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Trump Administration countering Iran’s influence in Latin America and winning key support

“The Trump administration’s push to counter Iran’s influence in South America won key support from leaders in the region in recent days, with three Latin American nations officially declaring Lebanon’s Tehran-backed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.”

The work of Iranian jihadist proxies worldwide is underrated and under reported. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo captures the magnitude of the Iranian proxy problem well in this statement:

 When you see the scope and reach of what the Islamic Republic of Iran’s regime has done, you can’t forget they tried to kill someone in the United States of America. They’ve conducted assassination campaigns in Europe. This is a global phenomenon.

And the phenomenon of narcoterrorism is linked to Iranian proxy Hizballah, as indicated in this exposé by the Washington Times: “Hezbollah moving ‘tons of cocaine’ in Latin America, Europe to finance terror operation.”

“Trump administration homing in on Iran-backed operations in Latin America,” by Guy Taylor, Washington Times, January 23, 2020:

The Trump administration’s push to counter Iran’s influence in South America won key support from leaders in the region in recent days, with three Latin American nations officially declaring Lebanon’s Tehran-backed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras have now officially joined with Paraguay and Argentina in recognizing the designation, with the new conservative government in Bogota joining with Washington in declaring Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization as well.

At a counterterrorism conference in Bogota this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other U.S. officials underscored the global reach of Lebanon-based Hezbollah — a Shia Muslim militant-political movement and a part of the Lebanese political establishment that Washington has listed as a terrorist organization since the late 1990s.

Hezbollah was a big winner in the political upheaval that has gripped Lebanon this month, with new government made up of appointees nominated by Hezbollah and its allies — a development that has worried both the U.S. and Israel, Lebanon’s neighbor. Counterterrorism analysts consider the well-armed Hezbollah one of Tehran’s most effective military proxies in the region.

Heading into this week’s conference in Bogota, State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Nathan Sales told the Miami Herald and Nuevo Herald that U.S. officials “know that Hezbollah operatives and facilitators and finance leaders are active” in the loosely governed “Tri-Border Area” between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

U.S. and Israeli officials say Hezbollah orchestrated and executed a 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina that killed 29 people, as well as a 1994 attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that left 85 people dead…..

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EDITORS NOTE: This Jihad Watch column is republished with permission. © All rights reserved.

Howard Dean: ‘I don’t consider Iran to be a Muslim country’

It isn’t that Howard Dean thinks Iran is full of Methodists. He just thinks that Islam is wonderful, and that the Islamic Republic of Iran is evil and oppressive, and so therefore it must not really be Islamic at all. How this misunderstanding of Islam has grown so strong as to be able to take over whole countries, he did not deign to explain.

Howard Dean

Howard Dean

“Howard Dean: ‘I Don’t Consider Iran to Be a Muslim Country,’” by Adelle Nazarian, Breitbart News, August 1, 2016 (thanks to Bob):

PARIS — Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean told Breitbart News that “Iran is the farthest thing from an Islamic Republic” and that Iran is not “a Muslim country.”

Instead, Dean said, Iran is “a republic that’s been hijacked by thugs and murderers.” He explained that he does not know Muslims whom he respects and who behave the way the regime does.

Dean was speaking exclusively to Breitbart News from Paris last month during a conference hosted by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). The PMOI (also referred to as MEK) is an opposition movement that played an active role in overthrowing Iran’s last Shah while President Jimmy Carter was in power, and which was de-listed as a terrorist organization under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

During the interview, Dean also pointed out his belief that the term “radical Islamic terrorism” is a manufactured phrase “for political, domestic consumption in America.”

The transcript of the interview follows (emphasis added):

Breitbart News: You don’t think [the Iran deal] was a good deal?
Howard Dean: Look, I respect the president and I certainly didn’t oppose the deal but I don’t think it was “a good deal.” That is, I think we did give away a lot more than we needed to. And I think the Iranians are the largest sponsor of state terrorism in the world. And they are making lives very difficult for a lot of our allies. So I didn’t oppose the deal. I think it had its pluses and minuses, and I think we’re not going to know, for a few years, whether the deal makes any sense or not. And interestingly, I think the president’s reputation — as a good or not-so-good president — will depend on what happens with that deal.

Breitbart News: So — Saudi Arabia. Do you really think they are our allies, if I may ask… ?

Howard Dean: Yeah, I do think we are allies. I have my problems with [the] Saudis. One of the reasons I got involved with the resistance here is because I feel very strongly about human rights and the Saudis don’t respect human rights. So I’ve never personally thought that the alliance with Saudi Arabia was anything more than an alliance of convenience. But they are a key partner and they’re certainly not our enemy. So I don’t feel as strongly as some of the panel did.

Breitbart News: One more question regarding rhetoric on an international scale, do you find issue with the fact that our commander-in-chief and people within the administration (like Josh Earnest, and so forth) don’t actually use the term “radical Islamic terrorism’”?

Howard Dean: Well, That is actually something that I agree with … I think that most Muslims are not terrorists. In fact, I teach a foreign policy course at Yale. I had three Muslims sit in from other countries. And they pointed out to the class that their families were at greater risk from Daesh [ISIS] than ours because they live with them every day, around the corner.

So I think it’s important for us not to crank up a religious war. That, of course, falls into the hands of Daesh. So I think to call it Islamic terrorism is really just more for political, domestic consumption in America rather than something that you’d want to do in the world. I think these people are thugs, and they’re murderers. I don’t give them a cause. I don’t believe — I think they’re crazy, I think they’re lunatics, pathetic lunatics.

Breitbart News: There’s definitely a psychological aspect to it.

Howard Dean: Yes. I think they are deeply, psychologically disturbed, including the people who send them out there. So I wouldn’t want to give them any legitimacy by saying they have something to do with an organized religion. There is no organized religion which is a legitimate religion which condones this kind of behavior.

Breitbart News: I understand exactly where you’re coming from. But on the reverse side of that, you have the Islamic Republic of Iran which does use religion as a means to execute its citizens.

Howard Dean: I agree. And that’s exactly why I don’t want to do it. I think Iran is the farthest thing from an Islamic Republic, with some of the highest rates of execution in the world, torturing political prisoners, one of the worst human rights records in the world, a destructive force in the world. There’s nothing good about the Islamic Republic of Iran. And it’s not an Islamic republic; it’s a republic that’s been hijacked by thugs and murderers. And I think the legitimacy and the real government of Iran would be a secular government, which treated women equally with men.

Breitbart News: And just a follow up on that, do you think there is a nation that is governed by Islamic principles, or that considers itself to be majority Muslim, and that is truly an embodiment of what a Muslim nation should be like?

Howard Dean:I think Indonesia is close. There are terrorists in Indonesia but they’re not being embraced or being played footsie with by the government. I think there are other countries: Tunisia is one; Morocco has a better human rights record than most; it’s not a complete democracy. But there are nations where the people are overwhelmingly Muslims that don’t behave the way Iran does. I don’t consider Iran to be a Muslim country, because I don’t know Muslims who behave like that who I respect. And I think the vast majority of the billion Muslims in the world have no desire to live in Iran whatsoever because of the way their regime behaves.

Breitbart News: Or Saudi Arabia.

Howard Dean: Or Saudi Arabia. Although, I would say that Iran is far worse than Saudi Arabia … Although Saudi Arabia — I’m deeply disturbed by the financing of authoritarianism by the Saudis in countries where we didn’t have a problem, when now we do, in a place like Kosovo and the Balkans. So I’m not a big fan of Saudi Arabia. I think that was a marriage of convenience and that the Saudis have to clean up their act. The Saudis are, in part, responsible for terrorism, under the name of Islamic terrorism. And again, I don’t consider that — I think if you’re financing it elsewhere and it comes back into your own home, you bear some responsibility for that….

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Documentary ‘Los Abandandos’: Iran’s Assassination of Argentine Prosecutor Alberto Nisman

When Argentine Prosecutor Alberto Nisman was murdered under mysterious circumstances on January 18, 2015, we wrote of the curious circumstances surrounding his death. He was found dead in his Buenos Aires flat with a bullet to his head with a pistol allegedly in his possession. He was on the brink of presenting a 300 page brief to a committee of the Argentine Congress based on a decade of investigations. Investigations begun under the auspices of the late President of Argentina Nestor Kirchner and after his passing in 2007, for a time under his successor, his wife Cristina.

Nisman’s death came amidst revelations about negotiations of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2013 between Iran and outgoing Argentine President Cristina de Fernandez Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timmerman regarding a truth commission. The object of the commission was to facilitate an expose of Iran’s and its proxy Hezbollah’s roles in both the 1992 Buenos Aires Israel Embassy and 1994 AMIA Buenos Aires, Jewish Center bombings. Bombings that killed 114, injuring 542.In exchange for no prosecution following the truth commission proceedings, Iran and Argentina would renew their commercial trade.

On the occasion of Nisman’s January 30, 2015 funeral and interment in the martyrs section of the La Tablada Jewish cemetery in Buenos Aires we wrote in an Iconoclast Post, “There is No Justice in Argentina” :

Many in the Argentine Jewish Community considered that appropriate as they deemed him the “86th victim” of the AMIA blast. In effect his burial in the Martyrs section repudiated initial official assessments from President Cristina de Fernandez Kirchner and the investigating prosecutor that he may have been a suicide. Kirchner quickly changed her story to a likely murder by rogue intelligence elements who had “manipulated” Nisman.

By the time outgoing President Cristina Kirchner gave her valedictory speech at the UN General Assembly on September 28, 2015, she referred to the dismissal and trial of officials in the country’s intelligence echelon who she alleged impeded the investigation saying, “prosecutor Nisman, in charge of the case, passed away.”

Cliff May, President of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies attended a recent premier of a new documentary, Los Abandandos, (The Abandoned) about Nisman’s murder and the AMIA bombing investigations at Washington, DC’s, Newseum. . He published an opinion column in today’s Washington Times about the unsolved mystery of Nisman’s death and the comments of the film’s director, “Argentine Murder Mystery”. May noted:

The evidence, of which there is no shortage, leads to one conclusion: Iran’s rulers ordered the mass murder; Iran’s proxy terrorist organization, Hezbollah, carried out the mass murder; and in recent years Argentine officials at the highest levels have been involved in a cover-up of the mass murder.

May notes what possessed the director of Los Abandandos, Matthew Taylor, to pursue the story and create a riveting documentary:

To prevent the truth from passing away, Mr. Taylor went to Argentina where he quietly — he didn’t inform authorities — interviewed journalists, opposition politicians and anyone else brave enough to tell him what they knew. As the film shows, Argentines have gathered by the hundreds of thousands to protest what they see as their government’s capitulation to terrorists. Some have carried signs reading: “Islamic Fundamentalists Killed Nisman.”

In a conversation immediately following last week’s screening, Mr. Taylor was asked if he had made the movie to influence opinion about President Obama’s nuclear weapons agreement with Iran. When he began the project, he replied, he was not even aware of that controversy. But the film does serve, he added, as “a guide to what happens when you do deals with Iran.”

He pointed out that the AMIA bombing and the murder of Nisman started “with a nuclear deal” — an agreement Argentina made in the late 1980s to provide Iran with nuclear technology and assistance. Eventually, under pressure from the United States, the Argentine government did not give Iran’s revolutionary theocrats what they wanted.

One plausible theory — in essence, Nisman’s theory — is that the attack was Iran’s way of sending a message and a warning: “This time we kill Argentine Jews. Disappoint us again and who knows what our targets will be?”

May concluded:

Whatever the reasons, Mrs. Kirchner’s Faustian bargain necessitated abandoning both the AMIA victims and Nisman. Did it necessitate something even worse? That remains an unsolved murder mystery.

The Islamic fundamentalists who rule Iran are as determined and ruthless as any in the world. Their agents, including Hezbollah, are increasingly influential throughout much of Latin America.

Watch this You Tube video of the trailer for Los Abandandos:

Will the mystery of Nisman’s murder be resolved following the looming Argentine Presidential election on October 25th? That contest pits ruling Peronist Justicialist party candidate Daniel Scioli, the anointed successor to Kirchner, against  Buenos Aires Mayor, Mauricio Macri of the Center Right, PRO party. The latest polls taken show Scioli ahead of Macri, despite the former  not showing up for a televised Presidential debate Sunday; 41.3 % to Marci’s 30.5%.  There are five Presidential candidates in the race. The Buenos Aires Herald quoted Macri in late January 2015 saying, “The priority is to clarify the circumstances of  his death. We need to be respectful and allow the Judiciary to work. Nisman’s death cannot go unpunished.”  Should Scioli maintain his lead, we doubt that the mystery of Nisman’s death will be resolved anytime soon.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is the Alberto Nisman assassination graphic by Greg Groesch/Washington Times.

Obama’s Phased Nuclear Deal with Iran: Kicking the bomb down the road?

This column is co-authored with Ilana Freedman who is a veteran intelligence analyst and specialist in counter-terrorism. Ilana is Editor of FreedmanReport.com.

When we posted late Monday night, February 23, 2015, on breaking news about the phased deal resulting from bilateral discussions between U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, we knew from our sources that more shoes would be likely to drop. Last night we received information from these reliable sources on the extent to which the Administration had strayed from its original mandate. The information was:

  • Secretary of State John Kerry is poised to sign a secret Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the U.S. and Iran that was completed by negotiators on Saturday, February 14.
  • The State Department has received a decision from Eric Holder’s Department of Justice that the MoU does not require approval by the U.S. Senate in the Constitutionally defined process of Advise and Consent for treaties between the United States and other nations, and that therefore Congress will not be consulted.
  • The agreement does not cover the subject of inspections, removing the requirements of having inspections at any of the sites covered by the memorandum.
  • The agreement will allow Iran to have 10,000 enhanced centrifuges that will increase their nuclear program capacity by upwards of 50%.
  • Of the 10,000 centrifuges allotted, all of Iran’s 6,000 existing centrifuges will be converted to the enhanced, next generation versions. The conversion can begin immediately after the agreement is signed. This will enable Iran to achieve a nuclear threshold state in less than two years. The balance of 4,000 centrifuges will, according to our sources, be supplied by Russia.
Alireza Jafarzadeh Deputy Director of Natioal Council of Reskistance of Iran National Press Club  @-24-15 Source AFP

Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director, Washington Office of NCRI, National Press Club, Feb. 24, 2015.

It is not known whether other Iranian nuclear sites will likewise fall under this inspection exemption, including military test sites like Parchin and the secret parallel Lavizan site, which was disclosed in Washington on Tuesday, February 24th by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in a National Press Club briefing. At the NPC briefing, Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of the NCRI’s Washington D.C. office, reported on a secret test site which has been previously identified in reports of the Washington, D.C. based, Institute for Science and International Security.

“Despite the Iranian regime’s claims that all of its enrichment activities are transparent … it has in fact been engaged in research and development with advanced centrifuges at a secret nuclear site called Lavizan-3,” he said.  Jafarzadeh said the site was hidden in a military base in the northeastern suburbs of Tehran.

According to the presentation, the complex was described as a facility 164 feet underground. The Lavizan-3 site was apparently constructed between 2004 and 2008 and has underground labs connected by a tunnel, and lead-lined doors to seal out radiation leaks.  The facility itself is heavily shielded from radiation and insulated against noise and radiation leaks to avoid detection.

“Since 2008, the Iranian regime has secretly engaged in research and uranium enrichment with advanced… centrifuge machines at this site,” Jafarzadeh said.

The NCRI called the existence of the site “a clear violation” of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as well as UN resolutions and an interim November 2013 deal struck with the P5+1 group, he said.

When asked about the NCRI findings at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the bi-lateral discussions with Iran, Secretary Kerry commented:

That U.S. officials knew of charges related to the site prior to this week, but that “it has not been revealed yet as a nuclear facility.”

“It is a facility that we are well aware of, which is on a list of facilities we have,” the Secretary of State said during a Capitol Hill budget hearing on Wednesday morning. “I’m not going to go into greater detail. . . .But these things are obviously going to have to be resolved as we go forward.”

Rep. Brad Sherman, ranking Democrat on the House Affairs Committee replied to Kerry:

 “The MEK sometimes gives us accurate information.”

“They are the ones that told the world about the Iranian nuclear program,” Mr. Sherman said. “They now say that there’s a secret facility at Lavizan-3.”

A credible independent expert monitoring Iran’s nuclear program raised questions about the NCRI findings.  David Albright of the Washington, DC-based Institute for Science and International Security commented in a USA Today article, February 27, 2015:

“The basic story raises questions about its authenticity. They may have answers but the questions raise further doubts,” Albright said. “The claims are so controversial that any manipulated evidence casts doubt on the whole story.”

The matter of possible violations of the P5+1 interim agreements, the lack of inspections of military applications facilities like Parchin, the Arak heavy water reactor and the Lavizan-3  site near Tehran underlines the evidence of Iran’s  retention of significant uranium enrichment  centrifuge capabilities under the suggested 10 year phase deal the Administration announced  earlier this week.  It begs the question of why any enrichment capabilities are provided to Iran under the proposed arrangement, given that the principal use of centrifuges is for enrichment of uranium into fissile materials for bomb making.

That was a point made by Dan Diker, executive producer of the Voice of Israel “National Security” program during a Middle East Round Table discussion on 1330am WEBY Northwest Florida’s Talk Radio, “Your Turn” with co-hosts Mike BatesJerry Gordon of the NER and Shoshana Bryen , senior director  of the Washington, D.C. based Jewish Policy Center.

Diker of the VOI noted:

The notion that Iran would be able to enrich any uranium is completely unacceptable.  The civilian nuclear programs around the world hosted by Canada and other western countries have nothing to do with centrifuges.  They are just not part of the nuclear file.  Many countries want to have peaceful civilian nuclear power.  The notion that the Iranians would claim that they need centrifuges to produce peaceful nuclear power is an absurdity.  The fact that the P5+1 have allowed any uranium to be enriched is an extremely dangerous proposition.  That is the message that Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to bring to the American people and by extension to the world community.

As to why President Obama and Secretary Kerry would sanction the phased program, Bryen of the JPC suggested:

“[The President’s] thinking appears to be that ten years from now the Mullahs will have fallen, young Iranian democrats will have taken over, and it will be OK.  The big piece of this that he missed is that the Mullahs only represent one part of the Iranian body politic and that is the religious part. Iran is also Persian and Persians are empire-oriented.  Even if we get rid of the Mullahs, even if we get rid of the religious basis for governance in Iran and we have secular people, secular people in Persia believe in a Persian Empire. If we kick this can down the road ten years and the Mullahs are gone, Obama thinks that will be a good thing. I’m not sure that’s true.”

Listen to the February 24, 21015 1330am WEBY Middle East Round Table discussion on the Iranian nuclear program: Segment 1Segment 2Segment 3Segment 4.

An article based on the 1330am WEBY Round Table program will be published in the March 2015, NER.

The WEBY panel will also be heard on a separate Voice of Israel “National Security” program, Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 1PM Israel Standard Time ( 6:00 AM EST in the U.S.).  A sound cloud of that VOI broadcast will also be available on March 1st.

Iran’s provocative activities during the so-called Great Prophet-9 maneuvers this week raised questions about the untimely demonstrations of force directed at the US Fifth Fleet presence in the Persian Gulf. The first episode was the destruction by Iranian cruise missiles on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 launched at a replica of a U.S. aircraft carrier as a target near the international oil/gas choke point, the Straits of Hormuz, at the entrance to the Persian Gulf.  Watch the video, here.

Then on Friday, February 27, 2015, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy announced the successful launch of a cruise missile from a submerged Ghadir midget-submarine with a range of 150 miles. Watch the video, here.   Sepah news service quoted Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, commander of IRGC-N saying:

The new weapon would be critical in any future naval war against the U.S.

“The new weapon will have a very decisive role in adding our naval power in confronting threats,” he was quoted as stating in Sepah News.

Iran’s latest operations in the Persian Gulf near the Strait of Hormuz raises many questions. Why mount exercises in which a mock US aircraft carrier is destroyed by the Iranian navy? Or launch cruise missiles designed to take out a US naval destroyer just as the US is about to give them everything they want without a shot fired?  It may be a show of arrogance, a finger in the eye of the Obama administration (which it believes to be weak and foolish), or a move beyond the MoU into a new level of saber rattling to show its neighbors the seriousness of its ambitions. Or it might be all three, a typical multi-dimensional Persian chess play by the IRGC.

What the US must learn – and fast – is that this is not an enemy one can toy with. As in most Middle East politics, the weak are despised and the game goes to the powerful. As the secrets of Obama’s secret negotiations are revealed (or leaked), and the truth comes out about our feckless policies of negotiations and appeasement, the outcome is likely to be devastating for the region and the world.  Iran revels in its possible conquest of American might and moves a giant step closer to achieving its nuclear ambitions with America’s assistance – and blessings.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.