NEW YORK — H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump’s embattled national security adviser, hinted to a small group of Democratic senators that he opposes the drive to decertify the Iran nuclear deal, according to two sources familiar with the meeting who spoke to CNN.
The sentiment seems to pit McMaster directly against Trump, who is reportedly leaning toward decertifying the deal next week, according to numerous news media accounts in recent days citing administration officials.
Trump is facing a looming October 15 deadline mandated by a law requiring the U.S. president to certify every 90 days that Iran is keeping its side of the agreement and that the deal continues to be “vital to the national security interests of the United States.”
McMaster’s purported views on Iran may be in part divined by his history of serving at a UK-based think tank financed by a controversial, George Soros-funded group identified by the Obama White House as central in helping to sell the Iran nuclear deal to the public and news media, as this reporter documented.
Breitbart News reported that 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.”
Breitbart News also reported that the IISS 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.
In its report on Thursday, CNN confirmed with two senior US officials that Trump is indeed planning to decertify the deal next week.
CNN cited “two sources familiar with” McMaster’s White House meeting on Wednesday with Democratic senators describing the confab as being about ideas to continue the Iran nuclear agreement.
McMaster walked a political tightrope in the meeting, according to the report, careful not to directly oppose the president while making clear he is seeking to save the Iran deal.
The sources said the meeting was clearly intended for McMaster to get ideas from key Senate Democrats on how to avoid decertifying the Iran deal, which many in both parties think would destabilize relations with allies and make it harder to confront foes well beyond Iran.
These sources say McMaster never explicitly said he disagrees with the President, nor that he wants Trump to certify that the Iran deal is in America’s national interest.
But the sources say McMaster repeatedly responded to Democratic senators’ entreaties not to decertify Iran and instead look for bipartisan alternatives by saying that he is not the one they have to convince, suggesting they were preaching to the choir.
McMaster’s controversial former group, the IISS, has been supportive of the Obama administration-brokered 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, and the group has repeatedly hit back against charges that Tehran has violated the agreement.
Only last week, the IISS declared that Trump has “no substantive grounds” for declining to certify the U.S.-brokered international nuclear deal with Iran.
A closer look at that declaration may be instructive, since the IISS ignored information indicating that nuclear inspections of Iran’s sites may not be as thorough as has been reported by the news media.
Mark Fitzpatrick, executive director of the IISS Americas section, wrote a blog post for IISS titled, “No good reason for Trump not to certify Iran nuclear compliance.”
In the piece, Fitzpatrick relies largely on characterizations from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has reported to the UN four times that Iran has met its nuclear-related obligations as enumerated in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Fitzpatrick fails to mention an analysis from Dr. Olli Heinonen, former deputy director general of the IAEA and head of its Department of Safeguards, using IAEA data showing the agency’s inspections regime may not be as intrusive and frequent as news media descriptions.
Agreeing with the sentiment expressed by numerous Israeli government officials, Heinonen also raised questions about the credibility of the IAEA’s inspection and verification system given that inspectors are not allowed access to Iranian military bases.
Fitzpatrick opined that the agreement furthers U.S. national security interests as mandated by a law requiring Trump to certify every 90 days that the deal is “vital to the national security interests of the United States.”
He minimized the national security interest mandate as “boilerplate language, and at the time of drafting of the legislation was intended for dire circumstances such as an Iran-directed terrorist attack on the US. No such circumstances prevail today.”
Fitzpatrick’s sentiments were apparently seconded by Defense Secretary James Mattis, who told the Senate on Tuesday that he believes the nuclear deal is in U.S. interests.
“The point I would make is that if we can confirm that Iran is living by the agreement, if we can determine that this is in our best interest, then clearly we should stay with it,” Mattis later clarified. “I believe, at this point in time, absent indications to the contrary, it is something that the president should consider staying with.”
In August, the IAEA declared that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal. However, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki R. Haley and other administration officials have argued that the IAEA should have access to Iran’s nuclear bases.
Questions have been raised about IAEA inspections and the agency’s lack of access to military bases.
Haaretz recently cited Israeli officials revealing that a “Western entity” provided the IAEA last year with information regarding sites that Iran did not officially report as part of its nuclear program and where Tehran is suspected of carrying out activities related to nuclear capabilities, including research and development.
While one such alleged site was a civilian facility, the report stated that Iran did not allow access to other sites, claiming they were military bases.
Iranians refused to allow inspectors to visit a series of other suspicious sites, claiming they were military bases and, therefore, not covered by the nuclear accord and that they were not required to allow access to inspectors.
McMaster’s former group and controversial funding
IISS has not responded to repeated requests from Breitbart News seeking clarification about McMaster’s work at the think tank, including any salary he may have received.
As Breitbart News reported, IISS is heavily bankrolled by multinational corporate firms doing billions of dollars in business with Iran.
IISS also quietly took in about $32.5 million in funding from Bahrain, a country whose constitution explicitly enshrines Sharia Islamic law as the governing doctrine. The funding from Bahrain, a repressive regime with a dismal human rights track record but also an important regional U.S. ally, reportedly amounted to one quarter of the think tank’s total income.
A significant portion of the Bahraini funding reportedly pays for the think tank’s annual conference in Bahrain, the Mamana Dialogue. The original agreement between IISS and Bahrain to finance the conference contained a clause calling for the memorandum of understanding to remain confidential, according to the document, which was leaked by a watchdog and published by the Guardian newspaper last year.
As a member of IISS, McMaster participated in the Sixth Mamana Dialogue summit in Bahrain from December 11 to December 13, 2009, Breitbart News found. He is listed in IISS literature as being part of the Mamana Dialogue’s four-person panel that year on “military transformation, intelligence and security cooperation.”
Think Tank Backed by Soros-Funded Group that Helped Obama Sell Iran Nuclear Deal
Breitbart News reported that another IISS donor is the controversial Ploughshares Fund, a Soros-funded nonprofit identified by the Obama White House as central to helping sell the Iran nuclear deal to the public and news media. Soros’s Open Society is also a direct donor to IISS.
Joseph Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, is listed as a member of IISS in his Georgetown University bio.
The Soros-financed Ploughshares’ involvement 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.
McMaster’s Former Group Scrubs — then Re-Adds — Soros Financing from Website
As Breitbart News reported, the IISS added George Soros’s Open Society Foundations and the Soros-financed Ploughshares group to the list of donors on its website in response to a request from this reporter on the matter.
During a Breitbart News investigation last month, neither the Open Society or Ploughshares were listed on the IISS website page titled “Our Funding” despite this reporter finding literature from those two groups documenting their financing of IISS. Also, both groups were listed in an archived version of the same IISS donor’s page.
Following a request for comment, both the Open Society and Ploughshares groups were added back to the IISS donor page.
Immediately following the additions, Breitbart News sent a request for comment about the additions to the website and received the following reply:
As well as the Open Society Foundation, we also accidentally removed the Carnegie, McArthur, and James Foundations, as well as a number of governments and corporate supporters, when we updated the page ten days ago. Your question brought this to our attention and the listing has now been corrected.
McMaster purges NSC
In August, 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 the Ploughshares Fund, former Secretary of State John Kerry implied that McMaster is the best bet for keeping the nuclear agreement alive, according to a Ploughshares Fund description of the June 5, 2017 event.
McMaster and the IISS
McMaster is listed on the IISS 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 defended Tehran against reports it has violated tenets of the deal.
In July, 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, “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.