TEL AVIV — White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster served at a UK-based think tank that is heavily bankrolled by multinational corporate firms doing billions of dollars in business in Iran.
The business deals are up for regulation by the U.S. government and the transactions are in direct jeopardy by the possibility of the Trump administration further sanctioning Iran or declaring Tehran in violation of the international nuclear accord.
The past affiliation may raise conflict-of-interest issues for McMaster, who is serving in a position of direct influence over U.S. policy with regard to Iran. Already, McMaster has been accused of purging the National Security Council of hardliners on Iran, and he is seen as a leading proponent of the Iran nuclear accord within the Trump administration. McMaster has reportedly urged the Trump administration to recertify Iran’s compliance with the Iran nuclear deal.
From September 2006 to February 2017, McMaster is listed as a member of International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), where he served as consulting senior fellow. The IISS describes itself as a “world-leading authority on global security, political risk and military conflict.”
IISS has not returned repeated requests from Breitbart News seeking clarification about McMaster’s work at the think tank, including any salary that he may have received. The organization also did not reply to an inquiry about its funding.
While IISS says it produces “objective information” on geopolitical developments, the think tank is funded by multinational firms doing major business deals with Iranian companies.
Here is a list of some IISS corporate sponsors doing business with firms in Iran:
- Airbus (provided between $130,350 and $651,748 to IISS)
In June, two Iranian airlines made prospective deals with Europe-based Airbus — described as memorandums of understanding — to purchase 73 jetliners in deals reportedly worth as much as $2.5 billion. The deals are permissible because of the easing of sanctions under the Obama administration-brokered 2015 nuclear accord with Iran.
The New York Times reported that aspects of the Iranian firms’ purchases of Airbus planes are subject to U.S. government regulation.
The Times reported:
Iran’s Airtour Airline intends to buy 45 upgraded versions of the A320 jet, and Zagros Airlines intends to buy 20 upgraded A320s and eight upgraded A330s.
…The deals are permitted under the 2015 nuclear agreement Iran reached with six major powers, which relaxed sanctions in return for Iran’s verifiable pledges of peaceful nuclear work. But the deals — even for the Airbuses — still must be licensed by the United States government because many components and technology in the aircraft are made in the United States and are subject to export control regulations.
The agreements with two Iranian companies to purchase 73 Airbus jets follows another purchase by IranAir of 180 Airbus jets that was downgraded to 100 jets last December at an estimated value of about $10 billion.
- Boeing Company (provided between $130,350 and $651,748 to IISS)
Another top IISS donor, Boeing Company, the world’s largest aerospace company, inked a $3 billion contract last December to sell 30 737 Max jets to Aseman Airlines, a firm whose largest owner is the government-run Iran National Pension Fund.
That deal was made possible by the 2015 Iran nuclear accord. And like other deals with Iranian companies, it is subject to U.S. government approval.
“Boeing continues to follow the lead of the U.S. government with regards to working with Iran’s airlines, and any and all contracts with Iran’s airlines are contingent upon U.S. government approval,” a Boeing spokeswoman told Reuters in response to reports that the U.S. Treasury has been reviewing licenses for the Boeing deal with Iran.
- Total SA (provided between $32,591 and $130,349 to IISS)
Total SA, the French multinational oil and gas company, is a donor to IISS. Last month, Total SA and a Chinese oil firm signed a $5 billion agreement with Iran to develop a massive offshore natural gas field.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh singled out the energy agreement as “one of the outcomes of the nuclear deal and recent presidential election,” and he said the agreement would lead to “more than $5 billion in foreign investments.”
The AP reported on the deal:
Iran on Monday signed a $5 billion agreement with France’s Total SA and a Chinese oil company to develop its massive offshore natural gas field, the first such deal with foreign companies since the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Officials met in Tehran and signed the agreement, which will see the firms develop a portion of the massive South Pars offshore field that Iran shares with Qatar. Qatar calls the same area the North Field and it provides the small country, now in the middle of a diplomatic crisis with four other Arab states, its incredible wealth.
Total has a 50.1-percent share in the new Iran deal. The state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. has 30-percent stake and Iran’s Petropars has 19.9 percent.
“This is a major agreement for Total, which officially marks our return to Iran to open a new page in the history of our partnership with the country,” Total Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanne said in a statement. “Total will develop the project in strict compliance with applicable national and international laws.”
Foreign Policy magazine reported that Total’s approval of the $5 billion deal was heavily influenced by the Trump administration’s decision in April to certify Iran as complying with the nuclear deal:
But several developments this spring apparently gave Total reason to suspect that Trump’s bark might be worse than his bite. One was the administration’s decision in April to certify to Congress that Iran remained in compliance with all its obligations under the JCPOA — despite repeated violations of some of the deal’s key constraints regarding things like stocks of heavy water (begrudgingly, the Trump team issued its second report certifying Iran’s JCPOA compliance Tuesday night). That was followed by the decision in late May, in response to another congressional deadline, to continue the Obama administration’s policy of granting certain sanctions relief to Iran, as called for in the JCPOA.
- BP International Ltd (provided between $32,591 and $130,349 to IISS)
Last year, BP International, another IISS donor, was granted a license by the U.S. Treasury Department to operate a joint gas field in the North Sea following the removal of European Union and United Nations sanctions on Iran.
While BP earlier this year decided not to take part in first wave agreements to develop oil and gas reserves in Iran, the firm reportedly opened a representative office in Iran. And last November, BP created an executive committee to explore business in Iran. BP also purchased condensate from the state-owned National Iranian Oil Company last year following the sanctions removal.
- Shell International Ltd. (provided between $32,591 and $130,349 to IISS)
Shell International Ltd., which donated to IISS, operates as a subsidiary of oil giant Royal Dutch Shell.
Reuters reported that while Shell has been cautious about Iranian oil buys, it has done some deals in Iran since the sanctions were relieved.
The news agency reported:
Shell said in its annual report it had bought only three cargoes of Iranian oil over the past year.
These were a $45 million cargo in May, on which it made a profit of $1.1 million, followed by 2 cargoes in December costing $103 million and $106 million respectively. Those are still in transit so no profit or loss has been yet made on them, Shell said.
During the course of 2016, Shell also repaid $1.942 billion in debts to Iran for oil purchases it made before stricter EU sanctions were imposed on Iran in 2012.
Think Tank Backed by Soros-Funded Group that Helped Obama Sell Iran Nuclear Deal
IISS’s corporate donors are not the only controversial financing to the group where McMaster previously served. Breitbart News reported Sunday that another IISS donor is a George Soros-funded nonprofit identified by the Obama White House as central in helping to sell the Iran nuclear deal to the public and news media.
IISS’s website contains a list of groups, corporations and government entities that provide funding to the think tank, including during the period of McMaster’s work there. Curiously missing from the page of donors, however, is the controversial Ploughshares Fund, a grantmaking group identified last year by the Obama White House as central in helping to market the Iran nuclear deal to the news media.
An archived version of IISS’s donors page lists Ploughshares as a donor.
Breitbart News has found that IISS is listed as a grantee for Iran issues in Ploughshares Fund’s budget report for 2016.
That report spotlights IISS as a grantee for Iran work done by Michael Elleman, IISS senior fellow for missile defense.
In a recent IISS analysis, Elleman cast doubt on charges that Iran and North Korea are working together on ballistic-missile development, claiming “there is little evidence to indicate the two regimes are engaged in deep missile-related collaboration, or pursuing joint-development programs.”
Joseph Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, is listed as a member of IISS in his Georgetown University bio.
Ploughshares Fund is financed by Soros’ Open Society Institute.
The involvement of Ploughshares in selling the Iran agreement to the public was revealed in an extensive New York Times Magazine profile of Obama’s former deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, titled, “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru.” The article contains interviews with Rhodes and scores of top Obama administration officials.
Robert Malley, then a senior director at the National Security Council, expounded on the genesis and execution of the marketing plan to sell the Iran deal.
Malley explained to the Times that “experts” were utilized to create an “echo chamber” that disseminated administration claims about Iran to “hundreds of often-clueless reporters” in the news media.
Times author David Samuels wrote:
In the spring of last year, legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters. “We created an echo chamber,” he admitted, when I asked him to explain the onslaught of freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”
Rhodes told Samuels that the marketing strategy took advantage of the “absence of rational discourse” and utilized outside groups, including Ploughshares.
When I suggested that all this dark metafictional play seemed a bit removed from rational debate over America’s future role in the world, Rhodes nodded. “In the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this,” he said. “We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else. So we knew the tactics that worked.” He is proud of the way he sold the Iran deal. “We drove them crazy,” he said of the deal’s opponents.
Ploughshares says it has awarded hundreds of grants “whose aggregate value exceeded $60 million.”
A previous investigation by this reporter showed Ploughshares has partnered with a who’s-who of the radical left, including Code Pink, the pro-Palestinian J Street, United for Peace & Justice, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Demos, a progressive economic advisory group where Obama’s controversial former green jobs czar, Van Jones, has served on the board.
The group says its mission is to support the “smartest minds and most effective organizations to reduce nuclear stockpiles, prevent new nuclear states, and increase global security.”
Ploughshares is in turn financed by Soros’s Open Society Institute, the Buffett Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Another Ploughshares donor is the Tides Foundation, which is one of the largest funders of the radical left. Tides is funded by Soros.
Ploughshares has donated to the Institute for Policy Studies, which calls for massive slashes in the U.S. defense budget.
Ploughshares, McMaster and John Kerry
Last week, McMaster removed Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a Trump aide and Iran deal opponent, from the National Security Council in what the Jerusalem Post reported was a possible “sweep of Iran hard-liners.”
The Post reported on two other McMaster purges of Iran hardliners:
Cohen-Watnick’s removal comes after the revelation by The Atlantic on Wednesday of the dismissal of Rich Higgins, another Iran hawk who was the NSC’s director of strategic planning. Higgins was sacked for circulating a memo in which he alleged that there was a “Maoist” insurgency within and without the government of “globalists and Islamists.”
Also gone is Derek Harvey, who held the Middle East portfolio at the NSC, and who also was an Iran hawk, and who may assume another role in the administration. McMaster tapped Michael Bell, a retired army colonel who has a conventional career portfolio, to replace Harvey.
Speaking at a recent event held by Ploughshares Fund, former Secretary of State John Kerry implied that McMaster is the best bet at keeping the nuclear agreement alive, according to a Ploughshares Fund description of the June 5, 2017 event.
McMaster and IISS
McMaster is listed on IISS’s website as serving as a former consulting senior fellow on the following issues: Military history; civil-military relations; development and security; and conflict and conflict prevention.
IISS, meanwhile, has supported the Iran nuclear agreement and has defended Tehran against reports it has violated tenets of the deal.
Last month, IISS featured a piece by Mark Fitzpatrick, chief of the think tank’s non-proliferation and nuclear policy program, titled, “Three strikes against claims that Iran is violating the nuclear accord.”
The IISS piece argued that “criticism of Iran’s conduct in relation to the 2015 nuclear deal does not withstand scrutiny,” and that the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the agreement “would not convince other parties to re-impose sanctions, but could trigger a global crisis.”
In June, the IISS’s Fitzpatrick opined that “Critics are wrong: Iran remains in compliance with nuclear accord.”
An IISS strategic comment paper, titled, “Trump’s erratic Middle East policy,” argued that Trump’s confrontational approach toward Iran is “unlikely to lend needed stability to the region.”
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
This article was written with additional research by Joshua Klein.