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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.

“Zionism Unsettled” is a hatefilled document endorsed by Iran and David Duke

zionism unsettledA century ago the Presbyterian Church was among the leading Christian Zionists. These days a minority within  the Presbyterian Church USA is engaged in relentless delegitimization of Israel through a decade long BDS campaign. Their affiliate the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) released last month a 74 page guide, Zionism Unsettled (the Guide) that recently stoked the ire of the American Jewish community. A JNS.org story on the Zionism Unsettled guide cited Rabbi Noam Marans, the American Jewish Committee’s  Director of Intergroup and Interreligious Relations, who called it:

 A devastating distortion of Jewish and Israeli history, aimed at nothing less than eradicating the State of Israel.

The study guide is reminiscent of medieval Christian polemics against Judaism, with the authors claiming to know better than the Jewish community how Jews define themselves. This is another example of the ongoing effort to demonize Israel by a cadre of people who want to see the dismantlement of the Jewish state.

Here are some examples drawn from the Guide  that led to adverse criticism:

The Nakba (catastrophe) that befell the Palestinian people in the late 1940s should never have taken place. The Palestinian story is one of suffering at the hands of the international community, which authorized the division of Palestine in 1947, and at the hands of the Zionists who planned, organized, and implemented systematic ethnic cleansing.

Now, 65 years later, the Zionist quest for demographic control of the land in still underway – not only in the occupied territories, but within Israel itself.

Yesterday, the Guide received the endorsements of the Shiite Islamic Anti-Semitic Regime’s Press TV in Tehran and the American Anti-Semite, David Duke.  Duke has conducted outreach to Muslim Anti-Semitic groups in both Syria and Iran, to say nothing of his racist efforts here in the US.

Press TV’s report, “Zionism destroying lives of Palestinians, Jews” applauded the anti-Zionist Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP):

In a study guide on the Israeli regime released by the IPMN of Presbyterian Church (USA) last month, the authors argue that Jewish criticism of Zionism is on the rise, hailing the Jews who speak against the ‘supremacist’ movement.

“Contemporary voices are breaking the taboos that have stigmatized and punished critical examination of Zionism and its consequences,” says the study guide, calling on the brave Jews who criticize Zionism to resist a concerted effort by Pro-Zionist groups to silence them.

Press TV supported the Guide’s anti-Israel views:

A Presbyterian Church group has described Zionism as the single reason behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying it is destroying the lives of both Palestinians and Jewish communities across the world.

Dexter Van Zile, Christian Media Analyst for the Boston-based Middle East media watchdog, CAMERA, cited praise for the Guide from David Duke in an Algemeiner article:

In a major breakthrough in the worldwide struggle against Zionist extremism, the largest Presbyterian Church in the United States, the PC (USA), has issued a formal statement calling Zionism “Jewish Supremacism” — a term first coined and made popular by Dr. David Duke.

The IPMN website has additional acclamation from leftist Anti-Zionist Ben Gurion University Professor Neve Gordon (no relation) and former Palestinian National Council spokesman, Professor Rashid Khalidi, holder of the endowed Edward Said Chair on Modern Arab Studies  at Columbia University:

Gordon said in his blurb:

In my work I am inspired by the great Jewish prophets’ struggle for justice and freedom, while simultaneously I am often astounded how certain strains in Judaism and Christianity invoke the Bible in order to justify oppression and social wrongs in Israel/Palestine. Therefore I welcome the effort to emphasize a conception of Judaism and Christianity that espouses universalistic ethics – whereby all humans are imago dei – and to use it to expose injustices carried out in my homeland.

Khalidi said:

The denial of the rights of the Palestinians is largely driven by the exemption of Zionist ideology and its real-world implications from any serious scrutiny. Zionism Unsettled explains accurately and concisely why it is essential to look at the theological roots of Zionism, and how it has appealed to both Jews and Christians, in order to understand the true nature of the long ordeal suffered by the Palestinian people, as well as the real roots of so much of the strife in the Middle East.

Today, the Presbyterian Church (USA ) entered the fray with a news release in the wake of this kerfuffle over the Guide:

 “Our church has a long history of engaging many points of view when it comes to dialogue on critical issues facing the world around us — it’s who we are, part of our DNA,” said Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “There are likely as many differing opinions as there are Presbyterians — and, like many denominations, we don’t always agree.”

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) policy calls for a negotiated settlement between Israel and Palestine and the right for each to exist within secure and recognized borders. The church has condemned acts of violence on both sides of the conflict, as well as the illegal occupation of Palestinian land by Israeli settlements. Our church has categorically condemned anti-Semitism in all its forms, including the refusal to acknowledge the legal existence of the State of Israel. At the same time, we believe that condemnation of injustices perpetrated in the name of the State of Israel, including the violation of human rights, does not constitute anti-Semitism.

In 2004, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) formed the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) to help move the church toward the goal of a just peace in Israel/Palestine. The independent group — which speaks to the church and not for the church — recently published a study guide, Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study. The guide is intended to prompt discussion on the ever-changing and tumultuous issue of Israel-Palestine. The IPMN booklet was neither paid for nor published by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

“There are myriad voices within congregations, and some would like to see the church go beyond that stance,” added Valentine. “But we remain guided by the policies of the General Assembly, seeking peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Then it quotes the head of the anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace:

There are a variety of voices and opinions within the Jewish community on this issue as well. Jewish Voice for Peace advocates for a peaceful and just solution among Palestinians and Israelis that respects human rights for all.

“We are in opposition to the settlements and occupation, and in favor of a true and just peace,” said Sydney Levy, director of advocacy for Jewish Voice for Peace. “And we are not alone in this — Jews, Christians, and Muslims join us in the prayer for peace.”

Is this the view of all members of the PCUSA?  Not by any means.  Robert Norvell, a Presbyterian Minister and counter-jihad activist in Jonesboro, Arkansas wrote in an email:

I believe 85% of all Presbyterians are adamantly opposed to this study. Is Israel perfect? No, but neither is the USA. But Israel is far superior morally to Hamas, Fatah and the other Muslim savages populating the neighborhood. They are our only reliable friends and allies in the region. I am embarrassed by the actions of a few Presbyterian extremists.

Dexter Van Zile in the JNS.org article corroborated Norvell’s comment saying:

The folks who lead this church in Louisville (site of Presbyterian Church USA’s headquarters) are quite willing to allow a small but vocal minority to demonize Israel and use the church’s brand-name to do it. They have behaved like this since 2004. Most of the denomination’s laity does not support these extremists, but their voice has not proven to be decisive.

When I wrote about a battle within the PCUSA over an anti-Israel BDS resolution at the annual conference in an American Thinker article in June 2006, “Divest Hate”, I noted who were among the Presbyterians opposing it:

Because grass roots opinion has been building among both pastors and their flocks against the leadership of the PCUSA on the divestment resolution. They want to eliminate hate and most importantly protect the religious freedoms of minority Christians in the Middle East from the real threat of Islamic fundamentalism. Their allies in this battle include leading grassroots Presbyterian groups like End Divestment Now!, founded by Jim Roberts.  Among vocal opponents of the BDS resolution was former CIA director, R. James Woolsey, a Presbyterian Elder,  and chairman of the Washington, DC-based foundation for Defense of Democracies..

Zionism Unsettled  is a hateful document that has had a spotlight thrown on it  by the endorsement of Iran’s Press TV and David Duke. As cited by Norvell, we trust that  a majority of Presbyterians will rise to the occasion and defeat another BDS resolution at the Church’s upcoming annual conference in June.  Whether they can remove the current PCUSA leadership and return to the moral high ground is another matter. Nonetheless, we wish the activist laity well in their battle to support the Jewish nation of Israel.

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

Turkey’s Erdogan: Purges Police, Stymies Corruption Investigation and Prepares to visit Iran

Turkish Premier Erdogan has aggressively pursued a purge of police involved with public prosecutors corruption investigation in a desperate move to stave off potential losses for the AKP in the March 2014 municipal elections.   His actions reflect the internecine battle between two former Islamist allies, Erdogan of the AKP and Sheikh Mohammad Fethullah Gulen and his followers who have penetrated both police and the judiciary in Turkey. At the top of the Turkish government in the largely ceremonial post is co-founder of the AKP and current Turkish President, Abdullah Gul, a Gulenist. Gulen is being urged to exercise his powers under Turkey’s constitution that might include an independent comprehensive investigation of corruption and perhaps a call for new elections.  Despite calls for Gul to act, he remains sphinx-like on the sidelines keeping a watching brief on the swirl of the corruption charges until evidence of wrongdoing by the inner circle of Premier Erdogan surfaces.  We had reported on the alleged involvement of Erodan’s son, Bilal in a money laundering scheme benefitting Al Qaeda affiliates in Syria.  There are reports from the New York Times  and the Washington Post in the US and from Today’s Zaman and Hurriyet Daily News in Turkey on overnight developments and comments from Turkish secular political opponents of the Islamist AKP regime of Premier Erdogan.

More than 600 police were involved in the overnight purge; 350 were removed from Ankara posts, while 250 were “brought in from elsewhere”. Hurriyet Daily News (HDN)reported the removal of 16 police chiefs from provincial posts:

Police chiefs of 15 provinces across Turkey, including Ankara and Izmir, and the deputy head of the national police department were dismissed overnight by the Interior Ministry.

The dismissal of the Ankara police chief, Kadir Ay, comes only a day after 350 officers working in key operational units were relocated in one sweep. The head of the Izmir forces, Ali Bilkay, has also been relocated.

Erdogan used intimidation in personally threatening the Istanbul prosecutor. Note what the prosecutor’s remarks in this HDN article:

A prosecutor who has supervised a recent corruption probe claimed Jan. 8, 2014  he was “threatened” by two people sent by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stop the investigation.

“Two people who were former members of the high judiciary were sent to me by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an,” Zekeriya Öz, who was removed from his post as deputy Istanbul chief prosecutor following a graft investigation that included the sons of three former Cabinet members, told reporters Jan. 8. 

“Those two people I met at a hotel in Bursa told me that the prime minister was angry with me, I should write a letter of apology and stop the probe immediately, or I would be harmed.”

In the midst of this were new allegations of corruption in the port of Izmir involving the Turkish National Railways. HDN reported:

Elsewhere, three senior Izmir officers were dismissed after launching fraud investigations into transactions at commercial harbors operated by the Turkish State Railways (TCDD) in which 25 people were detained.

The suspects, including eight TCDD officials, were taken into custody on charges of bribery, corruption, conspiring to rig tenders and leaking information about tenders as part of a fraud investigation launched by the Izmir Public Prosecutor.

They included senior officials such as the director of the Izmir port and his two deputies, while reports also claimed that an arrest warrant had been issued for the brother-in-law of former Transport and Urban Planning Minister Binali Yildirim, who works in the company of a CEO taken into custody during the raids.

Then the Judiciary weighed in on developments in Istanbul, HDN noted:

… the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) launched an investigation yesterday into newly appointed Istanbul Police Chief Selami Alt?nok, who replaced Huseyin Capk?n after the latter was reassigned as part of the probe.

Today’s Zaman  noted HSYK’s authority to conduct such an investigation, unusual given the unraveling corruption charges and questionable Erdogan moves:

The HSYK has the authority to launch investigations into police chiefs based on a law adopted in 2005. This is the first time the HSYK has exercised its authority to launch an investigation into a police chief.

There is a separate development arising from calls for a possible retrial of secular senior Turkish military officers convicted in alleged plots to overthrow the Islamist AKP government, see our most recent Iconoclast post.  This was a meeting today with the head of the Turkish Bar Association and the Erdogan Justice Minister.  Today’s Zaman reported that:

Turkish Bar Association (TBB) President Metin Feyzioglu [met] with Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, Wednesday.

During their meeting, Feyzioglu and Bozdag discussed possible legal avenues for the retrial of military officers convicted of coup plotting. On Thursday, Feyzioglu is scheduled to hold separate meetings with Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek, Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli to discuss the issue.

Scores of Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) members — both retired and on active duty — were imprisoned as a result of the Sledgehammer and Ergenekon coup trials. These cases were concluded in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The Supreme Court of Appeals recently upheld a lower court’s verdict in the Sledgehammer case, while the appeals court is currently reviewing the Ergenekon case.

On Jan. 3, 2014 Feyzioglu visited President Abdullah Gul at the Cankaya presidential palace to discuss the situation of the convicted officers. In a press conference after the meeting, Feyzioglu said the TBB had outlined a proposal that included nullifying decisions made by specially authorized courts; retrying cases heard by those courts at high criminal courts; abolishing regional high criminal courts that replaced specially authorized courts; and paying compensation for improper arrests and convictions.

Meanwhile the main secular opposition, the People’s Republican Party (CHP) lead by Kemal Kilicdaroglu in Turkey’s parliament has kept up a stream of constant criticism of Erdogan endeavoring to place him at the center of the corruption probe. Yesterday, he questioned the Turkish Intelligence (MIT) report on the illegal gold trading submitted in April 2013 involving Azeri Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab. Today’s Zaman reported Kilicdaroglu saying:

In a weekly meeting of his party’s parliamentary group on Tuesday, Kilicdaroglu addressed reports published Monday in a number of media outlets claiming that the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) submitted a report to Erdogan on April 18, 2013 detailing the shady relations – involving bribery and influence-peddling – of certain ministers with Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who is under arrest. “I would like to ask the prime minister about what he did upon receiving this report. Did you call these ministers and talk to them? Did you talk to your children? He didn’t. He is the one who gave these orders,” Kilicdaroglu said.

Erdogan is busy preparing for a trip to Iran later in January. According to Press TV,  the purpose of the visit is to “upgrade relations” with the Islamic regime.  Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took time out from his conduct of negotiations with the P5+1 last weekend to confer with Premier Erdogan and  Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu.  The purpose of those meetings and the upcoming one late this month is to focus on trade, now that the P5+1 sanctions regime has allegedly been lifted. This despite Turkey’s membership in  NATO and as a US ally.  Press TV noted:new US Senate

During the Zarif-Erdogan meeting, Iran and Turkey underlined their determination to boost the value of bilateral trade volume.

During a visit to Tehran in November, Davutoglu said his country can become an energy corridor for its eastern oil- and gas-rich neighbor, Iran.

In October, the Turkish minister of energy and natural resources said Turkey will raise its gas imports from Iran – currently standing at 10 billion cubic meters a year – if possible.

Iran is Turkey’s second biggest gas supplier after Russia. Turkey uses a significant portion of its imported Iranian natural gas to generate electricity.

But why should Turkey be any different from British parliamentary  and French delegations, the latter seeking to exploit minerals, steel and auto investment projects and other opportunities given the lifting of sanctions?

Erdogan, as we noted earlier, is desperate to stifle the corruption investigations, and maintain calm in the roiling foreign exchange markets for the Turkish Lira amidst concerns raised by the EU, and more importantly credit rating agencies like Fitch.

Meanwhile Iran’s wrecking crew  in the US is beavering  away trying to sabotage new sanctions legislation pending in the US Senate that appears to have majority bi-partisan support for passage of the bill co-sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Chair Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL).  A Washington Free Beacon report,“Pro-Iran Shadow Lobby Launches Bid to Kill Iran Sanctions” drew attention to a letter from the Iran Project and its relations with Iranian lobbyists in Washington, DC:

Ploughshares has touted the Iran Project’s work on multiple occasions, referring to it “as a group of highly respected national security experts and former U.S. government officials.”

“The reports released by the Iran Project are very influential among decision makers in Washington,” NIAC wrote of the group in April.

“These are many of the same foreign policy experts who opposed the toughest Iran sanctions that got us to this point,” Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) tweeted on Monday.

Others cautioned against taking seriously this latest anti-sanctions lobbying bid. “This is a group run by people who support Iran, are celebrated by the Iranian media, and are deeply embedded in a network of organizations that have consistently sought to weaken the U.S.’s leverage in attempting to denuclearize Iran,” said one senior official at a Washington-based pro-Israel group.

Erdogan’s Turkey cozying up to Iran, while filtering arms and funds to the latter’s opponents in Syria would appear to be opportunistic. Is it to secure natural gas for Turkish domestic and manufacturing needs in exchange for machinery sales that just might find their way to assist in making a new generation of centrifuges for uranium enrichment?  In the meantime Erdogan might be in danger politically given the latest round of corruption investigations and possible retrials of jailed secular senior military officials.  Either way, the Obama Administration has its hands full dealing with the metastasizing Al Qaeda in Syria and Iraq making hollow his 2012 campaign theme that ”Bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda is on the run”.

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

Iran Accelerates Uranium Enrichment to 60%! Now what?

In response to the introduction of the bipartisan Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act of 2013  last Thursday in the US Senate co-sponsored by 26 Senators, see our Iconoclast post here, the Iranian government struck back. Press TV filed a story Wednesday that 100 MPs in the Majlis, the Iranian Parliament, signed legislation to accelerate enrichment and completion of construction of the Arak heavy water reactor for production of fissile plutonium, should the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act be passed “Iran MPs draft bill on 60% uranium enrichment”.  Press TV reported:

Iranian lawmakers have drafted a bill that would oblige the government to produce 60-percent enriched uranium in line with the requirements of the nation’s ‘civilian’ nuclear program.

Signed by 100 legislators, the draft was presented to the Presiding Board of Majlis on Wednesday.

“If the bill is approved, the government will be obliged to complete nuclear infrastructure at Fordo and Natanz [facilities] if sanctions [against Iran] are ratcheted up, new sanctions are imposed, the country’s nuclear rights are violated and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s ‘peaceful’ nuclear rights are ignored by members of P5+1,” Iranian lawmaker Seyyed Mehdi Mousavinejad said on Wednesday.

The bill would oblige the government to put the Arak heavy water reactor into operation and enrich uranium to the 60-percent purity level in order to provide fuel for submarine engines if the sanctions are tightened and Iran’s nuclear rights are ignored, the MP underscored.

We noted in our Iconoclast post on the new US Senate sanctions bill:

Clearly, these Senators are skeptical that an ultimate agreement can be achieved with the Islamic Regime in Tehran based on the P5+1 interim agreement and Joint Plan of Action (JPA). This despite President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry’s lobbying effort aimed at providing a hiatus to resolve issues with Iran. They are not the only ones; French Foreign Minister Fabius also renewed his dour prediction that a final agreement to prevent nuclear breakout and a weapons delivery capability may not be possible.  The US Senators and French Foreign Minister Fabius can point to a Press TV news release with comments by Ali Akbar Salehi, Iranian head of their Atomic Energy Organization.  Salehi said “the country’s nuclear facilities, including Arak heavy water reactor, will continue running, dismissing Western governments’ call on Tehran to suspend activities at the facility”.

Kirk’s and Menendez’s statements introducing the new legislation reflected a deepening skepticism on Capitol Hill and in polls across America and in Israel that Iran will honor any agreements.  This is based on its track record of deception, relentless pursuit of nuclear hegemony in the Middle East and its global reach of terrorism against the West.

We further noted President Obama’s objections to the new US Senate sanctions bill:

President Obama in his year end press conference, prior to his departure for a vacation with family in Hawaii, responded to questions about the new Senate sanctions initiative, saying:

What I’ve said to members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, is there is no need for new sanctions legislation, not yet.

Now, if Iran comes back and says, we can’t give you assurances that we’re not going to weaponize, if they’re not willing to address some of their capabilities that we know could end up resulting in them having breakout capacity, it’s not going to be hard for us to turn the dials back, strengthen sanctions even further. I’ll work with members of Congress to put even more pressure on Iran. But there’s no reason to do it right now.

Press TV  noted what immediately prompted the new Majlis uranium acceleration bill:

Moreover, the administration of US President Barack Obama on December 12 issued new sanctions against more than a dozen companies  and individuals for “providingsupport for” Iran’s nuclear energy program.  [For details see: US Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Control Sanctions Designations, December 12, 2013]

The US Treasury Department said it was freezing assets and banning transactions of entities that attempt to evade the sanctions against Iran.

This is while under a nuclear agreement reached in Geneva last month, the United States should not impose fresh economic sanctions against Iran over the next six months.

Meanwhile, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice said on December 23rd that Washington seeks to include “triggers” in any final nuclear deal with Iran to automatically re-impose sanctions if Tehran violates the terms of the agreement.

The Islamic regime never ceases to threaten that they will not be deterred in achievement of their nuclear program objectives. That may be triggered by possible passage of new strengthened sanctions legislation or breakdowns in negotiations towards a final agreement based in part on the P5+1 Interim Agreement reached in Geneva on November 24, 2013.  Skepticism abounds about possible achievement of such a final agreement. Hence, concerns about possible military action should the process breakdown.

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

All Praises due Sens. Kirk and Menendez on Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act

Yesterday, as I entered a December monthly luncheon meeting of the Tiger Bay Club in Pensacola I was taken aside by a fellow member who told me how much he valued the work of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) on the latest Iran sanctions effort.  We were there to hear David Wasserman of the Cook Report and assistant editor of the National Journalgive a presentation on the 2014 electoral map for the crucial midterm elections for President Obama. He is seemingly in trouble over the debacle of his keystone domestic program, the Affordable Care Act.  We have great respect for Sen. Kirk given our September 2008 NER interview with him when he was a Member of the US House of Representatives from a suburban Chicago  Congressional District, involved with the bi-partisan effort working on early Iran nuclear sanctions legislation.

My Tiger Bay colleague was referring to new bipartisan sanctions legislation, the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act co-sponsored by Sen. Kirk, a ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Prominent among the 26  co-sponsors of the new sanctions legislation were Sens. Casey (D-PA), Graham (R-SC), McCain (R-AZ), Rubio (R-FL), Schumer (D-NY), Warner (D-VA). Clearly, these Senators are skeptical that an ultimate agreement can be achieved with the Islamic Regime in Tehran based on the P5+1 interim agreement and Joint Plan of Action (JPA). This despite President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry’s lobbying effort aimed at providing a hiatus to resolve issues with Iran. They are not the only ones; French Foreign Minister Fabius also renewed his dour prediction that a final agreement to prevent nuclear breakout and a weapons delivery capability may not be possible.  The US Senators and French Foreign Minister Fabius can point to a Press TV news release with comments by Ali Akbar Salehi, Iranian head of their Atomic Energy Organization.  Salehi said the country’s nuclear facilities, including Arak heavy water reactor, will continue running, dismissing Western governments’ call on Tehran to suspend activities at the facility”.

Kirk’s and Menendez’s statements introducing the new legislation reflected a deepening skepticism on Capitol Hill and in polls across America and in Israel that Iran will honor any agreements.  This is based on its track record of deception, relentless pursuit of nuclear hegemony in the Middle East and its global reach of terrorism against the West.  They commented:

“The American people rightfully distrust Iran’s true intentions and they deserve an insurance policy to defend against Iranian deception during negotiations,” Sen. Kirk said. “This is a responsible, bipartisan bill to protect the American people from Iranian deception and I urge the Majority Leader to give the American people an up or down vote.”

“Current sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and a credible threat of future sanctions will require Iran to cooperate and act in good faith at the negotiating table,” said Sen. Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “The Iranians last week blamed the Administration for enforcing sanctions; now, they criticize Congress. The burden rests with Iran to negotiate in good faith and verifiably terminate its nuclear weapons program. Prospective sanctions will influence Iran’s calculus and accelerate that process toward achieving a meaningful diplomatic resolution.”

Jennifer Rubin in a Washington Post column, Friday, “Congress is trying to stop a war, not start one”, outlined what the new bi-partisan sanctions legislation contains:

. . . to enact sanctions if Iran cheats during the interim agreement or fails to reach a final deal and to reaffirm the parameters of a final deal (terms embodied in United Nations resolutions and articulated by three presidents, including this one).

Those parameters include “dismantl[ing] Iran’s illicit nuclear infrastructure, including enrichment and reprocessing capabilities and facilities, the heavy water reactor and production plant at Arak, and any nuclear weapon components and technology, so that Iran is precluded from a nuclear breakout capability and prevented from pursuing both uranium and plutonium pathways to a nuclear weapon.” In addition, Iran must come into compliance with all U.N. resolutions and allow round-the-clock inspections.

The bill includes broad waiver authority for the Administration. (This had been a concern for some Democrats.)

At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, President Obama’s Press Spokesman Jay Carney fired back, “We don’t think this action is necessary. We don’t think it will be enacted. If it were [passed] the president would veto it.”

President Obama in his year end press conference, prior to his departure for a vacation with family in Hawaii, responded to questions about the new Senate sanctions initiative, saying:

What I’ve said to members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, is there is no need for new sanctions legislation, not yet.

Now, if Iran comes back and says, we can’t give you assurances that we’re not going to weaponize, if they’re not willing to address some of their capabilities that we know could end up resulting in them having breakout capacity, it’s not going to be hard for us to turn the dials back, strengthen sanctions even further. I’ll work with members of Congress to put even more pressure on Iran. But there’s no reason to do it right now.

Referring to a recent Administration action black-listing 12 Iranian companies following the P5+1 interim agreement, Jonathan Schanzer of the Washington, DC –based Foundation for Defense of Democracies commented in a Politico column, “The White House Can’t Have it Both Ways on Iran”:

Actively punishing Iran for its mendacity while trying to selectively reduce other sanctions (in this case, automotive, petrochemicals and precious metals) for the sake of diplomacy projects two competing messages. It should come as no surprise that this dual approach has inspired the confidence of neither Iran nor Congress. Indeed, the only actors out there who are heartened by Washington’s conflicted policies are the companies eyeing investments in Iran. They see confusion, and therefore ambiguity. And that’s a whole lot better than the investment environment of just a few months ago, when Iran appeared to be completely off limits.

Watch this Wall Street Journal video interview with Schanzer of FDD by Mary Kissel discussing “Totaling up Iran’s Sweet Sanction Deal”:

In our recent post on the efficacy of sanctions we concluded:

…military force coupled with improved sanctions may be the only option that brings the Islamofanatics in Tehran to heel.  Israel demonstrated that in both Iraq (Operation Opera 1981) and Syria (Operation Orchard 2007). Despite initial criticism, the US subsequently showed begrudging respect. That is not lost on the worried Saudis and the Gulf Emirates, critical of US policies in the roiling Middle East.

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