U.S. Spy vs. Israeli Spy on Iran

Some back story events leading up to the broken relationship between the Obama White House and Israel.

Spy vs. Spy, the Fraying U.S Israel Ties

WSJ: The U.S. closely monitored Israel’s military bases and eavesdropped on secret communications in 2012, fearing its longtime ally might try to carry out a strike on Fordow, Iran’s most heavily fortified nuclear facility.

Nerves frayed at the White House after senior officials learned Israeli aircraft had flown in and out of Iran in what some believed was a dry run for a commando raid on the site. Worried that Israel might ignite a regional war, the White House sent a second aircraft carrier to the region and readied attack aircraft, a senior U.S. official said, “in case all hell broke loose.”

The two countries, nursing a mutual distrust, each had something to hide. U.S. officials hoped to restrain Israel long enough to advance negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran that the U.S. had launched in secret. U.S. officials saw Israel’s strike preparations as an attempt to usurp American foreign policy.

Instead of talking to each other, the allies kept their intentions secret. To figure out what they weren’t being told, they turned to their spy agencies to fill gaps. They employed deception, not only against Iran, but against each other. After working in concert for nearly a decade to keep Iran from an atomic bomb, the U.S. and Israel split over the best means: diplomacy, covert action or military strikes.

Personal strains between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu erupted at their first Oval Office meeting in 2009, and an accumulation of grievances in the years since plunged relations between the two countries into crisis.

This Wall Street Journal account of the souring of U.S.-Israel relations over Iran is based on interviews with nearly two dozen current and former senior U.S. and Israeli officials.

U.S. and Israeli officials say they want to rebuild trust but acknowledge it won’t be easy. Mr. Netanyahu reserves the right to continue covert action against Iran’s nuclear program, said current and former Israeli officials, which could put the spy services of the U.S. and Israel on a collision course.

A shaky start

Messrs. Obama and Netanyahu shared common ground on Iran when they first met in 2007. Mr. Netanyahu, then the leader of Israel’s opposition party, the right-wing Likud, discussed with Mr. Obama, a Democratic senator, how to discourage international investment in Iran’s energy sector. Afterward, Mr. Obama introduced legislation to that end.

Suspicions grew during the 2008 presidential race after Mr. Netanyahu spoke with some congressional Republicans who described Mr. Obama as pro-Arab, Israeli officials said. The content of the conversations later found its way back to the White House, senior Obama administration officials said.

Soon after taking office in January 2009, Mr. Obama took steps to allay Israeli concerns, including instructing the Pentagon to develop military options against Iran’s Fordow facility, which was built into a mountain. The president also embraced an existing campaign of covert action against Iran, expanding cooperation between the Central Intelligence Agency and Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.

Mossad leaders compared the covert campaign to a 10-floor building: The higher the floor, they said, the more invasive the operation. CIA and Mossad worked together on operations on the lower floors. But the Americans made clear they had no interest in moving higher—Israeli proposals to bring down Iran’s financial system, for example, or even its regime.

Some covert operations were run unilaterally by Mossad, such as the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, according to U.S. officials.

The first Oval Office meeting between Messrs. Obama and Netanyahu, in May 2009—weeks after Mr. Netanyahu became prime minister—was difficult for both sides. After the meeting, Mr. Obama’s aides called Ron Dermer, Mr. Netanyahu’s adviser, to coordinate their statements. Mr. Dermer told them it was too late; Mr. Netanyahu was already briefing reporters. “We kind of looked at each other and said, ‘I guess we’re not coordinating our messages,’ ” said Tommy Vietor, a former administration official who was there.

In 2010, the risk of covert action became clear. A computer virus dubbed Stuxnet, deployed jointly by the U.S. and Israel to destroy Iranian centrifuges used to process uranium, had inadvertently spread across the Internet. The Israelis wanted to launch cyberattacks against a range of Iranian institutions, according to U.S. officials. But the breach made Mr. Obama more cautious, officials said, for fear of triggering Iranian retaliation, or damaging the global economy if a virus spread uncontrollably.

Israel questioned whether its covert operations were enough, said aides to Mr. Netanyahu. Stuxnet had only temporarily slowed Tehran’s progress. “Cyber and other covert operations had their inherent limitations,” a senior Israeli official said, “and we reached those limitations.”

Mr. Netanyahu pivoted toward a military strike, raising anxiety levels in the White House.

The U.S. Air Force analyzed the arms and aircraft needed to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities and concluded Israel didn’t have the right equipment. The U.S. shared the findings, in part, to steer the Israelis from a military strike.

The Israelis weren’t persuaded and briefed the U.S. on an attack plan: Cargo planes would land in Iran with Israeli commandos on board who would “blow the doors, and go in through the porch entrance” of Fordow, a senior U.S. official said. The Israelis planned to sabotage the nuclear facility from inside.

Pentagon officials thought it was a suicide mission. They pressed the Israelis to give the U.S. advance warning. The Israelis were noncommittal.

“Whether this was all an effort to try to pressure Obama, or whether Israel was really getting close to a decision, I don’t know,” said Michéle Flournoy, who at the time was undersecretary of defense for policy.

Mr. Obama, meanwhile, was moving toward diplomacy. In December 2011, the White House secretly used then-Sen. John Kerry to sound out Omani leaders about opening a back channel to the Iranians.

At the same time, the White House pressed the Israelis to scale back their assassination campaign and turned down their requests for more aggressive covert measures, U.S. officials said.

The president spoke publicly about his willingness to use force as a last resort to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon—“I don’t bluff,” Mr. Obama said in March 2012—but some of Mr. Netanyahu’s advisers weren’t convinced.

In early 2012, U.S. spy agencies told the White House about a flurry of meetings that Mr. Netanyahu convened with top security advisers. The meetings covered everything from mission logistics to the political implications of a military strike, Israeli officials said.

Warning signs

U.S. spy agencies stepped up satellite surveillance of Israeli aircraft movements. They detected when Israeli pilots were put on alert and identified moonless nights, which would give the Israelis better cover for an attack. They watched the Israelis practice strike missions and learned they were probing Iran’s air defenses, looking for ways to fly in undetected, U.S. officials said.

New intelligence poured in every day, much of it fragmentary or so highly classified that few U.S. officials had a complete picture. Officials now say many jumped to the mistaken conclusion that the Israelis had made a dry run.

At the time, concern and confusion over Israel’s intentions added to the sense of urgency inside the White House for a diplomatic solution.

The White House decided to keep Mr. Netanyahu in the dark about the secret Iran talks, believing he would leak word to sabotage them. There was little goodwill for Mr. Netanyahu among Mr. Obama’s aides who perceived the prime minister as supportive of Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign.

Mr. Netanyahu would get briefed on the talks, White House officials concluded, only if it looked like a deal could be reached.

The first secret meeting between U.S. and Iranian negotiators, held in July 2012, was a bust. But “nobody was willing to throw it overboard by greenlighting Israeli strikes just when the process was getting started,” a former senior Obama administration official said.

Israeli officials approached their U.S. counterparts over the summer about obtaining military hardware useful for a strike, U.S. officials said.

At the top of the list were V-22 Ospreys, aircraft that take off and land like helicopters but fly like fixed-wing planes. Ospreys don’t need runways, making them ideal for dropping commandos behind enemy lines.

The Israelis also sounded out officials about obtaining the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, the U.S. military’s 30,000-pound bunker-busting bomb, which was designed to destroy Fordow.

Mr. Netanyahu wanted “somebody in the administration to show acquiescence, if not approval” for a military strike, said Gary Samore, who served for four years as Mr. Obama’s White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction. “The message from the Obama administration was: ‘We think this is a big mistake.’ ”

White House officials decided not to provide the equipment.

Messrs. Obama and Netanyahu spoke in September 2012, and Mr. Obama emerged convinced Israel wouldn’t strike on the eve of the U.S. presidential election.

By the following spring, senior U.S. officials concluded the Israelis weren’t serious about a commando raid on Fordow and may have been bluffing. When the U.S. offered to sell the Ospreys, Israel said it didn’t have the money.

Former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who championed a strike, said Mr. Netanyahu had come close to approving a military operation against Iran. But Israel’s military chiefs and cabinet members were reluctant, according to Israeli officials.

While keeping the Omani talks secret, U.S. officials briefed the Israelis on the parallel international negotiations between Iran and major world powers under way in early 2013. Those talks, which made little headway, were led on the U.S. side by State Department diplomat Wendy Sherman.

Robert Einhorn, at the time an arms control adviser at the State Department, said that during the briefings, Mr. Netanyahu’s advisers wouldn’t say what concessions they could live with. “It made us feel like nothing was going to be good enough for them,” Mr. Einhorn said.

U.S. spy agencies were monitoring Israeli communications to see if the Israelis had caught wind of the secret talks. In September 2013, the U.S. learned the answer.

Yaakov Amidror, Mr. Netanyahu’s national security adviser at the time, had come to Washington in advance of a Sept. 30 meeting between Messrs. Netanyahu and Obama.

On Sept. 27, Mr. Amidror huddled with White House national security adviser Susan Rice in her office when she told him that Mr. Obama was on the phone in a groundbreaking call with Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani.

Mr. Amidror had his own surprise. During a separate meeting in the Roosevelt Room, he told several of Mr. Obama’s top advisers that Israel had identified the tail numbers of the unmarked U.S. government planes that ferried negotiators to Muscat, Oman, the site of the secret talks, U.S. officials said.

Mr. Amidror, who declined to comment on the White House discussions, said that it was insulting for Obama administration officials to think “they could go to Oman without taking our intelligence capabilities into account.” He called the decision to hide the Iran talks from Israel a big mistake.

U.S. officials said they were getting ready to tell the Israelis about the talks, which advanced only after Mr. Rouhani came to office. During the Sept. 30 meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, the president acknowledged the secret negotiations. The secrecy cemented Israel’s distrust of Mr. Obama’s intentions, Israeli officials said.

Mr. Samore, the former White House official, said he believed it was a mistake to keep Israel in the dark for so long. Mr. Einhorn said: “The lack of early transparency reinforced Israel’s suspicions and had an outsize negative impact on Israeli thinking about the talks.”

Israel pushed for the U.S. to be more open about the Iran negotiations. Ms. Rice, however, pulled back on consultations with her new Israeli counterpart, Yossi Cohen, who took over as Mr. Netanyahu’s national security adviser, according to U.S. and Israeli officials.
In exchanges with the White House, U.S. officials said, Mr. Cohen wouldn’t budge from demanding Iran give up its centrifuges and uranium-enrichment program. Israeli officials said they feared any deviation would be taken by the U.S. as a green light for more concessions.

In one meeting, Mr. Cohen indicated Mr. Netanyahu could accept a deal allowing Iran to keep thousands of centrifuges, U.S. officials said. Soon after, Mr. Cohen called to say he had misspoken. Neither side was prepared to divulge their bottom line.

In November 2013, when the interim agreement was announced, Mr. Samore was in Israel, where, he said, the Israelis “felt blindsided” by the terms. U.S. officials said the details came together so quickly that Ms. Sherman and her team didn’t have enough time to convey them all. Israeli officials said the Americans intentionally withheld information to prevent them from influencing the outcome.

Listening in

As talks began in 2014 on a final accord, U.S. intelligence agencies alerted White House officials that Israelis were spying on the negotiations. Israel denied any espionage against the U.S. Israeli officials said they could learn details, in part, by spying on Iran, an explanation U.S. officials didn’t believe.

Earlier this year, U.S. officials clamped down on what they shared with Israel about the talks after, they allege, Mr. Netanyahu’s aides leaked confidential information about the emerging deal.

When U.S. officials confronted the Israelis over the matter in a meeting, Israel’s then-minister of intelligence said he didn’t disclose anything from Washington’s briefings. The information, the minister said, came from “other means,” according to meeting participants.

Ms. Sherman told Mr. Cohen, Israel’s national security adviser: “You’re putting us in a very difficult position. We understand that you will find out what you can find out by your own means. But how can we tell you every single last thing when we know you’re going to use it against us?” according to U.S. officials who were there.

Mr. Netanyahu turned to congressional Republicans, one of his remaining allies with the power to affect the deal, Israeli officials said, but he couldn’t muster enough votes to block it.

U.S. officials now pledge to work closely with their Israeli counterparts to monitor Iran’s compliance with the international agreement.

But it is unclear how the White House will respond to any covert Israeli actions against Iran’s nuclear program, which current and former Israeli officials said were imperative to safeguard their country.

One clause in the agreement says the major powers will help the Iranians secure their facilities against sabotage. State Department officials said the clause wouldn’t protect Iranian nuclear sites from Israel.

Michael Hayden, a former director of the CIA, said the U.S. and Israel could nonetheless end up at odds.

“If we become aware of any Israeli efforts, do we have a duty to warn Iran?” Mr. Hayden said. “Given the intimacy of the U.S.-Israeli relationship, it’s going to be more complicated than ever.”

Iran Defying Iran Deal, WH and Kerry Still Trust ‘Em

Iran holds 4 Americans in their prisons, while the Obama administration says the track for talks to have them released was separate from the Iran talks. Yet, it must be know, the United States actually holds several Iranians in our prisons and one such detainee Iran wants back badly.

Iran wants it both ways as noted with this scientist they demand to be released.

An Iranian-American engineer has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison for sending sensitive U.S. military documents to his native Iran.

U.S. prosecutors say Mozaffar Khazaee, who had worked as an employee of U.S. defense contractors, stole and shared with Iran information on U.S. military jet engine programs over the span of several years.

Khazaee, a 61-year-old dual citizen, was arrested in January 2014 as he tried to leave the United States with sensitive military documents in his luggage.

A swap is likely part of the obscure talks with John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif.

The matter of the PMD’s (Possible Military Dimension) sites are still in dispute and Iran declares they are defying the JPOA by stating they will not remove the uranium stockpile. They will also not repurpose the heavy water reactor, both of which are stipulations of the JPOA.

“Any action regarding Arak and dispatching uranium abroad … will take place after the PMD file is closed,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wrote in a letter to President Hassan Rouhani.

The letter, published on Khamenei’s website, approved implementation of a nuclear deal agreed with world powers in July, subject to certain conditions.

Meanwhile, the waivers are being signed to lift selected sanctions against Iran, demonstrating the White House, the State Department and the National Security Councils as well as those Democrats in Congress have not said a single word about the contraventions of the P5+1 Iran agreement.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The United States approved conditional sanctions waivers for Iran on Sunday, though it cautioned they will not take effect until Tehran has curbed its nuclear program as required under a historic nuclear deal reached in Vienna on July 14.

“I hereby direct you to take all necessary steps to give effect to the U.S. commitments with respect to sanctions described in (the Iran deal),” U.S. President Barack Obama said in a memo to the secretaries of state, treasury, commerce and energy released by the White House press office.

Several senior U.S. officials, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said actual implementation of the deal was still at least two months away. In addition to Washington’s conditional orders to suspend U.S. nuclear-related sanctions, U.S. officials said the United States, China and Iran were re-emphasizing their commitment to the redesign and reconstruction of the Arak research reactor so that it does not produce plutonium.

The fate of the Arak reactor was one of the toughest sticking points in the nearly two years of negotiations that led to the July agreement.

Other steps Iran must take include reducing the number of uranium-enrichment centrifuges it has in operation, cutting its enriched uranium stocks and answering U.N. questions about past activities that the West suspects were linked to work on nuclear weapons.

Kerry noted that the IAEA had already said Iran had met its obligation to provide answers and access to the agency.

The Democrats, the White House and the State Department have a real talent for ignoring threats, facts and actions when it comes to reality.

It is beyond dispute that each item in question for Iran and the JPOA, Iran is rupturing the agreement and Barack Obama is ignoring the infractions. Perhaps someone should begin to ask Hillary about the JPOA since it was her State Department that deployed Jake Sullivan to open the Iran doors to these talks…what is she thinking now?

Pakistan Terror Cells and Nuclear Weapons, the Nightmare

What is at issue with Pakistan? India, Khorasan or Islamic State or all of that and more?

Under the Bush administration, the U.S. paid $100 million to secure Pakistan’ nuclear weapons. This included materials, warheads and laboratories. The full details are here. The big question now is how will Obama handle the new demands of Pakistan and their ultimatums?

Pakistan to tell U.S. it won’t accept limits on tactical nuclear arms

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will tell U.S. President Barack Obama this week that Islamabad will not accept limits on its use of small tactical nuclear weapons, Pakistani officials said on Wednesday.

Pakistan insists smaller weapons would deter a sudden attack by its bigger neighbor India. But the United States worries tactical weapons may further destabilize an already volatile region because their smaller size makes them more tempting to use in a conventional war.

Sharif and Obama are due to meet on Thursday.

The United States wants Pakistan to commit to not using tactical nuclear weapons but Islamabad wants to keep its options open as a way of deterring a potential Indian attack, said Maria Sultan, head of the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute. More here.

Nightmare: Pakistan To Deploy Small Tactical Nuclear Weapons

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is coming to the United States next week on an official visit, and the New York Times reports that ahead of the visit the Obama administration is holding talks with Pakistani officials about Pakistan’s plan to deploy a small tactical nuclear weapon which would be more difficult to monitor and secure than Pakistan’s arsenal of larger weapons. According to Home Land Security News Wire, the White House has not yet commented on the issue. Experts doubt Pakistan would agree to any limits on its nuclear arsenal. “If Pakistan would take the actions requested by the United States, it would essentially amount to recognition of rehabilitation and would essentially amount to parole,” George Perkovich, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the Times.

“I think it’s worth a try,” Perkovich added. “But I have my doubts that the Pakistanis are capable of doing this.” Other officials and outside experts said the main component of the proposed deal would be the loosening of strict controls imposed on Pakistan by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, an affiliation of nations that try to control the creation of weapons. The Times reports that the Bush administration spent as much as $100 million on a secret program to help secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, helping with physical security and the training of Pakistani security personnel. Those efforts continued in the Obama years. Administration officials have told Congress that most of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is under good safeguards, with warheads separated from delivery vehicles and a series of measures in place to guard against unauthorized use. These officials fear, however, the smaller weapons are easier to steal, or would be easier to use should they fall into the hands of a rogue commander.

The nightmare:

In part from CTC: In March 2014, nine members of al-Qa`ida, who were active with the group in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, defected to the group that now calls itself the “Islamic State.”[1] The defections took place months before the Islamic State formally announced its Caliphate and at that time little public attention was given to the shift in allegiances of those al-Qa`ida men, despite one of them being the brother of famed jihadi ideologue Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi.[2] The defections, at the time, seemed more like an outlier, but in hindsight they were an early sign of broader developments affecting Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s militant landscapes. The Islamic State’s formal declaration of its “Khorasan” chapter in January 2015 is another indicator of the changes that are taking place. These changes are being pushed by what currently appears to be a fairly loosely configured, but noteworthy, network of groups and individuals who are trying to alter the direction of South and Central Asia’s multiple jihads.

A useful starting point are those individuals and groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan who have publicly pledged bay`a to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s self-described “Caliph,” and whose pledge has been officially recognized by the Islamic State. The individual appointed in January 2015 as ISK’s leader is Hafiz Khan Saeed, a former Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) commander responsible for that group’s operations in Orakzai, an agency in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) that is very close to the important city of Peshawar.[4] After the death of Hakimullah Mehsud, Khan Saeed was also considered a front-runner–along with Maulana Fazlullah, then the TTP head for Malakand–to replace the deceased TTP leader. Fazlullah, as is well known, won out and assumed the TTP’s leadership position in November 2013. Close to one year later, in October 2014, Khan Saeed and four other prominent TTP commanders, as well as the group’s main spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, left TTP and pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State.

The other commanders who did so at the time were “Hafiz Quran Daulat, TTP chief in Kurram Agency; Gul Zaman, TTP chief in Khyber Agency; Mufti Hassan, TTP chief in Peshawar; and Khalid Mansoor, the TTP chief in the Hangu district.”[5] These were significant losses for the TTP, and a win for the Islamic State, as in one fell swoop al-Baghdadi’s group gained the allegiance of the individuals the TTP had designated to control the central FATA, a strategic block of land that stretches from the settled city of Peshawar to the Khyber pass and the immediate areas surrounding it.

Then on January 10, 2015, presaging things to come, these six individuals appeared in a video where they again pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. This time they were also joined by an expanded network of individuals, all of whom pledged bay`a to the Islamic State’s leader. This group included Saad Emirati, a former Taliban commander allegedly active in Afghanistan’s Logar Province; Ubaidah al-Peshwari, leader of the al-Tawhid and Jihad Group in Peshawar; the Deputy to Sheikh Abd al-Qadir al-Khorasani;[6] Sheikh Muhsin, a commander from Afghanistan’s Kunar province; Talha, a commander from Lakki Marwat; and Omar al-Mansur, from Pakistan’s infamous Lal Masjid (Red Mosque).[7]

According to the statement, an even broader network of groups–which ranges from the Qambar Khel tribe in Khyber and the Hudhayfah group in Dir to Qari Harun’s group in Kunar province–have also pledged their support for Hafiz Khan Saeed and his position as the Amir of the mujahideen of Khorasan.[8] Less than one week after the release of the video, the ranks of Khan Saeed’s group in Pakistan were also bolstered by “50 hardcore militants of the Amr Bil Maroof group, led by Commanders Haya Khan and Waheed Khan,” from Khyber joining.[9] Then on January 26 the Islamic State’s spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, released a statement in which he formally announced the creation of ISK with Hafiz Khan Saeed serving as its leader. Unfortunately, despite these pronouncements and recent arrests of several alleged Islamic State members in Lahore, and the death of another one in Karachi, not much is known about ISK’s activities in Pakistan or its capabilities.[10] The same can be said for the linkages between ISK elements in Pakistan and the Islamic State, as well as South Asian foreign fighters who are operating on behalf of al-Baghdadi’s group in Syria and Iraq.


Obama Signs Adoption of Iran Deal, Khamenei Against


Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei, Iranian Officials Speak Out Against Iranian Approval Of JCPOA

On October 18, 2015, the day set as Adoption Day for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iranian leadership continues to come out with statements opposing Iran’s approval of it.

In the past few days, Iranian officials have clarified that Iran’s Majlis, Supreme National Security Council, and Guardian Council have not approved the JCPOA; Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tweeted, and posted on his Facebook page, an announcement titled “Negotiation With America Is Forbidden”; and other Iranian officials have stated that Iran is expecting the U.S. to announce that the sanctions have been terminated, not suspended as the JCPOA stipulates. Full chilling summary is here.

FNC: President Obama on Sunday signed the Iran nuclear deal, officially putting the international agreement into effect.

The president’s signature opens the way for Iran to make major changes to an underground nuclear facility, a heavy water reactor and a site for enriching uranium.

However, the rogue nation will need months to meet those goals and get relief from the crippling economic sanction that will be lifted as part of deal, despite the pact going into effect Sunday.

The seven-nation deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was reached on July 14, after roughly two years of negotiations.

The so-called “Adoption Day” on Sunday also requires the United States and other participating countries to make the necessary arrangements and preparations for implementation” of the deal, the president said.

Senior administration officials said Saturday they understand it’s in Iran’s best interest to work quickly, but they are only concerned that the work is done correctly.

They insisted that no relief from the penalties will occur until the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency has verified Iran’s compliance with the terms of the agreement. They said Iran’s work will almost certainly take more than the two months Iran has projected.

The administration officials spoke on a conference call with reporters, but under the condition that they not be identified by name.

As part of the nuclear agreement, Obama on Sunday also issued provisional waivers and a memorandum instructing U.S. agencies to lay the groundwork for relieving sanctions on Iran.

In Iran, Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told state TV: “On implementation, all should be watchful that Westerners, particularly Americans, to keep their promises.”

Velayati said Iran expects that the United States and other Western countries that negotiated the deal will show their “good will” through lifting sanctions.

Iran’s atomic energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, told state TV that Tehran was ready to begin taking steps to comply, and awaited an order from President Hassan Rouhani. “We are hopeful to begin in the current or next week,” he said.

The IAEA said Sunday that Iran has agreed to allow greater monitoring of its commitment to the deal, going beyond basic oversight provided by the safeguards agreement that IAEA member nations have with the agency. For instance, it allows short-notice inspections of sites the IAEA may suspect of undeclared nuclear activities.

Even as the terms of the deal begin taking effect, recent developments have shown the wide gulf between the U.S. and Iran on other issues.

Fighters from Iran have been working in concert with Russia in Syria, and a Revolutionary Court convicted a Washington Post reporter who has been held more than a year on charges including espionage. The court has not provided details on the verdict or sentence. Further, two other Americans are being detained, and the U.S. has asked for the Iranian government’s assistance in finding a former FBI agent who disappeared in 2007 while working for the CIA on an unapproved intelligence mission.

Also, Iran successfully test-fired a guided long-range ballistic surface-to-surface missile.

But the U.S. officials asserted that those actions would be worse if they were backed up by a nation with a nuclear weapon. The officials emphasized that the seven-nation pact is focused solely on resolving the nuclear issue.

The steps being taken by the U.S. come 90 days after the U.N. Security Council endorsed the deal.

U.S. Defense-Less During Iran Missile Testing

Navy won’t have aircraft carrier in Persian Gulf as Iran deal takes effect

TheHill: The Navy does not have an aircraft carrier in the Middle East region as the Iran deal takes effect and just days after Tehran conducted a controversial ballistic missile test, raising concerns.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt pulled out of the Middle East region on Tuesday, and the next carrier, the USS Harry Truman, won’t arrive to the Persian Gulf area until winter, leaving a months-long gap without a carrier. The Navy’s moves were planned well in advance, but Iran’s recent missile test, which the Obama administration said violated international sanctions, is sparking worries about Tehran’s actions without a visible symbol of American deterrence in the region. The missile test came just one day after the Roosevelt pulled out of the Persian Gulf. It leaves the Gulf area without a continuous U.S. aircraft carrier presence for the first time since 2008.

The test also comes just before the Iran nuclear deal’s “adoption day” on Sunday — when it is Iran’s turn to take actions to implement its side of the deal.

On adoption day, sanctions waivers will be issued but won’t be effective until the deal is implemented in the spring.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said on Friday that the test violated United Nations Security Council resolutions to curb Iran’s ballistic missile activities, and the U.S. would file a report with the UNSC on the matter.

“The Security Council prohibition on Iran’s ballistic missile activities, as well as the arms embargo, remain in place and we will continue to press the Security Council for an appropriate response to Iran’s disregard for its international obligations,” she said.

Administration officials have insisted the launch does not violate the terms of the nuclear deal, which places limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions.

And the administration has sought to assure allies in the region that it would keep a close watch on Iran after the deal was signed and counter its support for terrorism throughout the region.

President Obama just last week cited having an aircraft carrier as a projection of strength in the Middle East, in response to a question about whether U.S. adversaries and allies perceive the U.S. as retreating from the region.

“We have enormous presence in the Middle East. We have bases and we have aircraft carriers, and our pilots are flying through those skies,” Obama said during his interview on CBS “60 Minutes” last Sunday.

While officials say there are plenty of other assets in the region, some argue that an aircraft carrier is critical and its absence is being noticed.

“The most important thing you need a carrier for is for what you don’t know is going to happen next,” Peter Daly, a retired Navy vice admiral and CEO of the U.S. Naval Institute told NBC News.

“The biggest value to those carriers is that they are huge, and you have the capability to go from one stop to another, and we don’t need a permission slip from another nation when we want to fly planes,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Navy’s top officer said he was concerned about the lack of an aircraft carrier’s presence in the Middle East at a time the U.S. is conducting an airstrike campaign in Iraq and Syria.

“Without that carrier, there will be a detriment to our capability there,” the Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his July 30 confirmation hearing.

From 2010 through 2013, the U.S. maintained two aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, known as a “2.0 carrier presence,” although it sometimes temporarily dipped below that level.

The heightened presence was to support U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and also to deter Iran from bad behavior in the region and keep the Strait of Hormuz open.

However, the U.S. stepped away from that in 2013, after steep budget cuts hit the Pentagon, forcing the Defense Department to curtail deployments, defer maintenance, and delay major purchases.

A U.S. official told The Hill in August that the Navy could have an even more reduced presence in the Persian Gulf in coming years, due to budget cuts, but also a prioritization of the Asia-Pacific.

“All I can say is that in the short-term, we need a continuous presence. The demand is out there, the [combatant commander] is asking for it, and the [Pacific Command] commander is asking for it. They’re asking for it. There’s just not enough peanut butter to spread around,” the official said.

“So what are you going to do? You’re going to give what you can. You’re going to prioritize based on what the president wants us to do, what the [Defense] secretary wants us to do and allocate those forces to meet those needs,” the official said.

“Iran last Sunday successfully test-fired the country’s new precision-guided long-range ballistic missile that can be controlled until the moment of impact. Emad carries a conventional warhead.”

Let’s be clear about this: does anyone really think that a long-range ballistic missile carrying a warhead of a few hundred kilograms with an accuracy of half a kilometer is being built for the purposes of carrying conventional explosives? Aim it at a target – an airport, a port, a chemical plant, Israel’s IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv – you name it – and what are the odds that a conventional explosion is actually going to damage the target? ]

Top Security Official Dismisses US Ballyhoos over Iran’s Missile Test as Irrelevant Sun Oct 18, 2015 3:9


TEHRAN (FNA)- Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani rejected the US officials’ hues and cries over Tehran’s recent missile test as pointless, stressing that no threat can ever stop the country’s military progress.

“We have never accepted (UN Security Council) Resolution 1929 and I should say that Iran’s missile test was not a violation of Resolution 2231 either,”

Shamkhani told reporters on the sidelines of the preliminary meeting of the Munich Security Conference in Tehran on Saturday.

“Such remarks are a propaganda hype and Iran doesn’t stop (enhancement of) its defensive and deterrent capability under any threat,” he added.

Shamkhani also underscored that Iran’s missile tests shouldn’t affect the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed by Iran and the world powers on July 14.

In relevant remarks on Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif underscored that Tehran has not violated the UN Security Council resolution 2231 by testing missiles, reiterating that Tehran would never accept to let the nuclear agreement leave an impact on its defensive measures.

“No reference has been made to the missile issue in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and I seriously believe that our missile tests are no way related to Resolution 2231,” Zarif said in a joint press conference with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Tehran.

“Resolution 2231 speaks of missiles which have been designed for nuclear capabilities while none of our missiles have been designed for nuclear capabilities and our missile program is aimed at defending our territorial integrity,” he added.

Noting that all involved parties, including the Americans, have admitted that Iran’s missile tests haven’t violated the nuclear agreement between Tehran and the world powers, Zarif said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran has proved and shows again that the nuclear weapons didn’t and don’t have any place in its defensive doctrine and our missiles have not been designed for carrying nuclear warheads since we didn’t and don’t have any plan to have nuclear warheads.”

Some western media outlets have cast doubt about Iran’s recent missile test, saying that it could have violated the nuclear agreement between Tehran and the world powers.

Iran last Sunday successfully test-fired the country’s new precision-guided long-range ballistic missile that can be controlled until the moment of impact. Emad carries a conventional warhead.

“This missile (Emad) which has been fully designed and made by Iranian Defense Ministry’s scientists and experts is the country’ first long-range missile with navigation and strike controlling capability; it is capable of hitting and destroying the targets with high-precision,” Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan told reporters after the successful test of Emad missile.

The Iranian Defense Minister reiterated that the manufacture and successful testing of Emad missile is a technological and operational jump in a strategic field, and said, “We don’t ask for anyone’s permission for boosting our defense and missile power; we resolutely continue our defense programs, specially in the missile field, and Emad missile is a conspicuous example.”

General Dehqan felicitated Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Iranian Armed Forces and the Iranian nation on the successful testing, and appreciated the scientists and experts of the Aerospace Industries Organization of the Defense Ministry.

The Iranian Defense Minister reiterated that the mass production and delivery of Emad missile to the country’s Armed Forces will considerably increase their power and tactical capabilities.

The Iranian Armed Forces have recently test-fired different types of newly-developed missiles and torpedoes and tested a large number of home-made weapons, tools and equipment, including submarines, military ships, artillery, choppers, aircrafts, UAVs and air defense and electronic systems, during massive military drills.

Defense analysts and military observers say that Iran’s wargames and its advancements in weapons production have proved as a deterrent factor.

The Iranian officials have always underscored that the country’s defense program cannot be affected by the nuclear deal clinched between Iran and the world powers on July 14.