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Working for International Dialogue and Peace
Trump appears ready to break away from Washington’s anti-Russia consensus, but he remains a prisoner of the anti-Iran consensus. This is the central contradiction of his emerging foreign policy. He wisely insists that fighting Islamist radicalism must be America’s priority in the Middle East, and that since the Russians agree, we should cooperate with them. Yet Iran is more militantly opposed to ISIS than any country on earth. That makes sense, since most Iranians are Shia Muslims and ISIS wants to kill every Shia. A consistent anti-ISIS policy would be based on cooperation with Russia and Iran. If the time has come to try reconciliation with one, the same is true for the other. ››read more
From the outset, the group advocated violence. Among the MeK’s many terrorist operations in the 1970s were bombings and shootings directed against American military personnel stationed in Iran—three U.S. colonels were killed during this period, as were three contractors. There was an attempted kidnapping of the U.S. ambassador to Iran, an assassination attempt against the general heading the U.S. military mission, as well as attacks against Iranian facilities belonging to General Motors, Shell Oil, Pepsi, Pan Am Airlines and others. When the revolution occurred, the MeK joined forces with the religious hard-liners looking to overthrow the regime. The group supported the takeover of the U.S. embassy in November 1979, and, according to some eyewitnesses, MeK members took part. ››read more
Pompeo, however, fought tooth and nail to prevent the deal from being struck. In a 2014 roundtable with reporters, he downplayed the costs of bombing Iran as an alternative to negotiations, stating “In an unclassified setting, it is under 2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity. This is not an insurmountable task for the coalition forces.” Few believe that such a bombing campaign, however, would do anything but further destabilize the region, delay Iran’s nuclear capabilities by a few years and incentivize an Iranian nuclear deterrent. In his statement on July 14, 2015, the day the nuclear accord was reached, Rep. Pompeo argued that Iran “is intent on the destruction of our country,” and said “[t]his deal allows Iran to continue its nuclear program - that’s not foreign policy; it’s surrender.” Such hyperbole might have made for good rhetoric in Congress, but does not amount to serious analysis. ››read more
Administration officials do not believe Mr. Trump would overtly pull out of the deal. Their concern is more that it would fall apart due to attempts by the incoming administration to renegotiate pieces of it, expanding sanctions against Iran unrelated to its nuclear program, or neglect. Aaron David Miller, a Middle East expert at the Wilson Center, a think tank in Washington, said the Iran deal is “uniquely vulnerable” and requires constant attention because it is not a treaty and has faced significant opposition in the U.S. and Iran. ››read more
As this author has argued in a previous article, "The Iran Nuclear Accord is Legally Binding," there is a widespread misperception of the JCPOA in both policy and academic circles as "legally non-binding" political agreement, which must be debunked and deconstructed with the help of sound leqal, theoretical and methodological insights. A major vulnerability of such interpretations of the JCPOA is that they often evaluate the agreement from the prism of its authors, some of whom like the US Secretary of State John Kerry have gone on record portraying the accord as "legally non-binding." Others, such as international law expert Daniel Joyner, have reached the same conclusion, but only by examining the JCPOA independent of its UN dimension, reflected in Resolution 2231, which agrees to the commitments made by the parties and calls on them to observe the various timetable of the accord, such as the implementation day, the conclusion day, etc. ››read more
A shadowy advocacy group called the 45 Committee has begun running television ads hyping the Iran threat as well, urging viewers to call President Obama to support the Iran Sanctions Act Extension, which was also passed in the House this week. That bill, sponsored by Rep. Ed Royce, would extend US sanctions on Iran for another 10 years. The passage of the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act, then, should be seen as part and parcel of a broader attempt by congressional and incoming administration hardliners (encouraged by the Likud and Sunni Gulf state lobbies inside the Beltway) to contain what they perceive as Iranian expansionist designs in the Middle East. ››read more
Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s nominee as CIA director, is a fierce critic of the Iran nuclear deal and wants to restore surveillance programmes stopped after the Edward Snowden revelations. A three-term Congressman from Kansas and graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Mr Pompeo has been one of the more hawkish members of the House Republican caucus on foreign affairs. ››read more
Yes, he attacked Republican rivals and Hillary Clinton for supporting the Iraq and Libya wars. But Trump only opposes past wars. When those wars began, Trump was a cheerleader. He criticized nation-building but praised the Iraq surge, and suggested plundering Iraq’s oil. He sensibly criticized Clinton for wanting to depose Bashar al-Assad in Syria but supports heavier bombing. Trump’s election also boosts the odds of war with Iran. Like most Republicans, Trump says we should withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. That would likely further destabilize the region and put Iran back on the path to building nuclear weapons. Most Congressional Republicans would then likely advocate bombing. Trump hasn’t explicitly agreed, but his rhetoric isn’t reassuring. ››read more
On the news that Donald Trump has asked Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to be his national security adviser, I decided to look up Flynn’s testimony on Iran before the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa on June 10, 2015. That was just a month beforethe P5+1 and Iran concluded the the Iran nuclear deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). What I found was pretty shocking and deserves wide dissemination. I knew that Flynn was pretty much of an Islamophobe, but I didn’t know to what extent he appears also to be an Iranophobe as well.
The White House said in a statement this week that Obama would veto the House measure. It is “profoundly in the national security interest of the United States” to keep commitments made in the Iran nuclear accord as long as Tehran keeps its promises, the administration’s statement said. The administration said the restriction on Ex-Im financing was unacceptable. “The sweeping and vague nature of this provision would have a chilling effect on U.S. and non-U.S. entities seeking to engage in permissible business with Iran,” the White House said. ››read more
“The only long-term solution is regime change in Tehran,” the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Daily on Thursday morning. “The ayatollahs are the principal threat to international peace and security in the Middle East.” The call for regime change is very much in line with past statements from Bolton, a hyper-hawkish Bush administration official who stands by the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. He has repeatedly urged the U.S. to help Israel bomb Iran or do it alone. Even as Iran was in the final stages of negotiating an international agreement that requires it to dramatically scale back its nuclear infrastructure, Bolton recommended a military attack. Thursday’s remark suggests that he has no plans to tone down his adventurist foreign policy views, which run counter to Trump’s repeated promises to focus resources domestically and to avoid unnecessary entanglements abroad. ››read more
Donald Trump’s rumored picks for key foreign-policy positions have already set off alarm bells about the future administration’s embrace of war hawks and Islamophobes. Today, Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin pointed out that former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is currently reported to be under consideration for an appointment to secretary of state or attorney general, potentially violated the law when he made paid speaking appearances for the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), when the State Department listed the Iranian dissident group as a foreign terrorist organization. ››read more
President-elect Donald Trump spent much of his campaign railing against the Iran nuclear deal, even raising the possibility of scrapping the agreement immediately upon taking office. But many of the deal’s most ardent critics are now saying: "Slow down." As the reality of Donald Trump's White House win sinks in among nuclear deal opponents, some are insisting that pulling out of the agreement is unwise. Instead, they say, Trump should step up enforcement of the deal, look for ways to renegotiate it, and pursue measures to punish Iran for its non-nuclear misbehavior. Such a multi-pronged, get-tough approach may even give Trump cover to fend off any criticism he may get for keeping the deal. ››read more
Gingrich is just one among a broad array of political influentials with concrete ties to MEK, a well-funded lobbying group aggressively promoting U.S. military confrontation with Iran. The group stands accused of torturing its members and believes that Maryam Rajavi is Iran’s rightful leader — members refer to her as “president elect.” MEK's relationship to powerbrokers in Washington has taken on new significance as Gingrich assumes a powerful role as vice chair of the executive committee of Donald Trump’s transition team and eyes a likely position in the president's cabinet. ››read more
Gaffney suggested that Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the time, was submitting to Sharia when Petraeus condemned the burning of a Quran by a Florida pastor. Gaffney has accused a bipartisan array of political elites of being secretly tied to the Islamist organization known as the Muslim Brotherhood, including longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and conservative heavyweights Grover Norquist and Suhail Khan. Gaffney has objected to Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.) serving on the House Intelligence Committee because they are Muslim and therefore, he said, likely to leak information to the Muslim Brotherhood. ››read more
Paul argued that Giuliani and Bolton, the people whose names have circulated most widely, “have made it clear that they favor bombing Iran.” Choosing either for a key administration job, he said, would go back on the “America First” foreign policy that helped Trump win the Republican primaries, to the surprise of the Republican Party foreign-policy establishment. “I’m hoping that if there’s a public discussion of this before it happens, people in the incoming administration realize that regime change made us less safe and the Iraq War made us less safe,” Paul said. “We don’t need, as our chief diplomat, someone whose idea of diplomacy is dropping bombs.” ››read more
In 2011 and 2012, Giuliani gave several speeches, including at events inside the congressional office buildings, calling on the State Department to take the MEK off of the list of foreign terrorist organizations. He also heavily criticized the U.S. government’s effort to help relocate MEK members when the Iraqi government evicted them from Camp Ashraf.
In March 2012, Giuliani traveled to Paris to speak at an MEK conference alongside the group’s secretive leader Maryam Rajavi. While there, he called the U.S. military base in Iraq where the United States wanted to relocate the MEK a “concentration camp.” Those comments later appeared in an MEK ad in the New York Times. That same month, the Treasury Department’s investigation into the payments made to American politicians became public when former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell admitted that he had received a subpoena related to his work on behalf of the MEK. It’s illegal for American citizens to do business with a group designated as a foreign terrorist organization. ››read more
Seventy-six national security experts urged President-elect Donald J. Trump on Monday to reverse his hostility to the nuclear agreement signed with Iran last year and to use it as a tool to ease other tensions with the country. A report signed by the experts, including former officials from both major political parties, argued that the nuclear agreement had reduced the threat of war in the Middle East. Mr. Trump has called the nuclear agreement a foreign-policy disaster. He vowed during his campaign to renegotiate or renounce the deal, one of President Obama’s signature achievements. ››read more
Post-election comments on Middle East policy last week by President-elect Donald Trump and one his campaign advisers have provoked speculation about whether Trump will upend two main foreign policy lines of the Obama administration in the Middle East.
The day after Trump’s election, Woolsey was interviewed by the CBC and asked about U.S. national security priorities. Woolsey responded that it was necessary “to get straight who our friends and adversaries are.” He asserted that “Israel is our friend,” while he called Iran “the world’s leading terrorist state” and insisted that the nuclear agreement with Iran “is so bad it needs to go.”  Tehran reached a deal with world powers (including the U.S.) on its nuclear program in July 2015. The Israel lobby has reportedly been trying to undermine the agreement ever since by linking Iran with ISIS terrorism.  ››read more