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December 9, 2016 / 9 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Mortar Shell Strikes Golan Heights Third Day in a Row

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Another round of mortar fire from Syria reportedly struck the Golan Heights in northern Israel from Syria. The IDF located four artillery shells in the northern part of the Golan Heights by Wednesday night, Ynet reported, allegedly more of the “spillovery” from the raging civil war taking place across the border.

If the report is confirmed, it will be the third day in a row for what has become a continuing series of mortar fire despite Israeli military efforts to deter, or at least, contain an escalating situation on the northern border.

This is the eighth time the region has been hit by “spillover” action from the raging civil war taking place on the Syrian side of the border.

The attacks have continued despite retaliatory Israeli Air Force air strikes and IDF artillery fire intended as a warning to prevent further shelling.

On Tuesday, the IDF closed Route 98 in the north after the third mortar shell of the day came whistling into the region from across the border.

That attack came just 24 hours after two projectiles landed in Israel from Syria.

The Golan Heights also was attacked on Monday, and over the weekend as well.

The Israeli government has issued a statement after each attack, warning that it holds the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad responsible for all activity that takes place within its territory, military and otherwise.

Hana Levi Julian

Claim: Administration Secretly Transferred $1.7 Billion To Iran To Keep It Out Of Terror Victims’ Hands

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center – which represents American families of terror victims who have won U.S. court judgments against Iran for its support of terrorist attacks in Israel – alleged this week that the Obama administration kept secret the details of large cash payments made to Tehran in order to evade efforts by its clients to recover those funds to satisfy outstanding court awards.

A letter to Congress from attorneys Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Tel Aviv and Robert Tolchin of New York recalled that President Obama on January 17 announced the settlement of a legal dispute between the United States and Iran over $400 million held by the U.S. in a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program account since 1979.

The administration agreed to pay the $400 million it conceded it owed Iran, plus payment of an additional $1.3 million in interest on that amount.

In recent weeks, the $1.7 billion, which was secretly paid out in cash, has come under scrutiny because the timing and circumstances of the payments appeared to confirm the Iranian claim that the White House agreed to pay the money as ransom to Tehran for the release of American hostages.

However, in light of revelations during a Sept. 8 Congressional subcommittee hearing, Shurat HaDin is asserting “it is now clear the administration has deliberately kept numerous payments to Iran secret in order to shield Iran from having to forfeit those funds to pay terror victims amounts Iran owes under outstanding U.S. judgments.”

Shurat HaDin says that under legislation passed in 2000, the U.S. was legally entitled to apply the $400 million in the FSM account to satisfy terror victims’ judgments, eliminating the $400 million balance and nearly 16 years of interest claimed by Iran.

The Shurat HaDin letter cites the “suspicious revelation” at the Congressional subcommittee hearing that the United States and Iran did not draft a written settlement agreement or any other formal documentation of the cash transfers, and that “Iran specifically directed the Iran-U.S. Tribunal at The Hague, where the claim was to be resolved through arbitration, that it not record the settlement of the claim for the parties.”

Shurat HaDin’s Darshan-Leitner said in a statement: “We believe that the secrecy in which these cash payments were made was part of an effort by the White House to conceal these payments from the terror victims and to hide the fact that it was effectively canceling Iran’s debt for its terror-related activity. This is a horrible fraud against the terror victims.

“It appears the secret cash transfers were specifically done as an end-run around the ability of the families to attach the money and enforce their federal court judgments. Instead, the administration went to great lengths to ensure that the $1.7 billion payment was shrouded in secrecy, never reduced to writing nor even recorded with The Hague, and was paid to Iran in cash as quickly and directly as possible.”

Shurat HaDin urged Congress “to take action to guarantee that further payments to Iran are not made as long as Tehran remains a state sponsor of terrorism and a threat to its neighbors “and until it has paid every judgment it owes to American victims of terror.”

 

(JNi.Media, Jewish Press staff)

Combined News Services

Shurat HaDin: Obama Secretly Transferred $1.7 Billion to Iran to Keep It Out of Terror Victims’ Reach

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, representing American the families of terror victims who have won US court judgments against the government of Iran for its support of Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel, on Tuesday released a letter it sent US Congress members alleging that the Obama Administration kept secret the details of the $1.7 billion in cash payments to Tehran in January 2016 in order to evade efforts by their clients to recover those funds to satisfy outstanding court awards.

In the past, American terror victims have been successful in seizing Iranian bank accounts when those had been located.

The letter, sent by attorneys Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Tel-Aviv and Robert Tolchin of New York, recalls that on January 17, 2016, President Obama announced the settlement of a legal dispute between the United States and Iran over $400 million held by the US in a Foreign Military Sales (“FMS”) program account since 1979. The Obama Administration agreed to pay the $400 million it finally conceded it owed Iran, plus payment of an additional $1.3 million in interest on that amount.

Then, “in recent weeks, the $1.7 billion which was secretly paid out in cash has come under severe scrutiny because the timing and circumstances of the payments appear to confirm the Iranian claim that the White House agreed to pay the money as ransom to Tehran for the release of American hostages.”

However, in light of the recent revelations in a Congressional subcommittee hearing held on Thursday, September 8, 2016, Shurat HaDin is asserting that “it is now clear that the Administration has deliberately kept numerous payments to Iran secret in order to shield Iran from having to forfeit those funds to pay terror victims amounts Iran owes under outstanding US judgments.”

The Shurat HaDin letter cites a “suspicious revelation at the Congressional subcommittee hearing that the United States and Iran did not draft a written settlement agreement or any other formal documentation of the cash transfers, and that Iran specifically directed the Iran-US Tribunal at the Hague, where the claim was to be resolved through arbitration, that it should not record the settlement of the claim for the parties.”

Shurat HaDin asserts that under a legislation passed in 2000, the US was legally entitled to apply the $400 million in the FSM account to satisfy terror victims’ judgments, and this way eliminating the $400 million balance and nearly 16 years of interest claimed by Iran.

Shurat HaDin President Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said in a statement: “We believe that the secrecy in which these cash payments were made was part of an effort by the White House to conceal these payments from the terror victims and to hide the fact that it was effectively canceling Iran’s debt for its terror-related activity. This is a horrible fraud against the terror victims. It appears the secret cash transfers were specifically done as an end run around the ability of the families to attach the money and enforce their federal court judgments.”

Why didn’t the Treasury ever tell the families they were holding these funds?” Darshan-Leitner demanded to know.

Had either the settlement or an award against the United States at the Iran-US Tribunal been entered on the books, and Iran had sought to have the settlement or award confirmed in US court, then terror-victims with judgments against Iran could have legally “attached” any judgment affirming the settlement or award, so that the amount could be applied to satisfy their terror-compensation judgments, Shurat HaDin contends, explaining that “instead, the Administration went to great lengths to ensure that the $1.7 billion purported settlement was shrouded in secrecy, was never reduced to writing or even recorded with the Tribunal in Hague, and was paid to Iran in cash as quickly and directly as possible in order to head off any chance that Iran would be forced to forfeit any amount to pay legal judgments it owes to American terror victims.”

Shurat HaDin urged Congress to continue to investigate these issues, and to take action to guarantee that further payments to Iran do not take place as long as Iran remains a state sponsor of terrorism and a threat to its neighbors, “and until it has paid every judgment it owes to American victims of terror.”

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner addressed her letter to Senator Marco Rubio and Representatives Mike Pompeo and Ed Royce, who have each introduced legislation in response to the $1.7 billion payment to Iran, and to House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Sean P. Duffy, whose subcommittee held a special hearing on the $1.7 billion payments last Thursday, September 8, 2016.

JNi.Media

IDF Confirms: IAF Jets Targeted by SAM Missiles over Syria, No Hits

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

The IDF spokesperson’s office on Tuesday morning confirmed that two surface-to-air missiles were shot at IAF attack planes that were on a mission inside Syria’s airspace. The IDF says the planes were far from the source of the missiles, and the attack did not constitute a serious threat.

The IDF announcement came in response to Syrian state media which had reported that the regime’s army claims it hit the Israeli aircraft while they were retaliating against targets near Quneitra in the Syrian Golan Heights.

The story that emerges from a variety of Arab social media reports Monday night, Syrian government claims and the IDF version, is that while the Israeli Air Force was hitting Syrian Army positions in Quneitra Monday, in response to a mortar shell that landed in Israeli territory, the Syrian Army responded by launching two S-200 (SAM) ground-to-air missiles from an airbase on the outskirts of Damascus, at Mount Qasioun. The missiles did not hit the Israeli fighter jets.

The IAF attack was the first since the beginning of the ceasefire that had been declared by Russia and the US in Syria on Monday. The IDF spokesperson released a statement saying Israel “views the Syrian regime as responsible for what takes place in its territory and would not tolerate any attempt to harm Israel’s sovereignty and the security of its citizens.”

The S-200 is a very long range, medium-to-high altitude surface-to-air missile system designed in the 1960s to defend large areas from bomber attack or other strategic aircraft. The system became operational in 1966. In its original design the S-200 probably couldn’t pose a serious threat to a 21st century attack aircraft, however, according to reports, in 2013 the Iranian air defense force improved its S-200 systems, introducing solid state parts and removing restrictions on working time. According to an Iranian report, an Iranian S-200 destroyed a UAV target beyond a 60 mile range in a military drill in recent years. The Iranians use two new solid propellant missiles, named Sayyad-2 and Sayyad-3, in cooperation with the S-200 system, and can cover medium and long ranges at high altitudes.

In August, The Jewish Press Online cited the Syrian Al-Etihad Press Network’s report that Iranian military reinforcements (Revolutionary Guards) have moved into Quneitra. At the same time, Iran was claiming that the forces in question were a contingency of Hezbollah and the Assad regime’s Army. Of course, it could be all three, and the reports Monday that these forces, or forces aligned with them in Damascus, have begun to shoot S-200 missiles at the IAF, may suggest an approaching escalation on Israel’s Syrian border.

David Israel

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

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/idf-attacks-syrian-regime-position-overnight/2016/09/08/

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