Signs of change in Iraq?

Iraqi security forces raided a central command compound of an Iran-backed proxy group in southern Baghdad late on Thursday, June 25, detaining more than a dozen members of the group, government officials and paramilitary sources told Reuters. Other reports are indicating 23 individuals were arrested.

Iraqi security sources are saying those arrested not only played major roles in attacks on the U.S. Embassy and sites where U.S. bases are stationed/housed, they were also involved in planning for future attacks of similar nature.

The move is being described as the most brazen measure by Iraqi forces against a militia group backed heavily by Tehran in years and specifically targeted the Kataib Hezbollah, which U.S. officials accuse of firing rockets at bases hosting U.S. troops and other facilities in Iraq.

Kataib Hezbollah is the strong and most organized militia group affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force in Iraq. Their former leader was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, commander of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi, or the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), a paramilitary umbrella grouping heavily backed by and under the influence of Iran’s regime.

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Iraqi security forces arresting members of Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah in southern Baghdad, Iraq – June 25, 2020

Reports indicate four Kataib Hezbollah senior commanders and 16 members, alongside at three one senior IRGC Quds Force were detained, according to an Iraqi official talking to the media on the condition of anonymity. There are also unconfirmed reports that all individuals detained in this raid have been transferred into the custody of U.S. forces. Iraqi security forces also confiscated a number of rocket launchers from the site, according to Reuters.

Spokesperson for the international coalition forces in Iraq, however, has denied any role in the raid targeting Kataib Hezbollah members in Baghdad’s Al-Doura district.

The Iraqi Joint Operations Command issued a statement saying the individuals were detained based on arrest warrants. Following the raid there were rumors on social media about the release of the detained Kataib Hezbollah and IRGC Quds Force members. None were confirmed and it appears pro-Iran users on various platforms had launched a desperate face-saving initiative considering the major embarrassment and realizing the consequences of the raid.

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Iraqi security forces conducting the Thursday night raid targeting the Kataib Hezbollah site in southern Baghdad, Iraq – June 25, 2020

Directly targeting Iran’s interests

The Iraqi military said the raid, carried out in the middle of the night by the U.S.-trained Counter Terrorism Service, was directed at militiamen suspected of firing rockets at foreign embassies in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone and its international airport.

Iraqi authorities were questioning the individuals detained during the raid, the statement adds. The incident took place after a number of rocket attacks near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and other U.S. military sites in recent weeks.

Before the military issued its statement about the raid, Iraqi government officials and paramilitary sources had given contradicting versions of what happened.

The paramilitary sources and one government official claimed those held were sent to the security branch of the PMF. Such statements further indicate Tehran’s need to save face following the raid.

A second government official, however, flatly denied any such transfer and said the militiamen were still in the custody of other security services. One PMF source initially said 19 men had been detained. A government official told Reuters it was 23.

After the operation, unidentified gunmen entered Baghdad’s Green Zone and drove vehicles towards government buildings and a headquarters of Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service, according to the military, as PMF officials demanded the release of the detained militiamen.

More footage of intimidating measures that were not fruitful at all for Iran’s regime and their Iraqi proxies.

Early Saturday morning local time there were reports of gunfire near the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad. Knowledge of Tehran’s tactics say these were measures aimed at intimidating the Iraqi government to release the detained individuals. Signs indicate the days of these measures being of any use are over.

Adding insult to injury

On Saturday, June 27, Iraqi media began reporting of significant changes in the Iraqi security hierarchy. Falih Fayyadh, the country’s National Security Advisor and PMF chief, was sacked from his government post and replaced by former defense minister Khaled al-Obeidi, a member of Iraq’s Sunni minority.

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Former Iraqi defense minister and now National Security Advisor Khaled al-Obeidi

It is worth noting that Fayyadh has very strong ties with Iran’s regime. There are further claims that Fayyadh has also been sacked from his role as the PMF chief. Don’t be surprised if he ends up in Iran in the coming days or weeks in fear of being apprehended by Iraqi or U.S. forces.

Former Iraqi national security advisor Falih Fayyadh seen with Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif (Top), Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad (Bottom Left), Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (Bottom Center), and former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki (Bottom Right) who is described as one of Iran’s main allies in Iraq.

The message

This raid also signals that new Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, whose government is currently in talks with Washington over Iraq’s security, political and economic ties with the U.S., intends to take serious action based on pledges made to rein in militia groups that have attacked U.S. installations.

Iran-backed parties and factions have shown rising hostility to Kadhimi, who is due to travel to the United States in coming weeks as part of talks over Iraq’s ties with Washington, according to Reuters.

Most importantly, this is a strong message to the mullahs’ regime in Tehran considering the billions they have poured into Iraq, especially after the 2003 war. Moreover, this further indicates Iran is losing the influence and grip it enjoyed on its western neighbor prior to the killing of Qasem Soleimani by the U.S. military on January 3 of this year.

This latest development indicates a strong initiative aimed at preventing Iran from taking advantage of the strategic talks between Baghdad and Washington, especially with only months left to the U.S. presidential election.

The balance of power in the region is shifting against Iran. This can also be seen in recent anti-Tehran demonstrations held in Lebanon and Syria.

To make matters even worse for Iran, crippling sanctions are leaving the regime economically bankrupt, thus preventing the IRGC from pouring cash into its proxies for further malign initiatives across the Middle East. And even more important for Tehran is the impact of these developments inside Iran. People across the Iran will realize the regime is weakened, further encouraging them to launch uprisings similar to that of November 2019.

Developments during the past few months are further indicating the importance of Qasem Soleimani’s elimination in weakening the IRGC Quds Force and Iran’s regime. This shows the downgraded status of regime Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the IRGC inside Iran.

Iran’s regional policies of warmongering and terrorism are tools used to strengthen the regime’s position inside Iran. When Tehran’s influence in the region is downgraded and weakened significantly, the regime’s crackdown machine inside the country also suffers a major blow. This is a nightmare scenario for the mullahs’ ruling Iran.

For now, the Iraqi people, such as those protesters who remain in Baghdad’s iconic Tahrir Square, are celebrating the recent turn of events. And the Iranian people are watching very closely.

Originally published in The Medium

Fake news MSM supporting the regime in Iran

By Heshmat Alavi

March 26, 2020—You know the regime in Iran is desperate when a variety of MSM outlets, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today rush to the mullahs’ support with articles by their editorial boards calling on the Trump administration to lift sanctions. USA TODAY falls as low as providing a platform for Majid Takht Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, while describing him as an “Opinion contributor.”

Let’s begin by taking a look at The New York Times piece.

“Demonstrating compassion in times of crisis is good foreign policy,” NYT argues. When correctly translated into plain English, this means let’s return to the Obama-style full-throttle appeasement of this regime and provide it with financial incentives with the knowledge that the money will never be used to support the Iranian people.

NYT says: “Iran has appealed to the International Monetary Fund for $5 billion in emergency funding and a long list of essential equipment…”

Of course, NYT will not tell its readers that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sits on a vast economic empire worth at least $95 billion dollars, according to Reuters. Back in April 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad estimated that Khamenei owns assets worth about $200 billion.

If Iran needs “emergency funding” to provide for “a long list of essential equipment,” why does it not simply tap into Khamenei’s own billions? And where is the guarantee that Tehran will not be spending this money to fuel its malign purposes?

FDD
Iran’s regime has been known to prop the murders Assad killing machine in Syria along with numerous other terrorist militia extremist groups checkered across the Middle East (Credit: FDD)

Back in 2016 former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry said they realized after the 2015 nuclear deal that some of the generated money would be used by Iran’s mullahs to fuel their terrorist groups. Of course, if Kerry were to honest, he would have said all of that money would be used to fuel Iran’s malign objectives, such as boosting its domestic crackdown machine, supporting terrorism, further developing ballistic missiles, and continuing its clandestine drive to obtain nuclear weapons.

Furthermore, back in July 2019, the chief of staff of Iran’s president himself wrote a letter saying that one billion euros ($1.12 billion) in hard currency allocated for importing medicines and essential goods “has disappeared.” And NYT expect us to trust this regime with a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund?

It is also worth noting that Iranian regime officials stole more than $1 billion in humanitarian funds meant to be used to help the country’s people fight the spread of coronavirus, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Furthermore, despite the coronavirus crisis in Iran, Tehran-backed militia groups in Iraq are continuing their attacks against U.S. forces. Of course, NYT would never mention that and would never call on the mullahs’ regime to allocate the funds used by these terrorist groups to provide for the Iranian people.

NYT goes on to cite an October 2019 report by the Human Rights Watch to further its argument about U.S. sanctions constraining the Iranian regime’s ability “to finance humanitarian imports, including medicines.” What NYT will not tell you is that the HRW report was a parroting of Tehran’s lies and talking points already easily debunked.

Furthermore, the report was compiled by Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, who has recently joined the Quincy Institute, a think tank co-founded by Trita Parsi, the founder of NIAC, Iran’s DC-based lobby group. Parsi has always been fond of Whitson’s work as she runs Tehran’s talking points and diverts attention away from the mullahs’ atrocious human rights violations. Whitson’s recent controversial remarks also caused quite a stir that forced her into an embarrassing apology.

NYT argues that “the United States should be at the forefront of offering what help it can.” What NYT will not tell its readers that the U.S. did offer help and Tehran has ruled out help from “foreign forces” in dealing with the coronavirus epidemic. Tehran even kicked out a team of Médecins Sans Frontières, but NYT won’t tell you that either.

Why would Tehran kick out a team of foreign doctors seeking to provide help to its COVID-19 crisis?

Simple. The mullahs cannot risk foreign doctors inside Iran seeing the truth of the Iranian people left without adequate support and realizing the astronomical death toll and number of cases. It would reveal to the world that Tehran is lying about its death toll, the number of cases and how it is not providing any decent support for the 80+ millions of Iranians during this crisis.

NYT further argues “American generosity might be the best way of persuading Iran to release American and other foreign detainees.” Such a measure would justify Iran’s illegal apprehension and hostage taking of American and other foreign nationals, encouraging the mullahs to continue with this practice to gain further incentives in the future.

But of course, there is nothing wrong with that the in the eyes of the NYT editorial board. Iran should be held accountable for taking American and other foreign nationals as hostages and using them as foreign policy bargaining chips. The NYT editorial board should be ashamed of such hideous remarks.

In its argument, NYT cites a Foreign Policy magazine piece by Robert Malley and Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group. Malley is a former Obama administration official pushing for a return to appeasing the mullahs’ regime. Vaez is a known Iranian regime apologist parroting Tehran’s talking points whenever possible.

NYT will not tell you that Vaez has very close ties to senior Iranian regime leadership. This is him with former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who was very close to the mullahs’ regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini.

Ali Vaez with Rafsanjani
Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group with former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (now dead)

There is good reason why NYT will continue pushing the Iranian regime’s talking points. This thread sheds light on NYT’s direct ties to Tehran and a state-run outlet of the mullahs.

WaPo

The Washington Post also published an editorial piece calling on the U.S. to lift its sanctions on Iran. The post claims the United States is being blamed by ordinary Iranians for making it more difficult for authorities to combat the epidemic. Yet the Post provides no source for such a claim.

The Post goes on to cite an NYT piece written by Narges Bajoghli of Johns Hopkins University and Mahsa Rouhi of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, two known Iran apologists/lobbyists that have been criticized for pushing Tehran’s talking points. Of course, WaPo will not mention anything about Bajoghli and Rouhi’s ties to Tehran’s lobby.

WaPo argues for the U.S. to greenlight the IMF providing a $5 billion loan to Iran, citing the fact that the “regime has already paroled one of the U.S. citizens it had been holding in its prisons.” Following NYT’s footsteps, WaPo is also justifying Tehran’s practice of taking American and foreign nationals hostage. This is truly shameful for any media outlet.

In another low even for WaPo, the article claims U.S. President Trump launched a confrontation with the Iranian regime, and never mentions the fact that Tehran declared war on the U.S. over 40 years ago, ever since its paramilitary forces climbed up the U.S. Embassy walls in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days back in 1979.

USA TODAY

As mentioned before, the USA TODAY actually provided a platform for Majid Takht Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, while describing him as an “Opinion contributor.” Ravanchi used this opportunity to push Tehran’s lies, claiming “Iran’s ability to deal with [coronavirus] in an effective manner is limited due to the unjust U.S. sanctions imposed on the Iranian people.”

Ravanchi also claims: “The U.S. maintains that humanitarian goods are exempt from its extra-territorial sanctions. However, that is not the reality. The financial channel required for facilitating transactions, even for humanitarian commodities, is not available…”

This is a lie. The U.S. Treasury Department specifically indicates: “The United States maintains broad exceptions and authorizations for the sale of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, and medical devices to Iran by U.S. and non-U.S. persons, provided such transactions do not involve persons designated in connection with Iran’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), or Iran’s support for international terrorism.”

Ravanchi claims Iran “is actually less equipped to contain Covid-19 than others.”

This is also a lie. Iran’s own state-run English media outlets are claiming “Iran exports medical equipment to Europe” and “Iran exports medical equipment to 55 countries worldwide.”

Some 105 medical equipment produced by 23 Iranian companies are exported to 55 countries across the world, Reza Masaeli, an advisor to the health minister said.

“Currently, a total of 280,000 medical equipment is produced in the country,” Fars quoted Masaeli as saying.

While the pro-appeasement MSM outlets seek a soft approach vis-à-vis Tehran and a return to the Obama years of full-throttle appeasement of the mullahs, this is exactly the time to further pressures on the regime and break its back for good. As an Iranian, I know for certain that such a policy would weaken the mullahs’ regime and be in favor of the Iranian people.

Iran’s mullahs are obviously desperate. The very fact that such a choir of MSM articles are calling for sanctions to be lifted under the bogus pretexts of providing medical supplies is a clear sign that Mr. Trump’s maximum pressure campaign is working. Even a small fracture in this initiative, that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said three years of hard work have gone into, would be a desperately needed propaganda victory for Tehran. And as always, MSM is ready to pounce on anything anti-Trump and willing to publish anything of any nature, without providing their readers the truth.

Iran’s back-to-back defeats in Iraq

Following the continuous and escalating uprising by the Iraqi people against the corrupt political apparatus linked to the mullahs’ regime in Iran, Tehran suffered yet another decisive blow recently.

Based on the Iranian regime’s blueprints prepared by none other than Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani, Asaad Al-Eidani, the governor of Basrah Province in southern Iraq was designated as the candidate for the prime ministry post. He enjoyed the support of Iran-linked figures such as Badr Corps chief Hadi Al-Ameri, former prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki and Hashd al-Shaabi chief Falih Fayyadh.

Eidani himself is loathed in Basrah Province for ordering security forces to open fire on demonstrators in the unrest that has engulfed Iraq in the past few months. Al-Ameri, Al-Maliki and Fayyadh are all known for their loyalty to Iran and very close association to Soleimani.

Badr Corps chief Hadi Al-Ameri and IRGC Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani in Iraq
Badr Corps chief Hadi Al-Ameri and IRGC Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani in Iraq

In response, the Iraqi people refused to back down and launched a new wave protests in cities checkered across southern Iraq. In Nasiriyah, youths were seen torching the governorate office. In Diwaniyah, protesters targeted sites affiliated to groups affiliated to the mullahs’ regime. In Kut, demonstrators were heard chanting, “We don’t want the Iranian Asaad!”

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n the cities of Baghdad, Basrah, Nasiriyah, Diwaniyah, Karbala and Um Al Qasr, protesting youth took the streets and blocked major pathways in a sign of their protests. All protests and demonstrations were specifically describing Asaad as a corrupt and murderous candidate of the mullahs’ regime in Iraq.

As Iraqi demonstrators indicated their resilience and refusal to back down, Tehran’s plot to impose Al-Eidani, their preferred candidate, to the Iraqi people failed miserably. This new development became yet another victory for the Iraqi people’s uprising that has continued since October 25 to this day.

Such a significant setback for Iran in Iraq comes at a time that Tehran’s regime has been going the distance in its efforts seeking to silence the Iraqi people’s uprising and pursuing its own interests. This is especially important for Iran as U.S. sanctions and the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policy is drying their resources and Tehran needs Iraq as a bridge to decrease these hardships to some extent.

For example, director of customs in Kermanshah Province, in western Iran bordering Iraq, says exports to their western neighbor have decreased 20 to 30 percent during the past nine months alone.

Strategic setbacks

The Iraqi people and especially the courageous youth who refuse to evacuate the protest squares, have delivered six strategic setbacks for the mullahs’ regime in Iraq.

1) Forcing the resignation of Adel Abdul-Mahdi from the prime ministry post despite Iran’s support.

2) Continuing the uprising and launching general strikes resulting in the support of Iraq’s senior religious figures.

3) Defeating all of Tehran’s measures seeking religious legitimacy through the official position of Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani against Abdul-Mahdi’s government.

4) Armed tribes entering the city of Nasiriyah and taking control over sites of Iran-backed groups. This defeated the bloody crackdown launched in this city and catapulted the Iraqi uprising into a new phase.

5) The failure of security forces in launching a bloody attack targeting Baghdad’s squares and Sinak Bridge. This plot backfired and resulted in hundreds of thousands of Iraqis rushing to the protest sites and joining the uprising.

6) Iran-linked candidates for the prime ministry post being turned down by the Iraqi people one after another. Asaad Al-Eidani is the latest example.

Iran and the point of no return

These setbacks for Iran’s strategic interests in Iran highlight the following:

  1. a) The Iraqi people have learned that their first and foremost enemy is the regime ruling Iran. This is especially significant as Tehran loses its claimed “support” among Shiites of southern Iraq.
  2. b) The Iraqi people have drawn a line in the sand and refuse to cooperate with any entity linked to Iran’s regime.
  3. c) The demands raised by the Iraqi people are very principled: evicting the Iranian regime from their country and toppling the entire political establishment installed in Iraq by Tehran’s mullahs.
  4. d) The Iranian regime has weakened more than ever before in Iraq, especially with protests flaring in Lebanon, Iraq and the November uprising delivering a major blow to its already weak core inside Iran.

In a retaliation very common from Iran’s regime when cornered, Tehran-backed militia groups in Iraq stand accused of launching a rocket attack on December 27 targeting the K1 military base in northern Iraq. This latest provocative measure left one American civilian contractor dead and several U.S. and Iraqi soldiers wounded.

On December 11, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had warned America would respond decisively if such attacks led to the loss of American lives. What the future holds will be interesting.

Final thoughts

It is also worth noting that the basis of all these setbacks for the mullahs’ regime is the fact that the Iraqi people have come to realize Tehran’s malign plots. During the past 16 years the Iraqi people have witnessed the Iranian regime’s crimes and plundering across their country.

Iran’s regime is now witnessing with its very eyes how its “strategic depth” in Iraq is falling apart. These back to back defeats for its various plots are a signal that measures inside Iran against a very turbulent nation, described as a powder keg, will also end in failure.

Parallel to crippling U.S. sanctions, crises simmering against the mullahs’ interests in Lebanon, Iraq and most importantly inside Iran are all signs of a regime realizing the end is very near.

What does Iran think about ongoing protests in Iraq?

It goes without saying that the regime in Iran is deeply concerned over the events unfolding in Iraq. This massive popular uprising has not been quelled despite a deadly crackdown that has rendered an overall death toll of nearly 250 in the past month along with several thousands injured.

The Iraqi people, however, are setting fire to offices and headquarters of groups and other entities affiliated to Iran. This includes centers involved in plundering the Iraqi people and corrupt ministries, all leading to calls for the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdil al-Mahdi to resign. Iran’s state TV is running various shows providing the regime’s analysis on Iraq. “The scope of this conspiracy is quite enormous,” one state-linked analyst said.

“The volume of these protests and the expansion of this movement, parallel to the behaviors witnessed in attacks targeting government centers, senior officials, private property, assassinating certain individuals, torching banks, storming and torching governors’ offices, provincial headquarters, ministries, stealing from banks and chants calling for the government to resign, the constitution to be revoked and the government to be annulled… What next? I believe these are far beyond legitimate demands… All these events are taking place between Baghdad and Basra (southern Iraq). All these events, deaths and injuries are between Baghdad and Basra. This means nine Shiite provinces. Do they want to launch a Shiite-Shiite war? It appears the scope of this conspiracy is massive,” the report said.

On Sunday, October 27, in another state TV program focusing on Iraq, concerns were voiced over the protesters’ targeting Iran-backed militia groups. “There are now voices heard among the people calling for the official Iraqi government to resign.

“Iraqi protesters initially called for improvements in public services, employment and a concentrated effort against corruption. As footage was posted online showing direct fire from unknown areas targeting the people, these mercenaries recently assassinated two senior members of the Asaeb movement… In this attack, after unidentified men shot Osam al-Aliyawi, they followed him and his brother, martyring them in a hospital,” the report adds.

It is worth noting that none of the claims raised by the Iranian regime state TV program have been proven and the very tone used is quite obvious. Phrases such as “mercenaries,” “movement” and “martyring” all indicate a certain language aiming to place the blame on demonstrators, while relieving the Iran-backed government and militia units involved in the crackdown of any responsibility.

Sa’dollah Zarei, a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and a figure close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, shed further light on Tehran’s concerns over its affiliated sites and groups being targeted central and southern Iraq. This clearly indicates the Iraqi people’s utter hatred of the IRGC Quds Force and its malign role in Iraq.

“Any event taking place anywhere can be inspirational for another area. It would be quite natural for us to say that Lebanon was inspired by Iraq, and Iraq can be inspired from another location. In Lebanon, we are witnessing a number of irregular signs. All in all, we may be witnessing this story for weeks and months to come,” he added.

“The situation in Iraq is very similar to the society in Lebanon. In these demonstrations we are witnessing attacks on various Shiite groups, meaning attacks on Asaeb Ahl al-Haq, their members being killed. Around 10 to 15 of them have been martyred. In recent development there was an attack targeting the al-Hekma party, their offices and various centers. They attacked Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF) offices and all of a sudden we witness attacks targeting Asaeb Ahl al-Haq, and ten individuals being viciously murdered,” Zarei continued.

Interesting that Asaeb Ahl al-Haq, the al-Hekma and Hashd al-Shaabi groups are all funded, armed, trained and fully supported by Iran’s regime.

It is worth noting that the number provided by Zarei and the descriptions of these deaths cannot be confirmed. All in all, these remarks made by an IRGC member and heard from reports aired on state TV resemble the general state of escalating concern for Iran’s mullahs.

After years of investing billions in Iraq, the mullahs in Tehran are witnessing a loss of vital influence in this country. Iraq has for years been a significant route to bypass U.S. sanctions and losing influence in this country has the potential of having deep impact inside Iran, and especially Tehran.

The meaning of sanctioning Iran’s Central Bank

On Friday, September 20, the U.S. Treasury Department upgraded the Trump administration’s maximum pressure policy targeting the regime in Iran by sanctioning the mullahs’ Central Bank. The regime’s National Development Fund and the Etemad Tejarate Pars, also sanctioned recently, have been used to cloak financial transfers for Iran’s Ministry of Defense Armed Forces Logistics’ military purchases.

These new measures are the U.S.’ first response to attacks targeting Saudi oil facilities on September 14. Despite the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen claiming responsibility, all signs and evidence indicate Iran’s regime playing a direct role in this attack and the use of Iranian weaponry, including cruise missiles and drones.

The latest sanctions are a continuation of a focus shift by the Treasury and State departments from the diplomatic quarrel over the 2015 nuclear deal – known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – and nuclear sanctions, to a policy pinpointing on the regime’s official entities, support for global terrorism and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

Back in April, the State Department designated the IRGC as “Foreign Terrorist Organization,” making any and all economic and logistical transactions with the IRGC sanctionable.

As Washington focuses on drying up Iran’s resources used to fund terrorism, the three latest entities slapped with sanctions provides a new stigma deterring any future financing initiatives with the Iranian regime.

Iran will most definitely use hidden overseas accounts to access newly sanctioned international accounts, allowing intelligence communities to gain more knowledge and render future actions to further deny Tehran of terror-supporting funds.

Furthermore, even though former Obama officials advise Iran’s regime to wait out U.S. President Donald Trump in hopes of a Democrat winning the 2020 elections, the latest round of sanctions will make reversing Trump’s Iran policy and returning to Obama-style engagement with Iran far more difficult, if not impossible.

In response to Washington’s new measures, Iran apologists and lobbyists, and those favoring Obama-style appeasement vis-à-vis Iran’s regime already have and will continue to argue that the U.S. administration has exhausted all sanctions options when it comes to Tehran’s regime. Experts on the other side of the aisle in this argument say there remains a long slate of measures available for the U.S. government to deny the mullahs’ regime the ability to overtly and covertly fund terrorist groups.

Those countries and voices claiming Iran was not behind the attacks on Saudi oil fields and new sanctions being meaningless are either unwilling to accept responsibility of any action, or merely apologist/lobbyists pushing Tehran’s narrative in mainstream media.

As a reminder, the Central Bank of Iran has been sanctioned especially for its role in financing terrorist groups, i.e. Hezbollah in Lebanon. Back in 2011, when Congress slapped sanctions on this bank, the multiple grounds stated were terrorism, money laundering and financing nuclear/missile development.

Parallel to his appeasement of Tehran’s regime, Obama classified these measures as a “nuclear sanction” to lift all sanctions from the Central Bank of Iran under the JCPOA framework. The latest measures, based specifically on terrorism, would make any decision to removing such sanctions as bending over backwards in the face of Iran’s unbridled and inarguable support for terrorism.

Alongside the Central Bank, these new sanctions also target Iran’s NDF, an entity Tehran has repeatedly diverted money from to specifically finance military operations.

In January 2018, media reports showed the regime authorizing $4 billion withdrawal from the NDF, allocating $2.5 billion to its defense sector, and the remainder to Iran’s state-run broadcaster – used to spread the regime’s propaganda – and various development projects. In January 2019, the Iranian regime authorized another $1.5 billion withdrawal to finance their military ambitions.

Senior Iranian officials are directing NDF’s decision, with a ten-member board of trustees including Iran’s president, attorney general and oil minister, along with the Central Bank governor. The Trump administration should make it crystal clear that their apparatus will target any entity in Iran involved in funding the mullahs’ bellicosity. The NDF board trustees and the executive board should also be sanctioned to cut off a vital regime lifeline.

Another talking point used by Iran pundits and apologists/lobbyists is the accusation of anyone supporting sanctions against Iran’s regime is “defending Saudi Arabia.” The new U.S. sanctions are, in fact, a clear response to a brash attack by the Iranian regime endangering global energy supplies.

Those sitting on the throne in Tehran and the IRGC only understand the language of force and firmness. Iran is carefully weighing the international community’s measures in response to its latest episode of malevolence and terrorism.

The facts are clear. Iran’s Central Bank and such entities fuel the regime’s terrorism using money that belongs to the Iranian people. As mentioned before, there is a wide range of measures that can add to the crippling effect of Trump’s maximum pressure. The more the mullahs are disabled, the more the Iranian people will be able to escalate their protests and ultimately bring an end to this ruthless regime.

Attacks targeting Iran’s IRGC and Quds Force proxies in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon

Israeli warplanes are targeting sites in Syria on a weekly basis, including last Saturday. Israel is saying these attacks are aimed at preventing Iran’s blueprints of using drones to launch attacks into Israeli territory.

On Sunday, August 25, the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah said Tehran’s Shiite proxy groups in Iraq, known as the Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF/PMU), were targeted in airstrikes that left at least one commander killed and another severely injured.

Following the United States’ exit from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the rate of these attacks and threats, especially this last weekend from unmanned aircrafts, have increased by Tehran and U.S. allies across the region.

According to an Israeli military spokesperson, airstrikes by Israeli warplanes targeting Iran-backed forces near Damascus took place while these units were preparing armed to target areas inside Israel.

Operatives of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force and Tehran-backed Shiite militias were targeted in this strike. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this country’s military neutralized Iran’s plots, adding the Iranian regime has no impunity anywhere and Israeli forces will take action against Iran’s aggressions everywhere.

Although the Syrian military claims many of the missiles and rockets fired by Israel were destroyed prior to impact, Israel says it has carried out hundreds of attacks inside Syria, targeting sites associated to the regime in Iran.

The objectives include preventing the transfer of advanced Iranian weaponry to the Lebanese Hezbollah. On Thursday, August 22, Netanyahu said his country played a role in a series of recent explosions targeting weapons depots linked to the Iran-backed proxy forces in Iraq. On Wednesday, August 21, a group of Shiite militias in Iraq accused the U.S. of permitting these attacks. The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, however, denies these claims.

Following an escalation of airstrikes through warplanes, missiles and drones targeting positions of Iran’s IRGC and Quds Force-linked forces in Syria and Iraq, the regime in Iran has remained silent or flatly denied such attacks. Tehran is extremely concerned about such attacks impacting its forces’ already low morale. In parallel fashion, however, the regime’s state-TV broadcast threatening remarks made by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrollah, IRGC Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani and officials of Iran-backed terrorist groups in Iraq.

Iran’s state TV – August 26, 2019

“The Zionist regime, following its failure in Sunday nights’ attacks in Lebanon and Syria, launched new raids early this morning targeting border areas of these two countries. Hezbollah’s Secretary General, in response to these attacks, warned that the era of hit-and-run attacks have come to an end and the Israelis should await our answer. If Israel kills our Lebanese Hezbollah brothers, we will respond to them in Lebanon, and not in the Shebaa Farms. (Also spelled Sheba’a Farms, this is a small strip of disputed land at the intersection of the Lebanese-Syrian border and the Golan Heights. The territory is about 11 kilometers long and 2.5 kilometers wide.)

Anchorman: “IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani issued a strong warning in Twitter responding to the Zionist regime’s latest attacks in Syria and Lebanon. Soleimani referred to Israel’s latest airstrikes in Syria and Lebanon and wrote, ‘Most certainly, these crazy operations will be the last efforts of the Zionist regime.’”

“The largest faction in the Iraqi Parliament issued a statement describing the Zionist regime’s attacks against the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) as a declaration of war against the Iraq’s nation and sovereignty.

“The al-Fath faction considers it its right to respond to these insults to Iraq’s dignity. We call on the Iraqi government and Parliament to end the U.S. presence in Iraqi airspace. The Americans, who claim to protect Iraq’s airspace, have become a cover for airstrikes against Iraqi sovereignty.”

IRGC in Lebanon

Following these series of attacks against Iran-backed militias in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, Orient Net, associated to the Syrian opposition cited a Lebanese security source saying Soleimani and IRGC chief Hossein Salami entered Lebanon on Saturday, August 23. Both senior IRGC officials were escorted by a large IRGC and Lebanese Hezbollah security convoy, according to Orient’s source.

Nasrollah held a large secret meeting with Salami and Suleimani to coordinate security matters, the source said. The two senior IRGC officials also paid visits to warehouses and factories of heavy weaponry that Iran has launched for Hezbollah in the town of Naameh south of Beirut.

Naameh, Lebanon

The deep impact of Zarif’s sanctioning

Remarks made by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at a press conference on August 5, followed by remarks by the regime’s government spokesman Ali Rabie shed interesting light into the mullahs’ inner apparatus. Their words also raise interesting questions:

-Why are Iranian officials and state media going the distance in praising Zarif these days?

-What role does Zarif play in the mullahs’ regime?

-And why are Iranian officials making such a fuss about Zarif’s sanctioning?

Zarif’s main argument

Zarif is accusing the U.S. of not being honest: Washington claims to seek negotiations while they sanction both Zarif – the regime’s main negotiator – and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the figure who calls all the shots in Tehran.

On August 6, when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visits the Foreign Ministry and meets with senior officials, he refers to this very issue. “You say you want to negotiate. You know our constitution. We cannot enter negotiations without the Supreme Leader’s notice. Then why did you sanction Khamenei?”

In other words, both Zarif and Rouhani attempted to portray the U.S. as the party to blame for closing the path to talks.

Expiration date

It is interesting that on the one hand Khamenei describes any talks and negotiations as a “deadly poison,” while Rouhani uses the word “negotiations” a whopping 40 times in his recent remarks.

Of course, Rouhani does understand that any negotiations in the current circumstances, with the U.S. placing 12 conditions before Tehran, are tantamount to the mullahs’ digging their own graves. In fact, despite using the word negotiations 40 times in his remarks, Rouhani does not forget to emphasize to the U.S., “We have no negotiations with you!”

“You are aware of our constitution. You know that fundamental decisions are made by [Khamenei], including the subject of negotiations. You know that the Foreign Minister is the administrative arm in such talks. Therefore, when you sanction both figures, there’s no longer any room for negotiations,” he continued.

This praising of Zarif, alongside Zarif’s own remarks, are aimed at cloaking the undeniable reality that following Zarif’s sanctioning, the entire Iranian regime has received a significant blow and suffered an unprecedented setback. Not only is it now revealed that the U.S. has no hopes in this or that faction of the regime, sanctioning the foreign minister discredits the regime’s diplomatic apparatus across the globe.

As a result, Zarif’s expiration date has expired and if Khamenei has it in his power, he should think about replacing him as he is no longer useful for the regime. One can also argue Zarif could be counterproductive, a constantly being a reminder of sanctioned figure representing the mullahs’ regime.

The main crisis now engulfing the regime, however, is crippling economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. that are targeting the regime and Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). What Tehran needs now is a lifeline from this economic suffocation and Zarif can no longer be of any use in this regard.

Internal turmoil

U.S. sanctions against the regime in Iran were reinstated in November of last year. Tehran was counting on eight oil sanctions exemptions and exporting 1.1 million barrels of oil per day to remain intact. This loophole was plugged in May of this year when all oil waivers were brought to an end. A short while later Iran’s exports dropped to 500,000 bpd, then to 300,000 bpd, and now reports indicate Iran’s vital oil exports have dwindled down to 100,000 bpd.

The status quo, parallel to a highly restive society, poses a very lethal threat to the mullahs’ regime. There is a high potential of a new uprising mirroring that of December 2017 / January 2018, when people in over 140 cities across Iran rose up against the entire regime apparatus. Experts inside Iran have said time and again that a repeat of such a scenario would be far more devastating for the ruling elite and the IRGC.

A short while ago Rouhani said the government employs around five million people. The country has 15 million workers and the government can only provide for a 20 percent raise in wages, he added. All the while, inflation at its lowest is calculated to be over 40 percent and food prices are witnessing an inflation of over 80 percent!

In such circumstances, the mullahs’ regime is facing an army of ordinary people suffering from poverty resulting from destructive policies implemented by the mullahs’ regime. To say it mildly, the Iranian society can be described as a powder keg with a very short and lighted fuse.

Dark shadow

While all media coverage maybe focused on Iran’s malign activities across the region, the main concern for the regime is none other than the Iranian people themselves. This is a force to be reckoned with and the mullahs understand very well the dark shadow of this ever-growing threat.

Zarif, with his smiles and devious language, is a pawn constantly used to gain time in the face of such escalating turmoil. The West had provided a desperately needed lifeline to the regime vis-à-vis their appeasement approach. This left the Iranian people, and Middle East nations, at the mullahs’ mercy for far too long.

The Trump administration, however, has set aside this harmful mentality and weak set of policies. The latest of such measures is sanctioning Zarif as the regime’s “chief apologist” and “terrorist enabler.”

At a first glance this maybe a hit at Zarif. Looking deeper, we realize the regime as a whole is in the cross hairs, leaving the mullahs extremely weakened. And the Iranian people posing a deadly threat to the entire regime apparatus.

Iran, fake news and U.S. sanctions – The truth of “medicine shortages”

A very common talking point parroted repeatedly by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif and his network of apologists/lobbyists across the United Sanctions and Europe is that U.S. sanctions are to blame for a shortage of medicine in Iran.

Mohammad Nasiri of the Associated Press has recently published a piece in this regard, joining Tehran’s chorus of running fake news in mainstream media.

Nasiri claims, “… many are blaming President Donald Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign for the staggering prices and shortages.” Of course, as common practice by all Tehran apologists/lobbyist, he fails to provide any source to back his usage of the word “many.”

Nasiri writes, “The nuclear deal had raised expectations of a better life for many Iranians, free of the chokehold of international sanctions.” And yet, one wonders why he refuses to explain the reasons behind Iran’s regime being the target of international sanctions. The same regime that is known as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism – and suffering from sanctions as a result – is also the main enemy of the Iranian people themselves. Nevertheless, Nasiri could care less and his main objective is to portray a dove image of Tehran’s mullahs.

Nasiri goes on to quote an Iranian minister (very reliable source!).

“Last week, Health Minister Saeed Namaki said budget cuts because of the drop in crude exports have dramatically affected his department. The U.S. sanctions have targeted all classes of Iranians, he added.”

What Nasiri refuses to report are interesting comments made recently by a senior Hamas official visiting Iran, emphasizing how Iran’s regime, despite the sanctions, is ready to provide any aid to this terrorist group. Saleh al-Aruri described the recent Hamas delegation’s visit to Tehran as strategic and historic.

As Nasiri continues to parrot Zarif’s talking points, he also refuses to address the subject of vast and institutionalized corruption in Iran’s regime.

Just recently, the chief of staff of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in letter that one billion euros ($1.12 billion) in hard currency, allocated for importing medicines & essential goods, is unaccounted for, or has literally “disappeared.”

Again, Nasiri could care less.

The writer of this Associated Press piece further shows his loyalty to Zarif’s talking points by saying “the state provides health care for all.” If that is actually the case, why don’t Nasiri and AP address the subject of so many signs across the walls of Iran’s major cities put up by people offering to sell their kidneys and other body parts to pay off debts, many being medical debts?

iran-offers to sell kidneys and other body parts
Signs of people offering to sell their kidneys and other body parts are becoming quite normal in cities across Iran

Medicine is “out of reach for many in a country where the average monthly salary is equivalent to about $450,” Nasiri writes. Of course, the issue that he refuses to touch on is the question that why should a country of 80 million, with the world’s second largest natural gas and fourth largest crude oil reserves, be doing so poorly?

The answer is simple and Nasiri will not elaborate at all. Iran’s regime is known to spend billions of dollars propping the Assad war machine in Syria, Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, extremist militia groups in Iraq, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, and the Houthis proxy forces in Yemen, among other such bad actors across the region and beyond.

FDD
Iran’s regime is known as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and described as the international central bank of terrorism.

Furthermore, Iran has spent hundreds of billions of dollars in pursuit of a completely unnecessary nuclear program – claiming to be civilian in nature – and constantly developing and proliferating ballistic missiles. Again, why would Iran’s mullahs, while rich in such vast amounts of energy deposits, go through all this hardship of international isolation for a “civilian” nuclear program? And leave the Iranian people deprived and now in lack of medicine, as Nasiri claims?

The answer again is simple. The regime ruling Iran cares nothing about the Iranian people and it is clearly seeking to obtain nuclear weapons. It is absolutely childish to claim Tehran’s regime does not seek nuclear weapons based on the a supposed fatwa (decree) issued by the mullahs’ Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banning nuclear weapons. This regime has lied for forty years and not seeking nuclear weapons is among its utmost preposterous claims to this day.

Nasiri’s claims are pushed further by Iran’s main lobbyists in the U.S. This specifically includes Trita Parsi, founder of NIAC, the disgraced Tehran lobby group based in Washington, DC, and current NIAC President Jamal Abdi.

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Saman Tabasinejad of the Iranian Canadian Congress, NIAC’s sister lobby group in Canada, is another Tehran lobbyist retweeting Abdi’s tweet in this regard.

While Iran’s regime and its apologists/lobbyists claim US sanctions prevent the import of medicine into Iran, the mullahs’ own state-run outlets boast about the regime’s readiness to send medicine/medical equipment to Venezuela.

“The head of Food and Drug Administration of the Islamic Republic of Iran (FDA) says that Iran is ready to export medicine to Venezuela… Mehdi Pirsali expressed Iran’s readiness to export medicine, medical equipment, and transfer knowledge and technology to Venezuela within the framework of the previously signed memorandum of understanding,” according to Mehr news agency, known to be affiliated to the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

In October, an Iranian official said, “200 tons of medicine & medical supplies will be sent to [Iraq], including 400 types of medicine and 80 types of medical equipment,” according to the regime’s officials IRNA news agency.

In August 2018, three months after the U.S. exited the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran’s apologists/lobbyists claim now prevents the import of medicine into Iran, the regime’s state-run ILNA news agency reported, “Iran exports $25 million of medicine & equipment to Iraq each year and has the capacity of up to $200 million.”

Iran’s Red Crescent has also it is “necessary” to provide Iranian Red Crescent aid to the people in Yemen. Therefore, Iran does have enough money for its own people’s medical needs. It just chooses to spend it elsewhere.

To make things even more interesting, Iran’s regime is allowing Shabnam Nematzadeh, the daughter of a regime insider, run an import/export pharmaceutical company. One report says, “… Shabnam Nematzadeh, the daughter of the former Mines and Industry Minister Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh in Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet, was found to be hoarding a stock of medication worth 50 billion rials (approx. $500,000).”

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Iran’s regime is also ready and quite capable in providing medicine to Hezbollah terrorists.

“Let me be clear. For years, all of our necessities, from medicine to our missiles, all have been provided by Iran. Iran helps Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, resistance groups. Iran helped in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain …,” says Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.

To conclude, such lies that U.S. sanctions are depriving the Iranian people access to medicine is nothing but fabrications of Tehran’s fake news/propaganda apparatus.

Moreover, why do reporters such as Mohammad Nasiri of AP resort to printing such lies? The answer is quite simple. If AP fails to publish such reports favorable of the mullahs ruling Iran, their man in Tehran, Nasiri, will be kicked out.

This is another reason why Fake News is the enemy of the people. The Associated Press is willing to publish lies and fake news to please the murderous mullahs’ regime in Tehran in order to have their “reporter” remain in Tehran.

Shame.

Iran deeply concerned over upcoming Arab conferences

Three fundamental domestic and global elements are placing the regime ruling Iran on the edge of a cliff. However, a conference of Arab countries scheduled for May 30 in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, has resulted in Tehran scrambling senior figures across the Middle East calling for talks and accelerating their tactic of deceptive measures. Resorting to these well-known maneuvers, Tehran is desperately attempting to prevent Arab countries from launching a firm policy vis-à-vis its apparatus.

Firstly, sanctions are beginning to bite. The U.S. bringing an end to oil sanctions waivers issued for China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey and imposing new sanctions on Tehran are beginning to suffocate the mullahs.

“The fact that an Iranian ship could not dock in foreign ports for 10 days to unload is unprecedented in Iranian history. The U.S. State Department is constantly in contact with that small country to not allow our ship to dock. This is unprecedented in the past 40 years. The fact that an oil tanker shipping Iran’s oil is followed by satellites during its entire voyage, registering its number, constantly knowing where it is, who is buying, who is selling… All this is unprecedented in the past 40 years,” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on May 25.

Secondly, the presence of U.S. military forces in the region that has literally terrified the mullahs regime. Especially after enjoying eight years of unbridled appeasement from the Obama administration, senior officials in Tehran are understanding that their meddling and warmongering in the Middle East will no longer go unanswered.

During the past three decades, Tehran has never paid any price for its interference in regional countries, literally being the main benefactor of three wars in 1991, 2001 and 2003.

The 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq opened the gates of this country for Iran and the mullahs’ regime occupied Iraq at almost no cost, using this important country as a springboard for their continued meddling in Syria and other countries. Currently, Tehran is deeply concerned that this period of taking utter advantage of regional developments is coming to an end.

Thirdly, the active presence of the Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its cornerstone member, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), inside the country and abroad. The mullahs’ regime has been involved in launching massive apprehension campaigns, issuing execution verdicts for political prisoners, resorting to threats and installing fear among the society. However, these measures have not rendered any results and protests are increasing across Iran.

Looking forward, Arab delegates participating in the Mecca conference should adopt a firm position against the regime of Iran to deliver a strong response to Tehran’s recent measures. “No thank you, Mr. Javad Zarif, Iran’s proposal is unacceptable,” was the title of a piece published in the UAE’s Gulf News responding to Zarif’s ridiculous suggestion of signing a “non-aggression pact” with Iran’s neighbors. It is quite obvious that Tehran has been involved in aggressive measures against its neighbors for the past 40 years. Therefore, the mullahs are in no such position to seek the signing of a “non-aggression pact.”

Iran’s regime should not have the opportunity to resort to such tactics, thus gaining breathing room and further extending its lifespan. Tehran has a history of using such opportunities to once again relaunch its warmongering efforts and exporting terrorism across the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia will be hosting three important conferences of Arab and Islamic countries. Escalating tensions in the region and Iran’s threats are announced to be among the main subjects of discussion. The Saudi King has officially invited the Emir of Qatar to take part in the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit.

Following the May 30 conference, members of the Arab League will be holding a session and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will be convening. These three conferences being held in the final days of the month of Ramadan in the city of Mecca are aimed at establishing a large alliance against Iran, according to Agence France Presse. Increasing tension among the U.S. and Iran has led to concerns among regional countries over a possible military confrontation.

There are no reports about the possibility of Iran being invited or not to the OIC session.

While U.S. President Donald Trump has reiterated his willingness to talk with the regime ruling Iran, the mullahs view any talks with “The Great Satan” as a major step back from their 40-year long positions. Such a development will result in the regime weakening and losing its grip on the country with each passing day.

As a result, continuing its warmongering in the region and going back on the 2015 nuclear deal will result in further strong measures by the U.S. and most likely other countries across the globe. On the other hand, bending the knee to negotiations with the U.S. also comes with major calamities.

This predicament has left the mullahs’ regime in a lose-lose situation, with time running out fast as sanctions continue to bite. As a recent Wall Street Journal piece put it, “Amid Tensions, Iran’s Crude Buyers Jump Ship.”

Iran: IRGC brigadier general, 122 other members arrested for espionage

On May 5, Iranian Intelligence Minister Seyed Mahmoud Alavi, along with a number of his deputies, held a meeting with Major General Hossein Salami, head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), reports indicate. The meeting lasted over seven hours, according to sources.

The session, held at the request of regime’s Intelligence Minister, was also attended by his deputies in anti-terrorism affairs, international affairs, anti-espionage, social affairs and technical matters.

Along with Salami, the IRGC was also represented by head of the IRGC Intelligence Organization, deputy in strategic intelligence, intelligence/operational deputy of the IRGC chief of staff, intelligence deputy of Fort Tharallah and head of the IRGC counterintelligence branch.

Fort Tharallah is considered one of the IRGC’s main sites and is missioned to monitor/control the security affairs of Tehran, capital of Iran, and other cities in the critical Tehran Province.

The Intelligence Ministry deputies placed forward before the IRGC delegation a large number of documents and evidence regarding a case of espionage inside the IRGC, along with a list of IRGC personnel. The list contained the names of an IRGC brigadier general along with 122 other senior IRGC officers involved in espionage against the Corps. Following extensive talks, IRGC chief Hossein Salami ordered the arrest of the 123 named IRGC officers.

On May 8, the IRGC-affilated Fars news agency reported:

“Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards, issued an order appointing Saeed Soleimani as head of the IRGC Inspections Branch… In a farewell ceremony, appreciation and gratitude were extended to Brigadier General Rabie for his service in this post.”

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Former IRGC brigadier general Rabie

Rabie is the brigadier general whose name topped the list of 123 senior IRGC officers presented by the regime’s Intelligence Ministry to the IRGC intelligence hierarchy. The IRGC Counterintelligence Branch immediately arrested Rabie following the abovementioned farewell ceremony.

The 122 senior IRGC officers, mainly consisting of the IRGC’s chain of command in the cities of Tehran, Ahvaz, Mashhad, Sari and Sanandaj, were arrested in simultaneous raids. Interrogations of the arrested IRGC officers began in the early hours following their apprehension.

It is worth noting that dozens of websites affiliated to Iran’s regime have run identical, word-by-word reports denying the arrest of 123 senior IRGC officers on espionage charges. This further proves the correct nature of these events and the regime’s desperate effort to deny all such matters.

Just recently, IRGC chief Hossein Salami appointed Hossein Taeb, a mullah, as head of IRGC intelligence. Taeb is accused by Iranian dissidents for being involved in the murder of three Iranian Christian priests and bombing a Muslim shrine in the city of Mashhad, both incidents taking place back in the 90s. The regime went on to blame opposition groups for these attacks, only for these accusations to be debunked down the road and all fingers again pointing at the mullahs’ regime.

Following the U.S. State Department’s unprecedented decision to designate the IRGC as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” (FTO), the Corps has witnessed its former chief replaced with his deputy and now 123 senior officers arrested for espionage. More IRGC “reshuffling” and further tensions are expected as U.S. President Donald Trump continues his “maximum pressure” policy vis-à-vis the mullahs’ regime in Iran.