houses" and looted shops over the past two days. Government security forces, he said, were afraid to confront the mobs. Kraim said he left the city late Friday afternoon because the situation was spinning out of control.

"Our city was burnt in front of our eyes. We can't control what is going on," Kraim said.

...It wasn't supposed to be this way. Islamic State, an Al Qaeda offshoot that arose from the chaos in Iraq and Syria, slaughtered thousands and seized much of northern and central Iraq last year. The government offensive was meant not only to dislodge the group but also to transcend the fundamental divide in fractured Iraq: the enmity between the now-ruling Shi'ite majority and the country's formerly dominant Sunni minority.

Officials close to Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, a moderate Shi'ite, had described the Tikrit campaign as a chance to demonstrate his government's independence from one source of its power: Iraqi Shi'ite militias backed by Shi'ite Iran and advised by Iranian military officers. Sunnis deeply mistrust and fear these paramilitaries, accusing them of summary executions and vandalism. But Abadi has had to rely on the Shi'ite militias on the battlefield, as Iraq's regular military deserted en masse last summer in the Islamic State onslaught.

The militia groups spearheaded the start of the Tikrit assault in early March. But after two weeks of fighting, Abadi enforced a pause. Asserting his power over the Shi'ite militias, he called in U.S. airstrikes.

Now, the looting and violence in Tikrit threaten to tarnish Abadi's victory. It risks signaling to Sunni Iraqis that the central government is weak and not trustworthy enough to recapture other territory held by Islamic State, including the much larger city of Mosul. Tikrit, hometown of the late dictator Saddam Hussein, is in the Sunni heartland of Iraq. 

At stake is much more than future votes: Islamic State's rapid conquests in 2014 were made possible by support from Sunni tribal forces and ordinary citizens. They were convinced that the government – under Abadi's predecessor, Nuri al-Maliki – viewed their community as terrorists. If Sunnis dislike what they see in Tikrit, they may not back the government's efforts against Islamic State.


Passions were running high among the Shi'ite militia groups before the assault. Islamic State beheaded people and carried out other atrocities in the lands it conquered. In particular, the militias wanted revenge for Islamic State's killing in June of hundreds of Iraqi soldiers captured from Camp Speicher, a base near Tikrit. It was an event that came to symbolize the Sunni jihadists' barbarism.

Despite Baghdad's efforts to rein in the paramilitaries, the fingerprints of the Shi'ite militias – and of Iran itself – were all over the operation's final hours.

On Wednesday, as Tikrit fell, militiamen were racing to stencil their names on houses in order to take credit for the victory.

An Iranian fighter, with a Kalashnikov rifle slung over his shoulder and a picture of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pinned to his chest, bragging about Tehran's role in the campaign.
"I am proud to participate in the battle to liberate Tikrit," said the man, who called himself Sheik Dawood. "Iran and Iraq are one state now." 
On the edge of Tikrit in the hours after the city's fall, a Shi'ite paramilitary group drove in a convoy past several police cars.    The militiamen had strung the corpse of a suspected Islamic State fighter from the back of a white Toyota pickup truck. The cable dragging the man snapped, and the vehicle stopped. 

The men got out to retie the bullet-riddled corpse. As they fastened the cable tighter to the body, a song about their victory over Islamic State played on the truck's stereo. Then they sped off, the corpse kicking up a cloud of dust.

The policemen standing nearby did nothing.

On Wednesday afternoon, Reuters saw two suspected Islamic State detainees – identified as an Egyptian and a Sudanese national – in a room in a government building. The Egyptian and the Sudanese were then taken outside by police intelligence.

Word spread that the two suspected Islamic State prisoners were being escorted out. Federal policemen, who had lost an officer named Colonel Imad the previous day in a bombing, flocked around the detainees.

The interior ministry spokesman, Brigadier Maan, said the Egyptian had stabbed an Iraqi police officer, which explains the anger against him. Reuters couldn't verify that claim.


The two prisoners were put in the back of a pickup truck. As the vehicle tried to leave, the crowd blocked it.

...The mob was screaming: "We want to avenge our Lieutenant Colonel."

...The pickup truck tried to back up. People in the mob grabbed one of the prisoners from the truck, the Egyptian, and pulled him out.

The Egyptian sat silently at the feet of two big policemen in their twenties. His eyes filled with fear. He was surrounded by a few dozen people, a mix of federal police and Shi'ite militiamen.

"He is Daesh, and we should take revenge for Colonel Imad," the two federal police officers yelled, using a derogatory Arabic term for Islamic State.

One of the policemen held a black-handled knife with a four-to-five-inch blade. The other gripped a folding knife, with a three-inch blade and a brown handle.

They waved their knives in the air, to cheers from the crowd, and chanted: "We will slaughter him. We will take revenge for Colonel Imad.  We will slaughter him." 

...The cop lifted the knife and thrust the blade in the Egyptian's neck a second time. Blood gushed out, staining the boots of the cheering onlookers.

The killer started to saw through the neck, but it was slow-going. He lifted the blade again and slammed it into the Egyptian's neck another four times. Then he sawed back and forth.


Their fellow policemen chanted: "We took revenge for Colonel Imad."

The killer lifted himself up the street pole next to the dying man so he could address his comrades: ..."Let's tie the body to the pole so everyone can see. Bring a cable. Bring a cable."

His friend with the folding knife kept trying to stab the Egyptian, with no success. He cried out: "I need a sharp knife. I want to behead this dirty Daesh."

Finally the men found a cable, fastened it to the dead man's feet and dangled him from the pole.
... White bone stuck out from his slashed neck, his head flopped from side to side, and the blood continued to gush forth.

The Track to War

From Front Page magazine, 3 April 2015, by Caroline Glick*:

...Through their nuclear diplomacy, Obama and his comrades started the countdown to war.

In recent weeks we have watched the collapse of the allied powers’ negotiating positions.

They have conceded every position that might have placed a significant obstacle in Iran’s path to developing a nuclear arsenal.

They accepted Iran’s refusal to come clean on the military dimensions of its past nuclear work and so ensured that to the extent UN nuclear inspectors are able to access Iran’s nuclear installations, those inspections will not provide anything approaching a full picture of its nuclear status. By the same token, they bowed before Iran’s demand that inspectors be barred from all installations Iran defines as “military” and so enabled the ayatollahs to prevent the world from knowing anything worth knowing about its nuclear activities.

On the basis of Iran’s agreement to ship its stockpile of enriched uranium to Russia, the US accepted Iran’s demand that it be allowed to maintain and operate more than 6,000 centrifuges.

But when on Monday Iran went back on its word and refused to ship its uranium to Russia, the US didn’t respond by saying Iran couldn’t keep spinning 6,000 centrifuges. The US made excuses for Iran.

The US delegation willingly acceded to Iran’s demand that it be allowed to continue operating its fortified, underground enrichment facility at Fordow. In so doing, the US minimized the effectiveness of a future limited air campaign aimed at significantly reducing Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

With this broad range of great power concessions already in its pocket, the question of whether or not a deal is reached has become a secondary concern. The US and its negotiating partners have agreed to a set of understanding with the Iranians. Whether these understandings become a formal agreement or not is irrelevant because the understandings are already being implemented.

True, the US has not yet agreed to Iran’s demand for an immediate revocation of the economic sanctions now standing against it. But the notion that sanctions alone can pressure Iran into making nuclear concessions has been destroyed by Obama’s nuclear diplomacy in which the major concessions have all been made by the US.

No sanctions legislation that Congress may pass in the coming months will be able to force a change in Iran’s behavior if they are not accompanied by other coercive measures undertaken by the executive branch.

There is nothing new in this reality. For a regime with no qualms about repressing its society, economic sanctions are not an insurmountable challenge. But it is possible that if sanctions were implemented as part of a comprehensive plan to use limited coercive means to block Iran’s nuclear advance, they could have effectively blocked Iran’s progress to nuclear capabilities while preventing war. Such a comprehensive strategy could have included a proxy campaign to destabilize the regime by supporting regime opponents in their quest to overthrow the mullahs. It could have involved air strikes or sabotage of nuclear installations and strategic regime facilities like Revolutionary Guards command and control bases and ballistic missile storage facilities. It could have involved diplomatic isolation of Iran.

Moreover, if sanctions were combined with a stringent policy of blocking Iran’s regional expansion by supporting Iraqi sovereignty, supporting the now deposed government of Yemen and making a concerted effort to weaken Hezbollah and overthrow the Iranian-backed regime in Syria, then the US would have developed a strong deterrent position that would likely have convinced Iran that its interest was best served by curbing its imperialist enthusiasm and setting aside its nuclear ambitions.

In other words, a combination of these steps could have prevented war and prevented a nuclear Iran. But today, the US-led capitulation to Iran has pulled the rug out from any such comprehensive strategy. The administration has no credibility. No one trusts Obama to follow through on his declared commitment to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

No one trusts Washington when Obama claims that he is committed to the security of Israel and the US’s Sunni allies in the region.

And so we are now facing the unfolding disaster that Obama has wrought. The disaster is that deal or no deal, the US has just given the Iranians a green light to behave as if they have already built their nuclear umbrella. And they are in fact behaving in this manner.

They may not have a functional arsenal, but they act as though they do, and rightly so, because the US and its partners have just removed all significant obstacles from their path to nuclear capabilities. The Iranians know it. Their proxies know it. Their enemies know it.

As a consequence, all the regional implications of a nuclear armed Iran are already being played out. The surrounding Arab states led by Saudi Arabia are pursuing nuclear weapons. The path to a Middle East where every major and some minor actors have nuclear arsenals is before us.

Iran is working to expand its regional presence as if it were a nuclear state already. It is brazenly using its Yemeni Houthi proxy to gain maritime control over the Bab al-Mandab, which together with Iran’s control over the Straits of Hormuz completes its maritime control over shipping throughout the Middle East.

Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Eritrea, and their global trading partners will be faced with the fact that their primary maritime shipping route to Asia is controlled by Iran.

With its regional aggression now enjoying the indirect support of its nuclear negotiating partners led by the US, Iran has little to fear from the pan-Arab attempt to dislodge the Houthis from Aden and the Bab al-Mandab. If the Arabs succeed, Iran can regroup and launch a new offensive knowing it will face no repercussions for its aggression and imperialist endeavors.

Then of course there are Iran’s terror proxies.

Hezbollah, whose forces now operate openly in Syria and Lebanon, is reportedly active as well in Iraq and Yemen. These forces behave with a brazenness the likes of which we have never seen.

Hamas too believes that its nuclear-capable Iranian state sponsor ensures that regardless of its combat losses, it will be able to maintain its regime in Gaza and continue using its territory as a launching ground for assaults against Israel and Egypt.

Iran’s Shiite militias in Iraq have reportedly carried out heinous massacres of Sunnis who have fallen under their control and faced no international condemnation for their war crimes, operating as they are under Iran’s protection and sponsorship. And the Houthis, of course, just overthrew a Western-backed government that actively assisted the US and its allies in their campaign against al-Qaida.

For their proxies’ aggression, Iran has been rewarded with effective Western acceptance of its steps toward regional domination and nuclear armament.

Hezbollah’s activities represent an acute and strategic danger to Israel. Not only does Hezbollah now possess precision guided missiles that are capable of taking out strategic installations throughout the country, its arsenal of 100,000 missiles can cause a civilian disaster.

Hezbollah forces have been fighting in varied combat situations continuously for the past three years. Their combat capabilities are incomparably greater than those they fielded in the 2006 Second Lebanon War. There is every reason to believe that these Hezbollah fighters, now perched along Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Syria, can make good their threat to attack and hold fixed targets including border communities.

While Israel faces threats unlike any we have faced in recent decades that all emanate from Western-backed Iranian aggression and expansionism carried out under a Western-sanctioned Iranian nuclear umbrella, Israel is not alone in this reality. The unrolling disaster also threatens the moderate Sunni states including Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The now regional war in Yemen is but the first act of the regional war at our doorstep.

There are many reasons this war is now inevitable.

Every state threatened by Iran has been watching the Western collapse in Switzerland.

They have been watching the Iranian advance on the ground. And today all of them are wondering the same thing: When and what should we strike to minimize the threats we are facing.

Everyone recognizes that the situation is only going to get worse. With each passing week, Iran’s power and brazenness will only increase.

Everyone understands this. And this week they learned that with Washington heading the committee welcoming Iran’s regional hegemony and nuclear capabilities, no outside power will stand up to Iran’s rise. 

The future of every state in the region hangs in the balance. And so, it can be expected that everyone is now working out a means to preempt and prevent a greater disaster.

These preemptive actions will no doubt include three categories of operations: striking Hezbollah’s missile arsenal; striking the Iranian Navy to limit its ability to project its force in the Bab al-Mandab; and conducting limited military operations to destroy a significant portion of Iran’s nuclear installations.

Friday is the eve of Passover. Thirteen years ago, Palestinian terrorists brought home the message of the Exodus when they blew up the Seder at Netanya’s Park Hotel, killing 30, wounding 140, and forcing Israel into war. The message of the Passover Haggada is that there are no shortcuts to freedom. To gain and keep it, you have to be willing to fight for it.

That war was caused by Israel’s embrace of the notion that you can bring peace through concessions that empower an enemy sworn to your destruction. The price of that delusion was thousands of lives lost and families destroyed.

Iran is far more powerful than the PLO. But the Americans apparently believe they are immune from the consequences of their leaders’ policies. This is not the case for Israel or for our neighbors. We lack the luxury of ignoring the fact that Obama’s disastrous diplomacy has brought war upon us. Deal or no deal, we are again about to be forced to pay a price to maintain our freedom.

*Caroline Glick is the Director of the David Horowitz Freedom Center's Israel Security Project and the Senior Contributing Editor of The Jerusalem Post. For more information on Ms. Glick's work, visit ssociated with Voter Fraud

Friday, April 03, 2015

This Sunni coalition deserves our political support.

From The Australian, 3 April 2015, by Roger Boyes, diplomatic editor of The Times:

Iran’s masters edge towards war

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, left, with the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, Gen. Qassem Suleimani. Source: AFP

As an oxymoron to rank alongside jumbo shrimps and the living dead, the term “united Arab front” must be a prize-winning confection. Even when pitted against arch-enemy Israel, Arab states have struggled to stay in the same alliance, nay the same room, without stabbing each other in the back.
Now, though, they have mustered the strength to counter Iran. In dusty Yemen, the long cold war between Saudi Arabia and the clerical regime in Tehran has finally turned hot.

It doesn’t look good, a Shia-Sunni war in a region already up to its ankles in blood.

“I wonder which archduke is going to be shot this time,” says a US official, suggesting the conflicts were getting closer to a Great War. If Yemen falls to Iran — that is, to Iranian-backed Houthi rebels — the very existence of the House of Saud could be under threat. That’s how it seems in Riyadh and that’s why it is leading an Arab force into battle. Last Saturday, clinching the argument for a Sunni army, it smuggled Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi to a conference room in Egypt where he denounced as “Iranian stooges” the rebels who had forced him out of his palace.

Iran is indeed stirring up the trouble in Yemen. Until the Saudi airstrikes began, there were 28 flights a week between the rebel-occupied capital, Sanaa, and Iran, some by an Iranian airline that is US-blacklisted for supporting terrorism. Cash and arms are the presumed cargo.

Iran is using commanders from the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militias to co-ordinate and advise. The Houthis and their military allies (units loyal to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh) are shifting Scud missiles with a range of between 200km and 650km towards the Saudi border.

Despite all this the US, Britain and other world powers are pushing for a deal with Iran to restrain its nuclear program. The underlying logic of the talks is that Iran, once it falls under international scrutiny, will be transformed into a regional ally. Yet the subversion of Yemen suggests it wants to exploit the situation to expand its reach and establish itself even more firmly as an enemy of the West, Israel and the Sunni world. It foments unrest among the Shi’ites in Bahrain, it props up Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, it funnels arms and aid to Hamas and Hezbollah, and its Shia militias (currently on “our side” in the fight against Islamic State) are active in Iraq.

The Iranians, in short, are the masters of disorder. If their Houthi proxies take control of Yemen’s side of the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb they will be in control of a strategic link between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. Four million barrels of crude oil a day travel through the strait; it is one of the great choke points of global trade.

The Saudis are rattled enough to resort to armed force to set limits to Iran’s disruption of the area. The Western caricature of the Saudi kingdom is that it is both passive and pampered, living under the US security umbrella. That umbrella, however, has turned into a sieve. The kingdom’s first instinct has been to weaponise oil prices, driving them down so that Iran cannot unduly profit when the West lifts its sanctions against the Tehran regime. Now, though, it has gone much further by stringing together a military coalition that stretches well beyond the usual Gulf allies and takes in Morocco, Jordan, Sudan and, crucially, Egypt. On paper that is a far stronger force — much of it with expensively bought Western equipment — than could ever be put up by Iran.

Egyptian warships are mobilising to defend the straits. Riyadh has earmarked 100 fighters and its coalition partners have pledged to match that number. More than 100,000 Saudi ground troops are said to be on the Yemen border. Even Pakistan has been approached for military assistance. All that could add up to the makings of a short war of between three and six months rather than the Great War that the US is beginning to fear. It could, however, get out of control. Iran has the capacity to destabilise another Saudi neighbour, Bahrain. And it is capable of bringing terror to the kingdom.

Much hinges on Iranian intentions. The US and its allies have chosen to believe in a modernising Iran that has more to lose than gain from regional unrest and bloodshed. The Saudis cannot see the evidence for this. Rather, they judge Iran by its current attempts to subvert its neighbours, by behaviour patterns set by centuries of rivalry and by the balance of forces within the clerical regime that indicate a resurgence of the hardliners. 

I’m with the sceptics, indeed with anyone who makes policy on the basis of close and sober observation. We should have learned by now that the Middle East and Dreamworld are separate places. It is natural to have reservations about Saudi Arabia, but this Sunni coalition deserves our political support.

UN inaction against Iran in Yemen is in keeping with the Obama’s reluctance to offend Iran

From FrontPage Mag, March 25, 2015 by Joseph Klein*:

The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting on Sunday March 22nd regarding the rapidly deteriorating situation in Yemen. It heard a briefing from Jamal Benomar, the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Yemen, describing Yemen’s descent towards a possible sectarian civil war. It then issued a presidential statement on behalf of all fifteen members that, in essence, told all parties to the conflict to behave, stop the violence, engage in peaceful political dialogue and obey past Security Council resolutions calling for the same thing. However, once again, the Security Council demonstrated its incapacity to deal truthfully and effectively with a crisis that has potentially far-reaching geopolitical significance.

The Security Council presidential statement ritualistically called on all member states to refrain from external interference in Yemen’s affairs and reaffirmed its readiness to take further measures against any party in case of non-implementation of its prior resolutions on Yemen. However, the Security Council did not call out Iran specifically for its funding, training and arming of its Shiite Houthi allies, whom have continued to occupy government institutions in Yemen’s capital, threatened the duly elected president and his ministers, and expanded militarily into other areas of Yemen outside of the capital.

It is not as if Iran’s disruptive intervention in Yemen to expand its own sphere of influence is a secret. Iranian senior officials openly brag about it.

In January, Iranian Brigadier General Baqir Zada said that the 
“Houthis victory in Yemen” represented “a historic victory for the Iranian Islamic revolution.”
Also in January, Hojatoleslam (a Shiite clerical rank just below that of ayatollah) Ali Shirazi, representative of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, said, 
“Hezbollah was formed in Lebanon as a popular force like Basij (Iran’s militia). Similarly popular forces were also formed in Syria and Iraq, and today we are watching the formation of Ansarollah in Yemen.”
In February, Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, boasted: 
“We are witnessing the export of the Islamic revolution throughout the region. From Bahrain and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and North Africa.”
The Security Council’s public silence regarding Iran’s admitted active role in destabilizing Yemen as part of fulfilling its hegemonic ambitions is as deafening as it is revealing. At this delicate point in its nuclear negotiations with Iran, the Obama administration and its allies do not want to do anything at the UN Security Council that might upset Iran and cause it to back away from a possible deal.

Consider the fact that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, issued her own statement condemning the Houthis, but that she too left out any mention of Iran. 

Ambassador Power said that “the Houthis’ actions – taken in close collaboration with former President Ali Abdullah Salih – have consistently undermined Yemen’s transition.” Ambassador Power referred to “a series of violent actions perpetrated by the Houthis since they chose to overrun Sana’a, take over government institutions, and attempt to govern by unilateral decree.” She added that “all parties must refrain from any further unilateral and offensive military actions.” 

Unmentioned was the identity of the state party fueling the Houthis’ perpetration of violence – the same terrorist sponsoring state that the Obama administration is feverishly negotiating with to reach a nuclear deal by the end of this month.

Only the Yemeni representative had the guts to call out the elephant in the room. He implored the Security Council to “curb the drums of war” propagated by the promotors of the coup, fuelled by “Iranian ambitions” in Yemen.

Closed consultations among Security Council members followed the public briefing. A senior Western delegate told me that Iran’s involvement in the Yemen conflict did come up during the closed consultations. However, there was evidently no discussion on what steps might be taken to enforce prior Security Council resolutions vis a vis Iran’s role. There are prior Security Council resolutions related to Yemen that could be used, including Resolution 2140 (2014), extended until at least next year. Resolution 2140 had set up a mechanism for identifying and sanctioning individuals and entities responsible for, among other things, “providing support for acts that threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen.”

Yet Iran has escaped even the slightest slap on the wrist for its continued shipment of arms to its Houthi allies in Yemen, which is going on as the UN continues to spin its wheels rather than act. 

According to a March 21, 2015 report by, for example, 
“An Iranian freighter recently docked at Yemen’s second largest port (al Saleef) and unloaded 185 tons of weapons and military equipment.”
More disturbing is the fact that, aside from the specific resolution regarding Yemen, the Security Council already has a ready-made vehicle to enforce against Iran but is ignoring it. Iran is openly violating a 2007 UN Security Council resolution that imposed an embargo on arms exports from Iran along with other constraints on Iranian arms imports. This and other resolutions, which Iran is seeking to have rescinded as quickly as possible as part of a negotiated nuclear deal, were passed as the foundation for declaring Iran’s nuclear program to be illegal and punishing Iran for its continued intransigence.

Security Council Resolution 1747 (2007) stated that 
“Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related materiel, and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran.”
In a statement after the vote on that 2007 resolution, the U.S. representative reminded the world of “Iran’s continued well-known role as one of the world’s leading State sponsors of terrorism.”

The Iranian regime has not changed its stripes. In fact, it has gotten even worse. By its own admission, it is actively expanding its reach in the Middle East and beyond, and it is using more terrorist proxies on the Hezbollah model. 

Yet the Obama administration, in its attempt to whitewash Iran’s association with terrorism, actually removed Iran from the list of terrorist threats in the most recent Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community report published on February 26, 2015.

The Obama administration is also reportedly considering offering Iran a phased lifting of the UN sanctions as Iran complies with specified milestones. Not that it makes any real difference, given Iran’s flouting of Resolution 1747 and other Security Council resolutions related to its nuclear program, but lifting of the UN sanctions could potentially spill over into relaxing the embargo on Iran’s export of arms. And that would give Iran even more of a sense of international legitimacy in arming its proxies such as the Houthis.

The French, who are participating in the nuclear negotiations with Iran, are not in such a hurry to compromise on the UN sanctions. They want the Iranians to come clean on the past work they have done on nuclear warhead development before UN sanctions can begin being lifted. The Iranians are reportedly refusing to cooperate, as they continue to stonewall UN inspectors whom have been seeking information on Iran’s past military dimensions of their nuclear program. U.S. diplomats are for all intents and purposes running interference for Iran, trying to convince France not to worry so much about any past Iranian work on nuclear warhead development right now. In their zeal for a deal, Obama’s negotiators are willing to overlook any evidence of Iranian deception and stonewalling.

The UN Security Council’s inaction against Iran regarding its blatant arming, training and funding of the Houthis in Yemen, in violation of a prior Security Council resolution, is no accident. It is in keeping with the Obama administration’s own reluctance to offend Iran on any issue that might get in the way of completing a nuclear deal with the pre-eminent global state sponsor of jihadist terrorism.

*Joseph Klein is a Harvard-trained lawyer and the author of Global Deception: The UN’s Stealth Assault on America’s Freedom and Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations & Radical Islam.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Iran talks push past deadline

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second left, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, left, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, center, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, second right, and German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier wait for the start of a meeting on Iran’s nuclear program with other officials from France, China, the European Union and Iran at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Diplomats scrambled Tuesday to reach consensus on the outline of an Iran nuclear deal just hours ahead of a self-imposed deadline to produce an agreement. (Brendan Smialowski, Pool/Associated Press)

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers have entered into overtime, after negotiators decided to ignore a midnight Tuesday deadline and give more time to efforts to reach agreement.

Negotiations were continuing into Wednesday morning, local time. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf says the extension was justified although “several difficult issues” still needed to be bridged.
The sides hope to reach a preliminary understanding that will allow them to enter a new phase of negotiations aiming at a final deal by June....

Iran seeks nuclear deal but not normal ties with 'Great Satan'

Iran is not expected to normalize relations with the United States even if Tehran reaches agreement with world powers on its nuclear program, officials and analysts said.

...Loyalists of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, drawn from among Islamists and Revolutionary Guards who fear continued economic hardship might cause the collapse of the establishment, have agreed to back President Hassan Rouhani’s pragmatic readiness to negotiate a nuclear deal, Iranian officials said.
"But it will not go beyond that and he (Khamenei) will not agree with normalizing ties with America," said an official, who spoke in condition of anonymity.
"You cannot erase decades of hostility with a deal. We should wait and see, and Americans need to gain Iran’s trust. Ties with America is still a taboo in Iran.”
...Khamenei has continued to give speeches larded with denunciations of Iran's "enemies" and "the Great Satan", words aimed at reassuring hardliners for whom anti-American sentiment has always been central to Iran's Islamic revolution.

Khamenei, whose hostility towards the Washington holds together Iran’s faction-ridden leadership, remains deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions.

But despite disagreement over Iran-U.S. ties, Iranian leaders, whether hardliners or pragmatists, agree that a nuclear deal will help Iran to rebuild its economy.

Relations with Washington were severed after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and enmity to the United States has always been a rallying point for hardliners in Iran.

“As long as Khamenei remains Supreme Leader the chances of normalizing U.S.-Iran relations are very low. Rapprochement with the U.S. arguably poses a greater existential threat to Khamenei than continued conflict,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
“After three decades of propagating a culture of defiance against the U.S., it will be curious to see whether and how Khamenei spins a nuclear compromise as an act of resistance, not compromise.” 
...“Despite all the meetings over the nuclear issue, Iran and America both need an enemy and I do not think ties will be normalized after the deal. But they will keep the communication channel open,” said Tehran-based political analyst Saeed Leylaz.
“Iranian leadership needs chants of Death to America to keep hardliners united. And opening an American embassy in Tehran is not going to happen, at least in the near future.”

...Iran’s rival Saudi Arabia fears a nuclear deal might embolden Tehran to tighten its grip in the Middle East and step up its efforts to dominate Arab countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

And like Washington's other Middle Eastern ally, Israel, Saudi Arabia fears that President Barack Obama has in the process allowed their mutual enemy to gain the upper hand.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Iran claims that Israeli Fighter Jets Join Saudi Arabia in Yemen

From (Iranian)Fars News Agency  Global Research, March 29, 2015:

YĆ©men carte

Israel’s fighter jets have taken part in the Thursday Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen, sources in Sanaa disclosed on Friday.
“This is for the first time that the Zionists are conducting a joint operation in coalition with Arabs,” 
Secretary General of Yemen’s Al-Haq Political Party Hassan Zayd wrote on his facebook page.
He noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had issued direct orders for the Israeli air force to send fighter jets to the Saudi-led air raid on Yemen.
...Five Persian Gulf States — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait — backed by the US have declared war on Yemen in a joint statement issued earlier Thursday.
US President Barack Obama authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to the military operations, National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said late Wednesday night.
She added that while US forces were not taking direct military action in Yemen, Washington was establishing a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate US military and intelligence support.
Riyadh claimed that it has bombed the positions of the Ansarullah fighters and launched attacks against the Sana’a airport and the Dulaimi airbase...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Over 100 Years of Chronic Arab Rejectionism

...Arab claims that the Israeli “Occupation” prevents peace is nothing more than a red herring. It is not “The Occupation” that Arabs reject; it is Israel 's right to exist as a Jewish, sovereign and legitimate political entity.
What prevents achieving peace is Arab rejectionism, which began in the 1880s when the first Jewish immigrants returned to the land of Israel.  Since the 1920s, long before the establishment of Israel or the 1967 Six-Day War, Palestinian Arabs have used a combination of diplomatic moves and violence, particularly terrorism against Jewish civilians, effectively rejecting every form of compromise.
At the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict is the Arab world's refusal to accept a non-Muslim political entity in the Middle East.
Peace requires an Arab world that recognizes Israel as a legitimate political entity. Legitimacy means a polity with viable and defendable borders where the Jews can exercise their own rights of self-determination by virtue of demographics (i.e., a Jewish majority) –hegemony that is reflected in the cultural and the political life of the Jewish nation.
The Arab refusal to recognize Israel and their attempts to destroy the Jewish state are among the defining characteristics of Palestinian society. Measures designed to destroy Israel vary from use of force (through wars, Intifadas , violent riots, revolts and terrorism) to use of economic and demographic forces (economic boycotts, demands for jobs in Israel, Palestinian infiltration into Israel without visas or other permits, and demands that Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their descendants be allowed to return to Israel). Absolute antipathy and intolerance towards non-Muslim political entities is a fate Jews shared with the Maronite Christians in Lebanon , even though Israel inhabits no more than 0.01 percent of the Middle Eastern landscape.
For almost 100 years, Palestinian behavior has been based on rejectionism and political violence. The Palestinian refugee problem created in 1948 did not spark those strategies, nor did the “Occupation” of the Territories in the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War, which brought Israeli control over West Bank (Judea and Samaria ) and Gaza .
Arabs have rejected the presence of Jews with political aspirations to rebuild their ancient homeland since the advent of political Zionism. When in 1891 the number of Jewish immigrants leaving the country equaled the number of new arrivals, and nine years of Zionist endeavor, had produced barely a dozen struggling and insolvent Jewish agricultural settlements. Arab notables from Jerusalem called upon the Ottoman administration to ban Jewish immigration and the sale of land to Jews.
At each juncture when attempts to reach a ‘live-and-let-live' solution have been advanced, Arab responses have boiled down to a two-pronged offensive that dovetails diplomacy with violence. In short, the Arabs, and particularly the Palestinians, have refused to recognize Israel as a legitimate entity or to negotiate genuine compromise. Instead, they have tried to drive the Jews out through violence and terror....
The history of the Arab-Israeli conflict reveals 24 major junctures when compromise was offered since the 1920s, dating from pre-state, League of Nations Mandate to the present time. Plan after plan, including patently pro-Arab proposals, were put on the table. Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, 15 agreements and memorandums have been signed. This chapter examines those agreements and Arab response or compliance in each case.

  • It is not “The Occupation” Arabs reject; they reject the right of Israel to exist as a legitimate Jewish political entity.
  • Israelis have exhibited extraordinary willingness to find a win-win solution, yet Arab Palestinians' opposition to a Jewish polity has been unremitting and uncompromising, rejecting all efforts at compromise and reconciliation.
  • Palestinian Arabs have underscored their rejectionism with wave after wave of terrorism at every juncture – that is, before the 1967 Six-Day War and even prior to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
  • Non-acceptance of Israel 's right to exist and support for terrorism is not solely the province of any particular Palestinian leader; it is a deeply rooted social value, reflected in public opinion polls among Palestinians and other Arabs – then and now.
  • September 11, 2001 highlighted the Palestinians' two major social “contributions” to humanity: skyjacking and suicide bombings. 
  • Between September 1993 and February 2003, more than 1,004 Israelis have lost their lives to Palestinian terrorists – the per capita equivalent of approximately 50,000 American deaths, a loss that would equal 17 September 11 th attacks.
  • The world cannot afford the luxury of ignoring crazy states, and thus begs the question: Should the international community take a gamble? The odds of creating a new rogue state called Palestine are excellent.

Provisional Agreement on Iran Deal Reached

From Arutz Sheva, 29 Mar 2015:

Israel says deal 'could be no less than a tragedy for the moderate regimes in the Middle East and for the entire Western world.'

US negotiating team meets with Iranian counterparts for nuclear talks
US negotiating team meets with Iranian counterparts for nuclear talks

A provisional agreement on key elements of Iran deal has been reached, say diplomats, according to AFP.

Western diplomats in talks in Switzerland said Sunday that Iran had "more or less" agreed to slash the number of its centrifuge machines “by more than two-thirds” and to ship abroad “most of its stockpile of nuclear material,” according to the AFP report.

Negotiators in Lausanne are frantically racing to finalize the outlines of a framework deal by midnight Tuesday, and the diplomats cautioned however that things may change.

Iranian diplomats however denied that any tentative agreement on slashing the centrifuges and shipping out nuclear materials has been reached, telling the French press agency that any reports of specific number of centrifuges and exporting its stockpiles were "journalistic speculation".

"The fact is that we will conserve a substantial number of centrifuges, that no site will be closed, in particular Fordo. These are the basis of the talks," the Iranian diplomat said. 
A senior member of the Iranian negotiating team said that the "publication of such information by certain Western media is aimed at creating an atmosphere to disturb the negotiating process".

...Meanwhile, US officials said Sunday that the world powers seeking to pin down the nuclear deal with Iran were rescheduling their first full meeting with the Iranian delegation. ...US Secretary of State John Kerry, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, France's Laurent Fabius were still planning to sit down with China's Wang Yi and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini as well as their Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and political directors from Russia and Britain.

"The West is being ​hoodwinked"

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said the deal currently under discussion between Iran and world powers over Tehran's nuclear program is even worse than he had feared.

"The dangerous accord which is being negotiated in Lausanne confirms our concerns and even worse..." 
Netanyahu also highlighted concerns over Iran's wider expansionist ambitions in the region via Shia Islamist proxies and other terrorist groups.
 "Even as meetings proceed on this dangerous agreement, Iran's proxies in Yemen are overrunning large sections of that country and are attempting to seize control of the strategic Bab-el-Mandeb straits which would affect the naval balance and the global oil supply.
"After the Beirut-Damascus-Baghdad axis, Iran is carrying out a pincers movement in the south as well in order to take over and conquer the entire Middle East. The Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis is very dangerous for humanity and needs to be stopped." 

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon also was quick to react to the reports of a deal, warning such an agreement, if true, would merely embolden Iran to be more aggressive.
“Iran is receiving a reward ...The West is letting Iran into the family of nations, through the front door. The Iranian appetite to export the revolution through terror will only grow.”
"A very bad deal could be signed in Switzerland with Iran, a country with a radical and out-of-control regime that succeeded in hoodwinking the entire western world...
"Iran uses subversive and murderous terror and is involved on the wrong side of every Middle Eastern conflict ...and turning it into a nuclear threshold state as will happen after the agreement is signed could be no less than a tragedy for the moderate regimes in the Middle East and for the entire Western world.”

Iran's Nuclear Breakout Time: A Fact Sheet

With reports that Washington and its partners may reach a nuclear accord with Iran in the coming days, a former senior IAEA safeguards official answers the most pressing questions about Tehran's program and how the agreement might affect its capabilities.

Download an infographic charting the breakout time under various scenarios.
What is the commonly accepted definition of "breakout time"?
This is the time required to produce enough weapons-grade uranium (WGU) for one nuclear weapon. To produce WGU, uranium needs to be enriched (e.g., with centrifuges) to more than 90 percent of its fissile isotope U-235. The amount of WGU required for one weapon is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as about 27 kg of uranium. This amount is often called a "significant quantity" (SQ).

What is Iran's current breakout time?
Natural uranium has only 0.7 percent of the isotope U-235, and the effort required to enrich it to one SQ of WGU is about 5,000 Separative Work Units (SWUs). Iran currently has about 9,000 functioning first-generation IR-1 centrifuges, with another 9,000 not in operation. The IR-1s installed in the Natanz and Fordow facilities have been performing at an average per unit rate of 0.75 to 1 SWU per year. Using the 1 SWU/year performance of the latest IR-1 model, the breakout time with 9,000 machines using a natural uranium feed would be six to seven months. However, Iran also has substantial stocks of 3.5 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6) that can be used as an alternative feed, shrinking the breakout time to three months.
If Iran brought online its other nearly 9,000 IR-1s, breakout time would be about three months with natural uranium feedstock and four to six weeks with 3.5 percent UF6 feedstock. Iran has also developed the more advanced IR-2m centrifuge, rated at 5 SWU/year. If the 1,000 IR-2ms installed at Natanz were used in conjunction with all 18,000 IR-1s, the respective breakout times would be cut by a third.

According to media accounts, the proposed nuclear agreement would lower the number of operating centrifuges to around 6,500. In that circumstance, what would Iran's breakout time be?
Using IR-1s with natural uranium as a feed, the breakout time for 6,500 centrifuges would be about nine months. A crucial question will be how much 3.5 percent enriched UF6 will remain in Iran. Yet even if UF6 stocks are reduced from their current 7.5-8 tons to 500 kg, a breakout time of between seven and eight months would still be possible given the program's enrichment capabilities with natural uranium feed. Since these breakout times are less than the goals set by the U.S. administration, it is important to know what parameters Washington used for its estimates.

The administration says that one of the main achievements of an agreement would be to increase breakout time to at least a year. What else would have to be in the agreement to reach that goal?
The maximum allowed breakout time should be viewed as a combination of detection time and action time -- that is, the time required to get Iran back in compliance with the agreement. Both of these times are difficult to estimate precisely because administrative delays and efforts to resolve disagreements could easily take several months.

How long is the detection time?
Detection time depends on Iran's actions. If Tehran does not try to conceal what it is doing, the IAEA would detect a violation fairly quickly -- in the worst case perhaps two weeks. The agency would then confirm the finding with Iranian authorities, and the IAEA Board of Governors would need another one or two weeks to take any formal action such as referring the issue to the UN Security Council. This would leave a reasonable amount of time for the international community to act.
Yet if Iran tries to conceal what it is doing, much longer detection times are likely. As indicated in past IAEA reports, environmental samples play a pivotal role in confirming violations. Due to the large number of samples involved and the meticulous analytical process, the results would not be available for at least two months. And if samples show higher enrichment, additional samples have to be taken and analyzed. Although the second set of samples would certainly be fast-tracked, it is unrealistic to expect that process and subsequent clarifications by Iran to take less than another month. This would leave the international community with only three or four months to act, an extremely short time.
There are also plausible scenarios of misunderstandings or even differing interpretations of what constitutes a breach of the agreement. In such situations, Iran could drag the process out for many months.
Iran might also pursue a "creep-out" strategy, such as by slowly increasing its inventory of 3.5 percent UF6. This has already taken place under the interim Joint Plan of Action. When the JPOA was concluded in November 2013, Iran's 3.5 percent UF6 stock should have been below 7.5 tons; any additional material existing or newly produced should have been converted to oxides. Yet none of the IAEA reports released since then indicate that the stock has been below that amount. This demonstrates the need for the United States and its partners to maintain vigilance in getting Iran to comply with an agreement and not allowing it to widen the envelope of what is permitted.
The most difficult task is to detect a "sneak-out" violation in which Iran uses clandestine nuclear facilities. This scenario has several variants, including the possibility of an entirely separate, unreported enrichment cycle anywhere along the chain from uranium mining to enrichment. This scenario cannot be excluded because the IAEA has still not been permitted to verify the completeness of Tehran's declarations on nuclear materials and facilities.
A sneak-out could also involve both declared and undeclared facilities. For instance, Iran could produce low-enriched UF6 in a known facility and then take that material to a smaller undeclared location to produce WGU. Therefore, it is important that the IAEA be empowered to not only verify the completeness of Iran's inventory of nuclear material, but also establish as a baseline the total number and location of centrifuges inside the country.

If an agreement does achieve a one-year breakout warning time, is it possible to know whether this buffer could be maintained over the life of the deal? What would change that?
Perhaps the most important factor is the research and development on more advanced centrifuges such as IR-5 or IR-8. Making such machines operational on a semi-industrial scale would likely take at least three years. If they are ten to twenty times more efficient than the current IR-1 centrifuges as estimated, the breakout times would be much reduced.
Warning time could also be shortened if the IAEA is not allowed to fully exercise rigorous monitoring and verification procedures. These range from routine inspections to so-called "anytime, anyplace inspections" and full access to component manufacturing facilities, as well as efforts to follow the procurement of certain dual-use materials and equipment to confirm their end use.

Can centrifuges be used to enrich material other than uranium?
Media reports indicate that some of the centrifuges in Fordow will be dedicated to producing isotopes for medical and industrial use. A similar process is already in use at enrichment facilities in Europe and Russia. A key question will be which kind of stable isotopes will be produced. If the centrifuges are reconfigured to produce, say, xenon isotopes, the machines could be converted back to enrich uranium fairly easily. Yet if they are used to produce zinc or molybdenum isotopes, contamination could hamper any later attempts to resume production of nuclear-grade materials.

What is the international community's past experience with predictions of breakout time?
History shows surprises. The Russian centrifuge program went for years without detection despite tremendous intelligence efforts. The Iraqi and Libyan programs were not immediately detected, and South Africa, which manufactured nuclear weapons, ended up destroying its program before the IAEA saw it. The Syrian reactor in al-Kibar also came a bit out of the blue, as did North Korea's advanced centrifuge plant. There is always the element of the unknown or the uncertain that adds to the risk equation.
Iran has talented engineers and the necessary financial resources, and its nuclear infrastructure is much larger than what it actually needs. Therefore, a monitoring scheme that is merely "good enough" will not guarantee success in preventing Iran from breaking out and achieving a nuclear weapons capability.

*Olli Heinonen is a senior fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a former deputy director-general for safeguards at the IAEA. Together with Washington Institute fellow Simon Henderson, he coauthored the recently updated Policy Focus Nuclear Iran: A Glossary of Terms, a joint publication of the Institute and the Belfer Center.