Iran Regime Still Trying to Buy Nuclear Enrichment Equipment and Weaponry

Iran’s intent on getting nuclear weapons is relentless, and every international diplomacy and international military affairs expert knows this. They are fully aware that this current Iranian regime has absolutely no intention of giving up its long-term plan to become a nuclear power, even if it means the potential demise of its leadership infrastructure hierarchy.

Iran has never honored any agreement made with the international community to cease and desist its nuclear weapons program. Iran has never come clean with all its nuclear weapons research or locations of all its facilities. Rather, inspectors, spy agencies, and resellers of dual-purpose (dual-use) technology and equipment have given us clues and the proof needed to state this fact.

Nothing will stop Iranian’s leadership from seeking the bomb, not a threat of economic collapse, or even a global pandemic which is wreaking havoc on their political establishment. In fact, during this pandemic, Iran has continued its nuclear shopping spree. The mainstream media is aware that the JCPOA deal is dead, and that Iran has procured almost all that’s needed to make and build a bomb, and that their uranium enrichment is all but there now. Yet, the global mainstream media is busy covering the CoronaVirus Pandemic and has made little to no mention of it.

It looks as if Iran is pretending to semi-comply with some of the international nuclear agreements it has made while continuing full-speed ahead to make a nuclear weapon. It appears they will try to do what North Korea did, withdraw from the international agreement framework and then do a nuclear test. Once that happens the cat is out of the bag and the whole scenario changes. Iran has asked for a $5 billion loan to help with problems from the Covid-19 (CoronaVirus) outbreak there, but many worry they will merely use that money to finally complete their project to make a nuclear weapon, as they almost have enough enriched uranium now.

Iran has been buying aluminum oxide and other materials needed to finish the final touches on their nuclear weapons project from sources in Bosnia and other places. They’ve then been moving those purchases through Pakistan and/or Turkey, allowing them to work around sanctions. The Iranian regime knows how to get whatever dual-use nuclear equipment and material it wants using economic sanction loopholes. After all, it’s been doing it for two decades now.

Should the West help with Covid-19 Pandemic Aid to Iran? The International Community is ready to respond, report Iranian foreign policy experts at the Atlantic. The U.S. has offered medical pandemic aid, but the Iranian Regime has turned it down citing a rumor that the U.S. may have caused the outbreak in the first place. Instead, the Regime has asked for a $5 billion loan from the IMF. Giving money might be a mistake, giving aid would be a wise choice, suggest well-informed foreign policy thinkers. Why? It’s simple really, giving humanitarian aid shows empathic intent; we are all in this together.

Iran has taken a big hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, it has been ravaging their society, and it’s doubly worse as Iran’s economy was in free-fall prior to the outbreak, due to economic sanctions note those with expertise on diplomatic policy in the Middle East and Iran. Of course, the gesture might be short-lived. The Iranian Regime also probably doesn’t want U.S. marked aircraft delivering medical supplies, as that might hurt their ‘evil U.S.’ blame-game narrative.

Still, the world wants to help where it can, and NGOs are in action mode. It’s their mission to help, and Iran definitely needs some assistance with the Covid-19 crisis, as they are getting hit as hard as New York City, Paris, Italy, and Spain say non-profit foreign policy think tanks like the FDD. The question still remains, how do you get help into a country that lacks trust in the International Community, and blames the U.S. for the Covid-19 pandemic?

If there is a window of opportunity to unite everyone under a common cause, this global pandemic is it. Unfortunately, that window of opportunity is rapidly closing according to reports and information from leading diplomatic researchers. And, even if aid is given and accepted by the regime, there is probably no chance they will slow their nuclear weapons program in the interim, nor can you expect them not to go back to the same old games after the pandemic crisis is over.

What is the Future of ISIS Now That Baghdadi is Gone?

We all know it would be premature to call ISIS defeated just because the self-proclaimed leader of the modern day Caliphate has met his demise. The idea of a Caliphate is still alive and well in the minds of many ISIS fighters. Just because ISIS is all but defeated in Syria, doesn’t mean its brutality and activities is over, far from it, warn experts on the matter. ISIS is very much becoming a global organization, and we’ve already seen the havoc it can cause throughout the Middle East and elsewhere.

Let’s discuss what happens next as the U.S. withdraws from the fight, pulls troops out of Syria, and declares a job well done. ISIS fighters are still out there in large numbers and have a presence in what looks to be 20 provinces or so. Organized groups, call them franchises if you’d like, ready to continue the fight, while recruiting more. The concept of a modern day Islamic Caliphate isn’t gone.

What is This Modern Day Caliphate All About Anyway?

Well historically in Islam, Muhammad was the divine leader of all of Islam. His first successor was Caliph Abu Bakr and ruled over what was the first Caliphate or the “Rashidun Caliphate’. According to historians, there were four Caliphs of the Islamic Empire. The Rashidun Caliphate lasted approximately 30-years.

It was the goal of Osama bin Laden to eventually unite all of Islam into a Caliphate, a lifetime project even he believed would take centuries to complete. Baghdadi had more aggressive plans to unite all of Islam under one rule, a Caliphate, and declared himself the leader.

This was a rather bold move considering a Caliphate didn’t exist, as individual countries make up most of the Islamic World today. It was also a rather harsh dictatorial approach, as only God (Allah) could decide the mortal human leader of the Caliphate. Baghdadi didn’t care and waged war within countries on anyone who resisted. Driven by religious conviction and recruiting passionate Muslims to come to fight, they brutally set out to set the clocks back to the past period of the Rashidun Caliphate.

We’ve Seen What ISIS Did in Its Quest – What Will It Try Next?

Needless to say, Baghdadi might be dead, but the passion, rage, and fervor of his followers is still very much alive. As ISIS finds defeat in Syria, its fighters have not all been killed, many have slipped away leaving the area to fight another day. Remember the recruited fighters came from all over, some as far away as North America, many from Europe, Africa, Indonesia, and most from the Middle East. These fighters are battle hardened and we’d be in denial to believe they no longer have the same ideology.

What about Syria, is ISIS totally defeated in Syria? There is no doubt that Baghdadi’s death is a major symbolic blow to ISIS. After all, he was the ‘leader of the Caliphate’ even if self-proclaimed. ISIS has lost in Syria, but its organization elsewhere is still in operation. Just in the last few years, ISIS has set up operations in Central Africa, India, and Pakistan. We can expect ISIS in Turkey to grow bolder and come out of the shadows there.

The Reality has Set In – ISIS isn’t Going Away – But Is It Our Fight?

There is a lot of talk in the Washington D.C. area foreign policy think tanks about what the U.S. ought to be doing about Syria now that ISIS is on the run, and what we should do about ISIS going forward. In 2016 Trump ran on “getting the US out of these endless wars” and the fight against ISIS is the epitome of an endless war merely because the leadership of ISIS and its fighters see it as such. They won’t stop until every infidel has been converted or killed or so they proclaim.

One of the goals of these Islamic fighters is to outlast their enemies’ will to fight and then defeat them. ISIS sees this as a generational fight, an on-going struggle, and it gives them a sense of purpose. Such strong will makes ISIS a dangerous adversary. Foreign policy researchers at the FDD remind us that it would be naïve to believe that ISIS is totally defeated or that merely killing its leader will cause the organization to crumble.

The Trump Administration is facing reality and weighing the taxpayers’ costs of the fight, and the loss of American lives to continue according to experts on international diplomacy. Their ‘realist’ approach is indeed an ‘America First’ point of view. Still, we have allies in the region who’ve counted on us to help keep the peace. Withdrawing troops puts forth further instability in the region.

What Comes Next In Syria With ISIS?

International diplomacy researchers at the FDD are watching closely to see if the U.S. withdrawal in Syria will relieve tensions among allies in the region or if it will, in the end, turn out to be the best choice provided the circumstances. It appears the Kurdish fighters in Syria are going to take some serious losses, and the remaining ISIS fighters will be further decimated by a combination of Turkish, Syrian, and Russian military advances according to research from the FDD. So, is this the end of the United States’ involvement in the Syrian Conflict? President Trump has warned that any mass slaughtering of Christians or the Kurds will not be tolerated there.

Does this mean we are only partially withdrawing from Syria and keeping an eye on the situation, or was that ‘warning’ or suggested ‘redline’ just more political rhetoric? Were our announcements of withdrawal overstated for purposes of misdirection for the enemy? The three-dimensional chessboard of diplomacy is filled with items of contention, each one examined under its own merits and how it fits into the larger scheme of things. It’s difficult to judge foreign policy endeavors by watching the media pundits who have only half the information. What comes next in Syria is anyone’s guess.

The Taliban Al-Qaeda Connection – The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend?

Is there really a Taliban Al-Qaeda connection? Well, that depends on your definition. If we are asking; “Does the Taliban and Al Qaeda have a common enemy, the United States?” The answer there is a clear; Yes! Perhaps then it should come as no surprise that the Taliban allows a safe haven to the Al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan. Indeed, there are 18-terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and the Taliban is friendly with all but four of them, according to a United Nations’ report on counter-terrorism. It turns out Al Qaeda is closely aligned with the Taliban. Al Qaeda also provides both religious and military instructors to the Taliban, that we know for certain. This information provided by the U.N. report on the Taliban is quite up-to-date, mid-July 2019.

Recently, the Trump Administration’s Mike Pompeo indicated some intelligence citing links between Al-Qaeda and Iran. Foreign Policy explained why attempting to link Iran and Al-Qaeda undercuts the Administration’s credibility. After all, as recently as last year they were fighting each other in Syria. Still, the claim that there is some sort of alliance or agreement might not be too far off seeing that they both have a common enemy; The United States. Iran is said to be allowing a safe harbor and travels for Al-Qaeda in and through Iran.

Alliances change quickly in the Middle East amongst rogue nation-states and terrorist organizations and even faster between the many terrorist organizations themselves. It’s difficult to stay on top of the shifting sand, but the ancient proverb is always on point; “The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend.” The United Nations Security Council report on Afghanistan notes a long-standing relationship between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. There isn’t this level of evidence for an Iran Al-Qaeda relationship, but based on Al-Qaeda’s activities and movements, Iran has at minimum been giving the terrorist organization a free-pass to go about their nefarious affairs.

The Trump Administration wants to end the money drain from the long drawn out war in Afghanistan, as it will be exactly 20-years on October 15, 2019. Unfortunately, to do this an agreement is needed from the Taliban. The Trump Administration wants the Taliban to agree to cease all alliances, coordination, and activities with Al-Qaeda as one of the conditions. Question is; how can we possibly trust the Taliban to stop associating with Al-Qaeda, asks Foreign Affairs Magazine? The answer is; we can’t, and everyone who has looked at this potential eventuality at least agrees on that. In other words, any agreement garnered from the Taliban isn’t worth the Charmin Toiletry it’s written on.

According to the FDD, leading researchers on the conflict in Afghanistan, the connection and symbiotic relationship between the Taliban and Al Qaeda is too interwoven to presume that such a break-up is possible, even “if” certain Taliban leadership were to agree to such a proposal in trade for the US drawing down and ultimately leaving Afghanistan. Likewise, the U.N. Security Council doesn’t believe this is a possibility either. Since the situation in Afghanistan is dynamic and the players in the region always sparring for the top podium. Those interested in the current trends here would be wise to follow the FDD to stay abreast of the latest updates on the conflict in Afghanistan.The Trump Administration is working to find the right move on the three-dimensional chessboard to secure stability in Afghanistan and minimize any future conflict. As reported by leading experts on foreign policy, these objectives will not be easy to attain and things are bound to get more complicated in the process. Needless to say, if the United States and our allies leave Afghanistan, that troubled region of the world will continue to be a hotbed of terrorist activity for many decades into the future.

Hezbollah Global Finance

History of Hezbollah

Hezbollah first came into existence in 1985 with the official, objective, of expelling Americans and other Western powers from Lebanon. Thanks to a large part, in training, from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Hezbollah’s military strength has grown to surpass the scale, and power of the Lebanese Army. Such extreme control, in addition to the widespread support of Hezbollah’s power, has led many to describe Hezbollah as a “state within a state”. With the ability to collect taxes within their region, as well as exert influence over local radio and TV stations, and provide fully funded social services – Hezbollah has managed to stand apart from various extremist groups in the region, as a form of self-governance.

However, despite Hezbollah’s high regard amongst Lebanese citizens, it is undeniably a lawless terrorist organization with a record rivaling AL Qaeda. Such attacks included frequent truck and suicide bombings. The targets have included the U.S. and French military and government forces, but have largely been focused on civilian Jewish communities ranging from Europe to Southeastern Asia and to South America. To understand how Hezbollah accomplishes its missions, it’s important to see where the money for training, and supplies, flow from.

Iran

For years Hezbollah has claimed to earn most of its revenue through donations from private citizens, as well as earnings through various investments, but Western intelligence agencies dispute these claims. Evidence suggests that, since its formation, Hezbollah has been dependent on Iran for the majority of its training, weapons, and financial aid to carry out all its operations. Some experts speculate that Iran provides Hezbollah up to $100 million a year or more.

In exchange, Hezbollah acts as Iran’s proxy in their conflict with Israel. The conflict between the Jewish nation and Palestine has long been stoked by outside forces and Hezbollah is often the primary party responsible. To get a sense of the extent of Iran and Hezbollah’s ties one only needs to look at Hezbollah’s formation when Iran provided the initial training necessary to get Hezbollah’s forces into fighting shape.

In light of Iran’s blatant aggression towards the West through its partnership with Hezbollah, many experts believe sanctions shouldn’t be lifted until the terms of a nuclear agreement that prohibit such financing are set into place. The past deal signed into law, by then, President Obama, and was lifted this year, by president Trump; called for the dissolution of Iran’s nuclear program – but had no such language regarding the extremist faction. Click here to read more.

Even more alarming, than the faulty nuclear agreement, is the recent allegations that the US made payments as high as 33.6 billion to the Iranian government, as a form of economic relief. Mark Dubowitz, from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, recently spoke on Fox News about the nature of these payments and their potential consequences. Click here to watch Mark Dubowtiz on YouTube.

Donations

Beyond Iran’s considerable financial involvement, Hezbollah earns a great deal of money from other sources and is in no way dependent on the Middle Eastern power. Every year Hezbollah manages to raise millions of dollars from private donors all throughout the world, mostly from wealthy Lebanese expatriates living in Africa, and South America. In one instance reported by Israeli intelligence, a transfer of $2 million was carried out by a human courier in Senegal (the second-highest rate of Hezbollah fundraising in Africa) made up entirely of donations by Lebanese business groups. The group claimed the money exchange was intended to avoid taxes.

Charities

To hide their fundraising activity, Hezbollah uses various charities to obscure the sources and eventual destination of money raised. The AL-Aqsa International Foundation, a terrorist financing scheme banned by the United States, Germany, and Great Britain raised funds for Hezbollah as part of a joint money laundering operation with the Palestinian group Hamas.

The “Martyr’s Organization” supplies finances to the family of suicide bombers. Many other charities donate to the group out of ideological motivation. Such tactics allow money to travel to Hezbollah from Western nations without financial institutions being aware of the deceit.

Criminal Enterprises

Thanks to its wide criminal network and well-trained operatives Hezbollah has found great success raising money through criminal means, such as diamond smuggling, money laundering, various types of fraud and electronic finance schemes, and drug production. These groups operate all over the world and have an elaborate system of transportation and money management built to avoid detection. Members of U.S. law enforcement agencies have stated that there is significant money moved out of the United States for terrorist operations each year. As much as $30 million dollars is generated from illicit scams in the United States alone.

Terror in The West

According to the Foreign Policy and the Observer Piece written by Emanuele Ottolenghi (FP) and Bridget Johnson (Observer)… Terror is in the West. Iran and Hezbollah have been generating a great influence in Latin America, with what can be seen as diplomatic gestures. In reality, Iran and Hezbollah are utilizing these foreign connections to strengthen their illegal activities. Alberto Nisman, an Argentinian prosecutor was murdered in 2015 during his attempt to expose the Iran connection between the “bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community center in Buenos Aires,” that occurred in 1994, Johnson states. This bombing killed 85 innocent people and when it came time for an investigation, former Argentine President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, decided to let the Islamic Republic investigate this crime on its own.

Johnson accuses Kirchner of being fully aware of the crime, stating that “Iran and its partners were behind the bombing.”But she signed off on the agreement anyway. Nisman began investigating the officials who signed the truth commission while Kirchner was busy firing the people involved in the investigation. The day Nisman was going to present his 288-page report to the federal judge charging those involved with an obstruction of justice and aggravated cover-up, he was found murdered with a shot to the head. Nisman’s report included findings discussing how “Argentia would profit from oil and grain deals while the Iranians wanted for the bombing would get off the Interpol Red Notice,” according to Johnson. And this is just the beginning.

Mark Dubowitz of Foundation for Defense of Democracies discusses this topic here. FDD’s Toby Dershowitz and Serena Frechter wrote in a policy brief that Hezbollah is currently on trial in Paris for their criminal activity in South America and the laundering of millions in euros in this area — similar to the situation between Hezbollah and the U.S.

It’s no secret that Latin America’s Triple Frontier (the border area shared by Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil) plays an important role in illicit activity. United States policymakers have neglected the Triple Frontier for over a decade, but recent federal investigations have brought to light multi-billion-dollar schemes run by Hezbollah. Earlier in the year, the Trump administration decided to pull away from the Iran nuclear deal and days after doing so, Washington “ramped up sanctions against Hezbollah,” Ottolenghi states. However, many are confused about where the U.S. stance and their policies currently lie. For example, the United States is against Hezbollah but supports “Lebanese State Institutions.” Because Lebanese State Institutions are run almost entirely by the Hezbollah, Ottolenghi believes that the “White House ends up undermining its own pursuit of the group’s illicit sources of finance.” This clear contradiction is being displayed in Paraguay now.

Ottolenghi states that there is evidence Hezbollah is “sending senior officials to the Triple Frontier to coordinate these activities” and that even “local operatives are involved in the local boom of cocaine trafficking.” While the U.S. Treasury was busy announcing the new Hezbollah sanctions, “Paraguayan authorities raided Unique SA, a currency exchange house”, Ottolenghi states. Farhat, the owner of this currency exchange house, was arrested for laundering $1.3 million in drug money. Farhat is said to be a member of the “Business Affairs Component”, Hezbollah’s External Security Organization. This organization is responsible for overseeing illicit finance and drug trafficking “overseas,” Ottolenghi explains .U.S. authorities are seeking to extradite Farhat, a sign that his actions have impacted the U.S. bank system. However, the Lebanese government is doing its best to prevent this from happening.

Hezbollah has chosen to push back by leveraging local influence through the Lebanese Embassy, Ottolenghi informs. Unfortunately, the Lebanese Embassy is considered a “state institution” one Washington looks forward to using as a “counterweight,” Ottolenghi explains. In May 2018, Hassan Hijazi, “the Lebanese charge d’affairs” in Asunción, sent a letter to Paraguay’s attorney general asking her to reject the request. Paraguayan authorities are apparently cooperative with the U.S., but they are also experiencing pressure from Lebanese Hezbollah.

An article in Foreign Policy states that for businesses like this to run smoothly, “such schemes rely on the complicity of local authorities, who rarely check incoming and outgoing merchandise that traverses the Triple Frontier weekly,” including through Ciudad Del Este’s Guaraní International Airport “by cargo plane from Dubai and the United States.” Just last year, Paraguay extradited a Lebanese drug trafficker to Miami who had ties to Hezbollah and was caught with shipping cocaine. Authorities found that in this case, the suspect was conspiring to ship “100 kilograms of cocaine a month to a Houston business associate by air cargo,” Ottolenghi states. Another similar case, also in Miami, had been investigated by the local FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, “mentions a weekly Miami-Ciudad Del Este cargo flight as the conduit for delivery of counterfeited electronics,” Ottolenghi continues. All at the same airport.

There is a fear that Farhat won’t be convicted if tried domestically, because of the history of “lost opportunities to go after Hezbollah in Paraguay.” Two Hezbollah criminals escaped a Paraguay penitentiary during a transfer between prisons last December. This, along with Asunción’s failure to enforce the “decade-old U.S. sanctions against Triple Frontier-based Hezbollah operatives, many of whom continue to live and trade on the Paraguayan side of the border” seems to lessen Ottolenghi’s confidence in them bringing these culprits to justice.

Ottolenghi believes the U.S. should send a clear message to Hezbollah, Hijazi, and Gebran Bassil- the Lebanese Foreign Minister. The message being: “You can get U.S. aid or you can do Hezbollah’s bidding. But you cannot do both at the same time and get away with it.” Ottolenghi also believes that the U.S. needs to give Paraguay some sort of reassurance, “ that punishing the envoy and extraditing the culprit is the right course of action.”

Ottolenghi knows that Washington will work with the Paraguayans to “bring Farhat to justice” and hopes that it inspires more dismantling of any other large schemes supporting Hezbollah’s finances in this particular region. In the end, Ottolenghi calls on Washington to recognize the Lebanese institutions as enablers, not counterweights.

 

References

Johnson, B. (2017, December 26). Western Shame: Tolerating Terrorists for Political Expediency. Retrieved November 8, 2018, from https://observer.com/2017/12/what-iran-and-hezbollah-want-with-latin-america/ 

Ottolenghi, E. (2018, June 15). Lebanon Is Protecting Hezbollah’s Cocaine Trade in Latin America. Retrieved November 8, 2018, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/06/15/lebanon-is-protecting-hezbollahs-cocaine-and-cash-trade-in-latin-america/