The Real Russian Story

Since the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, the media has been pushing a narrative that Russia either influenced the election in Trump’s favor or somehow colluded with him or his campaign.

However, there is a much more real, complex, and interesting “Russian Story” which is beginning to bubble to the surface.  The clues have been there for years, and some have begun to see them.

To get a picture of the real “Russian Story,” first consider Russia’s state interests:

  • Secure and maintain access to uranium for civil and military projects.
  • Grow the influence of Russia’s state nuclear company, Rosatom.
  • Protect Russia’s carbon-based fuel exports.  Oil and gas sales make up 16% of Russia’s GDP, 70% of exports, and over half of revenues to the federal budget.
  • Increase Russia’s foreign influence and power

Now, keeping these interests in mind, look back on Russian activities the past ten years or so:

  • Russia began building nuclear reactors in Iran
  • Rosatom (Russia’s state nuclear company) purchased Uranium One, a Canadian mining company, in 2013, securing access to, and control of, additional nuclear material
  • Russia allegedly funds anti-fracking and anti-pipeline groups operating in the United States.  This ensures that the U.S. does not produce more oil and gas and thereby protect’s Russia’s own exports.

Instrumental to these Russian goals and activities was the purchase of Uranium One by Rosatom and the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2015.  As mentioned above, the Uranium One deal helped secure Russian access to uranium.  The Iran deal ensured that the planned Russian building of nuclear reactors in Iran could go ahead, all under the guise of ensuring that Iran does not use nuclear materials for weapons.  In addition, the Obama administration’s blocking of the Keystone XL Pipeline and opposition to coal and fracking served to further Russia’s economic interests (whether intended by the Obama administration or not).  Therefore, in the end, Russia was the real beneficiary of these staples of the Obama administration.

How did the Uranium One deal come to be?  First, since the Uranium One company had mines in the United States, its purchase had to be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.  This approval came unanimously in 2010.  Among the members of the Committee at the time were Hillary Clinton (then Secretary of State) and Eric Holder (then Attorney General).  It is worth noting as well that Robert Mueller, currently leading the investigation of Russia’s interference of the U.S. election as special counsel, was then the head of the FBI, reporting to Holder.

These circumstances make what has now been revealed more interesting, for there is evidence that prior to the Uranium One deal being approved, the FBI uncovered evidence of Russian meddling, but didn’t report it for years.  According to The Hill:

Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States… They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow…

Thus, the Uranium One deal strengthened Russia’s position (it gave it access to 20% of the U.S.’ uranium) and was important enough for Russia to engage in whatever tactics necessary to get it approved.

With access to increased uranium reserves secured, how was Russia to benefit?  One way was to grow another country’s nuclear program, providing equipment and services to do so.  Iran was a convenient place for Russia to do this; it was estranged from the West, embroiled in sanctions, and a traditional ally of Russia.  However, Russia needed international acceptance of Iran’s nuclear program to pull this off.

This necessary acceptance came with the Obama administration’s 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal, which provided international approval of Iran’s civilian nuclear program.  Russia could then continue with its plans to build additional reactors in Iran while supplying engineers, equipment, and uranium for them.  Thus, both the Uranium One deal and the Iran Deal assisted Russia’s long-term goals.

Now, allegations have been made that not only did the FBI know about attempts by Russia to secure the approval of the Uranium One deal, but that they threatened a witness to prevent him from testifying before Congress.

From the Daily Wire:

Victoria Toensing, the attorney for an FBI confidential witness, alleged that the Obama Department of Justice blocked her client from informing Congress that Russian executives told him how they facilitated the Obama administration’s 2010 approval of the Uranium One deal and transferred millions of dollars in Russian nuclear funds to an entity assisting Bill Clinton’s foundation…. Bill Clinton accepted $500,000 in Russian speaking fees in 2010, as The New York Times reported in 2015; Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation.

With all these facts in mind, the conventional narrative that “Russia influenced the U.S. election to help Trump” not only begins to look inane, but also like a useful cover for the actions of the Obama administration and the Clinton State Department in assisting Russia in its commercial enterprises.  And the person investigating the alleged Russian election interference is Robert Mueller, head of the FBI at the time in which the Uranium One deal was approved and during which Russian influence was discovered but not reported.

The Art of the Iran Deal? Trump May Pass the Buck on Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions

One of the signature foreign policy achievements of the Obama administration – and certainly one of the most controversial things he did – was the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. One of the stipulations of that deal is that the president must certify it every 90 days as a show of confidence that Iran is holding up its end of the bargain. President Trump has done so twice already, but he has indicated that he may not certify the deal a third time.

The lifting of sanctions is dependent on Iran restricting its nuclear programme. It must restrict its uranium stockpile, build no more heavy-water reactors for 15 years, and allow inspectors in to the country.

Mr Trump has repeatedly said Iran has broken the “spirit” of the deal.

Trump has until October 15 to decide what to do. If the president chooses not to certify the deal himself, the matter goes before Congress, who has 60 days to decide whether it believes that Iran is acting in good faith. Some are saying that Congress will leave the deal in place, but if Congress chooses not to re-certify the deal, the United State will impose strict sanctions on Iran.

So, what’s behind the change of heart? Why has Trump suddenly decided he won’t stay the course? The president has long been a critic of the deal, so there’s little surprise that he would reject it at some point.

He elaborated recently to the press:

Speaking in the White House’s Cabinet Room, President Trump said: “The Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence and chaos across the Middle East.

“That is why we must put an end to Iran’s continued aggression and nuclear ambitions. You will be hearing about Iran very shortly.”

The BBC is suggesting that the president could be seeking to have his cake and eat it too by passing the buck to Congress. That seems to make sense. By punting on the deal, Trump can wash his hands of a piece of policy that he has criticized repeatedly while passing the responsibility for rocking the boat – or not – to Congress.

Is this a shrewd move by a skilled deal-maker, or is this the cowardly act of a politician who doesn’t want to be responsible for making waves? Either way, and regardless of the outcome, Donald Trump can’t avoid looking like the guy who is letting other people deal with the problems he should be solving.

Valerie Plame Wilson – A Mediocre Mea Culpa At Best

So, this was Valerie Plame Wilson’s (sort of) apology for tweeting this:

https://twitter.com/ValeriePlame/status/910884546723196929

And upon received criticism added insult to injury by tweeting this:

https://twitter.com/ValeriePlame/status/910893481735757825

And this. Clearly she can’t be antisemitic because ancestry or something :

https://twitter.com/ValeriePlame/status/910893826079723521

Then dug her hole a little deeper:

https://twitter.com/ValeriePlame/status/910894036545765376

Before lecturing her critics:

https://twitter.com/ValeriePlame/status/910894146029621249

So let’s break down her mea culpa to expose that it is first and foremost both ludicrous and insincere. She says she “skimmed” the piece she tweeted and clearly defended for hours. I skimmed the title and found it offensive enough to have skipped reading the article completely. But I am not Valerie. Agree or disagree with Bill Kristol and his politics, he is a well known Jewish Conservative. The title alone tells you the article is going to be an indictment of other like minded Jewish commentators and political figures.

So what constitutes a “skim”? Do you suppose it might involve reading the first paragraph of what you tweet out as a “provocative”, “thoughtful” piece by Philip Giraldi? I’d like to think that’s a fair expectation. So I read it. Here’s what it says:

I spoke recently at a conference on America’s war party where afterwards an elderly gentleman came up to me and asked, “Why doesn’t anyone ever speak honestly about the six-hundred-pound gorilla in the room? Nobody has mentioned Israel in this conference and we all know it’s American Jews with all their money and power who are supporting every war in the Middle East for Netanyahu? Shouldn’t we start calling them out and not letting them get away with it?”

Dare I say there is a 600 pound gorilla in the first paragraph? I am totally sure this conversation took place (not) and it wasn’t at all imagined by the author as an opening to set himself up to go on one of the most offensive screeds I have read in awhile.  It is 10 minutes of my life I will never get back and I blame Valerie.

The piece goes on to place all of of our foreign policy decisions in the Middle East on the shoulders of prominent Jewish commentators and civil servants. It creates the construct that opposition to the Iran deal comes only from the corridors of AIPAC and asserts the media in general (all Jewish controlled according to the author) is somehow complicit pushing a narrative that the Iran Deal must go. Does this guy even watch the news?

Finally he suggests that American Jews who support Israel should be somehow flagged in the media if they refuse to “recuse” themselves from the debate. I think he really means shut up, but recuse sounds voluntary. Here is the author’s suggestion to remedy the problem:

For those American Jews who lack any shred of integrity, the media should be required to label them at the bottom of the television screen whenever they pop up, e.g. Bill Kristol is “Jewish and an outspoken supporter of the state of Israel.” That would be kind-of-like a warning label on a bottle of rat poison – translating roughly as “ingest even the tiniest little dosage of the nonsense spewed by Bill Kristol at your own peril.”

He likens the opinions of pro-Israel American Jews to rat poison and suggests providing some sort of chyron when they appear to warn people. In the course of the article he names 15 Jewish commentators and officials by name, alludes to Jared Kushner and condemns the entire membership of AIPAC, WINEP and the Hudson Institute. In no uncertain terms he suggests they all remove themselves from Middle East policy debate because they are incapable of being impartial based on their faith.

What the article really promotes is silencing of the opposition based on their faith. This is just a grossly antisemitic point of view and pays no heed to the fact that polling prior to the 2016 midterms showed up to 84% of American Jews supported the deal.  The author turned an article about political opposition in one about religion. Plain and simple.

I am not Jewish. I opposed the Iran Deal. I listened to Ben Rhodes when he said he manipulated a complicit and inexperienced press pool to run with the administration’s preferred narrative and I believe him. I am furious we sent pallets of cash to the number one state sponsor of terror and am fine if this administration decided to decertify it. Maybe I need a chyron or a special designation? I’m not sure. Maybe Valerie can tell me.

So as to Ms. Wilson’s assertion she skimmed the article, I find it ludicrous. It was antisemitic from beginning to end. To have “zeroed in on the neocon criticism”, neocon was literally the only word she read. Her tweets in defense of herself told her critics to “read the whole thing” and “think clearly”. I think it is a valid assumption that at that point she had read the entire thing. Well Valerie, after reading the whole thing myself, I clearly think you should grab a tiki torch and a Pepe T-shirt and join Richard Spencer at his next rally.

 

 

Trump Decides to Decertify Iran Deal

Donald Trump spent a great deal of time campaigning against Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Nine months into the Trump Administration, the rubber on the Iran deal is about to meet the road. President Trump must decide by Oct. 15 whether to certify to Congress that Iran is in compliance with the terms of the deal. Under US law, the president must certify Iran’s fulfillment of the deal to Congress every 90 days. Trump has made the certification twice, but there are indications that this time may be different.

The president told reporters on Wednesday that he had made up his mind about the deal, but declined to reveal his decision. Trump is keeping his cards close, telling reporters, “I’ll let you know what the decision is,” but without saying when he would do so. Politico reported that the president even declined to share his decision with British Prime Minister Teresa May.

NBC News reports that the president is leaning toward decertifying Iran’s compliance with the deal, citing four unnamed sources within the White House. The sources indicate that the president has resolved to change the “status quo.”

If the president decertifies Iran’s compliance with the deal, it would not necessarily mean that the entire deal would be scrapped. NBC’s sources indicate that the president would use the decertification to attempt to persuade the European partners to renegotiate the deal. At this point, Britain, France and Germany are strongly opposed to ending the deal.

There are other options if the president decertifies the deal as well. If the president decertifies the deal, then Congress will have 60 days to decide whether to impose sanctions on Iran. The president could also choose to withdraw from the deal entirely as Ambassador John Bolton has urged.

Trump’s position is awkward. The president has spoken out strongly against the treaty, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday, “Perhaps the technical aspects have (been met), but in the broader context the aspiration has not.” Tillerson said that reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency “continue to confirm that Iran is in technical compliance with the agreement.” A common complaint is the fact that Iran continues to test ballistic missiles, which are not covered under the agreement.

President Trump’s decision will be closely watched by North Korea, where the president is currently engaging Kim Jong Un in a tit-for-tat over the country’s missile tests. How the president handles the agreement with Iran will almost certainly impact the resolution of the North Korean problem.

Whatever direction Trump is leaning now, nothing is certain until a formal announcement is made. Last spring, the president reportedly changed his mind on withdrawing from NAFTA at the last minute. More recently, the president’s commitment to withdrawing from the Paris climate treaty and his hardline immigration policy have been called into question as well.

Time will tell how strong President Trump’s resolve to confront Iran is and which faction of White House advisors have his ear.

“You Were Hoodwinked.” Tucker Carlson Tears Into Congressman Who Supported Iran Deal

It’s nice to see Tucker Carlson playing hardball with Democrats. In light of an investigative report from Politico revealing that the Obama administration lied about the prisoners the United States swapped with Iran over the nuclear deal with that nation. The White House called the prisoners “civilians” and even had some charges dropped against them.

In reality, some of them were accused by Obama’s own Justice Department of posing threats to national security. Three allegedly were part of an illegal procurement network supplying Iran with U.S.-made microelectronics with applications in surface-to-air and cruise missiles like the kind Tehran test-fired recently, prompting a still-escalating exchange of threats with the Trump administration. Another was serving an eight-year sentence for conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware. As part of the deal, U.S. officials even dropped their demand for $10 million that a jury said the aerospace engineer illegally received from Tehran.

And in a series of unpublicized court filings, the Justice Department dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 other men, all of them fugitives. The administration didn’t disclose their names or what they were accused of doing, noting only in an unattributed, 152-word statement about the swap that the U.S. “also removed any Interpol red notices and dismissed any charges against 14 Iranians for whom it was assessed that extradition requests were unlikely to be successful.”

Carlson had Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) on his show Tuesday night to discuss the Iran deal in light of Politico’s revelations. Carlson asked Swalwell if he had second thoughts knowing what we know now. The congressman refused to relent, spouting talking points and parroting the line that “we’re all safer now” because Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons (yet).

Then Carlson began to ask about specific prisoners, and Swalwell refused to alter his tune one bit.

[Carlson] asked Swalwell about one of the Iranian nationals released by Obama who was charged with fraudulently obtaining Federal Aviation Administration credentials.

“Why would someone like that get FAA credentials illegally? He got more than two years in prison,” Carlson said. “Why would we let a guy like that go?”

“Tucker, you got the wrong guy if you think I’m going to come here and defend Iran,” Swalwell said.

“But you voted for it,” Carlson shot back. “You say it made us safer. Why would letting a guy like that go free make us safer?”

Swalwell, however, continued to say the deal overall made America safer.

“I’m not saying you’re pro-Iran, what I’m saying is: You were hoodwinked,” Carlson said.

Swalwell would not back down from his support of the original deal, even as Carlson repeated the newly revealed truth that Congress was lied to in the course of presenting the deal. The congressman wound up essentially agreeing to disagree with Carlson.

It’s too bad.  Don’t you know how refreshing it would have looked to see him admit that if he had to do it over again, he would have done it differently?

Catch the entire video here:

 

WOW: Trump Administration Declares Iran in Compliance With 2015 Nuclear Deal

In a move sure to cause mixed emotions with Trump’s core support, the Trump administration has reversed its position on Iran.

According to an AP News report:

The Trump administration has notified Congress that Iran is complying with the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama, and it has extended the sanctions relief given to the Islamic Republic in exchange for curbs on its atomic program.

During the run up to the election, Trump often lambasted President Obama for what he called a “dumb” and “dangerous” deal.

He often boasted that he would be tougher, and able to work out a better deal than what was already on the table.

However, in a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan sent late Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the administration has undertaken a full review of the agreement to evaluate whether continued sanctions relief is in the national interest. Tillerson notes that Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terrorism and that President Donald Trump had ordered the review with that in mind.

Well, at least they’re staying honest about who Iran is.

Details are still sketchy, and not much else has been released from the letter to Congress. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how the Trump administration’s views of Iran may further evolve.

Iran Helped Obama Get Nuclear Deal Past U.S. Congress

While the Obama administration was negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran and attempting to sell that deal to Congress and the American people, representatives with close ties to the Iranian government were meeting in the White House with administration officials.  Newly revealed details show that, in 2015, the Iranian representatives “helped the White House craft its pro-Iran messaging and talking points that helped lead to the nuclear agreement with Iran.”  Thus, Iran – a country which has consistently referred to the U.S. as the “Great Satan” and Israel as the “Little Satan” – helped mould the deal which allows it to continue its nuclear programs.

Some background about the geo-political situation in the Middle East might provide some helpful context here.  Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Arab states were generally opposed to both Israel and Iran.  Israel and Turkey, U.S. allies themselves, joined together in order to balance the Arab states (most of whom were once part of the Ottoman Empire, the remnants of which became the modern state of Turkey after WWI).  Iraq and Iran were the two major powers in the region and served to counter-balance each other, having fought a major war from 1980 to 1988 (the “Iran-Iraq War”).

The United States supported Iraq and Iran at various points in order to keep them in check; the Soviet Union and then Russia did much the same.  During the Iran-Iraq war this got really confusing as both the U.S. and Soviet Union ostensibly supported Iraq, but both eventually supplied arms to Iran through various clients (the U.S. doing so as part of the infamous Iran-Contra Affair).  A couple years after the end of the Iran-Iraq War, the U.S. invaded Iraq to expel its forces from Kuwait during the Gulf War (1990-1991).

Thus, alliances in the Middle East have always been fluid.  With the fall of Iraq due to the U.S. invasion in 2003, this major counterpoint to Iranian power was removed from the region.  As a result, Iranian influence grew, causing the Arab states to further fear Iran and their nuclear ambitions.  A way to restrict Iran and prevent it from achieving nuclear weapons was therefore considered important to the U.S. and its allies.

Into this environment, then, comes the nuclear deal.  Worked out in early 2015 by the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, and Germany it ostensibly limits Iran’s nuclear enrichment and processing ability in exchange for the removal of sanctions.  The stated goal is to allow Iran peaceful uses of nuclear energy, while prohibiting them from creating a nuclear weapon.  However, there are flaws in the deal, and Iran itself has disputed some of the published aspects while making noise about continuing its nuclear weapons program.  This has alarmed Israel and the Arab states, even causing some of them to think about beginning their own nuclear weapons programs (Israel likely already has them, but has a policy of neither confirming nor denying their existence).

The revelations today, then, of the Obama administration allowing those with close ties to the Iranian government helping it to craft and sell the Iranian deal to the American public are startling.  The U.S. has in effect ignored the concerns of its traditional allies in the Middle East in order to come to an accommodation with a government which continues to call for the destruction of Israel and characterizes the U.S. and Britain as enemies.

Hopefully, the new administration will reconsider the Iranian deal and press American interests in the Middle East.  It has been placed into a difficult position, however.  Iran has already threatened to accelerate its nuclear programs if Trump scraps the deal.  This would cause further instability in the region as well as set up a potential confrontation between the U.S. and Iran.  In addition, the original deal had a 10 year sunset provision, so the problems of Iran’s nuclear weapons program have not actually been solved.  Given this, one gets the sense that Obama simply wanted credit for getting a deal done with Iran, pushing the more problematic aspects concerning nuclear weapons into the future and onto the lap of his successor.

Russ Feingold Refuses to Repudiate Disastrous Iran Deal

Since praising President Barack Obama’s Iran deal in January, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) has refused to distance himself from the agreement as his campaign to win his old seat back rolls on, and new details about the scope of the accord continue to emerge.

“I think it is right to talk about the great things the President has done,” Feingold told a Milwaukee radio station early in the year. “I mean, he’s accomplished some foreign policy goals that we’ve had for a very long time. . . . He’s helped us avoid a war with Iran, by having this nuclear deal that hopefully will work”.

Iran is still one of three state sponsors of terrorism according to the U.S. State Department, where Feingold worked as a special envoy shortly after losing his 2010 re-election campaign. The latest State Department report on terrorism worldwide concludes:

“In 2015, Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism worldwide remained undiminished through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), its Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and Tehran’s ally Hizballah, which remained a significant threat to the stability of Lebanon and the broader region.”

Since Feingold first praised the Iran deal, the Obama Administration officials have admitted that a $400 million cash payment by the U.S. to Iran – something not disclosed as part of the broader Iran deal negotiations – was indeed “leverage” to secure the release of Iranian prisoners wanted by the U.S. “U.S. Concedes $400 Million Payment to Iran Was Delayed as Prisoner ‘Leverage’,” declared The New York Times in an August headline. The story went on to explain that in Iran the payment was being called a “ransom” by local press.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has pointed out that while the Obama administration refuses to call the payment a “ransom,” the aircraft that was to carry the released prisoners out of Iran was not allowed to leave until the aircraft carrying $400 million in cash arrived on the ground in the country.

Additional payments to Iran since January have brought total U.S. payments to the country to $1.7 billion since the year started.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, both told a Senate committee last week that they were unaware of the payments to Iran and that neither the White House nor the State Department contacted them to let them know the payments were going to be made. “But Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry did not consult Secretary of Defense Ash Carter or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford,” Eli Lake of Bloomberg reported.                                                                                                             

On the heels of the payments organized by the State Department, the Treasury Department announced that it would allow airline sales between Boeing – a major defense contractor, Airbus – a European aircraft builder, and Iran to move ahead. “The United States has begun unblocking deals by Western giants to sell jetliners to Iran,” Reuters reported on September 21.

Not once since the repeated cash transfers or the news that a U.S. defense giant may sell aircraft to Iran has Feingold, who claims to support fiscal transparency, spoken up about the matter. Feingold has received at least $155,000 in contributions from the J Street PAC, a political entity that itself was paid over half a million to lobby in favor of the Iran deal.

On his campaign website, Feingold talks about fighting ISIS (even though he voted repeatedly to kill a key weapons system that has been used in that fight) but he doesn’t mention the Iran deal.

The remarkable silence may have something to do with Feingold being appointed to a key State Department post under Kerry by President Obama. In 2013, the former senator was named special envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa and in that capacity shuttled back and forth between the State Department and various African nations in an attempt to represent U.S. interests in the region and encourage more stability.

Whether or not the Wisconsin media press the Iran issue with Feingold remains to be seen. His opponent, Sen. Ron Johnson (R) has vocally and repeatedly criticized the deal.