Donald Trump’s Election Is A Game Changer For Iran Policy

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The War for Washington

In sports, a game changer or event is an athlete or play that suddenly changes the momentum and perhaps outcome of a contest. Trump has an opportunity to be a game changer and tilt the outcome in favor of the Iranian people and away from Tehran and its war against them.

There’s also war for Washington between the Iranian regime and its main opposition—the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which acts as the parliament-in-exile. Its main unit the—People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran/Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (PMOI/MEK) is the largest and best-organized Iranian opposition movement with the NCRI coalition.

The war for Washington is between the Iran lobby and an organization representing the Iranian people. Consider the letter from the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) in favor of the Iran deal. Organizers of that letter are apologists for Tehran who lobby on its behalf.

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Special coverage of US elections from Abu Dhabi and Washington

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Professor Raymond Tanter appeared in Washington DC on an Abu Dhabi News Channel, Sky News Arabia. He debated another scholar on 7 November 2016, about Iran and Saudi Arabia in English, which was translated into Arabic. The debate may be viewed at 31:00 minutes out of about a 51:00 minutes segment of Sky News “Special Coverage of U.S. Elections from Abu Dhabi and Washington.”

One of the themes of Tanter’s comments in the debate centered on remarks in his post in The Fikra Forum of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Preparing for Regime Change in Iran. The statements were by His Royal Highness, Prince Turki Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia; the Prince complimented the leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), saying that,

“Maryam Rajavi, your endeavor to rid your people of the Khomeinist cancer is an historic epic that…will remain inscribed in the annals of history.”

Tanter pointed on that on July 9, 2016, he observed a rally in Paris at which Prince Turki put forth what has become known as the “Turki Option,” i.e., regime change in Iran by the people.

When the crowd chanted, “The people want regime change,” the Prince joined the crowd in Arabic saying, “I, too, want regime change” in Iran, a remark that brought the house down.

The Iranians and US: A Shared Civilization Marred by Revolutionary ‘Identity’ Policies,” Turki’s talk, contains an argument that contrasts to the historically risk-averse nature of the Saudis, signaling the rising temperature of the cold war against revolutionary Iran.

Prince Turki stated that, “The Khomeinist regime has brought only destruction, sectarianism, conflict and bloodshed – not only to their own people in Iran, but across the Middle East. This is not the way forward.”

Then what is the way?

First, limit U.S. “engagement” with Tehran: Hillary Clinton is likely to take a hard line against Iran, as she did in the nuclear deal’s preliminary talks while Secretary of State. And if Donald Trump were elected, he pledged to renegotiate the deal, which hardly favors engagement.  Tanter mentioned how Iran was the problem in Syria and should not be a part of the solution there. In this respect, he used a new book by the NCRI entitled, “How Iran Fuels the Syria War” to demonstrate the widespread presence of Iranian-controlled on the ground troops in Syria.

Second, enhance existing sanctions. This action reverts to Republican-inspired coercive diplomacy that brought Iran to the table. In the spring 2016, the House of Representatives approved three new bills against Iran: blocking Iran’s access to the dollar outside of the U.S. financial system, sanctioning any sector of Tehran’s economy that directly or indirectly has applications for Iran’s ballistic missile program, and prohibiting Washington from buying heavy water from Iran.

Third, embrace regime change, because sanctions alone are insufficient to keep the regime in compliance. Publicly backing the Iranian opposition for regime change is the “Turki Option,” and the one that better ensures long-term compliance because the Iranian dissidents do not favor nuclear weapons in word and deed.

As the Prince attempts to redraw the arc of history, now is the time for the West to join the coalition that to shape the future.

Click here for the Arabic version of “Preparing for Regime Change in Iran.”

To watch the interview please go to: bit.ly/2ep4YXf

Preparing for Regime Change in Iran

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Excerpts from “Preparing for Regime Change in Iran,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, available at Fikra Forum

 “Maryam Rajavi, your endeavor to rid your people of the Khomeinist cancer is an historic epic that…will remain inscribed in the annals of history.” -His Royal Highness, Prince Turki Al Faisal

On July 9, 2016, I observed a rally in Paris at which Prince Turki of Saudi Arabia, former ambassador to the U.S. and intelligence chief but no longer in any official position, addressed Maryam Rajavi, President-Elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). The Turki option — regime change in Iran — turned up the heat on Tehran. When the crowd chanted, “The people want regime change,” the Prince joined the crowd in Arabic saying, “I, too, want regime change” in Iran, a remark that brought the house down.

With some Arabs leading the call, various dissidents like the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) core of the NCRI are accelerating their calls for regime change in Iran. The Arab conflict with Iran has been mainly sectarian, but Turki sought to move the conflict to a strategic level with a greater focus on removing the “revolutionary” nature of Iran’s regime. With some support for the NCRI in the U.S. Congress, European national parliaments, and the European Parliament, it is time for the West to join this effort.

Georgetown University students and colleagues in the Iran Policy Committee conducted a study to assess the image of the NCRI and other Iranian dissident groups, including organizations not espousing regime change. Using the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) for the period from January-December 2005, we performed a content analysis and determined the NCRI/MEK was the topic of discussion almost four time as often as all other dissident organizations combined.

We updated the 2005 study by using the large number of attacks by the IRGC or Iranian proxies against the NCRI. Again, the NCRI family of entities were targeted more than other rebellious minorities in Iran. In addition, the Iranian regime regularly sets up expositions throughout the country to convince Iranians to refrain from paying any attention to the NCRI.

If the regime were not so leery of the NCRI, they would hardly pay so much attention to it. Furthermore, Iran would not spend its political capital with foreign governments asking them to suppress the group or seek the destruction of Camp Ashraf/Liberty in Iraq, where MEK dissidents were confined in exile at Liberty until September 9, 2016.

The 2009 uprising showed that millions in Iran wanted regime change, a goal espoused by the NCRI, whose members paid a disproportionate price for participation. Some Arab governments are now lining up with Iranian dissidents because they perceive the revolutionary enemy regime at their doorstep. As the Prince attempts to redraw the arc of history, this is the time for the West to join the coalition that could shape the future.

——–

*** Other contributions of the author at The Washington Institute  are available in Arabic at: http://bit.ly/2exfybj

*** Click here for the Arabic Word version of “Preparing for Regime Change in Iran”

Professor Raymond Tanter served on the U.S. National Security Council and as Personal Representative of the Secretary of Defense to arms control talks in the Reagan-Bush White House.

 

 

 

Obama’s Iran Deal Caused The Administration To Ignore Valuable Nuclear Intelligence

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Foreign policy circles were abuzz over a May 5, 2016 New York Times Magazine profile of White House foreign policy advisor Ben Rhodes. It boasted about manipulating “naïve” journalists into telling the American people how nascent moderation within the Iranian regime made the Iran nuclear talks viable. He also highlighted the White House creation of an “echo chamber” providing grants to outside nonprofit groups for pursuing the President’s objective to support so-called moderates in Tehran.

The network included journalists and media outlets, think tanks, nuclear associations, and pro-Tehran lobbies, including the infamous National Iranian American Council (NIAC). Last year, NIAC received $281,211; over the past five years, more than $814,000.

Contrary to the network that echoed the false narrative of the White House, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its largest component, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), exposed sensitive verifiable information and acted as the international community’s eyes and ears on the ground.

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A Plan to Prevent a Nuclear-Armed Iran

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For the Islamic Republic of Iran, Jan. 17 Implementation Day of the nuclear deal and Feb. 11 commemoration of the founding of the Islamic Republic highlight two faces of the state. On one side, the deal shows a normal state that can become nuclear-arms capable within 10 years.

On July 14, 2015, The U.N. Security Council adopted UNSCR 2231: “The resolution’s provisions should, pending confirmation of implementation, expire 10 years after its adoption, and with that, it would remove the Iranian nuclear issue from its agenda.” And on Aug. 18, 2015, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) released a report that said, “The JCPOA has many strengths but one of its most serious shortcomings is that it almost ensures that Iran can emerge in 15-20 years as a nuclear power with the potential, at a time of its choosing, to make enough weapon-grade uranium for several nuclear weapons within a few weeks.”

The major powers, however, do not care, because Iran will have moderated even more than it is today.

On the other side, the deal is with a revolutionary state. Critics say Iran cannot ever be trusted with the bomb; that the deal expands its revolution across borders; and the country suppresses its people so that the religious dictatorship survives challenges from within.

By becoming a nuclear-armed state (see UNSCR 2231 and ISIS above), Iran signals to its population that — because the regime can get what it wants from the major powers — it surely can dictate to the people, so they need not think about revolting. The first face of Iran requires minimal sanctions, inspections, and scant resolve if detection reveals cheating. The second needs maximum sanctions inspections and resolve.

All but the most generous perspectives recognize that the nuclear deal will fail unless it is embedded in a larger strategy that keeps the pressure on Iran and keeps a very close eye out for cheating. The pressure that will have the greatest effect on Iran is that which holds the regime’s survival at risk and makes double-dealing without detection hard.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its largest unit, the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI) — more commonly known as the Mujahedeen-e- Khalq (MEK) — are in a good position to detect cheating and be the tip of the political spear within Iran. The NCRI’s claim to monitoring is strong, but could be reinforced if it had the support of the West. Likewise its contribution to pressuring the regime requires more backing from the West.

Opponents to working with the NCRI would likely raise objections to the wisdom of this kind of cooperation. They might ask: Because the NCRI is considered as a beleaguered terrorist group besieged at Camp Liberty in Iraq, can it contribute much pressure, and why should the United States risk close association with the NCRI? Or offer that if threatening regime survival makes Iran move more quickly to become a nuclear-armed state, might it not be better to wield pressure in the form of withheld carrots (economic sanctions, for instance) that do not trigger the nuclear itch? Or even say, if the NCRI were essentially irrelevant to the 2009 Green Revolution, the time when Iran really did feel the pressure, is it better to work with the Greens than NCRI?

With the argument and counterargument in mind, consider how sanctions, cheating, and detection form a trifecta.

Sanctions

In Not by Sanctions Alone penned July 13, 2013, for The Washington Institute for Near East Study (TWI), Michael Eisenstadt argued that in addition to sanctions, military and “other means” were necessary to bolster nuclear diplomacy with Iran. Concerning the military, on Jan. 5, 2016, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told former Ambassador Dennis Ross that President Barack Obama said to Netanyahu that he had taken the military option off the table.

If military strikes are not relevant, what other means are there to pressure Tehran? The Iranian regime fears that it might fall from within. Because it came to power through revolution and has dealt with episodic domestic unrest since its inception, regime survival is the foremost concern of the Supreme Leader and those around him, including those who are considered as moderates by Western nations. So regime change from within is a principal fear of Tehran.

At issue is what groups might be most suitable to lead internal regime change. The NCRI is in a good position to help lead a coalition that rejects clerical rule in Iran. There is evidence that other groups that sought to make deals with the regime have withered away. As reported in my 2006 book, Appeasing the Ayatollahs and Suppressing Democracy, a number of groups were destroyed by the regime. To name but a few, the Organization of Iranian People’s Fedai Guerrillas fell victim to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini’s efforts to create disunity, and by 1980, the group fractured.

Some of the leadership cooperated with Khomeini and aligned itself with the communist Tudeh Party. This faction changed its name to the Organisation of Iranian People’s Fedaian Majority, dropping the “guerrillas” to reflect a plan to participate peacefully in government. Despite its endorsement of the clerical establishment and call to arm the Revolutionary Guard with heavy weaponry, the Fedaian Majority was suppressed by Khomeini in the 1980s. It regrouped in exile but remained dedicated to working through the existing political system to achieve reform. How? By throwing support behind approved parliamentary and presidential candidates, the group sought the favor of the regime, but to no avail.

The Green Movement has taken a page from the failed playbook of others that withered on the vine, despite cutting deals with the regime. The Iranian Green Movement faction headed by former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, accepted clerical rule. On Feb 11, 2015, Akbar Ganji, an Iranian investigative journalist and dissident who is a friend of the “Greens” and imprisoned in Tehran from 2000 to 2006, stated that, “Since February 2011 the leaders of Iran’s Green Movement, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, and former Speaker of the Majles [parliament] Mehdi Karroubi have lived under strict house arrest, ordered by Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC).”

The Iran Primer, an organ of the U.S. Institute of Peace, issued a report favorably inclined toward the Green Movement. It stated that during the fall of 2009, demonstrators yelled slogans: “Others chanted, ‘Khamenei is a murderer. His rule is null and void.’” This post infers that “others” is an indirect reference to the NCRI, which is often not mentioned explicitly by supporters of the Green Movement. Circumstantial evidence that the chants were NCRI in origin may be seen in that its supporters received the most severe suppression from the demonstrations.

The NCRI alone has survived because it refused to compromise, despite humongous losses inflicted by the regime and has the support of the students on the streets of Tehran. How do we document such support? Look at over 100,000 supporters of the NCRI who annually gather in Paris. The gatherings are to express adherence to the ideals of the organization. Such numbers reflect the backing within Iran because each attendee has family members who are in Iran in quiet support.

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Revelations, U.S. Representative Office National Council of Resistance of Iran

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As a scholar studying Iranian opposition groups, I am posting this information for the general public.

Click to see the online conference on Wednesday, December 2, 2015, Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of the U.S. Representative Office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, revealed the composition and modus operandi of the secret committee that was set up in Tehran to deceive the IAEA on its probe of the possible military dimensions (PMD) of the Iranian regime’s nuclear program. The revelation was based on reports from various entities and institutions within the clerical regime.

In the conference, specific cases of Tehran’s measures to conceal nature of its nuclear project was examined and exposed.

For the text of the presentation, click here.

The final disposition of the true nature of Tehran’s nuclear program was one of the major points of dispute between world community and the Iranian regime. Following the nuclear agreement in July 2015, Tehran pledged again that it would fully answer the IAEA long-standing questions on the nature of the Iranian regime’s nuclear program. The IAEA report on its findings about PMD was released in December 2015.

Below are the initial reactions of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS):

  • Despite obfuscation and stonewalling by Iran, the IAEA confirmed that Iran had a coordinated nuclear weapons development program until the end of 2003 and conducted some weapons development activities after 2003.
  • Overall, Iran provided little real cooperation.  Denials and lack of truthfulness should not be confused with cooperation in the context of the JCPOA, any more than such “cooperation” by a defendant in a criminal investigation would be construed as real cooperation.
  • Faced with such outright Iranian efforts to deceive the inspectors, the IAEA broke relatively little new ground.
  • The truth of Iran’s work on nuclear weapons is probably far more extensive than outlined by the IAEA in this report.
  • The IAEA drew conclusions where it was able to.  The bottom line is that the IAEA’s investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programs cannot be understood to be concluded, certainly it cannot be closed.

Click here to see the IAEA report.

Bipartisan consensus: Stop Iran and its missile attacks on Iranian dissidents

iranprotest_timessquare_072215gettyFox News reports a missile attack occurred on Camp Liberty Iraq on October 29; residents include 2,400 members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK). About 80 missiles made holes as deep as 7 feet and wide as 8 feet—including 122 mm Katyushas and those Tehran produced—the NB24 Russian missiles.

Why is Iran targeting its opposition? Dissidents block the goal of Tehran—to control Baghdad and Damascus where we are fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Washington’s evolving strategy is DOA on the Hill unless the administration reaches out to the opposition and sees Iran as a threat across the porous border.

How to counter the threat from Iran? Align with others opposing Tehran and the bipartisan congressional coalition sharing that view.

Saudi Arabia’s alignment against Iran includes Israel as a silent partner. Saudis view Tehran and Damascus unfavorably. A potential partner for Riyadh and Washington is the Iranian Resistance that rejects clerical rule in Tehran. All define the threat as Islamist.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir asked, Is Iran a “state or a revolution?” If it wants to export its 1979 revolution and revive the Persian Empire “we cannot deal with it.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his UN speech on October 1 that shifting alliances in the Middle East drew Arab countries like Saudi Arabia closer to Israel in confronting Iran and ISIL. His speech before the Congress stated that, “Iran’s regime poses a grave threat…to the peace.”

On April 29, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing, “ISIS: Defining the Enemy.” Maryam Rajavi is President-Elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the coalition of which the MEK is the largest unit; she testified from Paris. Her written testimony showed how Tehran is an Islamist epicenter of terrorism to establish an Empire without borders and called for empowering the democratic tolerant Islam she represented.

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A ‘bad’ nuclear deal with Iran would jeopardize world peace

julio 11 - 15Most people would wish that President Obama succeeds in striking a deal with Iran that will see it shut down its nuclear centres, halt uranium enrichment and give up permanently the goal of obtaining a nuclear weapon. Iran however has shown next to no signs that it will forgo its nuclear weapons program. What most of us don’t know is how ordinary Iranian citizens opposed to the mullahs’ regime would feel about a “bad deal” that would see Tehran cheat its way to the bomb as it stalls world powers.

Amineh Qaraee, 34, and her brother Ehsan, 28, who fled the mullahs’ persecution to Norway four years ago, have a striking story. As children, they witnessed their parents’ arrest and imprisonment for supporting the People’s Mojahedin Organization (PMOI/MEK), the main moderate Muslim group opposed to Khomeini’s theocratic rule.

“When I was just one-year-old my father got arrested, and two months later my mother got arrested with me and they took us to prison. There I had to live between people who got arrested and tortured just because they wanted freedom”, Amineh recounts in a moving video testimonial.

“I spent some months in prison until they let my mother deliver me to my grandparents. My mother was in prison for more than two years and my father for four years.”

Soon after his release, Amineh’s father, a teacher by profession, was again arrested for his political opinions.

“Finally they informed us that they had killed my father and 30,000 other political activists even though all of them were sentenced to some years in prison, not execution”, she adds before breaking down into tears. This has prompted them to join the cause of supporting human rights and democratic change in Iran through different activities, including promoting petitions and other initiatives through facebook, twitter and youtube.

The Qaraees are not the only families of victims of the mullahs left to deal with the torment of losing their loved ones. The Tehran regime has executed more than 120,000 political prisoners, mostly MEK supporters, in the past 36 years. Their families who live in daily agony number in the millions. An overwhelming majority of Iranians have been harmed or affected in some form by the regime in its 36-year rule.

A robust, strong deal with strong inspection regime will manifest Ayatollahs’ weakness and strategic deadlock and embolden Iranian people for their rights. Yet, like many other Iranians opposed to the regime, Amineh and Ehsan are nervous that a “bad nuclear deal” allowing Tehran to go nuclear while duping the West would strengthen the regime.  Such an outcome will lead to the situation where the Revolutionary Guards would feel strengthened and would suppress any dissent with even greater brutality. The world would then become silent in the face of all the crimes of this regime.

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WHY ARE THE DEAR LEADER OF KOREA AND THE SUPREME LEADER OF IRAN SMILING?

Kim Jong-unIran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Please click here to access the full report of allegations by the National Council of Resistance of Iran:

Because of  Cooperation between Iranian regime and North Korea in the nuclear field, nuclear warhead and ballistic missiles

Unsettling Report on Iran and North Korea 

By Carol Giacomo, The New York Times 

May 28, 2015

As the clock ticks down to a June 30 deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran, the news has emerged that North Korean nuclear and missile experts may (I emphasize may because I have seen no confirmation) have visited a military site near Tehran last month.

If the report from an Iranian resistance group via Reuters is true, the timing could hardly be worse, at least optically. This is a moment when Iran needs to be doing its best to prove its good intentions to the international community, not flaunting ties to a country with an active nuclear weapons program and a record of threatening behavior.

The nuclear agreement being negotiated between Iran and the major powers – the United States, China, Britain, France, Russia and Germany – is already highly controversial and powerful hardline enemies in Iran, the United States, Israel and elsewhere are working to derail it. If Iran’s top leaders really want a deal, which would lift international sanctions in return for curbs on their nuclear program, it is counter-productive to give the opponents more ammunition that could thwart that goal.

There are reasons to doubt the report. The Iranian embassy in Paris has already repudiated it. It was based on information from the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which has spent years working to undermine the Iranian republic. Although the group’s disclosure in 2002 about Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz was accurate, its track record overall has been spotty.

But even if the report is true, what does hosting North Korean experts say about Iran? It has been known for quite a while that representatives of Iran and North Korea frequently meet and have had dealings on ballistic missiles, which would not be covered by the nuclear deal. In February, a report from the United States intelligence community noted, as intelligence officials have in the past, North Korea’s “export of ballistic missiles and associated materials to several countries, including Iran and Syria.”

And while Iran and North Korea both were customers of A.Q. Khan, the disgraced mastermind of Pakistan’s nuclear program, an American official told me Thursday that the United States government has seen nothing to suggest Iran is cooperating with North Korea on nuclear weapons.

Such cooperation would belie Tehran’s insistence that it is not pursuing a nuclear weapon and would necessarily blow up any nuclear agreement. But even if a nuclear deal is reached, the major powers will need to watch vigilantly to make sure that Iran doesn’t switch from developing the technology that could enable it to produce a bomb to buying one from North Korea.

28 May 2015
(excerpts)

State Department Briefing

Exchange on NCRI revelation

May 28, 2015

Watch the Video Clip About this Exchange

 Matthew Lee (AP): On Iran. Have you seen this new report from the Iranian opposition about Iran-North Korea nuclear cooperation? And whether you have or not, can you – well, if you have, can you speak to it? And if you – well, if you haven’t, I’ll —

MR RATHKE: Let me answer that one and then you can follow up. So we have seen these claims, and we take any such reports seriously. If I can perhaps anticipate one part of your follow-up, we’re examining the report but we don’t have any information at this time that would lead us to believe that these allegations impact our ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

QUESTION: If the allegations are correct, how could that not impact the negotiations?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, we – these allegations – we’re taking them seriously, we’re examining them. I don’t have a stamp to put on them and say whether we’re we able to verify them or not. We don’t – we have not been able to verify them thus far. We’re examining the report and —

QUESTION: This isn’t the first – this isn’t the first time there have been allegations.

MR RATHKE: That’s true. This group has made —

Liz Labott (CNN): No, but others have also said that Iran – there is a significant amount of cooperation between the two. So are you saying that you have no reason to believe that there is such cooperation, or these particular allegations are unfounded?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not saying that they’re unfounded. I’m just saying we don’t have – we’re examining these allegations. They’re serious. I’m not able to verify them.

LIZ Labott (CNN): So if you haven’t – if you’re not able to substantiate whether they’re true or not, how do you know if they’ll impact the negotiations? I mean, if they’re true, feasibly that would impact your negotiations.

MR RATHKE: Well, based on the information that we have at this time, which is the way I would put it.

LEE (AP): If you say, as – that the allegations are serious, why wouldn’t – is this something that’s not going to come up in the negotiations?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to speak to what’s going to come up in the room. But again, serious allegations and we’re looking at them seriously.

QUESTION: Well, let’s put it this way: cutting off Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon is a subject that comes up in negotiations, is it not?

MR RATHKE: Certainly.

QUESTION: Okay. So is sanctions relief, is it not?

MR RATHKE: Sure.

Arshad Mohammed (Reuters): Okay. So you’ve just said two things that are involved in the negotiations. You’ve also said that on the sidelines of the negotiations, the fate or the status of the Americans being held or missing comes up.

MR RATHKE: Yes. Right, that is the case.

QUESTION: Why can’t you say whether allegations of Iran’s – of Iranian cooperation or work with North Korea would come up as part of the negotiations?

MR RATHKE: Well, let me take a step back. First, with respect to North Korea, we continue to work with the international community to exercise vigilance over their proliferation activities worldwide. This is the subject of numerous UN Security Council resolutions. They prohibit the transfer to or from the DPRK of goods, technology, of any assistance related to nuclear ballistic missile or other weapons of mass destruction. You’re familiar with all this, but there is of course a very elaborate international framework, including UN Security Council resolutions, as well as unilateral actions, to address the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs.

And in the same way, any cooperation with Iran on proliferation-sensitive nuclear or ballistic activities would also violate relevant UN Security Council resolutions on Iran, including resolution 1929. So you’ve got UN Security Council resolutions that apply to Iran and to North Korea, and so we follow these extremely closely, but I don’t have more to say on these specific allegations, which we are examining.

QUESTION: Okay. But if it’s a violation, and we’ll take – it’s quite apart from the North – the sanctions on North Korea, you are not negotiating with North Korea at the moment; you have, but you’re not now. You are negotiating with Iran. Iran is in violation of numerous UN Security Council resolutions dating back years and years and years – still – even though they’re complying with the JPOA —

MR RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: — even though you say they’re complying with the JPOA. So why – is bringing Iran into compliance with all relevant Security Council – all the Security Council resolutions, is that not a goal of the negotiations here?

MR RATHKE: Well, the nuclear talks are focused on the nuclear-related issues.

QUESTION: So they can satisfy —

MR RATHKE: So there are other Security Council resolutions that also apply to Iran, and those continue and they will not be affected by it.

QUESTION: So as part of these negotiations, you could reach an agreement with the Iranians – could – without them addressing the nuclear cooperation with North Korea. Is that correct?

MR RATHKE: Well, again —

QUESTION: Allegations of nuclear cooperation.

MR RATHKE: Again, we are focused on shutting down the pathways to a nuclear weapon. I’m not going to get into the details or to preview how exactly we address these in the negotiating room.

Lee (AP): Why didn’t you raise the allegations in the negotiating room since one means to ascertain whether or not the Iranians have any or have had any nuclear cooperation with the North Koreans would be to ask them?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not ruling it in or out. I’m just saying I’m not going to prejudge what 

LEE (AP) : But why would you – why wouldn’t you? How could you not raise it? I mean, if you’re trying to figure out if they’re doing it, how do you not ask them?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, we have a variety of ways of trying to verify allegations, especially serious ones. So I don’t have more to say on this than that.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Can I just – it’s my understanding – and I just want to make sure that this is still correct or that it is correct —

MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — that the United States – this Administration, previous administrations, have expressed concern and have talked about intelligence suggesting that there is cooperation between Iran and North Korea on ballistic missiles. And the – although you are aware of reports like this one that came out overnight about nuclear cooperation, there isn’t any evidence so far. You haven’t seen any sign that these allegations, while serious, are actually true. Is it still correct that the Administration believes that there is ballistic missile cooperation, but not necessarily nuclear cooperation, between the two?

MR RATHKE: I don’t really have more to say than we have said. We’ve – there’s an international framework of Security Council resolutions dealing with both countries. We take any allegations of cooperation seriously.

QUESTION: And then just tangentially, there is a report – this doesn’t have to do with Iran – but about significantly increased activity at a North Korean missile – rocket launching site. Have you seen this? Do you know anything about it?

MR RATHKE: I haven’t seen that. I’m not familiar with that one.

QUESTION: Stay on North Korea?

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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