U.S. Announces Indictments of Nine Iranians for Hacking

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the indictment of nine Iranians for “conspiring” to hack computers and defraud U.S. universities, business and agencies by taking proprietary information and research, CBS News reports.

“The indictment alleges that the defendants targeted 100,000 professors’ email accounts worldwide, successfully accessing roughly 8,000 of those and stealing about 31 terabytes of information. Rosenstein claimed the defendants hacked about 320 universities, 144 of which are American. Specifically, the charges include computer fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and identity theft. The DOJ believes this activity has gone on for four or five years.”

Trump Plans to Vilify Iran Over Nuclear Deal

President Trump “plans to deliver a broad and harsh critique of Iran in a speech Friday declaring that the landmark Iran nuclear deal is not in America’s national security interests,” the AP reports.

“Trump’s speech from the White House will outline specific faults he finds in the 2015 accord but will also focus on an array of Iran’s troubling non-nuclear activities… Those include Tehran’s ballistic missile program, support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and other groups that destabilize the region.”

“Under U.S. law, Trump faces a Sunday deadline to notify Congress whether Iran is complying with the accord that was painstakingly negotiated over 18 months by the Obama administration and determine if it remains a national security priority. Although Trump intends to say Iran is living up to the letter of the agreement, he will make the case that the deal is fatally flawed and that its non-nuclear behavior violates the spirit of the regional stability it was intended to encourage.”

Trump’s Anger Forced Aides Into Alternative on Iran

Washington Post: “He was incensed by the arguments of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and others that the landmark 2015 deal, while flawed, offered stability and other benefits. He did not want to certify to Congress that the agreement remained in the vital U.S. national security interest and that Iran was meeting its obligations. He did not think either was true.”

Said one adviser: “He threw a fit. He was furious. Really furious. It’s clear he felt jammed.”

“So White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other senior advisers came up with a plan — one aimed at accommodating Trump’s loathing of the Iran deal as ‘an embarrassment’ without killing it outright.”

First Read: “Let that sink in: The president is taking a course of action on an international agreement because it didn’t align with his personal opinion. And his advisers — who disagreed — tried to come up with a solution that didn’t kill the deal. At least not immediately.”

Trump Will Decertify Iran Deal

“President Trump plans to announce next week that he will ‘decertify’ the international nuclear deal with Iran, saying it is not in the national interest of the United States and kicking the issue to a reluctant Congress,” the Washington Post reports.

“The move would mark the first step in a process that could eventually result in the resumption of U.S. sanctions against Iran, which would blow up a deal limiting Iran’s nuclear activities that the country reached in 2015 with the U.S. and five other nations.”

Mattis Contradicts Trump on Iran Deal

“Days before President Trump has to make a critical decision on whether to hold up the Iran nuclear deal, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis openly split with him on abandoning the agreement, the second senior member of the president’s national security team to recently contradict him,” the New York Times reports.

Said Mattis: “Absent indications to the contrary, it is something that the president should consider staying with.”

“The comments were the latest example of how Mr. Trump’s instincts on national security — to threaten North Korea with destruction and tear up an Iran accord that most experts and allies say is working — are running headlong into opposition from his own National Security Council.”

Sanders Rips Trump While Defending Iran Deal

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) “used a foreign policy speech to knock President Trump’s handling of the Iran nuclear deal, Russia and his rhetoric on the violence in Charlottesville,” The Hill reports.

Said Sanders: “I call on my colleagues in the Congress, and all Americans: We must protect this agreement. President Trump has signaled his intention to walk away from it, as he did the Paris agreement, regardless of the evidence that it is working.”

Stephen Miles: “In laying out a principled and bold progressive vision for recentering US foreign policy at the core of a progressive platform, Senator Sanders has given voice to those of us who have always believed that our values don’t simply stop at the water’s edge.”

Trump Leaning Toward Decertifying Iran Nuclear Deal

“President Trump is leaning toward decertifying the Iran nuclear deal and putting the decision of whether the U.S. will withdraw from the accord in the hands of Congress,” NBC News reports.

“Such a move would come prior to an Oct. 15 deadline and would trigger a 60-day window for lawmakers to determine whether to reimpose sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program that were lifted as part of the 2015 agreement. The president’s goal during that time is to prod America’s European allies, who are part of the nuclear deal, to agree to renegotiate some provisions, and pressure Iran back into talks.”

U.S. Wants to Test Iran Deal with Inspections

“The Trump administration is pushing for inspections of suspicious Iranian military sites in a bid to test the strength of the nuclear deal that President Trump desperately wants to cancel,” the AP reports.

“The inspections are one element of what is designed to be a more aggressive approach to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. While the Trump administration seeks to police the existing deal more strictly, it is also working to fix what Trump’s aides have called ‘serious flaws’ in the landmark deal that — if not resolved quickly — will likely lead Trump to pull out.”

Trump Nearly Killed Iran Nuclear Deal

Eli Lake: “Trump’s State Department in the spring certified Iran was in compliance. On Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was supposed to certify Iranian compliance again. Talking points were sent to columnists. Senior administration officials briefed analysts on a conference call. The Treasury Department was set to announce new sanctions against a number of Iranians to soften the blow for the Republican base. Allies in Congress were given a heads up.”

“There was just one problem: Donald Trump. In meetings with his national security cabinet, the president has never been keen on Obama’s nuclear deal. What’s more, Iran’s regional behavior has only been getting worse since his inauguration.”

“So just as Tillerson was preparing to inform Congress on Monday that Iran remained in compliance… Trump called it off, according to administration officials. He wanted to know his options and what would happen if Tillerson didn’t make the announcement.”

Jonathan Swan: “The vast majority of the principals — led by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster — were in favor of the U.S. staying in the deal. But Trump hates the deal, and the decision goes against Trump’s gut instincts.”

CIA Takes Harder Line Against Iran

“He is known as the Dark Prince or Ayatollah Mike, nicknames he earned as the Central Intelligence Agency officer who oversaw the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the American drone strike campaign that killed thousands of Islamist militants and hundreds of civilians,” the New York Times reports.

“Now the official, Michael D’Andrea, has a new job. He is running the C.I.A.’s Iran operations, according to current and former intelligence officials, an appointment that is the first major sign that the Trump administration is invoking the hard line the president took against Iran during his campaign.”

Rouhani Wins Re-Election In Iran

Foreign Affairs: “Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been reelected in a landslide, winning 57 percent of the vote and defeating the hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi who received only 39 percent. A record number of Iranians showed up at the polls—41 million or 73.5 percent of all eligible voters.”

“It is difficult to say, however, what is more significant about Friday’s election: Rouhani’s landslide victory and the stronger mandate he has now received or the decisive defeat of Raisi and the Islamic hard-liners who worked tirelessly to oust Rouhani. The distinction is important. Not all those who voted for Rouhani did so because they supported him. Many cast their ballots simply to stop the hard-liners from taking control of the government and to reject Raisi, an Islamic judge with a dark past.”

Iran Prisoner Swap Wasn’t What It Seemed

“When President Barack Obama announced the ‘one-time gesture’ of releasing Iranian-born prisoners who ‘were not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses’ last year, his administration presented the move as a modest trade-off for the greater good of the Iran nuclear agreement and Tehran’s pledge to free five Americans,” Politico reports.

“But Obama, the senior official and other administration representatives weren’t telling the whole story on Jan. 17, 2016, in their highly choreographed rollout of the prisoner swap and simultaneous implementation of the six-party nuclear deal… In reality, some of them were accused by Obama’s own Justice Department of posing threats to national security.”

Iran Shrugs Off ‘Inexperienced’ President

President Trump and Iran “traded sharp statements Thursday, with Trump amplifying warnings over Tehran’s missile tests and a top adviser to Iran’s leader saying it was not the first time an ‘inexperienced person has threatened’ his country,” the Washington Post reports.

New York Times: “The hostile statements have raised tensions between Iran and the United States to their highest levels since the signing of the nuclear deal in 2015. Some analysts said they worried that the harsh words could further escalate hostilities, and even precipitate a military confrontation, if Iran tests America with another missile launch.”

White House Puts Iran ‘on Notice’

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn said that President Donald Trump’s administration is “officially putting Iran on notice,” and senior administration officials later refused to rule out military action against the Islamic Republic, Politico reports.

Senior administration officials said Iran’s “highly provocative” behavior, including a recent missile test, “is a destabilizing factor in the region” and promised a response. The administration is considering “a large number of options” to address Iran, but refused to say whether military action is among them.