In this episode of Kash’s Corner, Kash and Jan discuss Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Russia’s threats to invade Ukraine, and a growing alliance between Russia, China, and Iran.
Kash Patel: Hey, everybody, and welcome back to Kash’s Corner.
Jab Jekielek: So Kash, what I’ve had on my mind the last little while is the global state of national security. I’m thinking about my country of origin, Poland. I’ve been thinking about Iran. I’ve been thinking about China. I’ve been thinking about Russia, of course, because that’s mostly what we’re hearing about when it comes to national security threats recently.
Something President Trump said in the recent interview you did with him struck me, and this was that he said basically that Iran may be just months away from having a nuclear weapon or having material to build the nuclear weapon. What do you make of all this?
Mr. Patel: So, I’m going to answer that, but I’m going to remind the audience in case they missed our interview with President Trump, you should check it out on Kash’s Corner, but I do think the President’s on to something, President Trump. And there’s a number of reasons for that.
President Trump, I know, closely followed the intelligence of all major threat streams when he was president. I know because I was the Deputy Director of National Intelligence and delivered the presidential daily briefing. I know because I was Chief of Staff at DOD, and all these other matters that I handled for the president, and Iran was a constant premiere issue because we wanted to know what they were doing with their nuclear program amongst so many other things.
So, I think the President was briefed on those issues many, many times, and a lot of that information remains sensitive and classified. So, we won’t go into the details of that information. But what you and what President Trump said is pretty informative. He says he thinks that Iran’s close to a nuclear weapon or nuclear weapons grade material.
And based on the reporting I’ve seen in the media over the last year since I’ve been out, it looks like Iran’s getting closer and closer. And the whole purpose, Jan, if you remember, the whole purpose of the JCPOA, the Iran agreement, right, under the Obama administration originally, one purpose, prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. That was literally the soul of that agreement.
President Trump came in and said, “We’re out of the JCPOA,” because he felt, and I agree with him, that the JCPOA was actually allowing Iran not only to build towards a nuclear weapon, but they were violating all the agreements that they made to supposedly stop themselves from getting a nuclear weapon.
And then fast forward after all the sanctions we put on the Trump administration, which we crippled their economic regime, hurt their ability to fund their nuclear weapons program to obtain visible material and whatnot. The Biden administration came in last week and lifted sanctions that have been placed on Iran by the Trump administration. What does that do?
That basically allows, that’s the one thing that I think is very telling and I believe President Trump was speaking to; it allows Iran’s companies, people machinery, all these programs and manning that had been suspended by sanctions to go back into their nuclear arsenal. So, logically they would be very much closer to developing nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons grade material than before. So, I think that’s what president Trump was referring to and I do agree with him in that sense.
Mr. Jekielek: With the lifting of these sanctions, right, China, Russia, and frankly, even European nations, some of which I think have shown some interest in working with Iran on this kind of stuff, have full license to go ahead with this. Am I right in how I’m reading this?
Mr. Patel: Yes, and we’re going to geek out on sanctions now. Okay. So, what is the ultimate purpose of sanctions, right, vis à vis Iran. Under the Trump administration, it was to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon like we said, but how does that work?
Sanctions basically work in a multitude of ways. You can sanction people. That is, the scientist working on the nuclear program for Iran. You can sanction machinery. That is, the ability for companies to trade this machine or sell this machinery into Iran, be it from whatever country.
The biggest one is the banking sanction, right? It suffocates Iran’s access to the international banking system, which prohibits monetary transfers from going in and out of Iran, which is why Iran’s economy is literally a cash-based economy. It’s a hard currency based economy. That’s why they’re constantly flying money, literally, in and out of the country, just like they did in Afghanistan. Because they, Iran, don’t have, under the sanctions regime we implemented under Trump, had very limited, if any at all, access to the European banking system that they were connected to and Swift program and all that stuff.
So, when you lift some or all of these sanctions, you lift the machinery sanctions, the people in company sanctions to do business, and/or you lift the monetary sanctions that opens them up to the banking regime; then it goes back to your point of, well, now Europe can engage with Iran on selling machinery, on sending people.
But I think the bigger concern is, as you rightly said, was Russia, China. Russia and China would’ve at least under the Trump administration, had to respect those sanctions, because they didn’t want the Trump administration to put those similar sanctions on their economic positions around the world. That is, to stop Russia and China from trading or buying and selling with companies around the world. So they at least had, we had that mutual level of respect. They knew not to interfere over the top with the Iran sanctions.
Now, when you lift those sanctions, or some of those sanctions, Russia and China are like, “Game on. What do you guys need in Iran? Do you guys need nuclear reactor material? Do you guys need people? Do you need a facility built? Do you need concrete? Do you need metal?” They’re just like, “We’ll sell it to you.” What they’re probably like is, knowing that Iran doesn’t have that much money to begin with, they’ll probably just be like, “We’ll loan it to you,” and then basically, they’ll come in and say, “Oh, you guys can’t pay us back? We’ll just own a piece of whatever you build.”
And I think that’s extraordinarily problematic because now you have Iran relying on two of our greatest enemies, for lack of a better word, Russia and China. They’re enriching themselves by doing business with Iran. And now, we have a three part attack against American interests in national security; a Russia, China, Iran combination in a number of areas. So, I think that’s why the sanctions were so critical, and that’s why I think lifting the sanctions is so disastrous.
Mr. Jekielek: As far as I can tell, Iran also seems to think that this lifting of sanctions just isn’t enough to continue with the Iran deal. And frankly, I just don’t understand how this is all working.
Mr. Patel: Part of the deal that the Biden administration was trying to cut with Iran was, “We, the U.S., will lift these sanctions that you and I are talking about, but then you, Iran, have to come back to the table and say, “We’re going to get with the program. We’re going to use our Iranian nuclear program to provide energy to the civilian population in Iran,” which has always been their ruse, their farce that they tell the world that’s why they need nuclear material.
But the second after the sanctions were lifted, you saw the Iranian government come in and say, “That’s not enough.” If that’s not enough, then why’d we lift the sanctions? I mean, I know you and I are somewhat humorously talking about it right now, but it’s very problematic because we just gave up a massive stranglehold we had from deterring Iran to build a nuclear weapon or nuclear material. And now all those sanctions pipelines are open and Iran came back and said, “Thanks.” So, I don’t know the deterrent value in lifting those sanctions. Iran just basically told us to go fly a kite.
Mr. Jekielek: And just on this point, lifting sanctions, adding sanctions, is this a, you can flip a switch, or is this… Could the Biden administration, for example, say, “Okay, fine. We’re putting the sanctions back,” or is that difficult?
Mr. Patel: So, having run a lot of those sanctions programs and putting them through the government, not to get into the inner agency churn of how you do a sanctions program, it takes time. You have to have sign off from the treasury department, from the defense department, from the intelligence community. So, these sanctions programs were very carefully put in place based on intelligence and based on what the goal was.
You can always go back and put sanctions back on, but it’s a process that has to ultimately work its way through the interagency, through the national security council, to the desk of the President of the United States after being signed off on by his cabinet secretaries. So, it takes time. And once you open the spigot, I’m sure Iran, Russia and China and others in Europe have been allowing all the money and trade to flow in because they’ve been waiting for that opening, and now they have it.
Mr. Jekielek: And so at the same time, right, we have this other front, the Russian…
Mr. Patel: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: Of course, this is what’s getting most of the media attention these days and so forth. So, we have President Biden having basically come out and said, “Okay. Russia, if you continue, Nord Stream 2 is in jeopardy.”
[President Biden]: If Russia makes a choice to further invade Ukraine, we are jointly ready and all of NATO is ready. Today, the Chancellor I discussed our close cooperation and developed a strong package of sanctions that are going to clearly demonstrate international resolve, and impose swift and severe consequences if Russia violates Ukraine sovereignty and its territorial integrity.
Mr. Jekielek: So, this pipeline is built. How can Nord Stream 2 be used as a deterrent in this sort of situation with Russia?
Mr. Patel: Yes. I mean again, I guess we’re doing a show on sanctions. I don’t mean to make it comical, but the reason… Real quick, Nord Stream 2, giant pipeline, Russian built, Russian owned; was going to basically provide Germany the biggest economic powers in Europe with all the energy they needed.
Mr. Jekielek: I just want to jump in, because one of the earliest American Thought Leaders shows way back when it started, I actually interviewed with Polish secretary of state and we were talking about Nord Stream 2 very early on and saying what kind of jeopardy allowing this pipeline to go through puts Europe in, because now basically Russia can control the European gas supply, which is extremely important, right? They were suggesting we should be getting it basically from the U.S..
Mr. Patel: Not just the European gas supply, but the global gas. It has an impact directly on the price of gas and oil around the world. And so, what President Trump did was he came in and through the work of then ambassador to Germany, Rick Grenell, shut down the construction of that pipeline. And how do we implement that? Sanctions.
Under the Trump administration, we levied sanctions against the people that were building the pipeline, the people that were funding the pipeline, the people that were providing supplies to the pipeline so the pipeline physically could not be constructed. That’s how you stop it. You can’t actually just go over to Russian and be like, “You can’t build that anymore.” You implement sanctions that force the global economy that operates on our international banking systems. We basically say, “Oh, you want to do business with America? You can’t do business with those guys.” That’s boiling it down to its simplest equation. There’s more than that, but that’s how sanctions work.
So, to your point of, what did Joe Biden do? He came into the presidency just over a year ago, and he lifted the Nord Stream 2 sanctions. So, he eliminated the programs that were in place that prevented Russia from completing the pipeline, basically putting on its last section—its last connectors to connect Russia to Germany.
So, for the last year, they’ve been completing the pipeline because the sanctions were lifted. So, for President Biden to come in this past week and host the new German chancellor and say, “If Russia invades Ukraine,” he’s going to shut down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. I don’t understand the logic behind that because they basically finished building it over the last year. That was their block. That was our stranglehold we had on them via sanctions and he took them off.
So, I don’t see that as a great deterrent. I see that as a political talking point for people who aren’t really following how this stuff works. And as we just talked about a few minutes ago, sanctions take time. I mean, yes, there’s a high velocity lane that you can put that into if it’s an absolute priority, but it still takes time.
But more importantly, you gave him an opening for 13 months to complete the pipeline. So, I just don’t see that as a deterrent, and the biggest problem I see resulting from that is Russia’s and Germany’s relationship strengthens. Germany has an entire energy dependence on Russia and not America or our allies around the world. It impacts the European gas and oil industry and global prices of gas and oil.
And this was a stark point too that is sort of related but not really on the whole Ukraine situation, Russia on the Ukraine border, right? America has been asking our NATO allies, Germany, to step up and say, “Are you guys going to help us? Are we going to move troops together? Are we going to pay for all the things we need to pay for to help counteract Russia’s aggression around the Ukraine?”
Germany sent 5,000 helmets, and that’s it. Europe’s biggest powerhouse, one of our biggest NATO allies. To stop or thwart the Russian incursion around Ukraine, they literally sent soldiers’ helmets. No soldiers themselves, no heavy artillery, and more importantly, no money to aid that fight.
And I think having the German Chancellor at the White House after an event like that just shows how far American national security dominance has fallen. It’s not good for us.
Mr. Jekielek: So, you think this is already a show of the increased influence Russia has over Germany?
Mr. Patel: Yes. Not just over Germany, but that also now Germany has over us because… I have to remind our audience of this. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves. The U.S. has anywhere from 40,000 to 50,000 troops stationed in Germany at any one time on over a dozen military installations that we, the United States taxpayer, pay for. Do you know what that amounts to per year? We pay for five percent of Germany’s GDP per annum on that basing and manning money alone.
What do we get out of it? We get Germany building a pipeline with Russia. We get them not contributing two percent to NATO, and then we get no support essentially on the whole Germany, Russia situation, because what does Germany get? They’re like, “No, no, we’re getting a ton of energy from Russia at a deep discount.” So, they’re looking out for their best interests, but it’s not in ours.
Mr. Jekielek: So then, what do you make of the German Chancellor basically saying, “Oh, we’re going to be united in this”?
Mr. Patel: I don’t understand that logically. You’re not united in it from a German perspective. You’ve allowed the pipeline in, you’ve wanted that. Now you’ve got your energy, so you don’t need it from America or anywhere else. You’ve shown that you are not going to step up when it comes supplying NATO and our allies against this… Whatever you want to call, Russian incursion around the Ukraine. And you’ve essentially told Putin, this is probably the most problematic, “I pick you over America. We, Germany, pick you over America.”
Mr. Jekielek: And so, what does that say about NATO then? I mean, isn’t that the obvious question?
Mr. Patel: I think that’s what one of President Trump’s fundamental things was when he said, “Let’s get to 2%,” reminding everybody that we America footed… I forget what the percentage was, but the overwhelming majority of NATO, and then everybody else just piggybacked and put in a few pennies here and there.
So, I think we’re back to where unfortunately we were before the Trump administration where we, America, are going to continue to fund NATO. We’re going to do almost everything, and everybody else is going to retrograde in terms of their contributions to NATO because now there’s an administration that won’t keep them in check, won’t force them to put in the money and the manning that they need to make NATO work. So, I just think we’ve weakened NATO.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, there’s this discussion about, really it’s the Europeans who should be dealing with Russia, not the U.S. That point has been raised a number of times. What do you think about that?
Mr. Patel: I don’t necessarily agree with that because we, America, can’t just not deal with Vladamir Putin. I mean, you saw what he did to our last election cycle… Or not the last one, but the one before in 2016 just from a cyber security perspective to give you one example. We, America, cannot allow the situation between Russia and Ukraine to go any further.
Not just because of our interest in gas and oil, but because of what Russia can do and is doing in space, because of what Russia can do is in doing underwater. And what they’re doing up above and down below is basically impacting American national security interests. Not to mention the offensive cybersecurity program that Russia has that continues, as you know and all our viewers know, continues to utilize its tentacles to hack into American companies, American government servers and the like. That’s the Russians. It’s not a secret.
Mr. Jekielek: And just to recap, Russia’s cyber offensive capabilities, what happened in 2016? What do you mean by that?
Mr. Patel: So basically, Russia spent $40,000 some dollars to “wreak havoc” into the 2016 election cycle. It’s not that Russia changed any single vote in America. It’s not that Russia hijacked the U.S. electoral process. But what they did was, and I think this is what I’ve been saying for the last year is, Putin’s mindset is, “How do I interfere with America the most by spending the least?” And he did that, I believe, in 2016, and he used the propaganda machine and the media machine to his advantage to say, “Look what we basically did,” and then denied it when he was confronted with it.
That’s what I mean with the election cycle. And I believe he’s applying that same ethos to the Ukraine situation. He’s saying, “How can I gain maximum leverage globally? How can I make the U.S. look weakened without actually starting World War III?” Because, I don’t think he’s going to invade the Ukraine. I just think he realizes that that would be too costly to Russia.
And so, he’s gotten it. He’s gotten maximum global exposure. All the media’s eyes are on it. America is not responding, I think not responding appropriately. And to me, this is the final sign that shows America has fallen from its precipice. Macron is the one who went to Russia to talk to Putin about Russia and Ukraine, not the Commander in Chief of the United States.
Mr. Jekielek: So, Macron did go and speak with Putin. Develop that a little bit.
Mr. Patel: Well normally, Jan, as you know, we’d have a seat at the table. We, America, right? Because it involves so much of our national security interest. I understand what people are saying, “Oh, it’s to Ukraine. We don’t have to worry about it,” but we covered the reasons why we do have to worry about it from a national security perspective, especially when talking directly to Russia.
And now instead of America being there to tell Vladimir Putin, “This is unacceptable. You are violating our interests, the interests of NATO, and the global national security,” we’re not even there. He, Putin, isn’t even calling Biden. And when they do have a phone call, it’s not substantive at all, and then Putin comes out again on top.
So, I think cleverly Putin takes this meeting in Russia with just the French premier who’s now the face of leading the global effort against the Ukraine situation. And Macron goes in and sits down and says to Putin, “You have to stop all your boating activities. You have to stop this aggression.” Macron leaves that meeting and says, “He’s agreed to slow down and reverse course on these decisions.”
Five minutes after that, I mean, I’m being facetious, but it was the next day, Putin comes out and says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, basically.” I mean, literally you can’t make this up. That’s the significance of not just us not being there, but just not having the ability to be there with confidence, and Putin knows that. He’s like, “I’m in the driver’s seat.”
So, you have the French president go to Moscow, sit down with Vladimir Putin at this… And I think you’ve seen this photo, at this table that’s 100 feet long where president Macron has a mask on one end and Putin’s sitting slouched on the other end. And I just think that depicts the status of the security posture of not just Europe, but what everybody thinks about America right now. We’re not even there. We’re not even in the room.
Mr. Jekielek: You’re basically telling me here that Putin is getting some significant propaganda victories.
Mr. Patel: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s what I’m hearing.
Mr. Patel: So that photo alone is, if I were him, I’d be like, “What a win. I got one of the global leaders, one of the biggest powers in the world, France, I got their president to call me to come to Moscow, to sit at my table.” And he, Macron says, “I succeeded in getting Putin to slow down,” and then Putin walks out the next day and says, “No, you didn’t.” And I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the propaganda war that Putin’s winning.
What’s to back up Macron’s position? I mean, he didn’t go in there and threaten war. He didn’t go in there and threaten French troops and things like that. He just tried to “diplomatically” resolve the issue, and I think that’s the difference. You cannot just diplomatically resolve an issue with Russia, be it the Ukraine or otherwise. There has to be some backing behind that diplomatic engagement. I believe we had that under President Trump and for the reasons you and I have talked about now, I believe those teeth, that teeth to those engagements that would back those engagements are now gone.
Mr. Jekielek: Is the propaganda for Russian internal consumption or external or both? How do you see that?
Mr. Patel: Both. Putin just basically gave himself, what, a year or two ago the ability to be the president for life in Russia? He changed the constitution, he changed the laws and all that. So, obviously he’s in a position of a lot of power. And I think if you were to go to Russia and ask most Russians, they would say, “He’s doing great for Russia.” So, I think the internal propaganda machine is a win. My bigger concern is the global propaganda machine.
We continue to focus on what Vladimir Putin wants to do. We continue to talk about meetings that Vladimir Putin has that didn’t work to control the Ukraine situation, that didn’t work to advance American national security interests, that didn’t work to stop Nord Stream 2. And that to me is of a greater concern because, Jan, as you know, I do a bunch of media on national security defense and law enforcement throughout the country. And for the last couple of months, it’s been, “Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia,” right?
What about DPRK? Not to bring up Kim Jong-un, but that guy fired more rockets in the last year than he did in the previous four. That’s a big problem. And we’re unfortunately talking less and less about China, Taiwan, the genocide in China. Right now, it’s just, I hate to say it, but it’s all Russia. That’s the propaganda machine winning.
Mr. Jekielek: And it just struck me, right? All this is happening, the whole defense question and so forth is focused on Russia and meanwhile, in China, what’s happening? Well, the Olympics are actually happening.
Mr. Patel: Right.
Mr. Jekielek: So, it’s all about… Well, there’s this interesting element here where it appears that no Chinese athletes have actually gotten COVID and been quarantined. Zero of them. Meanwhile, there’s over 60 other international…
Mr. Patel: Yeah, something’s off there. But I’m glad you brought up the winter Olympics going on over there right now. Do you know who opened the winter Olympics together in Beijing? Putin and Xi, standing next to each other in the stadium, and he did that for purposes of propaganda.
Then I don’t know if you saw this, but there was a specific picture of Vladimir Putin sitting in the Olympic stadium while Team Ukraine walked out. I mean, that picture I think is almost as important as the one of him sitting with the French president.
Mr. Jekielek: And also I think the level of seriousness that he’s putting into all this, because in the midst of what’s supposed to be this big potential global conflict, he’s heading over to the Olympics for a photo shoot.
Mr. Patel: Right. But it’s also one that he’s shoving down the West’s faces, for lack of a better category. He’s like, “I’m doing this in the Ukraine. I’m opening up the ceremonies with Xi Jinping. We are both in agreement that we have to reduce Americans’ influence in the world, their power in the world, their position in the world.” So, they’re working basically together. And he’s like, “What better way than for me to have a photo op with him on the biggest sporting stage in the world, and it only happens once every four years? Oh and then by the way as a side shout out, I’m going to flex over the Ukraine when their Olympians come out.”
Mr. Jekielek: Broadcast massively by American media.
Mr. Patel: Exactly.
Mr. Jekielek: Yeah.
Mr. Patel: And he’s not spending any money. I know we keep grinning throughout this episode, but I know our viewers don’t believe it’s a laughing matter. Neither do you and I, but that’s how farfetched it’s gotten. That’s the problem with these conversations, whether I have them with you or other folks in journalism and on media. I’m like, “Just hit pause for a second and see how far down the road Putin has gotten advancing Russian national security interest over America.”
Mr. Jekielek: Final question. Your assessment a few weeks back was that Putin’s plan is to take it to the one inch line and then go back. Any change there?
Mr. Patel: No. We can see it on full display that he’s creeping towards the one inch line, if he’s not already there. He’s got his Naval ships running around the Black Sea doing a show of force. That was one of the things that supposedly President Macron had walked out of the meeting said would stop happening—it didn’t. He’s still got his troops, not in the Ukraine but postured around the Ukraine. And most importantly, from my opinion, he has the world media basically delivering the message he wants.
“Focus on me, focus on Putin, focus on Russia, and focus on how much dominance I’m exerting over France and Macron, over America and Biden, over Germany and their chancellor.” Unfortunately, I think right now he’s winning that propaganda game, and that’s what he wants to win. That’s where he wants to win, because he knows if he actually starts a war, to answer your question, then everybody is all in against him, and I just think he’s not going to do that.
Mr. Jekielek: And just as we finish up here, I keep thinking… I was looking at this report from the Ukraine border where Ukraine, basically there’s this escalation. The Ukrainians are saying, “Hey, it actually looks like things are loosening up here,” at the same time. So, there’s this massive disinformation, propaganda troop movement mess miasma, which is what we understand Russia is particularly good at creating, right?
Mr. Patel: They’re almost the best at it, and that’s a great point. The Ukrainian premier and the Ukrainian minister of defense, their secretary of defense, have both come out and publicly said, “We don’t think Russia’s going to invade our country.” I mean, do they know something we don’t? They’re on the front lines there. Why aren’t we listening to them? It’s just you’re being drowned out by the media machine that Putin has created.
Mr. Jekielek: A crazy situation, I guess we’ll just have to see how it unfolds. And I think, well, it’s shout out time.
Mr. Patel: Yeah. I guess we’ll be here to cover it. So, I’m sure our audience will stay tuned. But yeah, this week’s shout out goes to Paul Merryman out in Nevada. I met him in person recently and he came up to me and said what a big fan of our show he was. So, thanks Paul for watching, and thanks everybody else for your comments. See, we do see you in person. So, you should watching the show, keep giving us your comments, and we’ll see you next week on Kash’s Corner.
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