Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu making opening remarks at a joint White House press conference with President Donald Trump on Feb. 15, 2017. (Screenshot from White House video)
The other day, I asked a longtime Democratic Party insider who is working on the Russia-gate investigation which country interfered more in U.S. politics, Russia or Israel. Without a moment’s hesitation, he replied, “Israel, of course.”
Which underscores my concern about the hysteria raging across Official Washington about “Russian meddling” in the 2016 presidential campaign: There is no proportionality applied to the question of foreign interference in U.S. politics. If there were, we would have a far more substantive investigation of Israel-gate.
The problem is that if anyone mentions the truth about Israel’s clout, the person is immediately smeared as “anti-Semitic” and targeted by Israel’s extraordinarily sophisticated lobby and its many media/political allies for vilification and marginalization.
So, the open secret of Israeli influence is studiously ignored, even as presidential candidates prostrate themselves before the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both appeared before AIPAC in 2016, with Clinton promising to take the U.S.-Israeli relationship “to the next level” – whatever that meant – and Trump vowing not to “pander” and then pandering like crazy.
Congress is no different. It has given Israel’s controversial Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a record-tying three invitations to address joint sessions of Congress (matching the number of times British Prime Minister Winston Churchill appeared). We then witnessed the Republicans and Democrats competing to see how often their members could bounce up and down and who could cheer Netanyahu the loudest, even when the Israeli prime minister was instructing the Congress to follow his position on Iran rather than President Obama’s.
Israeli officials and AIPAC also coordinate their strategies to maximize political influence, which is derived in large part by who gets the lobby’s largesse and who doesn’t. On the rare occasion when members of Congress step out of line – and take a stand that offends Israeli leaders – they can expect a well-funded opponent in their next race, a tactic that dates back decades.
Well-respected members, such as Rep. Paul Findley and Sen. Charles Percy (both Republicans from Illinois), were early victims of the Israeli lobby’s wrath when they opened channels of communication with the Palestine Liberation Organization in the cause of seeking peace. Findley was targeted and defeated in 1982; Percy in 1984.
Findley recounted his experience in a 1985 book, They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby, in which Findley called the lobby “the 700-pound gorilla in Washington.” The book was harshly criticized in a New York Times review by Adam Clymer, who called it “an angry, one-sided book that seems often to be little more than a stringing together of stray incidents.”
Since then, there have been fewer and fewer members of Congress or other American politicians who have dared to speak out, judging that – when it comes to the Israeli lobby – discretion is the better part of valor. Today, many U.S. pols grovel before the Israeli government seeking a sign of favor from Prime Minister Netanyahu, almost like Medieval kings courting the blessings of the Pope at the Vatican.
During the 2008 campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama, whom Netanyahu viewed with suspicion, traveled to Israel to demonstrate sympathy for Israelis within rocket-range of Gaza while steering clear of showing much empathy for the Palestinians.
In 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney tried to exploit the tense Obama-Netanyahu relationship by stopping in Israel to win a tacit endorsement from Netanyahu. The 2016 campaign was no exception with both Clinton and Trump stressing their love of Israel in their appearances before AIPAC.
Money, of course, has become the lifeblood of American politics – and American supporters of Israel have been particularly strategic in how they have exploited that reality.
One of Israel’s most devoted advocates, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, has poured millions of dollars in “dark money” into political candidates and groups that support Israel’s interests. Adelson, who has advocated dropping a nuclear bomb inside Iran to coerce its government, is a Trump favorite having donated a record $5 million to Trump’s inaugural celebration.
Of course, many Israel-connected political donations are much smaller but no less influential. A quarter century ago, I was told how an aide to a Democratic foreign policy chairman, who faced a surprisingly tough race after redistricting, turned to the head of AIPAC for help and, almost overnight, donations were pouring in from all over the country. The chairman was most thankful.
The October Surprise Mystery
Israel’s involvement in U.S. politics also can be covert. For instance, the evidence is now overwhelming that the Israeli government of right-wing Prime Minister Menachem Begin played a key role in helping Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1980 strike a deal with Iran to frustrate President Jimmy Carter’s efforts to free 52 American hostages before Election Day.
Begin despised Carter for the Camp David Accords that forced Israel to give back the Sinai to Egypt. Begin also believed that Carter was too sympathetic to the Palestinians and – if he won a second term – would conspire with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to impose a two-state solution on Israel.
Begin’s contempt for Carter was not even a secret. In a 1991 book, The Last Option, senior Israeli intelligence and foreign policy official David Kimche explained Begin’s motive for dreading Carter’s reelection. Kimche said Israeli officials had gotten wind of “collusion” between Carter and Sadat “to force Israel to abandon her refusal to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
Kimche continued, “This plan prepared behind Israel’s back and without her knowledge must rank as a unique attempt in United States diplomatic history of short-changing a friend and ally by deceit and manipulation.”
But Begin recognized that the scheme required Carter winning a second term in 1980 when, Kimche wrote, “he would be free to compel Israel to accept a settlement of the Palestinian problem on his and Egyptian terms, without having to fear the backlash of the American Jewish lobby.”
In a 1992 memoir, Profits of War, former Israeli intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe also noted that Begin and other Likud leaders held Carter in contempt.
“Begin loathed Carter for the peace agreement forced upon him at Camp David,” Ben-Menashe wrote. “As Begin saw it, the agreement took away Sinai from Israel, did not create a comprehensive peace, and left the Palestinian issue hanging on Israel’s back.”
So, in order to buy time for Israel to “change the facts on the ground” by moving Jewish settlers into the West Bank, Begin felt Carter’s reelection had to be prevented. A different president also presumably would give Israel a freer hand to deal with problems on its northern border with Lebanon.
Ben-Menashe was among a couple of dozen government officials and intelligence operatives who described how Reagan’s campaign, mostly through future CIA Director William Casey and past CIA Director George H.W. Bush, struck a deal in 1980 with senior Iranians who got promises of arms via Israel in exchange for keeping the hostages through the election and thus humiliating Carter. (The hostages were finally released on Jan. 20, 1981, after Reagan was sworn in as President.)
Though the evidence of the so-called October Surprise deal is far stronger than the current case for believing that Russia colluded with the Trump campaign, Official Washington and the mainstream U.S. media have refused to accept it, deeming it a “conspiracy theory.”
One of the reasons for the hostility directed against the 1980 case was the link to Israel, which did not want its hand in manipulating the election of a U.S. president to become an accepted part of American history. So, for instance, the Israeli government went to great lengths to discredit Ben-Menashe after he began to speak with reporters and to give testimony to the U.S. Congress.
When I was a Newsweek correspondent and first interviewed Ben-Menashe in 1990, the Israeli government initially insisted that he was an impostor, that he had no connection to Israeli intelligence.
However, when I obtained documentary evidence of Ben-Menashe’s work for a military intelligence unit, the Israelis admitted that they had lied but then insisted that he was just a low-level translator, a claim that was further contradicted by other documents showing that he had traveled widely around the world on missions to obtain weapons for the Israel-to-Iran arms pipeline.
Nevertheless, the Israeli government along with sympathetic American reporters and members of the U.S. Congress managed to shut down any serious investigation into the 1980 operation, which was, in effect, the prequel to Reagan’s Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal of 1984-86. Thus, U.S. history was miswritten. [For more details, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative; Secrecy & Privilege; and Trick or Treason.]
Looking back over the history of U.S.-Israeli relations, it is clear that Israel exercised significant influence over U.S. presidents since its founding in 1948, but the rise of Israel’s right-wing Likud Party in the 1970s – led by former Jewish terrorists Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir – marked a time when Israel shed any inhibitions about interfering directly in U.S. politics.
Wanted Poster of the Palestine Police Force offering rewards for the capture of Stern Gang terrorists: 1. Jaacov Levstein (Eliav), 2. Yitzhak Yezernitzky (Shamir), 3. Natan Friedman-Yelin
Much as Begin and Shamir engaged in terror attacks on British officials and Palestinian civilians during Israel’s founding era, the Likudniks who held power in 1980 believed that the Zionist cause trumped normal restraints on their actions. In other words, the ends justified the means.
In the 1980s, Israel also mounted spying operations aimed at the U.S. government, including those of intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard, who fed highly sensitive documents to Israel and – after being caught and spending almost three decades in prison – was paroled and welcomed as a hero inside Israel.
Convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard in the photo from his U.S. Naval Intelligence ID
A History of Interference
But it is true that foreign interference in U.S. politics is as old as the American Republic. In the 1790s, French agents – working with the Jeffersonians – tried to rally Americans behind France’s cause in its conflict with Great Britain. In part to frustrate the French operation, the Federalists passed the Alien and Sedition Acts.
In the Twentieth Century, Great Britain undertook covert influence operations to ensure U.S. support in its conflicts with Germany, while German agents unsuccessfully sought the opposite.
So, the attempts by erstwhile allies and sometimes adversaries to move U.S. foreign policy in one direction or another is nothing new, and the U.S. government engages in similar operations in countries all over the world, both overtly and covertly.
It was the CIA’s job for decades to use propaganda and dirty tricks to ensure that pro-U.S. politicians were elected or put in power in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa, pretty much everywhere the U.S. government perceived some interest. After the U.S. intelligence scandals of the 1970s, however, some of that responsibility was passed to other organizations, such as the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
NED, USAID and various “non-governmental organizations” (NGOs) finance activists, journalists and other operatives to undermine political leaders who are deemed to be obstacles to U.S. foreign policy desires.
In particular, NED has been at the center of efforts to flip elections to U.S.-backed candidates, such as in Nicaragua in 1990, or to sponsor “color revolutions,” which typically organize around some color as the symbol for mass demonstrations. Ukraine – on Russia’s border – has been the target of two such operations, the Orange Revolution in 2004, which helped install anti-Russian President Viktor Yushchenko, and the Maidan ouster of elected pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.
NED president Carl Gershman, a neoconservative who has run NED since its founding in 1983, openly declared that Ukraine was “the biggest prize” in September 2013 — just months before the Maidan protests — as well as calling it an important step toward ousting Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2016, Gershman called directly for regime change in Russia.
Another key issue related to Israeli influence inside the United States is the role of the neocons, a political movement that emerged in the 1970s as a number of hawkish Democrats migrated to the Republican Party as a home for more aggressive policies to protect Israel and take on the Soviet Union and Arab states.
In some European circles, the neocons are described as “Israel’s American agents,” which may somewhat overstate the direct linkage between Israel and the neocons although a central tenet of neocon thinking is that there must be no daylight between the U.S. and Israel. The neocons say U.S. politicians must stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel even if that means the Americans sidling up to the Israelis rather than any movement the other way.
Since the mid-1990s, American neocons have worked closely with Benjamin Netanyahu. Several prominent neocons (including former Assistant Defense Secretary Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser, Meyrav Wurmser and Robert Loewenberg) advised Netanyahu’s 1996 campaign and urged a new strategy for “securing the realm.” Essentially, the idea was to replace negotiations with the Palestinians and Arab states with “regime change” for governments that were viewed as troublesome to Israel, including Iraq and Syria.
By 1998, the Project for the New American Century (led by neocons William Kristol and Robert Kagan) was pressuring President Bill Clinton to invade Iraq, a plan that was finally put in motion in 2003 under President George W. Bush.
But the follow-on plans to go after Syria and Iran were delayed because the Iraq War turned into a bloody mess, killing some 4,500 American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Bush could not turn to phase two until near the end of his presidency and then was frustrated by a U.S. intelligence estimate concluding that Iran was not working on a nuclear bomb (which was to be the pretext for a bombing campaign).
Bush also could pursue “regime change” in Syria only as a proxy effort of subversion, rather than a full-scale U.S. invasion. President Barack Obama escalated the Syrian proxy war in 2011 with the support of Israel and its strange-bedfellow allies in Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni-ruled Gulf States, which hated Syria’s government because it was allied with Shiite-ruled Iran — and Sunnis and Shiites have been enemies since the Seventh Century. Israel insists that the U.S. take the Sunni side, even if that puts the U.S. in bed with Al Qaeda.
But Obama dragged his heels on a larger U.S. military intervention in Syria and angered Netanyahu further by negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program rather than bomb-bomb-bombing Iran.
Showing the Love
Obama’s perceived half-hearted commitment to Israeli interests explained Romney’s campaign 2012 trip to seek Netanyahu’s blessings. Even after winning a second term, Obama sought to appease Netanyahu by undertaking a three-day trip to Israel in 2013 to show his love.
Still, in 2015, when Obama pressed ahead with the Iran nuclear agreement, Netanyahu went over the President’s head directly to Congress where he was warmly received, although the Israeli prime minister ultimately failed to sink the Iran deal.
In Campaign 2016, both Clinton and Trump wore their love for Israel on their sleeves, Clinton promising to take the relationship to “the next level” (a phrase that young couples often use when deciding to go from heavy petting to intercourse). Trump reminded AIPAC that he had a Jewish grandchild and vowed to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Both also bristled with hatred toward Iran, repeating the popular falsehood that “Iran is the principal source of terrorism” when it is Saudi Arabia and other Sunni sheikdoms that have been the financial and military supporters of Al Qaeda and Islamic State, the terror groups most threatening to Europe and the United States.
By contrast to Israel’s long history of playing games with U.S. politics, the Russian government stands accused of trying to undermine the U.S. political process recently by hacking into emails of the Democratic National Committee — revealing the DNC’s improper opposition to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign — and of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta — disclosing the contents of Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street and pay-to-play aspects of the Clinton Foundation — and sharing that information to the American people via WikiLeaks.
Although WikiLeaks denies getting the two batches of emails from the Russians, the U.S. intelligence community says it has high confidence in its conclusions about Russian meddling and the mainstream U.S. media treats the allegations as flat-fact.
The U.S. intelligence community also has accused the Russian government of raising doubts in the minds of Americans about their political system by having RT, the Russian-sponsored news network, hold debates for third-party candidates (who were excluded from the two-party Republican-Democratic debates) and by having RT report on protests such as Occupy Wall Street and issues such as “fracking.”
The major U.S. news media and Congress seem to agree that the only remaining question is whether evidence can be adduced showing that the Trump campaign colluded in this Russian operation. For that purpose, a number of people associated with the Trump campaign are to be hauled before Congress and made to testify on whether or not they are Russian agents.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post, The New York Times and other establishment-approved outlets are working with major technology companies on how to marginalize independent news sources and to purge “Russian propaganda” (often conflated with “fake news”) from the Internet.
It seems that no extreme is too extreme to protect the American people from the insidious Russians and their Russia-gate schemes to sow doubt about the U.S. political process. But God forbid if anyone were to suggest an investigation of Israel-gate.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
My letter to Twitter legal department
Twitter has asked me to remove the above tweet, due to a complaint from the leading French Jewish group, the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF). Below is a copy of my email correspondence with the Twitter Legal Department.
I most certainly am not going to remove this content. It consists of a brilliant, incisive work of art by David Dees, who is widely viewed as one of the two or three most important (and most-viewed) political artists working today. I am copying him on this email.
The art work in question is a passionate protest against the brutal abuse of the human rights of Palestinians by the war criminal leader of Israel, Netanyahu. Many thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians have been slaughtered in repeated assaults on Gaza by the Netanyahu regime, which routinely drops white phosphorus on civilian targets, bombs ambulances, schools, hospitals, refugee shelters and UN humanitarian installations, and refers to these regular massacres of thousands of innocents as routine “mowing the lawn.”
These and other atrocities are committed in order to ethnically cleanse Palestine and purify it as a “Jewish State.” So Dees’ use of the Israeli flag with the Star of David, and the images of rabbis, is entirely appropriate in context, as is the use of the US flag symbolizing US complicity in these crimes. (I am copying Naturei Karta International, a group of anti-Zionist Jews led by my colleague Rabbi Weiss, and will happily take down the content if the Rabbi thinks it is bigoted or inappropriate.) Calling out Jewish-Zionist and American oppressors does not amount to bigotry against Zionist Jews or Americans. Both of these two human groups are powerful in relation to other groups, and both are using their power to horrifically oppress the relatively powerless people of Palestine.
There is no bigotry in siding with the powerless against the powerful. The concept of bigotry is only meaningful in relation to prejudices against relatively powerless, oppressed groups, not powerful oppressing ones. If you start censoring people for “prejudice against the powerful” where will it end? Will we be prohibited from mocking, deriding, deploring, and otherwise verbally and artistically attacking rich people, politicians, CEOs, dictators, ruling classes, celebrities, bullies, and other powerful and privileged individuals and groups?
I will be happy to discuss these issues with representatives from Twitter and/or CRIF, am available between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. US Central, and eagerly await your call. I speak fluent French and would love to speak with a CRIF representative en français.
Dr. Kevin Barrett
(phone number redacted)
On Apr 13, 2017, at 5:26 PM, Twitter Legal <email@example.com> wrote:
Dear Twitter user,We are writing to inform you that Twitter has received correspondence from the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF), regarding your Twitter account, @truthjihad, specifically:
One of our core values is to defend and respect the user’s voice. Accordingly, it is our standard policy to notify users upon receipt of a request to remove content from their account.
We are notifying you of this request about your account so that you may decide whether or how you will respond. Please let us know (by replying directly to this email) whether you will remove the reported content. Please note that we may be obligated to take action regarding the content identified in the request in the future.
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Reported Username: @truthjihad
Reporter Username: @Le_CRIF
Reporter Email: [Redacted]
In the never ending narrative as to who is telling the truth, the various US intelligence agencies or Wikileaks, it appears that Wikileaks is the honest actor… indirectly confirmed by US intelligence agencies.
With the release of Vault 7, WikiLeaks was careful to note that the treasure trove of CIA information came to them from former contractors who worked for US intelligence.
Zerohedge reports that once again “WikiLeaks’ facts were facts and CIA/FBI facts were fake.”
Having exclaimed that WikiLeaks is “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” laying the blame for every embarrassing leak at Moscow’s footsteps, the FBI and CIA have admitted that they are searching for an “insider” (not a Russian) who exposed thousands of top-secret documents that described CIA tools used to penetrate smartphones, smart televisions and computer systems.
CBS News reports that a manhunt is underway for a traitor inside the CIA…
Sources familiar with the investigation say it is looking for an insider — either a CIA employee or contractor — who had physical access to the material. The agency has not said publicly when the material was taken or how it was stolen.
Much of the material was classified and stored in a highly secure section of the intelligence agency, but sources say hundreds of people would have had access to the material. Investigators are going through those names.
The trove was published in March by the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks.
This is yet another big dent in the “Russia hacker” narrative peddled out by the liberal left nearly 8 months ago.
MOSCOW – Accusations against the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS) of election interference in the United States are unfounded, Russian Senator Oleg Morozov told Sputnik on Thursday.
“This is an attempt to give away normal analytical work as subversive activity. An absolutely worthless story in terms of logic that has no basis in reality,” Morozov said.
Morozov went on to point out that dozens of similar think tanks operate in Europe and the United States and analyze the political situation, which, according to the senator, is not considered to be interference in the election process.
His comments came a day after the Reuters news service cited three current and four former US officials alleging that RISS circulated two “confidential documents” ahead of the November 2016 vote. The June and October documents were described as a “plan to swing” the US presidential election. US intelligence officials were said to have acquired the RISS-drafted documents.
According to the media outlet, the first document allegedly recommended that the Kremlin initiate a propaganda campaign on social media, and that Russia’s state-run media persuade US citizens to vote for a candidate less critical to Russia than former US President Barack Obama.
The second document reportedly said that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had greater chances to win the election. As such, the paper allegedly called on the Kremlin to change the course of the campaign and intensify the information flow to undermine the US electoral system’s legitimacy and damage Clinton’s image and reputation, the media outlet reported citing US officials.
According to the publication, the Obama administration’s conclusion that Russia meddled in the election process and accusations of cyber attacks against Clinton’s campaign staff were mainly based on these documents.
On March 20, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey confirmed that the institution was conducting a probe into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential elections.
Russian officials have repeatedly denied Washington’s accusations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refuted any allegations about Russia’s alleged involvement in US election process and said that Russia did not cooperate with US President Donald Trump’s staff during the election campaign.
The Russian military has questioned the swift conclusion of chemical weapons watchdog the OPCW, which has reported identifying sarin in samples related to an alleged attack in Syria on April 5.
The Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) convened in the Hague on Wednesday for an update on the investigation into the reported chemical weapons attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun.
Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü told members that four OPCW designated laboratories have studied samples collected from three victims of the alleged attack during their autopsy and seven individuals undergoing treatment after surviving the incident. He said analysis of all samples indicated exposure to sarin or a sarin-like substance.
“While further details of the laboratory analyses will follow, the analytical results already obtained are incontrovertible,” the official said.
The OPCW statement didn’t explain how exactly the samples were collected. The inspectors have yet to visit Khan Shaykhun, which would allow the collection of samples on the ground to confirm contamination from a chemical agent. The site is located in a rebel-controlled territory in the Idlib province. Üzümcü said such a visit would depend on the security situation and cited an attack on an OPCW fact-finding mission in May 2014.
The Russian military, however, questioned the swift analysis of the samples, saying the OPCW did not act with such speed in another incident in which a militant group reportedly used mustard gas in Aleppo.
“Russian specialists on the site of the crime [in Aleppo] collected samples of the agent, which had been delivered to representatives of the OPCW and transported to the Hague. By the way, the Syrian leadership at the time offered safety guarantees and insisted that OPCW experts visit Aleppo, but nobody came,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Thursday.
“Four months later the OPCW still cannot come to a conclusion and call the mustard gas found there mustard gas, saying additional analysis is necessary,” he remarked.
The Russian military said it wanted details on who collected the samples and how they were studied at OPCW designated labs, and why the analysis in this case was completed in a much shorter space of time.
He added that if the OPCW states that sarin gas had been used in the incident, it would find it difficult to explain how White Helmet first responders survived exposure to the agent.
Footage taken at the scene in the aftermath of the alleged attack showed people from the controversial rescue group helping the victims while wearing no protective gear rated for handling sarin.
The OPCW is expected to provide a preliminary report on the incident within two weeks.
The incident in Khan Shaykhun reportedly killed as many as 100 people and injured several hundred. The US squarely laid the blame on Damascus, claiming that it hid chemical weapons stockpiles from the OPCW after pledging to hand them over in 2013.
Washington fired a barrage of cruise missiles at the Syrian airbase from which it claimed the chemical weapons attack was launched – a move that was hailed by Syria’s neighbor Israel. Europe backs the accusations against the Syrian government, even though no solid evidence has been made public.
Russia has called for a thorough investigation of the incident, which would include an on-site inspection in the rebel-held territory, before coming to any conclusions. Moscow believes that the incident may have been a false flag operation meant to provoke a US attack against Damascus.
© Sputnik/ Andrey Stenin
US complaints over how the nuclear deal on Iran is being implemented are irrelevant, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, Mikhail Ulyanov, said Thursday.
On April 19, US President Donald Trump ordered a National Security Council-led interagency review of the JCPOA to evaluate Iran’s compliance with the deal, with US State Secretary Rex Tillerson stating that the nuclear deal “fails to achieve the objective of non-nuclear Iran.” Tehran, in its turn, stressed that the deal was an international treaty and cannot be changed, adding that Iran was fulfilling its obligations under the JCPOA.
“If the deal does not work, then specific complaints should be made regarding its functioning. The Americans cannot do this. The IAEA, an independent participant in this process, confirms that the Iranians are implementing everything. Therefore, any claims are irrelevant here, it seems to me,” Ulyanov said.
Ulyanov noted that it was necessary for Tillerson to separate the notions of terrorism and the nuclear deal, which have nothing in common.
The JCPOA was signed by Iran and the P5+1 countries — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States plus Germany in July 2015, ensuring the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program in return for the gradual lifting of sanctions against Tehran. The deal came into force on January 16, 2016, after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran was ready to implement the program to reduce its nuclear potential. However, the United States imposed new sanctions against Iran in February 2017 after a medium-range ballistic missile test has been carried out by Tehran in late January.
PARIS – The UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution on the alleged chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province should not blame any one party without first allowing an official investigation into the incident to be completed, France’s far-right presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen said Thursday.
On April 4, dozens of people were reportedly killed in the chemical incident in Idlib. Paris, Washington and London submitted a UNSC draft resolution condemning the alleged attack. Russia vetoed the document on April 12, pointing out that the draft implicated the Syrian authorities as the party to blame for the incident, despite no proper investigation was conducted.
“The resolution has been prepared in such a way that the responsibility was put on [Syrian President] Bashar Assad even before an investigation… It is necessary to hold an international inquiry [into the Idlib incident], and if I were in the UNSC, I would vote for such an investigation, but not for apportioning the blame even before the beginning of the inquiry, because it is the best way to blow the chances to know the truth,” Le Pen told the Europe 1 broadcaster.
After vetoing the resolution, Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said that Russia’s own draft resolution on the alleged attack would request on-site investigations from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to ensure that “all possible sources and means have been exhausted” before making final conclusions.
On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the chemical weapons incident in the Syrian province of Idlib a provocation as well as an attempt to undermine the ceasefire in the country. The incident was used as pretext for a US missile strike against the Ash Sha’irat airbase carried out late on April 6. US President Donald Trump characterized the strike as a response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government troops while Lavrov said it was a violation of the international law. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the US missile strike against the Syrian airfield as a strategic mistake.
Russia said no serious steps have been taken to investigate into the alleged chemical attack in Syria’s Khan Sheikhoun.
“Reports (about the alleged chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun) started coming 15 days ago but no steps have yet been taken in order to investigate into this incident,” Director of the Armaments Non-Proliferation and Control Department at the Russian Foreign Ministry Mikhail Ulyanov said on Wednesday.
He was addressing the special session of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), held in The Hague, Russia’s foreign ministry’s posted on its website on Thursday, according to TASS Russian news agency.
Ulyanov pointed out that all accusations against Damascus of using chemical weapons were groundless as they were based only on questionable data available on social media.
At the same time, according to the Russian diplomat, representatives of some countries are acting as if the circumstances surrounding the incident, as well as those responsible, have already been established.
“In this regard, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s article for the Telegraph is notable in which he said that ‘this was highly likely to be an attack by Assad.’ It means that the British Foreign Secretary is not completely sure. Then why do our British counterparts make such unequivocal statements on the international level?” Ulyanov said.
Meanwhile, he slammed Washington over its claims to be absolutely certain it was Damascus who was to blame.
“This is what our US counterparts call a bad case of deja vu. We heard them say the same things 14 years ago, ahead of the military invasion in Iraq,” the Russian diplomat noted.
On the other hand, Ulyanov voiced Russia’s readiness for consultations with the US before the OPCW vote on proposals on the incident.
“Before putting a draft up for vote, all possibilities for reaching a consensus should be exhausted,” Ulyanov said.
“We are ready for immediate intensive consultations for that purpose, including with the US delegation,” he added.
“If our US partners are indeed interested in establishing the truth by carrying out a serious and prompt investigation, we have chances to reach an agreement,” the diplomat said. “If not, there is almost no room to search for mutually acceptable solutions.”