Increased ICBM work offers pathway to long-range nuclear weapon
BY: Adam Kredo
Iran continues to make critical technological strides in its efforts to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons over great distances, efforts that violate international prohibitions, according to the director of national intelligence, who informed Congress this week that the Islamic Republic “would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons.”
The disclosure comes just days after Iranian leaders announced the upcoming launch of two new domestically produced satellites. Iran has long used its space program as cover for illicit missile work, as the know-how needed to launch such equipment can be applied to long-range ballistic missile technology.
Daniel Coats, America’s top spymaster, informed Congress this week in an intelligence briefing that Iran’s ballistic missile work continues unimpeded and could be used by the Islamic Republic to launch a nuclear weapon, according to unclassified testimony.
Iran’s ballistic missile work, particularly its focus on ICBMs, runs counter to United Nations resolutions barring such activity, though it remains unclear if the Trump administration plans to pursue new sanctions on Iran.
Iran continues to perform key research and development on nuclear missile capabilities despite the landmark nuclear agreement with Western powers, according to the last U.S. intelligence assessments.
“Iran is pursuing capabilities to meet its nuclear energy and technology goals and to give it the capability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so” Coats wrote in his written testimony to the Senate intelligence committee.
U.S. officials are unsure if Iran will build nuclear weapons, but it is likely this intention would dictate Tehran’s future adherence to the nuclear deal, which the administration of former President Barack Obama framed in such a way as to leave out the issue of ballistic missiles.
The United States assesses that Iran remains about a year away from a functional nuclear missile if it decides to build one in violation of the nuclear deal.
Iranian military leaders claim their missile work is unrelated to the nuclear agreement and permissible under it. The country’s refusal to abandon this work has caused concern on Capitol Hill, as well as among U.S. national security insiders who view the work as related to Iran’s aspirations for regional dominance.
The U.S. intelligence community maintains that Iran—which has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East—likely would use this technology to launch a nuclear weapon.
“We judge that Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them,” according to Coats. “Iran’s ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering WMD, and Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East.”
“Tehran’s desire to deter the United States might drive it to field an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM),” Coats wrote, referring to Iran’s covert missile work. “Progress on Iran’s space program could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space launch vehicles use similar technologies.”
Iran “continues to leverage cyber espionage, propaganda, and attacks to support its security priorities, influence events and foreign perceptions, and counter threats—including against U.S. allies in the region,” Coats testified.
This includes cyber attacks “directly against the United States,” such as in 2013, when an Iranian hacker penetrated the computer systems of a U.S. dam.
Iran also is pursuing a massive buildup of its military, which observers have described as unprecedented.
The U.S. intelligence community has confirmed that Iran is developing “a range of new military capabilities to monitor and target U.S. and allied military assets in the region, including armed UAVs [drones], ballistic missiles, advanced naval mines, unmanned explosive boats, submarines and advanced torpedoes, and anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles,” according to Coats.
When Barack Obama signed a prisoner swap deal with Iran, he said the released Iranians were “not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses.” However, a Politico investigation claims that some were national security threats – a fact Obama ignored to keep Tehran on board with a nuclear deal.
Speaking to the American people on January 17, 2016, then-President Barack Obama called the prisoner swap – which saw the release for seven Iranians for four Iranian-Americans imprisoned by Tehran – a “one time gesture” to Iran.
He said the Iranians being released were “civilians” who had not been charged with “terrorism” or any “violent offenses.”
A Politico investigation has, however, revealed a very different story – that Obama allegedly downplayed just how dangerous some of the “civilians” actually were. In fact, some had even been accused by Obama’s own Justice Department of posing threats to US national security.
Politico cited interviews with “key participants at all levels of government” and an “extensive review” of court records and other documents as its sources for the investigation.
Of the seven Iranians released, three were allegedly part of an “illegal procurement network supplying Iran with US-made microelectronics with applications in surface-to-air and cruise missiles.”
Another was serving an eight-year sentence for conspiring to supply Tehran with satellite technology and hardware. US officials even dropped their demand for $10 million which a jury said the aerospace engineer illegally received from Iran, the report says.
But the alleged dodgy dealings went far beyond those who were released as part of the landmark prisoner swap. According to Politico, the Justice Department dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 other men, all of whom were fugitives.
While the administration did not disclose those fugitives’ names or what they had been accused of, an unattributed, 152-word statement cited by Politico noted that the US “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.”
According to the investigation, three of the fugitives who received a get-out-of-jail-free card had allegedly sought to lease Boeing aircraft for an Iranian airline that authorities say had supported Hezbollah, which the US considers a terrorist organization.
A fourth, Behrouz Dolatzadeh, was reportedly charged with conspiring to buy thousands of US-made assault rifles and illegally import them into Iran.
Meanwhile, a fifth fugitive by the name of Amin Ravan was charged with smuggling US military antennas to Hong Kong and Singapore for use in Iran. The US government also believes he was part of a procurement network providing Tehran with high-tech components for an incredibly deadly type of IED used by Shia militias to kill hundreds of American troops in Iraq.
Referring to a sixth fugitive, Seyed Abolfazl, as “the biggest fish,” Politico revealed that he had been charged with being part of a conspiracy that procured thousands of parts with nuclear applications for Iran via China, from 2005 to 2012. The scheme included hundreds of US-made sensors for uranium enrichment centrifuges in Iran.
Those centrifuges and their apparent progress had been what prompted nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers including the US.
In addition, Justice and State Department officials denied or delayed requests from prosecutors and agents to lure some key Iranian fugitives to countries where they could be arrested, according to Politico.
Officials from both departments also reportedly slowed down efforts to extradite some suspects already in custody overseas, according to current and former officials and others involved in the counterproliferation effort.
Even as far back as autumn 2014 – long before the prisoner swap happened – Obama administration officials reportedly began slowing down on significant investigations and prosecutions of Iranian procurement networks operating in the US, according to the investigation.
David Hall, a former Justice Department counterproliferation prosecutor, told Politico that Obama’s actions have “erased literally years – many years – of hard work, and important cases that can be used to build toward other cases and even bigger players in Iran’s nuclear and conventional weapons program.”
Politico still credited Obama’s desire to keep Iran on board with the historic 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers.
Meanwhile, Obama’s efforts to keep Iran on track with the nuclear deal may have proven futile, with President Donald Trump pledging to crack down on Tehran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Last week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced a government-wide review of US policy towards Iran, citing “alarming and ongoing provocations that export terror and violence, destabilizing more than one country at a time.”
Trump has previously called the nuclear deal “disastrous” and the “worst deal ever negotiated,” threatening to dismantle the accord.
In response, the Iranian defense minister has said the possibility of Trump taking a “different path” regarding the deal has led to “unease,” making clear that US ally Israel and smaller Gulf states would be destroyed if Trump starts a war with Iran.
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Iran has showcased its latest locally-developed anti-aircraft missiles together with S-300 air defense systems at an annual Army Day parade. Some of the trucks carrying the weapons were decorated with banners featuring anti-Israeli slogans.
The Army Day parade was held in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Tuesday, with troops from all branches of the armed forces taking part. The ceremony also included tanks, armored vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), fighter jets, radar systems and air defense systems.
Certain parts of the parade drew particular attention, including anti-Israeli banners that read ‘Death to Israel’ in Persian and showed a fist punching through the Jewish Star of David.
Attending the massive military parade was President Hassan Rouhani, who said in his address that Iranians “should always maintain our alertness against conspiracies by others and should enhance our deterrent power day by day,” as cited by Press TV.
Rouhani said that Iranian forces defend the whole of the “important and sensitive” region of the Middle East, and promised a “vigorous and determined” response to potential aggressors. He also accused “some of the world’s armies” of spearheading “intervention in other countries’ internal affairs, genocide, terrorism sponsorship, coups d’état, and lack of regard for the people’s opinion and law.”
According to Fars news agency, Iranian-made Sayyad (Hunter) 3 anti-aircraft missiles were showcased during the parade for the first time, accompanying Russian-made S-300s.
Brigadier General Farzad Esmayeeli, commander of Iran’s Air Defense Forces, told the outlet that the new missile would be mounted on the Soviet-built S-200 systems still operated by the Iranian military.
The Sayyad 3 can also be mounted on the Bavar 373, Iran’s locally-developed long-range air defense system. The development of the Bavar 373 was announced in September 2011, shortly after Russia canceled a contract to supply Iran with S-300 systems, according to UK military think tank Jane’s.
Though Russia reversed the decision in 2015 and began delivery of S-300s in 2016, the Bavar program continued.
Israel’s relations with Iran have been strained for decades. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli firebrand leader, vehemently opposes the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that imposed limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
In previous public statements, the Israeli PM repeatedly claimed Tehran is seeking to annihilate Israel and poses a threat to Europe and the West.
Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump, who previously referred to Iran as the “number one terrorist state,” ordered a review of the nuclear deal. Russia earlier voiced concern over Washington’s policy towards Iran, saying it disagrees over labelling it a “terrorist state.”
By Rick Wells
What may catch your attention on this video about the corporate financial interests being behind the push into Syria is the list of names on the Strategic Advisory Board of Genie Energy. They’re not the typical names you’ve never heard of, people with a lot of money but without the notoriety that goes with it. Political pedigrees are everywhere and connections to the deep state establishment seem to be a basic prerequisite.
The names include Michael Steinhardt, one of those rich guys most of us have never heard of, followed by Dick Cheney, a rich politician who many Americans wish they’d never heard of, Marry Landrieu, Rupert Murdoch, Bill Richardson, Jacob Rothschild, Lawrence Summers and James Woolsey. All have a history intertwined with global politics, some of it of very questionable character. It’s worth noting that former CIA Director Woolsey was a member of the Trump transition team until he quit, supposedly due to the animosity between the then-President-elect and the intelligence community. Perhaps Woolsey had only the most honorable of intentions in advising the president; perhaps he had a dual track that included advancing the interests of Genie Energy.
The producer of the video links the Golan heights to Dick Cheney and Genie Energy through a “Business Insider” article from four years ago in which they were granted a license to drill in the contested area, disputed with Syria. Genie Energy drilled five test wells over the last two years, and in January set up a company called Atid to engage in oil and gas drilling in the Golan region.
She raises the point of competing pipelines, both of which require the transition across Syria to be completed. One is a joint venture between Russia, Iran and Syria. The other is a US backed venture between Qatar and Turkey that likewise must cross Syria.
She makes the point that the desire of those competing for Syria is to steal the wealth of the nation, for whomever is the victor in the battle. Either way, the population needs to be forced out, hence, the fabricated refugee crisis.
Regardless of how the different players and circumstances play out, the motivations of the players and the potential abuses of power, it does draw into question the fact that a terrorist army, ISIS, was allowed to march across Syria unchallenged, to strengthen, to create a situation for the mass exodus of Syrians, were armed with brand new American equipment when the Iraqi army supposedly turned and ran, providing them with the arms necessary for their campaign of terror to begin. They were also given safe passage out of Mosul, to return to challenge Assad.
Why is it that Dick Cheney always seems to be lurking in areas where American troops are being used to create economic opportunities for well-positioned former government officials and fat cats?
It does not necessarily follow that President Trump took the action he did in bombing Syria out of a personal interest, but he could have been manipulated. The story that he’s doing it for the sake of a few children who were killed in a gas attack does sound a bit off, particularly given the pending UN investigation and the fact that his targeting and destruction of the jets supposedly involved make it difficult for investigators to examine them as evidence.
The American people are right to question their government; President Trump ran on our right to do so, particularly after the last 8 years with an obvious impostor entrenched and left there by a compromised Congress.
As a staunch Trump supporter who campaigned fiercely for President Trump’s election, these are not welcome developments. They are the kind of thing that can cause a fellow to lose sleep at night. Those of us who truly wanted to make America great again still sincerely hope that it will be achieved. We have neither time nor patience for greedy self-interests of politicians and insiders getting in the way, no matter who they are.
President Trump often said that we should have kept the oil after the war in Iraq. Are we witnessing a second bite of the apple in which some are being given an opportunity to do exactly that. We do have an oil man as our Secretary of State and son-in-law Jared in charge of Middle East affairs.
As a Trump supporter since the day he came down the escalator, this is not a pleasant thought but something that as a patriotic American, has to be examined, if for no other reason than to dismiss it. Something just doesn’t feel right, too many coincidences lead to evidence of orchestration