Secret Missile Strike in Syria, Bibi’s Message to Iran?

Now we understand the visits to the Trump White House from foreign leaders. The timing of the Netanyahu speech, hours after a suspected Israeli strike that likely used bunker-busters capable of hitting Iran’s nuclear facilities, after Secretary Mike Pompeo’s visit and days before Trump’s May deadline is certainly interesting.

When Secretary Mattis spoke to Congress last week regarding Iran, the wars drums are beating due to Iran, Hezbollah and Israel. Newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just left Israel and has departed Jordan, his last stop bound for home to his office to  which he has not yet visited since his confirmation as Secretary of State. The discussions were the presentation Prime Minister Netanyahu was about to deliver to the world about Iran and the nuclear program shrouded in lies.

Project Amad and 5 warheads, 10 kilotons…. all led by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi.

In 2013, the man whom Western intelligence agencies say may very well be the head of Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program was present as an observer last week when North Korea carried out a critical nuclear test, The British Sunday Times reported.

According to the report Sunday, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi very rarely leaves Iranian soil due to fear that Israel’s Mossad will make an attempt on his life, following an alleged pattern of previous assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists.


The Obama administration negotiated the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 along with China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.K. The accord lifted a series of sanctions against Iran in exchange for Tehran accepting limits on its nuclear program and allowing international investigators access to its facilities.

The International Atomic Energy Agency and the signatories to the agreement have repeatedly confirmed that Iran is complying with the deal as it is written.

“We’ve known for years that Iran had a secret nuclear weapons program called Project Amad,” he continued. We can now prove that Project Amad was a comprehensive program to design, build, and test nuclear weapons. We can also prove that Iran is secretly storing Project Amad material to use at a time of its choice to develop nuclear weapons.”

Netanyahu revealed that the purpose of Project Amad was to design, produce, and test five nuclear warheads, each with an explosive yield of 10 kilotons of TNT, for integration with ballistic missiles. “That’s like 5 Hiroshima bombs to be put on ballistic missiles.”

He further revealed that Project Amad had all five elements of a nuclear weapons program, designing nuclear weapons, developing nuclear cores, building nuclear implosion systems, preparing nuclear tests, and integrating nuclear weapons with missiles.

According to Netanyahu, Iran shelved Project Amad under international pressure in 2003. “But it didn’t shelve its nuclear ambitions.”

“Iran devised a plan to do two things, first to preserve the nuclear know-how from Project Amad, and second, to further develop its nuclear weapons related capabilities.”

Many of the same personnel continued to work on Iran’s nuclear program even following the shelving of Project Amad.

Netanyahu accused Iran of continuing to lie to the International Atomic Energy Agency about its nuclear activities and their military applications.

“The Iran [nuclear] deal is based on lies. It is based on Iranian lies and Iranian deception,” he said.

Netanyahu stated that “the nuclear deal gives Iran a clear path to an atomic arsenal.”

He addressed US President Donald Trump’s upcoming decision on whether to remain in the Iran nuclear deal or not and said that he believed that Trump would withdraw from the deal.

“I am sure he will do the right thing, the right thing for the United States, the right thing for Israel, and the right thing for the peace of the world.” More here.

***  امپراطوری پنهان و فاسد فخریزاده(Mohsen Fakhrizadeh ... photo

Senior Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) scientist and former head of Iran’s Physics Research Center (PHRC); on July 8, 2008, added to the Specially Designated National (SDN) list maintained by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), freezing his assets under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting transactions with U.S. parties, pursuant to Executive Order 13382, which targets proliferators of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery systems.

Listed in an annex to U.N. Security Council resolution 1747 of March 24, 2007, as a person involved in Iran’s nuclear or ballistic missile activities; with some exceptions, the designation requires states to freeze the financial assets on their territories which are owned or controlled by the entity, by its agents, or by entities it controls; the designation also requires states to ensure that funds, financial assets or economic resources are prevented from being made available by their nationals or by any persons or entities within their territories, to or for the benefit of the entity; the resolution calls on states to “exercise vigilance” in allowing the designated person to enter or to transit through their territories, and requires states to notify the Security Council if the person does so.

Listed by the European Union on April 21, 2007, pursuant to U.N. Security Council resolution 1747, as an entity whose funds and economic resources, and those it owns, holds or controls, must be frozen by E.U. member states, with some exceptions, and within their jurisdiction; E.U. member states must also ensure that funds or economic resources are not made available to or for the benefit of the listed entity; with some exceptions, European Union member states must prevent the person’s entry into or transit through their territories.

Works closely with Fereidoun Abbasi-Davani, who is also listed in an annex to U.N. Security Council resolution 1747; the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has sought access to Mr. Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi to interview him about the activities of the PHRC during his leadership, but Iran has refused; reportedly believed by U.S. intelligence to be the director of “Project 111,” a nuclear research effort that includes work on missile development; reportedly has been a member of the Scientific Board of the physics college at Imam Hossein University since 1991; reportedly directs the nuclear program at Iran’s Center for Readiness and New Defense Technology; passport numbers 0009228 and 4229533.

Father of the Holy War Attended Colorado College

A History Of Islamic Extremism photo

Before Sayyid Qutb became a leading theorist of violent jihad, he was a little-known Egyptian writer sojourning in the United States, where he attended a small teachers college on the Great Plains. Greeley, Colorado, circa 1950 was the last place one might think to look for signs of American decadence. Its wide streets were dotted with churches, and there wasn’t a bar in the whole temperate town. But the courtly Qutb (COO-tub) saw things that others did not. He seethed at the brutishness of the people around him: the way they salted their watermelon and drank their tea unsweetened and watered their lawns. He found the muscular football players appalling and despaired of finding a barber who could give a proper haircut. As for the music: “The American’s enjoyment of jazz does not fully begin until he couples it with singing like crude screaming,” Qutb wrote when he returned to Egypt. “It is this music that the savage bushmen created to satisfy their primitive desires.”

Such grumbling by an unhappy crank would be almost comical but for one fact: a direct line of influence runs from Sayyid Qutb to Osama bin Laden, and to bin Laden’s Egyptian partner in terror, Ayman al-Zawahiri. From them, the line continues to another quietly seething Egyptian sojourning in the United States—the 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta. Qutb’s gripes about America require serious attention because they cast light on a question that has been nagging since the fall of the World Trade Center: Why do they hate us?

Born in 1906 in the northern Egyptian village of Musha and raised in a devout Muslim home, Qutb memorized the Koran as a boy. Later he moved to Cairo and found work as a teacher and writer. His novels made no great impression, but he earned a reputation as an astute literary critic. Qutb was among the first champions of Naguib Mahfouz, a young, modern novelist who, in 1988, would win the Nobel Prize in Literature. As Qutb matured, his mind took on a more political cast. Even by the standards of Egypt, those were chaotic, corrupt times: World War I had completed the destruction of the Ottoman Empire, and the Western powers were creating, with absolute colonial confidence, new maps and governments for the Middle East. For a proud man like Sayyid Qutb, the humiliation of his country at the hands of secular leaders and Western puppets was galling. His writing drew unfavorable attention from the Egyptian government, and by 1948, Mahfouz has said, Qutb’s friends in the Ministry of Education were sufficiently worried about his situation that they contrived to send him abroad to the safety of the United States. More here from Smithsonian.


The Secret Islamist Society That Nurtured Jihadist Terrorism

In the ’50s and ’60s, Islamist radical and theorist Sayyid Qutb cultivated and trained a generation of Muslim radicals who would sow the seeds of ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Gerges: After the attacks on the U.S. homeland on September 11, 2001, Sayyid Qutb, master ideologue of radical Islamism and agitator, became a household name in America. He was seen as the godfather of global jihadism like al-Qaeda and an inspiration to radical religious activists worldwide. Security experts mined his writings for signposts about the drivers behind radicalization. An analyst called him “the philosopher of terror.” It has become more difficult to disentangle myths and facts about this Islamist agitator and theoretician who is mythologized by both disciples and distractors.

In contrast, my new biography of Qutb presents a more complex and multidimensional personality than has usually been presented, whose legacy is often deliberately misinterpreted by Islamists themselves. While Qutb’s writings have been debated by scholars,[i] his life in prison between 1954 and 1964 and in the underground has not been fully and critically examined. The prison years are pivotal. His decade-long experience in the prison camps radicalized him and convinced him of the urgent need to overthrow the secular order and replace it with a system firmly grounded in the Qur’an.

As one of Qutb’s devoted jail companions, Sayyid Eid, put it, “The prison years transformed Qutb’s thinking and writing. He turned his pen into a deadly weapon against what he called the tawagheet [tyrants] and aimed at awakening the ummah [worldwide community of Muslims] from its prolonged slumber.”

It is behind the bars of Nasserist jails that Qutb constructed his subversive manifestos that promoted an alternative revolutionary Islamist project and attempted to put it into practice. From November 1954, when he began a 15-year sentence, Qutb worked on radical amendments to his multiple-volume commentary on the Qur’an called In the Shadow of the Qur’an. Representing a rupture with his previous moderate views, this new and firmly ideological outlook emphasized revolutionary Islam and the inevitability of the confrontation with jahiliyya, a term historically used to refer to the spiritual ignorance of Arabian society prior to the arrival of Islam. Qutb drew a direct line between the “the old jahiliyya of the Arabs” with what he called al-jahiliyya al-haditha, the modern jahiliyya.

Qutb defined jahiliyya as a deviation from the worship of One God. He made a correlation between the Egypt in which he lived and the environment in which the Prophet Muhammad had first spread the message of Islam. To this end, he took a radical step in categorizing contemporary Egyptian society as jahili.

If jahiliyya amounted to the servitude of humans to other humans, for Qutb, true Islamic life involves total submission to God. Qutb preached that Islam would ultimately prevail but its triumph would not occur simply by virtue of its revelation by God but rather through a group of people understanding the task, believing in it completely and conforming to it as closely as possible.” Qutb called for the creation of a Qur’anic generation which would act as a vanguard “to point out the road of salvation to humanity and to build the road as well.”


Qutb and Al-Tanzim al-Sirri

This is all familiar by now. What is little known is that from the second half of the ’50s, Qutb embarked on a mission, while in prison, to recruit fellow Islamist prisoners and to rally them to his revolutionary cause. He was in a paramilitary organization subsequently named al-Tanzim al-Sirri (the Secret Organization) by the Egyptian authorities. Qutb provided ideological and practical guidance to operators who numbered in the hundreds inside and outside prisons. According to his disciples, Qutb’s goal for agreeing to be in charge of al-Tanzim was to protect the Islamist movement and ultimately topple the Nasser regime and Islamize state and society. The historical importance of al-Tanzim lies in that it served as a template for subsequent underground jihadist organizations. Qutb’s revolutionary ideas and actions continue to resonate with radical religious activists worldwide, even though there is no straightforward line between the pioneer Islamist agitator and today’s wave of Muslim extremism.

In the summer of 1965, Nasser’s security forces accidentally discovered al-Tanzim after a member they arrested exposed the underground organization. Qutb and his men lost the fight before “firing a single shot,” as one of his young lieutenants Ali Ashmawi put it. The authorities acted swiftly and aggressively to dismantle al-Tanzim’s cells and to complete the destruction of the Brotherhood. After al-Tanzim was exposed and its members arrested, Qutb took full responsibility for his operational role trying to shield his disciples and followers. In his last testament, Why They Executed Me, he implied that his goal had been to bear the brunt of the burden and to minimize the costs to al-Tanzim’s members.

The Egyptian government used confessions extracted under torture from members of al-Tanzim to indict both Qutb and the Brotherhood leadership. Qutb and al-Tanzim’s six top lieutenants were sentenced to death. According to Nasser’s chief of staff, Sami Sharaf, Nasser had taken a particularly strong line. “Nasser said that executing Qutb would deal the Ikhwan a mortal blow, as well as any future counterrevolution by religious fanatics,” he said. Thousands of members of the Muslim Brothers, including senior leaders, were arrested, allegedly tortured, and given long jail terms. “We wanted to bury the Ikhwan, period,” confessed Sami Sharaf. “Our goal was to remove the cancer from the Egyptian body politic.”

Over a two-year period, I spent countless hours attentively listening to Qutb’s surviving contemporary disciples and his right-hand men in al-Tanzim al-Sirri (the Secret Organization) who joined his underground network and spent years by his side in and out of prison. Reminiscing about their past moments with him, they confided what had transpired behind prison walls and drew an intimate portrait of the radical Islamist theoritician. They told me about Qutb’s antipathy to Nasser and his desire to rid Egypt of its faroun (tyrant). Having spent years with him in the solitude of prisons and outside, Qutb’s disciples are best positioned to clarify the background, intentions, and implication of some of his controversial terms and his vision in general. This small circle of followers were his eyes and ears and would have sacrificed their lives for him, as they have indicated.

Those old men in their seventies and eighties introduced me to a younger Qutbian generation that seeks to carry the revolutionary torch forward. Time and again, I was told by Qutb’s followers that by the late ’50s their mentor was essentially in charge of the Brotherhood and tried to revolutionize the timid Islamist organization. Although in 1966 Nasser hoped to extinguish the Qutbian fire by sending Qutb to the gallows, his “martyrdom” provided the fuel that has powered several jihadist waves, according to his contemporary disciples. Qutb’s loyalists say that he knew that his blood would be a curse to haunt Muslim tawagheet (tyrants) and to quench the thirst of the ummah (the global Muslim community) for sacrifice and cultural and political renewal.

I have extensively relied on these firsthand interviews, recollections, and memoirs of Qutb’s contemporaries to reconstruct his life journey—from a public intellectual with a secular mentality to a revolutionary Islamist. My uninhibited access to Qutb’s most inner circle and that of the Brotherhood’s old guard and younger activists provides a unique window into a shadowy, secretive universe, allowing my biography of Qutb to zero in on these prison years and trace his footsteps and actions, thus filling a major gap in the literature.

My interviews with al-Tanzim’s key lieutenants illuminated Qutb’s role in the organization explaining the influence of prison and torture on his ideological transformation between 1954 and 1965. Moreover, Qutb’s contemporaries elaborate on the relationship between al-Tanzim and the rest of the Brotherhood and the extent to which the rift haunted the Islamist group in the following decades. These illuminating conversations highlight what has been a mysterious presence in discussions of the relationships between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nasserist state, but more importantly, they offer a new dimension to understanding the influence of Qutb and the transformation that he underwent during the prison years from 1954 till 1965.

The stirring of militancy from the ruins of the Brotherhood

In the early ’50s, the Brotherhood represented the largest social force in Egypt. Thus, when the Free Officers clamped down on the Islamist organization in 1953-1954, this confrontation ultimately morphed into a prolonged struggle between secular-leaning Arab nationalism represented by the Nasserist state and an emergent radical Islamist current led by Sayyid Qutb. After Nasser launched first wave of mass arrests against the Muslim Brothers in mid-January 1954, it only took the Islamist group a short while to get up and running again despite the imprisonment of thousands of its senior leaders and members. By June of that year, there were already reports of a revival of Brotherhood activism with the intent of securing the survival of the organization.

In the midst of the 1954 clampdown, the dominant view among senior Muslim Brotherhood, led by the General Guide Hasan al-Hudaybi, was that the organization should endeavor to absorb the shock and wait for more favorable political conditions. Meanwhile, the imprisoned members were already plotting their next moves against the state. A divide between the traditional leadership and the lower-rank members was now gradually developing. The Brothers were angry and bitter because they felt betrayed by Nasser who, without the organization’s support, would have not been able to seize power in 1952. As frustration deepened among some imprisoned Brotherhood members, their resentment increased against their own leadership for its quietism and the prisons thus became a key forum for activism.

Moreover, those who had not been caught up in the crackdown did their best to continue their activities under the oppressive new conditions. One of them was Ahmed Abdel Majid, who was both a member of the Brotherhood and an officer in the Egyptian military intelligence service during the prison years. “After the Nasser regime dismantled the Ikhwan [Islamist movement]—young men— sought to absorb the shock and plot our next moves,” he confided. “Initially, there existed no centralized authority. Each unit did its own thing. Others prayed together and talked politics… In the first two years, we kept a very low profile and refrained from recruitment outside our closest circles,” he explained. Although similar efforts were underway elsewhere, they remained organic and dispersed. “We had no idea that throughout the country other young Egyptians had organized themselves in similar cells and shared our goal,” added Abdel Majid, who was a founding member of al-Tanzim. Therefore, the repression exerted by the Nasserist state only hardened attitudes among some sections of the Muslim Brothers and supporters, both inside and outside the prisons.

The Emergence of al-Tanzim

This context is important to understanding the emergence of al-Tanzim. It formed out of units created by some of those who had remained at liberty after the 1954 clampdown and who were determined to continue their armed activism. Gradually, al-Tanzim developed into a somewhat coordinated paramilitary operation, concentrated in urban areas like Cairo and Alexandria. In the late ’50s, as various cells began to link up with one another, they soon realized they needed to put forward a clear vision or road map for the future.

Al-Tanzim’s beginnings were humble. With the dismantling of the Brotherhood’s institutions and networks, followers and supporters had lost their political equilibrium and they sensed danger. Undeterred by the Nasserist state’s concerted effort to destroy the Islamist group, and with hardly any financial backing or military experience, these young activists took great risks in an uncertain bid to unseat Nasser. The power of ideas is key to understanding their self-conscious action, regardless of how reckless and suicidal it may seem to outsiders. The lesson we can draw from al-Tanzim is still relevant to understanding the rise of paramilitary Islamist groups today, insofar as it speaks to the marrying of radical religious ideas with a sense of injustice, victimhood, and persecution.

The first emir (leader) of al-Tanzim was Abdel Aziz Ali, a former army general and minister who was one of the heroes of the 1919 revolution against the British. However, he was still very much wedded to the old ways of thinking and acting. Al-Tanzim’s lieutenants, in contrast, were ambitious, impatient, and determined to pursue the riskier strategy. They thus searched for a charismatic leader with the capacity and the temperament to make their nascent organization more effective. It was at this stage, having become disillusioned with Abdel Aziz and having been turned down by Abdel Khaleq, that members of al-Tanzim began to put out feelers to Qutb. “The key word was ‘inspiration.’ We searched for a leader who would inspire us and educate us about the duties and responsibilities of jihad,” said Abdel Majid, who was head of al-Tanzim’s intelligence committee. “We were less interested in military and intelligence drills, and more so in theological and ideological renewal and transformation. Sayyid Qutb was an inspirational role model who could empower our nascent jama’a [the community].”

To their delight, al-Tanzim’s lieutenants were able to get in touch with Qutb in prison in the late ’50s via two women who acted as intermediaries: Qutb’s sister Hamida and an audacious Ikhwan activist called Zeinab al-Ghazali. Having thus made contact with Qutb, al-Tanzim’s operatives pleaded with him to be their leader and pledged to swear bay’a to him. “We were elated when word reached us that Qutb had consented to our request,” recalled Abdel A’l Aw’d Musa, an intense 76 year old who was then in his twenties and who established one of the first underground cells outside Cairo.

Before Qutb joined, al-Tanzim had consisted only of disconnected underground cells. With Qutb at the helm, a coherent and unified organization emerged, and the goal shifted from the ouster from power of Nasser and his inner circle to the transformation of society as a whole.

From Qutb’s viewpoint, the decision to offer “guidance,” as he noted in his confessions, to the organization’s young members bordered on suicidal. Sayyid Eid, the prison companion, recalled Qutb saying that he fully expected to be killed by the Egyptian authorities and that “Al-Shahid [the martyr] acted and behaved as if he was destined to be martyred at any moment,” recalled Eid. As Shazili and others noted, Qutb was not a traditional critic or a theorist confined to an ivory tower. “Qutb did not only theorize about the urgent need for a vanguard but devoted the last decade of his life to building a real vanguard,” explained Abdel Majid al-Shazili, who was in charge of a branch of al-Tanzim in Alexandria during this period, during one meeting in his apartment in Alexandria.

Pressed on the question of whether Qutb sanctioned the use of violent means to effect political change, Ashmawi, the young lieutenant, responded: “Yes, Qutb aimed at violently overthrowing the whole social and political order, not only the Nasser regime.” Furthermore, according to Ali Ashmawi, who was an operational commander, Qutb also played a pivotal role in the education and indoctrination of al-Tanzim’s cadres. “Before we connected with Qutb, we were theologically naive, blind and deaf, feeling our way in the darkness,” he said, with a loud laugh. “He opened our eyes and ears to the truth and showed us the way.” Qutb was able to endow al-Tanzim with a theological vision based on his own interpretation of the Qu’ran for the transformation of Egyptian society. Qutb’s texts were smuggled out of the prison and distributed to the five men of the leadership committee of al-Tanzim who would then spend hours studying Qutb’s words.

The Brotherhood Divided

From the second half of the ’50s until his temporary release from jail on health grounds at the end of 1964 at the behest of the prime minister of Iraq, Abdel Salam Arif, Qutb embarked on a mission to recruit fellow Islamist prisoners and to rally them to his revolutionary cause. Having suffered from breathing problems before he was imprisoned, he spent most of his years of incarceration in prison hospital facilities. During a spell in the Tura prison hospital, he interviewed scores of visiting cellmates from various prisons, particularly al-Qanatir, to find out who would be receptive to his revolutionary ideas. He succeeded in recruiting dozens of prisoners to his underground project. Although Qutb’s followers were a minority—nearly one hundred members among the incarcerated Muslim Brothers, who numbered in the low thousands—their very existence shattered the unity of the Islamist group and exposed internal ideological and doctrinal fault lines.

Throughout this time, Qutb never requested authorization from the Brotherhood leadership to recruit imprisoned members to his cause. He went to great lengths to mask his proselytizing efforts from the top leaders of the movement, and when they confronted him, he denied converting detainees. By covertly recruiting prisoners to his revolutionary scheme, Qutb went against the ethos of absolute obedience to the hierarchy that had long been a core principle of the Islamist organization. He possessed no official function or authority to replace the Brotherhood’s worldview with his own interpretation.

Senior leaders were appalled when news reached them that Qutb had been preaching subversive ideas to the rank and file. The most alarming news was his idea of takfir (excommunication), including the whole of Egyptian society: the state, ordinary people, and the ulama. Faced with this new challenge, the Brotherhood leadership grilled Qutb and demanded that he refrain from spreading fitna (sedition).

“A fitna almost tore apart the ranks of the jailed Ikhwan,” acknowledged Abdel Khaleq, Hudaybi’s trusted man. But he claimed that “the supreme guide swiftly cautioned Qutb against any unauthorized teaching and preaching, and nipped the fitna in the bud.” According to Abdel Khaleq, who as Hudaybi’s right-hand official was privy to the confrontation, Qutb disavowed such heretical views and insisted that he only taught prisoners Qur’anic lessons. “He was agreeable and nonconfrontational, seeking to dispel suspicions that he had gone rogue,” Abdel Khaleq said.

In contrast, Sayyid Eid, who was in Qutb’s camp, said that his mentor’s seemingly conciliatory stance was but an artifice. “We [both sides] put the best face on a dangerously embarrassing situation. Qutb had a low opinion of the tired old men of the Ikhwan who suffered in silence at the hands of Nasser and who willingly refused to resist oppression and injustice. He viewed them as being out of touch with the emancipatory and revolutionary power of ‘aqida,” Eid told me. “Sayyid Qutb had contempt for the Ikhwan political leadership, whom he derisively called functionaries,” he added. “He dismissed them as stupid and spineless, status quo men.” Despite his reassurances to Hudaybi and other Muslim Brothers, Qutb had unambiguously excommunicated Nasser. According to Eid, Hudaybi’s intervention did little to calm the dissidents. “Far from it,” he said. “Dozens of Ikhwan members, including myself, were steadfast in their support of Qutb’s defiance of the Nasser regime and the need to build a vanguard to carry out an Islamist revolution.”

In prison Qutb enlisted Muslim Brothers over the heads of their “legitimate” leaders and drove a wedge into the heart of the Islamist movement. Those who looked up to him for inspiration and guidance distanced themselves from the formal institutions of the mainstream Brotherhood, which caused a serious rift between Qutb’s men and other prisoners. According to Ahmed Ra’if, a well-placed member of the Brotherhood who was in contact with both camps at that time, the internal divide even poisoned the atmosphere in more than one jail. The two sides bickered so bitterly and intensely that Hudaybi issued a directive from his prison cell calling for a cessation to the hostilities, although neither camp adhered to a ceasefire and skirmishes frequently occurred.

Meanwhile, Qutb continued to disseminate his ideas during daily lessons to the prisoners. According to attendees, these primarily focused on two themes: ‘aqida (Islamic doctrine), and siyasa (politics). Qutb reminded his disciples that if they harnessed the hidden power of ‘aqida, they would be emancipated and fearless; they would become closer to God and act as his faithful agents in reinstituting a just and pure Islamic order on earth. “His aim was to transform members from mere religious activists into revolutionaries to confront the internal and external enemies of Islam,” confided Eid. “He made new men out of us, armed us with ‘aqida and summoned us to reestablish Islam in its purity and beauty in a similar way to that of the early Muslims.”

Eid’s recollections testify to the power of Qutb’s message, written especially for the youth who he hoped would spearhead the coming Islamist revolution. “Unfettered by previous conventional interpretations of the Qur’an, Qutb offered his own interpretation in a straightforward and accessible style and addressed us in captivating language that resonated with all of us,” Eid recalled. “My eyes welled with tears when Qutb dictated some passages of his masterpieces, Signposts and his Qur’anic exegesis,” said Eid, who transcribed books that Qutb dictated to him during their time together in prison. “I and many others felt that he was giving expression to our deepest aspirations and fears about the plight of Egypt and the ummah, and the threat posed by renegade rulers and their masters—crusaders and Zionists.”

The hardening of attitudes among some Muslim Brothers members translated into a determination to take practical steps to strike violently at the Nasserist state. Some of those who had moved in these circles at that time, whether inside or outside of prison, told me that they had wanted to kill Nasser and his close aides. More ambitious members had visions of overthrowing the regime as a whole and replacing it with a Qur’an-inspired government. A common thread among these newly radicalized recruits was visceral hatred of Nasser and what he represented.

“We wanted to pull Nasser’s junta up by its roots and liberate our Ikhwan brethren from captivity,” recollected Ali Ashmawi, who took steps to achieve these ends and planned to kill Nasser. “Initially, our aim was to prevent the Ikhwan organization from disintegrating and to prepare the ground for a future uprising against Nasser and his thugs. We wanted organizational continuity but with new blood and fresh faces unknown to the security services.”

Of all al-Tanzim’s lieutenants and foot soldiers, Ashmawi was the most forthcoming about the history of the organization because he had little to lose, having been demonized by the Brotherhood for breaking down under torture following his arrest in 1965 and exposing his co-conspirators. His old cohorts have never forgiven this “human act of weakness and treachery,” as he put it, although he assured me that when he found himself sitting next to Qutb in a courtroom some weeks after their arrest, the latter showed empathy for his plight. “I explained to him that the Ikhwan abused me and treated me like a pariah in prison. Qutb reassured me that he understood my predicament and that blaming the victim is wrong. ‘Nasser’s security men are the villains, not you,’ [he] added with a gentle smile on his face,” according to Ashmawi.

Ashmawi’s narrative is significant for this study as he was present at the birth of al-Tanzim and served as its military field commander. His is the most unscripted, comprehensive, and revealing voice on the issues at stake, and the least constrained by any existing connections with the Brotherhood. Most of Ashmawi’s recollections are corroborated by other members of al-Tanzim and independent sources.

Others who moved in these circles at the time also confirmed the shift to more militant views that was then under way. “We could not be passive while our brethren were being unjustly abused and oppressed,” said Ahmed Abdel Majid. “That would have violated one of the fundamental tenets of our religion; resisting injustice and defying renegade rulers.” Beyond the question of vengeance and a perceived duty to defend their oppressed co-religionists, taking action against Nasser under these circumstances was also seen as necessary in order to defend Islam itself. “Once Nasser’s regime persecuted the Ikhwan, it became obligatory for us to step forward and defend Islam,” said Abdel Majid. Challenged on his implicit assumption that the Brotherhood could be directly equated with Islam per se, he responded that “the Islamist movement is the guardian and protector of Islam… If you target its sons, you are harming Islam and hindering its growth.”

More and more former disciples of Qutb told me their priority had been to eliminate Nasser: “We concluded that Nasser must go. We wanted to kill the devil and rid Egypt of him,” agreed Abdel A’l Aw’d Musa, who was introduced to me by Abdel Majid. The two men knew each other from al-Tanzim and became best friends while in prison. “Blinded by hatred and revenge, many of us pledged to assassinate Nasser and be martyred in the process,” added Aw’d, who, as mentioned previously, was in charge of an underground cell which, although initially designed to assist the families of incarcerated Ikhwan members, became tasked with the more ambitious goal of subverting the Nasser regime. “My unit’s fundamental goal was to kill Nasser and avenge our persecuted Brethren,” he explained. “We recruited between fifty and seventy fit young men, raised one thousand pounds to carry out the operation, and trained and readied ourselves for an opportune moment.” The cell selected Alexandria as an ideal location and developed a plan to position three separate assassination teams armed with automatic weapons.

However, as division over whether it would be better to assassinate Nasser or overthrow the regime hardened, the plan never came to fruition. “As we talked to other members who had also organized themselves in small paramilitary units, our plot met with stiff resistance and opposition from senior leaders who warned against rash actions inspired by vengeance and emotion. We were told that killing Nasser would not dramatically change the system and that a like-minded secular dictator would replace him. It was not easy to postpone our short-term goal of punishing Nasser for his crimes, for the greater good of overthrowing the corrupt, decadent regime,” explained Aw’d. “While debating the decision with our Brothers, we cried and prayed for inspiration and wisdom. What you need to comprehend is that Nasser hurt us badly and left deep scars in both our souls and our bodies,” he emphasized.

Allergic to the accusation that radical Islamism sprang from within their ranks, contemporary Brotherhood leaders deny even very existence of al-Tanzim as an armed force. “Why do you keep quizzing me about Qutb’s al-Tanzim?” Mahmoud Izzat, a 70-year-old multimillionaire who currently runs the organization in exile, demanded of me angrily, arguing that “the whole thing is a Nasserist construction invented by his intelligence thugs to use as a bludgeon against the Ikhwan,” he assured me. Others within the Islamist group, while acknowledging the existence of al-Tanzim, deny that it ever had the blessing of the leadership. Senior official Abdel Khaleq continually insisted that the senior leadership, particularly the General Guide, had not sanctioned Qutb’s paramilitary organization. “Hudaybi’s hands had already been burned, and he would not let a few well-meaning and excited activists ignite a fire that would destroy the organization,” he insisted.

Although Qutb kept his recruitment of followers inside the prisons, radical activist Zeinab al-Ghazali Ghazali seems to have acted as an intermediary between Qutb and Hudaybi, the General Guide, thus pointing to some kind of awareness and approval of the existence of al-Tanzim by the Brotherhood’s top leadership. The nature of this relationship goes to the very heart of a broader question regarding whether al-Tanzim was a paramilitary arm of the Brotherhood or an independent venture undertaken by young dissidents. From the time of the exposure of al-Tanzim in 1965, the Egyptian authorities launched a propaganda offensive aimed at undermining the Islamist group as a whole asserting that al-Tanzim was its affiliate. Against this background, officials of the Brotherhood have repeatedly denied that the broader movement and its leadership played any formal role in al-Tanzim and have accused the Nasserist state of manufacturing evidence.

Primary evidence suggests that Hudaybi did in fact sanction al-Tanzim. Abdel Majid recalled that after Abdel Khaleq, the General Guide’s trusted man, had refused to take charge of the organization, its members had approached Hudaybi directly to seek his approval. “We could not have moved forward without the authorization of the supreme guide because we needed religious legitimation,” said Ali Ashmawi. The young lieutenant. “We sought and promptly received Hudaybi’s approval.”

All surviving members of al-Tanzim say that from the outset, Qutb himself had refused to head the underground group unless he obtained an official decree from the General Guide. These contradictory internal accounts are unsurprising given that the Islamist organization was in a state of virtual paralysis. Hudaybi wanted to have it both ways: to shield the political organization against accusations, while keeping his options open with regard to the possibility of militarily confronting the Nasserist state.

The Clampdown on al-Tanzim

For his part, Qutb assured his disciples that his death would in fact serve as a catalyst for his cherished Islamist revolution. There are many accounts of the final hours leading up to Qutb’s execution on August 29, 1966. A common thread that runs through these stories is that Qutb went to the gallows with no hesitation or regret. From interviews with his disciples, a portrait emerges of the man as a crusader who was unafraid to die for his beliefs and in fact welcomed martyrdom. Well versed in Islamic history, Qutb knew better than Nasser the enduring and powerful role that iconic symbols and martyrs have played in Islamic tradition. One of the few images that exist of Qutb on the day of his hanging shows him with a smile on his face.

Qutb was buried in an unmarked grave in al-Qarafa al-Kubra (the Great Cemetery) but has remained alive in the minds and hearts of Islamists worldwide, endearingly referred to as al-Shahid al-Hayy (the living martyr). “Qutb’s words have a special resonance due to his steadfastness in the face of tyranny,” said Shazili, who would eventually be imprisoned after al-Tanzim was crushed in 1965; he spent almost a decade behind bars. “By practicing and living what he preached, he set an enduring model for future generations of religious dissidents.”


The relationship between Qutb and the Brotherhood was fraught with tensions and contradictions. Qutb was an outsider, a belated convert to the cause. Only 18 months after his official joining of the Islamist group in 1953, he was arrested and Qutb never really developed institutional links within the Brotherhood. A maverick with a volatile character, he was not the type to toe the party line.

According to his disciples, Qutb saw himself as guiding the Islamist caravan in the right direction and rescuing Islam from oblivion. His attempted coup against the Brotherhood shows the extent of his ideological transformation as a revolutionary Islamist theorist and ideologue, and his determination to bring about real change. He aimed at dismantling all existing institutions, including his own mainstream Islamist group. This fact does not match the emphasis typically placed by Qutb’s biographers on continuity over discontinuity, and their tendency to portray Qutb as simply an extension of the Brotherhood institutional family.

What emerges from Qutb’s formative years and early adulthood was his quest for recognition and deference, no matter which circles he navigated. Unsuccessful in the literary scene and with the Free Officers, his new reinterpretation of Islam finally won him the recognition for which he had so urgently strived. In his own writings, the carefully crafted image of Qutb is that of a prophet-like, selfless man whose total embrace of Islam allowed him to reestablish the sovereignty of God on earth (hakimiyya). In this context, it is unsurprising that the political struggle between the Nasserist state and the Qutbian Islamists has come to be invested with existential overtones. With both camps repeating mirroring narratives of the Other as an existential threat, violence became the norm.

Unfortunately, this vision is still a prevalent feature of Arab politics and has contributed to the rise of waves of radical jihadists, including Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. This initial framing of the struggle as existential has been recycled by subsequent generations of religious activists and nationalists. Today this fierce struggle plays out in Egypt, the most populous Arab state, and in neighboring Arab countries. In their quest for power, both Nasser and the Brotherhood laid the foundation for an articulation of politics and of the relationship between ruler and people as strictly unitary and autocratic, thus paving the way for the institutionalization and normalization of one-party authoritarian rule and religious extremism.

Yes, Secretary Mattis, there IS a Land Bridge

So, all terror roads in the Middle East still lead to Tehran. At the direction of Tehran, Hezbollah, the Iranian militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp operations is selection regions across the globe with wild abandon.

January 2018, in a question and answer session: Q: On Iran’s role in Iraq and Syria, do you believe that a land bridge exists between Iran and Syria through Iraq? And, if so, are you concerned about it? Is there anything the United States can do about it?

SEC. MATTIS: No, I don’t — I don’t think there’s a land bridge right now. There’s still enough rough times — you know, rough terrain, rough enemy units that haven’t been cleaned up, and all the usual cleanup going on, and — plus you’ve got the combination of where the people we’re fighting — advising and that sort of thing in Syria are abutting, in some cases, the Russian forces who are helping the regime, abutting the Turkish elements. There’s — I don’t think there’s a land bridge right now.

*** So, while the United States along with France and Britain delivered 105 missiles to take out three chemical weapons locations in Syria, other locations remain in addition to the Assad air assets. Russia, North Korea, and Tehran were all watching for weeks the actions of the West. Russia declares the most recent chemical weapons attack was at the hand of the White Helmets, then it was a ploy by Britain, then it was a CIA operation. Meanwhile, the chemical weapons inspection envoy arriving in Douma, the suburb of Damascus had to find cover after being fired upon.

That brings us back to domestic threats and the strategy as developed by the Trump administration in dealing with Iran and Russia, much less Iraq. Is there one other than the threat of exiting the JCPOA? Not so far it seems. The increasing threat? Satellite land bridges perhaps….from Latin America to covert cells across our homeland.


Iranian-backed militants are operating across the United States mostly unfettered, raising concerns in Congress and among regional experts that these “sleeper cell” agents are poised to launch a large-scale attack on the American homeland, according to testimony before lawmakers.

Iranian agents tied to the terror group Hezbollah have already been discovered in the United States plotting attacks, giving rise to fears that Tehran could order a strike inside America should tensions between the Trump administration and Islamic Republic reach a boiling point.

Intelligence officials and former White House officials confirmed to Congress on Tuesday that such an attack is not only plausible, but relatively easy for Iran to carry out at a time when the Trump administration is considering abandoning the landmark nuclear deal and reapplying sanctions on Tehran.

There is mounting evidence that Iran poses “a direct threat to the homeland,” according to Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and chair of its subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence.

A chief concern is “Iranian support for Hezbollah, which is active in the Middle East, Latin America, and here in the U.S., where Hezbollah operatives have been arrested for activities conducted in our own country,” King said, referring the recent arrest of two individuals plotting terror attacks in New York City and Michigan.

“Both individuals received significant weapons training from Hezbollah,” King said. “It is clear Hezbollah has the will and capability.”

After more than a decade of receiving intelligence briefs, King said he has concluded that “Hezbollah is probably the most experienced and professional terrorist organization in the world,” even more so than ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Asked if Iran could use Hezbollah to conduct strikes on the United States, a panel of experts including intelligence officials and former White House insiders responded in the affirmative.

“They are as good or better at explosive devices than ISIS, they are better at assassinations and developing assassination cells,” said Michael Pregent, a former intelligence officer who worked to counter Iranian influence in the region. “They’re better at targeting, better at looking at things,” and they can outsource attacks to Hezbollah.

“Hezbollah is smart,” Pregent said. “They’re very good at keeping their communications secure, keeping their operational security secure, and, again, from a high profile attack perspective, they’d be good at improvised explosive devices.”

Others testifying before Congress agreed with this assessment.

“The answer is absolutely. We do face a threat,” said Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who has long tracked Iran’s militant efforts. “Their networks are present in the Untied States.”

Iran is believed to have an auxiliary fighting force or around 200,000 militants spread across the Middle East, according to Nader Uskowi, a onetime policy adviser to U.S. Central Command and current visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

At least 50 to 60 thousand of these militants are “battle tested” in Syria and elsewhere.

“It doesn’t take many of them to penetrate this country and be a major threat,” Uskowi said. “They can pose a major threat to our homeland.”

While Iran is currently more motivated to use its proxies such as Hezbollah regionally for attacks against Israel or U.S. forces, “those sleeper cells” positioned in the United States could be used to orchestrate an attack, according to Brian Katulis, a former member of the White House National Security Council under President Bill Clinton.

“The potential is there, but the movement’s center of focus is in the region,” said Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Among the most pressing threats to the U.S. homeland is Hezbollah’s deep penetration throughout Latin America, where it finances its terror activities by teaming up with drug cartels and crime syndicates.

“Iran’s proxy terror networks in Latin America are run by Tehran’s wholly owned Lebanese franchise Hezbollah,” according to Ottolenghi. “These networks are equal part crime and terror” and have the ability to provide funding and logistics to militant fighters.

“Their presence in Latin America must be viewed as a forward operating base against America’s interest in the region and the homeland itself,” he said.

These Hezbollah operatives exploit loopholes in the U.S. immigration system to enter America under the guise of legitimate business.

Operatives working for Hezbollah and Iran use the United States “as a staging ground for trade-based and real estate-based money laundering.” They “come in through the front door with a legitimate passport and a credible business cover story,” Ottolenghi said.

The matter is further complicated by Iran’s presence in Syria, where it has established not only operating bases, but also weapons factories that have fueled Hezbollah’s and Hamas’s war on Israel.

Iran’s development of advanced ballistic missile and rocket technology—which has continued virtually unimpeded since the nuclear deal was enacted—has benefitted terror groups such as Hezbollah.

“Iran is increasing Hezbollah’s capability to target Israel with more advanced and precision guided rockets and missiles,” according to Pregent. “These missiles are being developed in Syria under the protection of Syrian and Russian air defense networks.”

In Iraq, Iranian forces “have access to U.S. funds and equipment in the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and Iraq’s Ministry of Interior,” Pregent said.

The Trump administration has offered tough talk on Iran, but failed to take adequate action to dismantle its terror networks across the Middle East, as well as in Latin American and the United States itself, according to CAP’s Katulis.

“The Trump administration has talked a good game and has had strong rhetoric, but I would categorize its approach vis-à-vis Iran as one of passive appeasement,” said Katulis. “We simply have not shown up in a meaningful way.”

Iran’s Nuclear Program, Deviations From JCPOA

Primer: from a former Pentagon official

The Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), all but guaranteed a nuclear Iran no later than 2030, necessitating U.S. withdrawal at some point to prevent a critical threat to American national security interests. But there was no urgency for Washington to do so.

What was pressing, following the Iran-Russia alliance with Bashar al-Assad gaining the upper hand in Syria’s civil war in 2016-17, was to roll back Tehran’s growing regional hegemony. Addressing this first would also have offered Trump more leverage with Iran in correcting the nuclear deal’s deep flaws.

Trump pledged to address both elements of the Iranian threat, but he has resisted confronting Iran regionally. Recently, he insisted upon the urgency of pulling out of Syria once Islamic State is defeated and his desire to let “other people take care of it now.” Those caretakers would be Iranians and Russians. This approach will raise the likelihood of an Iranian-Israel conflict over Syria, where the Assad regime is believed to be behind a weekend chemical weapons attack that killed dozens near Damascus and which in turn is blaming Israel for an attack on a Syrian airbase that killed several Iranian military personnel 24 hours later. Much more here to his cogent summary.

Iran to continue building at Arak nuclear site despite ... Arak photo

MEMRI: In advance of Iran’s National Nuclear Technology Day, on April 9, this document focuses on a number of steps taken by the Iranian regime to maintain and further develop Iran’s nuclear capabilities – steps that deviate from the framework of the JCPOA nuclear deal, and that in some cases even blatantly violate it. This paper will address the following:

1. Iran’s intention to enrich uranium above the percentage permitted in JCPOA.

2. Leaving the plutonium core of the reactor at Arak unblocked and usable.

3. Iran’s refusal to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections at its military sites.

1. Iran Announces Decision “To Construct Naval Nuclear Propulsion” – While Naval Nuclear Propulsion Requires Uranium Enriched To 60%-90%

On December 13, 2016, just six months after the JCPOA was finalized, Iranian President Hassan Rohani sent a letter to Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) director Ali Akbar Salehi instructing him as follows: “As part of Iran’s nuclear program for peaceful purposes, and in the framework of Iran’s international commitments, the AEOI must formulate a plan to produce nuclear fuel for naval transportation, in cooperation with [Iran’s] scientific and research centers.”[1] It should be noted that nuclear propulsion requires uranium enriched to 60%-90%.

Shortly thereafter, on December 26, 2016, AEOI deputy director and spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi, who was a member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, clarified to the Iranian Arabic-language Al-‘Alam TV: “The fuel is in effect for ships and submarines. At this time, Iran has a naval fleet [deployed] around the world, and with regard to submarines, Iran has long-term plans…

“There are various types of [nuclear] fuel, even fuel at 95% [enrichment, which is suitable for developing a nuclear bomb]. What is important is that Iran wants to carry this out in accordance with the JCPOA, but this does not mean that if we require 20%[-enriched] fuel that we will abandon this [the plan to enrich uranium to 60%-90%].”[2]

On March 25, 2017, Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Alaa Al-Din Boroujerdi explained: “Iran’s naval potential must be addressed, because Iran has a great deal of international maritime transportation, and therefore we need to use nuclear fuel capability. This is a capability that we will leverage for the oceans, and for submarine fuel. The matter of nuclear fuel [for this purpose] is an issue on which the IAEA will be informed… To date, we have not received any objections in this matter from the international institutions.”[3]

It should be emphasized that submarines are not used for civilian or commercial maritime purposes. In an August 28, 2017 interview with the Iranian news agency IRNA, Salehi explained the matter of producing nuclear fuel for naval transportation, saying: “A horizon of 10-15 years should be set so that this project will materialize… At this time, the research team is ready, and we have given it a place to directly advance this project. It should be noted that this industry has its own complications. We must place a pressurized reactor on a vessel and we must consider the risks. If the vessel is harmed or sunk, peoples’ lives will be in danger.

“We have said many times that this type of activity is Iran’s certain right. It creates capability for us. I also spoke about this to [IAEA secretary-general Yukia] Amano, and the important thing is that our activity is carried out under IAEA oversight.”[4]

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, who was  a senior member of the nuclear negotiating team, told Iranian Channel One in a January 13, 2018  interview: “We have responded to America’s moves for renewal of the ISA [Congress’s 1996 Iran Sanctions Act, extended by the Senate on December 1, 2016 for a further 10 years], and Iranian President [Rohani] has ordered the production of nuclear fuel [for maritime transportation, which requires enrichment to 60%-90%], and this is considered a strategic move [on our part].”[5]

On February 22, 2018, an IAEA report noted for the first time that Iran had, in a January 6, 2018 letter, informed the agency that it had decided “to construct naval nuclear propulsion in future.” The IAEA said in the report that it had asked Tehran to provide “further clarifications and amplifications under the Additional Protocol” by May 2018.

Also according to the IAEA report, Iran had added that since this matter was still in the early stages, it would provide the required information as soon as it was available.[6]


The Iranian regime’s intention to “construct naval nuclear propulsion” means only one thing: an advance announcement that it intends to enrich uranium to a higher level that it was permitted on the JCPOA (3.67%) to a level of 60%-95% required for nuclear propulsion for ships or submarines. As noted, submarines are not used for civilian or commercial maritime traffic. It should be noted that 95% enriched uranium can be used by Iran to produce a nuclear bomb.

With this announcement, Iran is taking the first practical step to eliminating its fundamental obligation in the JCPOA not to enrich uranium above 3.67%.

2. Is Iran Permitted To Maintain The Plutonium Core At Arak?

According to a series of tweets on January 21-22 by Iranian Ambassador to the UK Hamid Baeidinejad, who was also a member of the Iranian nuclear negotiating team, during the talks for the JCPOA Iran had demanded that it be allowed to keep the core of the heavy water reactor at Arak undamaged. He added that Iran had filled only the core’s holes with cement, so that it could reactivate it when necessary, as had been previously confirmed by AEOI director Salehi (see below). Baeidinejad tweeted:

“For us, preserving the essence of the reactor at Arak as a heavy water reactor, and modernizing it, are considered the most important outcomes, and the achievement of which we are the most proud, in the JCPOA. The Western psy-ops organization wants to convert this triumph into a defeat [for us], and therefore presented a false picture of the filling of the reactor core with cement, which was attended by reporters who realized that this was fake. We must beware of the enemy’s plot.”[7]

“After we forced the members of the P5+1 into allowing us to preserve the reactor at Arak as a heavy water reactor, and to modernize it, they claimed that modernizing the core, i.e., the  calandria, meant replacing it with a new one. In order to prevent the misuse, or the possible use [of the old calandria], they insisted on sending it outside Iran.”[8]

“Iran objected to this, and noted that it would not send any of its nuclear equipment out of the country. After lengthy talks, we realized that there was a need to find a technical way to prevent the immediate use of the core. They proposed welding the core, which is steel, and cutting it into pieces.[9]

“Iran opposed this proposal and noted that it wants to put the core in a museum on public display showing the creativity of Iran’s scientists. Ultimately, it was suggested that the holes of the core, not the core itself, be filled with cement so that it could not be used immediately.”[10]

Supporters of Baeidinejad’s statements tweeted the photo below and noted that the image on the right had been doctored to show the core filled with cement, and that this photo had been circulated by opponents of the JCPOA in Iran who wanted to show a false picture of Iran’s submission to the demands of the West. The image on the left, they said, was an actual photo of the Arak reactor taken by the reporters mentioned by Baeidinejad.

Photos of the Arak plutonium reactor (Source:, January 22, 2018.

AEOI director Salehi also stated that the core had not been filled with cement, and that “we [actually] poured cement only into some of the reactor’s pipelines, [pipes] several centimeters in diameter and two to three meters long. [We poured it] not into the reactor itself but [only] into the external pipes… ” (see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1341, Head Of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization: Only External Pipelines Of Arak Reactor Were Filled With Cement, Its Core Was Not; Within Five Days, We Can Begin Enriching Uranium To 20%, September 1, 2017).

3. Is The IAEA Allowed Access To Iran’s Military Sites?

The discussion on the issue of IAEA access to Iran’s military sites has been ongoing since July 2015, with the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 that set out the elements of the JCPOA. Iranian regime spokesmen continue to claim that neither the JCPOA, the NPT nor the Additional Protocol allow IAEA inspectors to enter Iranian military sites.

On January 14, 2018,  AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said: “No one in Iran will allow the IAEA access to the military sites, and this matter is not mentioned in the [NPT] treaty, the Additional Protocol, or the JCPOA. I reject the four conditions of the American president in the matter of continuing [the implementation ] of the JCPOA. In the past, there was the matter of visits to military sites such as Parchin. [But] this file was closed, and now there is no issue that the IAEA has presented in this matter that [justifies] allowing them access to military sites. The American president is making unfounded statements in this matter, perhaps because he knows that we, like other countries, are sensitive in this matter, and he expects us to immediately say that we do not agree and in fact oppose it vehemently. Thus he is trying to leverage [our refusal] so that he can say that Iran is not willing to allow access under any conditions.

“There are rules for access [to military sites]. We cannot possibly allow access casually, or allow [visits] out of [mere] curiosity. Everything [in this matter] has rules, and these rules are presented and set out in the Additional Protocol. Actually, the Protocol does not mention access to undeclared sites. Even when a particular place is declared [as nuclear, proof must be presented that] nuclear activity [actually] takes place there.

“We are conducting no nuclear activity whatsoever at any of our sites, and we are not a country that wants a [nuclear] bomb or weapons.

“It is the Americans who have stated that Iran wants [nuclear] weapons, and because they themselves are acting to [produce them?] at [their own] military sites, they have concluded that there must be access to these sites [in Iran].

“In recent years, the only instance presented in this matter was the issue of the PMD [Possible Military Dimension s] and they [the Americans] made a lot of noise about it for no reason. They raised the issue of Parchin, and after [IAEA General Director Amano] visited [there] and samples were provided [by Iran], it became clear that their noise in this matter was baseless, and this file was closed forever. Therefore the IAEA has not brought up any plan in the matter of access to military sites, and also is not talking about it [any longer]. If Trump thinks that Iran or any other country will open the doors of its sites, particular military sites, so that they [the West] will take advantage of this and want to spy, [he needs to know that] this is not going to happen in Iran, and that Iran will not allow anyone to do such a thing.

“Our obligations under the JCPOA are carried out according to the Additional Protocol. We are responding to the IAEA’s questions, and  complementary access  is in accordance with what is presented in the Additional Protocol. The IAEA has indicated this in several reports, and it is completely satisfied, and as of now no issue in the matter of access is on its table. If there are such matters, the IAEA must present them, and say so.

“It is inconceivable for America to say that it wants access to Iran’s military sites without asking the IAEA, or that it has any information at all on them [the sites] . These actions on its part are aimed solely at finding a pretext to elicit a negative response from Iran. Iran will certainly say ‘no,’ and this [access to its military sites] will not happen. Trump must not interpret this matter as Iran’s insufficient cooperation with the IAEA. We are sufficiently cooperating with the IAEA, as cooperation was clearly defined in the [NPT] treaty, in the [Additional] Protocol, and in the JCPOA. Even the IAEA has expressed satisfaction [with Iran’s cooperation]. The IAEA has no question in the matter that is on the table, and therefore it is not concerned. Trump needs to worry [only if] the IAEA is worried…”[11]

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, told Iranian Channel One in his January 13, 2018 interview: “The Americans thought that visiting military centers constitutes a weak point for us, and Iran cannot agree to [these visits] in any way. They tried to pull the IAEA in this direction, and invested months of efforts in ripping up the JCPOA at Iran’s expense, but did not succeed…

“It is the IAEA that needs to determine where and what to visit. This is a technical and professional matter whose framework is set out in the Additional Protocol and the JCPOA.

“Our nuclear facilities are under oversight. Beyond this, there are principles. America cannot tell the IAEA where it should go. We have acted with the IAEA in a way that [the agency] always stresses – and that way is that Iran is fully cooperating [with it].

“The IAEA has not asked to visit military centers, and things don’t work that way either – i.e. that it asks and that we approve [the request]. We will not allow the IAEA to interfere any more than it has to…”[12]


* A. Savyon is Director of the MEMRI Iran Media Project; U. Kafash is a MEMRI Research Fellow.

Why Did Trump Hire McMaster in the First Place?

Much has been written about Trump’s now former National Security Counsel advisor H.R. McMaster who at one time was General Petraeus’ ‘go-to’ tank operations expert in Iraq. The 3-star general from the outset never really gelled in a cohesive policy relationship with President Trump and the chatter for months in DC was that his time at the White House was going to be short.

McMaster Worked at Think Tank Backed by Soros-Funded Group ...

Question is who recommended McMaster to Trump in the first place and who did the background investigation such that Trump accepted and confirmed him to lead the National Security Council?

“After 34 years of service to our nation,” the lieutenant general said, “I am requesting retirement from the U.S. Army effective this summer, after which I will leave public service.” A White House official told VOA that the president and McMaster had mutually agreed upon McMaster’s resignation, after discussing it for some time. The official said the president asked McMaster to stay on until mid-April to ensure a smooth transition, and McMaster agreed. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, known as West Point, McMaster earned a Silver Star for leadership during the Persian Gulf War when, as a cavalry commander, he led a small contingent of U.S. tanks to destroy 80 Iraqi tanks and other vehicles. More here.

Well, the Daily Caller did some remarkable deeper work on McMaster spelling out how Trump never should have brought him on board in the first place. The other question remains on why the Pentagon did not advise McMaster on terminating his outside relationship especially with some rogue nations.

  • Outgoing National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster worked for a foreign-based think tank for 11 years before assuming his post
  • The think tank has ties to Russia, China, the Uranium One deal and Bahrain
  • Career armed forces officers spoke out against the arrangement

Outgoing National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster served for more than a decade as a consultant to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, a foreign-based think-tank that has received funding from hostile foreign governments to include Russia and China, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation.

The career soldier ended his employment at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in February 2017 after President Donald Trump tapped him to serve as his national security adviser following the resignation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

McMaster is planning to leave the NSC in April, to be replaced by former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The outgoing NSC official said in a statement, he was “requesting retirement from the U.S. Army effective this summer after which I will leave public service.”

The general, who did not leave the Army to assume his NSC post, was one of only two White House national security chiefs who retained active duty status while working at the White House. The other general was Gen. Colin Powell.

McMaster never publicized his decade-long outside consultant work with the foreign-based think tank that often supported a globalist agenda opposed by Trump. IISS often espoused foreign and military policies that served as the centerpiece of the Obama presidency, including support for the former president’s Iran nuclear deal.

While his 11 years at the institute were never part of his official military biography, former military officers who learned of it were harshly critical of his unusual moonlighting.

Veteran military officers expressed disbelief at McMaster’s consulting work at a foreign-based think tank that receives funding from hostile governments. They called the arrangement “unethical” and “unprecedented.”

IISS operates offices in the Bahrain, Singapore and Washington, D.C. It generally reflects a globalist “realist” Eurocentric view of foreign and military postures that’s at odds with Trump’s foreign policy. The think-tank was a major advocate of former President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

IISS receives funding from friendly Western sources such as aerospace firms and even the British army, but is also has received funding from the Russian Federation, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the governments of Azerbaijan, Turkey, Qatar, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, according to the IISS website.

During McMaster’s time at IISS, the think tank also received $700,000 from George Soros’s Open Society and $140,000 from Ploughshares, the pacifist organization that aggressively pushed for Obama’s Iran nuclear deal.

The organization’s council — its board of directors — also is filled with people who have ties to the Kremlin, to the Qatari emir who has been accused of supporting terrorists, to people associated with the Uranium One scandal, and with a Russian investment bank that paid former President Bill Clinton $500,000 for a single speech.

“This is bizarre,” retired Army Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin said in an interview with TheDCNF. “If that kind of information was available to The Trump administration before they selected him, the question is: Would they have selected him for this very job?”

The Army told TheDCNF that from 2006 when he first joined IISS as a “senior research associate” until he left in 2017, he did file annual financial disclosure forms notifying the Army of payments he received from the institute.

McMaster’s office did not respond to a DCNF request for his current financial disclosure form, which he was required to submit in 2017 as a White House employee.

Retired Rear Adm. James “Ace” Lyons, who served 35 years in the Navy, including a stint as commander of the Pacific Fleet, told TheDCNF McMaster’s consulting role at the think tank was “absurd.”

“It is really absurd that an active duty military officer, particularly one of flag rank, is a consultant to a foreign organization that is taking money and contributions from questionable countries that are known enemies of the United States,” Lyons told TheDCNF in an interview. “This to me seems to be outside the bounds of what we’re committed to. This is atrocious.”

“I’ve never seen this kind of thing before,” said Boykin, a 36-year veteran who served as under secretary for defense intelligence for President George W. Bush.

Boykin said he was convinced any commanding officer would have rejected McMaster’s proposed consulting work at IISS. “I cannot believe that the ethics people of the U.S. Army would approve of him doing that, and I can’t believe that any responsible person he worked for in the Army would have agreed to that.”

William J. Sharp, a public affairs civilian attached to U.S. Army Headquarters, told TheDCNF the Army accepted McMaster’s proposed consulting work at IISS without any prior approval because they regarded the think tank as not falling under the category of a “prohibited source.”

The term “prohibited source” relates to a company that seeks a business or other formal contractual relationship from the Department of Defense. Using that limited standard, the Army concluded IISS was not a prohibited source and McMaster did not need to obtain prior approval from military superiors.

“IISS is not a prohibited source for Army personnel,” Sharp told TheDCNF in an email. “Therefore, LTG McMaster was not required to obtain approval prior to consulting for IISS.”

“I’m surprised at this,” Boykin said. “I find this in my view and in my experience of 36 years to be unprecedented, and I would love to see an authorization. And if it’s an open-ended authorization — if there’s one at all — then I would be willing to bet you it was an error on the part of whoever provided that authorization. You just can’t do this on your own,” he told TheDCNF.

Retired Special Forces Col. James Williamson told TheDCNF he considered it “very unusual” for an active duty officer to serve for a decade at any educational institution. “It’s very unusual for a general officer on active duty to have that type of affiliation over that timespan,” he said. “I’ve had friends that have gone to Harvard or the Fletcher School at Tufts, but they’re U.S.-based.” He said most terms were for a short duration — usually six months to a year.

In fact, the military approves and even encourages active duty officers to seek temporary assignments with American educational institutions and think tanks. But those assignments are very short and rarely extend for more than a year.

Williamson said active duty military officers have plenty of private sector and think tank opportunities after they leave military service. “We have other people who served in London, but they’re not on active duty. They’re retired officers and there’s no problem with that,” he said.

Williamson, a counter terrorism specialist who served with NATO and U.S. Southern Command, said he regarded McMaster’s work as posing a basic “conflict of interest” in light of funding from hostile governments. That funding “would almost make it a de facto conflict of interest in my eyes.”

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. James Waurishuk, who also worked at the NSC, agreed. “I would be concerned about the work he’s doing and how it applies in relation to a think-tank that’s taking money from perhaps adversarial foreign governments. That would be of concern to me,” he said.

Williamson also shared the same view and added that even working at a London think tank poses problems. “Even our closest allies don’t have the same agendas and priorities that we do,” he said.

During his 11 years with IISS, the group promoted McMaster’s activities. A review of previous IISS websites by TheDCNF shows he was highlighted between six and 10 times each year.

IISS praised McMaster when he joined the Trump White House. Jonathan Stevenson, an Obama NSC official who also is a senior fellow at IISS, wrote a fawning opinion piece about McMaster in The New York Times. He called him a “compelling choice: a scholar-warrior” and “both a proven cavalry officer and a formidable defense intellectual.” Stevenson wrote McMaster could save Trump, and the general’s appointment, “should augur at least a fleeting period of stability at the dysfunctional National Security Council.”

Igor Yurgen has been on the IISS Council since 2010. He is chairman of Rennaissance Capital Group, which awarded Bill Clinton $500,00 in speaking fees.

Russia Today, a pro-Kremlin news organization, once described Yurgen as “one of Russia’s most influential experts close to [former] President Dmitry Medvedev.”

“He is remarkably skilled at combining public, business and political careers,” according to RT.

Another council member is Michael Rich, an executive vice president of the RAND Corp. But significantly, he is co-chair of the board of overseers of a project called the RAND Qatar Policy Institute.

The Qatar Policy Institute is also part of the Qatar Foundation, started by Qatar’s former emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, and his wife, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.

Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states accuse Qatar of supporting Islamic terrorism. Al Thani has supported the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, militias in Libya, and the Muslim Brotherhood, The New York Times reported in 2014. The Emir personally traveled in 2012 to the Gaza Strip, where he received a hero’s welcome as he pledged to work with the terrorist group Hamas. Al Thani also founded Al Jazeera, the pro-Muslim Brotherhood television news channel.

Badr Jafar, another current council member, is the son of Hamid Jafar, who founded the biggest private equity firm in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Badr is the CEO of Crescent Enterprises who, with his father Hamid Jafar, engineered an oil exploration partnership between their Emirates-based company, Crescent Petroleum with the Boris Kovalchuk, CEO of the Russian company of Inter Rao UES.

News agencies in the United Arab Emirates hailed the 2010 financial deal between Crescent and Moscow. “Russian state news agencies began their coverage of the recent high-level meeting in Moscow between Crescent officials, the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, and the Iraqi former prime minister Dr Ayad Allawi by linking the names of Hamid Jafar and Mr Putin,” according to the National Business report.

Russian President Vladimir Putin decreed that all shares of Inter Rao UES be transferred to the Russian state-owned atomic energy agency called Rosatom. Kovalchuk is a Kremlin confidant who served as a vice president of Rosatom. Americans know about Rosatom because of its purchase of Uranium One, which was made possible by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s support for the Russian acquisition.

While McMaster was a consultant at IISS the organization was a strong, unwavering supporter of President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

Mark Fitzpatrick, its director for non-proliferation and disarmament was the most outspoken IISS director for the nuclear deal calling it in 2015 a “a potential game changer in many ways, opening a path to better relations with Iran that has been closed for more than 35 years.” Fitzpatrick said the deal “makes it demonstrably less likely Iran will become nuclear-armed now and in the future.”

IISS also entered domestic American politics by defending the Democratic Party during the 2016 presidential campaign. It flatly stated following the release of emails from the Democratic National Committee it “revealed no evidence of significant wrongdoing within the Democratic Party.”

IISS also has been criticized for the secrecy of its activities and its routine denial of visas for reporters seeking to attend its overseas events, particularly its annual event in Bahrain where human right groups accuse the government of silencing critics and keeping journalists away.

BahrainWatch, a human rights group published an investigation in December 2016 claiming that even well known American journalists have been barred from its Bahrain conferences called the “Manama Dialogue.”

“New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof has openly called for an invitation since 2011, though his media visa was once again rejected last year. Wall Street Journal journalist Yaroslav Trofimov was also denied a visa.

Waurishuk concluded that McMaster’s relationship with IISS raises too many alarms.

“There’s too many red flags that kind of go up,” he said.

Neither IISS Washington nor IISS London returned repeated queries about McMaster.