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Iran releases 4 hostages: ‘Money talks and people Walk’

This Los Angeles Times breaking news from Press TV in Tehran  about the release of four Iranian-Americans by Tehran, on the brink of alleged compliance with the JCPOA, is a reflection of an old adage.  “Money talks and people walk”.

The Islamic Republic is eager to have released the $100 billion in oil revenues sequestered in several non-US foreign banks. Those released funds will doubtless be used to crank up an estimated 500,000 barrels of oil production in 2016 to add to the existing glut in the world energy markets, clearly aimed at breaking US and OPEC competitive producers. This despite demonstrable violations of UN Resolution 1929 and the JCPOA provisions barring development of ballistic missiles given two tests in October and November 2015.

Add to that  restart of its hegemonic aspirations and support of terrorism via its proxies, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthi, among others.  There are those of us who firmly believe that Iran already has nuclear capabilities, achieved via a long standing alliance with the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.  That will be one of the topics on Sunday’s Lisa Benson Show with guest Claudia Rosett, Forbes and Wall Street Journal columnist of note and resident journalist at the Washington, D.C. – based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

We’re sure that the families of ex-Marine Hekmati, Pastor Abedini, convicted Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and one of the two American-Iranian businessmen welcome this news of their release when confirmed. But there is another imprisoned American, whose whereabouts is still unknown, ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson.

Ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson, 2011

Ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson, 2011. Source: Levinson family.

On March 9, 2015 , we posted this question on the NER/Iconoclast:  “Where is Ex-FBI Agent Robert Levinson, President Rouhani?”  We noted:

FBI director James Comey announced today that the agency raised the reward for information to $5 million on the whereabouts of former FBI agent Robert Levinson of Coral Springs, Florida.  Levinson disappeared from the Kish Island resort in the Persian Gulf eight years ago. A proof of life video of him was last seen in 2011. His family and lawyer have endeavored to seek the assistance of the Administration to have him returned. Secretary of State John Kerry apparently asked Foreign Minister Zarif for assistance in locating him.  CBS News reported:

FBI Director James Comey said “it is long past time for Bob to come home.” Secretary of State John Kerry urged the Iranian government to “work cooperatively with us on the investigation.”

An Associated Press investigation published in 2013 revealed that Levinson vanished while working for the CIA on an unapproved intelligence-gathering mission. In January 2014, Christine Levinson confirmed her husband was working for U.S. intelligence.

“He was working as a consultant for the CIA,” she told CBS News. “He was also a private investigator. He was able to do both at the same time in his travels.”

Tuesday is Levinson’s 67th birthday. He retired from the FBI in 1998.

Levinson has had no direct contact with his family since his capture in 2007. In 2010, documents detailing Levinson’s “arrest and detention in Iran” were anonymously emailed to his wife, who later received pictures and a short videotape.

[…]

“Leads were followed up, and investigations were made, but we have not gotten any new information about Bob,” Christine Levinson said last year.

We wrote about the shadowy circumstances behind his likely abduction on his way to meet an American convert to Islam David Belfield, a.k.a. Dawud Salahuddin, who assassinated a leading opponent of the Islamic republic, disguised as a postman delivering a package to him in suburban Washington, DC. See our December 13, 2013 Iconoclast post, Unanswered Questions Follow the Levinson CIA Rogue Mission Expose:

There were secret House and Senate Intelligence Hearings on the Levinson disappearance and CIA involvement.  A multi-million compensation deal for Levinson’s wife to keep her quiet was engineered in part by Florida US Senator, Bill Nelson. Meanwhile in 2011, proof of life videos and photos emerge showing a bushy haired grey bearded Levinson attired in an orange prisoner jumpsuit in chains pleading for his life. According to the WaPo report, the video audio background appears to favor the notion that he may have been moved to Afghanistan or Pakistan by Iranian intelligence.  The US secretly approached Iran about Levinson’s whereabouts. Meanwhile former Iranian President Ahmadinejad charged the US with using Levinson to perpetrate another CIA plot not unlike the 1950’s one that overthrew Iranian President Mohammed Mossadegh. Then in 2013 a new ‘reformist’ Iranian President emerges after the June election who engages in dialogue with the Obama Administration.  The State Department alleges that it made inquires during the recent P5+1 negotiation with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif concerning the whereabouts of another American prisoner, Pastor Abedini. However there is silence on the whereabouts of Levinson.  Concern rises about Levinson given that he is a diabetic and may have a heart condition. The inference is that he might have died in the course of interrogation. His case has gone dark. That is, until today’s expose. An expose that appears to have been embargoed for several years.

[…]

The assassin Salahuddin was recruited in 1980 by the late Muslim Brotherhood principal, Dr. Said Ramadan, father of Oxford/Notre Dame Professor Tariq, to do a hit for Ayatollah Khomeini.  Salahuddin, disguised as a US Postman, went to the door of a former Shah official in Washington, DC suburb, Ali Akbar Tabatabai’e,   shot and killed him and then fled to Tehran. We wrote about this Ramadan assassination mission ordered by Ayatollah Khomeini in our NER article How the CIA Helped the Muslim Brotherhood Infiltrate the West (August 2011).   Given Salahuddin’s background, that possibly means Levinson set up for a snatch by Iranian Intelligence. Given Levinson’s ‘contract’ work with the CIA Illicit Funds Office in Venezuela and Colombia, our hunch is that the IRGC Quds Force  got wind of this in Venezuela and started tracking him.

Now that Iran is getting its impounded $100 billion back and releasing four imprisoned Iranian Americans, it is  time for Secretary Kerry to fess up and press Iran for information on Levinson, and, if hopefully alive, obtain his release, now.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Who is Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari? The Story of the Fourth American Prisoner

ANALYSIS: Obama’s fantasy of a new Iran endangers us all

Iran Cashes In on Sanctions Relief and Hostages

Report: Iranian-American Hanged in Iran

Tehran Acknowledges 200 Thousand Armed Youth in Five Countries

As sanctions are lifted, PM pledges Israel will never allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons

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

VIDEO: Tafsheen Malik Radicalized at Women’s Islamic Academy

From U.S. and Canadian news reports comes evidence that the murderous Jihadi couple, Tafsheen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farooq had  allegedly long been radicalized. The picture above from ABC News is a shot taken on July 27, 2014 when the couple went through customs at O’Hare International  Airport after Ms. Malik had secured a K-1 fiancée Visa to come to the U.S. with her intended husband Farooq.

The Customs photo caught them in Sharia compliant garb reflective of professing  fundamentalist  Muslims.  They were returning from an extensive trip that took Farooq to Saudi Arabia to meet Malik and hence to her parent’s home in Multan in Central Pakistan before returning together to California.  There is the suspicion that Ms. Malik had undergone formal radicalization in her native Pakistan. Information on Malik’s background is emerging from independent investigations about  her attendance at  an Al Huda women’s Islamic Academy in Multan, one of several  across Pakistan propounding a Salafist Islamic doctrine.

mlogoThe Los Angeles Times produced a report on  the Pakistani Al Huda Islamist women’s seminaries and Ms. Malik’s attendance at the one in Multan, San Bernardino assailant attended Islamic institute in Pakistan:”

Tashfeen Malik studied at Al Huda, a chain of religious institutes that teach a fundamentalist strain of Islam, while she was enrolled in a university in Pakistan’s Punjab region several years ago, according to two fellow students.

The two former classmates of Malik’s at Bahauddin Zakariya University in the city of Multan said she regularly attended Al Huda classes, whose stated objective is to bring women “back to their religious roots.”

“She used to go to attend sessions in Al Huda almost every day,” said one of the former classmates, who spoke on condition she not be identified. “She was not too close to any class fellow.”

The former classmate said that Malik, who studied pharmacology at the university, did not share her thoughts on religious issues.

Pakistani security expert points out the ‘fundamentalist’ Islamic doctrine propounded by Al Huda:

Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, a Pakistani security analyst, said Al Huda teaches women “fundamentalist” ideas, though it does not necessarily promote a jihadist agenda.

“I call Al Huda the fourth generation of religious seminaries. It does not promote use of violence but takes you closer to the red line,” she said. “Now, it is a personal decision to cross the red line and take or give one’s life.”

Siddiqa said that the impact of the institutes is widespread, because a child who attends can influence other members of her family. “People would be familiar with, for instance, a daughter going to an Al Huda changing the mother and eventually the entire household. This dynamic is mirrored in more traditional seminaries as well.”

Malik, 29, was born in Pakistan to a land-owning, politically influential family in Karor Lal Esan, in southern Punjab province. Though Malik’s family moved to Saudi Arabia when she was a child, she returned to Punjab to study pharmacology at Bahauddin Zakariya University from 2007 to 2012.

One of her professors, Dr. Nisar Hussain, recalled her as “a very hardworking and submissive student,” and “an obedient girl.” He said she came to school veiled.

“She was religious, but a very normal person as well,” Hussain said in an interview. “I cannot even imagine she could murder people.”

A family member in Pakistan who asked not to be identified said that she had been a “modern girl” who changed during college.

After university, Malik returned to Saudi Arabia. In the last few years, she entered into a relationship with Syed Rizwan Farooq, a Southern Californian of Pakistani descent who she met online.

Another Pakistani academic expert  noted the credo expounded in the Al  Huda seminaries:

Sadaf Ahmad, an assistant professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, has written that Al Huda founder Farhat Hashmi’s denunciation of various cultural practices and disapproval of Westerners and Indians gives women a new conception of their identity as Muslims.

Ahmad found Al Huda graduates  “very intolerant and judgmental toward people who were different from them.”

The Toronto Star had more on Malik and Al Huda founder Farhat Hashmi who had immigrated to Canada, “Founder Pakistan religious school where San Bernardino shooter studied, lives in Mississauga:”

While in Multan, [Malik] also attended a religious school, which Pakistani intelligence officials on Monday identified as the Al Huda International Seminary. The school is a women-only madrassa with branches across Pakistan and in the U.S. and Canada, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The Canadian branch is based in Mississauga, Ont., according to the foundation’s website.

Al Huda’s founder, Farhat Hashmi, who now lives in Canada, has been criticized for promoting a conservative strain of Islam, though the school has no known links to extremists.

Hashmi was not available to comment on Monday, as she is currently in Pakistan, said a staff member at the school’s Canadian branch. The school also released a statement condemning the shooting in California and saying it was looking to increase security around its Mississauga campus.

Hashmi is on the payroll of Muslim Brotherhood affiliate in Canada:

Hashmi’s name surfaced on the payroll of one of Canada’s largest Islamic organizations, despite her not actually working there. An audit in 2011 revealed the Islamic Society of North America Canada was trying to help her immigrate to Canada.

Note the heavy concentration of extremist support in the central region of Pakistan and Malik’s course of study:

The region where the school is located, however, is home to thousands of extremist seminaries, with hundreds of them linked to al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban. Pakistan, which supports Islamic militants battling archrival India in the disputed region of Kashmir and is widely believed to have ties to insurgents in Afghanistan, has long turned a blind eye to institutions that teach radical interpretations of Islam.

Malik spent more than a year at Al Huda, taking classes six days a week, the school’s spokeswoman Farrukh Chaudhry told The Associated Press.

She enrolled in a two-year course to study the Qur’an, its translation and interpretation, but did not finish the course, Chaudhry added. Malik was a student there from April 17, 2013 until May 3, 2014, when she handed in her last paper in the first-year curriculum, the spokeswoman said.

“According to our records, this girl didn’t complete the course,” Chaudhry said, speaking over the phone from the southern port city of Karachi where she is based. “She told us that she was going to get married in two months, and after that she will leave for America.”

Pakistani police and intelligence are conducting further investigations into Malik and her family:

Pakistani authorities have also been looking into Malik’s time in Multan. Police and intelligence agents have searched the house where she lived on two occasions since Friday. Shabana Saif, a counterterrorism official, said intelligence agents seized documents, family photo albums and a laptop belonging to Malik’s sister, Shahida, who was studying engineering at a Pakistani college. It is not clear whether the house, which has been sealed, was owned by Tashfeen or her father.

Watch this AFP TV video report on the Pakistani University where Tashfeen Malik studied:

You may recall this comment from Asra Nomani, former Wall Street Journalist, author and colleague of the late Daniel Pearl in Pakistan from Sunday’s NBC Meet the Press segment on Islam and ISIS:

I saw it in 2002, went to Islamabad, Pakistan, and met women who were supporting this ideology. I call them the Taliban Ladies Auxiliary back then. This young woman in California would’ve been a star member of it.

RELATED ARTICLE: Islamic State Papers: How ISIS is building its state

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured photo, obtained by ABC News, shows Tashfeen Malik, center, and Syed Rizwan Farook, right, going through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on July 27, 2014.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could be facing a Court Martial for desertion

If the reports we have posted from members of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s platoon in the 25th Infantry Division in Afghanistan are any indication, he could, upon investigation, be subject to possible charges of desertion.  The Los Angeles Times reported  Facebook posts by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, that could make this  be a distinct possibility, “Gen. Dempsey: Army may still pursue desertion charge for Bowe Bergdahl”.

192px-General_Martin_E._Dempsey,_CJCS,_official_portrait_2012

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Cheifs of Staff.

Dempsey wrote on his Facebook page:

Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred.

Any decision on disciplinary measures will be up to the Army, Dempsey said in the interview. He said he does not want to pre-judge Bergdahl or say anything that might influence Army commanders.

In the Facebook post, Dempsey said in response to “those of you interested in my personal judgments about the recovery of SGT. Bowe Bergdahl, the questions about this particular soldier’s conduct are separate from our effort to recover ANY U.S. service member in enemy captivity.”

He added: “This was likely the last, best opportunity to free him.”

Dempsey said: “I want to thank those who for almost five years worked to find him, prepared to rescue him, and ultimately put themselves at risk to recover him.”

That last comment was perhaps an allusion to the six Army personnel from his unit who were killed  while  conducting a search for Sgt. Bergdahl. Article 85 of the Universal Military Code of Justice, Desertion, reads as follows:

(a) Any member of the armed forces who—

(1) without authority goes or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to remain away therefrom permanently;

(2) quits his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service; or

(c) Any person found guilty of desertion or attempt to desert shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct, but if the desertion or attempt to desert occurs at any other time, by such punishment, other than death, as a court-martial may direct.

That prospect could be what awaits Sgt. Bergdahl after he recovers from his ordeal and  evidence is presented to have him charged and brought before a courts martial proceeding.

The Los Angeles Times report cites Yale Law School military law expert, Eugene Fidell, who reviewed the conditions under which evidence might lead to a desertion charge under Article 85 and what options the Army might have available.

Bergdahl could face court-martial if the Army uncovers sufficient evidence of desertion, said Fidell. The Army might also decide to separate Bergdahl from the service through administrative procedures.

Any physical or psychological trauma could make Bergdahl unfit for continued service, Fidell said. If so, the Army would likely begin the process of arranging for retirement, medical care and other benefits.

Because the U.S. is not formally at war with the Taliban — Congress authorized military force against terrorists — a soldier serving in Afghanistan would not face the death penalty if convicted of desertion, Fidell said. The maximum penalty under these circumstances is five years in prison and a dishonorable discharge for “intent to avoid hazardous duty or shirk important service,” Fidell said.

[…]

Fidell said the military may decide that, regardless of any offenses Bergdahl may have committed, he suffered nearly five years in enemy custody and should not be punished further.

The Obama Administration seized the opportunity to exchange Bergdahl for release of five Taliban commanders and war criminals to the custody of the Emir of Qatar for a year to reduce Guantanamo’s last contingent of hard core Jihadist detainees.  That has been strenuously objected to by both the Chairmen of House Intelligence and Armed services Committees and several Ranking members of similar committees in the Senate.  They are calling for a investigation followed by hearings on the release of these Taliban commanders who might organize capture of other US and ISA coalition forces before the conflict in Afghanistan winds down.

Any actions against the 28 year old Army sergeant may be unlikely to come to the fore because of the objective of extracting virtually all US? ISA troops from combat operations before election day in 2016.  That is, unless Congress weighs in with investigative hearings.

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MAD Magazine poster on release of Bergdahl. For a larger view click on the image.

Brett Stephens in a Wall Street Journal   op ed, The Bergdahl Dishonor, quoted a White House official saying “Frankly we don’t give a sh-t why he left”. “He’s an American soldier. We want to bring him home.”  A point also made by General Dempsey. That comment came n from the June 2012 Rolling Stone piece on the Bergdahl desertion controversy written by the late Michael Hastings, “America’s last Prisoner of War. 

But that belies the fact that others died trying to secure his freedom from the Jihadists, while he forsook his oath upon enlistment in the Army:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

Moreover, the capture of Bergdahl may have emboldened the Taliban to undertake murderous attacks using I.E.D’s and other means resulting in casualties to other US ISA troops operating in the same province. Those issues were sharpened in a Weekly Standard piece, contrasting remarks by Susan Rice, National Security Adviser, with a soldier in Bergdahl’s unit, ‘We Swore to an Oath and We Upheld Ours. He Did Not.’

In an appearance on ABC’s This Week on Sunday June 1, 2014, National Security Adviser Susan Rice claimed that Bergdahl “wasn’t simply a hostage, he was an American prisoner of war, taken on the battlefield.” She added: “He served the United States with honor and distinction.”

“That’s not true,” says Specialist Cody Full, who served in the same platoon as Bergdahl, and whose tweets over the weekend as @CodyFNfootball offered an early firsthand account of Bergdahl’s departure. “He was not a hero. What he did was not honorable. He knowingly deserted and put thousands of people in danger because he did. We swore to an oath and we upheld ours. He did not.

RELATED VIDEOS:

Obama Smiles Immediately Upon Hearing Bergdahl’s Dad Declare Muslim Victory Call

[youtube]http://youtu.be/yBrp0VDUvjA[/youtube]

 

Wall Street Journal – Taliban release video of Bergdahl’s release

RELATED ARTICLES:

US Troops who served with Abdullah Bergdahl feared he was giving Taliban intel: “IEDs Started Going Off Directly Under The Trucks, They Were Getting Perfect Hits Every Time”
Special forces found Bergdahl and captors but wouldn’t risk rescue for “deserter”
Col. David Hunt: Bergdahl Called Unit The Day After He Walked Away Saying ‘I’ve Deserted’
Bergdahl Left Note Saying He Wanted to Renounce His American Citizenship and Go Find the Taliban

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review. The featured image is courtesy of WPTV Channel 5, West Palm Beach, FL.

Why the US Accusations Against Israeli Intelligence are Wrong

For the past two days there are have been a spate of articles triggered by  Newsweek contributing editor, Jeff Stein, who wrote a Spy Talk column with accusations alleging that Israeli Intelligence are operating in the US is at “alarming levels,” “Israel won’t stop spying on the US”. Stein’s accusations:

U.S. intelligence officials are saying—albeit very quietly, behind closed doors on Capitol Hill—that our Israeli “friends” have gone too far with their spying operations here.

According to classified briefings on legislation that would lower visa restrictions on Israeli citizens, Jerusalem’s efforts to steal U.S. secrets under the cover of trade missions and joint defense technology contracts have “crossed red lines.”

This despite a long term valued collaboration by US defense intelligence agencies with Israel. Stein’s anonymous sources appear to paint all Israelis as potential spies.

Stein’s allegations were immediately slammed by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and an Israeli Embassy official in Washington. The Jewish Press noted:

First of all, these are malicious accusations. . . I would not agree to any spying on the United States, not in any form, directly or indirectly.

Israeli Embassy spokesperson Aaron Sagui also flatly denied the charges, telling Newsweek, “Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period. We condemn the fact that such outrageous, false allegations are being directed against Israel.

The Stein accusations come amidst strains in the relations between the Administration and Israel over the collapse of the failed final status agreements with the Palestinian Authority. This was reflected in Ynet interviews with an unidentified “senior US official” many believe to be former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk. The Ynet reports suggested that the US might impose its own terms on both the PA newly unified with Hamas and Israel.

Moreover, tensions between Washington and Jerusalem have increased over the latter’s criticism of the P5+1 talks with Iran over curtailment of its nuclear program. That may be part of the agenda that National Security Advisor Susan Rice brought yesterday for discussions with the Netanyahu government. Those intelligence red line accusations may be behind the tightening of visas for visiting Israelis. This sudden swirl triggered by the Stein  piece in Newsweek has led to an unidentified senior Israeli diplomatic official suggesting in a Ynereport that the accusation may have been “tainted by a whiff of anti-Semitism.” That is reflected in Stein’s Newsweek Spy Talk column interviews with former CIA officials resurrecting the rogue Israeli intelligence operation involving imprisoned American spy Jonathan Pollard.

Jeff Stein appears to be touting a line perpetrated by a former FBI intelligence director, David Szady, back in the middle part of the last decade that there was an Israeli mole or moles borrowing into our national security establishment based on the Pollard conviction for spying. Just recall the FBI sting operation against former Defense analyst Larry Franklin at DoD used against the two former AIPAC senior staffers. Rosen and Weissman were falsely accused. A Federal Judge dismissed the wrongful prosecution brought as a result of Szady’s false accusations. I wrote about this eight years ago in an Israpundit article: “Are we all Jonathan Pollards, now?”

An AFP article, based on Stein’s Newsweek column cites unidentified former Congressional aides in his report said:

. . .  a congressional staffer familiar with a briefing last January called the testimony “very sobering … alarming … even terrifying”, and quoted another as saying the behavior was “damaging.”

“No other country close to the United States continues to cross the line on espionage like the Israelis do,” said a former congressional staffer who attended another classified briefing in late 2013, according to Newsweek.

It said that briefing was one of several in recent months given by the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the FBI and the National Counterintelligence Directorate.

The former congressional staffer said the intelligence agencies did not give specifics, but cited “industrial espionage—folks coming over here on trade missions or with Israeli companies working in collaboration with American companies, [or] intelligence operatives being run directly by the government, which I assume meant out of the [Israeli] Embassy.”

Israel’s espionage activities in America are unrivaled and go far beyond activities by other close allies, such as Germany, France, Britain and Japan, counter-intelligence agents told members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees,.

“I don’t think anyone was surprised by these revelations,” the former aide was quoted as saying.

“But when you step back and hear … that there are no other countries taking advantage of our security relationship the way the Israelis are for espionage purposes, it is quite shocking”.

A 2011 Los Angeles Times op-ed by Robert D. Blackwill and Walter B. Slocombe, “Israel: A True Ally in the Middle East” noted:

Counter-terrorism and intelligence cooperation is deep and extensive, with the United States and Israel working to advance their common interest in defeating the terrorism of Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda and its affiliate groups, and preventing nuclear proliferation in the region. There are joint Special Forces training and exercises and collaboration on shared targets.

This intimate relationship reinforces overall U.S. intelligence efforts by providing Washington with access to Israel’s unique set of capabilities for information collection and assessments on key countries and issues in the region. Such was the case, for example, when Israel passed to the United States conclusive photographic evidence in 2007 that Syria, with North Korean assistance, had made enormous strides toward “going hot” with a plutonium-producing reactor.

Slocombe was Undersecretary for Defense Policy at the Pentagon during the Clinton era, while Blackwill served as a diplomat during several Republican Administrations. Their comments in the Los Angeles Times report was drawn from a paper published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. A Tablet article cited  the authors’ views  in the paper at the time on the extensive Israeli contributions to US national security:

The paper offers chapter and verse on Israeli contributions to the U.S. national interest. They include: Israeli counter-proliferation efforts, such as the 1981 bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility and the 2007 attack on Syria’s secret nuclear facility at al-Kibar; joint military training exercises, as well as exchanges on military doctrine; Israeli technology, like unmanned aerial systems, armored vehicle protection, defense against short-range rocket threats, and robotics; missile defense cooperation; counterterrorism and intelligence cooperation; and cyber defense. Blackwill and Slocombe conclude that the alliance is in fact so central to U.S. national interests that U.S. policymakers should find ways to further enhance cooperation with Jerusalem.

Fast forward to 2014. Stein’s Spy Talk column indicates that something sinister is going on in the Washington intelligence community. That Israel, globally recognized  as an acknowledged leader in high tech in both civilian and military applications, needed  to spy on US industrial developments. Doesn’t square. Stein’s anonymous sources on Capitol Hill and in the FBI, CIA, State Department and Homeland Security may be reflecting the Administration’s pique at Israel’s asserting its sovereign right to defend the Jewish nation. A Jewish nation with Jihadist threats ranging on all of its borders seeking its destruction.

RELATED STORIES: 

American Intelligence in Disarray
Report of Israeli spying shows depth of incompetence

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

FRAUD ALERT: Obama Loosens Asylum Restrictions, Claims Skyrocket!

Asylum in the US was the political topic  de jour in Washington  today given a  Congressional  immigration report  and  publication  of  change  in  Administration rules.  The Washington Times (WT)  published  an exclusive report on government revelations  of massive fraud in asylum applications, “Audit finds asylum system rife with fraud; approval laws broken with surge of immigrants”.  The Obama Administration announced that  it was unilaterally lifting certain restrictions against asylum seekers with possible inadvertent relations with terrorist sponsoring groups. That may be the  Administration clearing the way  to grant Asylum to an estimated 2,000 Syrians.   A Fox News report, “Administration” cited   Senator  Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who found  the Administration’s move “alarming”, while Patrick Leahy (D-VT) , Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee that has oversight of the Refugee Act  welcomed  it.

Syrian Christian refugees

Endangered Syrian Christians

In December 2013, the  Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report that indicated “asylum applicants are at the highest level in two decades and triple the number of claims from 2012”.   The CRS noted that for the 2013 Fiscal year that ended in September “36,026 immigrants have expressed credible fear — a preliminary step in determining asylum — stating that they would like to remain in the U.S. because going back to their countries of origin would put them in harm’s way”. Individuals reaching the US at border crossings, ports of entry and landing at airports can requests asylum for fear of threats in their home country . They are placed in detention for disposition through a hearing process.  The US Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) approved 30,393 asylees immigrants in 2013. In 2012 44,170 requests for asylum were received and  11,978  were granted. Based on data for 2012 the  leading countries of origin for asylum seekers were  China, Egypt and Ethiopia.

A December 2013, Los Angeles Times (LAT) article on the surge in asylum indicated  the magnitude  of the spike in requests:

Most asylum applications are still made from inside the country, rather than by claiming credible fear at the border. People who are in the U.S. legally — on a tourist or business visa, for example — file “affirmative” applications, which have also increased, though not as rapidly as credible fear applications. Combined, the two categories have more than doubled in the last five years, exceeding 80,000 in fiscal year 2013

Statistics show that an immigrant’s chance of winning asylum depends largely on where he or she is from.

In 2012, more than 10,000 people from China were granted asylum, compared with just 126 Mexicans and 234 Hondurans, according to federal data. Immigration court figures, which do not include cases approved in an initial hearing by an asylum officer, show a success rate of nearly 50% for Chinese versus 1% for Mexicans.

Still, the process buys time. Almost 90% of credible fear applicants pass an initial screening interview, which allows them to live and work in the U.S. until their cases are resolved — often a matter of years.

In a House Judiciary hearing in December 2013, Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), and Trey Gowdy (R-SC) suggested that the rise in asylum claims may have reflected possible abuse of the immigration system. Chaffetz  said, “these credible-fear claimants almost always get approved and are released into our communities … when their asylum claims are ultimately denied, they simply add to the fugitive population in the U.S.”.

CRS immigration experts suggested otherwise.   Ruth Wasem of the CRS indicated the increase in asylum  claims “alone does not signify an abuse of the claims.”

Today’s  WT report affirms the December 2013 immigration hearing allegations with the release of a heretofore confidential government report by the House Judiciary Committee. It noted “at least 70 percent of asylum applications showed signs of fraud, according to a secret 2009 internal government audit that found many of those cases had been approved anyway”.  The WT report cited:

The 2009 internal report, which looked at claims made in 2005, found extensive evidence of fraud.

Investigators said 12 percent of the cases they reviewed showed clear evidence of fraud. In some cases, adjudicators missed the evidence, and in other instances, the adjudicators weren’t using tools available to the fraud investigators so they couldn’t have known.

House Judiciary Chairman Robert Goodlette (R-VA)  commented:

 Asylum fraud undermines the integrity of our immigration system and hurts U.S. taxpayers. Once individuals are granted asylum, they receive immediate access to all major federal welfare programs. Our immigration system should be generous to those persecuted around the globe, but we must also ensure our compassion isn’t being abused by those seeking to game the system.

The LAT report cited the example of  Chinese asylum seekers in a New York fraud case:

Fraud has been an issue, with underground asylum industries thriving in some ethnic communities.

In New York in 2012,  26 people, including six attorneys, were indicted on charges that they manufactured asylum claims and coached Chinese clients on how to lie to immigration authorities. One church employee allegedly provided religious training so applicants could pass as Christians.

Thomas Mayer, a San Gabriel immigration attorney, said Chinese immigrants sometimes ask him to make up a persecution story for them. He refuses, but the demand is growing.

To weed out impostors, Mayer administers a quiz: “Name two important Christian holidays. What is baptism? Who was John the Baptist?”

The Fox News report noted  the publication of new  rules in the Federal Register on Wednesday loosening restrictions:

The change, approved by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry, was announced Wednesday in the Federal Register. It would allow some individuals who provided “limited material support” to terror groups to be considered for entry into the U.S.

Supporters of the change, including Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., argued that the current ban on anyone who has ever aided terrorists has unfairly blocked thousands of refugees.

“The existing interpretation was so broad as to be unworkable,” Leahy said in a statement. “It resulted in deserving refugees and asylees being barred from the United States for actions so tangential and minimal that no rational person would consider them supporters of terrorist activities.”

This  and the House Judiciary  release of the  asylum fraud report prompted Sen. Jeff Sessions  (R-AL) to respond:

In light of these and other facts, it is thus deeply alarming that the Obama administration would move unilaterally to relax admissions standards for asylum seekers and potentially numerous other applicants for admission who have possible connections to insurgent or terrorist groups. We need to tighten security standards for asylum, not relax them even further.

What is the point of Congress passing a law if the administration abuses its ‘discretion’ to say that law simply no longer applies?

In May 2013, we  asked in a post, Can We Stop Refugee Terrorism? Ann  Corcoran of Refugee Resettlement Watch noted  in a blog post how alleged suspect Igrahim Todashev, killed by the FBI in a shootout in Tampa, Florida,  entered the US:

From the Boston Globe:

In 2008, the US government granted Todashev asylum, a protection granted to foreigners with a credible fear for their safety in their homelands ­because of religious, political, or other specific forms of persecution.

But Reuters reports that Todashev’s father is a government official in Grozny and has close ties to  Chechen  regional  leader Ramzan Kadryov.

Todaschev was the alleged accomplice of  the late Boston Marathon Bomber Tamerlane Tsarneav in the grisly murder of three men in a Waltham, Massachusetts apartment on 9/11/11.

Mark Kirkorian of the Center for Immigration Studies said  the LAT report:

Giving asylum to all kinds of people who are just using it as a path to a green card is not right. Only by keeping the bar high, so the only ones who get asylum are the ones who are really, really deserving, can it remain politically viable.

For Kirkorian that means those fleeing repressive governments and genocide.  Now we have an Administration relaxing the bar for asylum that might  let in  terrorists like Todaschev; this time from war-torn Syria.  Any priority for admittance of Syrian refugees should be granted to those meeting Krikorian’s criteria; Armenian and Orthodox Christians facing ethnic cleansing by Al Qaeda affiliates and Islamist opposition militias.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Obama Threatens to Veto the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act

Like many Americans and Israelis I watched expectantly President Obama’s State of the Union Address (SOTUS)  before a joint session of Congress crammed into the House Chamber. I was looking for a reaction from the Congressional audience on the issue of the P5+1 agreement implemented on January 20th. Iran’s President Rouhani had basically told  the P5+1  in a CNN  interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that the Islamic regime was not going to dismantle their nuclear program. Instead they were going to plough ahead with research and development on advanced centrifuges and would not swap the Arak heavy water plant that would produce plutonium for a bomb.

In  light of these jarring comments made in Davos, Switzerland  by President Rouhani  at the World Economic  Forum, you would have prudently thought that the President would have changed his mind about  vetoing  the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act (NWFIA), S. 1881. Obama made it clear that he was proceeding with the P5+1 deal as a diplomatic way of  avoiding  military action to disable the Islamic Regime’s  nuclear weapons capability.  A capability that according to Israeli PM Netanyahu  speaking at the Annual Conference of the Institute for National Security studies at Tel Aviv University  (INSS) was  “six weeks away from achievement when the P5+1 deal was signed” on November 24, 2013 in Geneva.

President Obama fired a bow shot directed at NWFIA sponsors Sens. Kirk and Menendez, and 57 other co-sponsors of S. 1881, as well as the Resolution introduced in by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor  (R-VA)  and Minority Leader Steny  Hoyer (D-Md.) supporting its passage.

Obama said:

Let me be clear if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it.

For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.

If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions, and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon.  But if Iran’s leaders do seize the chance, then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war.

It is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program – and rolled parts of that program back – for the very first time in a decade. As we gather here tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium. It is not installing advanced centrifuges. Unprecedented inspections help the world verify, every day, that Iran is not building a bomb.

If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.

Watch this C-SPAN video clip of the nuclear Iran segment of his SOTUS:

The immediate reaction was clearly stony silence from the Republican members of both chambers in the audience.

According to a  Jerusalem Postarticle on the President’s veto threat, NWFIA co-sponsor Sen. Kirk said:

“The American people – Democrats and Republicans alike – overwhelmingly want Iran held accountable during any negotiations. While the president promises to veto any new Iran sanctions legislation, the Iranians have already vetoed any dismantlement of their nuclear infrastructure,” Kirk added, calling his bill an “insurance policy” for Congress.

The Hill  Global Affairs blog reported the dissembling  the morning after  the President’s SOTUS remarks on a nuclear Iran by some Democratic co-sponsors of NWFIA in the wake of the President’s public veto threat.  Note these Senators’ comments:

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said on MSNBC Tuesday night that he didn’t endorse the bill so that it could be voted on during negotiations with Iran. “Give peace a chance,” he said.

“I did not sign it with the intention that it would ever be voted upon or used upon while we were negotiating,” Manchin said. “I signed it because I wanted to make sure the president had a hammer, if he needed it and showed them how determined we were to do it and use it, if we had to.”

[…]

“Now is not the time for a vote on the Iran sanctions bill,” Coons said Wednesday at a Politico event, according to The Huffington Post.

The senator clarified that he still supports the bill but warned advancing it now could damage ongoing negotiations toward a final agreement with Iran.

[…]

“I’m not frustrated,” Menendez told The Huffington Post on Tuesday after Obama’s address. “The president has every right to do what he wants.”

The Hill Global Affairs blog noted the Senate reaction  to NWFIA :

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the second-highest ranking Democrat, Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the fourth-highest ranking Democrat, and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have said they are against the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has also suggested he’s leaning toward not allowing a vote on it.

On Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the Senate should move the sanctions bill forward to the floor, predicting it would have a veto-proof majority.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported on Monday that lawmakers in both the House and Senate are considering a nonbinding resolution that expresses concern about Iran’s nuclear program.

Backing what Sen. Kirk said in his response to the President was further evidence from former  UN nuclear weapons inspector David Albright at the Washington, DC Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).  Both he and the sanctions analysis team from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies held a well attended briefing for Capitol Hill Staffers on Monday, January 27th.  Albright was quoted in the Los Angeles Times citing an ISIS  report on the technical aspects of the accord implemented on January 20th that allows Iran to continue research over the next six months on several types of advanced centrifuges already at Natanz:

[The accord]  is not expected to seriously affect Iran’s centrifuge research and development program. Albright said he hopes to persuade the six powers to push for much stricter limits on centrifuge research and development when they negotiate the final agreement. The issue has to be addressed much more aggressively.

Cliff May of FDD, co-sponsor of the Capitol Hill event with Albright  of  ISIS,  observed in an NRO Corner article:

If Iran’s rulers faithfully comply with every commitment they have so far made, at the end of this six-month period, they will be about three months — instead of two months — away from breakout capacity.

Yesterday, at the annual conference of the  Institute for National Security studies (INSS)  at Tel Aviv University, there was a dialog between former CIA Director Gen. David Petreaus and Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin,  former  IDF military intelligence chief.  The contrast between their positions on the Iran nuclear threat was most telling:

General (ret.) David Petraeus: The United States is war weary and suffers from a “Vietnam syndrome.” However, it still has major strategic capabilities, and President Obama will not hesitate to use force against Iran, if necessary.

Major General (ret.) Amos Yadlin: What keeps me awake at night is the Iranian issue. The Iranian nuclear program aspires to attain a nuclear capability. The only viable leverage – sanctions and a credible military threat – are weakening, and this is most worrisome. Also troubling: the status quo on the Palestinian issue is not favorable, and the relations with the United States are not on the same level as before – these must be restored.

If you are a gambler, which of the two former military leaders, would you bet on to make a decision in the sovereign national interests of Israel regarding a nuclear Iran?  I know who I would.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Senate Democrats Back off New Iran Sanctions Legislation

As if on cue, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani trumpets how the Islamic Regime won big time with the announced Joint Plan of Action (JPA) implementation last Sunday in Geneva.  As The Guardian noted in a report, “Iran nuclear deal means ‘surrender’ for Western Powers, says Rouhani”:

Speaking on Tuesday in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, Rouhani said the “Geneva deal means the surrender of big powers before the great nation of Iran”.

Perhaps one of those victories is the ability of the Islamic regime to pursue what we would call the “nth” development of new, more efficient centrifuges to enrich uranium. Enrichment for only one purpose, to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.  The Obama White House  confirmed that Iran has been allowed to pursue ‘centrifuge research’.     The Washington Free Beacon noted this White House news conference call exchange in an article,” Iran permitted to continue advanced nuclear research”:

Asked by a reporter on a conference call if the deal stops “Iran from designing new types of centrifuges,” a senior administration official admitted that the deal does not prohibit this activity.

[…]

“So what’s the practical effect of this R&D [research and development] clarification that you labored over so hard? What does it preclude them from doing?” the reporter asked.

It—I mean, their commitment is to continue their current enrichment R&D practices, and those are the practices that are laid out in the November [IAEA} Director General’s report,” said one of two senior administration officials on the press briefing. “This—that’s been documented, and that’s what they were—that’s what they will continue to do.”

As we had reported  in an Iconoclast post on possible veto-proof  bipartisan Iran sanctions  legislation in the US Senate (S1881) that  the centrifuge research issue had allegedly hit a snag.

Now in the wake of Rouhani’s speech yesterday in Iran comes word that the White House is soft peddling the Iranian President’s trumpeting of this alleged “victory”.    An AFP article, “White House plays down Rouhani crowing on Nuclear Deal” notes these comments by White House spokesperson Jay Carney at yesterday’s press conference:

It is not surprising to us and nor should it be surprising to you that the Iranians are describing the agreement in a certain way towards their domestic audience. It does not matter what they say, it matters what they do.

Problem is it could  thwart the Obama Administration’s campaign to stifle new bi-partisan sanctions legislation , the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act (NWFIA), S1881.

However, under White House threat to veto  NWFIA, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid ,according to a report from  The Weekly Standard, has blocked bringing the measure up for a floor vote.  Note these comments from  Reid, Democrat  Senators and Minority Leader McConnell in The Hill report,  “Dems back away from Iran sanctions legislation”:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday he wanted to “wait and see how this plays out” before moving forward with a vote on the sanctions. Reid declined to say when he might bring the bill, which has 59 co-sponsors, including 16 Democrats, to a vote.

The majority leader noted 10 of his committee chairmen are opposed to the bill.

“We believe we ought to have that vote,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday. “We’re going to continue to press the majority leader to allow a vote on an issue that obviously enjoys the support of a very large bipartisan majority here in the Senate.”

“I think the Iran sanctions bill is meant to strengthen the president, not in any way impede the ongoing negotiations, which should and hopefully will be successful,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a Menendez-Kirk co-sponsor, told reporters Tuesday. “So as long as there’s progress, and as long as the progress is meaningful and visible, there may not need to be a vote.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), another co-sponsor, said both the administration and Congress wanted to reach a diplomatic solution through negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, if that was possible.

“As far as trying to work out with the administration a strategy so we have more harmony, let’s talk about it,” Cardin said. “So I think that’s what’s going on right now.”

Prior to the November 24th announcement in Geneva of the P5+1 interim agreement with Iran,  Reid had backed new sanctions legislation according to  a report in the Los Angeles Times on November 21, 2013.

Yesterday, an Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) conference call on Iran’s intentions over its nuclear program   featured former Israeli Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger and Dr. Michael Ledeen of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.  Dr. Ledeen is an impassioned advocate for both sanctions and support for regime change via what he argues could be a significant Iranian opposition.  Amb. Ettinger suggested that perhaps something more is required, when he commented:

Only one option to avoid facing an Iran which could become an uncontrollable strategic apocalyptic threat. That option is surgical, devastating, disproportional military preemption against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.