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Geert Wilders’ Defiant in Hague Court contesting ‘Hate Speech’ charges

Geert Wilders’ biased political show trial culminated today with his final statement to the panel of judges requesting that he be acquitted of all charges.  Wilders’ and his Freedom Party (PVV)  has a commanding lead in the latest political polls in the  Netherlands ahead of the March 2017 general election.  The daunting problem he faces  if the PVV won the plurality of  popular votes would be his ability to form a ruling coalition if asked to do so by King Willem -Alexander. Monday’s Wall Street Journal Europe File noted the rise of possible Euro-skeptic allies  of Wilders who might form minority parties furthering the anti-immigration and anti-EU agenda of his Freedom Party, ” EU’s Potential Bomb Ticks in the Netherlands.”   Note what Simon Nixon WSJ Europe File Columnist wrote:

The risk to the European Union doesn’t come from Geert Wilders, the leader of anti-EU, anti-immigration Party for Freedom. He is well ahead in the polls and looks destined to benefit from many of the social and economic factors that paved the way for the Brexit and Trump revolts.

But the vagaries of the Dutch political system make it highly unlikely that Mr. Wilders will find his way into government. As things stand, he is predicted to win just 29 out of the 150 seats in the new parliament, and mainstream parties seem certain to shun him as a coalition partner. In an increasingly fragmented Dutch political landscape, most observers agree that the likely outcome of the election is a coalition of four or five center-right and center-left parties.

Instead, the risk to the EU comes from a new generation of Dutch euroskeptics who are less divisive and concerned about immigration but more focused on questions of sovereignty—and utterly committed to the destruction of the EU. Its leading figures are Thierry Baudet and Jan Roos, who have close links to British euroskeptics. They have already scored one significant success: In 2015, they persuaded the Dutch parliament to adopt a law that requires the government to hold a referendum on any law if 300,000 citizens request it. They then took advantage of this law at the first opportunity to secure a vote that rejected the EU’s proposed trade and economic pact with Ukraine, which Brussels saw as a vital step in supporting a strategically important neighbor.

The outcome of Wilders’ second trial on alleged “hate speech” that aroused Dutch Moroccan Muslims to petition for his prosecution might stymie his objective of seeking the Premiership in the Tweeder Kammer, the Hague Parliament if he came out on top in March 2017 general elections.  His first trial in a similar hate speech  prosecution in the Amsterdam District Court, ended with Wilders’ acquittal of all charges.  This second trail ,brought on alleged hate speech comments about “fewer Moroccans” at a campaign rally in the Hague in May  2014 resulted in  a petition to the Public Prosecutors with over 6,400 signatures from ‘outraged’ Dutch Moroccan Muslims and their leftist allies requesting this second trial of Wilders.

What follows is Wilders’ final statement before the Hague court today contesting the charges brought by the Public Prosecutors.  We will shortly see what decision the Hague court renders.

Final Statement Geert Wilders at his Trial, 23 Nov. 2016

TRANSCRIPT

Mr. President, Members of the Court,

When I decided to address you here today, by making a final statement in this trial against freedom of speech, many people reacted by telling me it is useless. That you, the court, have already written the sentencing verdict a while ago. That everything indicates that you have already convicted me. And perhaps that is true. Nevertheless, here I am. Because I never give up. And I have a message for you and The Netherlands.

For centuries, the Netherlands are a symbol of freedom.

Who one says Netherlands, one says freedom. And that is also true, perhaps especially, for those who have a different opinion than the establishment, the opposition.

And our most important freedom is freedom of speech.

We, Dutch, say whatever is close to our hearts.

And that is precisely what makes our country great.

Freedom of speech is our pride.

And that, precisely that, is at stake here, today.

I refuse to believe that we are simply giving this freedom up.

Because we are Dutch. That is why we never mince our words.

And I, too, will never do that. And I am proud of that. No-one will be able to silence me.

Moreover, members of the court, for me personally, freedom of speech is the only freedom I still have. Every day, I am reminded of that. This morning, for example. I woke up in a safe house. I got into an armored car and was driven in a convoy to this high security courtroom at Schiphol. The bodyguards, the blue flashing lights, the sirens. Every day again. It is hell. But I am also intensely grateful for it.

Because they protect me, they literally keep me alive, they guarantee the last bit of freedom left to me: my freedom of speech. The freedom to go somewhere and speak about my ideals, my ideas to make The Netherlands – our country – stronger and safer. After twelve years without freedom, after having lived for safety reasons, together with my wife, in barracks, prisons and safe houses, I know what lack of freedom means.

I sincerely hope that this will never happen to you, members of the court.
That, unlike me, you will never have to be protected because Islamic terror organizations, such as Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS, and who knows how many individual Muslims want to murder you. That you will no longer be allowed to empty your own mailbox, need to carry a bulletproof vest at meetings, and that there are police officers guarding the door whenever you use the bathroom. I hope you will be spared this.

However, if you would have experienced it – no matter how much you disagree with my views –  you might perhaps understand that I cannot remain silent. That I should not remain silent. That I must speak. Not just for myself, but for The Netherlands, our country. That I need to use the only freedom that I still have to protect our country. Against Islam and against terrorism. Against immigration from Islamic countries. Against the huge problem with Moroccans in The Netherlands. I cannot remain silent about it; I have to speak out. That is my duty, I have to address it, I must warn for it, I have to propose solutions for it.

I had to give up my freedom to do this and I will continue. Always. People who want to stop me will have to murder me first.

And so, I stand here before you. Alone. But I am not alone. My voice is the voice of many. In 2012, nearly 1 million Dutch have voted for me. And there will be many more on March 15th.

According to the latest poll, soon, we are going to have two million voters. Members of the court, you know these people. You meet them every day. As many as one in five Dutch citizens would vote Party for Freedom, today. Perhaps your own driver, your gardener, your doctor or your domestic aid, the girlfriend of a registrar, your physiotherapist, the nurse at the nursing home of your parents, or the baker in your neighborhood. They are ordinary people, ordinary Dutch. The people I am so proud of.

They have elected me to speak on their behalf. I am their spokesman. I am their representative. I say what they think. I speak on their behalf. And I do so determinedly and passionately. Every day again, including here, today.

So, do not forget that, when you judge me, you are not just passing judgment on a single man, but on millions of men and women in The Netherlands.
You are judging millions of people. People who agree with me. People who will not understand a conviction. People who want their country back, who are sick and tired of not being listened to, who cherish freedom of expression.

Members of the court, you are passing judgment on the future of The Netherlands. And I tell you: if you convict me, you will convict half of The Netherlands. And many Dutch will lose their last bit of trust in the rule of law.

Of course, I should not have been subjected to this absurd trial. Because this is a political trial. It is a political trial because political issues have to be debated in Parliament and not here. It is a political trial because other politicians from – mostly government parties – who spoke about Moroccans have not been prosecuted. It is a political trial because the court is being abused to settle a political score with an opposition leader whom one cannot defeat in Parliament.

This trial here, Mr. President, it stinks. It would be appropriate in Turkey or Iran, where they also drag the opposition to court. It is a charade, an embarrassment for The Netherlands, a mockery of our rule of law.

And it is also an unfair trial because, earlier, one of you – Mrs. van Rens – has commented negatively on the policy of my party and the successful challenge in the previous Wilders trial. Now, she is going to judge me.

What have I actually done to deserve this travesty? I have spoken about fewer Moroccans on a market and I have asked questions to PVV members during a campaign event. And I did so, members of the court, because we have a huge problem with Moroccans in this country. And almost no-one dares to speak about it or take tough measures. My party alone has been speaking about this problem for years.

Just look at these past weeks: Stealing and robbing Moroccan fortune seekers in Groningen, abusing our asylum system, and Moroccan youths terrorizing entire neighborhoods in Maassluis, Ede and Almere. I can give tens of thousands other examples, almost everyone in The Netherlands knows them or has personally experienced nuisance from criminal Moroccans. If you do not know them, you are living in an ivory tower.

I tell you: If we can no longer honestly address problems in The Netherlands, if we are no longer allowed to use the word alien, if we, Dutch, are suddenly racists because we want Black Pete to remain black, if we only go unpunished if we want more Moroccans or else are dragged before the penal court, if we sell out our hard-won freedom of expression, if we use the court to silence an opposition politician, who threatens to become Prime Minister, then this beautiful country will be doomed. That is unacceptable, because we are Dutch and this is our country.

And again, what on earth have I done wrong? How can the fact be justified that I have to stand here as a suspect, as if I robbed a bank or committed murder?

I only spoke about Moroccans on a market and asked a question on an election night meeting. And anyone, who has the slightest understanding of politics, knows that the election night meetings of every party consist of political speeches full of slogans, one-liners and making maximum use of the rules of rhetoric. That is our job. That is the way it works in politics.

Election nights are election nights with rhetoric and political speeches; not university lectures, in which every paragraph is scrutinized 15 minutes long from six points of view. It is simply crazy that the Public Prosecutor now uses this against me, as if one would blame a football player for scoring a hattrick.

Indeed, I have said on the market in the beautiful Hague district of Loosduinen “if possible fewer Moroccans.” Mark that I did so a few minutes after a Moroccan lady came to me and told me she was going to vote PVV because she was sick and tired of the nuisance caused by Moroccan youths.

And on election night, I began by asking the PVV audience “Do you want more or fewer EU,” and I did also not explained in detail why the answer might be fewer. Namely, because we need to regain our sovereignty and reassert control over our own money, our own laws and our own borders. I did not do that.

Then, I asked the public “Do you want more or fewer Labour Party.” And, again, I did not explain in detail why the answer might be fewer. Namely, because they are the biggest cultural relativists, willfully blind and Islam hugging cowards in Parliament. I did not say that.

And, then, I asked “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans” and, again, I did not explain in detail why the answer might be fewer. Namely, because people with a Moroccan nationality are overrepresented in the Netherlands in crime, benefit dependency and terror. And that we want to achieve this by expelling criminals with also the Moroccan nationality after denaturalizing them of their Dutch nationality and by a stricter immigration policy and an active voluntary repatriation policy. Proposals which we have made in our election manifesto from the day I founded the Party for Liberty.

I explained this in several interviews on national television, both between the statement on the market and election night, as well as on election night a few moments after I had asked the said questions. It is extremely malicious and false of the Public Prosecutor to want to disregard that context.

Disgusting – I have no other words for it – are the actions of other politicians, including the man who for a few months may still call himself Prime Minister. Their, and especially his, actions after the said election night constituted a real persecution, a witch hunt. The government created an atmosphere in which it had to come to trial.

Prime Minister Rutte even told small children during the youth news that I wanted to expel them and then reassured them that this would not happen. As if I had said anything of that kind. It is almost impossible to behave viler and falser.

But, also, the then Minister of Security and Justice, who, it should be noted, is the political boss of the Public Prosecutor, called my words disgusting and even demanded, he demanded that I take them back. A demand of the Minister of Justice, you do not have to be called Einstein to predict what will happen next, what the Public Prosecutor will do, if you do not comply to the demand of the Minister of Justice.

The Interior Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, too, both from the Labour Party, expressed themselves similarly. In short, the government left the Public Prosecutor no option than to prosecute me. Hence, in this trial, the Officers of Justice are not representatives of an independent Public Prosecutor, but accomplices of this government.

Mr. President, the elite also facilitated the complaints against me. With preprinted declaration forms. Which were brought to the mosque by the police. In which, it has to remarked, the police sometimes said that they, too, were of the opinion that my statements were inadmissible.

And a sample made by us showed that some complaints were the result of pure deception, intimidation and influence. People thought they were going to vote, they not even know my name, did not realize what they were signing or declared that they did not feel to be discriminated against by me at all.

Someone said that, at the As Soenah mosque after Friday prayers alone, 1,200 complaints had been lodged because it was thought to be an election. There were parades, led by mayors and aldermen, like in Nijmegen, where CDA mayor Bruls was finally able to show off his deep-seated hatred of the PVV. The police had extra opening hours, offered coffee and tea, there were dancing and singing Moroccans accompanied by a real oompah band in front of a police station, they turned it into a big party.

But meanwhile, two representative polls, one commissioned by the PVV, the other commissioned by De Volkskrant, showed that, apart from the government and media elite, 43% of the Dutch people, around 7 million people, agree with me. Want fewer Moroccans. You will be very busy if the Public Prosecutor is going to prosecute all these 7 million people.

People will never understand that other politicians – especially from government parties – and civil servants who have spoken about Moroccans, Turks and even PVV members, are being left alone and not prosecuted by the Public Prosecutor

Like Labour leader Samsom, who said that Moroccan youths have a monopoly on ethnic nuisance.

Or Labour chairman Spekman, who said Moroccans should be humiliated.

Or Labour alderman Oudkerk ,who spoke about f*cking Moroccans.

Or Prime Minister Rutte, who said that Turks should get lost.

And what about police chief Joop van Riessen, who said about me on television – I quote literally: “Basically one would feel inclined to say: let’s kill him, just get rid of him now and he will never surface again”?

And in reference to PVV voters, van Riessen declared: “Those people must be deported, they no longer belong here.” End of quote. The police chief said that killing Wilders was a normal reaction. That is hatred, Mr. President, pure hatred, and not by us but against us. And the Public Prosecutor did not prosecute Mr. Van Riessen.

But the Public Prosecutor does prosecute me. And demands a conviction based on nonsensical arguments about race and on concepts that are not even in the law. It accuses and suspects me of insulting a group and inciting hatred and discrimination on grounds of race. How much crazier can it become? Race. What race?

I spoke and asked a question about Moroccans. Moroccans are not a race. Who makes this up? No-one at home understands that Moroccans have suddenly become a race. This is utter nonsense. Not a single nationality is a race. Belgians are no race, Americans are no race. Stop this nonsense, I say to the Public Prosecutor. I am not a racist and my voters are neither. How do you dare suggest that? Wrongly slandering millions of people as racists.

43% of the Dutch want fewer Moroccans, as I already said. They are no racists. Stop insulting these people. Every day, they experience the huge problem with Moroccans in our country. They have a right to a politician who is not afraid to mention the problem with Moroccans. But neither they nor I care whether someone is  black, yellow, red, green or violet.

I tell you: If you convict someone for racism while he has nothing against races, then you undermine the rule of law, then it is bankrupt. No-one in this country will understand that.

And now the Public Prosecutor also uses the vague concept ‘intolerance’. Yet another stupidity. The subjective word intolerance, however, is not even mentioned in the law. And what for heaven’s sake is intolerance? Are you going to decide that, members of the court?

It is not up to you to decide. Nor to the Supreme Court or even the European Court. The law itself must determine what is punishable. We, representatives, are elected by the people to determine clearly and visibly in the law for everyone what is punishable and what is not.

That is not up to the court. You should not do that, and certainly not on the basis of such subjective concepts which are understood differently by everyone and can easily be abused by the elite to ban unwelcome opinions of the opposition. Do not start this, I tell you.

Mr. President, Members of the Court,

Our ancestors fought for freedom and democracy. They suffered, many gave their lives. We owe our freedoms and the rule of law to these heroes.
But the most important freedom, the cornerstone of our democracy, is freedom of speech. The freedom to think what you want and to say what you think.
If we lose that freedom, we lose everything. Then, The Netherlands cease to exist, then the efforts of all those who suffered and fought for us are useless. From the freedom fighters for our independence in the Golden Age to the resistance heroes in World War II. I ask you: Stand in their tradition. Stand for freedom of expression.

By asking a conviction, the Public Prosecutor, as an accomplice of the established order, as a puppet of the government, asks to silence an opposition politician. And, hence, silence millions of Dutch. I tell you: The problems with Moroccans will not be solved this way, but will only increase.

For people will sooner be silent and say less because they are afraid of being called racist, because they are afraid of being sentenced. If I am convicted, then everyone who says anything about Moroccans will fear to be called a racist.

Mr. President, Members of the Court, I conclude.

A worldwide movement is emerging that puts an end to the politically correct doctrines of the elites and the media which are subordinate to them.

That has been proven by Brexit.

That has been proven by the US elections.

That is about to be proven in Austria and Italy.

That will be proven next year in France, Germany, and The Netherlands.

The course of things is about to take a different turn. Citizens no longer tolerate it.

And I tell you, the battle of the elite against the people will be won by the people. Here, too, you will not be able to stop this, but rather accelerate it. We will win, the Dutch people will win and it will remember well who was on the right side of history.

Common sense will prevail over politically correct arrogance.

Because everywhere in the West, we are witnessing the same phenomenon.

The voice of freedom cannot be imprisoned; it rings like a bell.

Everywhere, ever more people are saying what they think.

They do not want to lose their land, they do not want to lose their freedom.

They demand politicians who take them seriously, who listen to them, who speak on their behalf. It is a genuine democratic revolt. The wind of change and renewal blows everywhere. Including here, in The Netherlands.

As I said:

I am standing here on behalf of millions of Dutch citizens.

I do not speak just on behalf of myself.

My voice is the voice of many.

And, so, I ask you.

not only on behalf of myself,

but in the name of all those Dutch citizens:

Acquit me!

Acquit us!

Why the Democratic Rust Belt in Northeastern Pennsylvania voted for Trump

The Weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), November 12-13, 2016 presented the latest in a series of articles on The Great Unraveling.   Formerly Democratic rust belt counties, devastated by economic and social decline that swung the electoral victory for President-elect Donald Trump, “The Places that Made Trump President.”  The WSJ characterized these areas as:

Rust Belt counties facing declines in manufacturing, shrinking populations, rising immigration and fraying social fabric moved heavily toward the Republican candidate and his message of national restoration

This latest in the WSJ series dealt with counties in the devastated hard coal and industrial areas of Northeastern Pennsylvania from Scranton south from the New York Line on I-81 across the Delaware River along the spine of the Poconos.   We knew the area well from stops on our journey south to Florida in Wilkes Barre, Hazelton and Saylorville, where former all of Islamist Turkish President Erdogan, Sheikh Fetulleh Gulen is ‘holed up’ in his compound.

We asked two cousins, former residents of the area, American ex-pat in Paris, France, noted European commentator and author Nidra Poller and lawyer activist, Debra Glazer in Irvine, California for their recollections of growing up in these Northeastern Pennsylvania rustbelt communities.

Nidra Poller

I had the privilege of experiencing the Great Depression! Though I was born in 1935, the Depression had never ended in Jessup, PA. They distributed very small apples to the schoolchildren (and I always prefer very small apples) and caned grapefruit. Those who came from affluent families brought their own sugar to sweeten the grapefruit.

We had so few material possessions… young people today couldn’t even imagine how we lived. And we had a store! I suppose we belonged to the middle class.

Our mother z”l (if blessed memory) made my clothes…turning my father’s worn out suits into itchy tweed and his shirts into blouses.

We’ll see what the dispossessed voters of 2016 think in 2019. Can a president, Trump or otherwise, undo the consequences of the entire postwar economic and social development of the US?

Debra Glazer

All through the 1970s and even into the 1980s, I would do much of my clothing; shoe and purse shopping at the various outlets in town (remember Leslie Fay, London Fog, Suburban Casuals, Old Mill, David Crystal Izod, and Rex Shoes?). My mother and I (and my cousins) spent hours going from place to place, stretching from Dickson City, Scranton, and down to Wilkes-Barre. These were real no-frills outlets, often times situated within the factory walls, with merchandise that had mostly tiny imperfections or that were a season old. All those sewing and piece goods jobs disappeared to China and elsewhere.

Then Scranton launched into the telemarketing craze. Many of those annoying dinner-time calls originated from workers sitting in the old, converted Globe, Scranton Dry Goods, or Samters downtown department stores, until the FCC intervened (thankfully) with the do-not-call lists.

When I was a young girl, Scranton had over 100,000 populations, with a strong and large Jewish community, a spanking JCC and many thriving synagogues.  Today, it’s mostly the Orthodox Jewish community that is holding its own, while the other Jewish denominations in town suffer from an aging membership. Almost all of my Jewish high school friends are no longer in Scranton, as there was little for those of us without family businesses to come back to after college.  The overall population dwindled, the poorly educated or blue-collar workers stayed behind, city services crumbled, bankruptcy loomed from time to time, and corruption reigned in NE PA.  Although Scranton boasts several decent universities (the Jesuit University of Scranton and the Catholic Marywood College), those institutions expanded their campuses while causing the erosion of the property tax base. It was really sad for me to go back home when I would visit my aging parents. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Avoca Airport is a gorgeous building, built with loads of federal funds, but almost no airlines service there and if they do, flights are often canceled at the last minute. If one really needs to get somewhere, one is usually forced to drive to Newark, Philadelphia, NY, or even Allentown airports.

So yes, I can see that those folks I grew up with were the backbone of the Trump victory, maybe less so in Scranton because of the Hillary and Biden connections, but still much more than expected in this Democratic stronghold.

Here are selections from the latest WSJ article on what motivated the residents of the rust belt counties in Northeastern Pennsylvania to vote for President-elect Donald Trump in 2016:

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Tamika Shupp twice voted for Barack Obama as the candidate best equipped to shake up Washington. This year she chose Donald Trump for the same reason.

“Obama tried to do well, and it didn’t turn out how we thought,” said Ms. Shupp as she prepared Polish dumplings at Mom & Pop’s Pierogis in this Rust Belt city. Mr. Trump should do better, she figures, by cracking down on illegal immigration and upholding American values like hard work.

Mr. Trump “is going to be another Obama,” said the 43-year-old Ms. Shupp. She considers both men to be agents of change. As for the crude remarks Mr. Trump made during the campaign, especially concerning women, Ms. Shupp said she dismissed them as bragging and “shoptalk,” and she didn’t believe the women who accused him of sexual assault.

[…]

Foreign competition largely wiped out the area’s dress and shoe industries. Many in the county bitterly remember pencil maker Eberhard Faber moving a plant to Mexico in the mid-1980s and other manufacturers closing factories. A plan in the mid-2000s to capitalize on computer-network technology and turn the county into “Wall Street West” proved a bust after few financial firms moved back-office processing to the area. The Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce is hatching a new plan to attract businesses by involving the local colleges in recruitment efforts, but the program is too new to have much effect so far.

The unemployment rate in Luzerne County, now 6.2%, has generally exceeded the national average since 2000, and manufacturing employment in the county is down by around one-third since 2000. Many of the jobs that remain are low-wage service ones in local hospitals, colleges, chain restaurants and stores. Median income, after accounting for inflation, has been flat in Luzerne County since 2000.

Young people are leaving the region in search of jobs elsewhere, leaving an older, more conservative group of voters. In Luzerne, the population has remained steady since 2000, at about 320,000, but the number of people age 25 to 44 fell by about 10,000, according to Moody’sAnalytics.

The weak economy has, over the decades, contributed to a tattering of the county’s social fabric. Church attendance is down since 2000, opioid addiction is up, and civic organizations like the Rotary Club and the Masons have trouble recruiting young members, say local residents. Of the four Evangelical Lutheran churches in Wilkes-Barre in 2000, says Rev. Peter Kuritz of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, one closed and two other don’t have full-time pastors.

Meanwhile, the county’s Hispanic population has climbed nearly 10-fold since 2000, to 31,000, adding a layer of ethnic tension to a place where 84% of the population is non-Hispanic white.

“There’s a sense that the new residents don’t look like us or sound like us,” says Rev. Kuritz. “People feel it’s not like it used to be.”

The region had been drifting from its New Deal Democratic roots for years, and Mr. Trump took full advantage with its working-class voters. They had long been sympathetic to conservative arguments on issues such as gun control and abortion, while skeptical of the GOP’s perceived catering to the wealthy. Mr. Trump’s brand of populism bridged that divide.

County GOP leaders say they looked to boost turnout by shifting two paid workers to Hazleton, a city that gained national prominence by passing an ordinance penalizing landlords for renting to illegal immigrants, which was later blocked by the courts. “Immigration is a big issue there,” says Luzerne County Chairman Ron Ferrance. “There are so many passionate people” who were ready to make phone calls and canvass for Mr. Trump, who takes a hard line on immigration, he says.

Bill O’Boyle, a veteran reporter and columnist for Wilkes-Barre’s Times Leader, says he figured Mr. Trump was a lock to win Luzerne County when he compared the turnout at political rallies. The area has long been a stopover for presidential campaigns.

“You had Hillary Clinton, 500 people. Teddy Cruz, 300 people. Bernie Sanders, 1,500 people. And then Donald Trump, 11,000. How could those crowds not mean something?”

Nineteen-year-old Jasmine Castillo, who makes tacos at the family’s food truck in Wilkes-Barre’s downtown, says her family’s life has become worse as Mr. Trump’s popularity soared. People now tell her to speak English when she speaks Spanish, and to go back across the border, though she is an American citizen. Someone left feces outside her father’s kitchen-cabinet business, she says.

“People feel empowered now” to make insults and threats against Hispanics, she says. “It’s terrifying.”

Martha Wallace, whose family owns a small manufacturer of crucifixes and other Catholic jewelry, says, “Trump drummed up the enthusiasm, just like Obama drummed up the enthusiasm last time.” Her 7-year-old son has declared himself “a Trump man.” Her 16-year-old daughter also supports Trump. “I’ve encouraged her to dream big,” Ms. Wallace says.

Ms. Wallace says she is worried about the future of the U.S. economy and the threat of terrorism, and is counting on a Trump presidency to ease her fears about both. “We hope some of Trump’s economic policy will make it easier for us compete and still stay true to always being a ‘Made in the USA’ company,” she says.

For Mr. Trump’s supporters, expectations are so high it reminds them of what they once felt for President Obama.

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Tamika Shupp twice voted for Barack Obama as the candidate best equipped to shake up Washington. This year she chose Donald Trump for the same reason.

“Obama tried to do well, and it didn’t turn out how we thought,” said Ms. Shupp as she prepared Polish dumplings at Mom & Pop’s Pierogis in this Rust Belt city. Mr. Trump should do better, she figures, by cracking down on illegal immigration and upholding American values like hard work.

Mr. Trump “is going to be another Obama,” said the 43-year-old Ms. Shupp. She considers both men to be agents of change. As for the crude remarks Mr. Trump made during the campaign, especially concerning women, Ms. Shupp said she dismissed them as bragging and “shoptalk,” and she didn’t believe the women who accused him of sexual assault.

[…]

Foreign competition largely wiped out the area’s dress and shoe industries. Many in the county bitterly remember pencil maker Eberhard Faber moving a plant to Mexico in the mid-1980s and other manufacturers closing factories. A plan in the mid-2000s to capitalize on computer-network technology and turn the county into “Wall Street West” proved a bust after few financial firms moved back-office processing to the area. The Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce is hatching a new plan to attract businesses by involving the local colleges in recruitment efforts, but the program is too new to have much effect so far.

The unemployment rate in Luzerne County, now 6.2%, has generally exceeded the national average since 2000, and manufacturing employment in the county is down by around one-third since 2000. Many of the jobs that remain are low-wage service ones in local hospitals, colleges, chain restaurants and stores. Median income, after accounting for inflation, has been flat in Luzerne County since 2000.

Young people are leaving the region in search of jobs elsewhere, leaving an older, more conservative group of voters. In Luzerne, the population has remained steady since 2000, at about 320,000, but the number of people age 25 to 44 fell by about 10,000, according to Moody’sAnalytics.

The weak economy has, over the decades, contributed to a tattering of the county’s social fabric. Church attendance is down since 2000, opioid addiction is up, and civic organizations like the Rotary Club and the Masons have trouble recruiting young members, say local residents. Of the four Evangelical Lutheran churches in Wilkes-Barre in 2000, says Rev. Peter Kuritz of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, one closed and two other don’t have full-time pastors.

Meanwhile, the county’s Hispanic population has climbed nearly 10-fold since 2000, to 31,000, adding a layer of ethnic tension to a place where 84% of the population is non-Hispanic white.

“There’s a sense that the new residents don’t look like us or sound like us,” says Rev. Kuritz. “People feel it’s not like it used to be.”

The region had been drifting from its New Deal Democratic roots for years, and Mr. Trump took full advantage with its working-class voters. They had long been sympathetic to conservative arguments on issues such as gun control and abortion, while skeptical of the GOP’s perceived catering to the wealthy. Mr. Trump’s brand of populism bridged that divide.

County GOP leaders say they looked to boost turnout by shifting two paid workers to Hazleton, a city that gained national prominence by passing an ordinance penalizing landlords for renting to illegal immigrants, which was later blocked by the courts. “Immigration is a big issue there,” says Luzerne County Chairman Ron Ferrance. “There are so many passionate people” who were ready to make phone calls and canvass for Mr. Trump, who takes a hard line on immigration, he says.

Bill O’Boyle, a veteran reporter and columnist for Wilkes-Barre’s Times Leader, says he figured Mr. Trump was a lock to win Luzerne County when he compared the turnout at political rallies. The area has long been a stopover for presidential campaigns.

“You had Hillary Clinton, 500 people. Teddy Cruz, 300 people. Bernie Sanders, 1,500 people. And then Donald Trump, 11,000. How could those crowds not mean something?”

Nineteen-year-old Jasmine Castillo, who makes tacos at the family’s food truck in Wilkes-Barre’s downtown, says her family’s life has become worse as Mr. Trump’s popularity soared. People now tell her to speak English when she speaks Spanish, and to go back across the border, though she is an American citizen. Someone left feces outside her father’s kitchen-cabinet business, she says.

“People feel empowered now” to make insults and threats against Hispanics, she says. “It’s terrifying.”

Martha Wallace, whose family owns a small manufacturer of crucifixes and other Catholic jewelry, says, “Trump drummed up the enthusiasm, just like Obama drummed up the enthusiasm last time.” Her 7-year-old son has declared himself “a Trump man.” Her 16-year-old daughter also supports Trump. “I’ve encouraged her to dream big,” Ms. Wallace says.

Ms. Wallace says she is worried about the future of the U.S. economy and the threat of terrorism, and is counting on a Trump presidency to ease her fears about both. “We hope some of Trump’s economic policy will make it easier for us compete and still stay true to always being a ‘Made in the USA’ company,” she says.

For Mr. Trump’s supporters, expectations are so high it reminds them of what they once felt for President Obama.

Mr. Ferrance, the Republican county chairman, says he realizes voters expect Mr. Trump to deliver. “If it’s the status quo, people will be upset,” he says. “People want him to govern in the spirit of what he said” during the campaign.

He figures there is some wiggle room in some of Mr. Trump’s more controversial stances, such as his repeated claim that the U.S. would build a wall across the U.S.-Mexican border and make Mexico pay for it. Maybe, he says, Mr. Trump could argue that job growth caused by tougher trade policy would be a way of having Mexico “pay.”

It is ironic that in the eight years of the Obama Administration that Vice President Biden, who grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania,  hadn’t recognized the economic and social devastation in Northeastern  Pennsylvania and developed programs to alleviate  and revitalize the communities.  But then Democrat Presidential candidate characterized those in Wilkes Barre who showed up at rallies as ‘deplorables.”

Now the residents of Northeastern Pennsylvania and other rust belt communities in the U.S. are banking on the Trump Administration to deliver on the promises he made at those rallies that gave them, once again, “hope.”

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

Urgent Issues for Congress: Zika, the Islamic State, Iran ransom, Turkey coup, N. Korea …

August 4, 2016, President Obama held a news conference where he endeavored to reassure the American public.  It was the usual political rostrum at the White House with the Washington press corps assembled to hear the President and engage in questions dealing with a host of emerging problems both internationally and domestically. Watch this YouTube video of the President’s August 4, 2016 White House Press Conference.

This White House Press conference was held in the midst of an especially troubling Presidential Campaign pitting his former Secretary of State Democrat nominee, Hillary Clinton, against Republican New York real estate mogul, Donald Trump.  Because of the latter’s tweets and ex cathedra declarations at rallies and press conferences President Obama declared him allegedly temperamentally unfit to be Commander in Chief. This on the cusp of both candidates eligible to receive courtesy national security briefings. In Clinton’s case, her role during the Benghazi episode in September 2012 and the email scandal following State Department FOIA requests and Wiki leaks releases raised questions about the credibility of her responses during campaign rallies and media interviews. This despite endless hours of her providing testimony and that of FBI director James Comey before the House Special Benghazi Committee chaired by South Carolina Republican US Representative, Trey Gowdy. Trump, according to the President in an unprecedented political campaign comment, has displayed a fundamental lack of background in national security issues.  Especially concerning were his admiration for Russian President Putin, despite the latter’s seizure of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. There is the encroachment on ‘near enemies’ in the NATO Atlantic alliance: the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

The President was asked by the assembled press corps about revelations from a series of Wall Street Journal reports about $400 million of foreign currencies strapped on pallates in a cargo plane last January and flown to Tehran, despite concerns raised by his own Justice Department. He All while another airplane waited on the ground for hours with four American hostages aboard told by Iranians they awaiting a “money plane” so they could be released to fly home.  There were also questions about the threat of the Zika virus in the US, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean given the start of the Rio, Brazil Olympic Games. There were other news stories about returning US military with possible infections, as well as Congressional resolution of the impasse over funding for completion of three promising vaccines.  There were also concerns raised about the latest launch of a North Korea missile that flew 600 miles, landing less than 150 miles off the main island of Japan. That raised questions about Japanese, South Korean and most importantly, Continental US Missile defense. The missile defense system virtually incapable of assuring protection of the US homeland.  Then, there were emerging concerns expressed about 60 to 70 over age B-61 nuclear bombs at the NATO base in Incirlik, Turkey. This came amidst a purge of the country’s military by President Erdogan following a failed coup and his demand to the White House seeking extradition from the US of former Islamist ally, Sheik Fethullah Gulen.

On the following morning, August 5th, despite the monsoon rains that continued to drench the Phoenix area and the entire Four Corners region, Lisa Benson and this writer were engaged in recording the Sunday, August 7th’s Radio program for the weekly eponymous national security radio show. Our guests on this 200th program were Dr. Jill Bellamy, renowned bio-defense expert and member of the UN Counterterrorism Task Force and Dr. Stephen Bryen former Reagan era Pentagon defense official and policy expert and senior fellow at the American Center for Democracy.

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Dr. Jill Bellamy

The Zika Threat

Bellamy spoke convincingly about the Zika threat in Brazil, Florida and the Caribbean. She noted the necessity of the World Health Organization, the CDC the US Congress and groups like the World Bank to fund vaccine development and military service personnel and dependents with health protection. She did not believe that the US CDC could rely on reprogramming of Ebola vaccine funds to complete development and clinical trials of three Zika vaccine candidates. Bellamy had warned about the emerging Zika threat seven months earlier on a Lisa Benson Show. Zika and other infectious tropical diseases like Dengue fever that are mosquito borne keep on emerging and re- emerging. She noted that the impact on infants born with micro-cephalic small head conditions could place enormous burden on families and insurance companies, potentially for decades. She said we have known about the Zika virus for over 40 years.  Dr. Bellamy believes that US military personnel and their families may have more preventive protection during pre-and post deployment phases. Lisa Benson noted the increase in women infected with the Zika virus since first reports emerged in May. Dr. Bellamy noted the US CDC warning to pregnant women traveling to Florida.  She did not believe that current mosquito control measures especially in south Florida and Puerto Rico would effectively curtail exposure to possible Zika infections.  She noted that European countries appear less concerned about the spread of Zika than the US and other countries in the sub tropical zones of the Western Hemisphere and globally.

Benson reminded that Dr. Bellamy had also addressed the lack of an effective radiation sickness antidote.  She revealed threats by ISIS cells in Belgium and the Netherlands to intrude on nuclear research facilities to obtain radioactive materials for construction of explosive dirty bombs. Both countries have distributed packets of iodine tablets to their respective populations as precautions.

Stephen Bryen

Dr. Stephen Bryen

The problematic nuclear weapons at the Incirlik NATO airbase in Turkey

Dr. Bryen, the husband of program Advisory Board Member Shoshana Bryen, addressed the dangers of not\ permanently retiring those over age nuclear bombs at the NATO base in Incirlik, Turkey. These weapons he pointed out contain plutonium, tritium and other fissile materials. They are gravity bombs and there are no aircraft based at Incirlik capable of dropping them. During the 1974 invasion of Cyprus, these nuclear weapons were redeployed and subsequently returned. The best that could be done would be to permanently remove them.   They might be exposed to ISIS infiltration, Iranian Quds Force raids or possible Islamic extremists in Turkey. He considered the huge purge of military in Turkey by Erdogan reminiscent of the Stalin era during the 1930’s in Soviet Russia. He noted the arrest of the Turkish base commander and 11 other air force officers and the surrounding of the base by fundamentalist AKP supporters loyal to Erdogan.   Despite this he said US personnel at Incirlik continue to engage in combat air support for the war against ISIS.  Both he and Benson noted Erodgan’s often conflicting positions on support for ISIS when it appeared political expedient in the raging civil war in neighboring Syria.

The North Korea Missile Threat to Japan and the lack of U.S. Missile Defense

Bryen addressed the failure of Japan to shoot down the latest North Korean missile that splashed down 150 miles off the coast of the main island. Dr. Bryen said all Japan had were old Hawk Batteries, Nike Zeus and Patriot missile defense systems incapable of bringing down the North Korean No-Dong production missile. It may have produced panic in Japan that it was unable to destroy the incoming missile. When queried about Continental US missile defense, he contended there is virtually no development of systems to deal with North Korean, Iranian and Russian missile threats. The latter threat concerns allies like Poland, the Baltic States and others in Central and Eastern Europe.  Bryen noted that all we had in the pacific at the moment was the Theater High Altitude Air Defense System in Hawaii and 44 Ground Mid-Course interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and Fort Wainwright, Alaska. They lack a fully effective kill vehicle to knock down possible incoming North Korean missiles. Benson drew attention to the complete absence of missile installations on the east coast, to which Dr. Bryen agreed. He suggested that the US hadn’t developed any strategy to address asymmetrical warfare missile threats from rogue countries like North Korea and Iran.  During the Cold War era, he noted we had developed a symmetrical Mutually Assured Destruction Deterrent strategy.  Further, he drew attention to Putin’s Russia that has continued to develop sophisticated missile defense systems.

The Question of Administration Payments to Iran and Release of American Hostages

Dr.  Bryen addressed the troubling matter of the $400 million of sequestered Iranian funds in foreign currency loaded on palettes and sent on a cargo plane sent to Tehran. All allegedly done because we had no way of transferring it, given outstanding financial sanctions.  During his August 4th press conference, the President said: “We do not pay ransom for hostages. We didn’t here, and we won’t in the future, precisely because if we did we’d start encouraging to be targeted.”

American Pastor Abedini and three other hostages were parked on the tarmac in Tehran. They were told by their Iranian minders that they could not depart until, what Dr. Bryen called, “the money plane,” landed. He suggested we have no idea where those funds could end up. Former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey in aWall Street Journal op-ed, “The $400 Million; Legal but Not Right”,  called into question CIA Director John Brennan’s earlier suggestion that Iranian sanctions relief funds might be devoted less to infrastructure projects and more to the “untraceable” needs of  Iran’s Quds Force-a major agent of this global state sponsor of terrorism.

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Shoshana Bryen

Coincidental with the completion of the recorded Lisa Benson Show, Shoshana Bryen published an American Thinker article, “Iran, follow the money.” It cited further evidence of the duplicity and deviousness of Iran in setting up future possible ransom flights, given several additional American and other foreign nationals held as hostages, foolishly seeking to negotiate business deals. Problem is, as Shoshana Bryen wrote, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, like China’s Peoples Liberation Army, owns major businesses and will not brook any foreign competition.

Further, she noted that it is not only US banks, but foreign ones, notably in the UK, that won’t re start banking relationships with the Islamic Republic even with the lifting of financial sanctions. Was the US money plane simply to return the original funds sequestered by the US 37 years ago when the Shah’s regime was overthrown by the late Ayatollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic founder?

Shoshana Bryen concluded:

The Obama administration paid $400 million to the #1 financier and supporter of terrorism according to Obama’s own State Department.  In addition, Iran has more executions than any country except the People’s Republic of China, including for homosexuality; exercises legal brutality against women; supports religious intolerance; has committed violations of the Geneva Conventions against American sailors; provides military support to Bashar Assad as he commits war crimes against the Syrian people; violates U.N. bans on weapons import and export and ballistic missile testing; and censors information going into Iran and coming out.  That’s only a partial list.

Even as he claims that it wasn’t ransom for hostages (cough, cough), the president behaved as if there was a “moderate” part of the Iranian government with which to do business.  This is why the administration hid the fact from the American public.

Effectively President Obama said, during his press conference to Pastor Abedini and the other released hostages, don’t believe what you were told on the tarmac in Tehran. We wonder what the price could be for the next round of hostage releases. Would that include the doubtful release of ex FBI agent Bob Levinson, whose family want answers from the White House about his whereabouts and release after six years of silence following the last video proof of life? Americans are demanding the Administration press Iran to fess up whether Levinson is still alive.

A Wall Street Journal editorial, “The President’s Non-Ransom to Iran” best summed up the folly of dealing with Iran:

What matters to American credibility is what the mullahs of Iran believe. And it’s obvious they believe that arresting and holding Americans in Iran is a useful way to extract money and other concessions from the United States. Their latest demand is for the U.S. to hand over $2 billion in Iranian funds that have been frozen for the victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism. The thugs of the world don’t care what Mr. Obama believes. They care only that he shows them the money—then they’ll release their hostages.

Listen to the 200th broadcast of The Lisa Benson Show, Sunday August 7, 2016.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the Nat Sec Daily Brief

IAEA: Iran producing ‘Chemically Man-Made Uranium’

Last summer during the intense Congressional Hearings on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) and Rep. Michael Pompeo (R-KS) went to Vienna to pay a visit to Yukio Amano, Director General of UN Nuclear Watchdog agency, the IAEA.  They came back with disturbing revelations about so-called secret deals by the Obama Administration regarding inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Especially concerning the Parchin military research site located 19 miles southeast of Tehran.  Parchin had been the suspected site of so-called Prior Military Development of nuclear triggers that had allegedly ceased in 2005.  In  September 2015,  Sen. Cotton and Rep. Pompeo  accused  IAEA  chief Amano of misleading the Congress to ensure passage of  JCPOA  when  Iran  self collected samples at the Parchin test site. Now there is evidence that IAEA test environmental samples taken last fall at the Parchin site revealed particles of “chemically man made uranium.”

Parchin Test Site 7-2015

Parchin, Iran Military Complex. Source: DigitGlobe AFP

In October 2014, during negotiations of the P5+1 JCPOA there was a blast at the Parchin test site. We wrote in an NER/Iconoclast blog post, “Washington-based Nuclear Watchdog Confirms Blast at Parchin Nuclear Trigger Test Site in Iran.”

The blast there occurred on Sunday night local time. It produced a glare that could be seen 13 kilometers (approximately 10 miles) distant, as well as blew out windows.  The Iranian regime’s IRNA and opposition Samha news agencies reported on the blast at Parchin that killed two workers.  The Washington, DC-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) released evidence of damage at the Parchin test site based on satellite imagery, “Finding the Site of the Alleged Explosion at the Parchin Military Complex”.   Their analysis found:

After analyzing the sections of the Parchin military complex visible in satellite imagery, ISIS believes that one site located in the southern section of the complex could be the possible location of the explosion. This site is close to a series of bunkers, indicating that it could serve as a support area for the activities taking place there. Several signatures that coincide with those expected from an explosion site are visible here. Two buildings that were present in August 2014 are no longer there, while a third building appears to be severely damaged. In total at least six buildings appear damaged or destroyed. Several trucks are present at the site. The shape and size of these trucks is consistent with those of either fire or debris removal trucks. The irregular line and color of the vegetation seems to indicate that some unexpected activity took place (possibly a fire, explosion, scattering of debris etc.). Finally, grey debris is visible at the center of the potential explosion area and is also scattered into the surrounding vegetation.

It was reported that the imagery shows that the damage is consistent with an attack against bunkers and that the locality is adjacent to another installation where work was being conducted that involves controlled detonation of fuses intended to serve as triggers for nuclear devices.

However, it is important to note that there is no evidence of either an attack or nuclear weapon-related activities at this specific site. There may be confusion over alleged high explosive nuclear weapon-related activities at another site at Parchin that occurred prior to 2004.

Following the release of the JCPOA on July 15, 2015, we wrote in an NER article, The Iran Nuclear Deal – a Pandora’s Box.

The devil is in both the details of the JCPOA and what was excluded.  Especially concerning was the matter of satisfying the IAEA’s complaint about Iran’s alleged non-compliance with requests for information on prior military nuclear developments (PMD).  For example  the development of explosive triggers at the Parchin research facility. Ayatollah Khamenei basically nixed any IAEA inspections of facilities and programs under the country’s IRGC control. At first denied by the Obama Administration, so-called ‘secret’ side deals between the IAEA and the Islamic Republic were justified because that was the protocol under the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty. A Wall Street Journal report on July 27, 2015 provided assessments by Congressional lawmakers who were briefed on these arrangements concluded that the IAEA would not conclusively discover the extent of Iran’s PMD. The Administration contested that would not stand in the way of verifying future commitments.

On Monday, June 20, 2016, the predictable consequences of the Islamic Regime’s  activities at the Parchin military test site were revealed in the second  report since January 15, 2016 that lifted sanctions.  ISIS made the following assessment of a May 26, 2016 IAEA report, “Parchin: Will the IAEA Verify the Absence of Nuclear Weapons Activities in Iran?

ISIS noted this background:

On May 27, 2016, the IAEA released its second report on Iran’s compliance with United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2231 (2015), which codified into international law the JCPOA. The report states that the IAEA conducted “complementary accesses under the Additional Protocol to sites and other locations in Iran.” It is not specific about which sites the inspectors visited and does not provide any other information pertaining to Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA ban on activities related to the design and development of a nuclear explosive device.

In particular, the report does not state whether inspectors visited the Parchin military complex, which is the location of a site linked to high explosive work prior to 2004 related to the development of nuclear weapons. The IAEA was unable to form a conclusion about such nuclear weapons related activities when it visited the site during the fall of 2015 as part of its investigation into Iran’s possible military nuclear activities.

Discovery of “chemically man made uranium”:

Despite the IAEA’s use of a non-standard sampling approach at Parchin, environmental samples taken during the fall visit identified “chemically man-made particles of natural uranium.” However, the IAEA did not make a definitive conclusion about the use of nuclear material at the site.

The IAEA only stated that the number of particles with this specific composition was not enough to assert the use of nuclear material there, and provided no further explanation for their presence in the last two safeguards reports.

An ambiguous sampling result would normally trigger re-sampling at the main building of interest at the site and also at adjacent areas or buildings. However, there is no available information indicating that this re-sampling has taken place.

U.S. officials have stated to our Institute that this finding confirms that uranium was present at the Parchin site and indicates that nuclear weapons related experiments involving the use of uranium were indeed carried out there.

The presence of these particles confirmed the U.S. government’s suspicions that something nefarious happened at the Parchin site. However, the IAEA has not agreed with this conclusion and has appeared hesitant to seek a return visit to Parchin for additional samples.

A senior IAEA official refused to answer a query on May 27, 2016 about whether Parchin or other military sites have been visited since Implementation Day.

The IAEA also refused to state to the media which specific sites were visited under complementary access.

The Wall Street Journal in its report on the IAEA test samples taken at the Parchin test Site in October 2015 noted these comments from a former Obama nuclear negotiator and critics of the JCPOA:

Robert Einhorn, a top Iran negotiator during the Obama administration and now a nuclear expert at the Brookings Institution , said: “The assumption in the [U.S.] government is that these were nuclear weapons-related experiments. The evidence is, technically, inconclusive. But the administration believes it has other information that confirms there was weapons-related activity there.”

The man-made uranium found at Parchin, which has only low-levels of fissionable isotopes, can be used as a substitute for weapons-grade materials in developing atomic bombs, according to nuclear experts. It can also be used as component in a neutron initiator, a triggering device for a nuclear weapon.

Critics of the nuclear deal have cited the presence of uranium at Parchin as evidence the Obama administration didn’t go far enough in demanding Iran answer all questions concerning its past nuclear work before lifting international sanctions in January. They also argue that it is hard to develop a comprehensive monitoring regime without knowing everything Iran has done.

Note what ISIS did in May 2016 to disclose the activities at Parchin and the State Department reaction:

ISIS obtained commercial satellite images of Parchin last month that showed new construction in an area where the explosives testing is believed to have taken place.  David Albright, head of the institute, said the construction would likely “further complicate” efforts to investigate the presence of uranium at the military base.

Obama administration officials confirmed the U.S. government has also seen the new construction at Parchin, but doesn’t believe it is related to nuclear work.

“Parchin is an active military facility, and construction there does not necessarily indicate any nuclear-related activity,” said a State Department official. “At this time, we have no information that would lead us to believe that there is undeclared nuclear activity taking place anywhere in Iran.”

Obfuscation and denial of this latest revelation about what may have been going on at Parchin begins to question the principal foreign policy legacy that President Obama will leave behind for his successor to deal with on Iran’s Nuclear intentions. In the meantime, Sen. Cotton and Rep. Pompeo will  keep a watching brief for Congressional investigations on the alleged “robust and intrusive inspection system” of the IAEA that the Administration relies on for JCPOA compliance by an untrustworthy Islamic Republic in Tehran.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Nat Sec Daily Brief.

“We will bring this plane down”: Flight 804 Downing Raises Airport Security Questions

Yesterday, we posted on the NatSecDailyBrief about the ACARS-Inmarsat data reports on smoke detected aboard the ill-fated EgyptAir  MSFlight 804.  We noted comments by a commercial pilot on an Aviation Herald article speculating  that there could have been an internal explosion in the nose of aircraft possibly affecting the avionics and fly by wire computer system. That might have caused the downing.

Watch this U.K. Telegraph of Debris recovered from MSFlight 804.

Note what the U.K. Telegraph reported in its blog on the downing  of  MSFlight 804:

Data from the final moments before EgyptAir flight MS804 crashed into the Mediterranean suggest an “internal explosion” tore through the right side of the aircraft, a pilot said last night.

Investigators trying to determine whether the A320 was brought down by terrorism or a technical fault are poring over a series of warnings indicating smoke filled the cabin shortly before it disappeared from radar.

French authorities confirmed that smoke detectors went off aboard the flight a few minutes before it crashed but said it was not clear what caused the smoke or fire.

A commercial pilot with a major European airline told The Telegraph that other parts of the data log suggested that windows in the right side of the cockpit were blown out by an explosion inside the aircraft.

“It looks like the right front and side window were blown out, most probably from inside out,” said the pilot, who flies an A330 similar to the crashed A320 and spoke on condition of anonymity.

[…]

Until investigators find the aircraft’s black boxes, which are still missing in the Mediterranean, the ACARS offers the best sense on what was happening aboard.

Three different warnings showed there were faults in the windows next to the co-pilot, suggesting they could have been blasted outwards by an onboard bomb. That does not mean the explosion came from the cockpit but indicates the right side of the plane was more badly damaged than the left.

The pilot suggested the smoke detectors may have been triggered not fire but by fog which filled the cabin as it lost air pressure in the moments after the explosion.

[…]

According to the Wall Street Journal, people “familiar with the matter” say that the alerts could be an indication of a problem with the flight control system.

While not ruling out a bomb, Bob Mann, a US aviation expert, says the latest data indicate a number of possibilities. “The data could indicate rapid decompression or smoke and a progressive loss of flight control systems.

Note how difficult the French security investigations are looking into the backgrounds of the more than 85,000 workers at the Paris airports and the short interval of conducting the security  sweep on Flight 804:

Although no terrorist group has claimed responsibility, French detectives are examining a pool of around 85,000 people with “red badge” security clearance that gives them access to restricted areas of Charles de Gaulle airport.

The task is complicated by the fact that many work for sub-contractors and turnover is high. Screenings are often limited to checking an employee has no criminal convictions and does not appear on a terror watch list.

Last December around 70 red badges were withdrawn from staff at Charles de Gaulle who were found to have praised the attacks in Paris, prayed at mosques linked to radicalism or showing signs of growing religiosity like refusing to shake hands with women.

A French trade union also warned that short stopovers like that made by Flight 804, which was on the ground a little over an hour, gave little time for security staff to carry out thorough security checks.

Then there were the New York Times reports about graffiti daubed on the aircraft in Cairo back in 2013 saying, “We will bring this plane down”:

It has emerged that the crashed aircraft had once been daubed with graffiti by vandals who wrote: “We will bring this plane down”.

The New York Times reported that the vandalism was done two years ago and was a protest against Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the Egyptian president who seized power in a coup, rather than a jihadist threat.

The airline went on to fire a number of staff with alleged Muslim Brotherhood sympathies in 2013 as part of a general purge of suspected Islamists after the military takeover.

And in the weeks following the Paris attacks in November, French police said Arabic graffiti such as “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) were found daubed on EasyJet and Vueling planes at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and at Lyon airport.

It also emerges that EgyptAir was exempted from a trial of the new French security system for vetting passengers:

Charles de Gaulle airport will begin testing a passenger screening tool known as the passenger name record (PNR) next week. The system, already in use in Britain, identifies passengers whose profiles indicate a potential risk. It cross-references names, addresses and means of payment with police crime and terrorism files.

However, EgyptAir will not be among the eight airlines that will take part in the trial, which the interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, says is long overdue.

The system is to become fully operational by the end of the year in France, which has received nearly £14 million in EU aid to finance its introduction.  It can detect passengers who have travelled to countries such as Syria and Yemen, with their return dates.

The evidence keeps piling up that supports the  comments of ex-CIA director Ambassador Woolsey and  investigations by the Lisa Benson Show National Task Force for America that international airports, including those in the US,  are not secure.  That is particularly acute given the difficulty of profiling airport workers with security access to aircraft on the tarmac and now we learn vetting passengers from terrorist hot spots.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in NatSecDailyBrief.

U.S. Congress Unanimously passing Sanctions won’t stop North Korea from building Nuclear ICBMs

What a week it has been. No, we are not talking about the New Hampshire primary results or Saturday’s South Carolina debate, but rogue North Korea stealing the oxygen out of the international media’s lungs. It started with the second successful satellite launch since 2012 on Sunday, February 7, 2016 nearly over shadowing the Broncos victory in the 50th Super Bowl.  As we wrote in an NER Iconoclast post on February 8, 2016, this game changer demonstrating the rogue regime’s ICBM technology and America’s inadequate ballistic missile defense, especially on our vulnerable heartland coast on the Gulf of Mexico:

Launched in a southerly direction, the 200 kg observational satellite is in polar orbit. That means it passes over the US every 95 minutes, perhaps providing imagery and GPS coordinates for possible later use. Yesterday, it missed the window of opportunity, by an hour, to pass over the stadium for 50th Super Bowl Championship game with tens of thousands of fans intent on watching the Denver Broncos beat the North Carolina Panthers for the title

“it’s great that the US has THAAD and ship borne X band radar floating in the Pacific and both ship and shore based Aegis installations in Eastern Europe (Romania) protecting us from missiles fired towards the East Coast. However, we have nothing in place to provide missile defense our vulnerable Gulf of Mexico coast.”  Ambassador Hank Cooper, the Reagan era SDI chief, warned about the absence of Aegis missile defense installations on our Gulf coast in November 2015 and most recently in a Feb.2, 2016 High Frontier alert.

He argues that that our ballistic missile defense shield  on the Gulf coast lacks the means to combat the threat of a possible North Korean bomb in a satellite (Fractal Orbital Bomb) or missiles launched from either ships in the Gulf or those silos that allegedly Iran has been building in the Paraguana Peninsula in Venezuela. Ex-CIA director R. James Woolsey and Dr. Peter Pry discussed in a July 2015 article the threat from FOBS that could trigger an Electronic Magnetic Pulse (EMP) effect over the US sending us back to the dark ages of the 19th Century before the advent of electricity.

north korean missile distance chartOn Friday, February 12, 2015 CNN reported the rotund Kim Jong Un played another round of the Pyongyang version of the Games of Thrones with the dramatic execution of another high military officer, General Ri Yong-gil for, “factionalism, misuse of authority and corruption.”  The young Kim family successor may yet set the record for summary execution of North Korean military officials surpassing that of his father and grandfather.   The same day in Washington, the US Senate and House overwhelmingly passed a new round of North Korean sanctions. Reuters reported:

Lawmakers said they wanted to make Washington’s resolve clear to Pyongyang, but also to the United Nations and other governments, especially China, North Korea’s lone major ally and main business partner.

The package includes sanctions targeting North Korea and “secondary sanctions” against those who do business with it.

The vote was 408-2 in the House, following a 96-0 vote in the Senate on Wednesday.

Impatient with what they see as Obama’s failure to respond to North Korean provocations, many of his fellow Democrats as well as the Republicans who control Congress have been clamoring for a clampdown since Pyongyang tested a nuclear device in January.

Pressure for congressional action further intensified after last weekend’s satellite launch by North Korea.

Obama is not expected to veto the bill, given its huge support in Congress.

Earlier Fox News reported Gordon Chang expressing skepticism that more sanctions would not achieve the end of punishing North Korea for violating UN and US sanctions against missile development. We wrote:

Chang holds that sanctions don’t work with North Korea. Instead He suggested that we might control the aid to North Korea endeavoring to separate the people from the autocratic ruling Kim family. He also suggested that South Korea move 143 companies out of the Kaesong industrial shared with North Korea.  He noted that after the January 6, 2016 nuclear test, no further sanctions were proposed at the UN because China would effectively block them. China he pointed out does a fair amount of banking with North Korea.

North Korea must have paid attention to Chang’s comments, as they seized jointly owned companies in the Kaesong industrial park.  Deutsche Welle reported South Korea cutting off the power to the Kaesong complex on Friday, February 12, 2015.  Effectively it was shutting the cross border industrial park down in retaliation for the North’s nuclear and missile tests in January and February 2016.  South Korean News agency, Yonhap, reported on Sunday, February 14, 2014 the South Korean Unification Minister accusing the Hermit State of using funds to develop weapons systems:

In a television appearance, Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo said “70 percent” of the money that flowed into the Kaesong Industrial Complex has been used by the ruling Workers’ Party to bankroll weapons development.

“Workers at Kaesong are paid in cash (U.S. dollars), but the money doesn’t go directly to these workers. It goes to the North Korean government instead,” Hong said.

“Any foreign currency earned in North Korea is transferred to the Workers’ Party, where the money is used to develop nuclear weapons or missiles, or to purchase luxury goods.”

Last week, South Korea shut down the industrial park in response to the North’s recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch. Opened in 2004, the complex had long been a big cash cow for North Korea.

North Korea, in turn, expelled all South Korean nationals on Thursday from the complex and froze factory assets by South Korean firms, further driving the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation to the brink.

For the last two weeks, the National Security Task Force of America (NSTFA) of the Lisa Benson Show has been running twitter rallies directed at the media and Republican Presidential hopefuls on one issue: our vulnerable Ballistic Missile Defense. The NSTFA sent out tweets and retweets at the rate of 400 to 600 an hour.   The first NSTFA twitter rally, occurred before the New Hampshire primary debates, caught the attention of a South Carolina supporter of Texas Senator Ted Cruz who relayed the information to his campaign staff.  Those NSTFA tweets focused on the most vulnerable area of the US exposed to a possible North Korean ICBM launch, the lack of any missile defense on our Gulf of Mexico.  The result was that Cruz raised the issue during the debates.  The second NSTFA twitter rally occurred Thursday, February 11th producing more than 6,000 twitter impressions.  One of those Republican hopefuls targeted by the NSTFA twitter rally was Florida Republican Senator Rubio. Rubio’s platform statement on rebuilding and modernizing our military noted his missile defense proposals:

  • Expand missile defense by speeding up deployment of interceptors in Europe, deploying a third site in the United States, and ensuring that advanced programs are adequately funded.
  • Work interoperably with allies on missile defense – we should encourage the spread of missile defense technology as a solution to the spread of ballistic and cruise missiles.
  • Increase the Missile Defense Agency’s Research & Development budget and create a rapid-fielding office to focus on fielding directed energy weapons, railguns, UAV-enabled defenses, and other means to defeat a threat missile across its entire flight trajectory.

The  Wall Street Journal  (WSJ) lead editorial in the  Presidents Weekend edition on February 13-14, 2016, “The Rogue-State Nuclear Missile Threat,“ resonated some of the Rubio and others concerns about the US vulnerability to North Korean  and possible Iranian missile strikes.   The WSJ editorial noted, “North Korea can now threatens most of the continental US:”

Americans have been focused on New Hampshire, Iowa [and South Carolina}, but spare a thought for Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago. Those are among the cities within range of the intercontinental ballistic missile tested Sunday by North Korea. Toledo and Pittsburgh are still slightly out of range, but at least 120 million Americans with the wrong zip codes could soon be targets of Kim Jong Un.

The WSJ editorial went on to contrast the Bush versus the Obama Administration actions on missile defense:

You can thank the George W. Bush Administration for the defenses that exist, including long-range missile interceptors in Alaska and California, Aegis systems aboard U.S. Navy warships and a diverse network of radar and satellite sensors. The U.S. was due to place interceptors in Poland and X-Band radar in the Czech Republic, but in 2009 President Obama and Hillary Clinton scrapped those plans as a “reset” gift to Vladimir Putin.

Team Obama also cut 14 of the 44 interceptors planned for Alaska and Hawaii, ceased development of the Multiple Kill Vehicle (an interceptor with multiple warheads) and defunded the two systems focused on destroying missiles in their early “boost” phase, when they are slowest and easier to hit. By 2013 even Mr. Obama partially realized his error, so the Administration expanded radar and short-range interceptors in Asia and recommitted to the 14 interceptors for the U.S. West Coast. It now appears poised to install sophisticated THAAD antimissile batteries in South Korea.

Yet the Administration has failed to support a third East Coast site (to protect against Iranian and Russian threats) and provide adequate funding. Budgets are down about 25% from the Bush Administration’s roughly $10 billion a year. Mr. Obama’s final budget proposal released Tuesday would cut another $800 million from the Missile Defense Agency, nearly 10% from last year’s total.

The WSJ editorial concluded:

The overarching lesson of North Korea is the folly of arms control, starting with the 1994 Agreed Framework that first tried to buy off Pyongyang with energy and food aid. The U.S. would be safer today if it had moved to topple the Kim regime before it got the bomb. But having failed to act when the costs were lower, it is now necessary to buttress defenses in East Asia and the U.S. in what is fast becoming a new age of nuclear and missile proliferation.

From last Sunday’s Super Bowl game in Denver to Valentine’s Day, the evidence is piling up that Chang presciently opined; unanimous sanctions passed by Congress this past week will not deter North Korea from building nuclear ICBMs.  Rather, it is the ironical proposal for a preemptive strike against North Korean missile launches by present Obama Pentagon chief Ashton Carter and former Clinton Era Secretary of Defense William Perry in a 2006 Time Magazine article.

The conclusion in our February 8, 2016 NER/Iconoclast post appears equally prescient:

The North Korean satellite launch coupled with the January 6, 2016 nuclear test exposes the vulnerability of the US to possible missile attack by rogue regimes like North Korea and ally Iran. The lack of a Ballistic Missile Defense demonstrated by this latest successful North Korean satellite launch now vaults the issue to the top of national security issues along with Islamic terrorism for serious discussion in the 2016 Presidential campaign.

RELATED ARTICLE: North Korea Set to Deploy KN08 Ballistic Missile

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

PODCAST: Pakistani Terrorist Camps in the United States

Listen to this podcast of the January 3, 2016 Lisa Benson Show on KKNT 960 AM Radio – The Patriot. Lisa Benson and New English Review Senior Editor Jerry Gordon co-hosted this show with the assistance of Board of Advisers member, Richard Cutting.

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Foundation of Islam and Democracy and the U.S. Commission for international religious discussed the recently launched Freedom Muslim Reform Movement, the deteriorating situation inside Syria and U.S. failure to contend with NATO ally Turkey under Islamist President Erdogan in the war against ISIS.

Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Washington, D.C.-based Jewish Policy Center, addressed allegations in a recent Wall Street Journal expose of NSA spying on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, U.S. Congressional Members and American Jewish leaders, Israeli preparedness against ISIS threats in Syria and the Sinai and the tacit cooperation with Egypt and the fascinating understanding struck with Putin’s Russia to contain Hezbollah. We will be posting Bryen’s written responses to these and other questions, separately.

Jamaat ul-Fuqra fbi

FBI agents embracing members of Jamaat ul-Fuqra, a Pakistani based terrorist group in the United States.

Ryan Mauro, National Security Analyst at The Clarion Project addressed the terrorist training camps established in both Canada and America by radical Pakistani Sufi Sheik Mubarak ali Gilani, who has not been investigated by the FBI despite his founding a network of Jamaat ul-Fuqra/Muslim of America (MOA) paramilitary camps in both Canada and the U.S. that conveyed extremist Islamist ideology and provided weapons training for prison converts to Islam. These MOA camps fostered a three decade record of attempted assassinations, criminal activities supporting terrorism akin to that of the perpetrators of the San Bernardino massacres. Yet, as Mauro pointed out, Sheik Gilani does not support ISIS.

Our usually astute European listener had these comments on the January 3, 2016 Lisa Benson Show:

To hear Dr. Jasser state the plan to reform the religion of Islam was very interesting. The Sharia Islamic law actually promoted by Sunni Islam is both political and religious. For these extremists their ideology requires them to conquer the world and forcefully ask all the non-Muslims to convert to Islam or become third class citizens of their caliphate.

What Dr. Jasser is proposing is to separate religion state from religion in Islam. A modernized religious law will take a lot of time.  However, this is the only way to advance eliminating extremist Islam from all around the world. Dr. Jasser should not call this reform a new Sharia law, but the New Moslem Religious law. The word Sharia has another meaning for all Moslems. It will be interesting to watch how many mosques and Imams would adopt Dr. Jasser’s propositions because many are still funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Moslem Brotherhood. Let us not forget that Muslim Brotherhood/CAIR members have been engaged by the Administration in such policy considerations.

Dr. Jasser has to be congratulated for the dangerous and wonderful work he is doing.

Wonderful to hear Shoshana Bryen giving her opinion and analysis. The Israelis know that they are being tapped and they know quite well what encryption services they can use for their communications which are Top Secret. Shoshana knows all about what is going on and she writes about it explicitly.

The details that Ryan Mauro provided are diagnostic of the chronic illness of these Islamist Muslim of America camps.  It is unbelievable that the FBI, even with limited resources, has not taken the necessary steps to indict all those who are embedded in these groups. I sincerely hope that there will not be a major terror attack in the US perpetrated by members of these Islamist camps.

I think the radio show is really getting better and better. The American public needs to hear these comments to wake up and contact their law makers in order to have a safe America.

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

National Security Agency: Spying on American Jews, Israel and the U.S. Congress

Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director at the Washington, D.C. based Jewish Policy Center.  She has been a frequent guest on The Lisa Benson Show regarding US-Israel relations, the Obama Administration and national security.  On the first program of the New Year, January 3, 2016, she appeared  to address allegations raised by a Wall Street Journal article about NSA spying on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and by happenstance, Members of Congress and American Jewish leaders, “US Spy Net  on Israel Snares Congress. “  She also responded to an NER Iconoclast post on whether the Israel Defense Force was prepared to meet the threat of ISIS affiliates on both the Syrian frontier and the Egyptian Sinai. She also spoke of an emerging relationship with Putin’s Russia allowing Israeli freedom to attack Hezbollah targets in Syria.

Listen to the segment with Bryen on the Benson show Podcast of January 3, 2016 starting at the 20 minute mark:

As is our practice in producing the weekly Benson Show, we send our guests a set of suggested questions requesting they select a limited number to respond in what a fast is paced packed 44 minutes.  Bryen prepared written responses to the original of set of questions. Below are her astute and illuminating responses.

What is real story behind the Wall Street Journal report alleging NSA spying on Israeli PM Netanyahu, Congressional members and American Jewish Leaders?

Bryen:  The administration was spying on Congress; maybe still is.  The White House tried to put a layer of protection between itself and illegal NSA activity by saying “do what you want.” If there was a problem or a lawsuit over this, the White House position wouldn’t hold up. NSA was spying on Israel and vice versa – nothing new.

The real targets were Congress and American Jews. I don’t see that Congress knew about this specific spying. Surely no one up there is naive and they know they are listened to. This is important for the next points. That makes the idea that they would get on the phone with Israeli Ambassador to US Ron Dermer and allow him to bribe them over the wire totally ridiculous. Whatever NSA got, they did not get it from tapping Dermer’s phone. They probably also did not get it from tapping Congressional phones because Congress assumes it is tapped and no one was discussing bribery.  What could you bribe a Congressman with to get his/her vote on this?

There was no collusion between Ron Dermer and the American Jewish community. I was part of the machinations opposing the nuclear deal with Iran, although the Jewish Policy Center does not lobby; we are only in the information business. “The Jews” knew their talking points and didn’t need Dermer for anything. If they talked to him, that is one thing.  However, needing him for “talking points,” again, that is ridiculous. If there are intercepts of American Jews talking to Congressional members it would have to come from bugging Congress. Lee Smith, of The Weekly Standard makes the point that if there was bribery or attempted bribery involved, there would already be criminal cases. There are none, of course. So, where does that leave us?

NSA spying is only supposed to be done for issues of National Security. One can make the argument that if the US government thought Israel was going to bomb Iran, it would rise to that level. However by 2013, the US was positive Israel was not going to do that. What comes after is political.

Are the enemies of the White House are Congress and the Jews? Congress because Obama knew it opposed the deal. That is why the talks needed to be secret. Also, the talks leading to the talks needed to be secret. They were worried that Israel would spill the beans. Israel didn’t.

There were several incidents in which the Administration let people know what the problems were.  Lee Smith points in his article to a Jon Stewart interview with the President. There is also The New York Times (NYT) editorial that accused Jews of being more loyal to a foreign government than to the US. Senators Schumer and Menendez were damned as “beholden to donors” – code word for Jews.

Obama told Stewart: “If people are engaged, eventually the political system responds. Despite the money, despite the lobbyists, it still responds.” Stewart said, “What do you mean by lobbyists?” The President didn’t answer, but after the signing of the JCPOA, he said Congress would evaluate this agreement fairly, “not based on lobbying, but based on what is in the national interests of the United States of America.”

The NYT reported on a Democratic Issues Conference in Baltimore where the President said he understood the pressures that senators face from “donors and others.” However, according to the NYT, Obama urged the lawmakers to “take the long view rather than make a move for short-term political gain,” meaning money and Jewish support. Menendez was offended.

Smith actually thinks there was no specific bugging going on, but just an attempt to intimidate Congress and the Jews. I disagree.  They think they are above the law on these things. And they may be, but it doesn’t appear to matter.

Why are media accusations unfounded that American Jewish leaders and U.S. Congressional friends of Israel take their cues from the Israeli Embassy?

Bryen:   Because those accusations presume American Jews NEED someone to tell them how they are supposed to feel about a political issue. On its face that is ant-Semitic. American Jews are a sophisticated community of Americans – although I have some disagreements with where they come out on some issues – they don’t need anyone, particularly a foreign government, to tell them what to think or what to do about issues.

Have these disclosures impacted on US- Israel intelligence cooperation and weapons deliveries to maintain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge?

Bryen:  No, there is no present impact that I can discern. First, all intelligence agencies assume that they are being spied on by both friends and enemies. It’s nothing new. Second, the relationship works both ways – the American intelligence services rely on Israel for information in the region.

What options does Congress have to bar lifting sequestered funds of Iran now that the Administration announced delays in new sanctions in view of Iran’s violation of ballistic missile testing under UN Resolutions?

They’re talking about new sanctions laws in Congress after the holiday recess. Note that Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) is the loudest voice on this. He voted FOR the JCPOA and he’s figured out that the deal was a disaster and Secretary Kerry’s “snapback sanctions” were a joke.

Congress can pass any law it wants – sanctions included. Iran’s public interpretation of the deal is that any new sanctions would violate the JCPOA and leave Iran free to withdraw from it – or actually, continue to violate it. The White House appears to be siding with Iran including on the secure visa procedure, which is absolutely an obligation of Congress. Iran remains on the State Sponsor of Terror list because of its support for Hezbollah and Hamas. If the White House does not want more sanctions, it will threaten a veto.  Then you will have the extraordinary spectacle of a U.S. government shielding the world’s top sponsor of terror from the United States Congress.

How prepared is the IDF to contend with threats from ISIS in both Syria and the Sinai?

Bryen:  Israel is in a continual state of readiness.  For years they have had to closely identify and track the threats. They are helped by the determination of Egypt in Sinai – with which the US government should be thrilled. It is the actual implementation of the Camp David Accords. The problem for the US in the Sinai is that we have the Multilateral Force and Observers there – MFO – primarily manned by Americans. It is a holdover from Camp David designed to ensure that the Egyptians don’t move military equipment into Sinai in quantities larger than Camp David permitted. Now it is a target for ISIS and affiliated Bedouin groups.

Israel is helped on the northern front by the fact that at the moment neither the Assad government nor Hezbollah wants to open another front and Russia would not permit it. The Israel-Russia relationship is fascinating.  It is mutually beneficial right now and has the seeds of longer-lasting cooperation.

As for ISIS, while in theory killing Jews would be fine, it doesn’t need a second front either. There is a growing threat of ISIS-inspired organizations on the Syrian border, where multiple local factions have pledged allegiance to ISIS leadership. The more immediate risk, however, is most likely related to ISIS’ possible impact on Israeli Arab youth, both within Israel and in Judea and Samaria.

Given the latest killings of Israelis in Tel Aviv by an Israel Arab, what can the Netanyahu government do to prevent such deadly attacks?

Bryen: We don’t’ have all the information, including whether or not it was actually terrorism. It didn’t have the usual “fingerprints.”  The perpetrator was an Israeli Arab citizen who had served five years for a previous attack on an IDF solider. He used a firearm deliberately hitting two people, not spraying the restaurant for maximum casualties. The attack was in the heart of Tel Aviv and he fled the scene.  Israeli Police hedged on whether it was simply a criminal act. If it was a terrorist, it appears to be of the “lone wolf” variety, which means Israel has the same problem the U.S. does.

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

The Islamic State poses a Global Airline Security Threat

metrojet flight plan

Metrojet 9268 Flight Schedule, October 31, 2015.

Saturday morning, October 31st, Flight 9268 a Metrojet Airbus A321 with 224 largely Russian tourists, and crew aboard were bound on a course for St. Petersburg from Sharm el-Sheikh on Egypt’s Sinai Red Sea. The aircraft reached an altitude of 31,000 feet at 430 knots, when something catastrophic occurred at 23 minutes into the flight. Communications with the pilot abruptly ended, the plane struggled to gain altitude and just as suddenly plummeted earthward with the tail section broken off and the rest of fuselage sent crashing into the desert and mountains were a flash was seen via satellite.

All 224 passengers and crew aboard were killed. The crash occurred less than 300 miles from the resort area at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula at the mouth of the Red Sea. The passenger remains and  aircraft debris were scattered over a wide area. All of this was recorded in real time on satellite flight status internet reports and satellite imagery. Forensic teams from Egyptian, Russian and Airbus air safety organizations were dispatched to retrieve the flight data recorders. Egyptian military and Red Crescent teams were engaged in recovery of the remains, personal effects and luggage of those killed in the crash.

Grief was overwhelming at funerals held in Russia this week with the arrival of the remains of the victims.  The immediate questions were what caused the aviation catastrophe and who may have been behind it.

Watch this CNN video on “Did a Bomb take down Metrojet Flight 9268?”:

Russian-jet-crash-sinai

Metrojet Flight 9268  Tail section. Source: AFP

If the emerging facts surrounding the fate of Metrojet Flight 9268 are confirmed this aviation disaster, possibly perpetrated by Islamic terrorists,  could well be Russia’s 9/11.  Shoshana Bryen of the Washington, D.C.-based Jewish Policy Center suggested that in an American Thinker blog, “Could the destroyed Russian plane be jihadi payback?” The inference being that the bombing of Metrojet Flight 9268 was a deadly rebuke to Russian President Putin for his entry in the Syria conflict attempting to bolster the faltering Assad Regime in alliance with Shia extremist Iran and its proxy Hezbollah. Boaz Bismuth writing in Israel Hayom  penned an op ed about the alleged bombing with the prescient title, “ISIS aims for the global skies.”

A lot is at stake, as the Sinai had become a veritable Islamic terrorist venue with Al Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS echelons attacking Egyptian security forces. Sharm el-Sheik is  a major European tourist destination attracting millions of visitors annually from the EU, Russia and other countries. For the El-Sisi government, terrorist involvement in the aviation disaster in the Sinai would have a chilling effect on billions in income from tourism. For Russia it could be an un-reckoned threat arising from its entry in the Syrian conflict. It is seeking to keep at bay Caucasian and other Russian Muslims from flocking to join the self-declared Caliphate, the  Islamic State.  For the international airline industry it may have profound implications for assuring security for passengers and operations both at home and in destinations adjacent to jihadist conflict zones.  If airport or airline servicing contractors were involved, then a major security gap would be opened by this latest aviation terrorism episode.

Several theories were developed as to what caused the aircraft to go through  violent maneuvers. The aircraft may have been hit by a shoulder held air defense heat seeker missile or MANPAD, it might have suffered a high altitude structural failure which caused it to break apart or the aircraft could have suffered an internal bomb explosion. Both the MANPAD and structural failure explanations were dismissed in view of the altitude at which the incident occurred, 31,000 feet , exceeding the maximum  altitude of MANPADs, 15,000 feet. Moreover the high altitude structure failure possibility was obviated by the service record of the Metrojet aircraft indicating that it had undergone structural repairs after a 2001 incident that occurred on a rough landing.  The bombing possibility, while initially dismissed, became a palpably plausible on Wednesday, November 4th. Both UK and U.S. intelligence suggested they had intercepted electronic information indicating that an explosive device may have been secreted on board Metrojet Flight 9268 by possible operatives of ISIS groups active in the Sinai Peninsula. Perhaps they were posing as local catering and cleaning contractors with access to the aircraft. Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood  or ISIS operatives could have secreted a bomb in the rear lavatories or rear luggage holds on the Metrojet A321.

Evidence is mounting to the ultimate conclusion that this might have been  a bombing.  Shoshana Bryen  indicated that photographs of the aircraft wreckage in British media “show some of the holes in the wreckage. They are outward-facing – meaning something inside the plane moved out. A blown fuel tank – which is on the outside – would have caused inward-facing holes.” Then there were reported  forensic evidence of metal shards among the clothing and effects of the victims.  Bryen also cited reports “indicating  that security at Sharm el-Sheikh was totally lax; which helps make the case that someone inside did the job. Since Egyptian tourism and Russia are targets of the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS respectively, and since ISIS came from the MB root, collaboration here is a twisted “win-win” for them.”

‘UK PM Cameron underlined the increasing evidence of a bomb plot to destroy, Metrojet  Flight 9268, saying, “It is ‘more likely than not” that a bomb brought down  the Metrojet over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula”. He took extraordinary measures grounding all UK charters for a security sweep at Sharm el Sheikh airport leaving more than 3,500 British passengers delayed until given clearance. CNN cited Cameron’s  office issuing a statement saying,  “Outbound flights from the UK to Sharm el-Sheikh remain suspended and the Foreign Office continues to advise against all but essential travel by air to or from Sharm el-Sheikh airport, but we are continuing to work with the Egyptians to get back to normal service as soon as possible.” Similar announcements came from Irish authorities and Lufthansa.  Sharm el-Sheikh is visited by more than 1 million tourists, annually.

The Israeli resort of Eilat at the head of the Red Seas also is a major European and international tourist destination.  ISIS Sinai affiliate formerly known as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis has targeted Eilat for a possible bombing attack. The possible ISIS terror bombing of the Metrojet  could have rippling effects there to assure the usual tight security arrangements of Israel international carrier, El Al, and  domestic ones like Arkia.  El Al aircraft are already equipped with electronic counter measures like the Elbit C-Music anti- missile system to foil possible MANPAD attacks. Doubtless, the Israelis may also have better security clearances for aircraft maintenance, catering and cleaning employees, as well as barriers and surveillance of the Egyptian border to thwart infiltration of MB and ISIS terrorists.

ISS Facility Services Receives State of Utah Refugee Services Employer of the Year 2009

ISS Facility Services Receives State of Utah Refugee Services Employer of the Year 2009.

ISS Facility Services Receives State of Utah Refugee Services Employer of the Year 2009

The downing of the Metrojet with its innocent Russian victims  has more than just Russian, Egyptian and Israeli concerns. From investigations by the Wall Street Journal,  CNN and others, security clearances for baggage handlers, catering, and cleaning personnel with access to the tarmac and aircraft here in the U.S. is lax.

Further investigations by the Lisa Benson Radio Show National Security Task Force of America  have revealed employment of Somali refugees  by major international groups like ISS Worldwide A/S headquartered in Copenhagen. The US subsidiary  ISS Facility Services, Inc. is based in San Antonio. ISS Worldwide employs over a half million through their outsourced network of airport and commercial facilities maintenance contracts. ISS specializes in a broad range of facility management services including janitorial services, especially for airport authorities and major manufacturing  companies.

The Somali Muslim émigré population has been the source of both Al Shabaab and increasingly ISIS recruitment in the U.S.  One illustration of the inherent ISIS risk among U.S. Somalis employed at US airports was  the reported death in September 2014  of  American Somali Émigré ISIS  Jihadi

The late ISIS Fighter a former Twin Cities airport cleaner

The late ISIS Fighter a former Twin Cities airport cleaner.

The late ISIS Fighter a former Twin Cities airport cleaner

Abdirahmaan Muhumed, 29.  That revealed his employment as a cleaner for Delta Global Services, Inc.  that gave him security access to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.  Muhumed left behind 9 children in the Twin Cities to become an ISIS jihadi, before his death in Syria. Muhumed had unfettered access to jetliners at the airport, which handles 90,000 passengers a day. He also had access to the tarmac and special security clearance to other parts of the airport. Muhumed had no criminal record in the United States that would have prevented him from getting a job at the airport.

This revelation following the death of Somali émigré ISIS fighter Muhumed, should raise the concerns of both the TSA and Homeland Security regarding screening of airport and aircraft maintenance personnel at U.S. Many of who have contracts with groups like ISS Worldwide A/S and Delta Global Services, Inc.  Moreover, without active community policing programs in the major U.S. communities recruitment of Muhumed and other ISIS recruits could not have been detected.  Thus, the downing of the Metrojet in Egypt by alleged ISIS perpetrators reverberates here in the U.S.  FBI Direct James Combey has warned that ISIS jihadis lurk among us in all 50 states.

RELATED ARTICLE: ‘Unvetted foreigners’ working as U.S. baggage handlers

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

Nationalists: Mateo Salvini, Marine LePen, Heinz-Christian Strache and Geert Wilders

Today’s European edition of the Wall Street Journal  has an op-ed by a quartet of national sovereignty political leaders:  Mateo Salvini of Italy’s Northern League, Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front, Heinz- Christian Strache  of Austria’s  Freedom Party and Geert Wilders of Holland’s Freedom Party.

The title of their opinion article, “Restoring Europe’s Borders and Sovereign Nations,” sends a resounding message of rising concerns and anxieties of the body polities in their respective countries and others in Eastern Europe. That is reflected in daily scenes of a borderless Europe invaded by massive waves of thousands of largely Muslim refugees and illegal economic migrants that has placed an enormous fiscal burden and security problems vetting the throngs for suspected terrorists.

They suggest rejection of the Schengen system and the reinstitution of national immigration and border control across Europe to protect cultural identities in the face of EU determination to accommodate diversity. Diversity occasioned by the hundreds of thousands of refugees and economic migrants from poorer countries in the Balkans, Syria and Iraq in the Middle East, South Asia, Eastern and Sub-Sahara Africa.

Yesterday, an EU summit in Brussels reached an agreement to fund a 3 Billion Euro Turkish operation for Syrian refugee camps to stem the flood of asylum seekers and migrants by keeping them in country. That comes at the price of a Faustian bargain: the quid pro quo of admitting Islamist Turkey, as an EU member. The prospects of the latter occurring are dim given the tyranny and human rights violations of the Erdogan government teetering on the brink of a snap election on November 1st. Last weekend’s twin bombings at a peace rally in Ankara are illustrative of internal problems that might send a different wave of asylum seekers to the EU.

immigrants crossing hungary border

Waves of migrants crossing the border between Croatia and Hungary under the eyes of the Hungarian soldiers on Sept. 22. Photo: Danilo Balducci/Zuma Press

Here is what the quartet of national sovereignty political leaders from Italy, France, Austria and the Netherlands wrote.

Europe. Imagine a world without her. Sure, the geographical entity will always continue to exist. But the civilization is in danger. Millions of migrants are currently arriving in Europe. More than half a million have already done so. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, says the greatest tide of refugees and migrants is still to come. Hungary’s foreign minister expects 35 million people heading to Europe. This will be the end of [cultural identities] as we know them.

The situation is completely out of control. Too many fortune seekers, too much illiteracy. Some of the migrants are refugees, but the majority comes for economic reasons. Our European economies and social-protection systems cannot cope with this. The media prefer to focus on families and children, but their images cannot conceal that the asylum seekers flocking to Europe are predominantly young men. Many are unskilled.

But the main problem is that, unlike the flow of refugees at the end of World War II, these migrants come from countries with a culture entirely different from Europe’s. Mass immigration is leading to the dilution of cultural identity in the European Union member states.

Its citizens resent this. Instinctively, these citizens are patriots. They don’t like to lose their identity as a people. They don’t want to give up their countries. Instinctively, they grasp two very important truths. First, that without identity, there is no country. Second, that without a country, there can be no prosperity, no justice, no democracy, and no liberty.

The European Union has slowly been eroding Europe’s nation-states by gradually dismantling their sovereignty. It has robbed our countries of the right to conduct our own national asylum policies. Last month, the EU forced refugee quotas on its member states and overruled governments who disagreed. The mask has fallen, and the peoples of Europe have seen the EU’s ugly face.

Better than before, they now realize that our national parliaments have been reduced to fake parliaments. Vital matters, including those concerning our national identities, are no longer decided by our national parliaments but by obscure institutions in Brussels. People are forced to give away their country without even having a say in the matter.

Governments in Eastern Europe are especially sensitive about this. It’s no coincidence that the strongest resistance to the EU’s mandatory migrant quotas comes from countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. For many decades these countries were ruled from Moscow without their consent. They don’t want to now be ruled from Brussels without their consent.

But the migration crisis has also alarmed the peoples of Western Europe. Polls and election results in recent weeks clearly indicate that patriot parties such as ours are growing spectacularly.

While the governments in Western Europe’s capitals bash the leaders in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, millions of citizens in Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands and other nations share their concerns.

In Vienna’s regional elections Sunday, the Austrian Freedom Party won a third of the votes. In polls in the Netherlands, the Party for Freedom has become as big as the two governing parties combined. In France, polls indicate that the National Front will win its local elections in December. In Italy three months ago, the Northern League made stunning electoral gains.

While millions are on their way to Europe, millions in Europe realize that they have been betrayed by the political elites in The Hague, Paris, Rome, Vienna and other capitals. Our parliaments have been emasculated by Brussels and are filled with politicians who no longer care about our basic national interests. Governments don’t mind the loss of national sovereignty and national identities either. Far too often, they are composed of politicians who hope to one day pursue an international career at an EU or U.N. institution after their national career ends.

The gap between the citizens and those who rule them has never been so wide. We have to close this gap in order to reassert control over our own borders. And we can do so democratically by mobilizing the people to vote for parties that stand for national sovereignty and the defense of national identities. Reclaiming democracy: that is the key to solving the migration crisis.

There is no need to imagine a world without the nations of Europe. It’s clear what needs to happen. We need to reclaim our national sovereignty, abolish EU treaties such as the Schengen treaty and reaffirm the supremacy of national parliaments.

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Lutheran meeting in Allentown, PA gets contentious, but who is this wealthy ‘Lutheran’ group?

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of left to right Matteo Salvini of Italy’s Northern League, Harald Vilimsky of Austria’s Freedom, Geert Wilders of the Netherland’s Freedom Party. The image is courtesy of the European edition of The Wall Street Journal, October 15, 2015.

Can the States Stop Implementation of Iran Nuclear Deal?

On the Sunday, September 20, 2015 Lisa Benson Show we interviewed, David B. Rivkin, Jr. a noted Constitutional  litigator, a partner in the Washington, DC office of the Baker Hostetler law firm. The topic was “Can the Senate Sue the President over his handling of the Iran Nuclear Deal?”  Rivkin is also   a Senior Fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).  He served in a variety of legal and policy positions in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush  Administrations, including stints at the White House Counsel’s office, Office of the Vice President and the Departments of Justice and Energy. While in the government, he handled a variety of national security and domestic issues, including environmental and energy policy, tax, trade and constitutional issues.  He is a much sought after as a media commentator on matters of constitutional and international law, as well as foreign and defense policy.

Rivkin recently won a landmark decision in the D.C. Federal District Court in the matter of House v. Burwell over the supremacy of Congressional appropriations authorities with regard to implementation of the Affordable Care Act that affirmed Congressional standing to bring such an action. He co-authored a September 6, 2015 Washington Post opinion article with Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) suggesting a possible suit by the Senate against the President for non–compliance with the language of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act requiring delivery of all requisite documents including the privileged IAEA side agreements.  A September 10, 2015 WSJ op ed by Rivkin and Elizabeth Price Foley discussed how the successful House v. Burwell suit gave standing to Congress to bring possible litigation against the President. Moreover, the suit in the ACA matter had survived a motion to dismiss by the Administration. We have published similar proposals by Sklaroff and Bender for Senate litigation over the JCPOA unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council on July 22, 2015.

The Sklaroff Bender proposal required the Senate to change Rule 22 to achieve cloture to cut off filibusters by Minority Democrats, before Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) might offer up a resolution to treating the Iran nuclear agreement as a treaty under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution requiring a two thirds vote under the advise and consent of the Senate.  However, to initiate that would have required McConnell to make changes in Rule 22 at the start of the 114th Congress in January 2015.  Currently, to cut off debate requires 60 votes. Congressional Research Service reports on this issue indicated previous proposals reducing the threshold down in steps to a simple majority vote. A number of prominent conservative activists and organizations advocated such a change at the start of the new Congress but McConnell pushed back, arguing that Democrats would use the new rules once they returned to the Majority to quash Republican concerns in the future.

The Senate Republican majority failed in a last move to upend the Iran Nuclear deal. As reported by the AP, a Senate vote on a resolution requiring Iran to recognize Israel as a quid pro quo to lifting sanctions failed once again to reach the 60 vote’s threshold.  The vote was 53 to 45 before the deadline of September 17th under the Corker-Cardin Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, in an AP report on the Administration’s start to implement the JCPOA, the deal “likely will be revisited by the next commander-in-chief.”  The AP reportedHouse Speaker John Boehner suggesting that possible litigation might be an option. Other Senators and Members of Congress have suggested renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act of 2006 before it sunsets in 2016.

Watch this mid-April 2015  Wall Street Journal interview with David B. Rivkin, Esq. He had presciently predicted the problems confronting  Congress  under the Corker-Cardin Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act to pass resolutions rejecting the JCPOA.

During the Lisa Benson Show interview, Rivkin suggested that the President had violated Coker-Cardin by not delivering all of the requisite information, including the IAEA side agreements with Iran. As a result of this violation, the Congressional review period has never started and, consistent with the statutory language of Corker Cardin, the President’s authority to lift any sanctions against Iran or unblock any frozen Iranian funds has been vitiated. Rivkin expressed the view that, if the President were to indicate that he intends to lift sanctions, or unblock frozen assets, this decision can be challenged in court, either by the House or the Senate, or the States. Listen to the Rivkin interview on the Lisa Benson Show sound cloud, here.

Rivkin and colleague Lee Casey wrote about that possibility in a July 26, 2015, Wall Street Journal opinion article, “The Lawless Underpinnings in the Iran Nuclear Deal“. They argued:

The Obama end-run around the Constitution could yet be blocked if states exercise their own sanctions regimes …The administration faces another serious problem because the deal requires the removal of state and local Iran-related sanctions. That would have been all right if Mr. Obama had pursued a treaty with Iran, which would have bound the states, but his executive-agreement approach cannot pre-empt the authority of the states.

That leaves the states free to impose their own Iran-related sanctions, as they have done in the past against South Africa and Burma. The Constitution’s Commerce Clause prevents states from imposing sanctions as broadly as Congress can. Yet states can establish sanctions regimes—like banning state-controlled pension funds from investing in companies doing business with Iran—powerful enough to set off a legal clash over American domestic law and the country’s international obligations. The fallout could prompt the deal to unravel.

An explanation of the JCPOA State Sanctions impasse was outlined in a Steptoe International Compliance blog on August 15, 2015, “The JCPOA and State Sanctions” by Bibek Pandy:

The Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) does not say much about Iran sanctions imposed by US state governments. Almost two dozen states (including New York, California and Florida) have passed laws that in some form (i) ban the awarding of government contracts to companies tied to Iran, and/or (ii) prohibit public funds from investing in companies doing certain types of business in Iran. These state restrictions can be more extensive in scope than US federal sanctions. For example, some state restrictions (e.g. in Florida) attach automatically to the parent entity of the company who engages in certain Iran activities. Laws in many states provide for the lifting of Iran sanctions when the President removes Iran from the list of countries that support terrorism; but the JCPOA does not do that, and, as a result, Iran sanction laws in most states will remain intact.

[…]

Companies considering engaging in activity authorized under the JCPOA need to be still mindful of non-federal Iran sanctions. In particular, state government contractors with Iran links should review state procurement laws before engaging in activities permitted by the JCPOA. Furthermore, contractors can face civil penalties in many states for providing false certifications related to their Iran activities. The bar for Iran-related disqualification in some states is relatively low, and the JCPOA does not change that.

David B RivkinDavid B. Rivkin, Jr., Esq.

Following the Lisa Benson Show, David Rivkin and this writer held a conversation to explore the possibilities of a state level initiative. Florida Attorney General (AG) Pam Bondi led a filing made in the 1st Federal District Court in Pensacola on behalf of Florida and more than two dozen other State AGs endeavoring to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Federal Judge Vincent heard oral arguments and ruled on the matter sending it ultimately to the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.   Rivkin thinks that a similar action could be mounted by Florida and a few other states in the same legal venue, the 1st District Court.  The filing might be based on existing Florida sanction law passed under the federal 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) supplemented by an Executive Order.

The State cause of action, according to Rivkin, could be filed in a matter of weeks, potentially forestalling the release of sanctions before the implementation date under JCPOA, December 15, 2015. As indicated in a September 11, 2015 FDD memo by Dubowitz, Fixler, et.al. the subsequent release of upwards of $120 billion of sequestered funds in several Asian banks would take an additional six months. Thus the Rivkin state litigation proposal, if implemented promptly, might possibly stop the release of Iran nuclear sanctions.

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

Will Republicans Protest and Litigate to Stop Iran Nuclear Pact?

stop iran rally september 9thWhere there were five undeclared Democrat Senators on the cusp of reconvening Congress, today there is only one, Ms. Cantwell from Washington State. Three Democrat Senators: Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Gary Price of Michigan declared for the President’s position. Two of the three Democrat Senators who declared for the President position, Blumenthal and Wyden are up for re-election in 2016, while Price is not. The lone Democrat who joined with the Republican majority to oppose the Iran Pact is West Virginia Senator, Joe Manchin.

In a statement released by his office, Manchin said, “I believe that to be a super power, you must possess super diplomatic skills, and I believe that we can use these skills to negotiate a better deal.”

That leaves possibly 58 Senators, 54 Republicans and four Democrats opposing the Iran nuclear pact. That is two shy of the required 60 votes for cloture under the current Senate Rule 22 to cut off a filibuster. A vote on the majority resolutions rejecting the Iran pact could be scheduled as early as Thursday. That is, if the promised filibuster led by Senator Minority Democrat Leader Reid doesn’t stop the vote first.

Reid unleashed the filibuster option on Saturday, September 5th. White House Spokesperson Josh Earnest said Tuesday, September 8th:

It would be a little ironic for now Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to express concerns about a tactic that he, himself, employed on countless occasions. The other thing that I’ll point out is that the 60 vote threshold is actually one that was approved by the 98 senators who voted for the Corker-Cardin legislation back in the spring.

Opponents of the Iran nuclear pact circulated a letter on Capitol Hill today signed by 15 governors including  four  Republican hopefuls; Jindal of Louisiana, Christie of New Jersey, Kasich of Ohio and Walker of Wisconsin.  Republican majority and other opponents of the filibuster floor maneuver by minority Democrats criticize it for denying an up or down vote on the measure that Americans in leading polls taken by a 2 to 1 margin have urged Congress to reject the Iran deal.  Harvard law professor emeritus, Alan Dershowitz, author of The Case Against the Iran Deal said in a Steve Malzberg Show interview on NewsMax TV, September 3, 2015:

As an opponent of the deal, a filibuster would be a good result because it would deny legitimacy to the deal. The American public is not going to accept a deal that was filibustered. Let’s remember what a filibuster is. It was a southern strategy designed to undo democracy and to offend equality.

Dershowitz drew attention to the quandary that Israel and PM Netanyahu would face if the Iran pact was approved:

I know Benjamin Netanyahu. I’ve known him since 1973. He is not going to sit back and allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

This deal makes it much harder for Israel to defend its people.

In a Washington Post opinion article by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), member of the House Permanent Intelligence Committee, and Constitutional lawyer, David B. Rivkin, Jr.  Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies argued that the failure to deliver a side deal might void the Iran pact. Further they raised the prospect of   possible litigation against the President on the grounds that the he didn’t deliver the requisite information. They were especially concerned about the IAEA side agreements with Iran to prepare a Road Map on prior military developments. Aversion of which was leaked with provisions for self inspection at the military site of Parchin, Iran.  That Road Map is a condition for release of $100 billion in sequestered funds held by US and foreign financial institutions.    Switzerland has already released their sanctions and Russia and China are poised to release their holdings. The EU3 component of the P5+1 are already in discussions with Tehran over billions of trade deals preventing a possible snap back of sanctions should Iran be found cheating on a sneak out to a nuclear weapon.  A weapon that some believe it may already have and be able to possibly via a satellite launch.

The Pompeo- Rivkin Washington Post opinion was earlier supported by Jerome Marcus, Esq. in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, An Informed Vote on the Iran Deal.”  Marcus suggested  based on his experience as a young lawyer assisting former State Department counsel, Abraham Sofaer in the Reagan era,   executive agreements like JCPOA with far reaching implications should be treated as if it was a treaty.  Marcus concluded:

The lesson for today is clear: When a legislative body is deciding whether to approve an international agreement, especially one as important as the recent nuclear agreement with Iran, its members have the right to access the agreement’s negotiating record. Members of Congress should demand that record now, and they should examine it, before they cast their votes.

To bring such a suit Dr. Robert B. Sklaroff and Lee S. Bender, Esq. suggested in a FrontpageMagazine article that the Senate Majority Leader, McConnell should undertake the following steps:

Emergency Prescription for Senate:  [1]—Pass rule that abolishes the filibuster; [2]—Pass resolution declaring the Iran nuke deal to be a “treaty”; [3]—Defeat the deal; and [4]—Sue President Obama to enjoin him from implementing the deal.

The procedures for initiating the first critical step, achieving cloture cutting off the threatened filibuster, are contained in two relevant Congressional Research Service reports; Considerations for Changes in Senate Rules by Richard S. Beth, January 2013 and Filibusters and Cloture by Beth and Valerie Heitschusen, December 2014.

Sklaroff heard Dershowitz at a presentation in Cherry Hill, New Jersey on September 2nd.  He reported on Dershowitz’s remarks and response:

On September 2, Dershowitz, at the Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill, N.J., amplified on this viewpoint, quoting Federalist 64:  “The power of making treaties is an important one, especially as it relates to war, peace, and commerce; and it should not be delegated but in such a mode, and with such precautions, as will afford the highest security that it will be exercised by men the best qualified for the purpose, and in the manner most conducive to the public good.”

When I [discussed] with him the necessity to sue Obama, he initially raised concern that this would be discarded as a “political question.” “Who would sue?” he asked rhetorically. “Senator McConnell!” said I. “Well, it’s a possibility, because he would have standing, representing the Senate.”

Has such a suit been brought by the Senate against President Obama and the Supreme Court ruled on the matter of executive overreach of lawful authorities?   There is the example of the Supreme Court   June 2014 unanimous ruling against the President for his three day recess appointment of National Labor Relations Board and Consumer Protection officials in 2012 that required approval by  the Senate.  The original matter was brought by a Washington State bottler and a decision rendered in the DC US Circuit Court of Appeals by Judge David B. Sentelle. Note the comments of the Republican Counsel for the Senate and then Senate Majority Leader Reid from a Washington Post article:

Miguel Estrada, who represented Senate Republicans in the case, called the ruling a victory for the Senate. “The Supreme Court reaffirmed the Senate’s power to prescribe its own rules, including the right to determine for itself when it is in session, and rejected the President’s completely unprecedented assertion of unilateral appointment power,” he said.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) blamed Senate Republicans for denying nominees a chance to be confirmed through a vote of the full chamber. “President Obama did the right thing when he made these appointments on behalf of American workers.”

Tomorrow, September 9, 2015, Democrat Presidential front runner Hillary Clinton former Secretary of State, embroiled in a private email server controversy, will make the case for support of the President’s position.  She has previously gone on record saying:

The Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese, they’re gonna say we agreed with the Americans, I guess their president can’t make foreign policy. That’s a very bad signal to send.

Clinton will be a minor distraction from the Tea Party Patriots (TPP) Stop Iran Now Rally chaired by Jenny Beth Martin on the West Lawn of the US Capitol Building with a cast of media luminaries in the opposition camp.  The event is co-sponsored by TPP, Zionist Organization of America and the Center for Security Policy. The roster of those speaking includes TPP head Martin, Republican Presidential front runner Donald Trump, fellow Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz (R-TX), Conservative talk show Hosts Glen Beck and Mark Levin, David Bossie of Citizens United, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Chairman of the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus, former CIA-director, Ambassador R. James Woolsey, Chairman of the FDD, Frank Gaffney of the CSP, Sarah Stern of EMET and Mort Klein of the ZoA. This will be a media spectacle.

Late this afternoon, my colleague at 1330amWEBY Mike Bates, host of “Your Turn”, and I reviewed these developments.  Listen to the WEBY audio segment here.  Bates observed that the motivation behind these political maneuverings was President Obama’s objective all along to bolster Iran’s position in the Middle East as a recognized nuclear threshold state threatening traditional support for Allies in the region, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Egypt. Bates thought the Reid filibuster play was simply a travesty of politics as usual in Washington.   In turn we both discussed the strange case of Florida US. Representative and Democratic National Committee head, Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, who has infuriated segments of her large but divided Jewish constituency.  In her public statement she said tearfully that from her “Jewish heart” the Iran pact, as defective as it is, was the correct thing to do.  We concurred that the filibuster if not upended by a Republican cloture to force an up or down vote would enable her and other Democrat colleagues up for re-election in 2016 to claim that there was never a vote. Political cover that comes at a high price of Iran receiving tens of billions now with promises of trillions in economic trade benefits. All while harboring secret development of nuclear weapons threatening the U.S. and Israel.

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

Israel: ‘No Choice’ but Military Option against Iran’s Nuclear Program?

Israel - Iran War Scenarios  12-14(2)In 1964, I sat in a darkened movie theater in Washington, D.C. with a fellow Army Intelligence officer watching Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant dark satire film on how to live with thermonuclear warfare, Dr Strangelove: or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. My colleague and I laughed nervously as we had just finished secret intelligence assignments. That memory was triggered by a recent American Thinker article by veteran nuclear war gaming and arms control expert, John Bosum, “Thinking About the Unthinkable: An Israel-Iran Nuclear War”.  That was a reference to books and articles by nuclear game theorist and Hudson Institute co-founder Herman Kahn and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on limited nuclear warfare.

Scary prospects then, scary prospects now with the world on the verge of concluding a nuclear agreement with the apocalyptic Islamic Republic of Iran virtually assuring it of an arsenal of nuclear weapons in a decade, if not sooner funding in part by the lifting of $150 billion in sanctions. The U.S. says it has the means of striking back at Iran if it is found cheating, a reference to possible military actions. The reality is that the Administration has hollowed out the nation’s military capabilities leaving Israel isolated. The Jewish nation would doubtlessly be reviled by world opinion, should it undertake a strike of its own on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The Israeli Limited Nuclear Attack Scenario

There are daunting prospects facing Israel with the looming Congressional vote rejecting the Iran nuclear pact in the face of a likely veto threat by President Obama that may not be overridden. John Bosum, in his American Thinker article vets a possible limited nuclear attack by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities. His credibility stems from his considerable expertise and professional background in nuclear war gaming and arms control.  He posits an attack scenario using conventional air craft equipped with US supplied GBU 28 “bunker busters” followed by tactical nukes or nuclear tipped cruise missiles launched from Israeli Dolphin subs offshore in the Arabian Sea.  That scenario faces the realities of estimated losses by Israel Ministry of Defense planners. They have estimated that such a scenario might result in the loss of 40 percent of air crews-a heavy price to pay for young IAF pilots.  Then there is Bosum’s suggestion that Israel might use a low altitude EMP attack on Iran by a Jericho 2 missile.  Ex-CIA official Chet Nagle suggested that Israel might pursue that during a Capitol Hill EMPact program on the EMP Threat several years ago. There is also the non nuclear option using swarms of Drone- launched CHAMP cruise missiles that could take out specific targets. Examples are computer controllers and major power transformers for underground enrichment and centrifuge R& D facilities as well as command and control networks. Israeli encrypted software managing large swarms of drones may provide a stealth shield against the Russian supplied S300 batteries. In September 2008 the IAF flew simulated missions against Greek S300 systems involving swarms of IAF aircraft that rattled the IRGC military. From that exercise the IAF may have developed electronic means of spoofing these Russian systems version of S-300 air defense systems.

Bosum believes that Israel’s anti-missile umbrella including the Arrow anti-ICBM, David Sling, Iron Beam and Iron Dome systems, might not be able to withstand barrages of Iranian rockets and medium range ballistic missiles. There is evidence from the Tel Aviv University Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) November 2012 Iran attack simulations that a conventional attack might succeed in setting back the Iranian program by three years.  Moreover, the simulations suggest that the anti-missile umbrella may destroy significant numbers of incoming Iranian missiles sparing Israel’s major population centers. From reliable sources we understand that Israel may have successfully conducted tests against North Korean developed Shahab 3 missiles likely candidates for nuclear equipped MIRV warheads.

The real issues for Israel are priorities and staging of a limited nuclear attack scenario on Iran’s nuclear program.  From release of  interview audio tapes  this weekend on Israeli Channel 2  by the authors of a forthcoming memoir of  former Defense Minister Ehud Barak   there were allegations  that  Netanyahu was thwarted  from undertaking possible Iran nuclear attack missions  because of objections from  former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, “cold feet” of Ministers Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Defense Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon  and  looming joint Israel US military exercises in 2012. There were reports that President Obama threatened to invoke the Brzezinski Doctrine with orders to shoot down IAF aircraft attacking Iranian targets.  Problem is Barak’s representations may have been part of a promotional effort to enhance his reputation and legacy.  There were also rumors that current Minister of Defense, Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon may have also revisited the limited Iran nuclear attack option this past year.  He broadly hinted  that “steps” might have to be taken during a May 5, 2015 conference in Tel Aviv hosted by the Israel Law Center, sufficient to bring a reaction from Iran’s UN Ambassador. Ya’alon was cited in a Times of Israel report saying:

“Certain steps” Israel might consider against tyrannical regimes threatening the nation’s security.

Cases in which we feel like we don’t have the answer by surgical operations we might take certain steps that we believe…should be taken in order to defend ourselves.

Of course, we should be sure that we can look at the mirror after the decision, or the operation. Of course, we should be sure that it is a military necessity. We should consider cost and benefit, of course. But, at the end, we might take certain steps.

He was reminded of US president Harry Truman who “was asked how you feel after deciding to launch the nuclear bombs, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, causing at the end the fatalities of 200,000, casualties? And he said, “When I heard from my officers the alternative is a long war with Japan, with potential fatalities of a couple of millions, I thought it is a moral decision.

We are not there yet, Ya’alon then added.

The Hezbollah Attack Scenario

The release in mid-August 2015 of a definitive national strategy document by IDF Chief of State (COS) Gen. Gadi Eizenkot,  criticized failures to combat both Hamas and Hezbollah, raised the risk from non-state fundamentalist Islamic State, but downplayed the Iran threat.   It is not without moment in late August that there was a stream of contradictory declarations from PM Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya’alon that Iran is behind a series of low intensity and rocket attacks on Northern Israel and the Golan frontier since the beginning of this year. The attacks involved IRGC officers and Iranian proxies Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.  Israeli PM Netanyahu referencing acceptance of the Iran nuclear pact by world powers said, “You rush to embrace Iran, they fire rockets at us. We will harm those who harm us”

From the assessments of retired Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror, former National Security Adviser, the immediate objective is the elimination of the near enemy and proxy of Iran, Hezbollah.  Recently Iran unveiled a new solid fuel surface to surface missile, the Fateh 313, that President Rouhani threatened  ballistic missile exercises would demonstrate the ability of longer range missiles to strike both Israel and Saudi Arabia.  The limited range of 310 miles of the Fateh-113 makes the weapon suitable for possible launch from Syria and Lebanon against population centers in Israel. Further, this threat is bolstered by the turmoil in Lebanon behind the unresolved political crisis over the possibility of a power grab by Hezbollah.

An Israeli preemptive attack scenario is at the heart of Jon Schanzer’s article, “The Iran Nuclear Deal Means War between Israel and Hezbollah”.   Schanzer argues that the Iran nuclear deal may trigger a major war against Hezbollah to eliminate the Iranian- supplied rocket and missile inventories and the command and control echelons of Hezbollah.  Schanzer refers to discussions with senior Israeli defense officials who appear committed   to dislodge Hezbollah and destroy the huge inventory of 150,000 rockets and missiles in Lebanon. Israel has both air and naval combat capabilities to achieve this including interdiction of Iranian and Chinese supplied anti-ship missiles. Further, the IDF would not have to rely on those U.S.-supplied GBU-28’s bunker busters.  It has sophisticated weapons like the Rafael SPICE precision guided glide bombs used to foil weapons deliveries from Syria to Hezbollah in the Bekaa Valley. It also has its own variant of the Boeing CHAMP cruise missiles capable of non-nuclear EMP effects against command and control nets. Moreover, unlike the inconclusive Second Lebanon War of 2006, the IDF has learned its lessons about unit training, command and control and effective means of taking out anti-air,  anti-tank rockets and  launching precision battlefield missiles, using the Iron Beam, Trophy and Pereh systems.

This sequencing of threat priorities was reflected in a Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition Interview by Sohran Ahmari with former Saudi General and National Security Advisor Anwar Eshki, “The Saudis Reply to Iran’s Rising Danger.”  General Eshki held colloquies with Dr. Dore Gold   director general of the Israel Foreign Ministry. The most notable one was the public forum at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. General Eshki’s conclusion drawn from a Socratic dialogue on the near versus far enemy decision paradigm was: “Israel is thinking first of all to destroy Hezbollah, to solve the problem with Hezbollah. After that they can attack Iran.”

Walla News in Israel reported a senior defense official   saying that Israel may be capable of undertaking an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities and defending Israel against a retaliatory strike:

Every year that passes, the IDF improves. We never stand still. The professional level increases. In the coming year we will receive another submarine, F-35 fighter jets and other platforms. Intelligence is improving as well.

Further, Walla reported IDF COS Eizenkot instructing deputy, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan to revise military plans for a possible military strike. But it cautioned that the military option was off the table until there are ‘significant developments’.  That may be for public consumption. Israel has a tradition of saying nothing or opaquely very little when such events occur

Conclusion

The planners in the Ministry of Defense pits in Tel Aviv have multiple threats and must prioritize resources. By necessity Israel must plan for taking out the near enemy, Hezbollah, which would enable them to have a clear path to attack Iran.  Thus, it must be prepared to accomplish both threats.  At issue is whether Israel I PM Netanyahu and the security cabinet have the resolve to accomplish both despite adverse world opinion and likely intervention by the Obama Administration.

When Israeli PM Begin ordered the “raid against the sun’ in 1981 that took out Saddam Hussein’s  Osirak nuclear reactor , it took a decade for former Vice President Dick Cheney to thank Israel when the US led coalition unleashed the First Gulf War.  No such thanks came from the Bush Administration following the IAF’s successful obliteration of the Syrian al-Kibar nuclear bomb factory following the September 2007 raid.  . The Obama Administration has demonstrated its inability or unwillingness to exercise a possible military option should Iran be found cheating under the terms of the JCPOA. It has hollowed out the US military capability under the Congressional Sequester.  We have the smallest navy since WWI and the smallest Army since before WWII. We have less than 26,000 first line aircraft.  Israel has no choice, but to undertake its sovereign right to defend the Jewish nation against such existential threats.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Iranian President Rouhani and Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan with Fateh-313 Sold Fuel Missile, August 22, 2015. Source: Iranian Presidential office/AP.

Will the UN Side Deal Kill Obama’s Iran Nuke Deal?

The swirl of controversy in the wake of Wednesday’s AP exclusive story deepened yesterday with contradictory statements from IAEA director General Yukia Amano. Amano released a statement saying the report was “misleading,” that he was satisfied with the access his people will receive under the deal. Referring to the AP report Amano said “Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work.” The AP story cited drafts of a separate inspection protocol about Iran being granted control over inspections of the disputed Parchin test site allegedly involved with tests of nuclear triggers a decade ago.

The IAEA is charged with developing a so-called Road Map of prior military developments upon hinges release of over $100 billion in sanctioned funds to the Islamic Republic of Iran in December 2015. A few weeks ago , when IAEA chief Amano briefed Senators on Capitol Hill, many came away less than impressed by his presentation of the inspection regime that  Administration negotiators, Secretary of State Kerry, Undersecretary Sherman and Energy Secretary Dr. Earnest Moniz said were” intrusive and robust verification” of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA provisions.  Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) weren’t satisfied and conducted their own due diligence at IAEA headquarters in Vienna. In an August 2, 2015 Wall Street Journal op-ed they argued that the so-called secret side deals should be released in compliance with the requirements of the Iran Nuclear Review Agreement Act. They commented:

Weaponization lies at the heart of our dispute with Iran and is central to determining whether this deal is acceptable. Inspections of Parchin are necessary to ensure that Iran is adhering to its end of the agreement. Without knowing this baseline, inspectors cannot properly evaluate Iran’s compliance. It’s like beginning a diet without knowing your starting weight. That the administration would accept side agreements on these critical issues—and ask the U.S. Congress to do the same—is irresponsible.

AP, Fox News and other media   obtained copies of Separate Agreement II leaked by an anonymous senior IAEA official revealing that the IAEA had adopted a protocol for the PMS Road Map giving Iran complete authority over soil sampling, video and photographic evidence at the disputed Parchin Site.  Armin Rosen of Business Insider revealed the text in his report:

Separate arrangement II agreed by the Islamic State of Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency on 11 July 2015, regarding the Road-map, Paragraph 5

Iran and the Agency agreed on the following sequential arrangement with regard to the Parchin issue:

1. Iran will provide to the Agency photos of the locations, including those identified in paragraph 3 below, which would be mutually agreed between Iran and the Agency, taking into account military concerns.

1. Iran will provide to the Agency videos of the locations, including those identified in paragraph 3 below, which would be mutually agreed between Iran and the Agency, taking into account military concerns.

1. Iran will provide to the Agency 7 environmental samples taken from points inside one building already identified by the Agency and agreed by Iran, and 2 points outside of the Parchin complex which would be agreed between Iran and the Agency.

1. The Agency will ensure the technical authenticity of the activities referred to in paragraphs 1-3 above. Activities will be carried out using Iran’s authenticated equipment, consistent with technical specifications provided by the Agency, and the Agency’s containers and seals.

1. The above mentioned measures would be followed, as a courtesy by Iran, by a public visit of the Director General, as a dignitary guest of the Government of Iran, accompanied by his deputy for safeguards.

6. Iran and the Agency will organize a one-day technical roundtable on issues relevant to Parchin.

Rosen went on to write:

The final text confirms that at least one aspect of the IAEA’s road map — the agreement meant to resolve the agency’s numerous outstanding questions on the status of Iran’s nuclear weaponization program — was settled on terms favorable to Iran.

Iran has barred IAEA inspectors from Parchin despite nearly a decade of requests for access. The roadmap, which is meant to settle years of unanswered questions about Iran’s nuclear weaponization drive, apparently doesn’t change that.

If the Parchin investigation is happening on Tehran’s terms, it raises the possibility that the rest of the roadmap inquiry will be carried out under a process that Iran can strongly influence or even control.

This is by design: As Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency told regime-linked media in early August, one of Iran’s negotiating objectives was limiting the IAEA’s reach inside of the country, according to a report from the Washington Institute for Near East Studies:

We do not have an optimistic view of the [IAEA]. There is no doubt that they will release the information [that we are giving them]. We need to be careful in the information that we supply to them …We are not only dealing with the agency and these spies. We are dealing with all the countries that own nuclear programs. There are formulas and methods to prevent supplying information to the agency’s inspectors. We did not know about these methods in the past and supplied some information that should not have been supplied.

Iran’s “formulas and methods” for limiting the IAEA’s reach are now apparent, at least as Parchin is concerned. Whether the Parchin arrangement is part of a larger trade off to ensure IAEA access to other, possibly more important sites is currently unknown — the other implementation agreement governing whom IAEA inspectors can talk to and what facilities they can visit as part of their investigation is still secret.

Yesterday, State Department spokesperson, Admiral John Kirby was besieged with journalists’ questions about the relinquishing of IAEA inspection to Iran on development of the Road Map. He endeavored to repeat Administration claims of being “confident and comfortable” that the Inspection regime adopted via the IAEA would provide the information for the Roadmap. Besides, as he is often wont to say, ‘we have enough evidence of what went on at Parchin and other known sites”.  The skepticism of inquiring journalists was risible. I am reminded of I.F. Stone, the radical alleged KBG agent and US Journalist during the Vietnam anti-War era in Washington, whose eponymous weekly report was emblazoned with this masthead quote: “all governments are led by liars don’t believe a word they say”.

Watch this C-Span video excerpt of yesterday’s State Department briefing on the Parchin prior military developments inspection protocol:

There are those of us like Stephen and Shoshana Bryen and my colleague Ilana Freedman and this writer  suggest that the IAEA will never be able to inspect the more likely venue of Iran nuclear weaponization experimentation since 2003, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Given the revelations of the AP  and other  media news stories, Members of both Chambers of Congress  who favor the President’s position might reassess their positions and request  vigorous due diligence  gathering  all of the side agreements  for the JCPOA, prior to casting a vote by the mid-September  on the pending resolution .  Otherwise, they might, as Senator Menendez warned in his Seton Hall University address this week, they might find having   their names added to Iran’s bomb.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of IAEA Director General Yukia Amano and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Tehran, July 2, 2015. Source: Europhoto.

Iranian Court Fines the U.S. $50 Billion!

FLE - In this file photo taken Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani briefs media prior to departing Mehrabad airport to attend the United Nations General Assembly, in Tehran, Iran. Rouhani said Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, that ongoing nuclear negotiations with world powers are a matter of "heart," not just centrifuges ahead of talks next week in Geneva. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

Iranian President Rouhani.

Just prior to the announcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna on July 14th, an Iranian court announced a fine of $50 billion against the U.S. It was ostensibly for the U.S. complicity in fostering the deaths and damages inflicted on Iran during the nearly decade long war between the Ba’athist regime of the late Saddam Hussein of Iraq and the Islamic Regime and its revolutionary Supreme leader, founding Ayatollah Khomenei. That was the cover story. It was only following the unanimous endorsement by the UN Security Council of the JCPOA on July 22nd and the attention brought by the series of Congressional hearings in both the Senate and House, that the real purpose was revealed: the denial of nearly equivalent claims awarded in U.S. courts to the victims of Iranian sponsored terrorism committed by proxies.

There are more than 100 cases with awards made in U.S. federal courts. They involved the bombings in Beirut of the U.S. embassy and destruction of the Marine Barracks resulted in over 304 American dead, the Khobar Towers bombing in 1995 in Saudi Arabia where 23 USAF personnel were killed and others were maimed and injured and the deaths of 12 Americans in the 1998 East African bombings in 1998 in Kenya and Tanzania, and the victims in the Iran 9/11 links case. These were acts of state sponsored terrorism by the Iranian Islamic Republic that killed hundreds if not thousands of Americans adjudicated in U.S. courts under the provisions of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

Adam Kredo in a July 13, Washington Free Beacon, wrote about the coincidental Iranian Fars news agency announcement of the ‘fine’ issued by the Iranian court:

An Iranian court on Monday issued a ruling fining the United States $50 billion for purported damages against the Islamic Republic and its citizens, according to an announcement by Iran’s Judiciary.

Iran claims that the United States is guilty of inflicting “heavy loss and damage” on the country, as well as “killing the Iranian nationals by assisting their enemies,” such as former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, according to Iran’s state-controlled Fars News Agency.

The ruling charges “the U.S. administration with the payment of a total 50-billion-dollar fine for the losses it has incurred on real and legal entities,” according to Fars.

A spokesman for Iran’s Judiciary was quoted as saying during a press conference in Tehran that “those who had filed a lawsuit against the U.S., their complaints have been processed.”

Specific names of those leveling these charges were not released.

Following a supposed court hearing and judicial review, “the Iranian courts have issued verdicts against the U.S. administration that charge Washington to pay a total $50bln to compensate for a part of the losses it has inflicted on Iranian legal entities and real persons,” Fars reported.

The report goes on to accuse the United States of aiding “different terrorist groups against Tehran.”

Yesterday, the answer as to why Iran chose the occasion of the JCPOA announcement to announce this claim against the US was  revealed in a Wall Street Journal  article on the languishing status of claims of the families of US victims of Iranian sponsored terrorism adjudicated in New York federal courts, “Terror Victims Eye Thawing with Iran”:

Over the past two decades, terrorism victims have filed about 100 lawsuits against Iran in U.S. courts, accusing the government of sponsoring attacks around the world, including the Sept. 11, 2001, attack. Federal judges have awarded victims a total of approximately $45 billion, including $21.6 billion in compensatory damages, according to calculations by Crowell & Moring LLP. Iran has refused to pay.

A State Department official said there were no discussions of terrorism victims during the nuclear talks, but the U.S. remains committed to looking for ways for victims to seek compensation. Victims’ lawyers are hoping that a thawing of relations with Iran could pave the way for an eventual resolution of the terrorism claims.

“To really have a rapprochement with Iran, the terrorism sanctions and judgments have to be dealt with one way or another,” said Stuart Newberger, a partner at Crowell & Moring who represents terrorism victims, including the Americans who were killed in U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Lebanon.

Terror victims and their families have limited options to seek compensation through the legal system. New laws passed in recent decades, such as the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, have allowed victims to sue countries like Iran in U.S. courts for monetary damages. Enforcing the judgments is an entirely separate challenge.

Victims’ lawyers have scoured the globe for Iranian assets and sought out creative solutions to get paid. They have gone after Iranian central bank funds deposited at Citibank, a case that is awaiting potential review by the U.S. Supreme Court. They are among the parties trying to win the proceeds generated by the potential forfeiture and sale of a 36-story office building in New York City, which a federal court found to be owned by the Iranian government. That case is currently on appeal with the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Victims are also trying to win a portion of the approximate $9 billion penalty paid by French bank BNP Paribas SA to the U.S. government last year for facilitating illegal transactions for Iran and other sanctioned countries.

The agreement reached three weeks ago pertains strictly to nuclear sanctions, leaving the sanctions related to terrorism and human rights intact for now. However, even lifting just the nuclear sanctions could free up billions of Iranian assets in Europe and elsewhere that victims may attempt to seize as part of their judgments, victims’ lawyers say.

“If [the nuclear deal] goes through, resolving terror cases inevitably comes up next,” said James Kreindler, who specializes in terrorism litigation at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP and represents the 9/11 victims, among others. “Iran doesn’t want to see sanctions lifted and lawyers for hundreds of plaintiffs attaching their bank funds all around the world.”

[…]

Among the dozens of plaintiffs’ groups with judgments against Iran, the biggest judgments have been the $6.1 billion awarded to victims of 9/11 and the $9 billion awarded to victims of the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut. Lynn Smith Derbyshire, whose brother was killed in the Beirut attack, says many victims are closely following the Iran deal to see if it will help their cause. “It’s a constantly open wound,” said Ms. Derbyshire, who is the national spokeswoman for the Beirut families. “You don’t really get to close the book and move on because you’re constantly being reminded of it.”

These unsatisfied federal court awards against Iran for state sponsored terrorism that resulted in the deaths and injuries to hundreds if not thousands of Americans would block the release of frozen assets and sanctions penalties against Iran. To obviate paying these claims  the Islamic regime came up with a Court ruling with an equivalent amount that would be used to deny  paying damage awards.

Outrageous, you bet. But then the tawdry spectacle of our government succumbing to concessions  in the Iran nuclear pact by the Iranian negotiating  team set the stage for this calumny.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Teheran Formula

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