I am a person who is sufficiently cynical that I am rarely shocked or even mildly surprised by much of anything. Today was a red letter day for me because I found myself stunned twice. By the same event. For different things.
First shock. For the first time in its history, Politico, the house organ of Washington’s Democrat establishment, committed an act of journalism. This is the organization that took dictation from State Department fixer Patrick Kennedy to obfuscate the depth and breadth of Hillary Clinton’s betrayal of America’s secrets. But, after years of acting as shills for Democrats and a lynch mob for Republicans, they have produced a story that is simply a must-read: Obama’s hidden Iran deal giveaway. Subtitle: By dropping charges against major arms targets, the administration infuriated Justice Department officials — and undermined its own counterproliferation task forces.
The second shock was the story, itself. If you check my archive you will see that I’ve been hostile to the Iran nuclear deal from its inception and I’ve chronicled the lies and duplicity of Barack Obama, Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, John Kerry, and Bob Corker to get the agreement signed and approved, though short of treaty status, by the Senate. (I’ve started providing links to my archive on subjects after a noxious buttwipe claimed I’ve never written anything negative about Trump… and for the clicks, of course, because we do worship clicks.) But never in my wildest dreams did I think Obama capable of this level of deliberate and malicious damage to US national security and of lying so brazenly about what he did. I mean, if Ben Rhodes was an actual honest-to-gosh no-bullsh** Iranian agent, this is exactly how he would have acted.
I’m going to limit myself to one pullquote from the Politico article because I could easily end up copying the whole thing. Really. If you read just one thing on Iran this week read this article.
When President Barack Obama announced the “one-time gesture” of releasing Iranian-born prisoners who “were not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses” last year, his administration presented the move as a modest trade-off for the greater good of the Iran nuclear agreement and Tehran’s pledge to free five Americans.
“Iran had a significantly higher number of individuals, of course, at the beginning of this negotiation that they would have liked to have seen released,” one senior Obama administration official told reporters in a background briefing arranged by the White House, adding that “we were able to winnow that down to these seven individuals, six of whom are Iranian-Americans.”
But Obama, the senior official and other administration representatives weren’t telling the whole story on Jan. 17, 2016, in their highly choreographed rollout of the prisoner swap and simultaneous implementation of the six-party nuclear deal, according to a POLITICO investigation.
In his Sunday morning address to the American people, Obama portrayed the seven men he freed as “civilians.” The senior official described them as businessmen convicted of or awaiting trial for mere “sanctions-related offenses, violations of the trade embargo.”
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.”
Three of the fugitives allegedly sought to lease Boeing aircraft for an Iranian airline that authorities say had supported Hezbollah, the U.S.-designated terrorist organization. A fourth, Behrouz Dolatzadeh, was charged with conspiring to buy thousands of U.S.-made assault rifles and illegally import them into Iran.
A fifth, Amin Ravan, was charged with smuggling U.S. military antennas to Hong Kong and Singapore for use in Iran. U.S. authorities also believe he was part of a procurement network providing Iran with high-tech components for an especially deadly type of IED used by Shiite militias to kill hundreds of American troops in Iraq.
The biggest fish, though, was Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili, who had been charged with being part of a conspiracy that from 2005 to 2012 procured thousands of parts with nuclear applications for Iran via China. That included hundreds of U.S.-made sensors for the uranium enrichment centrifuges in Iran whose progress had prompted the nuclear deal talks in the first place.
When federal prosecutors and agents learned the true extent of the releases, many were shocked and angry. Some had spent years, if not decades, working to penetrate the global proliferation networks that allowed Iranian arms traders both to obtain crucial materials for Tehran’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs and, in some cases, to provide dangerous materials to other countries.
1624: Lenape Indians sell Manhattan Island to Dutch for $24
2016: Obama: hold my beerhttps://t.co/3UpOWWw1Ia
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) April 24, 2017
The effect has, in the view of people involved in the counterproliferation field, been disastrous. Key players got a get-out-of-jail-free card. Countless man-hours were wasted on investigations the administration was never going to let go anywhere. For the first time in its history, Politico actually has former Obama administration officials obviously stunned at being asked hostile questions and turning on one another. Professional prosecutors, FBI and Homeland Security investigators are talking candidly about how it became impossible to do anything about Iran’s manic nuclear proliferation program under Obama.
To appreciate this story you have to examine the context.
Last week the Trump administration certified that Iran was keeping its end of the bargain with the JCPOA. This was pro forma and expected. In fact, it was just as expected as anti-Trumpers criticizing the certification. The certification was made on information provided by the IAEA and so long as that data showed Iran was in material compliance, Tillerson had zero choice but to certify their compliance. Keep in mind that the US is barred by the deal from knowing the actual standards the IAEA is using to conduct its inspections. This is a separate issue from withdrawing from the agreement but I would think most would be able to see how withdrawing from an agreement that Iran seems to be keeping is not a solid diplomatic move.
In Tillerson’s comments following the certification, not only did he materially violate one of the secret side agreements issued with Iran, he made it clear that Iran would not be able to continue the fiction that so long as they complied with the nuclear deal, that deal was safe regardless of what other bad acts Iran carried out.
The number of people interviewed and agencies covered in the Politico story could only have been accomplished with the help of the Trump administration. Trump will undoubtedly honor the agreement Obama made on these men up until the point of the agreement. But you can bet these same guys are right back in the trenches of nuclear proliferation and that new investigations are going to be opened.
This is just a first step. You are going to see a constant stream of stories about Iranian bad acts. Eventually, the stench is going to become so bad that even the Washington Post and New York Times are going to demand that we withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement.