The Rising Insurgency for Sanctions Against Iran

30 de enero 15“Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.”

-Otto von Bismarck

Bismarck’s statement is eerily familiar with the legislative process described below. Stay with me while I dive deeply into the process as a first step in making the case why this moment is such a big deal.

The draft Kirk-Menendez bill was published Friday, Jan. 23, and introduced in the Senate on Jan. 27. Officially it is the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015 but dubbed for names of its main sponsors — Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ). It is a diplomatic insurance policy imposing conditional sanctions against the risk that Tehran fails to negotiate in good faith by June 30, 2015.

A strong supporter of Kirk-Menendez is Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). During Q&A at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Iran on Jan. 27, 2015, he said, “We don’t just sit around shooting the breeze [on Capitol Hill]: We vote.” At issue is when such a vote might occur. Corker was ready to move the bill to a series of procedures and vote as soon as possible but realized he needs to hold the Democrats in the coalition; so there is a short delay.

Still, there is little consensus on a timetable between the Congress and the Executive branch. Senators like Corker consider March 24 as the date there should be a deal, to be worked on by technical experts until the official signing by June 30. But consider the words of Deputy Secretary of StateTony Blinken on Jan. 27 and State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki at a briefing on the same day; both stated by “end of March” for the political agreement (and then June 30 to complete technical details).

Politico‘s Burgess Everett has looked into legislative mechanics. On Thursday, Jan. 29, the bill is to proceed for “markup,” (congressional committees debate, amend, and rewrite proposed legislation) in the Banking Committee. Everett considered a letter Democrats in the Senate sent to the president as vindication against an immediate vote sought by Republicans; but my take is that it is also a statement of the bipartisan consensus in support of Kirk-Menendez. The bill was officially introduced with 16 original cosponsors — nine Republicans and seven Democrats. Now add three more Democrats who are not signatories but cosponsored the bill in the preceding congress. According to Kristina Wong in The Hill, there would be somewhere between 62 and 65 Senators in support, close to 67 needed for an override of a presidential veto — 52 Republicans, 13 Democrats.

Now to the big deal: An 18 to 4 vote in the Senate Banking Committee reflected bipartisanship for a tougher diplomacy toward Iran. Despite a two-week full court press by the administration to peel away Democrats, a bipartisan consensus held and is even stronger on Capitol Hill. It may portend a bullet-proof margin for the Kirk-Menendez conditional sanctions on Iran.

So, the president may not have enough votes in the Senate to sustain a threatened veto contained in his State of the Union address: “New sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies; making it harder to maintain sanctions; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. And that’s why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.”

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Cartoons, Dissent, and Human Rights in Iran

20 de enero 2015Cruel anti-Semitic attacks are “never solely about Jews,” Ruth Wissewrote in the Wall Street Journal last week. Jews are the most vulnerable targets at hand to destroy the narrative of democracy that despots disdain—free speech, press, and religion. Such images are particular irritants to Islamists because they are threatened by freedom. And as noted student of Islam, Daniel Pipes argued in the National Review, “Images, not words, most disturb Islamists.”

Now controversy abounds worldwide and in America about whether to support free speech of the cartoonists of the weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was attacked by gunmen earlier this month. Their rights should be supported because the satirical drawings reflect freedom from oppression: Gérard Biard, chief editor of Charlie Hebdo, told Meet the Pressthat cartoon parodies of religious figures safeguard freedom of religion, because they “declare that God must not be a political or public figure, but instead must be a private one.”

Despite protests and debate, many quietly laugh at despotic rulers of the directly affected areas, making despots’ lack of legitimacy apparent and erode their assumed right to rule. Cartoons and comedy are frowned upon by al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri and his affiliate in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Nasser al Wuhayshi; the Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, self-proclaimed “Caliph” of a new caliphate on Iraqi and Syrian territory; and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, “Supreme Leader” of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The latter prevails as if he had a right to rule from God and increasingly enforces his diktats by a brutal morality police force, said Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 and was punished by the regime for her defense of human rights in Iran.

Despotism and cruelty are an integral part of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It seeks to impose a brand of Shiite Islam on uncooperative Sunnis by extending its 1979 Islamist Revolution over the region covertly, as in Yemen,Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. But wait: Saudi is also not a paragon of rights, having sentenced a man to a prison term and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam, a “vicious act of cruelty,” according to Amnesty International, which reported the incident earlier this month. A nuclear-armed Tehran, however, is much more dangerous than non-nuclear Riyadh, though they are both serial rights violators.

While President Obama finally seems to see al Qaeda and the Islamic State as the threats they are, he apparently views Iran as a normal state with which to do business. Consistent with the State Department Country Reports on Terrorism, Obama views al Qaeda and the Islamic State as perils, but he fails to hold the Iranian regime accountable for facts in the Department’s annual identification of Tehran as main state sponsor of international terrorism. Ditto for State’s report on the country’s human rights practices, which cites: “disappearances, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment…beatings and rape…arbitrary arrest and lengthy pretrial detention.”

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Professor Raymond Tanter Interview on Iran with Frank Gaffney January 12, 2015

January 15

Dr. RAYMOND TANTER, former Personal Representative of the Secretary of Defense for Arms Control and author of “Arab Rebels and Iranian Dissidents: New Landscape Allows Reset of U.S. Iran Policy”:
  • Sensitive Iraninan nuclear facilities hidden underground
  • Saudi Arabia’s continuing manipulation of the global oil market
  • Predictions the U.S. shale industry will survive record-low oil prices due to diversification of the U.S. economy

To listen the complete interview please go to: http://bit.ly/1DIZwUc  and press play on link number 3.

How Not to Negotiate With Rogue Regimes

enero 7 2015“I am a Marxist Leninist and I will be one until the last day of my life.” — Fidel Castro, January, 1967.

“[As] Comrade Fidel [Castro] stated, we have] the willingness to discuss and solve our differences without renouncing any of our principles.” — Raúl Castro, December, 2014.

The 114th Congress finds Republicans in command of the House and Senate for the first time in eight years. When it convenes, its agenda will inevitably include how to deal with Cuba and Iran — two sides of the same coin of a foreign policy of giving up too much too soon in the Obama administration’s negotiations. A bipartisan consensus is emerging critical of trying to moderate rogue regimes, and that it is necessary to take a tougher negotiating approach with such regimes.

Cuba

Although the wording is different, the remarks above suggest Raúl is a Marxist Leninist like his brother, and intends to keep Cuba as a communist state. President Barack Obama, however, is seemingly betting that normalization of relations will lead it to become a constitutional democracy with improvements in the prison and detention centers, arbitrary arrests and detentions, police and security apparatus, arrest procedures and treatment of detainees, and fair public trials, which were all listed as being denied by Havana in the State Department’s Human Rights Report for Cuba.

Instead of holding out for some of these requirements in secret talks, Obama has gambled that opening up Cuba to talks with the United States would change the nature of the regime: Either the Castro brothers will have an epiphany or moderates will emerge to prevail over the current leaders. In the context of economic woes facing Havana, Washington could have used that leverage to squeeze Havana on human rights for the Cuban people as a condition for normalization, as our Shadow colleague Will Inboden has written.

In a July 2014 visit to Cuba, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to write off $32 billion in Cuban debt to Russia. However, it was prior to the precipitous plunge in the ruble, and Moscow has other problems on its plate: The price of crude oil fell from about $100 during Putin’s visit tobelow $50 per barrel on Jan. 6.

Havana’s ally Venezuela has also been hit by the same falling oil prices and is unlikely to increase aid. Caracas now provides subsidized oil supplies to Cuba, but political changes may result in less assistance. Havana’s bilateral trade in goods and services amounted to some 21 percent of Cuba’s GDP in 2012 — only 4 percent of Venezuela’s GDP. There is a failure of Team Obama to take advantage of the strong negotiating position of the United States in view of the worldwide economic situation and to take seriously the rhetoric of revolutionaries.

Obama’s search for a moderate government in Havana recalls similar behavior of President Eisenhower; his State Department also played down revolutionary rhetoric. But Eisenhower corrected his policy toward Cuba shortly after Castro’s fiery words were matched by his deeds.

About a week after the fall of pro-American Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, U.S. officials recognized the new interim government. Fidel Castro’s rebel army helped overthrow Batista but the State Department believed Washington could work with new “moderates” in the provisional government and protect American interests in Cuba. Although some nations extended recognition, outreach by the United States was a critical signal the West could do business with Prime Minister Fidel Castro, the real power behind the interim government; Castro later became president and engaged Moscow instead of Washington.

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Iran’s Terror Tunnels

Tensions Remain High At Israeli Gaza BorderBreaking news about Cuba and North Korea has obscured equally important news about Iran. It is accelerating support for terror tunnels in Gaza aimed under Israel; rockets and missiles pointed toward Israel; as well as tunnels in Iran designed to hide cheating on nuclear obligations that could scuttle negotiations in Vienna.

Just as Israeli intelligence is unable to determine existence of terror tunnels without adequate human intelligence in Gaza, both Jerusalem and Washington have a hard time assessing nuclear tunnels in Iran. They lack appropriate human intelligence to reinforce signals and satellite intelligence. It is easier to track rockets and missiles from Iran into Gaza (and to Hezbollah in Lebanon). The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), based in Paris with an extensive network on the ground in Iran, has validated human intelligence capability. (Although controversy surrounds the NCRI about alleged payments to buy support, such claims are irrelevant to the merits of issues discussed here.)

Terror Tunnels

With Iranian assistance and funding, tunnels in Gaza display Tehran’s efforts to threaten Israel. By secretly helping its ally Hamas to build tunnels, Iran laid the predicate for the 2014 Gaza War. On Dec. 19, the Jerusalem Postreported that Hamas accelerated tunnel repair. Hamas admitted earlier this fall that tunnel construction had resumed. The Israeli military hasestimated that it cost Hamas $90 million to build the 32 tunnels that were uncovered. The tunnels required, on average, 350 truckloads of construction supplies each; contrary to using them for schools, hospitals, and housing, Hamas used supplies to rebuild terror tunnels.

After the 2008 Gaza War, Iran aided rehabilitation of tunnels destroyed or damaged in the fighting. During the Muslim Brotherhood one-year rule in Egypt (2012 to 2013), Iran accelerated transfer of rockets to Gaza by sea and land (Sudan and Sinai).

In his new book Terror Tunnels, Alan Dershowitz states that the 2014 War in Gaza required Israeli ground forces to gain access to the tunnels and shut them down. Israel was unable to determine their routes and exit ramps because they were too deep underground and not detectable from the air.

Israeli intelligence was largely unaware that Hamas had kept critical details about the tunnel network secret; Israel relies on technologies capable of eavesdropping on telecommunications in Palestinian territories. Hamas countered by wiring its longer tunnels with cables unconnected with the local telephone grid. Such is the importance of the tunnels that Israel’s Gaza War aim changed from mainly stopping rocket attacks to principally destroying the tunnels.

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Democratic transition to prevent revolutionary Iran from nuclear-armed status

US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN-OBAMAKey senators in the incoming Republican majority and like-minded Democrats have a vision of Iran as a revolutionary state. It is risky to conduct business as usual with revolutionary Iran. If “regime change from within” were an implicit part of U.S. policy, emergence of a free Iran that does not become a nuclear-armed state is likely. President Barack Obama, however, treats Iran as if it were a normal state to engage in give-and-take bargaining.

Regarding current talks to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, Republican senators believe they have votes from both parties to pass additional economic sanctions on Tehran to overcome a veto by Obama. The White House is on record to avoid congressional scrutiny of any agreement. But a bipartisan coalition could use its majority to compel a vote on any accord from the November 18-24, Vienna talks between the major powers and Iran.

Opposing congressional oversight, supporters of reaching out to Iran say it has not decided whether it is a revolutionary movement or a normal state; hence, U.S. diplomacy can strengthen pragmatists against revolutionaries. This unsuccessful search for a moderate highlights the fallacy of treating Iran as a normal state. Even “pragmatistsaccept rule by Iranian clerics.

Business as usual is consistent with a report that Washington may reestablish an economic-diplomatic presence in Tehran, if there were a positive outcome in Vienna. But expectations are rising that an agreement is likely to be a “bad deal.” If so, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chair of foreign operations subcommittee of the incoming Appropriations Committee and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), incoming Foreign Relations Committee chair are cosponsoring a bill intended “to kill” a bad deal, according to Graham.

In addition to being a nuclear threat, Iran may be building missile facilities in Syria to prop up the Assad regime. Such missile production is acclaimed on religious beliefs inherent in the Iranian Revolution: “Today, the Islamic Iran has grown into the world’s sixth missile power and this is a major source of pride for the Revolution,” stated an officer of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). It has enhanced military capabilities in Iraq “to steal the show from Washington,” with a blow by the IRGC to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, (ISIS).

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Terror tunnels and nuclear tunnels after the midterms

Hamas-Tunnel-Terrorists-3Congressional Republicans and Democrats espouse a policy toward Iran that takes Israel into account; results of the 2014 elections may induce the Obama administration to consult more with Congress and Israel; they are concerned about lack of intelligence on tunnels in Gaza and Iran.

With Iranian assistance and funding, tunnels in Gaza displayed Tehran’s efforts to threaten Israel. By secretly helping its ally, Hamas—the Islamist movement that rules Gaza, build tunnels, Iran laid a predicate for the 2014 Gaza War.

There has been a resumption of tunneling in the aftermath of fighting. Hamas officials publicly acknowledge resumption of tunnel construction. The Israeli military estimates it cost Hamas $90 million to build 32 tunnels uncovered. The average tunnel required 350 truckloads of construction supplies; contrary to using these materials in building schools, hospitals, and housing, Hamas used them for tunnels.

After the 2008 Gaza War, Iran aided rehabilitation of infrastructure damaged in the fighting. During the Muslim Brotherhood one-year rule in Egypt, 2012-2013, Iran accelerated transfer rockets to Gaza by sea, land (Sinai and Sudan), and underground tunnels from Sinai.

Another Iranian ally, Hezbollah, may have an underground tunnel network leading into Israel’s north, which could be used to conduct an enormous terror attack on residents along the Israel-Lebanon border.

In Terror Tunnels, Alan Dershowitz makes a strong case for Israel’s “just war” against Hamas. The 2014 War in Gaza required use of Israeli ground forces to gain access to the tunnels and shut them down. Israel was unable to determine their routes and exit ramps in advance because they were too deep underground and not detectable from the air.

Israeli intelligence was largely unaware that Hamas had kept secret critical details about the tunnel network; Israel relies on technologies capable of eavesdropping on telecommunications in Palestinian territories. Hamas countered by wiring its longer tunnels with cables unconnected with the local telephone grid. Such is the importance of the tunnels, Israel’s Gaza War aim changed from mainly stopping rocket attacks to principally destroying the tunnels.

Regarding nuclear tunnels, Iran hides part of its facilities in networks of underpasses and bunkers across the country. Because it is difficult to determine what part of Iran’s nuclear program is hidden, there is a need for human source intelligence to complement electronic and satellite surveillance.

In 2002, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an opposition organization that can continue adding to the multisource basis for verification of Iran’s nuclear activities, revealed that Iran was building a secret underground nuclear plant at Natanz. Later, the Institute for Science and International Security determined it was for enriching uranium and released imagery of Natanz in December 2002.

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Gunfire exchanged between North and South Korea’s security forces

Octubre 24

On October 19 2014, Professor Raymond Tanter was on CCTV America. Security forces from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and from the Republic of Korea exchanged gunfire across the de-militarized zone.

Unlike DPRK Iran has opposition: National Council of Resistance of Iran w/ its PMOI in Camp Liberty Iraq

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Professor Raymond Tanter on Bloomber TV.

bloomberg october 17On October 14 2014, Professor Raymond Tanter was on Bloomberg  TV discussing; Does U.S. Need Iran in Fight Against Islamic State?

Professor Emeritus Raymond Tanter talks with Trish Regan about the fight against the Islamic State as militants draw closer to Baghdad and the role of Iran in the battle. He speaks on “Street Smart.”

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On October 17 2014, Professor Tanter was on Bloomberg  TV discussing; Mistake to Further Inflame Relations With Iran: Sachs.

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