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September 25, 2016 / 22 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Jerusalem Iranian Synagogue Defaced with Crosses

Monday, September 12th, 2016

Jerusalem Police received a report overnight Monday about crosses that were spray painted in black on the front wall and windows of the Koresh synagogue run by Iranian Jews at 34 Yossi Ben Yoezer Street in the Katamon section of Jerusalem. Police investigators and a forensic team arrived at the site.

The synagogue, named Koresh – Mishkan Shalom l’yotzei Iran (Cyrus – abode of peace for Iranian newcomers), is named after the Persian king who allowed Babylonian Jews to return to Israel after the first Exile.

The Iranian Jewish community maintains a close relationship with its brethren in Israel, as part of a tradition that began with the Babylonian exile, when the Jewish community of Iranian started to send a messenger to Israel, to check whether the Jews had started to return to the Land of Israel in order for them to also come back. Israeli Jews of Iranian descent also have a deep connection to Iran, and many continue to use Farsi.

According to a BBC report, Israel Radio broadcasts daily to Iran in Farsi. Twice a week Menashe Amir, a Persian Israeli, hosts a talk show with callers from Iran, the vast majority of whom are Muslim. The show attracts two to six million listeners every day from a country where the Jewish community is estimated at 20,000.

“I would say if 10 people are calling us from Iran, only one is talking about destroying Israel or death to Israel,” Amir told the BBC back in 2007. The Iranian callers aren’t allowed to call Israel directly, and they phone a number in Germany from which they are patched through to the Jerusalem studio.

David Israel

Has US Laundered $33 billion in Cash Deliveries to Iran since January 2014?

Monday, September 12th, 2016

{Originally posted to the Liberty Unyielding website}

Americans were startled to discover, at the beginning of August, that the release of frozen funds to Iran in January 2016, at the same time as a prisoner exchange, had been accomplished by money-laundering cash.

At the time, the public was told that $400 million of the $1.7 billion frozen-funds settlement had been paid out with pallets of cash, converted into foreign currencies and literally flown into Iran on an unmarked Iranian plane from Switzerland.

That was unsavory enough: running a “prisoner exchange” with Iran like a cartel drug deal.

Obama, naturally, mocked his critics for being upset about it:

Obama explained that pallets of cash were used in the exchange because the United States doesn’t have a banking relationship with Iran.

“[W]e couldn’t send them a check, and we could not wire the money,” he said during a press conference at the Pentagon today.

He insisted that the administration was transparent about the payments to Iran, even though the knowledge about the manner of the payment was not previously disclosed. But Obama mocked the notion that the new details made any difference.

“It is not at all clear to me why it is that cash, as opposed to a check or a wire transfer has made this into a new story,” he said. “Maybe because it kind of feels like some kind of spy novel or you know, some you know, crime novel because cash was exchanged.”

Earlier this week, the public learned that the entire $1.7 billion had been transferred to Iran by the same method, on 17 and 22 January and 5 February.  Instead of one cartel drug-deal drop, there were three.

A Treasury Department official offered this delightfully spun perspective:

The Treasury Department confirmed late Tuesday that the subsequent payments were also made in cash.

“The form of those principal and interest payments—made in non-U.S. currency, in cash—was necessitated by the effectiveness of U.S. and international sanctions regimes over the last several years in isolating Iran from the international financial system,” Treasury spokeswoman Dawn Selak said.

So, basically, we had isolated Iran so effectively that the only way for the U.S. government to do business with Iran was to make like “El Chapo” Guzman.

Reportedly, the cash deliveries were accomplished with the collusion of the central banks of Switzerland and the Netherlands.  Those banks would most likely have obtained at least some of the cash from big commercial banks.

If the foreign countries and/or banks did this on their own, they’d be in violation of the remaining, unlifted U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism sponsorship.  Our terrorism sanctions on Iran are separate from the nuclear-related sanctions.  And cash is untraceable, in terms of how Iran goes on to spend it.  The Iranians could well use any euro or other foreign note they get to buy more terrorism.  (They could use it for other dangerous things too, but it would very specifically violate the sanctions we are still supposedly enforcing, if the cash were used to pay for terror-related activities.)

The U.S. government could thus, under our law, go after the financial interests these foreign entities have in the United States, prosecuting them and potentially imposing fines or even jail time, especially for any Americans involved.  We could prohibit our businesses from doing business with them, as we have done numerous times in recent decades.

But the implication here is that, since it’s the U.S. government doing the cash-laundering, everything’s OK.

That does raise the question why – if it was so OK – Obama didn’t just explain to Congress and the American people that things were being done this way.  If this is all just fine because the government is doing it (and there are times it could be; see below), why all the coy secrecy?

But when did this start?

It now appears that that question will be overshadowed by the next one.  How long has the Obama administration been laundering cash to deliver to Iran, and how much has been processed that way?

The question has been raised in Congress this week, after the revelation that the entire $1.7 billion was paid to Iran in laundered cash.  Since January 2014, Iran has been allowed to receive $700 million per month in payment settlements for foreign oil and gas sales, under the terms of the initial “Joint Plan of Action” (JPA) agreed to in November 2013, as an interim step in the nuclear negotiations.  (The cash deliveries in January 2016 came with implementation of the more recent JCPOA, concluded in July 2015.)

Throughout that time, the terrorism sanctions on Iran have remained in place.  That means it has been illegal to transfer cash by any means to prohibited entities in Iran, including the banks.  It still is illegal, even though Obama has done it on three known occasions now.

Since transferring that $700 million a month in cash to Iranian banks would have been illegal under U.S. law, Congress wants to know how it was done.  And keep in mind, the Obama administration (a) hasn’t explained that, and (b) has so far demonstrated only the model of laundered-cash deliveries as a method.

Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies framed the question for Congress in testimony to the House Financial Services Committee this week.  (His formal statement is here.)

Lawmakers and others are now pressing the administration to disclose how a slew of other payments to Iran were made in the years leading up to the final nuclear accord.

“In July, the Associated Press cited U.S. officials who estimated that Iran ‘brought home less than $20 billion.’ [I.e., from the earlier monthly payments allowed under the JPA, along with access to some other funds authorized by the 2013 agreement. – J.E.] Were these funds repatriated to Tehran in cash or in gold and precious metals? Through the formal financial system? Or through some combination?” Dubowitz asked in his testimony before the House Financial Services Committee.

“The administration should also clarify if the $20 billion dollars is inclusive of the $11.9 billion in [Joint Plan of Action] funds, or if the $20 billion was in addition to the $11.9 billion,” he said. “Either way, it is important to understand how funds were sent. The worst-case scenario here is that Iran may have received as much as $33.6 billion in cash or in gold and other precious metals.”

Dubowitz’s points alone highlight how vague the Obama administration has been about the whole situation.  We literally don’t know if the total amount was $20 billion, or if it was over 50% more than that.  We don’t know how much was in readily spendable cash, and could have gone into things like arming Hamas to attack Israel in 2014, arming the Houthi insurgency in Yemen, attacking U.S.-backed forces in Syria, and funding the S-300 air defense system and Iran’s own weapons development efforts.

Plus – bonus! – we don’t know if the administration has been complicit in laundering the monthly payments in a manner similar to the drug-deal drops in 2016.  From Adam Kredo at WFB again:

The cash payment of $1.7 billion earlier this year was the easiest way to ensure Iran got immediate access to the money, according to [Obama administration] officials.

“Iran had to have it in cash,” Paul Ahern, assistant general counsel for enforcement and intelligence at the Treasury Department, told lawmakers. “Iran was very aware of the difficulties it would face in accessing and using the funds if they were in any other form than cash, even after the lifting of sanctions.”

A cash delivery “was the most reliable way that they received the funds in a timely manner and it was the manner preferred by the relative foreign banks,” Ahren said.

Given the situation, it is likely that the multiple past payments to Iran were conducted in a similar fashion, according to Dubowitz.

The alternatives we had

(1) In political, or policy, terms, the obvious alternative to just paying out $700 million a month to the Iranians starting in January 2014 was to make payments contingent on performance.  The same applies to the $1.7 billion laundered separately in 2016.  The terrorism sanctions have never been lifted.  If we weren’t going to lift them, then compliance with their terms should have been demanded before those funds transfers were made to Iran.

Yes, that almost certainly would have meant either a substantially different agreement in November 2013, or no agreement at all.   But since Iran basically ignored the 2013 JPA and continued to advance her nuclear weapons capability throughout the period November 2013-July 2015, it would be highly misleading to suggest that we’d have lost much that way.  (See here, here, here, and here for starters.)

(2) In terms of mere instrumentality, Mark Dubowitz points out, meanwhile – and several congressmen noted they were fully aware – that a mechanism exists already under U.S. law for transferring funds to Iran for limited purposes, including, specifically, the payment of claims under the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal.  The $1.7 billion was paid under those auspices, since it related to a longstanding Iranian claim from before 1979.

The Obama administration has argued that it had no means other than pallets of cash to make the $1.7 billion in payments.  But Dubowitz believes otherwise (FDD research memo, Sep 2016, p. 5):

The administration’s argument is undercut by the sanctions regulations it supposedly relies upon. Individuals and entities (including U.S. and foreign banks) involved in facilitating these transfers are likely not exposed to sanctions-violation risks because all transactions necessary for settling claims under the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal are permitted according to the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations.  In fact, this license allows direct transactions between the U.S. and Iranian financial systems for the purposes of Claims Tribunal settlements. Under this provision, Washington did not need to transfer the funds to Iran via a foreign bank, nor did the funds need to be transferred in cash. Washington can legally execute the payment without needing to circumvent the sanctions architecture, as administration officials implied was necessary.

And there’s more, directly from Dubowitz’s testimony (p. 4).

Even in the absence of this explicit license in the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, the president has authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to authorize banks to facilitate these transactions. Indeed, nearly 3,000 special licenses are granted every year for sales of food, medicine, and other humanitarian-related goods into Iran. Thus, the transfer of funds in cash on pallets to Iran was legally unnecessary. In fact, as the Associated Press reports, there is no precedent for the transfer of such a large quantity of cash in modern American history.

Using this authority openly could actually have been an exact fit for waiving the $700 million monthly settlements under the JPA.  Foreign banks could have handled the transactions without fear of triggering a U.S. Treasury response.

And yet still there’s more, on page 5.

There is, however, a clear precedent for using the formal financial system to transfer money pursuant to claims after the 1979 Iranian revolution. One example is the resolution of the case surrounding the accidentally downed Iran Air Flight 655 in July 1988.  According to the Associated Press, although it ultimately took until 1996 for the U.S. to reach a settlement with Iran, “$61 million was deposited in a Swiss bank account that was jointly held by the New York Federal Reserve and the Iranian Central Bank.” Why was the $1.7-billion settlement different from previous Tribunal-related payments?

Why didn’t Obama use one of these above-board approaches to handling funds transfers to Iran?

What a question that is.

At this point, it’s worth mentioning the additional revelation from last week that a series of secret exemptions given to Iran has basically nullified much of her compliance with the JCPOA.  For nearly three years now, the U.S.-led West has been acting as an ATM for cash withdrawals by Iran.  Yet the goal Obama touted in his political sale of the JCPOA to America in 2015 – that his “deal” would lengthen Iran’s breakout time to a year, throughout the life of the agreement – has been invalidated by those secret exemptions.  At the most conservative estimate, the breakout time at this point would be as little as five months, if Iran pulled out of the “deal” today.  (Iran frequently threatens to do that.)

It could be less.  The longer this goes on, the less sense it makes to treat this whole sequence of events as “a deal on Iran’s nuclear program.”  That’s just not really what it is.

obama-chamberlain

J. E. Dyer

IDF Attacks Syrian Regime Position Overnight

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

In response to the errant mortar that hit Israel on Wednesday evening, the Israel Air Force hit a target on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights that is under control of the Syrian regime.

Yesterday’s mortar landed in the northern end of the Golan Heights. It was presumably a misdirected shell from the Syrian civil war. There were no injuries or damage reported from the Syrian mortar.

The IDF said it holds the Syrian regime responsible for all that happens in its territory, and Israel will not accept any violations of Israel’s sovereignty or threat yo the security of Israel’s citizens.

Reports indicate that Hezbollah and Iranian troops are currently massing in the town of Quneitra on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, preparing to attack the Syrian rebels positioned nearby.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Saudi Grand Mufti: Iranians Not Muslim, 1300-Year War Continues Unhindered

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

The Saudi Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Al Sheikh has fanned the flames of a 1300-year dispute between Shiites and Sunnis when he announced on Tuesday that the Iranians are the descendants of the Zoroastrians and of fire worshippers. He spoke ahead of the annual hajj, which this year starts on Saturday.

The Grand Mufti used the term “Majuws” to describe the Iranians, a term that literally means “magians,” which he cited from the Quran, Chapter 22, sūrat l-ḥajj (The Pilgrimage): “Indeed, those who have believed and those who were Jews and the Sabeans and the Christians and the Magians and those who associated with Allah – Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection. Indeed Allah is, over all things, Witness.”

“We must understand they are not Muslims, for they are the descendants of Majuws, and their enmity toward Muslims, especially the Sunnis, is very old,” the Saudi Grand Mufti said, and every learned Muslim understood the reference to the pilgrimage, which has been an area of contention between Shiites and Sunnis, and now between Iranians and Saudis, for almost as long as there has been an Islam.

The Grand Mufti responded an Irate speech by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who called on all Muslims to “fundamentally reconsider the management of the two holy places and the issue of hajj.” In other words, an open call to millions of pilgrims arriving in Mecca for the mid-month festival, to rebel against the Saudi royal family that owns and manages the cities of Mecca and Madīnah.

The Ayatollah attacked the Saudi regime for its failure to prevent last year’s stampede which killed more than 2,400 people, including 464 Iranians, the highest count for any single national group. The Saudis have stated that those figures are inflated and that the real death toll was “only” 769.

The Ayatollah called the Saudi royal family “disgraced and misguided people who think their survival on the throne of oppression is dependent on defending the arrogant powers of the world, on alliances with Zionism and the US, and on fulfilling their demands. And on this path, they do not shy away from any treason.”

He also said that “those who have reduced hajj to a religious-tourist trip and have hidden their enmity and malevolence towards the faithful and revolutionary people of Iran under the name of ‘politicizing hajj,’ are themselves puny Satans who tremble for fear of jeopardizing the interests of the Great Satan, the US.”

So, just for the record, Iran believes there are three Satans: the Great Satan (US), Little Satan (Israel), and Puny Satan (Saudi Arabia).

So far, the Grand Mufti’s enraged response to the Iranian leader has not gone down well even in largely Sunni countries. The Nation, a leading Pakistani newspaper, said in an editorial Wednesday that “for the Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, to say that Iranians are not Muslims and use offensive words against them, is truly shocking and will haunt many Muslims, especially Shia communities living across the region, for years to come. Saudi Arabia as the custodian of the Ka’aba cannot and must not make such offensive remarks.”

According to AFP, reporting from Riyadh, Iranians will not participate in this year’s pilgrimage to Mecca for the first time in almost 30 years, after talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia on logistics and security had fallen apart. The Saudis claim the Iranians insisted on their right to stage protest demonstrations in the holy city of Mecca. Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef accused Iran of making “efforts to politicize the hajj and convert it into an occasion to violate the teachings of Islam, through shouting slogans and disturbing the security of pilgrims.”

JNi.Media

Iran Claims Hezbollah – Not Iranian Troops – Preparing for Large-Scale Operation on Golan Heights

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

On August 20, JewishPress.com first reported on Iranian military reinforcements entering Quneitra on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

Syrian sources said the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were replacing Syrian regime troops. The Iranians were being positioned there to allegedly attack the Syrian city of Daraa, near Jordan’s border.

At the same time, there was concern that the Iranian troops, once in place, would first attack Syrian rebel forces on the Golan Heights – and that Daraa was just an excuse to position them there to attack the rebels, and more significantly, to embed Iranian troops alongside the Israeli border on the Golan Heights.

There are estimates that as many as 60,000 Iranian troops are fighting in Syria.

On Monday, the official Iranian Islamic regime news outlet, FARS, claimed that the troops being stationed in Quneitra are Hezbollah and Syrian regime troops.

The report says, “Hezbollah has deployed a large number of its forces at Quneitra passage which has connected the Syrian territories to the occupied Golan.”

Both Syrian and Iranian news sources agree that forces supporting Assad are massing near Israel’s border on the Golan Heights in order to attack the Syria rebels positioned on the Golan Heights, but they apparently disagree on the identity of which of those allies of Assad it actually is.

In the past, Hezbollah operatives trying to set up terror networks on the Golan Heights have been attacked and killed, presumably by Israel.

It’s unknown which report is more accurate as to the makeup of the forces in Quneitra, are they Hezbollah terrorists or Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards – or perhaps both?

Israel has previously stated that Iranian troops along its borders is a red line that it won’t accept.

Jewish Press News Briefs

UK, Iran Exchange Ambassadors After 5-Year Hiatus

Monday, September 5th, 2016

The United Kingdom has exchanged ambassadors with Iran for the first time in five years.

The last British ambassador fled Tehran in 2011 when a mob stormed the British embassy in the Iranian capital and tore it apart.

The ISNA Iranian state news agency announced the appointment of Hamid Baeidinejad, 53, as the new Iranian envoy to London.

At the same time, the British charges d’affairs in the Iranian capital, Nicholas Hopton, was promoted to the post of UK Ambassador to Tehran.

Britain was one of the first nations to send diplomats to Iran after the July 2015 signing of the nuclear deal with Iran by six world powers in Vienna.

Hana Levi Julian

Peres Interrupts Busy Schedule to Receive Pace Maker

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Former president Shimon Peres is expected to undergo surgery to implant a pace maker Monday. Peres, 93, who suffered a mild heart attack three months ago, which was followed with catheterization, will undergo the procedure at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, with partial anesthesia.

Peres continued his full schedule prior to Monday’s procedure and over the weekend participated in an economic conference on Lake Como, Italy, where he shared a panel with Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal and Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General of the UN. They discussed for two and a half days global risks and their impact on business, as well as the future of the Euro. Prince Al-Faisal, a member of the Saudi royal family, talked about political risks in the Arab region.

A few years ago, Prince Al Faisal told the Daily Mail that Saudi Arabia may have to arm itself with nuclear weapons to counter threats from Iran and Israel. In 1956, Shimon Peres, in his role as Director-General of the Ministry of Defense, was responsible for acquiring a French nuclear reactor that launched Israel’s atomic program.

Small world.

Incidentally, last January, when the former president was rushed to Sheba Medical Center after complaining of chest pains, he had to cancel one of the items on his busy schedule: a visit to the Soreq Nuclear Research Center.

JNi.Media

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