Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Russia Launches Airstrikes In Northern Syria, Senior Military Official Says

Russian warplanes began bombarding Syrian opposition targets in the war-torn nation's north Wednesday, following a terse meeting at which a Russian general asked Pentagon officials to clear out of Syrian air space and was rebuffed, Fox News has learned.

A U.S. official said Russian airstrikes targeted fighters in the vicinity of Homs, located roughly 60 miles east of a Russian naval facility in Tartus, and were carried out by a "couple" of Russian bombers. The strikes hit targets in Homs and Hama, but there is no presence of ISIS in those areas, a senior U.S. defense official said. These planes are hitting areas where Free Syrian Army and other anti-Assad groups are located, the official said.

Activists and a rebel commander on the ground said the Russian airstrikes have mostly hit moderate rebel positions and civilians. In a video released by the U.S.-backed rebel group Tajamu Alezzah, jets are seen hitting a building claimed to be a location of the group in the town of Latamna in the central Hama province.

The group commander Jameel al-Saleh told a local Syrian news website that the group's location was hit by Russian jets but didn't specify the damage.

A group of local activists in the town of Talbiseh in Homs province recorded at least 16 civilians killed, including two children.

According to a U.S. senior official, Presidents Obama and Putin agreed on a process to "deconflict" military operations. The Russians on Wednesday "bypassed that process," the official said. [source]

Kerry: If Russia Targets ISIS, "We Are Prepared To Welcome" Help

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the United Nations Security Council about Russian military actions happening right now in Syria.

Kerry said that U.S. forces had launched "a number of strikes [in Syria] over the past 24 hours, including some just an hour ago... And these strikes will continue," even though Russian forces are also active in the area.

"We must not and we will not be confused in our fight against ISIL," Kerry said, before repeating assurances made by President Obama to Vladimir Putin earlier this week: "If Russia’s recent actions and those now ongoing reflect a genuine commitment to defeat [the Islamic State], we are prepared to welcome those efforts and find a way to deconflict and therefore multiply our efforts."

However, he said that any Russian actions that "should strike targets where ISIL and affiliated targets are not operating," would raise "grave concerns," for the U.S.

"My colleague," Kerry said, referring to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, "has said we must support Assad to defeat ISIL. The reality is that Assad himself has rarely chosen himself to fight ISIL….Instead, it has focused all of its military power on moderate opposition groups who are fighting for a voice in Syria."

"The answer cannot be found in a military alliance with Assad."[source]

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: Execution Videos by ISIS Are Now Banned

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has banned any more execution videos by the Islamic State, but the orders reportedly have created a division with the organization's ranks.

ARA News reported that, according to sources, al-Baghdadi was responding to the feelings of Muslims who regarded the videos as "disgusting and scary to children."

The video ban has upset some within ISIS who see the execution videos as an extension of terrorism activities.

"Some of IS militants supported Baghdadi's decision, taking into consideration criticism of the public that describes scenes of beheadings as barbaric," wrote ARA News' Jan Nasro. "While other militants rejected the decision saying that such scenes are meant to intimidate their enemies, represented by western powers, and not the common folk."

According to the website Middle East, a number of Arabic-language news agencies said on Friday that Baghdadi explained his decision in a statement delivered to media offices in Syria and Iraq.

The website said Baghdadi ordered that his followers don't include scenes of the actual executions in their videos and limit them to moments before or after the act.

ISIS execution videos often show men in orange jumpsuits kneeling, heads bowed, with a black-clad masked gunman behind each one, with the ISIS flag in the background, noted Middle East

Past videos of executions of hostages – which have included non-combatants such as journalists and aid workers – had sparked anger not only in the United States, but in other parts of the Middle East.

In February, an ISIS video showing a Jordan pilot being burned alive, sparked Jordanians to call for acts of revenge against the organization, according to CBS News.

"(The video ban) won't eliminate the IS-led horrors that have been seen by people around the world over the past couple of years," Ferid Hisso, a Syrian politician and lawyer, told ARA News. "Instead of banning the release of such videos, Baghdadi should have rather banned the crimes behind the scenes. But he has already justified the barbarism of his followers, and his decision makes no sense."[source]

Hillary Clinton Sent Classified Information Over Email While at State Department, Review Finds

WASHINGTON — Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open an investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state, senior government officials said Thursday.
The request follows an assessment in a June 29 memo by the inspectors general for the State Department and the intelligence agencies that Mrs. Clinton’s private account contained “hundreds of potentially classified emails.” The memo was written to Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management.
It is not clear if any of the information in the emails was marked as classified by the State Department when Mrs. Clinton sent or received them.
But since her use of a private email account for official State Department business was revealed in March, she has repeatedly said that she had no classified information on the account.
The Justice Department has not decided if it will open an investigation, senior officials said. A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign released a statement on Twitter on Friday morning. “Any released emails deemed classified by the administration have been done so after the fact, and not at the time they were transmitted,” it read.
At issue are thousands of pages of State Department emails from Mrs. Clinton’s private account. Mrs. Clinton has said she used the account because it was more convenient, but it also shielded her correspondence from congressional and Freedom of Information Act requests.
She faced sharp criticism after her use of the account became public, and subsequently said she would ask the State Department to release her emails.
The department is now reviewing some 55,000 pages of emails. A first batch of 3,000 pages was made public on June 30.
In the course of the email review, State Department officials determined that some information in the messages should be retroactively classified. In the 3,000 pages that were released, for example, portions of two dozen emails were redacted because they were upgraded to “classified status.” But none of those were marked as classified at the time Mrs. Clinton handled them.
In a second memo to Mr. Kennedy, sent on July 17, the inspectors general said that at least one email made public by the State Department contained classified information. The inspectors general did not identify the email or reveal its substance.
The memos were provided to The New York Times by a senior government official.
The inspectors general also criticized the State Department for its handling of sensitive information, particularly its reliance on retired senior Foreign Service officers to decide if information should be classified, and for not consulting with the intelligence agencies about its determinations.
In March, Mrs. Clinton insisted that she was careful in her handling of information on her private account. “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email,” she said. “There is no classified material. So I’m certainly well aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.”
In May, the F.B.I. asked the State Department to classify a section of Mrs. Clinton’s emails that related to suspects who may have been arrested in connection with the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The information was not classified at the time Mrs. Clinton received it.
The revelations about how Mrs. Clinton handled her email have been an embarrassment for the State Department, which has been repeatedly criticized over its handling of documents related to Mrs. Clinton and her advisers.
On Monday, a federal judge sharply questioned State Department lawyers at a hearing in Washington about why they had not responded to Freedom of Information Act requests from The Associated Press, some of which were four years old.
“I want to find out what’s been going on over there — I should say, what’s not been going on over there,” said Judge Richard J. Leon of United States District Court, according to a transcript obtained by Politico. The judge said that “for reasons known only to itself,” the State Department “has been, to say the least, recalcitrant in responding.”
Two days later, lawmakers on the Republican-led House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks said they planned to summon Secretary of State John Kerry’s chief of staff to Capitol Hill to answer questions about why the department has not produced documents that the panel subpoenaed. That hearing is set for next Wednesday.
“The State Department has used every excuse to avoid complying with fundamental requests for documents,” said the chairman of the House committee, Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina.
Mr. Gowdy said that while the committee has used an array of measures to try to get the State Department to hand over documents, the results have been the same. “Our committee is not in possession of all documents needed to do the work assigned to us,” he said.
The State Department has sought to delay the hearing, citing continuing efforts to brief members of Congress on the details of the nuclear accord with Iran. It is not clear why the State Department has struggled with the classification issues and document production. Republicans have said the department is trying to use those processes to protect Mrs. Clinton.
State Department officials say they simply do not have the resources or infrastructure to properly comply with all the requests. Since March, requests for documents have significantly increased.
Some State Department officials said they believe that many senior officials did not initially take the House committee seriously, which slowed document production and created an appearance of stonewalling.
State Department officials also said that Mr. Kerry is concerned about the toll the criticism has had on the department and has urged his deputies to comply with the requests quickly.
Correction: July 25, 2015
An article and a headline in some editions on Friday about a request to the Justice Department for an investigation regarding Hillary Clinton’s personal email account while she was secretary of state misstated the nature of the request, using information from senior government officials. It addressed the potential compromise of classified information in connection with that email account. It did not specifically request an investigation into Mrs. Clinton.
Correction: July 26, 2015
An article in some editions on Friday about a request to the Justice Department for an investigation regarding Hillary Clinton’s personal email account while she was secretary of state referred incorrectly, using information from senior government officials, to the request. It was a “security referral,” pertaining to possible mishandling of classified information, officials said, not a “criminal referral.”[source]

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Obama Collecting Personal Data For A Secret Race Database

A key part of President Obama’s legacy will be the fed’s unprecedented collection of sensitive data on Americans by race. The government is prying into our most personal information at the most local levels, all for the purpose of “racial and economic justice.”
Unbeknown to most Americans, Obama’s racial bean counters are furiously mining data on their health, home loans, credit cards, places of work, neighborhoods, even how their kids are disciplined in school — all to document “inequalities” between minorities and whites.
This Orwellian-style stockpile of statistics includes a vast and permanent network of discrimination databases, which Obama already is using to make “disparate impact” cases against: banks that don’t make enough prime loans to minorities; schools that suspend too many blacks; cities that don’t offer enough Section 8 and other low-income housing for minorities; and employers who turn down African-Americans for jobs due to criminal backgrounds.
Big Brother Barack wants the databases operational before he leaves office, and much of the data in them will be posted online.
So civil-rights attorneys and urban activist groups will be able to exploit them to show patterns of “racial disparities” and “segregation,” even if no other evidence of discrimination exists.

Housing database

The granddaddy of them all is the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing database, which the Department of Housing and Urban Development rolled out earlier this month to racially balance the nation, ZIP code by ZIP code. It will map every US neighborhood by four racial groups — white, Asian, black or African-American, and Hispanic/Latino — and publish “geospatial data” pinpointing racial imbalances.
The agency proposes using nonwhite populations of 50% or higher as the threshold for classifying segregated areas.
Federally funded cities deemed overly segregated will be pressured to change their zoning laws to allow construction of more subsidized housing in affluent areas in the suburbs, and relocate inner-city minorities to those predominantly white areas. HUD’s maps, which use dots to show the racial distribution or density in residential areas, will be used to select affordable-housing sites.
HUD plans to drill down to an even more granular level, detailing the proximity of black residents to transportation sites, good schools, parks and even supermarkets. If the agency’s social engineers rule the distance between blacks and these suburban “amenities” is too far, municipalities must find ways to close the gap or forfeit federal grant money and face possible lawsuits for housing discrimination.
Civil-rights groups will have access to the agency’s sophisticated mapping software, and will participate in city plans to re-engineer neighborhoods under new community outreach requirements.
“By opening this data to everybody, everyone in a community can weigh in,” Obama said. “If you want affordable housing nearby, now you’ll have the data you need to make your case.”

Mortgage database

Meanwhile, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, headed by former Congressional Black Caucus leader Mel Watt, is building its own database for racially balancing home loans. The so-called National Mortgage Database Project will compile 16 years of lending data, broken down by race, and hold everything from individual credit scores and employment records.
Mortgage contracts won’t be the only financial records vacuumed up by the database. According to federal documents, the repository will include “all credit lines,” from credit cards to student loans to car loans — anything reported to credit bureaus. This is even more information than the IRS collects.
The FHFA will also pry into your personal assets and debts and whether you have any bankruptcies. The agency even wants to know the square footage and lot size of your home, as well as your interest rate.
FHFA will share the info with Obama’s brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which acts more like a civil-rights agency, aggressively investigating lenders for racial bias.
The FHFA has offered no clear explanation as to why the government wants to sweep up so much sensitive information on Americans, other than stating it’s for “research” and “policymaking.”
However, CFPB Director Richard Cordray was more forthcoming, explaining in a recent talk to the radical California-based Greenlining Institute: “We will be better able to identify possible discriminatory lending patterns.”

Credit database

CFPB is separately amassing a database to monitor ordinary citizens’ credit-card transactions. It hopes to vacuum up some 900 million credit-card accounts — all sorted by race — representing roughly 85% of the US credit-card market. Why? To sniff out “disparities” in interest rates, charge-offs and collections.

Employment database

CFPB also just finalized a rule requiring all regulated banks to report data on minority hiring to an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion. It will collect reams of employment data, broken down by race, to police diversity on Wall Street as part of yet another fishing expedition.

School database

Through its mandatory Civil Rights Data Collection project, the Education Department is gathering information on student suspensions and expulsions, by race, from every public school district in the country. Districts that show disparities in discipline will be targeted for reform.
Those that don’t comply will be punished. Several already have been forced to revise their discipline policies, which has led to violent disruptions in classrooms.
Obama’s educrats want to know how many blacks versus whites are enrolled in gifted-and-talented and advanced placement classes.
Schools that show blacks and Latinos under-enrolled in such curricula, to an undefined “statistically significant degree,” could open themselves up to investigation and lawsuits by the department’s Civil Rights Office.
Count on a flood of private lawsuits to piggyback federal discrimination claims, as civil-rights lawyers use the new federal discipline data in their legal strategies against the supposedly racist US school system.
Even if no one has complained about discrimination, even if there is no other evidence of racism, the numbers themselves will “prove” that things are unfair.
Such databases have never before existed. Obama is presiding over the largest consolidation of personal data in US history. He is creating a diversity police state where government race cops and civil-rights lawyers will micromanage demographic outcomes in virtually every aspect of society.
The first black president, quite brilliantly, has built a quasi-reparations infrastructure perpetually fed by racial data that will outlast his administration.[source]

Paul Sperry is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of “The Great American Bank Robbery,” which exposes the racial politics behind the mortgage bust.

Scuttling Iran Deal Might Not Be Easy For Next President

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unhappy with President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran? Republicans running for the White House are vowing to rescind the agreement, some on their first day in office.
But it may not be that easy.
If Iran lives up to its obligations, a new president could face big obstacles in turning that campaign promise into U.S. policy. Among them: resistance from longtime American allies, an unraveling of the carefully crafted international sanctions, and damage to U.S. standing with the rest of the world, according to foreign policy experts.
"The president does not have infinite ability to get other countries to go along with them," said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "One of the consequences is the United States would be increasingly isolated at a time when Iran is increasingly integrated with the rest of the world."
Both Obama and Republicans know firsthand the difficulties of dismantling major policies, a task that only gets harder the longer a policy has been in place.
After more than six years in office, Obama has failed to achieve his promise to shutter the Guantanamo Bay prison, despite signing an executive order authorizing its closure on his first day in office. And more than five years after Obama's health care overhaul became law, Republicans have been unable to find a legal or legislative means for repealing the sweeping measure.
While some elements of the nuclear accord don't go into effect immediately, the centerpiece of the agreement is expected to be implemented quickly. If Iran curbs its nuclear program as promised, it will receive billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions.
To Republican presidential candidates, rolling back that quid pro quo would be a top priority if they were to win the White House.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he would "terminate the bad deal with Iran on day one" and work to persuade allies to reinstate economic sanctions lifted under the deal. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry concurred, saying one of his first actions in office would be to "invalidate the president's Iran agreement."
Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, said that while he would consult with allies about the deal on his first day in office, he was inclined to "move toward the abrogation of it." Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told The Associated Press he would withdraw from a deal even if allies objected.
The next president has no legal obligation to implement the nuclear agreement, which is a political document, not a binding treaty.
But if there's no sign Iran is cheating, it's unlikely the European allies, who spent nearly two years negotiating alongside the U.S., would be compelled to walk away and reinstate sanctions. And it's nearly impossible to imagine Russia and China, which partnered with the U.S, Britain, France and Germany in the talks, following a GOP president's lead.
"Shattering something like this with the British and the French and the Germans - that has consequences," said Ilan Goldenberg, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and former Obama State Department official. "A new president isn't going to want to lead off like that."
To be sure, a U.S. president with a friendly Congress could unilaterally reinstate American sanctions on Iran. But the economic impact would be far less if other countries didn't follow Washington's lead.
Beyond Europe's interests, the White House says U.S. partners in Asia, including Japan and South Korea, will also likely have boosted their financial ties and oil purchases with Iran by the time a new president takes office in January 2017.
A wealthier, more globally integrated Iran is a scary prospect to opponents of the deal. Republicans contend Obama signed off on a weak deal with Iran, leaving the Islamic republic on the brink of building a bomb. Some say the president should have left the negotiating table, increased economic pressure on Iran, then resumed talks with greater leverage.
The president says the only realistic alternative to the diplomatic agreement is war.
Congress has 60 days to review the Iran deal. While lawmakers can't block the agreement itself, they can try to pass new sanctions on Iran or block the president from waiving existing penalties.
Some Republicans say the White House is trying to pre-empt congressional actions by seeking an endorsement of the nuclear deal at the United Nations Security Council next week. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, wrote Obama a letter urging him to postpone the U.N. vote until after Congress considers the agreement.
The White House says the U.N. vote has no bearing on the status of unilateral American sanctions on Iran.
But Michael Hayden, who served as CIA director under former President George W. Bush, says the White House's push for quick U.N. action seems to have a longer-term goal than circumventing this Congress. Seeking the United Nations' stamp of approval for the deal, Hayden said, appears to be "for the express purpose of locking in the next president of the United States."[source]

Iranian Nuclear Deal: 'Iran have been given a licence to kill'

Major powers agree historic accord after a decade of on-off negotiations
Lead negotiator John Kerry says U.S. got 'the good deal that we sought'
United States, European Union and the UN agree to lift sanctions on Iran
Tehran accepts long-term curbs on its nuclear programme that the West has suspected was aimed at creating an atomic bomb
Israel reacts angrily to deal and vows to stop the agreement being ratified
Global oil prices plunge over possibility Iranian supply will return to market

Israel today launched a blistering attack on Western powers for agreeing a controversial atomic deal with Iran, warning that it gave Tehran 'a sure path to nuclear weapons'.

Under the accord, sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and United Nations will be lifted in return for Iran agreeing long-term curbs on a nuclear programme that the West has suspected was aimed at creating an atomic bomb.

The European Union called it a 'sign of hope for the entire world', while President Barack Obama insisted the deal meant 'every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off'.

His views were echoed by David Cameron who said it was a deal 'that will help to make our world a safer place'.

But this was angrily rejected by Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu branding the deal 'a bad mistake of historic proportions'.

‘One cannot prevent an agreement when the negotiators are willing to make more and more concessions to those who, even during the talks, keep chanting: “Death to America”,’ he said.

‘Our concern is that the militant Islamic state of Iran is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons.’ He added that Iran would receive a ‘cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars’.

Miri Regev, a former military spokeswoman who serves as Israel's culture and sports minister, said it gave Iran a 'licence to kill', adding that it was 'bad for the free world (and) bad for humanity.'

Naftali Bennett, a member of Israel's Inner Security Cabinet, said the nuclear deal with Iran marked 'a new dark and sinister era for the world.'

Speaking to CNN's Chris Cuomo, Bennett said that '20 years down, if a nuclear bomb explodes in London or New York, we'll know that we can trace it down to July 14, 2015.'

'We're preparing for everything we need to do to defend ourselves', Bennett added.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the deal 'a historic surrender by the West to the axis of evil headed by Iran.'

She said that Israel would 'act with all means to try and stop the agreement being ratified', a clear threat to try to use its influence to block it in the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress.

After long, fractious negotiations, world powers and Iran struck the historic deal earlier today - an agreement aimed at averting the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran and another U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who spent the last 19 days leading the talks in Vienna, hailed the accord as 'the good deal that we sought'.

'We were determined to get this right and I believe our persistence paid off,' he told reporters, adding that the agreement marked a historic day.

Amid celebrations on streets of Iranian cities, Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani claimed the agreement hammered out in Vienna between his team of negotiators and foreign ministers of six world powers, opened a ‘new chapter in his country’s relations with the world’.

A highly selective breakdown of Iran’s gains and few of its concessions were highlighted on state-controlled TV.

Iran was also congratulated by Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad, who has been backed by Tehran throughout his country's four-year conflict.

He said the coming days will witness a 'strengthening of the constructive role played by Iran in supporting the rights of nations.'

Meanwhile, the prospect of a deal has already helped push down global oil prices because of the possibility that Iranian supply could return to the market.

The agreement is a major political victory for both Mr Obama and President Rouhani, a pragmatist elected two years ago on a vow to reduce the diplomatic isolation of a country of 77 million people.

But both leaders face scepticism from powerful hardliners at home after decades of enmity between nations that referred to each other as 'the Great Satan' and a member of the 'Axis of Evil'.

Rouhani was quick to present the deal as a step on the road towards a wider goal of international cooperation.

The deal 'shows constructive engagement works', he tweeted. 'With this unnecessary crisis resolved, new horizons emerge with a focus on shared challenges.'

For Obama, the diplomacy with Iran, begun in secret more than two years ago, ranks alongside his normalisation of ties with Cuba as landmarks in a legacy of reaching out to enemies that tormented his predecessors for decades.

While the main negotiations were between the United States and Iran, the four other U.N. Security Council permanent members, Britain, China, France and Russia, are also parties to the deal, as is Germany.

Prime Minister David Cameron the deal with Iran as 'historic', saying it will 'keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and help to make our world a safer place'.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond added: 'We hope, and expect, that this agreement will herald a step-change in Iran's relations with its neighbours and with the international community.'

Congress has 60 days for a review, though if it rejects the deal, Obama can use his veto.

It would require two-thirds of lawmakers to override such a veto, which means some of Obama's fellow Democrats would have to rebel against one of their president's signature achievements in order to kill the deal. 

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Lindsey Graham said the nuclear agreement is 'a possible death sentence for Israel' and will 'make everything worse.'

In an interview on MSNBC, the U.S. senator called the deal 'terrible.'

'This is most dangerous, irresponsible step I've ever seen in the history of watching the Mideast,' he said.

'Barack Obama and John Kerry have been dangerously naive about the Mideast in general.

'They've taken it to a new level and any senator who votes for this is voting for a nuclear arms race in the Mideast, voting to give the largest state sponsor of terrorism $18billion.'

Speaker John Boehner said Obama had abandoned his own goals and the deal would likely fuel a nuclear arms race around the world.

Kerry said he does not expect it to be definitively rejected, telling reporters: 'I really don't believe that people will turn their backs on an agreement which has such extraordinary steps in it with respect to Iran's program as well as access and verification.'

Iran is not likely to receive many of the benefits from the lifting of sanctions until next year because of the need to ratify the deal and verify its implementation.

'Celebrating too early can send a bad signal to the enemy,' Iranian conservative lawmaker Alireza Zakani was quoted as saying in parliament by Fars News agency.

He noted that Iran's National Security Council would also review the deal 'and if they think it is against our national interests, we will not have a deal', he said.

'The Islamic Republic will not sign a bad deal.'

The final round of talks in Vienna involved nearly three weeks of intense negotiation between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

It was something that would until recently have been unthinkable for two countries that have been bitter enemies since 1979, when Iranian revolutionaries stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

'I believe this is an historic moment,' Zarif, who was educated in the United States and developed a warm rapport with Kerry, told a news conference.

'Today could have been the end of hope on this issue, but now we are starting a new chapter of hope. Let's build on that.'

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who acted as coordinator for the powers, said: 'It is a decision that can open the way to a new chapter in international relations and show that diplomacy, co-ordination, cooperation can overcome decades of tensions and confrontations.

'I think this is a sign of hope for the entire world.'

Hatred of the United States has been a defining trait of Iran's ruling system, on display last week when it marked the last Friday of the Ramadan fasting month with an annual day of protests, crowds chanting 'Death to Israel!' and 'Death to America!'.

Obama first reached out to Iranians with an address in 2008, only weeks into his presidency, offering a 'new beginning'.

Iran has long denied it is seeking a nuclear weapon and has insisted on the right to nuclear technology for peaceful means, although Western powers feared the enriched uranium that it was stockpiling could be used to make a bomb.

Obama never ruled out using military force if negotiations failed.

Iran's IRNA news agency said billions of dollars in frozen funds would be released under the deal, and sanctions on its central bank, national oil company, shipping and airlines would now be lifted.

Western diplomats said Iran had accepted a 'snapback' mechanism, under which some sanctions could be reinstated in 65 days if it violated the deal.

The breakthrough came after several key compromises.

Iran retains right to conduct research into enriching uranium for 10 years, without stockpiling it

Iran agreed to the continuation of a UN arms embargo on the country for up to five more years, though it could end earlier if the International Atomic Energy Agency definitively clears Iran of any current work on nuclear weapons.

A similar condition was put on U.N. restrictions on the transfer of ballistic missile technology to Tehran, which could last for up to eight more years, according to diplomats.

Washington had sought to maintain the ban on Iran importing and exporting weapons, concerned that an Islamic Republic flush with cash from the nuclear deal would expand its military assistance for Assad's government, Yemen's Houthi rebels, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other forces opposing America's Mideast allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Iranian leaders insisted the embargo had to end as their forces combat regional scourges such as the Islamic State.

And they got some support from China and particularly Russia, which wants to expand military cooperation and arms sales to Tehran, including the long-delayed transfer of S-300 advanced air defense systems - a move long opposed by the United States.

Another significant agreement will allow U.N. inspectors to press for visits to Iranian military sites as part of their monitoring duties, something the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had long vowed to oppose.

However, access isn't guaranteed and could be delayed, a condition that critics of the deal are sure to seize on as possibly giving Tehran time to cover up any illicit activity.

Under the accord, which runs almost 100 pages, Tehran would have the right to challenge the UN request and an arbitration board composed of Iran and the six world powers would then decide on the issue.

The IAEA also wants the access to complete its long-stymied investigation of past weapons work by Iran, and the U.S. says Iranian cooperation is needed for all economic sanctions to be lifted.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said Tuesday his agency and Iran had signed a 'roadmap' to resolve outstanding concerns, hopefully by mid-December.

The economic benefits for Iran are potentially massive.

It stands to receive more than $100 billion in assets frozen overseas, and an end to a European oil embargo and various financial restrictions on Iranian banks.

The deal comes after nearly a decade of international, intercontinental diplomacy that until recently was defined by failure.

Breaks in the talks sometimes lasted for months, and Iran's nascent nuclear program expanded into one that Western intelligence agencies saw as only a couple of months away from weapons capacity.

The U.S. and Israel both threatened possible military responses.

The disputes are likely to continue, however.

In a foreshadowing of the public relations battle ahead, Iranian state TV released a fact sheet of elements it claimed were in the final agreement - a highly selective list that highlighted Iranian gains and minimised its concessions.

Among them was an assertion that all sanctions-related U.N. resolutions will be lifted at once.

While a new UN resolution will revoke previous sanctions, it will also re-impose restrictions in a number of categories.

Beyond the parties to the pact, spoilers abound.

In the United States, Congress has a 60-day review period during which Obama cannot make good on any concessions to the Iranians.

U.S. lawmakers could hold a vote of disapproval and take further action.

Iranian hardliners oppose dismantling a nuclear program the country has spent hundreds of billions of dollars developing.

Khamenei, while supportive of his negotiators thus far, has issued a series of defiant red lines that may be impossible to reconcile in a deal with the West.

And further afield, Israel will strongly oppose the outcome. It sees the acceptance of extensive Iranian nuclear infrastructure and continued nuclear activity as a mortal threat, and has warned that it could take military action on its own, if necessary.

Sunni Arab rivals of Shi'ite Iran are none too happy, either, with Saudi Arabia in particularly issuing veiled threats to develop its own nuclear program.


August 2002 - Western intelligence services and an Iranian opposition group reveal a covert nuclear site at the eastern city of Natanz.

An inspection by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency reveals it was used to enrich uranium, a process for producing fuel or nuclear warheads.

June 2003 - Britain, France and Germany engage Iran in nuclear negotiations. Washington refuses to join.

October 2003 - Iran suspends uranium enrichment.

February 2006 - Iran announces it will restart uranium enrichment following the election of hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a critical Iran report by the IAEA to the UN Security Council, and after Britain, France and Germany walk out of stalled negotiations.

June 2006 - The United States, Russia and China join Britain, France and Germany to form the P5+1 group of nations trying to persuade Iran to curb its nuclear program. Washington initially stays away from the negotiating table.

December 2006 - The U.N. Security Council imposes the first set of sanctions on Iran, banning the sale of sensitive nuclear technology. Five more Security Council resolutions are passed by 2010, tightening the sanctions vise on the Islamic Republic.

November 2007 - The number of uranium-enriching centrifuges assembled by Iran reaches about 3,000 from just a few hundred in 2002. Its stockpile of low-enriched uranium also grows, giving Tehran a theoretical ability to make enough-weapons grade uranium for a bomb within a year.

July 2008 - Under President George W. Bush, the United States joins the nuclear talks for the first time.

September 2009 - Western leaders announce that Iran has dug a covert enrichment site into a mountain, escalating concerns because the facility may be impervious to air attack.

October 2009 - Under President Barack Obama, a senior U.S. diplomat meets one-on-one with Iran's top nuclear negotiator. The talks are some of the most extensive between Washington and Tehran in three decades.

February 2010 - Iran announces it has started to enrich uranium to near 20 percent, a technical step away from weapons-grade material.

May 2010 - Brazil and Turkey announce their own nuclear deal with Iran, to America's great dismay. The arrangement quickly falls apart.

January 2011 - Negotiations between Iran and the six world powers break off for what proves a 15-month hiatus. Iran refuses to make deep cuts in its nuclear program.

November 2011 - The IAEA outlines the possible military dimension to Iran's nuclear activities. Iran denies the allegations, saying they're based on falsified Israeli and U.S. evidence.

January 2012 - The IAEA says Iran is enriching to 20 per cent at its mountain facility near Fordo. The European Union freezes the assets of Iran's central bank and halts Iranian oil imports.

April 2012 - Negotiations restart between Iran and the six world powers but go nowhere.

July 2012 - U.S. and Iranian officials meet secretly in Oman to see if diplomatic progress is possible. Talks gain speed the following year, particularly when Ahmadinejad's presidency ends.

August 2013 - Hassan Rouhani defeats several hardline candidates to become Iran's president, declaring his country ready for serious nuclear talks.

By now, Iran has about 20,000 centrifuges and the U.S. estimates the country is only a few months away from nuclear weapons capability.

September 2013 - Rouhani and Obama speak by telephone, the highest-level exchange between the two countries since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif begin their diplomatic exchanges.

November 2013 - Iran and the six powers announce an interim agreement that temporarily curbs Tehran's nuclear program and unfreezes some Iranian assets. The deal sets the stage for extended negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear accord.

July 2014 - Talks miss the deadline for a final pact. A four-month extension is agreed.

November 2014 - The final pact remains elusive. Talks are extended a further seven months.

April 2015 - A framework deal is announced, outlining long-term restrictions on Iran's nuclear program and the removal of many international sanctions. Much remains unresolved, however.

July 14, 2015 - World powers and Iran announce long-term, comprehensive nuclear agreement.[source]

    Wednesday, July 1, 2015

    CNN's Paul Begala Asked The State Department For Talking Points On Hillary Clinton

    Unfortunately, real life never turns out to be as interesting as it appears on TV. Digging through Hillary Clinton's emails, for example, The New York Times turned up that she's — pretty normal? Boring, even? Only two dozen correspondences were flagged as confidential, with the rest of this month's batch relating mostly to logistics, scheduling, and calendar rearrangements. Who'd have thought that behind the scenes was so dull?
    The emails did reveal, though, that Paul Begala — a CNN political commentator and former advisor to Bill Clinton — needed a couple talking points about Hillary before he went on air to rate her:
    Mr. Begala [asked] for talking points before he went on CNN to rate Mrs. Clinton's early performance. Ms. Marshall referred him to several State Department aides. After his appearance, Mr. Begala emailed back: "I gave Sec. Clinton an A+ in our dopey CNN report card last night." Ms. Mills forwarded that to Mrs. Clinton with an "FYI." [The New York Times]
    An A+! You go, Hill. Jeva Lange [source]

    Tuesday, June 30, 2015

    Major Powers, Iran Extend Interim Deal To July 7 For More Talks

    VIENNA (Reuters) - Six major powers and Iran have decided to extend an interim nuclear agreement until July 7 to allow more time for negotiations on a final deal, the United States said on Tuesday the deadline for a long-term accord.
    "The P5+1 and Iran have decided to extend the measures under the Joint Plan of Action until July 7 to allow more time for negotiations to reach a long-term solution ... on the Iran nuclear issue," Marie Harf, senior adviser for strategic communications at the U.S. State Department, said,
    The so-called "P5+1" are the six major powers negotiating with Iran - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.[source]

    A College Balks At Hillary Clinton’s Fee, So Books Chelsea For $65,000 Instead

    Chelsea Clinton, left, answered questions posed by former Kansas City mayor Kay Barnes during a paid appearance last year at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

    When the University of Missouri at Kansas City was looking for a celebrity speaker to headline its gala luncheon marking the opening of a women’s hall of fame, one name came to mind: Hillary Rodham Clinton.
    But when the former secretary of state’s representatives quoted a fee of $275,000, officials at the public university balked. “Yikes!” one e-mailed another.
    So the school turned to the next best option: her daughter, Chelsea.
    The university paid $65,000 for Chelsea Clinton’s brief appearance Feb. 24, 2014, a demonstration of the celebrity appeal and marketability that the former and possibly second-time first daughter employs on behalf of her mother’s presidential campaign and family’s global charitable empire.
    More than 500 pages of e-mails, contracts and other internal documents obtained by The Washington Post from the university under Missouri public record laws detail the school’s long courtship of the Clintons.
    They also show the meticulous efforts by Chelsea Clinton’s image-makers to exert tight control over the visit, ranging from close editing of marketing materials and the introductory remarks of a high school student to limits on the amount of time she spent on campus.
    The schedule she negotiated called for her to speak for 10 minutes, participate in a 20-minute, moderated question-and-answer session and spend a half-hour posing for pictures with VIPs offstage.
    As with Hillary Clinton’s paid speeches at universities, Chelsea Clinton made no personal income from the appearance, her spokesman said, and directed her fee to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
    “Chelsea is grateful to have the opportunity to speak at events like this while also supporting the work of the Clinton Foundation,” said the spokesman, Kamyl Bazbaz. He said she was happy to “celebrate the legacy of women in their community.”[source]