Explosion of Middle East Violence Regardless of Nuke Talks

  
CBS News
Hanging over the nuclear negotiations is a Middle East in disarray, where an extraordinary dymanic is unfolding. The U.S. and Iran are working both alongside and against each other in several conflicts.
The U.S. is on the opposite side of Iran in Yemen, on the same side in Iraq and against the Iranian-backed Assad regime in Syria.
“It’s really about what would make countries in the region safer,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
Harf said preventing Iran from building a bomb will contain at least part of the threat they pose.

“It’s precisely because Iran is destabilizing in so many places that we don’t want them to get nuclear weapons,” Harf said. “If you imagine the kinds of influence they have today, they would have even more influence in the region if they were able to do that backed up by nuclear weapons.”

Saudi Arabia, in particular, feels immediately threatened by its longtime foe. Iranian-backed militias in neighboring Yemen, Iraq and Syria are only growing in strength.
Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez thinks allies should be concerned — a deal with Iran would only limit, not scrap, its nuclear capability and could embolden it.
“What we will have done is bought time but not stopped Iran’s march towards nuclear weapons, and a future president and the world will face a potentially nuclear-armed Iran, and that is not in the national interests or security of the United States or our allies,” Menendez said.
There’s also the possibility that the talks in Switzerland could fail altogether. U.S. negotiators said if that happens President Obama will have to make a tough decision about whether he’s willing to confront Iran and force it to stop its nuclear program.

Iran Is The First Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8:3)

Iran's Nuclear Program

Iran’s Nuclear Program

Don’t ignore threat Iran poses to global security

For months, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have repeated a mantra about nuclear negotiations with Iran: “no deal is better then a bad deal.” But when Obama is asking rhetorically “what’s the alternative,” he contradicts the mantra, indicating that the U.S. seeks an agreement at any cost.
An examination of Iran’s nuclear record shows that the ayatollahs changed their conduct only on two occasions. In 2003, they suspended the military nuclear project because of U.S. invasion of Iraq and the fear of an American strike; and in 2013, they agreed to negotiate because of stringent sanctions imposed by Congress and European powers.
Asking “what’s the alternative,” Obama practically gives up the two leverages over Iran — a credible military deterrent and debilitating sanctions. He leads the ayatollahs to conclude that Washington is more eager than Tehran to reach an agreement.
The emerging deal creates a 12-month “breakout” period, should Iran race to the bomb, enough time for the U.S to respond. But, this assumption is predicated on U.S. intelligence being able to detect such “breakout,” an ability challenged by a Pentagon study. Stating that “U.S. intelligence is neither organized nor equipped to detect development of nuclear weapons,” it concludes that “the detection abilities in cases like Iran are inadequate or nonexistent.” This conclusion removes the rug from under the basis of the agreement. Indeed, the woeful U.S. record in detecting development of nuclear weapons by Pakistan, North Korea and Syria clearly refutes the assumption.
In addition, a “sunset clause” in the agreement would allow Iran, “legally,” to develop nuclear weapons. The administration’s claim that an Iranian violation would result in reimposition of sanctions is unrealistic. Having spent billions of dollars in Iran, are big corporations likely to sacrifice their investments?
The emerging deal is flawed not only due to its contents, but also because of its omissions. No reference is made to Iran’s “nuclear weaponization” program, as well as to its development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which only serve nuclear weapons.
The Iranians cite India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons as reasons for their decision to go nuclear. But this analogy is deceptive: neither India nor Pakistan developed ICBMs; both use nuclear weapons only as a means of mutual deterrence.
Also, the agreement does not require Iran to desist from threatening its Arab neighbors, to stop financial support of and involvement in worldwide terrorism, to avoid calling for Israel’s annihilation, and to remove the battle cry of the Islamic regime — “Death to America.”
The net result of the agreement would be to institutionalize Iran’s status as a nuclear threshold state. It would not lead the Ayatollahs to tone down their revolutionary zeal; just the opposite: a nuclear umbrella would embolden their aggressiveness.
This will adversely affect U.S. national security. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are determined to acquire or develop their own nuclear deterrent. This would destroy a major pillar of U.S. foreign policy: preventing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.
A nuclear threshold Iran would also be able to prevent a future decline in oil prices. While Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies ignored Iranian demands to lower production and keep prices high, they are unlikely to dare ignore similar threats by a nuclear Iran.

Bad Blood Between The Antichrist and Babylon (Eze 17)

The Antichrist Moqtada al-Sadr

The Antichrist Moqtada al-Sadr

A history of bad blood between Iraq’s Shiite militias, US troops

By Robert H. Reid

Stars and Stripes

Published: March 27, 2015

WASHINGTON — A long, bloody history of conflict, double-crosses and American blood lies behind the U.S. military’s refusal to cooperate with Iraq’s Shiite militias — even if both sides now face a common enemy in the Islamic State.

Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of the U.S. Central Command, bluntly laid out the reasons why the military was loathe to launch airstrikes to help the stalled Iraqi government offensive against Islamic State fighters in Tikrit until Iranian-backed Shiite militias pulled back from the frontlines.

“Once those conditions were met, which included Shiite militias not being involved, then we were able to proceed,” Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. “[After] three tours in Iraq commanding [U.S.] troops who were brutalized by some of these Shiite militias, I will not, and I hope we never will, coordinate or cooperate with Shiite militias.”

Until the U.S. launched airstrikes late Wednesday, critics had accused the Obama administration of sitting on the sidelines, allowing the Iranians and their Shiite militia clients to exploit the campaign against Tikrit to expand their influence in Iraq, where nearly 4,500 American servicemembers died.
Others, including former Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus, had warned that as long as militias made up the bulk of the pro-government forces besieging Tikrit, a Sunni city, the U.S. ran the risk of being seen by Sunnis as the “Shiite air force.”

Aside from the political risks, cooperation with the Shiite militias would be a bitter pill for Americans who fought many of those same militiamen only a few years ago. Some of those militia leaders rose in stature in the Shiite-dominated Iraq that the U.S. left behind when the last American troops left in December 2011.

[After] three tours in Iraq commanding [U.S.] troops who were brutalized by some of these Shiite militias, I will not, and I hope we never will, coordinate or cooperate with Shiite militias.
— Gen. Llyod Austin

For Americans who never served in Iraq, the image of the war promoted in such Hollywood productions as “American Sniper” has focused on the fight against Sunni insurgents from al-Qaida in Iraq, the forerunner of the Islamic State.

But much of the fighting, especially in the Baghdad area, was waged against Iranian-backed Shiite groups, some which are now part of the “popular mobilization units.” Since the Iraqi army collapsed last summer, the government has sent those militiamen to the front lines against the Islamic State, not only in Tikrit but in the old battlefields of Diyala, Salaheddin and Babil provinces where they once fought the Americans.

Those Shiite groups include the “Peace Brigades,” the rebranded Mahdi army of Muqtada al-Sadr, whose followers battled U.S. troops in Sadr City, Najaf, Basra and elsewhere, as well as two other groups — Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, which were largely seen as proxies for Iran.

During the war, Kataib Hezbollah and the League were often described by the U.S. military as the “Special Groups” — shadowy militants responsible for rocket attacks on the Green Zone, kidnappings and ambushes in mostly Shiite areas of Baghdad and elsewhere.

The “Special Groups’” signature weapon was the notorious EFP, or explosively formed penetrator, a lethal IED that could fire an explosive charge through all but the most heavily armored vehicles. In the last years of the war, EFPs were believed to have accounted for as many as 80 percent of the U.S. casualties.

The EFPs were so well-made that U.S. intelligence was convinced they were manufactured in Iran and smuggled into Iraq by a network controlled by the League.

The League claimed more than 6,000 attacks against U.S. troops, including EFP and rocket attacks. After the U.S. routed al-Qaida in Iraq in 2008, the U.S. military identified the League as the biggest single threat to American forces in the final three years of the war.

Those Special Groups were also was believed responsible for the Jan. 20, 2007, raid on the Joint Security Station in Karbala, which left five American soldiers dead and three wounded. The raid was among the boldest and most sophisticated attacks against American troops during the war.

It was carried out by up to a dozen Shiite militants, dressed in American uniforms and carrying American weapons, who drove to the station in vehicles similar to those used by U.S. civilian convoys. They bluffed their way through Iraqi checkpoints and stormed a building used by the Americans, killing one U.S. soldier and capturing four others before fleeing with their prisoners.

Three of the Americans were found shot to death near the compound. A fourth was found alive but died soon afterward of his wounds.

Two months after the raid, American troops captured the leader of League, Qais al-Khazali. He was released in 2010 under an Iraqi-negotiated deal in exchange for a British computer contractor who had been kidnapped by Shiite militants.

Al-Khazali ended up rehabilitated and elevated to hero status by the government of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who needed political support from his fellow Shiites as the Americans were preparing to leave the country. Al-Khazali’s followers are among Shiite militias now fighting the Islamic State.

He wasn’t the only Special Groups leader to escape punishment thanks to Iraq’s murky sectarian politics.

Ali Mussa Daqduq, a Lebanese citizen who was sent by Hezbollah and the Iranians to train Shiite militias, was also captured by the U.S. in March 2007 and accused of a role in the Karbala raid.

With al-Khazali having escaped punishment, the U.S. was determined to see Daqduq held accountable for the five American deaths in Karbala. As with al-Khazali, however, the Iraqi government didn’t want to take the political risk of punishing a popular figure.

To add to the problem, Daqduq became the center of an internal political battle in Washington. The Obama administration wanted to extradite him to the U.S. to stand trial. Republicans in Congress demanded that he be sent to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. But the White House wanted to close the Guantanamo prison and refused.

Instead, the administration decided to hand him over to the Iraqis and formally ask them for his extradition. The Iraqis refused the request and put him on trial. But the courts threw out the charges.
After months of high-level wrangling and U.S. pressure, in July 2012 — five months after the last American troops left Iraq — the Iraqi central criminal court ordered his release, signaling that as far as Baghdad was concerned, the case was closed. Daqduq was free.

Robert H. Reid reported from Iraq as a journalist from 2003 until 2009.

reid.robert@stripes.com
Twitter: @rhreid

Why Iran Will Go Nuclear (Daniel 8)

Why Iran Has All The Leverage Over Obama

Mar. 27, 2015
Sometime next week, perhaps as early as Tuesday, President Obama will most likely announce that his administration has reached a political agreement with Ayatollah Khamenei’s regime on nuclear weapons.
The deal may not be signed, it may not have any real specifics, but Obama will hail it as the only way to stop a war with Iran and delay them from getting a bomb. 
Whatever the contours of the “agreement” Obama announces next week, it will look far weaker than it was supposed to look just months ago. Over the past week alone, U.S. negotiators reportedly have conceded to Iran: 1) the need for a written agreement; 2) the ability of Iran to use nuclear centrifuges underground; and 3) the need for Iran to disclose the full range of its current nuclear capabilities.
Why, as Lando Calrissian might ask, is this deal getting worse all the time?
The simple answer is that Obama’s broader Middle East strategy leaves him with zero leverage over Iran. The New York Times Thomas Friedman explains:
The Obama team’s best argument for doing this deal with Iran is that, in time, it could be “transformational.” That is, the ending of sanctions could open Iran to the world and bring in enough fresh air — Iran has been deliberately isolated since 1979 by its ayatollahs and Revolutionary Guard Corps — to gradually move Iran from being a revolutionary state to a normal one, and one less inclined to threaten Israel.
If one assumes that Iran already has the know-how and tools to build a nuclear weapon, changing the character of its regime is the only way it becomes less threatening.
The only reason Khamenei’s regime is negotiating with Obama at all is because they want the world’s economic sanctions on Iran lifted. In return for lifting those sanctions, Iran is supposed to give up its ambitions for a nuclear weapon. That’s the basic outline of the deal: Iran gets the sanctions lifter and Obama gets an end to their nuclear weapons program.
But read the above Friedman paragraphs again. Obama’s Middle East strategy is premised on “transforming” the current Iranian government by ending sanctions on Iran. This means that Obama wants the sanctions on Iran lifted just as badly as Ayatollah Khamenei.
Now, granted, Obama and Khamenei have very different ideas about what the outcome of the end of sanctions will be. Obama believes an Iran without economic sanctions will lead to if not Kamanei’s demise, than it least the marginalization of him and his followers. Khamenei, on the other hand, believes an Iran without sanctions will allow his regime to strengthen their control over not just Iran, but also the entire Middle East.
Who has a better understanding of Iran, its politics, its people, and the impact of ending economic sanctions? Is it Khamenei, who has ruled his country for over two decades? Or is it Obama, who honestly thought the power of his own celebrity could save Democrats from crushing defeat in 2010? We’ll see.
The answer to that question is ultimately irrelevant though when judging who currently has more leverage in the nuclear weapons talks. Since both Obama and Iran want sanctions on Iran to be lifted, Obama has no way to force any real concessions from Iran on nuclear issues. His threat to continue the current sanctions, or enact new ones, are hollow. Everyone knows he wants the sanctions lifted anyway. Why should Iran concede anything?
That’s why they are not.

Pakistan Will Become A Nuclear Terror (Daniel 8)

Pakistan's Nuclear Terrorism

Pakistan’s Nuclear Terrorism

Pakistan’s Promises Will Remain Unfulfilled

Pakistan remains unwilling to change the substance of its policy on terrorism even as it tries to reassure the international community that it is ready for a drastic transformation. Several recent developments affirm the Pakistani military’s belief that cosmetic changes or words alone will suffice to convince others, especially the U.S., that Pakistan is serious about giving up its decades old sponsorship of terrorism.
In some ways, Pakistan’s generals are offering Americans a rehashed version of General Pervez Musharraf’s promises in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Now, as then, it is being argued that Pakistan is concerned about the blowback from its policy of sponsoring Jihadis. Musharraf admitted recently that his government continued to support Afghan Taliban even after ostensibly abandoning them at Washington’s behest, to ‘counter India’s influence’ in Afghanistan. 
This time too, the Pakistan military’s efforts are focused narrowly on out of control Jihadis attacking inside Pakistan. Terrorism directed at Afghanistan and India remains unaffected by Pakistan’s new stated policy of rooting out terrorism. Pakistan raised the terrorist militias to compete with India. There is no evidence that goal has been reviewed. 
There has been no introspection over the Pakistani national narrative that allows the country to violate all international norms as long as Pakistan can be seen by the world as India’s equal. Pakistan’s military intelligence establishment still believes it can still play the games of yesteryears and be a critical player in its region and beyond. 
That the fundamentals of Pakistani policy have not changed was recently demonstrated when an official from Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, the key administrative organ within Pakistan’ Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) made light of Jihadists having penetrated Pakistan’s nuclear program. “We filtered out people having negative tendencies that could have affected national security,” said the NCA official, as if that was sufficient to assuage international concerns.
This attempt to reassure the international community that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are in safe hands and will not fall into the hands of the Jihadis differs little from Pakistan’s response to the troubling sale of nuclear weapons technology by Dr. A.Q. Khan and his criminal network. 
Dr. Khan was removed from his position but there was no accounting for his actions. An official Pakistani pronouncement to the effect that the problem had been addressed was deemed enough.
Pakistan’s latest reassurance about the security of its nuclear program ignores the possibility of a military officer with Islamist sympathies rising up the ranks. In that event, an Islamist would have his fingers on the nuclear trigger and could act independent of his institution, just as Dr. Khan single-handedly sold nuclear material and plans to Iran, Libya and North Korea. 
In November 2014 Pakistan’s army chief General Raheel Sharif visited the United States to declare that Pakistan no longer differentiated between good and bad Jihadis. But soon after his proclamation, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz questioned the rationale of the military commander’s promise in a BBC interview in Urdu.
“Why should Pakistan target those who do not pose any threat to its security,” Aziz said, adding that not all terrorists are bad for Pakistan. In his words, “Some of them are a threat to Pakistan, while others pose no threat to Pakistan’s security. Why should we antagonize them all?” 
This attitude is not different from that Musharraf who maintained a similar ambivalence after 2002 when he differentiated between Jihadis (foreign militant groups like Al Qaeda) and freedom fighters (Afghan Taliban, Lashkar e Taiba.)
Immediately after the December 2014 attack by the Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on a school in Peshawar, Pakistani leaders launched a public relations offensive to convince skeptics that this time they had changed, for real. General Sharif went to the United Kingdom before his U.S. visit and over the last few months several Pakistani officials have visited Washington. 
The U.S. could fall for Pakistan’s narrative, as it did with Musharraf, or accept the fact that Pakistan became its ally only to advance its rivalry with India. Pakistan’s military sees India as the main threat, as always, while seeking American arms on the pretext of fighting communism or terrorism. 
Pakistan’s support of Jihadis in Afghanistan and India is tied to its belief that these proxies will further Pakistan’s foreign and security policy of securing parity with India and preventing Indian influence over Afghanistan. The U.S. ignored Pakistan’s support of insurgent and terror groups in India during the anti-Soviet Afghan Jihad, only to recognize the problem since the 1990s. 
It is time for Washington to recognize that Pakistan will continue to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy to counter India’s rise as a global power. Pakistani leaders believe they know how to play the Americans and to create a façade of compliance with American requests. 
The gullibility of U.S. officials, such as those in the Obama administration, enables Pakistan to seek U.S. military and economic largesse even as Pakistan harbors terrorists such as Osama bin Laden. Pakistan has never had to pay a price for its actions. Only serious reprisals for Pakistan’s repeated flouting of American requests, misuse of American arms and equipment and support of Jihadi groups would change Pakistani policy, not accepting fresh promises after broken ones.