Post Senate Briefing Article and Thoughts.

Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post) on the Senate Briefing we attended yesterday:

It’s Howard Dean vs. Obama on Iran

Former Vermont governor Howard Dean surprised and delighted critics of President Obama’s Iran policy with the most cogent and forceful criticism of the interim deal from any Democrat to date. Speaking before a controversial anti-mullah group, he bashed Obama’s entire approach:

U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he arrives to deliver his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)President Obama smiles as he arrives to deliver his State of the Union address. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

Dean said the United States has not placed enough emphasis on human rights issues in its talks with Iran and has failed to protect and resettle nearly 3,000 members of the Iranian opposition group Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) who are living at Camp Liberty in Iraq.

“We need to stand up to the mullahs,” said Dean. “These are not people we ought to be negotiating with.”

He added that if Tehran walked away from a deal due to pressure over human rights issues, then the regime is “most likely going to kill the negotiations as soon as they get out of the economic problems their sanctions are causing them.”

This was important for a bunch of reasons, aside from making crystal clear how far out of the mainstream of his own party is Obama on this issue.

First, it highlights that Hillary Clinton is AWOL on this issue. What does the “smartest woman” in the United States say on the most important issue she had to address as secretary of state? If she agrees with the president, she should have the nerve to say so. If not, she owes the country an explanation as to how the disastrous Iran policy devised on her watch led us to this point.

The incident also raises the fascinating possibility that a challenger who runs right on foreign policy and left on domestic policy could escape the Obama baggage and pose a real problem for Clinton. Clinton, at least for now, will bear the burden of the president’s exhausted statism and his foreign policy failures. Dean or someone like him could rightly say to the base that he knew the individual mandate would be a flop, wants to go after Clinton’s big business cronies and will be the liberal idealist and pro-human rights Democrat Obama never managed to be. He’s not exactly Scoop Jackson, but he might in this instance have the right mix of views and rhetorical strengths.

Dean’s attack on Obama should put some additional pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to bring sanctions legislation to the floor. The president’s unconvincing, if not embarrassing, State of the Union remarks on Iran, should have already made responsible Democrats very, very nervous. Right now, these Democrats look like the president’s puppets, sacrificing their own principles for partisan loyalty.

Dean’s comments also may make Sen. Rand Paul’s extremism on the Iran issue that much more unpalatable to Republicans. He is to the left of Howard Dean on Iran. Paul has been the sole GOP voice among 2016 contenders to side with the president on holding off on sanctions. That has unsurprisingly infuriated pro-Zionist Christians. Penny Nance, executive director of Concerned Women for America, told me, “It seems that Sen. Paul is the odd man out when it comes to Republican presidential hopefuls. I strongly believe that in order to win a Republican primary he must grow in his understanding of the essential relationship between the U.S. and Israel.” She reiterated, “This is not a point on which conservative primary voters vacillate.” This is a significant problem if Paul wants to be taken seriously as a presidential contender.

At a time the left is making support for Israel as objectionable as opposition to abortion on demand (even attacking one of their own, the New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio) and isolationist right-wingers are making a fuss about standing up for U.S. interests, Dean is a pleasant throwback to an earlier era in which Democratic support for the Jewish state was a given. Unfortunately, the Democrats have gone from President Harry Truman to Obama, and a faction of the Democratic left — and the isolationist right — seem inclined to follow Obama’s lead.

UPDATE: Rand Paul’s views are drawing more criticism. Michael Makovsky of JINSA, which recently put out a detailed analysis highly critical of the interim deal, says Paul’s notion that Congress shouldn’t interfere with negotiations is dead wrong. He e-mails, “Even under the deal the Iranian program is continuing and perhaps might advance, so we also need to create all the leverage available to us to ensure an acceptable final deal.” He explains, “Congress needs to ensure that  Iran — and even the Obama Administration — understands that there must be consequences if Iran cheats or if the talks drag on endlessly.”

 

All in all, an interesting event, with Democrat and former military leaders highlighting the dangers of a nuclear Iran, and more importantly, how the administration has been avoiding America’s cherished values of freedom and honor in our dealings with the Mullahs of Iran.  We’ll have to wait and see what kind of events will come next as the deal begins its 6 month trial by fire.

Well that was something …#SOTU

The President is clearly willing to present a strong front when it comes to domestic issues, it was good to see such a bold move from an embattled Prez. Then he put his foot in his mouth.

He didn’t talk about the massacres in Syria. He didn’t discuss how we’ve lost Iraq. He didn’t discuss how in Iran nothing has changed. And he didn’t discuss why we need to stand up to mullah bullies.

We’re currently at an event hosted by some Iranian Americans who believe that Iran is pulling the wool over our eyes. Governor Howard Dean, Fmr General Jones (National Security adviser to President Obama) and several former Ambassadors will be discussing why the JPA is doing far more harm than good.

We’ll keep you posted.

#SOTU…What We Want to See

America is awesome.  Sure we have our squabbles and our fights over stupid stuff, but on the whole the State of our Union is strong.  So tonight, I want to see these following things from the President in dealing with our Mullah Problems.

 

  1. A willingness to get tough on Iran-no platitudes about making friends, but promises to punish them if they step out of line.
  2. A promise to due right by human rights-he picked a humanist as his ambassador the UN, now he needs to show he cares.
  3. A call to action to defend our allies from aggression-Iran has been in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Bahrain, who will protect the rest of our allies?
  4. A desire to walk away from the table-if the mullahs continue to lie, will he be strong enough to back sanctions.

Now as this is the State of the ENTIRE Union I don’t expect all of these questions to be answered.  But I do want to see a strong leader of the free world, one who is determined to show why America is great, and one who is willing to stand up to bullies of the world, both at home and abroad.  In short, don’t be a coward Mr. President.

Is the Assad Regime in League with al-Qaeda?

mullahproblems:

This would mean that Syria is being assisted by Hezbollah, Iran, and Al-Qaeda…wow what a swell group to associate yourself with Bashear. Keep up the “good” fight. Anyone else think it’s about time for a JDAM to come say hello?

Originally posted on World:

For months, anti-regime activist claims that the Syrian government has cultivated a beneficial relationship with al-Qaeda groups in order to undermine the opposition have fallen on deaf ears. After all, the idea that Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has staked his leadership platform on a campaign against “terrorists”—his term for all anti-government fighters and supporters—would engage with the most radical of all rebel groups, reeks of conspiracy theories. Yet an emerging consensus among analysts and Western diplomats reveals that there might be some truth to the accusations after all. The opposition is now hoping that a shift in the current Syria narrative—which pits the regime against dangerous Islamist extremists—may help spur an international push to remove Assad from power, according to Rami Jarrah, a well-regarded Syrian anti-regime activist who is currently in Geneva on the sidelines of the talks.

As peace talks between Syrian government officials and representatives of the…

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UANI on the Nuclear Deal

UANI on the Nuclear Deal

United Against Nuclear Iran has put together this awesome packet regarding what the deal will do to the nuclear program (Hint: Not Much).  Take a look and get an idea of what we’re dealing with.

Geneva Interim Agreement Tracker-UANI

On November 24, 2013 the P5+1 and Iran struck an agreement to freeze progress on certain elements of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Following nearly two months of additional negotiations, on January 12, 2014 the parties announced that the agreement would commence on January 20, 2014 and conclude on July 20, 2014. The interim agreement is intended to build confidence between the P5+1 and Iran and provide time for additional negotiations that will ultimately lead to a final comprehensive agreement – within “no more than one year” – that resolves all outstanding concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. UANI is methodically tracking how the provisions of the agreement and obligations of the parties are being implemented and interpreted by each side. As part of this effort UANI is tracking how the agreement is affecting Iranian business activity and trade as measured by a number of key economic indicators, as well as its impact on the international sanctions regime.

This comprehensive and objective tracking is critical given that Iran and the United States have respectively characterized the interim agreement in a starkly different light. While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani boasted that the Geneva agreement “means the surrender of the big powers before the great Iranian nation,” President Barack Obama said, “We have made concrete progress. I welcome this important step forward, and we will now focus on the critical work of pursuing a comprehensive resolution.” In regards to sanctions relief and enforcement, Rouhani said, “The sanctions regime will begin to shatter with the (implementation) of this agreement,” while David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Department official tasked with enforcing the U.S. sanctions program stated, “I am confident that the sanctions pressure on Iran will continue to mount. Iran will be even deeper in the hole six months from now, when the deal expires.”

Analysis of the deeply conflicting visions of the respective parties reveals the near-impossibility of achieving the compromise necessary to reach a final comprehensive deal. For example, while President Obama says Iran doesn’t need the underground fortified Fordow facility, the Arak heavy-water reactor, or advanced centrifuges “in order to have a limited, peaceful program,” Rouhani has said that it is “100 percent” a “red line” for Iran to dismantle any nuclear facilities. Finally, as evidenced below, the substantial benefits awarded to Iran under the agreement cast doubt on whether the P5+1 is retaining sufficient sanctions leverage to achieve a final agreement which denies Iran the ability to retain an industrial-scale nuclear infrastructure and a rapid nuclear weapons breakout capability.

Month 1 Day 4 of the Six Month Geneva Interim Agreement

 
 
 

Nuclear Breakout Timeline

How Quickly Could Iran Make the Bomb?

Based on the status of Iran’s nuclear program in August 2013, the Iranian regime could build a nuclear weapon in as little as 1.0-1.6 months, according to the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). After the interim agreement was struck in Geneva, the U.S. Secretary of State touted, “We now have a mechanism by which we are going to expand the amount of time in which [the Iranians] can break out [to obtain nuclear capability] rather than narrow it.” In reality, the accord does little to push back Iran’s breakout time. ISIS estimates that even if Iran completely fulfilled its obligations under the deal (some of which will not be fulfilled until months into the agreement), Iran’s breakout time would lengthen to only 1.9-2.2 months.

 

Iran’s Continued Nuclear Progress

President Obama has hailed the interim nuclear agreement as marking “the first time in a decade that the Islamic Republic of Iran has agreed to specific actions that halt progress on its nuclear program and roll back key parts of the program.” He later remarked, “Beginning January 20th, Iran will for the first time start… dismantling some of the infrastructure that makes such enrichment possible…” Iranian officials, however, have rejected the President’s assertions. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said, “I can say definitively that the structure of our nuclear program will be exactly preserved. Nothing will be put aside, dismantled or halted.”

In reality there are a number of ways in which the Iranian regime will continue to develop its nuclear program during the interim agreement, as outlined below.

Arak Heavy Water Reactor

Iran will continue to perform excavation and civil construction work at this facility which is considered a prime proliferation threat.

Research & Development

Iran will continue to perform ongoing R&D activities that preceded the agreement.

Development of Advanced Centrifuges

As part of its ongoing R&D, Iran will continue “experimenting with a range of test centrifuges at the Natanz pilot scale facility, including the IR-1, IR-2m, IR-4, and the IR-6.” The advanced centrifuges are multiple times faster than Iran’s first-generation models, and if put into operation, would reduce Iran’s breakout time to only a matter of weeks, if not days.

Long-Range Ballistic Missile Testing

Iran will continue long-range ballistic missile testing, which is a central component for a modern nuclear weapons program as the delivery mechanism of the warhead. December 13, 2013 was the “the latest demonstration of the country’s missile capabilities,” when Iran performed a space launch vehicle test.

Final Agreement: A Deep Divide

The purported goal of the interim agreement is to pave the way for a final agreement that resolves all outstanding concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. Thus far, the two sides have articulated deeply conflicting visions of such an accord that appear near-impossible to reconcile. The Iranian regime has already laid out maximalist positions that question whether the regime is prepared to negotiate in good faith and ultimately rollback elements of its nuclear program.

USA

Issue

Iran

Obama: “They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program.”

Arak Heavy Water Reactor

Araghchi: “Your actions and words show you don’t want us to have the Arak heavy water reactor which means you want to deprive us of our rights. But you should know that it is a red line which we will never cross… We want to have more heavy water reactors in future.”

Obama: “Now, in terms of specifics, we know that they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordo[w] in order to have a peaceful nuclear program.”

Fordow Fortified Underground Enrichment Facility

Rouhani: It is “100 percent” a “red line” for Iran to dismantle any nuclear facilities.

Obama: “They don’t need some of the advanced centrifuges that they currently possess in order to have a limited, peaceful nuclear program.”

Advanced Centrifuges

Aragchi: “All research into a new generation of centrifuges will continue.”

Obama: “And so the question ultimately is going to be, are they prepared to roll back some of the advancements that they’ve made that would not justify — or could not be justified by simply wanting some modest, peaceful nuclear power, but, frankly, hint at a desire to have breakout capacity and go right to the edge of breakout capacity.”

Limitation on the Size of Iran’s Enrichment Program

Araghchi: “We will in no way, never, dismantle our [nuclear] centrifuges.”

Rouhani: “So in the context of nuclear technology, particularly of research and development and peaceful nuclear technology, we will not accept any limitations. And in accordance with the parliament law, in the future, we’re going to need 20,000 mega watts of nuclear produced electricity and we’re determined to obtain the nuclear fuel for the nuclear installation at the hands of our Iranian scientists. And we are going to follow on this path… Not under any circumstances” will we destroy any centrifuges.

Sanctions Relief

The views on sanctions relief between the U.S. and the Iranian government are also highly incongruous. The White House has described the sanctions relief provided in the agreement as “economically insignificant” and insisted that “Iran’s economy will also continue to suffer because the core architecture of U.S. sanctions—especially our potent oil, financial and banking sanctions—remains firmly in place.” David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Department official tasked with enforcing the U.S. sanctions program declared, “I am confident that the sanctions pressure on Iran will continue to mount. Iran will be even deeper in the hole six months from now, when the deal expires.” In comparison, leading Iranian officials have boasted that with this agreement, the structure of the international sanctions regime is falling apart and that the Iranian economy is progressively improving. Following the January 12 agreement on the implementation of the accord, Rouhani pronounced, “The Geneva agreement means the wall of sanctions has broken.”

In terms of total estimated value of the sanctions relief provided in the agreement, the White House estimates that Iran stands to receive $6 billion to $7 billion. Iran analysts, however, have anticipated that the true value of the sanctions relief could be more than $20 billion.

Furthermore, the momentum of an ever strengthening international sanctions regime was halted following Rouhani’s election in July 2013 in an apparent effort by the U.S. to court the regime and set a tone for renewed negotiations. The effect of this halt, and even reversal, in momentum was significant as measured by the appreciation of the rial and growth in the Tehran Stock Exchange since June 2013. This process only accelerated in the run-up to the signing of the Geneva interim agreement and its aftermath. For example, Iran’s oil exports have increased nearly 60% from October 2013 to January 2014.

While the administration vows that the core architecture of Iran sanctions remains in place, UANI analysis shows that the four interdependent elements of the sanctions regime—(1) Increasingly strict laws and regulations, (2) enforcement action, (3) reputational risk, and; (4) the psychological impact on the Iranian economy—have weakened, and as a result, the architecture of the sanctions regime may in fact be coming apart.

In this section, UANI tracks key indicators of the Iranian economy, to gauge the true value of the sanctions relief being provided.

Value Of The Rial

The effect of economic pressure can be measured, in important part, by tracking the Iranian rial’s black market value exchange rate. Last year, with economic pressure at its peak, Iran suffered from severe hyperinflation, and the rial became the least valued currency in the world. This is no longer the case, as the rial has gained significant value in 2013.

Since Hassan Rouhani was elected president on June 14, the Iranian rial has increased in value by more than 25%, from 36,500 rials/dollar to 29,000 rials/dollar today (and up from record-lows of 40,000 rials/dollar in February 2013). Political developments have clearly had an impact of the rial’s value. Following the announcement of the Geneva agreement on November 24 and the beginning of its implementation on January 20, the rial appreciated significantly.

Inflation

At the beginning of   Rouhani’s presidency the inflation rate stood at 43%. The inflation  rate has now fallen to 35%, and Rouhani has set atarget rate  below 25% by the end of the next Persian calendar year (March 2015).

Oil Exports

When the Geneva agreement was signed on November 24, a senior administration official stated that “Iran’s oil exports will remain steady at their current level of around 1 million barrels per day.” Unfortunately, even before the January 20 implementation of the agreement, Iran’s oil exports increased nearly 60% from historically low levels of 761,000 bpd in October 2013 to  1.2 million barrels/day (bpd) in January 2014.

It is clear that the Geneva negotiations and the  signing of the interim agreement significantly altered a trend of ever increasing reductions in oil purchases from Iran, mainly by signaling an easing of restrictions and reducing risks for buyers and traders. Now that the agreement is being implemented, Iran’s oil exports are in position to increase further as tanker insurance provisions are relaxed and shipments costs for the Iranian oil sector are reduced.

Tehran Stock Exchange

Since Rouhani’s election, The Tehran Stock Exchange index has increased by nearly 100%, from about 45,000 points to over 80,000 points.

Trade Delegations and Diplomatic Missions

Since the signing of the Geneva agreement on November 24, Iran has been receiving parliamentary missions and trade delegations from countries that are eager to rekindle commerce with Iran. The pace of these missions and delegations has only increased since the agreement commenced on January 20. According to The New York Times, “In the first two weeks of the year, Iran welcomed more delegations from Europe than in all of 2013.”

  • According to Mehrdad Jalalipour, director of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organisation, trade delegations from the following countries have visited Iran since early December

    • Austria Austria
    • China China
    •  Georgia
    •  India
    •  Ireland
    •  Italy
    •  Kazakhstan
    •  Sweden
    •  Tunisia
    •  Turkey
  • Upcoming high-level diplomatic missions and trade delegations:

 

Corporate Comeback

Since the signing of the Geneva agreement, there have been numerous reports and firsthand accounts of Iran’s automotive and energy sectors anticipating the return of major multinational corporations. With the momentum of sanctions halted and now reversed, reputational and financial risk has clearly declined for multinational corporations that are publicly pursuing the renewal or expansion of their Iran business.

Iran Business Renewed/Expanded

 Austrian Airlines (Aviation)

 International Group of P&I Clubs(Shipping)

 Japan P&I Club (Shipping)

 Tessenderlo (Chemicals)

 Unifert (Agriculture)

Engaged in Discussions/Preparations to Expand/Renew Iran Business

 Alstom (Transportation Infrastructure)

 Airbus (Aviation)

 AVL (Automotive)

 BNP Paribas (Banking)

 Commerzbank (Banking)

 Credit Agricole (Banking)

 Doka (Construction)

 Doppelmayr (Manufcaturing)

 Eni (Energy)

 GDF Suez (Energy)

GlaxoSmithKline (Pharmaceuticals)

 Halkbank (Banking)

 ILF (Engineering)

 Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (Shipping)

Merck KGaA (Pharmaceuticals)

 OMV (Energy)

 Pininfarina (Automotive)

 Plasser & Theurer (Transportation Infrastructure)

 Peugeot (Automotive)

 Renault (Automotive)

 Royal Dutch Shell (Energy)

 Safran (Aviation)

 Sanofi (Pharmaceuticals)

 Société Générale (Banking)

 Veolia Environnement (Water & Waste Mgmt.)

 Vitol (Energy)

 Zhuhai Zhenrong (Energy)

Expressed Interest in Expanding/Renewing Iran Business

 Bosch (Manufacturing)

 HPCL (Energy)

 Lukoil (Energy)

Existing Iran Business Operations Improved by Eased Sanctions

 Aban Offshore (Energy)

 Gubretas (Chemicals)

 

Sanctions Enforcement

Sanctions Designations Timer:

42

Days PassedSince Last Treasury Sanctions Designation Action

 

 

2013-2014 Iran Sanctions Designations

Designation Announcements

Entities Added

2/6/2013

4

3/14/2013

25

4/11/2013

6

5/9/2013

15

5/15/2013

2

5/16/2013

39

5/23/2013

20

5/30/2013

3

5/31/2013

31

6/4/2013

38

—–ROUHANI ELECTED ON JUNE 14—–

9/6/2013

10

12/12/2013

19

TOTAL Before Rouhani’s Election

183

TOTAL After Rouhani’s Election

29

TOTAL 2013 Designations

212

TOTAL 2014 Designations

0

TOTAL Designations Since Nov. 24 Geneva Agreement

19

The Obama administration has pledged to fully enforce all existing sanctions against Iran. David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Department’s point man on sanctions vowed, “The Joint Plan of Action reached in Geneva does not, and will not, interfere with our continued efforts to expose and disrupt those supporting Iran’s nuclear program or seeking to evade our sanctions.”

Evidence indicates, however, that since Rouhani’s election, the U.S. has been much less aggressive in enforcing sanctions. In 2013 before Rouhani’s June 14 election, the Treasury issued 10 sanctions announcements which designated 183 entities for violating Iran sanctions. Since Rouhani’s election, there have only been two announcements, blacklisting a total of 29 entities. When the U.S. Treasury designated 19 Iran sanctions violators on December 12, 2013, Iran falsely claimed that the U.S. had violated the framework agreement and temporarily walked out of negotiations to implement the interim nuclear agreement. UANI will be closely tracking whether the Obama administration is holding to its pledge to maximally enforce sanctions, or if it will be walking on eggshells in order to avoid offending the Iranian regime.

 

We Would Formally Like to Invite You to the Geneva II Syria Talks on…

JUST KIDDING!

Ah Iran.  So grumpy and put out over not being invited to the Geneva II talks.  So frustrated that you were invited to the talks, you felt like you were a big player, not just a two-bit wanna be who’s funding of terrorism got you to the big leagues.  Argh, so close to being relevant, but so far.  Right now Press TV is putting up articles stating that:

“Iran had never asked for participation in the Geneva II conference on Syria, and was not eager to attend the event. They invited the country because they knew that the Syrian crisis could not be resolved without Iran’s presence.”

C’mon guys, you knew you wanted it, you know you needed it, and you are upset you didn’t get it.  But why did this happen? Clearly it’s all the United States fault right? Let’s check out CNN:

“The last-minute invitation to Iran, a leading Syrian ally, had threatened to derail the talks after the leading Syrian opposition group poke out against it”

Wait, you mean, the people you’ve been helping to kill don’t want your help? WHAT?! That’s madness! Except it’s not when you consider that Syria would have been solved two years ago if not for Iranian intervention. That without Iranian fighters and funds, Assad would have lost against his secular opposition BEFORE the terrorist networks got involved.  But no, Iran will live in its own little fantasy land about being big and bad, and will convince themselves that they were not invited ONLY because of America.

But let’s be honest, it’s because the Mullahs are the scum of the Earth.

TMP

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Has Iran Gained a Foothold in the Arabian Peninsula?

mullahproblems:

This is a disturbing thought if it turns out to be true…Iran has already been caught mucking about in Bahrain, but if they’ve infiltrated the Arabian Peninsula, we’re in real trouble…

Originally posted on The Counter Jihad Report:

by Daniel Pipes
January 15, 2014
Cross-posted from National Review Online, The Corner

According to a sensational report by Awad Mustafa in Defense News, a Gannett publication, not only has Tehran signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates over three disputed islands near the Strait of Hormuz, but it has also reached a possibly even more important accord with the government of Oman. Both of these agreements have vast implications for the oil trade, the world economy, and Iranian influence.

According an unnamed “high level UAE source,” secretive talks taking place over six months led to a deal on the Greater and Lesser Tunbs finalized on Dec. 24: “For now, two of the three islands are to return to the UAE while the final agreement for Abu Musa is being ironed out. Iran will retain the sea bed rights around the three islands while the UAE will hold…

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