Tag Archives: Iran

Trump appoints the right team to regain the Middle East

45919911

The Trump administration is dedicated to undoing the harm done by the Obama administration in the Iran Deal. To succeed, it needs the right team.

Relatively few people have heard of the Center for Security Policy. That’s about to change because it is playing a prominent, if not dominant role, in the Trump transition team in matters relating to Iran, Russia, China and Islam. Gone from the corridors of power is the Brookings Institution, who have a satellite office in Doha, Qatar along with their Vice President and Director for Foreign Policy, Martin Indyk.  Soon, President Obama, the golfer, Secretary Kerry, the bicyclist and Secretary Clinton, the failure, will also be gone.

The CSP is a think tank created and led by Frank Gaffney, Jr. He formerly acted as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy during the Reagan Administration, following four years of service as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy. Previously, he was a professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee under the chairmanship of the late Senator John Tower, and a national security legislative aide to the late Senator Henry M. Jackson.

The background of other staff members may be found here. Of particular note are Fred Fleitz and Clare Lopez.

Mr. Fleitz served in U.S. national security positions for 25 years at the CIA, DIA, Department of State and the House Intelligence Committee staff.  During the administration of President George W. Bush, Mr. Fleitz was chief of staff to John Bolton, then Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.  During his tenure with the House Intelligence Committee, he was the staff expert on the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs and briefed key National Intelligence Estimates on these issues to committee members.

Ms. Lopez, among other credits, is the author of an acclaimed paper for the Center, The Rise of the Iran Lobby, and co-author/editor of the Center’s Team B II study, Shariah: The Threat to America, as well as The Tiger Team’s The Secure Freedom Strategy: A Plan for Victory Over the Global Jihad Movement.  She co-authored Gulen and the Gulenist Movement with CSP’s Vice President for Outreach, Christopher Holton, and See No Shariah: ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ and the Disarming of America’s First Line of Defense with Frank Gaffney.

Finally, Alex VanNess is the Director of the Middle East Peace and Security Policy at the Center for Security Policy.  He writes extensively on issues relating to U.S. defense spending, the U.S./Israel strategic relationship, and the existential threats posed by Islamic fundamentalism.

Closely associated with them is the newly appointed National Security AdviserGen Michael T Flynn. He had been Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency until Pres Obama forced him to resign because of his vocal opposition to the Iran Deal and his belief that the Islamists were stronger than ever. He recently wroteField of Flight in which he forcefully argues that the Islamist ideology must be defeated in order to defeat the Islamists.

All of them have positions of influence due to their recognition that the Islamist ideology embodied in Sharia and Jihad must be defeated.

Israel

During the Bush administration and before, AIPAC was a powerful force in Washington. With the Election of President Obama and the creation of J Street, it began to lose considerable power. It no longer was the sole voice for American Jewry. In addition, the Democratic Party, which was its power base, was moving to the left and away from supporting Israel.
With the election of Donald J Trump, it lost even more influence due to the fact that a big majority of American Jews voted for Clinton and were anti-Trump. In addition, its public policies are to the left of Trump, leaving them in an awkward position. They would have to support settlements and be flexible on the Two-State solution to be of any value to Israel. I don’t see that happening.

On the other hand, the Zionist Organization of America, which had been shunned by Obama, is replacing AIPAC as the leading Jewish voice. Its policies are totally aligned with those of the Trump administration in the making. And, of course, so are the views of the soon to be appointed US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, an Orthodox Jew who supports the settlement enterprise and annexation of all or part of the West Bank. Also, Trump’s son in law, Jared Kushner an orthodox Jew is slated to be one of his key advisers on Israel and he too is supportive of the settlement enterprise.

On Dec 15/16, at an elegant gala in New York City, the Center for Security Policy conferred awards on Rom Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the United States and Mort Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America. Judge Jeanine Pirro, a stalwart supporter of Trump and Israel, introduced them.  Video messages from Caroline Glick and David Horowitz were viewed. And many other people who are in the frontlines of fighting Islamists were in attendance.

The first priority for the Trump administration is to neuter the Iran Deal. DEBKAreported that the Trump team is drawing up a deal more to its liking, which will probably remove any possibility of Iran getting a bomb in 10 years and require them to abandon terror and terror groups. To get them to agree, the US has to have leverage. Russia is the key to this. But why should Russia agree?  She obviously has to be induced.

It is in the interests of the US and Israel that Russia and Iran not get full control of Syria and Iraq unless an enforceable agreement can be reached akin to a peace agreement. It’s either that or force must be mustered to stop them. As part of that agreement Israel would get to keep the Golan and Syria would agree to create a large buffer where no military activities would be allowed. That buffer would also extend to the land adjacent to Jordan.

In any scenario, the US must fully embrace Israel as a partner. The US has no military presence in the Middle East outside of a few aircraft carriers.  Thus, the presence of the Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) on the front lines greatly strengthens the US’s ability to project power immediately. This will add to her leverage.

It is also in the interests or the US to strengthen Israel by supporting a solution to the Palestinian problem in which Israel gets to annex all of Judea and Samaria (West Bank). The Palestinians would get autonomy only. Plus, the US must get the UN and the EU off Israel’s back. This will normalize Israel and enable her to play a larger regional role to the benefit of the US.

Furthermore, as ISIS is brought to heel in Syria and Iraq, it will foster terror cells all over the world. Gen. Flynn is tasked with not only defeating ISIS but defeating the Islamic ideology that fuels it. Israel, who has the most experience in fighting terrorism and the best intelligence, will be of great help and a willing partner. All the more reason, she must be normalized.

Finally, strengthening cyber security has become a national imperative. Once again Israel is one of the leading experts.

With these challenges in mind, President-Elect Trump has surrounded himself with the right people.

First there is the team at CSP who are dedicated to defeating the radical Islamic ideology who will support Gen Michael T. Flynn in this endeavor. This is of particular importance if the State Department is not cooperative. It will lessen dependence on it.

He has embraced strong Zionists, including ZOA, Friedman and Kushner who can help and direct him in how best to normalize Israel.

Finally he has nominated Rex Tillerson to be his Secretary of State.   Who better to find a way to bring Russia on board?

Iran’s Theater of Operations in Latin America

ayatollah-ali-khamenei

In Iran’s Strategic Penetration of Latin America (Lexington Books, 2014) authors and global security experts Joseph Humire and Ilan Berman elaborate on Kelly’s position with a collection of essays that provides an alarming look at Iran’s penetration of Latin America. That activity began in 1979 as part of Iran’s overall strategy to seek global power and develop nuclear weapons. Latin American experts featured in this revealing volume detail how Iran’s infiltration of Latin America has been pursued under the cover of commercial activities and cultural exchanges and has been aided by an alliance and shared militancy with the Latin American Left. The experts maintain that, over more than three decades, Iran has been able to forge strong economic, political, and strategic links to the region.

As the authors explain, Iran began its strategic infiltration of Latin America in 1982. International proxy groups exported Muslim revolutionary ideas using a global network of embassies and mosques under the cover of legitimate commerce and diplomatic, cultural, and religious associations. In this way, the Islamic regime concealed its intelligence activities, claimed diplomatic immunity and gained access to backdoor channels and local governments. Iran’s operatives traveled throughout the region unifying and radicalizing Islamic communities and recruiting, proselytizing and indoctrinating young Latin Americans.

Editor Joseph Humire recounts that in 1983 the regime sent an emissary, Mohsen Rabbani, an Iranian cleric, as a commercial attaché to set up a trade agreement with Argentina, ostensibly to supply halal-certified meat to the Islamic Republic. Rabbani, who in 1994 would become the primary architect of a terrorist attack in Buenos Aires, fostered alliances with local Shiite Muslims, as well as radical activists who wanted to shift power away from democratic alliances and U.S. influence. Trade with Iran helped these activists buy political patronage to advance authoritarian rule and enabled them to funnel mass social spending into their countries and influence elections. As Islamic terrorist entities such as Iran’s proxy, Hizb’allah, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) moved into the region, they joined with local radical groups such as FARC and Shining Path in their anti-Americanism and hatred of Jews and Israel.

The authors explore how, with a large Muslim population in place spewing hatred toward Israel, attention focused on the largest Jewish population in South America, the 230,000 Jews in Argentina. In 1992, a Hizb’allah-linked terrorist group claimed responsibility for bombing the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. In 1994, Hizb’allah committed the deadliest bombing in Argentine history when it bombed the AMIA Jewish community center also in Buenos Aires, killing 89 people and injuring hundreds.

The essay collection insightfully examines the role of Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez. After becoming president in 1999, he forged a close relationship with Iran and hailed Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hizb’allah, as a hero. He also demanded criminal prosecution for Israel’s leader, Ariel Sharon, and President George W. Bush for mass murder. Chavez was able to help Iran overcome the hurdles of economic sanctions and engage in both licit and illicit commercial activity, including acquisition of strategic minerals for nuclear weapons development, drug trafficking, and money laundering. Chavez filled his cabinet with Islamists and became a close partner with then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. According to the authors, during this period Iranian influence in Latin American countries increased significantly.

Chavez worked closely with Fidel Castro, the first leader to recognize the Islamic republic and to invite Iran to open in Havana its first Latin American embassy. Together, Chavez and Castro sponsored a socialist “Bolivarian Revolution” to establish a “new world order” in which Latin America was part of a global revolution, not unlike the one in Iran. In 2004, they founded the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America or ALBA.

In Iran’s Strategic Penetration of Latin America, the authors examine how, over a decade, ALBA grew in strategic importance in Latin America and helped cause the backsliding of democratic reforms in the region. ALBA’s goal was to create a Latin American coalition under Venezuelan and Cuban rule using non-state actors and transnational organized crime to bring about a post-American world. In 2010, Iran and Syria were admitted to the organization as observer states. Chavez worked with Iran and Hizb’allah to train his military in asymmetric warfare, the use of insurgency forces against established armies. Iran financed an ALBA military training school in Bolivia, as well as Hizb’allah training centers in other countries. Hizb’allah became heavily involved in drug trafficking and money laundering in the tri-border area of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. It made millions of dollars, sending cocaine from Mexico and Columbia to the Middle East and Europe. Hizb’allah used its presence in Latin America to raise money for its global operations from the Lebanese and Syrian diasporas and to recruit, indoctrinate and proselytize among the Latin American population.

Iran accrued great benefit from its relationship with the ALBA nations. Diplomatically, they stood against sanctions on Iran and tried to subvert any attempts to isolate the Islamic republic. They provided Iran with a media platform in the region and supported Iran’s rejection of nuclear weapons scrutiny from the International Atomic Energy Agency. Additionally, through ALBA, Iran skirted international sanctions and evaded financial authorities by launching front companies, laundering money and injecting cash into the financial systems of ALBA countries for lucrative, commercial, and criminal enterprises.

Iran’s Strategic Penetration of Latin America does a good job of providing an overall picture of Iran’s infiltration of South and Central America and the Caribbean. It also raises the question of what the future holds for the region. Since the death of Chavez and the economic decline in Venezuela and other Latin American countries, the trajectory of Iran-Latin America relations has shifted. Iran retains commercial interests in many countries in the area and is working to strengthen its political and economic ties. It continues to maintain its innocence in the AMIA bombing, despite substantial evidence to the contrary and heightened negative publicity from the suspicious death of chief prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, in January 2015. Many Latin American countries are wary of Iran’s influence, regional intelligence gathering and its status as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Donald Trump’s election may signal a game change in the region. Trump has emphatically and repeatedly stated his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal which calls up possible reimposition of sanctions. Similarly, a ruling by Columbia’s Constitutional Court to allow expedited congressional approval for a peace accord with the Hizb’allah-allied terrorist group, FARC, could limit the previously fertile ground for Islamic terrorism in South America. Additionally, the presence of increasingly Euro-friendly regimes in Argentina, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil, could constitute welcome impediments to Iran’s continued hold on power in the region. Finally, and most optimistically, with retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly as the nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security, Iran’s use of Latin America as a nexus for terrorist operations could be dramatically curtailed, if not eliminated outright.

#Yemen: Iran Backed Houthi launch ballistic missile at Mecca

Yemen’s Houthi militia launched a ballistic missile toward Mecca on Thursday, the Saudi-led coalition intervening in Yemen’s civil war on behalf of the government said in a statement.

Coalition forces destroyed the missile 65 km (40 miles) from the holy city before it could do any damage, and retaliated against the launch site inside Yemen, said the statement, carried on the state news agency SPA. Mecca is home to the most sacred sites in Islam, including the Grand Mosque.

The Shi’ite Muslim Houthis confirmed the launch of a Burkan-1 ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia in a statement on their official news agency, but said it had been aimed at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, the kingdom’s busiest airport.

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council denounced the missile attack.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates, a member of the coalition and the GCC, pointed the finger at Iran, which backs the Houthis.

“The Iranian regime is supporting a terrorist group that fires its rockets on Mecca, is this an Islamic regime as it claims?” he tweeted.

The coalition has been fighting Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who control much of the north of Yemen including the capital Sanaa, since March 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, now in exile.

(Reporting by Omar Fahmy and Ahmed Tolba in Cairo; Writing by Katie Paul and Rania El Gamal; Editing by Kevin Liffey)