7.) Trump is assembling all the pieces he needs to go after Iran
By Christopher Woody BusinessInsider
It is not always clear what President Donald Trump is thinking on any particular issue.
On Iran, however, Trump appears to have decidedly hardline leanings.
He repeatedly called the nuclear deal "the worst deal ever negotiated" while on the campaign trail, where he also said Iran was "the number one terrorist state."
While Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson refrained from killing the deal this spring, the president has kept up the rhetorical pressure.
Most recently, during his trip to Saudi Arabia, Trump called for unity against Tehran and told assembled Arab leaders that, "For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror." (Observers noted that assertion could also be made about his audience.)
"Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve," Trump said.
In the White House and at the Pentagon and CIA, Trump has assembled a team that is well suited for pursuing that isolation — or turning to confrontation.
According to The Washington Post, active or retired military officials hold at least 10 of the 25 senior policy and leadership spots on Trump's National Security Council — five times more than under Obama.
Some see the increase in military presence on the NSC as an important shift from the Obama years — one needed to properly address the protracted conflicts the US finds itself in.
Others, however, see such a concentration of military experience — potentially accentuated by a reduction in diplomatic staff on the NSC — as likely to result in a kind of myopia.
"It would take a remarkable individual to stand back from those experiences and think critically of them," Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel and Boston University history professor, told The Post. "It would be hard for them to consider that the path they had taken [in the wars] might have been a wrong one."
Those officials, who draw much of their experience from Iraq in the late 2000s, may be limited in their worldview, Colin Kahl, a former Pentagon and White House official, told The Post. They could overestimate their ability to control events and end up provoking more conflict, Kahl said.
Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump's national-security adviser, believes Iran was behind attacks on US troops in Iraq. The NSC's senior director for the Middle East, Derek Harvey, is seen as an Iran hawk. And the NSC senior director for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, has said he wants to use US spies to depose the Iranian government.
Across the Potomac River, Trump's top man at the Pentagon is of similar extraction.
As a general, Secretary of Defense James Mattis commanded the 1st Marine Division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and held other commands during operations there afterward.
While in Iraq and looking to retaliate for Iran-backed attacks on US personnel, Mattis devised plans for strikes in Iranian territory.
Those plans were blocked by the Obama administration, but Mattis has maintained an aggressive stance toward the Iranian regime.
In late 2010, after taking over as chief of US Central Command, Mattis was asked by Obama what his priorities were.
"Iran, Iran, and Iran," Mattis replied.
He has said he wouldn't sign the Iranian nuclear deal (though he also says he considers it binding), and describes Tehran as the region's most dangerous actor, calling it "more of a revolutionary movement than a country," according to a New Yorker profile.
Mattis has also spoken dimly of what lies ahead for the US in the Middle East. "The future is going to be ghastly," he said in 2016. "It is not going to be pleasant for any of us."
Trump's CIA also appears to be adopting an anti-Iran posture.
Under its new director, former Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo, who was a ardent foe of the Iran deal, the intelligence agency has made moves toward more aggressive spying and covert operations.
And, according to The New York Times, Pompeo has found a skilled leader for his Iran operations: Michael D'Andrea, an experienced intelligence officer known as the "Dark Prince" or "Ayatollah Mike."
D'Andrea, a Muslim convert, has gotten much of the credit for US efforts to weaken Al Qaeda.
Robert Eatinger, a former CIA lawyer who was involved in the agency's drone program, told The Times it would not be "the wrong read" to see D'Andrea's appointment as step toward a more hardline policy on Iran.
"He can run a very aggressive program, but very smartly," Eatinger said.
In addition to Trump's own bellicosity about Iran, there are signs the nationalist elements on his domestic-policy team are bleeding into the foreign-policy decision-making process, which — given their skepticism of international institutions and cooperation — could heighten the chance for conflict.
It's also possible that the military figures in Trump's national security apparatus could moderate the administration's positions and spur more thoughtful consideration of foreign affairs.
Mattis himself has spoken of strong diplomacy as a preventative to war and has said military force can only be successful when it comes as part of a large political strategy.
"The conventional wisdom on this is probably wrong," Peter Feaver, a Duke University professor who was a senior official in the second Bush administration, told The Post. "Empirically, the military is more reluctant to use force ... but if force is used, then they want it to be used without restraint."
8.) The IAEA said it had concluded there was no evidence of any Iranian activity to build a nuclear bomb. That means 10 years of Western claims against Iran have been trumped-up and the rationale for crippling Western-imposed economic sanctions on Iran is likewise null and void. So when are Washington and its European allies going to compensate Iran with billions of dollars for damage inflicted for no legal reason on its economy and nation’s health?
3.) Iran and Saudi Arabia's cold war is making the Middle East even more dangerous
It's amazing Prince Saud managed to ask his question with straight face. Saudi Arabia was also taking sides, providing large numbers of weapons to rebels in Syria, some of them Islamist extremists who have contributed to the conflict's downward spiral. Syria had become more than just a civil war: it was a proxy conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, both of which were escalating the war in their effort to combat each other.
Over the past decade, the Saudis and Iranians have supported opposing political parties, funded opposing armies, and directly waged war against one another's proxies in Lebanon, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. While they did not create the crises in those places, they have exacerbated them considerably.
Read more: https://www.vox.com/2015/3/30/8314513/saudi-arabia-iran
4.) How Turkey exports ISIS oil to the world: The scientific evidence
As part of our continuing effort to track and document the ISIS oil trade, we present the following excerpts from a study by George Kiourktsoglou, Visiting Lecturer, University of Greenwich, London and Dr Alec D Coutroubis, Principal Lecturer, University of Greenwich, London. The paper, entitled “ISIS Gateway To Global Crude Oil Markets,” looks at tanker charter rates from the port of Ceyhan in an effort to determine if Islamic State crude is being shipped from Southeast Turkey.
“Turkey has played a key role in facilitating the life-blood of ISIS’ expansion: black market oil sales. Senior political and intelligence sources in Turkey and Iraq confirm that Turkish authorities have actively facilitated ISIS oil sales through the country. Last summer, Mehmet Ali Ediboglu, an MP from the main opposition, the Republican People’s Party, estimated the quantity of ISIS oil sales in Turkey at about $800 million—that was over a year ago. By now, this implies that Turkey has facilitated over $1 billion worth of black market ISIS oil sales to date.”
Read more: https://www.intellihub.com/how-turkey-exports-isis-oil-to-the-world-the-scientific-evidence/
5.) Clinton Email Claims Saudi, Qatari Support for ISIS
“We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region,” the email says.
“The Qataris and Saudis will be put in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious U.S. pressure,” it adds.
Read more: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/state-dept-wont-comment-clinton-email-claim-saudi-qatari-support
6.) Iran's revolutionary guard blames Saudi Arabia for ISIS-claimed terror attack
By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, Reuters
Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Iranian parliament and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran on Wednesday, killing at least 12 people in a twin assault which Iran's Revolutionary Guards blamed on regional rival Saudi Arabia.
Islamic State claimed responsibility and released a video purporting to show gunmen inside the parliament building.
The attacks took place at a particularly charged time after Saudi Arabia and other Sunni powers cut ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of backing Tehran and militant groups.
They were the first claimed by the hardline Sunni Muslim militant group inside in the tightly controlled Shi'ite Muslim country. Islamic State has regularly threatened Iran, one of the powers leading the fight against the militants’ forces in neighboring Iraq and, beyond that, Syria.
The powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps accused Saudi Arabia of being behind the action, a rare such incident in Iran.
"This terrorist attack happened only a week after the meeting between the U.S. president (Donald Trump) and the (Saudi) backward leaders who support terrorists. The fact that Islamic State has claimed responsibility proves that they were involved in the brutal attack," a Guards statement said.
Saudi Foreign Minister del Al-Jubeir, speaking in Berlin, said he did not know was responsible and there was no evidence Saudi extremists were involved.
The attacks could also exacerbate tensions in Iran between newly re-elected President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist, and his rivals among hardline clerics and the Revolutionary Guards.
Attackers dressed as women burst through parliament's main entrance in central Tehran, deputy interior minister Mohammad Hossein Zolfaghari said, according to the Tasnim news agency.
1.) President Trump sanctions 'black ops' against Iran
By Christopher R Rice
President Donald Trump gave the CIA approval to launch covert "black" operations to achieve regime change in Iran, intelligence sources have revealed.
Trump signed an official document endorsing CIA plans for a propaganda and disinformation campaign intended to destabilize, and eventually topple, the theocratic rule of the mullahs.
Under the plan, pressure will be brought to bear on the Iranian economy by manipulating the country's currency and international financial transactions.
Security officials in Washington disclosed that Teheran has been sold defective parts on the black market in a bid to delay and disrupt its uranium enrichment program, the precursor to building a nuclear weapon.
A security source in the US told The Sunday Telegraph that the presidential directive, known as a "non-lethal presidential finding", gave the CIA the right to collect intelligence on home soil using enhanced interrogation methods, an area that is usually the preserve of the FBI, from the many Iranian exiles and emigrés within the US.
"Iranians in America have links with their families at home, and they are a good two-way source of information," he said.
The CIA was also allowed to supply communications equipment which would enable opposition groups in Iran to work together and bypass internet censorship by the clerical regime.
The CIA is giving arms-length support, supplying money and weapons, to an Iranian militant group, Jundullah, which has conducted raids into Iran from bases in Pakistan.
Iranian officials say they captured 10 members of Jundullah, carrying $500,000 in cash along with "maps of sensitive areas" and "modern spy equipment".
Mark Fitzpatrick, a former senior State Department official now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said industrial sabotage was the favored way to combat Iran's nuclear program "without military action, without fingerprints on the operation."
He added: "One way to sabotage a program is to make minor modifications in some of the components Iran obtains on the black market."
Components and blueprints obtained by Iranian intelligence agents in Europe, and shipped home using the diplomatic bag from the Iranian consulate in Frankfurt, have been blamed for an explosion that destroyed 50 nuclear centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear plant.
The White House National Security Council and CIA refused to comment on intelligence matters.
2.) President Trump authorizes attack on Iran
By Christopher R Rice
A senior CIA official who has dealt with Iran, said: "Vice-President Pence is leading the side favoring a military strike, I think they have concluded that a military strike has some downsides but more upsides."
The CIA is giving support, supplying money and weapons, to anti-Iranian militant groups, ISIS and Jundullah, which have conducted suicide bombings inside Iran from bases in Pakistan.
June 7th, twelve people were killed and 42 injured after four gunmen stormed Tehran’s parliament complex and two suicide bombers – one of them female – detonated their vests at the Ayatollah Khomeini mausoleum.
ISIS claimed responsibility through its Al-Jazeera News Agency. This remains unverified, but if true, marks the group's first attack in Iran.
Iran’s Powerful Revolutionary Guard stopped short of directly blaming Saudi involvement but called it “meaningful” that the attacks took place a week after President Donald Trump traveled to Riyadh. The Guard statement said that Saudi Arabia “constantly supports takfiri terrorists” and the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the Tehran attacks “reveals [Saudi Arabia’s] hand in this barbaric action.”
Predominantly Shiite Iran has been dealing with a Sunni resistance movement in the Baluchestan and Sistan provinces along the border shared with Pakistan and Afghanistan. The area has been a warzone for years, with thousands of Iranian troops killed in clashes with Sunni terrorists as well as smugglers transporting heroin through Iran and Turkey to Europe.
President Trump responded with a show of force by the navy, sending nine warships, including two aircraft carriers, into the Persian Gulf.
Iran's foreign minister denounced as "repugnant" President Trump's mixed-message response to twin terror attacks in Tehran that killed 17 people.
"Repugnant WH statement & Senate sanctions as Iranians counter terror backed by US clients," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted.
The assailants were dressed as women and armed with assault rifles, handguns and suicide vests, the ministry said. Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi accused Saudi Arabia of supporting terrorist groups around the globe.
"Terror-sponsoring despots threaten to bring the fight to our homeland," Zarif tweeted. "Proxies attack what their masters despise most: the seat of democracy."
Iranians voted overwhelmingly on May 19 to re-elect President Hassan Rouhani. Sadly the Saudi people have never seen a ballot box in their life and don't know what elections are.
Vice President Pence said he is considered asking Israel to launch limited missile strikes at Iran. Military advisors close to the situation told Underground Newz that a military response by Iran could give Washington an excuse to then launch airstrikes of its own. Pence has said "all military options are on the table."
Israel has declined to comment on the reported air strike, while Syria has denied receiving North Korean nuclear aid and said it could retaliate for the coalition's violation of its airspace and territory.
June 19th, US shoots down Syrian fighter. Asked to respond to the shootdown of a Syrian fighter jet over Syria, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the United States will protect its interests in Syria and will "do what we can" to keep open lines of communication with Russia and Syria.
The Russian Defense Ministry earlier blasted the U.S.'s action as a "massive violation of international law" and said it will begin treating U.S.-led coalition jets flying west of the Euphrates River in Syria as targets.
9.) ABC News Exclusive: The Secret War Against Iran
By BRIAN ROSS AND CHRISTOPHER ISHAM REPORT:
A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News.
The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran.
It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials.
Jundullah has produced its own videos showing Iranian soldiers and border guards it says it has captured and brought back to Pakistan.
The leader, Regi, claims to have personally executed some of the Iranians.
"He used to fight with the Taliban. He's part drug smuggler, part Taliban, part Sunni activist," said Alexis Debat, a senior fellow on counterterrorism at the Nixon Center and an ABC News consultant who recently met with Pakistani officials and tribal members.
"Regi is essentially commanding a force of several hundred guerrilla fighters that stage attacks across the border into Iran on Iranian military officers, Iranian intelligence officers, kidnapping them, executing them on camera," Debat said.
Most recently, Jundullah took credit for an attack in February that killed at least 11 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard riding on a bus in the Iranian city of Zahedan.
Some former CIA officers say the arrangement is reminiscent of how the U.S. government used proxy armies, funded by other countries including Saudi Arabia, to destabilize the government of Nicaragua in the 1980s.
One of them detonated a suicide vest in the parliament, he said. About five hours after the first reports, Iranian media said four people who had attacked parliament were dead and the incident was over.
At least 12 people were killed by the attackers, the head of Iran's emergency department, Pir-Hossein Kolivand, was quoted as saying by state broadcaster IRIB. Some 43 people were wounded.
"I was inside the parliament when shooting happened. Everyone was shocked and scared. I saw two men shooting randomly," said one journalist at the scene.
Soon after the assault on parliament, another bomber detonated a suicide vest near the shrine of the Islamic Republic's revered founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, a few kilometers south of the city, Zolfaghari said.
A second attacker was shot dead, he said. The shrine is a main destination for tourists and religious pilgrims.
"The terrorists had explosives strapped to them and suddenly entered the shrine and started to shoot around," said the shrine's overseeer, Mohammadali Ansari.
The Intelligence Ministry said security forces had arrested another "terrorist team" planning a third attack.
"I was shopping and suddenly heard shooting," said housewife Maryam Saghari, 36, who lives near parliament. "People started to run away from the area. I was very scared. I don't want to live in fear," she told Reuters by telephone.
Television footage showed police helicopters circling over the parliament building, with snipers on its rooftop.
The raids on two of Iran’s most highly-protected sites will jolt Rouhani, who positions himself as a reformer, and his political rivals among the hardline clerics and the Revolutionary Guards, who are responsible for national security.
In an appeal for unity, Rouhani’s chief of staff, Hamid Aboutalebi, took to Twitter to praise the security services.
"If this attacks had happened in any other city in Europe or in the world, it would have left many casualties. Applause to the power and firmness of our revolutionary guards, Basij, police and security forces," he wrote.
Two senior government officials, who asked not to be named, said the blasts might prompt a blame game and exacerbate political in-fighting.
"They (hardliners) are very angry and will use every opportunity to grow in strength to isolate Rouhani," said one of the officials.
The other said the attacks, and speculation over who backed them, would push Iran toward "a harsher regional policy".
Iran's tussle with Saudi Arabia for regional influence is being played out in the Yemen war as well as in Syria and Iraq.
The Intelligence Ministry called on people to be vigilant and report any suspicious movement.
Attacks are rare in Tehran and other major cities though two Sunni militant groups, Jaish al-Adl and Jundallah, have been waging a deadly insurgency, mostly in more remote areas, for almost a decade.
Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan province, in the southeast on the borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan, is home to the Balouch minority and has long been a hotbed of Sunni insurgents fighting the Shi'ite-led republic.
Last year Iranian authorities said they had foiled a plot by Sunni militants to bomb targets in Tehran and other cities during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is
visiting Turkey to discuss the Qatar crisis, told reporters that the attacks will "strengthen the resolve of the Iranian nation against terrorism".
Islamic State has lambasted "heretic" Shi'ite Iran for helping the Syrian and Iraqi governments to fight it.
The video released by Islamic State's news agency Amaq included an audio track of a man saying in Arabic: "Oh God, thank you. [Gunshots]. Do you think we will leave? No! We will remain, God willing."
Read the original article on Reuters. Copyright 2017.
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