Iran Nuclear Agreement

Reporting by Jennifer Griffin

The Republican Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee says the United States should stay in the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

Chairman Ed Royce and his colleagues may soon play a larger role in this deal. The White House is expected to announce this week it will send the fate of the Iran Nuclear Agreement to Congress.

The administration is considering a plan to decertify and claim Iran is failing to comply with the major components of the nuclear deal. That starts a 60-day period where congress could restore nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.

If it does, the nuclear agreement falls apart.

On Capitol Hill today, former Obama Administration officials warned against that and so did one Democrat, Congressman Eliot Engel,  who two years ago opposed the agreement, saying “if we pullout of the deal I believe we lose whatever leverage we have to drive that agenda.”

The administration’s supporters argue the Iran Nuclear Agreement should also address Iran’s other behavior—ballistic missile development, promoting terrorism and cyber-attacks.

European allies, Russia and China, the other two countries in this agreement, warn against withdrawing from it.

Iran threatens to resume its nuclear program, with Iranian President Rouhani saying “if the US makes a mistake and backs out of the nuclear deal, I announce it openly that it will be a failure just for America, not us. We will not have any trouble and will push ahead on our path.”

Every 90 days the administration must certify whether Iran is complying with the bulk of the agreement—a requirement a Republican Congress created for the previous administration. The Trump Administration has until Sunday to certify—or not.

Bill Clinton's office checked with State Department on paid speech to group with ties to Tehran

By Ed Henry

An aide to Bill Clinton checked with the State Department in 2012 about the former president potentially delivering a paid speech to a group with ties to the government of Iran that has pushed for an end to all U.S. sanctions against Tehran, according to an email exclusively obtained by Fox News.

The email request, in June of 2012, came during a sensitive time for then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that in July of 2012 one of Secretary Clinton's top aides, Jake Sullivan, started meeting in secret with Iranian diplomats in talks that helped paved the way for the nuclear deal with Tehran.

The email from the former President's office was sent on June 4, 2012, from an aide to Bill Clinton to three aides for then-Secretary Clinton, including Sullivan as well as State Department chief of staff Cheryl Mills.

"Would USG have any concerns about WJC doing a paid speech for (the) National Iranian American Council ('NIAC')?" wrote Ami Desal, an aide to the former president. "We have been approached by the National Iranian American Council ('NIAC') for President Clinton to speak at a fundraising gala they are putting on."

The email was obtained through a lawsuit by conservative activist David Bossie, a longtime Clinton critic, who has recently shared with the media several emails about the vetting process for Bill Clinton's speaking requests.

Fox News and other media outlets have previously obtained emails showing an aide to Bill Clinton vetted with the State Department possible paid speaking gigs with groups tied to North Korea and the Republic of the Congo. In the end, Bill Clinton did not deliver those speeches or the one with the National Iranian American Council.

An official with the former president's office stressed to Fox on Tuesday that the previous stories about his speech requests have been mischaracterized as him pushing to do these controversial speeches.

"As we've said before, as a matter of course, all requests were run by the State Department," said an official in the former president's office. "And most importantly, ultimately, the President did not give this speech."

The National Iranian American Council, a 501(c)3 nonprofit group which was founded in 2002, has denied being a lobbying group for the Islamic Republic of Iran, though the group has been an outspoken critic of U.S. sanctions on Iran. 

A Step Back in Diplomacy

By Jay Boyd, Fox News Summer College Associate

A major proponent of terror, described as “the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today”, has re-emerged with the recent appearance of Major General Qasem Soleimani.

 “The Shadow Commander” recently traveled to Moscow to meet with Russian officials, according to multiple reports, violating worldwide sanctions against him and Iran. Iran is an ally of Russia, and Soleimani, with his position as the commander of the powerful Quds force in Iran, provides Russia with a direct link to the Iranian government and military force. U.S. officials believe Soleimani was in the Russian capital to discuss strategy in the Middle East. His strong relationship with Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei leads one to conclude that he would be a sufficient messenger to their most powerful ally.

The Quds force is an elite unit, comprised of mainly Special Forces, within Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and is estimated to possess 15,000 troops. Its responsibility can be compared to United Nations forces, perhaps, as the group carries out most of their missions as extraterritorial activities. The group has given military assistance to organizations such as Hamas in the Palestinian region and Hezbollah in Lebanon. To go along with that, the United States has tied the group to multiple terrorist operations against the U.S. and other western forces over the years, making Soleimani a very dangerous individual, to say the least.

Soleimani has been on the side of radical organizations since 1979, joining the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) immediately after the Iranian Revolution. In the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, while still in his 20s, Soleimani commanded the 41st Sarallah Division from 1980-88. This post helped him gain standing in the ranks rather rapidly.

He became a commander in a region close to the border with Afghanistan, the Kerman province. This area is known for drug trafficking, as Afghan-grown opium would travel across the border to Turkey and Europe. Soleimani took a firm hold on the region, becoming notorious as a fighter against the drug trade. Sometime afterwards (we don’t know a specific date), he would assume the post that he has had ever since, commanding the Quds force.

Initially after the attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States sought Soleimani’s forces in a collaborative effort to root out the Taliban in the Middle East. Initially, this ended up working out well for both sides, as senior Taliban officials were captured as a result of the intelligence sharing. However, it all ended at the 2002 State of the Union address, where Iran was called out as a member of the Axis of Evil by President Bush.

Soleimani, according to several military sources, is a staunch supporter of the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. He is reported to have conducted operations from a base in Damascus, where he coordinates with Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite forces. In addition, the turning of the tide in favor of the Assad government is ascribed to the strategy outlined by Soleimani. His influence is wide-reaching and not limited to a single country in the Middle East.

In Iraq, Soleimani has been present in fighting against the ISIS forces. While not partnering with any western forces, the Major General has played a role in significant operations in attempts to take territory back from ISIS, such as Tikrit. He also helped defend the Kurdistan region from ISIS incursions. Individuals fighting with Soleimani describe him as “fearless”, sometimes even refusing to wear a flak jacket in battle.

However, as a result of his support for the Assad government, he was sanctioned by the United States’ government in 2011 as a known terrorist. The United Nations swiftly followed by placing their own sanctions on him. In traveling to Russia, Soleimani violated all sanctions against him, perhaps with aid from the Russian government, with whom the United States is already experiencing rough relations. Needless to say, the Iran-Russia dynamic provides problems for the United States long term.

The re-appearance of Soleimani in the realm of international relations isn’t a strong sign for US-Iran relations, even though the two are aiming for a reset through the recently-negotiated nuclear deal.  

Rubio would “absolutely” re-impose sanctions on Iran

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is seeking the 2016 Presidential nomination, took a center seat Thursday on the “Special Report” panel to discuss an earlier Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing where members of Congress questioned Secretary of State John Kerry on the Iran nuclear agreement.

“The centrifuges that they have now are quite frankly ancient,” said Rubio in response to Sen. Bob Corker’s earlier comments during the hearing that these same centrifuges were “antiques.”

“They now have less of them but the ones they’re going to have are going to be better and be able to expand that capability for years to come. The other is this down payment. This immediate signing bonus that you get. That the administration said today would be about 50 billion dollars and they think this money is going to be spent to rebuild the Iranian economy but in fact nothing in Iran’s track record suggests that.”

As Congress continues their 60-day review, President Barack Obama has promised to veto any vote against the deal. Kerry told the committee there is no "fantasy" alternative if the U.S. rejects the deal standing behind the notion that the deal will keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

“These are still in place but what the president is using is a national security waiver,” continued Rubio. “He’s in essence saying I’m using this waiver to prevent these sanctions from still being imposed. The next president could just lift that, with the stroke of a pen, lift that waiver and immediately re-impose sanctions. You can do that on day one in the first hour of your presidency, in the first week of your presidency.”

Bret Baier followed up by asking if “President Rubio” would re-impose sanctions immediately to which Rubio responded, “absolutely, and I said so today at the hearing.”

The Apple of Iran

By Emily Cyr, Summer College Associate

The idea of life without Apple Inc. is one that seems incomprehensible to most Americans. But in Iran, this is largely a reality, and one that may soon end.

With the recent Iran nuclear deal meant to lift the U.S. imposed economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran, there is talk of Apple expanding into the Iranian market. But this means more than just selling iPhones.

In February of 2014, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets issued General License D-1 for Iran, allowing the exportation of “certain services, software, and hardware incident to personal communications”. However, this is limited technology meant to provide greater information access to the people of Iran.

One concern expressed by the United States government is the use of Apple technologies for practices that are considered dangerous or unlawful. According to Apple’s Global Trade Compliance: “It is prohibited to allow certain countries to use Apple products in the design, development, production or use of nuclear, missiles, and chemical and biological weapons and technology without proper authorization from the U.S. Government.” The 22 countries exempt from this initiative include 17 European countries along with Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and Turkey.

According to a Wall Street Journal 2014 report, Apple would most likely not even be opening stores in Iran with this deal. The company hopes to sell Apple products through distributors, from which they will receive a portion of the profits. Though it seems like a small step into the market, it could bring great gains.

Iran has a population of about 80 million, with 32 million of its residents under the age of 30 and seeking western products. Combined with the new government easing up on internet censorship, and only about 11 million with mobile internet access, this means there is a substantial market in Iran, with room for growth.  

However, despite these lucrative prospects, Apple must be cautious for fear of a “snap back” if Iran fails to abide by the rules of the agreement. In fact, it could take nearly a year for Apple and other companies to begin business, since Iran must fully implement the terms of the agreement before western products can permeate Iran.

So for now, Apple may be keeping its interests domestic, after releasing its record $ 1.24 million spent on lobbying for the first quarter of 2015. And Iran will have to settle for Samsung and LG Electronics. 

Kasich: Obama Administration “In Love” With Iran Deal

Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) told viewers Tuesday  on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that with regard to the Obama Administration’s push for a nuclear deal with Iran,  “it's very dangerous to fall in love with your own idea. And, I think the administration has probably fallen in love with the fact that they want to get an agreement, and when people are hyperventilating and unable to get one, sometimes they go and they sign something that they shouldn't.”

Negotiators from Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States meeting in Vienna did not meet their self-imposed deadline on Tuesday for an agreement on a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, giving themselves until Friday to negotiate. Sticking points in reaching an agreement include Iranian demands for the lifting of a U.N. arms embargo and ballistic missiles sanctions, a timeframe for U.S. and EU sanctions relief, and future Iranian nuclear research and development.

Currently U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and  Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif remain in Vienna, but Kasich, who is expected to announce his candidacy for the Republican Presidential nomination on June 21, said that the Obama Administration is more preoccupied than getting any deal, rather than getting a good deal: “ Just remember Reagan in Reykjavik where Gorbachev said, look, get rid of all nuclear weapons, and I remember Reagan getting back in the car and saying ‘no, we're not gonna do that.’

“So, you have to have the strength to walk away. The problem, Bret, with all of this is just listen to our Arab friends who say, 'listen, if you give the Iranians all this cash by lifting the sanctions, they're going to fund Hamas. They're going to fund Hezbollah' who is the enemy to the Arab nations that we have things in common with. You know the proliferation of these weapons is really kind of unthinkable, and the consequences of that. So, I don't think it's a good agreement, I would leave the sanctions in place until I saw a determined change in what Iran is all about, so I think, I'm very concerned about this.”

IRAN: A few key points

From Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen

First, this is not a deal; it is the outline of a deal, and the technical experts for the seven countries (P5+1 and Iran) now have until June 30 to try to hammer out the fine print. As President Obama said in the Rose Garden: “our work is not yet done.  The deal has not been signed.”

Second, the reduction in the number of installed centrifuges, from 19,000 to 6,104, is significant – a reduction of roughly two-thirds – but we should remember that that was roughly the number of centrifuges Iran had installed when Barack Obama became president in 2009. As we have shown, roughly 75 percent of the centrifuges Iran has installed were installed on the Obama-Biden watch.

Also, earlier this week, Dr. Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director of the IAEA – one of the most respected arms control officials of his generation – told reporters that an agreement that enables roughly 6,500 centrifuges to remain in place would not have the effect of lengthening Iran’s “breakout time” (the length of time it would take Tehran to build a bomb if the regime abruptly nullified an agreement and made a mad dash for a weapons capability) from the current estimate of 60-90 days to one year, as the Obama administration claims the agreement does. Heinonen said on March 31: “[I]f there are 6,500 centrifuges remaining, installed and in operation, it might be difficult to get it to one year or longer, the breakout time. It will be clearly below [that]. And then we have to add all the uncertainties, the unknowns to this image: Are there some unknown nuclear materials? Are there some unknown centrifuges?”

Next: The fact sheet released by the State Department in Lausanne provides details of how IAEA inspections would work, including the ability of U.N. nuclear inspectors to have “regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities”; “continuous surveillance” of centrifuge rotors; and access to any sites deemed “suspicious” for whatever reason. But the provisions outlined do not appear to include snap inspections.

As part of the transparency provisions, Iran will “implement an agreed upon set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the possible military dimension (PMD) of its program.” The problem there is that the JPOA, the framework under which these negotiations have unfolded for the last sixteen months, provided that Iran was already supposed to do that – come clean to the IAEA about Tehran’s research a decade ago, into warhead design and re-entry vehicles. And that never happened. The IAEA certified that while Iran complied over the course of the negotiations, and still is, with its obligations to enrich only to certain levels, to dilute higher-enriched stockpiles down, etc., the IAEA has also certified that Iran has stonewalled on the PMD. President Obama in the Rose Garden papered over that: “Iran's past efforts to weaponize its program will be addressed” was all he said.

Finally, we refer to the president’s comments before the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum in December 2013, when these negotiations were just getting underway. He said then: “[W]e know that they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program.  They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program.” The abandonment of those positions shows how far the U.S. dialed back its negotiation posture over the course of the talks.

al-Qaeda's Secret Ties with Iran

New Docs Reveal Osama bin Laden's Secret Ties With Iran

Thomas Joscelyn

This week, prosecutors in New York introduced eight documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan as evidence in the trial of a terrorism suspect. The U.S. government accuses Abid Naseer of taking part in al Qaeda’s scheme to attack targets in Europe and New York City. And prosecutors say the documents are essential for understanding the scope of al Qaeda’s plotting.

More than 1 million documents and files were captured by the Navy Seals who raided bin Laden’s safe house in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011. One year later, in May 2012, the Obama administration released just 17 of them.

While there is some overlap between the files introduced as evidence in Brooklyn and those that were previously made public in 2012, much of what is in the trial exhibits had never been made public before.

The files do not support the view, promoted by some in the Obama administration, that bin Laden was in “comfortable retirement,” “sidelined,” or “a lion in winter” in the months leading up to his death. On the contrary, bin Laden is asked to give his order on a host of issues, ranging from the handling of money to the movement of terrorist operatives.

Some of the key revelations in the newly-released bin Laden files relate to al Qaeda’s dealings with Iran and presence in Afghanistan.

For the rest of this story please click here--


Obama’s Failure

Stephen F. Hayes

Barack Obama wants us all to simmer down about Iran. He wants Senator Bob Menendez, a fellow Democrat, and the donors he represents to butt out of the sanctions debate. He wants Republicans to quit crying wolf about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. He wants the media to stop hyping terror threats. He wants the American people in the dark about the secret correspondence he’s had for years with Iran’s supreme leader. He wants John Boehner to be mindful of protocol. And most of all, he wants Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop questioning his accommodationist approach to Tehran. 

With the breezy confidence that is his trademark, the president has repeatedly delivered a reassuring message on Iran to the country and the world: Trust me.

With respect, Mr. President: No.

From the earliest moments of his first term, Obama sought to convince the country that threats from our erstwhile enemies were overblown. He forged an approach to jihadist attacks and rogue regimes meant to be a stark contrast from that of his predecessor. He ended the war on terror, quietly sought rapprochement with radical Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban, and ostentatiously undertook a more conciliatory approach to terror-sponsoring regimes like Syria and Iran.

Notwithstanding periodic drone strikes on bad guys, Obama has demonstrated repeatedly that his instinct is to ignore, dismiss, or downplay threats to the United States and its interests and allies. The record over six years is a long list of mistaken judgments, awkward euphemisms, and false assurances.

To read the rest of this story please click here--

And you probably read this months ago, but 

Al Qaeda Wasn’t ‘on the Run’
Why haven’t we seen the documents retrieved in the bin Laden raid?

Steve Hayes

The initial scrub took several weeks. It was never meant to be comprehensive. “It was more data-mining than analysis,” says one intelligence official with knowledge of the project. Researchers and analysts searched the documents for key names, phone numbers, and addresses that could be used by U.S. troops to target senior al Qaeda leaders. In subsequent congressional testimony, James Clapper, director of national intelligence, reported that there were “over 400 intelligence reports that were issued in the initial aftermath immediately after the raid.”

Then the document exploitation stopped. According to sources with detailed knowledge of the handling of the documents, the CIA did little to build on the project after the initial burst of intelligence reports. 

Officials at the Defense Intelligence Agency and CENTCOM responsible for providing analysis to U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan wanted to study the documents. But the CIA had “executive authority” over the collection and blocked any outside access to them. 

The ensuing bureaucratic fight, reminiscent of the intragovernment battles that led to the reorganization of the intelligence community after 9/11, unfolded over the spring and fall of 2011. It was resolved, at least temporarily, when then-CIA director David Petraeus weighed in on behalf of the team from CENTCOM and the DIA, a move that did little to improve his standing with the CIA bureaucracy. Petraeus was angry when he learned that the CIA hadn’t been actively exploiting the documents, and as the former head of CENTCOM, he was sympathetic to the pleas from military intelligence. The dispute made its way to Clapper, who met with representatives of the warring agencies and agreed that DIA and CENTCOM should be allowed to study the documents.

For the rest of this story please click here-- 


House approves measure to deny Iranian diplomat visa for UN

The House of Representatives ok'd a bill by unanimous consent to deny a visa for Hamid Aboutalebi. Iran has appointed Aboutalebi to be its Ambassador to the United Nations. But he was a player in the Iranian uprising which seized the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and took American hostage for 444 days.

The Senate approved by unanimous consent a measure to deny a visa for Aboutalebi earlier this week. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) crafted the plan.

More on this story tonight from correspondent Eric Shawn on Special Report--



Kerry's testimony on Iran nuclear deal: what to expect

--The hearing is slotted for 3 hours and there should be votes on the House floor around 4 pm et.
--House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the top Democrat on the panel, will have opening   statements which each run five minutes.
--Kerry will then have a five-minute opening statement...but could go longer.
--Each member will get one round of 5 minutes with Kerry after that, starting with Royce and Engel and then alternating between the sides.
--We also expect some comments and questions on uprisings in Ukraine.
--Members from both sides of the aisle are not pleased with the Iran deal and Kerry is imploring Congress (especially the Senate) to not impose a new sanctions regime on Tehran for fear that would blow up the accord brokered in Geneva.



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