Monday, July 20, 2015

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly – The Iran Nuclear Deal

For the purpose of full disclosure, I am not a politician or foreign policy expert, although I might have once stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. I am just one of you, just maybe a slight bit more knowledgeable since I served in an intelligence unit for five years, but maybe that is a good thing. It seems that the more politicians and experts are involved in a subject, the less positive the outcome.

Take for instance this new ‘deal’, somberly referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, with Iran over their nuclear program. To be sure, there are many who are applauding this as a foreign policy success story. In fact, I have actually looked at the deal and I can honestly say that it is a good deal.

Some of you might have just fallen off your chair at that last comment, so I’ll give you a moment to get your wits about you and perhaps get a cup of coffee or something stronger.

The idea that President Obama has achieved something that the world once thought impossible, an end to the threat of Iran obtaining a nuclear bomb, might seem a bit much for some to accept. I caution however, that while that would be truly historic, and provide the President with a much needed legacy, as the idiom goes: ‘the devil is in the details’.

The deal assumes a radical assumption that somehow Iran will act in good faith, rather than an assumption of bad faith. It goes against the known history of the past, in favor of a future one, that at best, remains cloaked in uncertainty.

So what is ‘Good’ about this deal? Well, quite frankly, if you are the Iranians, everything…… I haven’t seen a deal this one-sided since the Dutch bought the island of Manhattan for $24.

Note: For those of you who are for this Iranian deal and will come unglued about the above statement - Okay, yes, I know that’s a myth. I’m a native New Yorker. I know that the Dutch actually traded iron kettles, axes, knives, and cloth for the Island. I know that the Canarsee Tribe didn’t actually own the island, so the Dutch got taken and then had to pay the Wappinger Tribe when it was discovered that they actually owned the land….. sheesh, allow me at least some literary sarcasm.

Getting back to the point, this deal is truly one sided. Iran agrees to ‘shelve’ components of their program from 8-15 years. Pardon me, but wasn’t Iran a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? The fact that they have been working toward a nuclear weapon, in violation of their agreement, kind of makes me believe they can’t be completely trusted. So we are already starting off this agreement knowing that the Iranians have a history of not following through on their agreements. With this in mind, I can’t understand how we wouldn’t proceed under the ‘assume bad faith’ doctrine.

So how did the feckless diplomats handle this? Well, according to the administration we have 24/7 monitoring of the Iranian facilities, the so-called ‘anytime, anywhere’ verification. This would go a long way toward keeping the Iranians honest, but apparently 24/7 doesn’t actually mean 24/7. You see, it applies only to the ‘known’ facilities. The secret ones, which apparently fall under the category of ‘known secret’ and those that may, as of yet, be ‘unknown’ have a different process:

If IAEA inspectors have concerns that Iran is developing nuclear capabilities, at any non-declared sites, they may request access to ‘verify the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the agreement’, by informing Iran of the basis for their concerns. Iran may admit the inspectors to such site or propose alternatives to inspection that might satisfy the IAEA's concerns. If such an agreement cannot be reached, a process running to a maximum of twenty-four days is triggered. Under this process, Iran and the IAEA have 14 days to resolve disagreements among themselves. If they fail to reach an agreement, the Joint Commission (including all eight parties) would have one week in which to consider the intelligence which initiated the IAEA request. A majority of the Commission (at least five of the eight members) could then inform Iran of the action that it would be required to take within three more days. The majority rule provision (the United States and its European allies: Britain, France, Germany and the EU, could insist on access or any other steps and that Iran, Russia or China could not veto them. If Iran did not comply with the decision within three days, sanctions would be automatically re-imposed under the snapback provision.

As a result of the above, the breakout time, the time in which it would be possible for Iran to make enough material for a single nuclear weapon, should Iran abandon the agreement, will allegedly increase from two to three months to one year; this would be in place for ten years.

Seriously? Think about this for a moment. We are entering an agreement with a country that has a history of not following their agreements. We can conduct 24/7 verification of all their ‘known’ facilities, but if we actually find out about a secret one, then we have this rube goldberg-esque process to get them to comply. Yeah, nothing can possibly go wrong with that scenario.

So what is ‘Bad’? Well, if the above didn’t give you the warm fuzzies, consider this. No one is addressing the fact that this agreement does nothing to curtail the Iranians from actually getting the bomb, it just slows it down. To me that sounds a bit sketchy. It would be like negotiating with the school bully, who is threating to kill you, for a fifteen year reprieve.

On top of that, the agreement calls for lifting sanctions and returning upward of one hundred and fifty billion dollars to the Iranian government. Who, if you weren’t already aware of this, is the biggest sponsor of state supported terrorism, a fact that was never even discussed within the framework of the agreement. So I guess they curtail their overt nuclear program, but can continue their reign of terror without any problems along with a healthy dose of new financing. Now where do you think the bulk of this money will go? I’m not a betting man, but I would think that a large chunk will go toward sowing the seeds of terrorism through its surrogates: Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as through its own Qods Force, which has been actively involved in Iraq, where an estimated 1,100 US troops were killed by groups trained and equipped by the Qods, not to mention Syria, the rest of the Middle East, Afghanistan and parts of Africa. The administration even concedes this point.

Now to the ‘Ugly’ part. The government of Iran is a habitual liar. That’s not a baseless slander, but simple fact. The country possesses nearly ten percent of global oil reserves as well as eighteen percent of natural gas reserves. Their claim that their nuclear program was for peaceful purposes has always been a charade. Evidence has clearly shown that, despite their claims to the contrary, they have pursued technology to weaponize nuclear energy.

In fact, the IAEA inspectors are on record as saying that they (Iranians) have routinely stonewalled the inspectors and that it is entirely possible that Iran has an undisclosed clandestine nuclear weapons program in place. The lifting of sanctions will open Iran up to a host of countries and their companies, including some of our allies who agreed to this deal; many of whom were already dealing with Iran in violation of existing United Nations sanctions.

United Nations monitors recently issued a report that expressed frustration about the failure of United Nations member states, including those negotiating this deal, to report back to the UN about new incidents of Iran violating Security Council sanctions against its nuclear program, even though some have unfolded in plain sight. I guess reporting U.N. violations was not deemed important to risk sensitive negotiations, during which the Iranians were promising not to violate the provisions of the agreement.

One example in the report cited the failure of member states to report the highly publicized presence of Iranian General Qassem Suleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Qods Force, in Iraq. His Iraq visit was a violation of the U.N.’s imposed travel ban on key Iranian officials. Not that he cares much about restrictions, as he moves freely about the region, including a lot of time spent directing the fight against ISIS in Syria.

If you don’t know anything about the Qods Force, I suggest reading my novel: Bishop’s Gate.

One thing I am curious about is, once the sanctions are lifted and those countries and companies get their fingers into Iran legally, how many will be willing to vote to snapback sanctions? One thing I do know is that once you open Pandora’s Box, what you unleash will not willingly go back inside.

The administration claims that "tough, new requirements will keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon".

No it won’t. It might prolong it slightly, but they will obtain it. The world is playing checkers while the Iranian’s are playing chess. They are happy to let time pass by, while they work toward their end game, which brings me to another point. Can someone explain why their ICBM program remains intact? Isn’t anyone concerned about the “I” in ICBM, which stands for Intercontinental?

Iran doesn’t need an ICBM to hit Israel or Saudi Arabia, or to further its regional terrorism program, so what is the purpose? Please spare the talking point about how Iran’s is much further away from an ICBM then they are from a nuke. That isn’t really all that encouraging. Plus, they have two allies, who coincidentally are their main weapons suppliers, waiting in the wings. It is entirely possible that they might potentially expedite the ICBM process.  The lifting of weapons sanctions is another really bad idea.

Despite all the flowery prose coming forth from the administration and the world about this deal, the fact of the matter is Iran is Iran. They have not changed. Ink on a piece of paper does not change the heart of a person or a country. When you are chanting ‘death to America’ and ‘death to Israel’ your words resonate very clearly. When you sponsor terror throughout the region, and make no apologies for it, you show us who you truly are.

Iran is a theocracy. It is ruled by the nation’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, who succeeded Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Iranian Revolution, after Khomeini's death.

Many will point to the allegation that Khamenei has reportedly issued a fatwa saying that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons was ‘forbidden under Islam’. However, I am also aware that the Qur’an says that there are two forms of lying to non-believers, Taqiyya and Kitman, which are permitted under certain circumstances.  Taqiyya, which is saying something that isn't true, is permissible when it advances the cause of Islam. If he didn’t agree with his country’s nuclear program, then why were they still pursuing it in violation of his alleged fatwa?

On the other side of that coin, when the Supreme Leader is quoted as saying ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel’, and has actually taken steps to direct terrorist activities against both countries, I tend to take him, and his words, very seriously.

None of this is a condemnation of the President. This is not a partisan issue; if you think that way, you are part of the problem. We are facing a grave threat, and the administrations answer is to kick the can down the road. What good does this do? Understand that when the provisions of the deal sunset, the breakout time for Iran to have a nuclear weapon begins to diminish from the ‘one year’ theory. That is if, and it is a really big IF, they don’t already have a clandestine program place. So, theoretically, we have only bought ourselves a 10 year reprieve. Realistically, it might be much less.

Again, I don’t trust them.

As I have said, this isn’t just an Obama problem. The responsibility has been shared by every administration going back to President Carter. The current regime came into power through a bloody coup, and the world did nothing. If you haven’t, I suggest you take the time to read up on the current Islamic Republic of Iran. You cannot begin to understand the problem, if you don’t understand the history.

In the thirty-five years since the revolt, they have grown to the world’s number one sponsor of state terrorism. Their list of involvement in acts of terror is stunning in its depth and breadth. The U.S. hostage crisis, which lasted for more than a year, the 1983 Beirut Barracks bombing, the Israeli Embassy bombing in Buenos Aires, the Khobar Towers bombing, the training of Al Qaeda, and the list goes on. They have also been named as being involved and complicit in the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the September 11th attacks, and the Riyadh Compound bombing. 

The world has allowed the current Iranian government to grow from a simple street bully, to a global one. Iran has never stepped back from its commitment to attack the ‘great Satan’, and yet everyone has treated it like nothing more than baseless rhetoric, even when those words were dripping with innocent blood.

Someone recently asked me: What would you do? As if somehow they can justify this bad deal. My answer was: It should never have gotten to this point.

After WWII, the United Nations was created. It was an organization that was supposed to prevent things like this from ever happening. Part of its mandate is maintaining international peace and security. Like its predecessor, the League of Nations, throughout its seventy year existence, the U.N. has proven time and again that it is incapable of doing what it was established to do.

Consider for a moment the fact that the four policemen, a branch of the U.N., which was originally conceived by FDR, was to be the enforcement arm, responsible for keeping order within their spheres of influence. Britain would oversee its empire as well as Western Europe; the Soviet Union had responsibility for Eastern Europe along with the central Eurasian landmass; China controlled East Asia and the Western Pacific; and the United States was charged with overseeing the Western Hemisphere. As a preventive measure against new wars, countries other than the Four Policemen were to be disarmed. Ironically, this concept was originally drafted by FDR in November 1943 at the Tehran Conference. Guess that didn’t work out well.

Like an insolent child, Iran should never have been allowed to arrive at where it is today. Their behavior should have been stopped long ago. Now they are at the threshold of becoming a nuclear power, and the best we can formulate is a plan to delay it by ten to fifteen years.

What will we do in that time frame? Well, if history is any indicator, nothing. What will Iran do? I would venture to guess that they will do what they have always done. They will continue to pursue a covert nuclear program, they will continue to promote unrest and terrorism throughout the region, and push the boundaries to see what they can get away with.

There might be the occasional verbal admonishment, or the threat of ‘tougher’ sanctions, but, in the end, the west has already shown their hand. They have been judged by the Iranian’s as being weak and unwilling to fight, eager to ‘give up’ concessions in order to avoid a conflict.

Imagine what the world would be like today if, instead of pursuing ‘peace in our time’, Hitler was told that if you cross into Austria, you will be dealt with swiftly and severely? Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement quickly led to the so called ‘flower wars’, the annexation of Austria, the Sudetenland and Memel. Had the west stepped in and said no, to Hitler’s advances toward Austria, would it have prevented WWII? I don’t know, but I do know that despite their attempts to avoid it, the war eventually occurred. Bullies don’t stop until someone stands in their way and says ‘enough’.

WWII ended with a mushroom cloud over Japan, my fear is that WWIII will begin with one.

Only time will tell if I am right. I hope that I am not. I hope that the ‘experts’ got it right this time. That somehow the leopard has truly changed its spots.  However, if I am correct, then we have just turned the corner on a journey, which ends with that mushroom cloud appearing over the nation of Israel.

Israel won’t let that happen of course, which means, despite the grand designs of the negotiators, the prospect of World War III just became significantly greater, not less.

But what do I know? I’m just an author who writes fiction novels……… Then again, as we all know, ‘Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth’. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

San Francisco County Sheriff Defends Release of Illegal Immigrant

San Francisco County Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi defended his department’s release of the suspect in the shooting death of Katie Steinle. The suspect, Francisco Sanchez, an illegal immigrant with an extensive criminal history, and who had already been deported five times, was released, from the San Francisco County jail, after local authorities there declined to prosecute on a drug related charge.
Sheriff Mirkarimi contends that if the feds wanted San Francisco to ‘hold’ Sanchez, then they should have issued a warrant or a court order. Since SanFrancisco is a Sanctuary City, they simply opened the door and let Sanchez walk away.

Pardon me if I take exception to Sheriff Mirkarimi’s statement. During the course of my twenty-two year law enforcement career I ran a county jail. We routinely housed federal inmates, including those that were released to us for the purpose of dealing with local charges. This is exactly the situation that existed in San Francisco.

Sanchez was picked up by federal authorities after he had completed a prison sentence. Since he had an outstanding charge in San Francisco, that charge needed to be addressed before they could process Sanchez for deportation on the federal immigration charge.

Federal inmates, which Sanchez was, are remanded to local authorities with what is called a detainer. Basically it directs the local agency to notify the feds when the local charges have been addressed, either by release or incarceration. In the case of release, the feds come and pick-up the prisoner. In the case of incarceration, they update their records and notify the correctional facility, where the prisoner is remanded to, that they have a federal hold in place and issue another detainer to the facility.

For Sheriff Mirkarimi to say that federal authorities should somehow have done more, belies the simple fact that he did nothing. The optics on this are horrible and he knows it. He is trying to deflect the blame instead of recognizing that San Francisco’s failed sanctuary city policies cost the life of another innocent young person.

Most career law enforcement officers will tell you that they often feel constrained by the politics that seems to pervade local law enforcement policies, but Mirkarimi is not a career law enforcement officer. He is an elected official whose law enforcement career didn’t begin until 2011, when he was elected as sheriff. Prior to that, he was a member of the San Francisco County Board, the same folks who are responsible for the whole Sanctuary City debacle. A policy he vigorously defends, despite being at odds with the members of his own department.

He is no stranger to controversy. In 2012, just after his election, he was suspended from office after being charged with domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness, in connection with an altercation with his wife. He pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of false imprisonment and was sentenced to three years of probation and had to stay away from his wife for seven months. He was reinstated seven months later, after the Board of Supervisors failed to get enough votes to remove him from office.

He has also had to deal with internal issues as well. In March, Mirkarimi issued a directive stating that only he could turn them over to ICE. This was brought about because his deputies, who opposed the policy, were reportedly secretly helping federal authorities get illegal immigrants off the streets.

Under the circumstances, I can understand why he would want to pawn off the blame to someone else.

This is another example of what happens when the rule of law becomes subverted; abused and twisted to comply with the rule of man, or, as it is in this case, the Board of Supervisors.

Mirkarimi, as well as the Board of Supervisors, is trying to push the blame for the tragic death of Katie Steinle to the feds, but it is a responsibility that lies squarely on their doorstep. It was their policy that allowed this to happen and they need to be held responsible.

Monday, July 6, 2015

San Francisco – The Dark Side of Sanctuary Cities

By now you have all heard of the terrible tragedy in San Francisco, where Kathryn Steinle was killed by Francisco Sanchez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico. Her death brought to the forefront the tragic policy of sanctuary cities.

For those of you that don’t know what a sanctuary city is, it is a term given to a city in the United States that follow certain local practices designed to protect illegal immigration. There are many who feel this is a good policy and I am sure their hearts are truly in the right place; however this policy belies a problem that many of these cities face, which is a growing threat from violent criminals.

We must understand that these sanctuary cities have taken the step to intentionally violate a 1996 federal law (the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act) which requires local governments to cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security's, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. These ‘sanctuary’ policies instruct city employees not to notify the federal government of the presence of illegal aliens living in their communities. The policies also end the distinction between legal resident aliens and illegal aliens, so those here illegally often benefit from taxpayer funded government services and programs too.

Consider the ramifications to a police department, sworn to uphold the law, who are told not to co-operate with a federal agency. It tells them, in no uncertain terms, that the rule of man, and not law, is the order of the day. What is even scarier is the fact that the law becomes volatile, subject to political winds that may change to suit the whims of those in office at the time.

One of the justifications, for creating a sanctuary city, is the alleged concern for protecting immigrant rights, but that belies the fact that illegal aliens are not immigrants. Immigrants come to the United States legally, often as a result of a long and arduous process, and take the necessary steps to maintain their legal status. A person who is illegally smuggled into the U.S., or violates their visa restrictions, is not an immigrant, but an unauthorized alien subject to deportation under existing federal law.

I have heard all of the excuses, such as “Illegal aliens, who are victims of crimes, or who may be a witness to a crime, won't report them to police for fear of arrest and deportation.” Okay, sure……..

I spent twenty-two years in law enforcement. Let’s admit that this is a very convenient excuse which ignores one fundamental fact:  if illegal aliens were properly deported from the U.S., then they would not be here to become victims, nor would the predators that pray on them be here either. Try as I might, I could not find a spike in crimes committed by people legal immigrants from Denmark, Netherlands or Germany.

The truth of the matter is that these sanctuary policies do little to protect, but actually create a thriving environment for the criminal element, who fundamentally understands that they are unlikely to face any serious risk of being deported.

While I probably understand better than most, the need to protect the weak, I don’t believe that turning a blind eye to the law is the best choice. We have a problem in this Country in terms of illegal entry through our southern border. Simply renaming someone from ‘illegal immigrant’ to ‘undocumented worker’ is a ruse, which should be insulting to anyone capable of cogent thinking.  How would you feel if society decided to rename ‘burglars’ to ‘unannounced houseguests’, ‘drug dealers’ to ‘unlicensed pharmacists’, or, better yet, a ‘rapist’ to an ‘unrequited lover’?

Seems pretty absurd, doesn’t it?

Yet that is exactly what is occurring, under the false guise of protection. The truth is, anyone coming over the border illegally is a criminal. Simply changing their name does not negate that. If you don’t believe me, I suggest trying that you illegally enter the country of Mexico and see how well you are treated there when you claim that you are simply an ‘undocumented worker’.

And it is not just ‘protection’ that is being offered in these sanctuary cities. Consider for a moment that NYC recently implemented a program which allows illegal immigrants to obtain an official NYC identification card and they won't be asked about their immigration status. The card can be used for, among other things, to open a bank or credit union account, and obtain residential benefits from City Hall. NYPD officials have said the card will be used to issue summonses or desk appearance tickets instead of arrest. Think about that for a moment. Someone, who has come illegally, with no verification of ‘who’ they are, will be given a card that can be used to obtain benefits and as ID in the case of an arrest……… How do you know it’s them? Remember that the next time you are jumping through hoops to prove who you are at a governmental agency.

Just for the record, this nonsense is also being promoted by the same folks who tell you that getting an ‘ID’ to vote is somehow racist, because it somehow disproportionately affects minorities, the poor, and Democratic voters. Huh? What?........ Wait, we’re giving ID’s away to ‘poor, minority’ people, who we don’t even know, yet asking for ID to vote is somehow bad? I’ll leave that discussion for another day, as I digress.

For, once again, we are seeing the folly of the sanctuary city play out in stark reality.

Kathryn Steinle, 32, died in her father’s arms after being shot at random by Francisco Sanchez. Her last words were “help me, Dad.” As a father, I cannot begin to imagine the pain that her father is going through, but my heart breaks for him. It was a tragedy that did not have to happen.

Sanchez, a career criminal with a lengthy arrest history, should not have been on the streets of San Francisco, or any other U.S. city for that matter. He had been in the custody of the San Francisco Sheriff's Department last March 26, on a decade-old drug charge, but he was released on April 15, after local prosecutors declined to pursue charges against him. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said that at the time they had turned over Sanchez to local law enforcement, they’d requested to be kept apprised of any changes in his status, a common request that is routinely conducted in other jurisdictions, but they weren't. Instead, Sanchez was released from custody.

According to ICE records, Sanchez had been previously deported five times, most recently in 2009, and his record included seven prior felony convictions. ICE briefly had him in their custody after he completed a prison sentence in California, but turned him over to San Francisco, in March, on an outstanding warrant for a felony drug charge. 

Now Sanchez sits in the same jail he had been previously released from, but this time he won’t be leaving anytime soon. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to be of little solace to the grieving family of Kathryn Steinle.

How long before another family in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., Detroit, or any of the other two dozen more ‘sanctuary cities’ have to bury a relative because of the tragic and misguided policies that give safe haven to criminals.

Oh, and not to let a good tragedy go to waste, the White House has just announced that the death of Steinle, is actually the fault of congressional Republicans. They are also apparently at fault for the continuing gun violence in the President’s hometown of Chicago.

Maybe both the federal and state governments need a refresher course in the rule of law, instead of trying to play politics with the lives of American citizens.