US expedited release of Iranian arms smugglers in effort to restart negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program

 

A report in The Wall Street Journal revealed that the US expedited the release of several Iranian convicts (including arms smugglers) in an effort to pave the way for negotiations over its nuclear program. In 2009, Iran reportedly passed “a wish list” to the US detailing actions the US should undertake to improve ties with Iran. The secret list included the names of Iranian prisoners it wanted the US to release. In 2010, Oman brokered the release of three American hikers who had accidentally crossed into Iran from Iraq and had been arrested by Iranian authorities. In the following years, the US assisted with the release of two Iranian convicted arms smugglers, a retired senior diplomat and a prominent scientist convicted of illegal exports to Iran. However, today four American citizens remain imprisoned or unaccounted for in Iran.

The administration’s actions demonstrate a pattern of acceding to Iranian demands. While the US originally demanded a “full suspension of uranium enrichment as required by multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions,” the US is now permitting Iran to continue enriching uranium with 5,060 centrifuges. The US originally insisted that Iran shut down Fordow but now over 1000 centrifuges will remain in this underground facility largely impenetrable to attack. Similarly, while restrictions on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles were once considered an important part of any deal with Iran, now they appear to be excluded from the deal. President Obama’s objective that Iran should not “have the capacity to develop a nuclear weapon” has been downgraded to limiting Iran’s breakout time to one year, a period of time analysts believe is too short to effectively detect and diplomatically respond to a breakout attempt.  Finally, recent reports that the US may be caving on the essential issues of sanctions and the disclosure of Iran’s past atomic military research has compounded the sense that the emerging deal is deeply flawed. Former director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council,Michael Singh, and former Senior Advisor on Iran at Hillary Clinton’s State Department, Ray Takeyh, have both argued that because US objectives have shifted, the emerging deal adheres closer to Iran’s red lines than to our own.

 

The State Department today refused to allow a reporter for the Washington Free Beacon to attend a press briefing given by lead negotiator Wendy Sherman and threatened to call security to have him removed.

The Free Beacon reported:

Two State Department officials booted the Free Beacon from a room where Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, was talking to reporters, despite the Free Beacon’s being credentialed by the Austrian government for the ongoing Iranian nuclear talks. …

Melissa Turley, a State Department official, approached a Free Beacon reporter and demanded that he leave the room. …

“You have a press pass from the [European Union], not from me,” Turley said, after being informed that the Free Beacon was officially credentialed to cover the event.

Both Turley and a second State Department colleague threatened to call “security” to remove the reporter.

The Free Beacon cited Western observers at the talks who attributed the State Department’s behavior “to jitters over media coverage revealing a still growing list of concessions being made to Iran by the Obama administration.” Such concessions include the administration’s reported willingness to allow Iran to limit inspections of military sites, which many experts consider a necessary element of verifying that Iran’s nuclear program is strictly civilian. (via TheTower.org)

 

Israeli athletes are returning home with hands full from the 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, after winning 12 medals in judo, gymnastics, sharp shooting and wrestling. The inaugural European Games for athletes representing the National Olympic Committees of Europe featured more than 6,000 athletes from 50 nations competing in 20 sports. Israeli judokas fared very well in the Baku competition, winning gold, silver and bronze medals. Sagi Muki, 23, won gold with an ippon in the up to 73-kilogram weight category. Judoka Uri Sasson, 24, won silver in the over 100 category. Yarden Gerbi, 25, won a bronze medal in her -63-kg category. Swimmers Ziv Kalontarov, 18, and Marc Hinnawi, also 18, made a splash in their events. Kalontarov won gold after finishing the men’s 50-meter freestyle in 22.16 seconds – a new Israeli record — and qualifying him for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Hinnawi secured bronze in the men’s 1500 meter freestyle. The country’s gymnasts are bringing home four medals. The gymnastics team won two silver medals and one bronze in group events, while Olympian Neta Rivkin added another bronze to the haul for the Solo Hoops event. (via Israel21c)

 


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