onsdag 9. mai 2018

To Kill Iran Deal, Trump, Like Weinstein Before Him, Turns to Dirt-Digging Israeli Firm

Coming into office set on torpedoing anything with Obama’s name attached to it, Trump trained his sights on the Iran nuclear deal. Having found no actual violations to serve as pretext, his administration engaged Israeli firm Black Cube to dig up dirt on two Obama staffers who helped negotiate the deal.

WASHINGTON – A new report in The Guardian has revealed that aides to President Donald Trump hired an Israeli-based private intelligence firm in order to “dig up” information that could be used to discredit key Obama-era officials who helped to negotiate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal. 

The report’s rather incendiary findings come just days before Trump’s May 12 deadline to recertify or scrap the deal that has been credited with limiting Iran’s civilian nuclear power program, which has long been a source of tension between Iran and U.S. allies in the Middle East, especially Israel. 

Despite the urging of European leaders and wide support for the deal among the U.S. population, Trump is widely expected to scrap the deal.

According to the Guardian report, contacts between the Trump administration and private investigators of the controversial intelligence firm Black Cube began last May, just days after Trump’s visit to Tel Aviv last year. During that visit, Trump had promised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran would never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and that the Iran nuclear deal was disastrous because it enabled the Iran government to “do what they want.”

Trump aides specifically asked Black Cube operatives to “get dirt” on Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor under former President Barack Obama, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama and national security advisor to former Vice President Joe Biden, as both officials had been involved in negotiating JCPOA.

Black Cube investigators had been instructed to look into the personal lives of both Rhodes and Kahl, particularly their personal relationships, involvement with Iran-friendly lobbyists and any potential benefits they may have reaped from the successful negotiation of the deal. Journalists who had been in contact with Rhodes and Kahl were also among those contacted by Black Cube, which sought to determine if either had violated any protocols regarding the sharing of sensitive intelligence. Neither Rhodes nor Kahl were aware of the campaign against them.

According to a source familiar with the campaign and cited by The Guardian:
The idea was that people acting for Trump would discredit those who were pivotal in selling the deal, making it easier to pull out of it.”
The efforts were part of a wider attempt to discredit the deal, which Trump has long criticized. However, it is unknown how much work was actually undertaken by Black Cube and what became of any of the information the investigators may have uncovered.

Dirt etc. for sale: the Black Cube background

Black Cube — a firm that offers its clients access to operatives from “Israel’s elite military and governmental intelligence units,” including Mossad — has been the subject of controversy on several occasions since its founding in 2011. Most recently, the group, which was promoted by former Director of the Mossad Meir Dagan, came under fire after it emerged that it had been employed by disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein to help silence women who had accused him of rape and sexual assault.

Beyond its work with Weinstein, Black Cube has been involved in several other scandals. For instance, they had been hired to hack the personal data, including medical records and private emails, of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari prior to his election. Buhari is disliked by Israeli officials, owing to his vocal support for Palestine and a two-state solution.

Black Cube has also taken work on behalf of Israeli billionaire and blood-diamond merchant Beny Steinmetz, who was under investigation in several countries for corruption. Though it’s unclear who had hired Black Cube in this instance, the firm was hired to break into an office in Romania and steal the files of a prosecutor who was targeting Steinmetz, in an attempt to weaken the case against him.

Given that Iran has been in compliance with the JCPOA deal since it was established and is well known to not be secretly developing nuclear weapons, as Israel has alleged, the facts at hand do not serve the Trump administration or the Israelis in their efforts to destroy the deal — leading them to resort to the underhanded and dirty tactics of firms like Black Cube to discredit the agreement.

Top Photo | US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embrace at the Israel museum in Jerusalem, May 23, 2017. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

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