ANALYSIS: Why Iran can’t take a decision similar to North Korea

Al Arabiya

The historic meeting between the leaders of the United States and North Korea, and the resulting Korean Peninsula denuclearizing deal, has the potential of resolving a decades-old international crisis.

This very important development will most definitely have its impact on another flashpoint in today’s world, being the Middle East, and most importantly, Iran.

Comprehensive document

The meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is the first of its kind following the end of the Korean War back in 1953.

The signed document is currently dubbed as a “Comprehensive Document,” sending a signal to the signatory parties of the 2015 “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” over the Iran nuclear program.

This agreement can is a cornerstone to include nuclear disarmament and halting its ballistic missile program by North Korea, and the US lifting its sanctions.

Prior to this signing, the Iranian Foreign Ministry claimed to agree with and welcome any peaceful measure. Following the signing, however, Tehran’s tone changed drastically.

“The North Korean government should be on high alert in this regard,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi.

“North Korea should be on alert that the US President is not loyal to his signature,” said Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Reza Nobakht.

Aside from these remarks, senior Iranian officials are concerned of North Korea sharing secrets of their nuclear and missile collaborations with the US and possibly other international community members.

Iranian protesters burn a representation of the US flag at a rally in Tehran on June 8, 2018. (AP)

Different viewpoints

A variety of reactions have been heard from Iran’s perspective.

There are those who believe the US/North Korea deal was made possible due to Pyongyong’s ability to obtain nuclear weapons. As a result, this camp argues flatly against any thought of destroying Tehran’s nuclear program or closing down its nuclear sites, let alone destroying them.

“Some experts have different viewpoints on this matter, claiming North Korea destroyed its nuclear sites due to its excessive age and being worn out,” according to a piece in Iran’s Vatane Emrooz daily.

“Despite sanctions and global threats, for years North Korean officials continued their nuclear and ballistic missile tests to now enjoy this capability of safeguarding their country,” the piece adds.

Others in the Iranian regime are also voicing concerns of Washington having more dangerous intentions. “Trump seeks to force Iran into a new round of negotiations,” according to the Hemayat daily.

Impact on Iran

There’s no doubt the Trump/Kim summit will increase pressure on the Iranian regime domestically and internationally. Signs indicate a growing number of parties will be demanding Tehran to finalize its decision between:

a) Entering new talks with Washington after succumbing to the 12 conditions raised by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

b) Standing firm on a 40-year long position and continuing their belligerence across the board.

Neglected in the past four decades is the fact that Iran has kicked the can down the road on this issue and taken advantage of surrounding developments to prolong its very existence.

The important factor here is the difference between North Korea and the Iranian regime. Despite the variety of claims heard about the result of the Trump/Kim agreement, North Korea’s capacity made such a change in policy and strategy possible. The Iranian regime, on the other hand, lacks any such aptitude, proven in the past four decades.

People protest in Tehran, Iran December 30, 2017 in in this picture obtained from social media. (Reuters)

Tehran is not Pyongyang

Another issue gone neglected is the fact that North Korea has never faced resistance from within or an organized opposition movement. While such a factor has plagued the Iranian regime ever since day one back in 1979.

This goes to prove that the deciding factor in Iran are the people and their opposition movement, symbolized in the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). This movement has encouraged and organized protests and uprisings for the past 40 years, especially since the Dec/Jan nationwide protests that swept 142 cities across Iran.

This phenomenon is Tehran’s main concern and Pyongyang has been free of any such dilemma. Iran’s society is a powder keg ready to explode and regime officials acknowledge the fact that their apparatus is facing 21 super challenges on a daily basis. This slate includes:

• The deep and increasing rift between the people and the ruling regime,

• The incurable trust divide as people continuously lose faith in anyone with any association to this regime,

• The people’s abhorrence of the regime being present in every part of their daily lives,

• The active presence of educated women in daily protests,

• The climaxing water shortage crisis witnessed in numerous areas of the country,

• Unemployment and skyrocketing prices,

• Brain drain and the increasing flow of billions in currency exiting the country.

It is interesting how the status quo is the psychological impact of Trump exiting the nuclear deal as the 90-day and 180-day deadlines for returning sanctions have yet to arrive.

In such circumstances, with or without sanctions, with or without negotiations, the Iranian people will relentlessly continue their struggle against this regime.

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ANALYSIS: How to cripple the Iranian regime and help its people

Al Arabiya

The US administration taking significant measures to re-impose sanctions on Iran’s regime aims to reach a variety of objectives. Crippling sanctions are being implemented on Tehran and there are methods to pinpoint these efforts against the regime and in fact support the Iranian people’s strive for freedom and democracy.

One very effective initiative is severing all access for Iranian banks to SWIFT, or the Society for the Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.

These actions have the potential of exerting crippling economic and financial pressure Tehran, including exerting unprecedented damages to the regime’s trade relations and import/export process.

Iran deal finale

Numerous outlets are running a variety of reports and articles discussing the impact of US President Donald Trump exiting the Iran nuclear deal and the future of relations between Iranian banks and SWIFT.

If Tehran’s rulers see their apparatus cut off from SWIFT, the regime Central Bank, Bank Melli, Bank Sepah and Bank Saderat (Exports) will no longer enjoy the highly important facilities provided by the Belgian firm.

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on June 4, 2018 shows him greeting the crowd in Tehran. (AFP)

What is SWIFT?

This Brussels-based company is quite large in size and is mainly involved in facilitating transactions. Simply put, SWIFT lubricates the wheels of financial relations across the globe.

Placing this subject into better perspective, financial transactions were carried out through telex messages, taking a few days to arrive at the destination. These transactions are accelerated to a matter of minutes under SWIFT services.

Today, SWIFT is known to manage around 11,000 banks and financial institutions across 209 countries, facilitating around six billion financial messages annually.

Remaining neutral?

SWIFT opened eyes into this world back in May 1973 with a very noteworthy characteristic of refraining any involvement in political disputes. Launched with the support of a number of countries, this institution aims to accelerate money and financial transactions for trade across the globe.

While SWIFT officials strive to distance their entity from politics, the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York had the US, a major SWIFT member, demanding further control over financial transactions across the globe. This included American authorities seeking increasing access to personal information of individuals using SWIFT.

Despite initial opposition by SWIFT authorities, the European Union agreed to U.S. demands of establishing methods of controlling and monitoring trade and banking transactions.

In July, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran over its missile program. (Shutterstock)

Iran, SWIFT & US sanctions

Iran joined the SWIFT in 1992, linking its Central Bank, Banks Melli, Sepah and Saderat (Export), alongside other Iranian regime banks to the world’s financial network.

In 2012, under pressure from the US and major sanctions against Tehran’s nuclear program, the links between Iranian regime banks and SWIFT, and effectively the global financial network, were severed.

Following the 2015 Iran nuclear deal signing and initial measures implemented by Iran, SWIFT lifted its restrictions on Iranian banks in 2016. This goes alongside the $1.7 billion in cash provided to Tehran by the Obama administration and the $150 billion in assets unfrozen.

Despite pledges provided by senior Iranian officials, not a single dollar of this huge amount went to provide the Iranian population’s necessities. While over 50 million people across the country are living in poverty, Tehran continues to fuel its terrorist proxies across the Middle East, an unnecessary nuclear program and ballistic missile drive.

New measures

On June 4th the three countries of France, Germany and the United Kingdom issued a letter to US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin asking for new American sanctions to not include the SWIFT apparatus.

Following the developments of the recent G7 meeting in Canada, there are no signs of Washington taking the European request into consideration. If so, the Green Continent will be significantly limited in continuing its economic cooperation with Iran.

The sanctions that are scheduled to be back on line come November 4 are set to include financial and banking collaboration. Any entity refusing to abide by these regulations, already seen very unlikely, will be the target of US punishment. This comprises their US-based assets being frozen, officials banned to enter US soil and their activities limited in the US.

Iran’s domestic crackdown organs and its foreign belligerence are all funded through state banks and financial institutions. All actions taken against these entities and limiting their power will benefit the Iranian people in their daily protests and long struggle to establish freedom and democracy in their country.

Following the Dec/Jan nationwide protests, described by many as an uprising, there is no longer any doubt that the Iranian people want this regime gone. As a result, any measures against Tehran’s interests will support this nation’s quest to achieve their objectives.

A look at the current trend leads to this conclusion that the months leading to November will be of grave importance for the future of Iran’s regime, knowing the continuation of today’s actions will cripple its entire apparatus very soon.

ANALYSIS: Amid widening protests, time to side with Iranian people

Tuesday (June 5) marks the 15th consecutive day of a nationwide strike launched by tens of thousands of truck drivers in Iran. Video footage and still images widely circulated on social media indicate both the vast scope and organized nature of this movement, two characteristics causing major concerns for the Iranian regime.

As truckers in nearly 300 cities across the country continue to emphasize their rightful and long-neglected demands, colleagues throughout the globe are displaying sympathy and solidarity. This is one very effective method of both taking measures against the Iranian regime’s unjust rule and standing alongside the Iranian people’s just cause.

The Teamsters, known as one of the largest labor unions in the United States and the world over, issued a very powerful message recently in support of Iranian truckers.

“Iranian truck drivers in 25 provinces and 160 cities have been on strike over low pay, rising operating costs, increased tolls and other regulatory fees. #Teamsters stand in #solidarity with our Iranian brother & sisters!” said Teamster General President James Hoffa in a letter to Abolfazl Mehrabadi, deputy director of the Iranian regime’s interest branch at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Taking a step further and boosting the Iranian truckers’ efforts even further, Hoffa emphasized that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, representing the voice of 1.4 million transportation and supply chain employees across the US and Canada, also “stands in solidarity with our Iranian brothers and sisters.”

“We urge the government of Iran to listen to the grievances of the striking Iranian truck drivers, address their just demands and recognize their internationally recognized rights to assembly, speech, freedom of association and collective bargaining,” Hoffa added.

Objectives

Iran’s truck drivers are raising a series of demands they have been pursuing for several years now, including:

– A 35 to 50 percent increase for haulage charges. Iranian regime authorities are reportedly promising a 20 percent increase and truck drivers are refusing to back down, encouraging their colleagues to stand firm.
– Retirement pensions to be provided after 25 years of hauling goods.
– Their field of work being recognized and classified as harsh and demanding for the drivers, paving the path for further pensions.
– Decreasing insurance bills. Many of Iran’s truck drivers are unable to receive medical care because of such high fees.
– Decreasing supplementary fees, such as road tolls and commissions demanded at a high number of terminals (without abiding by any specific framework).
– Decreasing the price of spare parts, spare tires and fuel.
– The head of Iran’s truck drivers/owners union resigning as the protesting drivers complain he is not standing up for their rights and instead implementing the authorities’ will.
– Iranian police and other authorities ending their repressive measures against the drivers.

Further measures upsetting the truckers include authorities compelling them to install tracking devices on their vehicles. Not only are the truckers forced to pay for related expenses, they are complaining of how the regime’s only security forces, intelligence authorities and the regime-controlled National Oil Company benefit from the data provided through these trackers.

As the truckers have stood firm, daily reports from inside Iran indicate people from all walks of life joining their ranks. Taxi drivers in several cities throughout the country are adding their voice to the truckers demanding higher wages, protesting the skyrocketing price of spare parts and seeking a considerable raise in social welfare premiums.

Since Saturday chicken farm owners in numerous cities including Amol, Sardasht, Miandoab, Meshkin Shahr, Maraqeh, Hamedan, Yazd, Arak and Semnan are reportedly holding rallies outside governors’ offices protesting skyrocketing prices of chicken food and their industry being on the verge of bankruptcy.

People are affected by tear gas fired by anti-riot Iranian police to disperse demonstrators in a protest in Tehran on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. (AP)

 

Broader concerns

Iran’s security forces are seeing this crisis escalate as truckers and taxi drivers are taking measures to resist oppression, spreading calls and seeking solidarity and unity in their effort and seeing such measures spread extensively on social media.

This indicates a growing number of people are becoming informed and realizing the importance of uniting against the regime. And this is exactly what Tehran seeks to prevent. Clashes are reported from Isfahan and Shiraz, as truckers from smaller towns sought to join the ranks of their colleagues in larger cities to voice their demands in a stronger tone.

Remarks heard from officials show the regime is feeling the pressure. “Haulage fees have already been increased up to 20 percent and the problem of truckers’ subsidies addressed, but meeting their other demands takes time,” the Iranian regime’s Roads and Urban Development Ministry Deputy Abdol-Hashem Hassan Nia said on May 31. These remarks came after senior officials realized they cannot merely neglect the truckers’ demands and how the economic impact began kicking in for the regime.

To this day, the truckers are showing no intention to back down and have flatly rejected promises made by regime officials, promising to continue their initiative until authorities meet their demands. There are also reports of truckers from southern Iran heading toward Tehran, the capital, on Monday to have more people hear their reasonable and legitimate demands.

Iran is home to nearly 370,000 trucks delivering goods across the country. An increasing number of drivers are realizing how they have tolerated their unjust conditions far too long and now is the time to stand firm, knowing their voices are heard by the international community.

As the United States and its partners in the Middle East – and eventually Europe – are realizing and adopting a firm policy vis-à-vis the Iranian regime, one very effective and necessary initiative is to stand shoulder to shoulder with Iran’s protesting populace.

Has Khamenei signaled dead-end for Iranian regime’s adventures?

The United States’ important policy shift against Iran’s growing ambitions, spelled out in a 12-article speech delivered by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is leaving Tehran’s clerical rulers facing quite a difficult challenge.

Iran experts believe these changes are based on two domestic and international pillars, acknowledging the reality of Tehran’s regime as a main threat in regards to its nuclear program, ballistic missile drive, exporting terrorism and fundamentalism, and a domestic crackdown machine on full throttle.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei understands how such dangerous circumstances are rendering severe setbacks for his forces both inside the country and militia proxies abroad.

Reports indicate the Afghan “Liwa Fatemiyoun” militias, hired to fight in Syria, are deserting their units, and Tehran is apparently ordering Houthi militia units in Yemen to withdraw from the country’s western coastline and surrender their most strategic port in al-Hudaydah.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrives for a meeting of the foreign ministers from Britain, France and Germany and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, at the Europa building in Brussels on May 15, 2018. (AP)

 

Six conditions

In a desperate effort to counter this offensive, Khamenei has placed six conditions before the European Union to issue resolutions against the US in the United Nations Security Council, not raise the issue of Iran’s ballistic missile program and Middle East influence, guarantee trade through European banks, assure Iran’s ability to fully sell its oil, compensate pledges the EU has not lived up to (according to Khamenei) and take a stand against US sanctions.

As preposterous as Khamenei’s words sound, we need to understand that he has no choice but to resort to such remarks. And of course, the words of French President Emmanuel Macron sink deep in the minds of Tehran’s senior officials. French firms have to decide on continuing their activities in Iran and assessing the risks imposed by US sanctions, he said in recent remarks. The French President cannot ask companies such as Total to pull out of their business in the US, Macron said.

As many European companies continue to rush out of Iran, Stadler of Switzerland has been the latest to jump on the train, halting a $1.1 billion contract to provide and build 960 wagons for the Tehran-Karaj metro, citing the return of US sanctions as the reason.

Iran’s own political figures are losing hope. “How do we expect the Europeans to forgo their $700 billion exports to the US for the sake of $20 billion exports to Iran?” recently said Sadegh Zibakalam, a Tehran professor University with ties to the Iranian regime’s so-called reformist camp.

Although Khamenei has taken what seems to the naked eye a strong position by placing demands before Europe, he is also seeking new negotiations with the Green Continent. This proves that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visits to China and Russia, and a recent drive of Iran seeking eastern shift in policy, failed miserably.

From day one after Washington pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, the reality about the Iranian regime’s destructive policies became clear. Neither the European Union, Russia nor China are willing to provide any guarantees to Tehran. This explains why Khamenei, desperately seeking a lifeline, sees the only path forward as establishing a rift in the international community to somehow find breathing room for his regime.

Iranian and US banknotes are on display at a currency exchange shop in downtown Tehran. (AP)

Dark future

One must also recognize the severe setbacks Iran will be suffering from Washington’s drastic change in policy, in comparison to the Obama years. This has not only brought a complete end to all the dreams of those advocating appeasement vis-à-vis Iran, but also the dark future awaiting Tehran if it chooses to continue its nuclear program, ballistic missile ambitions, regional influence and domestic crackdown.

The Iranian regime is coming to learn the days of mass arrests, torture in prisons and executions without paying the price are coming to the end. Tehran is feeling the heat across the region, understanding its missile launches, exporting terrorism and meddling in neighboring countries come with a major price tag.

All of the Revolutionary Guards’ vastly expanded bases throughout the region, parallel to networks of terrorism in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen, alongside the nuclear program and not providing the promised “anytime, anywhere” inspections of its civil and military sites, are now targets of a variety of punitive measures by the US and its allies.

All this Iranian belligerence received a major $150 billion as a result of a highly flawed nuclear deal. Money that could have provided for the over 50 million Iranians living in poverty. Ironically, it is the Iranian regime’s own semi-official outlets that are providing such drastic statistics.

The above have resulted in a growing volume of dissent inside Iran, as analysts now consider this country a powder keg ready to explode at any moment. What makes the status quo even more dangerous for the Iranian regime is the fact that the Iranian people’s thirst for regime change is symbolized in their support for the main Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

While there may be a long dispute about the issue of regime change in Iran, the current circumstances are quite telling for the Iranian regime itself. “[National Security Advisor John] Bolton makes the same remarks today as he did in a PMOI/MEK event,” according to an editorial in the semi-official Mardom Salari daily.

According to former Iranian parliament deputy chairman Mohammad Reza Bahonar, “The US administration receive their analysis from the PMOI/MEK… the strategy of behavior change is no different from regime change.”

Understanding the US policy on Iran in light of Pompeo speech

Dedicating his first foreign policy speech to the grave subject of Iran, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined the Trump administration’s new strategy vis-à-vis Iran on Monday, coming shortly after President Trump announced the US would withdraw from the Obama-era nuclear deal.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., Secretary Pompeo vividly explained how the US administrations is standing alongside the Iranian people and their aspirations for freedom and democracy, especially the ongoing protests across the country.

The new strategy encompasses “a new security architecture” extending beyond Tehran’s nuclear program to also include its missile technology, support for terrorism and actions in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, amongst other countries.

A long slate of conditions were set forth by America’s top diplomat, demanding the Iranian regime to fall in line regarding concerns shared by the international community:

– The regime must come clean of all previous nuclear activities and disclose full account of the military dimensions of its nuclear program. It must also abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions in perpetuity.

– The regime must stop uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing. It must also close its heavy water reactor at Arak.

– The Iranian regime must provide the IAEA full access to all its sites throughout the country.

– Tehran must stop its ballistic missile development and the launching of ballistic missiles.

– The release of all foreign citizens held hostage by the regime.

– The Iranian regime must end its support for terrorist groups in the Middle East.

– Respect for the sovereignty of Iraq and the disbanding of its proxy militia in the country.

– End of support for the Houthi militias.

– The regime must withdraw all forces under its command from Syria.

– End of support for Taliban and other terrorists in the region. The regime must also cease providing shelter to the leaders of al-Qaeda.

– The regime must end the IRGC Quds forces support for terrorism across the globe.

– The regime must end its threatening behavior against its neighbors.

Mike Pompeo and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir during a press conference in Riyadh on April 29, 2018. (AP)

 

As Pompeo explained himself, this list is actually quite longer and the Iranian regime has only itself to blame. The way measures are forecasting, Tehran will never again enjoy a carte blanche to terrorize the Middle East.

Pompeo’s comments come as the as Iran is scrambling diplomats across the globe after Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal, in an effort to somehow preserve what they can of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), how the deal is formally known.

All the while, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has described the JCPOA as a “dying patient,” adding there is no guarantee if Europe can actually stand in the face of US sanctions.

Zarif has specifically added European support isn’t enough to safeguard the Iran nuclear deal. This notion was given a very strong shock as Pompeo said in his speech, “We will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime.”

As actions begin to bite and an increasing number of foreign companies are abandoning their endeavors inside Iran, Tehran is comprehending how this is just the beginning of a very strong sanctions tsunami, described as Pompeo of eventually becoming the strongest sanctions in history.

The sting of sanctions will be painful if the regime doesn’t change its course, Pompeo added. With an already ailing economy and its currency, the rial, nosediving, the Iranian regime will be in an uphill battle to prevent its economy from a highly possible episode of complete collapse.

Arguably the strongest aspect of Pompeo’s speech came in his emphasis on Washington’s stance alongside the Iranian people, underscoring how the US administration intends to advocate tirelessly for the Iranian people.

America’s top diplomat referred how the protests of the past show the Iranian people are deeply frustrated with the regime. Workers and others across the society aren’t getting paid. Strikes and protest rallies are a daily scene. Unemployment is skyrocketing, with the youth being at least 25 percent.

At a short Q&A after his speech, Secretary Pompeo was asked to deliver a possible timeline on how Washington intends to fulfill these measures against the Iranian regime.

“At the end of the day the Iranian people will decide the timeline,” Pompeo said interestingly. As far as Tehran is concerned, reactions to Pompeo’s speech are very telling.

The Youth Journalists Club, known for its affiliation to the faction close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, described Pompeo’s remarks as “baseless.”

The semi-official Tasnim news agency, however, associated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, went as far as using this title for its post-Pompeo speech take:

“The US Secretary of State and his regime change speech.”

ANALYSIS: After Trump nuclear deal exit, different perspective on Iran sanctions

Al Arabiya

Following the United States’ decision to exit the Iran nuclear deal, we are witnessing the beginning of a significant series of measures against Tehran. Cascading sanctions are in the making and continuing economic relations with Iran would be tantamount to shooting yourself in the foot.

Iran’s economy is on the ropes and Washington knows quite well how to make the ruling clerics understand how their four decades of belligerence will no longer go tolerated. Interesting is how the new US sanctions are targeting the regime, its entities and senior officials, going the Iran apologists camp arguing such measures will hurt the Iranian people.

And these sanctions against Iran’s regime will continue, especially since Tehran believes any back-stepping will lead to devastating defeats in the very near future for its entire apparatus.

Quick glance

The US Treasury Department explains how all pre-JCPOA sanctions will return in two 90 and 180 day phases, while no new contracts will be permitted with Iran. The regime’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its extraterritorial unit, the Quds Force, are in the center of Washington’s crosshairs.

The very significant nature of these sanctions lies in the fact that Washington’s latest endeavor targets Iran’s financial sources, being the root of its domestic crackdown and foreign meddling.

Trump has tweeted how Iran’s military budget has interestingly skyrocketed by 40 percent following the JCPOA, while the accord claimed to seek peace and security across the region. There has been cooperation with the US to sanction an Iran-linked currency exchange network involved in transferring millions of dollars for the IRGC Quds Force.

Such entities, linked directly or indirectly to the IRGC, result in the utmost concerns for Washington as they facilitate the Iranian regime’s measures causing havoc across the Middle East. The US is now also calling on Qatar to end its support for Iran-associated militia groups.

The fact that Middle East countries are supporting Washington’s sanctions against Iran is quite imperative to counter Tehran’s measures to establish and take advantage of financial institutions for its malign activities across the region.

Europe

The Green Continent is not happy about US President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Iran accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Yet it doesn’t need rocket science to understand Europe would never make the strategic mistake of standing alongside the Iranian regime in the face of crippling US sanctions.

The Europeans will eventually find a method to work with their American allies, and rest assured Iran’s regime will be the party suffering from Europe distancing from its market. While there are tariff issues ongoing between Washington & Brussels, facts and numbers speak for themselves:

– US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell emphasizes, “Trump has said US sanctions will include important sections of Iran’s economy. German firms should lower their activities in Iran as soon as possible.”
– Italy’s Eni energy company announced it has no plans for new investments in Iran and from 2019 onward the firm will begin purchasing oil from other countries.
– Back in 2007, European Union/United States relations rendered $1.045 trillion in trade, while the EU’s trade with Iran reached a maximum of $15 billion. It’s not hard to do the math.

An Iranian holding US 100-dollar bills in a shopping center in Tehran on April 10, 2018. (AFP)

Iran’s view

Ahmad Khatami, this week’s Friday prayer imam in Tehran, made it clear how the Iranian regime has no hope in Europe.

“To say America no, the European Union yes goes against edification. We have to understand that the European Union has a bad track record on promises. They are no better than the US Plans were made for the EU to invest in Iran. Did they? They also cancelled a signed contract to sell us airplanes. The JCPOA didn’t save the country. In fact, sanctions upon sanctions are now imposed on us,” he said.

It is worth noting that Ahmad Khatami has very close relations to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Furthermore, the Tehran Friday prayer tribune has become a stage where Khamenei sends his representative to express his views about weekly developments. As a result, knowing Khamenei has the last word on all state matters, recent events are depicting a very dangerous slope for the Iranian regime’s future.

The next move

Knowing this enormous amount of international pressure cannot go unanswered, Iran first responded by launching around 20 rockets from IRGC-associated bases in Syria into the Golan Heights. This sparked a massive retaliation by the Israelis against a variety of IRGC targets throughout Syria, to which Tehran has remained silent on.

Tehran is now threatening to relaunch its nuclear fuel enrichment cycle and escalate military confrontation, all claims worth following to understand Iran’s future options in these troubling times. What goes less discussed are the Iranian regime’s domestic troubles. Protests by people from all walks of life continue to increase and the country’s currency, the rial, is nosediving.

On Saturday, the air travel currency cap was decreased from €10,000 to €5,000, and €2,000 for ground/sea travel.

All said and done, we will see in the coming weeks if Tehran exits the JCPOA and be bold enough to restart high level uranium enrichment. Trump has warned such steps by Iran would lead to “very severe consequences,” and history shows between bad and worse the Iranian regime will ultimately choose the bad option.

Options before Tehran trace a very gloomy future. This will play into the Iranian people’s interests in their struggle against the clerical regime’s four decades of oppression and devastation.

Iran exiles demand regime change as nuclear deadline looms

The international community is literally hanging in the balance over the upcoming May 12th Iran nuclear deal deadline. Advocates of the accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), continue to claim anything but the deal will lead to a new war in the Middle East.

The Iranian people, however, represented by thousands of exiles taking part in Saturday’s “Iran Freedom Convention” in Washington, DC, voiced their demand for regime change in their home country. Their call is coupled with significant support provided by a long slate of American dignitaries and elite Members of Congress.

This is the beginning of even more turbulent weeks and months for the Iranian regime.

Strong voices

The event was hosted by the Organization of Iranian-American Communities, a group supportive of the 2017-2018 protests and advocating regime change to realize freedom and democracy in Iran.

“The people of Iran are calling on the international community, in particular the West, to support their uprising for the overthrow of the Iranian regime,” said Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi in a message to the rally.

As President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Rajavi is a known voice of the Iranian people’s four-decade struggle against the ruling regime that many accuse of hijacking the 1979 revolution and now wreaking havoc inside the country and abroad.

“Since the JCPOA was forged, the Iranian Resistance stressed that the nuclear deal had provided ‘unwarranted concessions’ to the regime and any agreement must take into account Tehran’s meddling in the Middle East,” she explained, adding “the experience of the past three years has confirmed that the mullahs took advantage of the concessions in the JCPOA to suppress the people of Iran and massacre the people of Syria.”

Former New York City mayor and current Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani delivered a speech at the gathering to place his support behind for regime change, saying the American President is “as committed to regime change as we are.”

“I truly believe that we will have one of these conventions in Tehran… Protests are now all over Iran. 142 cities and growing… We have a real chance of escalating these protests,” he explained.

And in his remarks to reporters Giuliani explained regime change in Iran is “the only way to peace in the Middle East” and “more important than an Israeli-Palestinian deal.”

Giuliani also referred to his recent visit to Tirana, the capital of Albania, home to members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main entity member of the NCRI, praising their determination and calling for supporting their ongoing cause.

“Now that they don’t have to be worried about being slaughtered by the Iranians and the Iraqis, who have become a satellite of Iran, they can do a lot of productive things. They’ve now speeded up dramatically our ability to bring freedom to Iran,” he said.

And on the JCPOA’s future, Giuliani, known for his blatant stance against the accord, took a piece of paper in his hands and pretended to rip it apart.

Bipartisan initiative

Former US ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson also attended the event and signaled how NCRI supporters enjoy bipartisan backing amongst America’s political elite.

“The Iranian people want regime change… We are here to recognize there is a legitimate opposition, right here. The National Council of Resistance of Iran,” Richardson said his speech.

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle also sent messages of solidarity and underscored their ongoing support for the Iranian people’s struggle against the oppressive regime.

“Your message as well as of those in Iran is a message of peace. You want democracy in Iran, not war or repression,” said Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), debunking all claims raised by Iranian regime apologists against Tehran’s sole organized opposition that delivers a platform for Iran’s future.

“Know that you have friends and supporters in the US Congress, willing to work toward peace and stability in Iran,” says Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a senior figure amongst US Democrats.

“You are here and you continue to be the voice of Iranian people, together with the people marching in Iran,” said Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-FL) in her message, proving yet again how Tehran’s rulers do not enjoy popular support and the Iranian opposition in-exile is the true representative of the restive Iranian populace.

This major development, covered widely by the US media, comes as Congress continues to weigh a slate of different measures aimed at escalating pressures on Iran’s conglomerate of belligerencies, including its ballistic missiles program, meddling and support for terrorism in other countries, and a completely unnecessary nuclear program.

Turbulent week

Only days are left to the JCPOA deadline and all parties are preparing for a new era of Washington pulling out of a deal Trump views as highly flawed.

Europe is understandably striving to safeguard the accord while also adopting measures aimed at preserving its economic interests come the day the US pulls out of the JCPOA. It would be highly unlikely, and safe to say illogical, for Europe to stand alongside the Iranian regime and go against the US

As heated discussions continue and many in the anti-JCPOA camp demanding a return of crippling sanctions, Rajavi goes one step further and delivers a complimentary solution that will further cause major alarm soundings in Tehran:

“Recognizing the NCRI as the democratic alternative to the clerical regime.”

ANALYSIS: What lies ahead after Trump’s refusal to budge on Iran

We have recently witnessed an increasing effort by America’s European partners, specifically France and Germany, aimed at convincing US President Donald Trump to not abandon ship on the Iran nuclear deal.

Debate over the accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), there has been a neglect – playing into Tehran’s interests – of how the international community can bring the Iranian regime to its knees, benefiting the Iranian people significantly.

While pressuring Tehran over the JCPOA is necessary, the West can impose even further pressure on the oppressive regime by placing its crosshairs on the country’s political situation, its ailing economy and how to support the protesting Iranian population.

Last ditch effort

Visits payed to Washington by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have apparently made Trump all the more determined on his tough stance against Tehran.

Macron delivered a severe blow to the Iranian regime’s hopes of maybe Paris being able to convince Washington’s Trump through a slate of likely meaningless short-term concessions in order to maintain the current JCPOA framework intact.

With Macron saying he believes Trump will exit the JCPOA by his May 12th deadline, all hopes were lost in Tehran and the regime’s internal disputes flared.

This significant development left diminutive expectation from Merkel’s visit – described as cold – and may even bring an end to all speculations about a possible visit by UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

Iranian regime must be preparing for the worst in regards to the JCPOA, especially after France and the UK joined the US in a coalition to deliver a military strike – and a more important political message – in Syria to the Bashar Assad regime and his allies, Iran and Russia.

Weak bone

Iran’s regime has become an expert in boasting and exaggerating its influence across the region, all aimed at cloaking escalating crises back home.

In the past several weeks Iran’s currency, the rial, has witnessed a 25 percent value nosedive against the US dollar. Three weeks ago, Tehran fixed exchange rates at an official amount of 42,000 rials to the dollar, hoping to reign in the mayday plunge and control the market. Considering the current street value (black-market) rial price of 60,000 to the dollar, people are finding their means to purchase and the regime’s efforts are vividly failing.

Largely gone unnoticed by mainstream media is the continuous failure of one financial institution after another in Iran. Numerous such firms, all linked to the ruling regime and related entities, are refusing to return people’s savings, resulting in ongoing protests seen in cities such as Tehran, Mashhad, Ahvaz, Rasht and so forth.

The roots

Iran’s economic decline is rooted in two spectacles. Unbridled “corruption” and “mismanagement” are the groomed descriptions of plundering people’s belongings in broad daylight.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) now has a firm grip over key industries and businesses, including a long list of ports in Iran’s southern coastlines where billions of goods are imported without any taxes. This has resulted in a large number of production lines to fail.

Second, the Iranian regime’s forty year “Exporting Revolution” motto comes with a cost and the population has been paying the price. The fact that Bashar Assad remains in power in Syria, the Lebanese Hezbollah continues to wreak havoc and Houthi militias continue to make life a living hell in Yemen are all due to the financial support provided by Iran.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves to the crowd during his meeting with a group of labors in Tehran on April 30, 2018. (AP)

 

Poverty

As billions are poured out of the country, millions are bearing the burden inside Iran.

Around 50 million of Iran’s 80 million population is living under the poverty line, all due to incorrect economic policies, according to the Iranian regime’s own semi-official Tasnim news agency, affiliated to the IRGC Quds Force.

This poses a grave risk for the Iranian regime, especially considering the fact that the 2017/2018 uprising began with the lower class, having nothing to lose, revolting in over 140 cities across the country.

Signs indicate Iran has failed to remedy the causes of that uprising. With international isolation increasing – especially after a peace agreement in the Korean Peninsula – Tehran must be evaluating how the world will have high expectations from its regime to forgo its dangerous belligerences.

Failing to do so will have Iran’s poverty-stricken majority up and revolting in the not so distant future.

Damning effect

Adding insult to injury for Tehran are the Trump administration’s new wave of sanctions and the increasingly likely setting of Trump’s JCPOA departure. This initiative has the potential of reviving crippling sanctions.

The mere notion of such a development is already discouraging foreign investor from Iran and boosting uncertainty. Firms such as France’s Total and America’s Boeing will most likely think twice about investing in an insecure environment.

While Europe will obviously pursue its own interests and objectives in regards to sanctions against Iran, unilateral US sanctions are fully capable of having a damning effect on the Iranian regime and the IRGC. This would actually benefit Iran’s revolting populace.

The way forward

Should Trump live up to his promise of withdrawing from the JCPOA, the U.S. will enjoy an unprecedented opportunity to significantly escalate pressure on the Iranian regime. Considering decades of failed Western policies vis-à-vis Tehran, and the Iranian people suffering as a result, it is high time to adopt the right strategy.

Iran’s regime must be completely banned from using the global SWIFT transactions system, cripple the IRGC’s domestic crackdown and foreign war machine, and as explained in a recent Washington Postpiece, provide “political support for the regime’s opponents.”

The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) is clearly Iran’s main and only organized opposition entity advocating a firm policy against the Iranian regime for four decades. Following the recent uproar in protests, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei mentioned the PMOI/MEK, clearly saying their cases are different.

If Tehran is specifically addressing the main source of its concerns, shouldn’t the international community be investing on this very organization to bring about meaningful change benefiting the Iranian people, all nations across the Middle East and the world over?

ANALYSIS: The need to tackle Iran’s reactionary ideology in Africa

With a special focus on Syria and Iran’s role in this important country’s developments, it is worth noting Tehran also seeks to expand its influence in Africa.

Iran is spending billions in this continent, providing free social services through a vast network of hospitals and orphanages, running more than one hundred Islamic schools and seminaries, and giving bribes and “financial aid” to corrupt governments.

Exporting its reactionary ideology among Africa’s vast Muslim community, paving the path for terrorist activities, sending weapons to the Middle East, obtaining access to natural uranium, bypassing sanctions and arms/nuclear purchases comprise Tehran’s main objectives.

Strict action by the international community is needed to bring an end to such measures by Iran, especially when millions are living in poverty across the country.

Front cover

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tore the ribbons of a new hospital in Uganda back in November 2017, all built with Iranian money. An “Iran Clinic” has also become a renowned facility in Zimbabwe.

This is only a small portion of Tehran’s “support” for Africa, all funneled through the Iranian Red Crescent that runs clinics in 12 different countries.

Iran’s Africa initiative is not limited to medical services, as such measures provide a front cover to a variety of other activities considered vital and strategic for Tehran’s long-term goals.

‘Exporting Revolution’

One of Iran’s most important objectives in Africa is expanding its reactionary ideology among this continent’s millions of Muslims. Through such measures Tehran seeks to expand its influence in this branch of the world of Islam.

We must first understand such activities are rooted in the Iranian regime’s desperate need to maintain its rule and not a sign of its strength or expanding influence. Iran’s clerical rulers have a dwindling social base and such efforts are needed to lift their spirits in times of increasing crises across the board.

Africa is home to more than 1.2 billion people, half of which are Muslim. Most of this population lives in northern Africa, including Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. Yet considering the long experience the government of these countries have with radical Islam, they are continuously preventing Tehran’s activities on their soil.

As a result, Iran is focusing on small minority Muslim communities in Sub Saharan states. Their majority are Sunni and five to ten percent of them are Shiites. Iran’s Organization of Islamic Culture and Communications, affiliated to the Ministry of Guidance, is active through the regime’s embassies in various countries, constructing dozens of mosques and Islamic centers.

Tehran’s regime is also placing increasing effort to train African clerics and pro-Tehran ideologues in Islamic schools and seminaries in Iran and various African countries. The main campuses of Al Mustafa University, under the direct supervision of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and are in Qom, central Iran.

Al Mustafa has branches in more than 60 countries across the globe and is currently teaching over 40,000 foreign clerics. From 2007 to this day over 45,000 foreign students inside Iran and abroad have graduated from the University.

This entity has main branches in 17 African countries. This goes alongside secondary activities in 30 countries, providing a total of more than 100 schools and Islamic centers. Currently, more than 6,000 African clerical students are studying in Al Mustafa branches inside Iran and various African branches.

Some of these students, along with their families, enjoy free education, health insurance and financial support. The children of these cleric students go to special schools to learn the Iranian regime’s reactionary ideology at an early stage in life.

Trump has put Iran “on notice” over charges that Tehran violated a nuclear deal with the West by test-firing a ballistic missile. (Reuters)

Terrorism & arms transfers

Iran also considers Africa a springboard to send missiles and other arms to its affiliated terrorists groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine. The Iranian regime’s main ally in this regard was Sudan’s Omar Al Bashir who, in return for cash and financial aid, permitted Tehran to establish military bases and arms factories on his country’s soil.

This trend continued until October 2012 when Israeli warplanes attacked an important Iran-associated arms and missile factory in the city of Yarmouk. Al Bashir discontinued his relations with Iran in June 2016, allying with Saudi Arabia instead.

Djibouti, located west of Yemen and Saudi Arabia, was another Tehran ally. By spending tens of millions of dollars on the Djibouti Parliament building and a trade center, Iran received access to the country’s ports.

Through Djibouti Iran was able to provide arms for the Houthis in Yemen and Djibouti is also located very near Bab Al Mandab, a strategic waterway connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. Tehran used this route to send arms to the Gaza Strip and US or Israeli navies would routinely confiscate their ships and boats carrying such cargo. Djibouti, too, has become a Saudi ally in recent years and closed all bases affiliated to Tehran.

Nigerian authorities have repeatedly seized arms caches of Iran-made ordnance, preventing their transfer to Palestine and other African militia groups. African authorities have also consistently discovered, arrested and prosecuted members of terror cells associated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force.

On the other hand, the Lebanese Hezbollah is expanding its influence amongst Shiite migrants from the Middle East in various African countries. By launching dozens of companies and religious/trade institutions, Hezbollah has established an extensive money-laundering network in Africa, especially across the western regions of this continent.

This enterprise procures a large amount of financial revenue for Hezbollah and Iran’s terrorism. We should also remember how Obama’s appeasement provided cover for such activities. Hezbollah’s networks are also in collaboration with Latin American drug cartels, according to official US and European officials, using West African countries to whitewash their narcotics profits.

Nuclear program

Iran’s controversial nuclear program comes with its dilemmas for Tehran. Having access to natural uranium is one such issue considering its own resources being very dismal.

By providing financial concessions, Iran was able to invest in the uranium mines of Namibia and Malawi. The country of Niger also owns uranium mines, prompting former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to pay a visit during his term, followed by Zarif in 2017.

Iran also provided many financial concessions to Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, only to now face new obstacles after he was forced to step aside at the end of 2017.

Politics & sanctions

Gaining votes and political support from African nations in the United Nations and other international organizations is another parallel objective for Iran. Last year, Iranian Foreign Ministry officials emphasized on this very vital matter, especially during Zarif’s tour of the continent.

Bypassing sanctions is yet another important target in Iran’s warming relations with Africa. For example, Ghana was one of the main sources of gold for Tehran in 2011 and 2013 when the regime was laundering money by importing gold through Babak Zanjani, an oil tycoon, and Reza Zarrab, a notorious businessman.

Iran’s expanded relations with South Africa by providing a large portion of the IranCell consortium, a communications accord involving South Africa’s MTN, Iran’s Mostazafan Foundation and the Iran Electronic Industries Company, associated to Iran’s Defense Ministry.

South Africa voted in favor of Iran many times in the UN and different international circles. Documents and evidence also show Johannesburg promised to provide state-of-the-art radars, communications devices and advanced helicopter equipment for Iran.

By spending billions of dollars of the Iranian people’s money, Tehran’s regime now enjoys widespread influence in Africa. The management of more than 100 religious sanctuary and Islamic schools, attempting to obtain nuclear and military technology, bypassing sanctions, establishing terrorist networks and transferring arms to the Middle East, are all pieces of this puzzle.

None of these measures are in the Iranian people’s interest and Tehran seeks to expand its fundamentalism and obtain control over the Islamic World. As the West is coming to realize the necessity to end Iran’s malign influence in the Middle East, similar measures by Tehran in Africa demand our attention.

Iran’s ‘Moderate’ President Appoints Justice Minister Linked With Torture, Mass Executions

The Federalist

Who is Iran’s Alireza Avayi? Now Iran’s justice minister, he is also among those involved in imprisoning, torturing, and executing Iranians in the past 39 years.

It appears the “moderate reformist” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appointed Avayi to replace the defamed Mostafa Pourmohammadi and continue his crackdown policy in the face of an uprising nation.

Avayi’s recent speech at the United Nations Human Rights Council disgraced this world body and resulted in numerous protests. His appointment calls for a deep look into this individual’s past.

Prior to the clerical regime’s rule, a UNESCO institution was established in the city of Dezful to fight illiteracy and support children. It was later renamed the “Teachers’ Club.” Following the 1979 revolution, like many other centers the UNESCO building was used as a prison where young dissidents were held, tortured, and killed. In the early 1980s, the “UNESCO prison” had four rooms filled with 350 inmates.

As the regime escalated its crackdown, this facility saw the construction of six quarantine rooms, along with 40 other wards and cells. More cells were made available in newly constructed basement to prevent inmates from hearing the screams of those under torture.During the 1988 massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners, in which most of the victims were members and supporters of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), Avayi was promoted to the Death Commission in Dezful. Shocking stories of Dezful’s “UNESCO Prison” remained hidden for years until Mohammad Reza Ashough, a former inmate able to escape this jail, shed light on its atrocities.

Based on Ashoogh’s reports, the Death Commission in charge of the UNESCO prison consisted of Mohammad Hossein Ahmadi, a cleric; Shamsedin Kazemi, an interrogator; Alireza Avayi, a public prosecutor; and an Intelligence Ministry representative, along with Hardavane, the prison warden, and a number of guards.

From 1981 to 1983, nearly all executions were carried out in the prison courtyard, where prisoners were tied to trees and executed by firing squads. Ashough’s reports indicate teenagers such as Abdulreza Zanguyee, 15, Hamid Asekh, 15, and Gholamreza Golalzadeh, 16, were among those executed.

The mass grave of political prisoners executed in Ahvaz, found in a barren land located three kilometres from this city’s Behesht Abad cemetery, is yet another crime on Avayi’s report card. A dirt road from this cemetery was used by the families of the executed political prisoners to visit this site.

The land used to be full of date trees. Those executed in the years of 1982 and 1983 are said to be buried in this area, and this trend continued until the 1988 massacre when all victims in Ahvaz were mass buried at this site. At the time, Ahvaz judiciary officials immediately made arrangements for the mass graves to be covered by cement, aiming to prevent any possible discovery of the victims’ bodies.

As the Tehran Province judiciary chief in 2009, Avayi played an important role in launching kangaroo courts seeking death sentences and long prison terms for those arrested during the nationwide uprising.

On 9 July 2009, the police arrested a large number of protesters outside Tehran University. Under orders of Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran’s public prosecutor, and his deputies Hassan Zare Dehnavi and Ali Akbar Heidari-Far, they were transferred to the Kahrizak detention center. Three of these individuals, Mohsen Rouholamini, Amir Javadifar, and Mohammad Kamrani were murdered under torture.

Exactly a year later, in an interview with Keyhan daily, known as the mouthpiece of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Avayi emphasized the method used in Kahrizak dossier was “correct.”

From 10 October 2011 to this day, the European Union has blacklisted Avayi for his effective role in the crackdown imposed on the Iranian people. The EU statement describes Avayi as responsible for arbitrary arrests, violating detainees’ rights, increasing the number of executions, and other human rights violations.

Despite all this, the “moderate reformist” Rouhani appointed Avayi as chairman of the President’s Special Inspector’s Office in 2016 and Minister of Justice in 2017. Instead of an invitation to speak at the UNHRC in Geneva, Avayi must face justice for his role in the Iranian regime’s ongoing crimes.

According to Agence France Press, “As Avaie arrived in Switzerland Monday, a Swiss lawyer filed a complaint on behalf of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, asking the Swiss attorney general to prosecute the Iranian minister for crimes against humanity.”

This is a litmus test for the European Union to live up to its initial blacklisting and take on meaningful measures for Tehran to pay for its human rights violations. Only then can the EU claim to be standing alongside the Iranian people’s will for a better future.