U.S. Ambassador Susan E. Rice Owns Stake in Companies That Have Done Business with Iran

New questions are being raised over the possible nomination of Ambassador Rice to secretary of state due to the stakes her and her husband own in companies that have recently done business with Iran. In 2010, the U.N. Security Council approved sanctions on Iran, developed by Rice, which were described by diplomats as one of the toughest sanctions efforts in the the history of the organization.

The companies in question are global conglomerates and some have stopped doing business with Iran in order to comply with international sanctions. One of the biggest of Rice’s holdings, between $50,000 and $100,000,according to a disclosure statement for 2011, is Royal Dutch Shell. The international oil giant stopped buying crude oil from Iran early this year. Rice and her husband also own between $15,000 and $50,000 of stock in ENI, an Italian international oil company. ENI says that it no longer does business with Iran, but it has been granted a waiver from sanctions to allow it to collect oil as payment for about $1 billion Iran owes the company from earlier business deals. The company had been purchasing crude oil and developing natural gas fields.

“With respect to Iran, Ambassador Rice worked to impose the toughest U.N. sanctions regime ever on Iran for its continued failure to live up to its obligations,” said Rice’s spokeswoman, Erin Pelton. “Iran is more isolated than it has ever been and facing the toughest economic pressure ever mustered.”

Rice is one of the richest members of the Obama Cabinet. She and her husband, Ian Cameron, were worth between $23.5 million and $43.5 million in 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Her late father was a World Bank director and governor of the Federal Reserve.

 

 

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Congress Being Lobbied By And Accepting Donations From Iranian Terror Group

A banned Iranian terrorist group has been lobbying Congress and winning support from politicians even though there is a government investigation into it’s legality.
Former heads of the CIA, FBI, homeland security, the US military and members of Congress of both major parties are backing the removal of the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran, known as the MEK, from the US list of terrorist organizations.
The lobbying campaign and the large amounts of money backing it, including donations to congressional campaigns and cash payments for speeches in support of the MEK, are under investigation for potential breaches of laws against financial dealings with banned organizations and possible material support for terrorism.
Among those under investigation are the former chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, General Hugh Shelton, the former FBI director, Louis Freeh, and Michael Mukasey, who, as attorney-general, oversaw the prosecution of terrorism cases.
MEK has a past that includes the killing of Americans. The group was a supporter of the Islamic revolution in Iran and later allied itself with former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The group was banned in 1997.
The MEK has also been described as a “cult” by a leading US thinktank for practices such as forcing members to give up their children in order to dedicate more time to the cause.
The group is now presenting itself to Capitol Hill as a democratic alternative to the present Iranian government.
Among the group’s strongest supporters is Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a member of the House of Representative foreign affairs committee and chairman of its oversight and investigations subcommittee.
“These guys have got one of the best PR campaigns and political campaigns that I’ve seen on Capitol Hill for a long time,” he told the Guardian. “They’re a very efficient and effective lobbying effort. People on both sides here have been recruited by these people who know how to work the system here in Washington.”
The group won a court order requiring the state department to review the case and make a decision on its application to be removed. The state department said that it cannot make a decision until the MEK clears out of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, where the group was once an armed military force.
Rohrabacher and others say that the state department fears that removing the MEK from the banned list would outrage Tehran during delicate negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
“What we’ve got here is yet an escalation of a fundamentally dishonorable bargain that was made in the past, which should never have been made with the mullahs, and every step now they’re having to protect that mistake. Now they’re taking another step that is inconsistent with democratic government and agreeing that people can disagree,” he said. “This attempt to silence people so that the rotten deal with the mullahs won’t be disclosed somewhere along the line should indicate to the American people that somebody has done something wrong.”
Nearly 100 members of Congress have signed a resolution of support for MEK.
Reza Marashi, a former official on the US state department’s Iran desk was part of the team that reviewed evidence against the MEK. He believes the that terrorism designation is appropriate, and said he is astonished that the group is able to operate so openly.
“My former government colleagues are bewildered by the freedom of movement that a designated terrorist organization enjoys on Capitol Hill. They’re disgusted by former US government officials willing to make a quick buck by shilling for the MEK,” said Marashi, who is now research director for the National Iranian American Council. “Do we really want to open the door to other terrorist organizations to spend millions of dollars lobbying to get off the terrorist list?”
The MEK says that regardless of its past, it has not done anything that fits the US definition of terrorism for at least a decade.
Among those campaigning for the MEK to be legitimized are former CIA director James Woolsey; former New York mayor Rudolf Giuliani; ex-homeland security chief Tom Ridge; and Barack Obama’s former national security adviser, James Jones.
Former Democratic presidential candidate, Howard Dean, called on the US government to recognize one of the MEK’s founders, Maryam Rajavi, as the legitimate president of Iran.
Military supporters of MEK include General George Casey, former chief of staff of the US army and commander in Iraq and former Brigadier-General David Phillips, who commanded the US military police in Iraq and came into contact with the MEK as commander of Camp Ashraf. They say they only receive expenses for speaking on behalf of the group.
The US treasury department has issued subpoenas to gather information on fees paid out to those who have lent their voices to support of the terror group. It has also seized records from the former Pennsylvania governor, Edward Rendell, who has received $160,000 for attending conferences in support of the MEK in the US, France, Switzerland and Belgium.
“I’ve been in politics 34 years, and I can tell you right now that I would not jeopardize my reputation for any amount of money,” Rendell told the Washington Times. “If you indict me, I hope you know, you have to indict 67 other Americans who did the same thing, including seven generals.”
Other critics say that Congress and former officials are applying a double standard in having passed anti-terrorism laws that have sent people to prison for far less direct support of a banned group than that now being given to the MEK.
David Cole unsuccessfully challenged the Patriot Act, passed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, after members of a US humanitarian group gave advice on conflict resolution to two banned organizations, the Kurdistan Workers Party in Turkey and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.
Cole argued that the project was promoting peace and was protected by a constitutional right to free speech. The court said even speech can amount to support for terrorism.
Cole said he believes that Americans should be free to speak in favor of the MEK, but it’s hypocritical for officials to criminalize similar actions by others.
“The MEK has demonstrated through very, very generous contracts that if you can get a lot of powerful people to speak up for you, you might succeed in getting yourself off the list,” he said. “You need only compare this to the prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation in Dallas, Texas, which was the largest Muslim charity in the United States prior to 9/11. By basically giving aid to build schools and provide healthcare to organizations that were not designated as terrorist, these individuals had committed the crime of supporting terrorism and are spending 65 years in prison.
“There are plenty of people sitting in jail today who were initially investigated by treasury but ultimately prosecuted by the justice department. That said, the people sitting in jail are not people with the power and the connections that Michael Mukasey, Tom Ridge, Ed Rendell, Louis Freeh and Rudi Giuliani have. The reality is that people like that are very unlikely to be criminally prosecuted, whereas people without that power and without those connections will be prosecuted and have been. There’s clearly a double standard.”

Iran Executes Alleged Mossad Agent

“The end of the road has nothing except repentance — and rope,” Majid Jamali Fashi was quoted as saying just moments before he was hanged for the January 2010 bombing that killed Tehran University physics professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi.

He was sentenced to death for crimes of “defiance of God,” or using arms against Iran’s Islamic government, and spreading “corruption on the earth,” or damaging public security and order, according to the official IRNA news agency.

At least four Iranian scientists have been killed since Mohammadi was murdered with a bomb rigged motorcycle. Iran blames Israel’s Mossad spy agency, the CIA and Britain’s MI-6 for targeting Iranian scientists in an attempt to halt Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.. Washington and London have denied any roles.

Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Tuesday the slayings “are not connected to us in any way.”

Israel and others have pointed the finger at Iran for alleged revenge attacks, including a February bombing in New Delhi that wounded an Israeli diplomat’s wife and the discovery of a bomb in Bangkok that is believed to be linked to a plot to target Israeli diplomats. In Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku, security officials arrested 22 suspects last March that were allegedly hired by Iran to commit terrorist attacks against U.S. and Israeli embassies.

In Vienna, meanwhile, Iran and the U.N.’s nuclear agency held a second day of talks over suspicions that Tehran might have tested atomic arms technology at a military site. Iran denies the claims, insisting it only seeks nuclear reactors for energy and medical research.

Hundreds of Israelis March in Tel Aviv Against War with Iran

Last week, graphic designers Ronny Edry and his wife, Michal Tamir, unknowingly began a Facebook phenomenon when they uploaded a poster depicting Edry and his daughter with the words, “Iranians, we will never bomb your country, we [heart] you.”

That one image sparked a movement, with hundreds, if not thousands, of images sent from Israel, Iran, and elsewhere in the world, in support of their message.

“My Israeli friends, I do not hate you; I do not want war. love, Peace,” read many Iranian posters that were posted by Iranians to the new group page.

“Dear Israeli Friends and World! Iranians love peace and we hate hate!…and we don’t need any Nuclear Power to show it!” one poster caption stated.

“I’m from Iran and love your idea and your efforts against war and for peace. I am really happy to get to know you and people like you, and hope to find more people like you. Here in Iran the situation is complicated and many people hate the governments and their bullshit,” another anonymous Iranian wrote in a poster he published.

This past Saturday hundreds of Israelis marched from Tel Aviv’s Habima Square to the city’s Meir Park to protest against the possible Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The march was not endorsed by the leaders of the Facebook campaign.

 

Rep. Peter King: “Be Afraid, Be Very Very AFRAID!!”

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) warned Wednesday, ahead of a committee to “educate” Americans and Congress about the threat of Iran, that there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of Hezbollah agents in the U.S. capable of launching terror attacks against the U.S.

“The American intelligence community believes we are very much at risk for an attack by Iranian operatives, which would be Hezbollah, that is a terrorist-trained force in this country. It really is the ‘A’ team of international terrorism, far more sophisticated than Al Qaeda,” the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee said on CNN’s “Starting Point.”

King explained that Hezbollah operatives have been inside the U.S. for years now for the purpose of fundraising and recruiting.

He went on to say that while the conventional wisdom until recently has been that they were not necessarily stationed in the U.S. to carry out attacks, that could change given the recent tension between Israel and Iran over questions surrounding Iran’s nuclear program.

“We do know that a number of them have been trained as terrorists, so the question is, how quickly they can be made operational, and would they carry out an attack?” he said. “We estimate it to be at least in the hundreds maybe the thousands of Hezbollah agents here in this country. And again, especially if things intensify between Israel and Iran, between the United States and Iran, could Iran take preemptive action in this action through Hezbollah?”

King cited a murder plot allegedly directed by the Iranian government to kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. last year as a further warning sign of the potential threat that the country poses to Americans.

If Israel attacks Iran, the congressman warned that the U.S. could certainly “find itself implicated or involved” in the crisis.

“Having said that, I don’t think we can rule out an Israeli attack,” King said. “ I think we have to keep all the pressure out there. The fact that there can be complications is not a reason why Israel shouldn’t do it or we shouldn’t do it. We have to make sure whatever we do that it is going to work and realize that Iran cannot be allowed to get a nuclear weapon.”

Wednesday’s congressional hearing will include witnesses from the New York Police Department and others from the intelligence community.

Israel Asks U.S. For Arms That Could Aid in Strike Against Iran

A front-page article in the Israeli newspaper, Ma’ariv, stated Thursday that President Obama agreed to give Israel upgraded military hardware if Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to not attack Iran in 2012.

According to an Israeli official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Israel asked the United States for advanced “bunker-buster” bombs and refueling planes that could improve its ability to attack Iran’s underground nuclear sites.

“Such a request was made” when Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Washington this week, the official said, confirming media reports.

Netanyahu told Obama at a White House meeting on Monday that Israel had not yet decided on military action against Iran, sources close to the talks said.

Netanyahu has hinted that Israel could resort to force should Tehran continue to defy pressure to curb its nuclear program.

Israel has a limited cache of older, smaller bunker-busters and a small fleet of refueling planes, all supplied by the U.S.

U.S. Intelligence Agencies Have No Evidence That Iran is Building a Bomb

Recent assessments by U.S. spy agencies have remained consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that found that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years early. Officials say that 2007 assessment was reaffirmed in a 2010National Intelligence Estimate, and that it remains the consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence agencies.

There is agreement among American, Israeli and European intelligence officials that Iran has been enriching nuclear fuel and developing the necessary infrastructure to become a nuclear power. What is supposedly unclear though is whether Iran will resume their program, which was halted in 03, to develop a nuclear warhead. Iranian officials maintain that their nuclear program is for civilian purposes.

In Senate testimony on Jan. 31, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, stated that U.S. officials believe that Iran is preserving its options for a nuclear weapon, but that there was no evidence that it had made a decision one way of the other.

“They are certainly moving on that path, but we don’t believe they have actually made the decision to go ahead with a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Clapper told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have made similar statements in recent television appearances.

Israeli officials have challenged the 2007 intelligence assessment, saying they do not believe that Iran ever fully halted its work on a weapons program.

U.S. analysts acknowledge that these assessments are based on limited information. David A. Kay, who was head of the C.I.A.’s team that searched for Iraq’s weapons programs after the United States invasion, was cautious about the quality of the intelligence of the current American assessment.

“They don’t have evidence that Iran has made a decision to build a bomb, and that reflects a real gap in the intelligence,” Mr. Kay said. “It’s true the evidence hasn’t changed very much” since 2007, he added. “But that reflects a lack of access and a lack of intelligence as much as anything.”

Despite clear evidence of a weapons program Iran’s enrichment activities have raised suspicions, even among skeptics.

“What has been driving the discussion has been the enrichment activity,” said one former intelligence official. “That’s made everybody nervous. So the Iranians continue to contribute to the suspicions about what they are trying to do.”