ANALYSIS: Why Iran returned empty-handed from Vienna

Al Arabiya

The Joint Commission tasked to review the Iran nuclear deal ended Friday with no tangible results, Europe providing a low-temperature package to Tehran, and the regime’s mission returning him disappointed.

The joint statement issued afterwards presents nearly nothing new on the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif became a no-show for the concluding press conference.

These are signs of the rules of play changing, leaving the Iranian regime facing a very stiff uphill battle of stalling to kick back the inevitable.

The meeting

Prior to leaving for Vienna, French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian specifically warned Tehran should stop issuing threats to violate its JCPOA commitments. Iran must end these remarks aimed at preventing us from finding a solution, he added, going on to say he doubts any economic package can be provided to Tehran prior to November.

The Vienna session was chaired by European Union foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, China, France, Germany and Russia took part in talks with Zarif.

Considering the fact that details regarding the issues discussed inside the session are obviously unavailable, signs from the meeting participants outside of their talks are quite telling.

All Mogherini could deliver at the finale press conference were pledges of further talks to cover economic issues and that all parties should seek methods to save the deal. Further sessions between the foreign ministers will be held if deemed necessary, she added, showing signs of futility.

Adding to Zarif not attending this press conference, the fact that Mogherini only read a written statement and refused to answer any questions from reporters are also quite notable.

Compiling Iran’s miseries even further is how the Vienna talks were overshadowed by the arrest of an Iranian-Belgian couple reportedly dispatched by Tehran to bomb the June 30th Iranian opposition convention near Paris.

Iran’s complaints

As the Joint Commission came to an end, Zarif was seen resorting to a known tactic of the Iranian regime.

“Up to now no one has been able to resolve the U.S. exiting the JCPOA and this issue remains unsettled. Therefore, we have the right to take action,” he said.

This may seem a significant threat to the naked eye and those not familiar with Tehran’s playbook. To provide further understanding, quite considerable are his follow-up remarks making a U-turn from Tehran’s previous position of Europe’s suggestions not fitting Iran’s demands.

“The European package appears practical. We have postponed our measures in respect to requests placed by other JCPOA members, in order to become certain that our interests are preserved. We have always remained loyal to our commitments and we are so now,” he added.

Back in Iran, however, the Tasnim news agency, known to be affiliated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force, published Zarif’s remarks, delivering an interesting twist to this scenario.

“Zarif had specifically said prior to the Joint Commission meeting that we expect European countries to provide verifiable and applicable commitments, instead of confusing and deceiving pledges,” the piece read in part.

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani gives a speech in the city of Tabriz in the northwestern East-Azerbaijan province. (AFP)

Wake-up call

It is understanding that all parties enter talks seeking their own interests. The final statements, however, and how senior officials express their thoughts are the source of supplemental discussions and analysis.

During the negotiations Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described the European package as “disappointing.” This is a very telling insignia of how Tehran is further understanding the times have changed completely.

Unlike eights years of Obama’s full-fledged appeasement, allowing all parties take advantage and leaving the Iranian people to suffer, the firm blueprint now adopted by Washington is making Europe think twice and leaving the Iranian regime standing in the rain.

Rouhani’s own words explain it all. “Unfortunately, the proposed package lacked any operational solution and specific method to continue our collaboration. This was merely a series of general commitments in the ranks of previous European Union statements… Following the US’ JCPOA exit, we have been experiencing economic, banking and oil dilemmas, alongside various companies becoming doubtful regarding their investments in Iran and continuing their activities with our country,” he said.

US sanctions

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also known to have said her government will not be able to fully compensate for the impact of US sanctions.

And when German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says “we are facing difficult circumstances,” how can we assume any country would risk their economic connections with the United States for the sake of Iran during such circumstances?

The Europeans are understanding how serious Washington is in its intention of escalating this economic war against the Iranian regime, especially with the objective of zeroing Tehran’s oil exports.

Furthermore, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo emphasizing sanctions on North Korea will continue until Pyongyang’s denuclearization is completely verified, rest assured Iran and all its counterparts are getting the message.

The road ahead will only become steeper for Tehran and domestically, the Iranian people will most definitely increase their demands and nationwide protests for democratic regime change.

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Opposition convention provides ‘the alternative’ solutions for Iran

Al Arabiya

The Iranian Diaspora held a massive rally on Saturday in Paris where a long slate of international political figures from both sides of the Atlantic, the Middle East and beyond joined a huge crowd to voice their support for regime change in Iran.

The rally was spearheaded by the Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its pillar member, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavidelivered a speech highlighting how the Iranian regime is engulfed in unprecedented internal crises with protests mushrooming out of control across Iran.

On the very day of this convention, videos on social media showed intense clashes and skirmishes between protesters demanding drinking water and authorities opening fire on demonstrators in the city of Khorramshahr in southwest Iran. Up to four protesters were reportedly killed.

On an international scale, the clerics are witnessing an end to the appeasement policy in the US with Barack Obama no longer in office. This has left the Iranian regime vulnerable without their safeguard shield, especially after US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the Iran nuclear deal and sanctions are returning at a pace very alarming for Tehran.

“The overthrow of this regime inevitably requires the willingness to pay the price, requires honesty and sacrifice; requires an organization and a strong political alternative, and requires resistance units and a liberation army,” Rajavi said, emphasizing on the unique characteristic her movement enjoys, and others claiming to support regime change lack.

Global voice

“This government is about to collapse, and this is the time to turn on the pressure,” said Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump advisor and attorney, at the rally.

He went on to express his support of Trump reinstalling sanctions on Iran and emphasize, “Trump doesn’t turn his back on freedom fighters.” This sending a clear message to the brave protesters inside Iran seeking to realize regime change.

Saturday’s podium also witnessed former US House Speaker and informal Trump adviser Newt Gingrich, former FBI Director Louis Freeh, former US ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, five British MPs, a former French prime minister and former foreign minister.

Speculations are growing of Trump seeking to force the Iranian regime into a new round of negotiations based on his terms, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo placing 12 highly costing demands before Tehran. Speakers on Saturday were also heard voicing different opinions.

Maryam Rajavi delivers a speech during their gathering in Villepinte on June 30, 2018. (Reuters)

 

“Our goal is very simple. It’s not to start negotiating. Our goal is to have a free and democratic Iran that respects the rights of every individual,” Gingrich said.

“Today, you have an administration which understand reality, which is determined to stop the dictatorship, which is increasing the sanctions, and which I predict every single month will get tougher and tougher,” he added.

Former Senator Robert Torricelli, an influential voice from the Democratic Party, indicated how the position on Iran’s regime is a completely bipartisan matter in the US.

Salman al-Ansari, founder and President of the Saudi American Public Relations Committee, also voiced his support for the Iranian people’s struggle.

Looking forward

With Iran suffering from escalating poverty, unemployment, shanty dwelling, severe water shortage and environmental crises, the regime’s future seems further bleak under this mountain of calamities.

As internal political disputes increase and with knowledge regarding this regime’s nature of plundering the country’s wealth, it has become quite obvious the days of these clerical rulers are numbered.

The Iranian people have the right to regain their sovereignty after this current regime hijacked the 1979 revolution and open the gates of hell to this country, and the entire Middle East throughout the past 40 years.

Adding insult to injury for the Iranian people, this regime has benefitted from decades of appeasement by western governments seeking their own economic interests. The Iranian opposition have alongside the people of this country been the main victims of this policy.

Today, however, with the Iranian people rising for their rights throughout the country, and the mullahs no longer having the support they enjoyed during the Obama years, the end of their rule, and freedom and democracy being established in this country is becoming an ever more realistic scenario.

Following the regime’s inevitable downfall, the first order of duty will be transferring power to the people. NCRI President Maryam Rajavi, known for her well-supported ten-point plan for Iran’s future, underscored yet again on this necessity for a free and democratic Iran of tomorrow.

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.

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?

Storm brewing in Iran over nuclear deal, terror ties and domestic unrest

Recent developments are indicating a tough road ahead for Iran in what is promising to be a tumultuous summer.

U.S. President Donald Trump sacked his top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, on March 13, citing specifically differences regarding the Iran nuclear deal.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, nominated to lead the State Department, favors a firm approach confronting Tehran’s regional policy and is a major critic of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the Iran accord is formally known.

Former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, a strong critic of Tehran, is now Trump’s National Security Advisor.

Prior to this, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Iran on March 5, expressing concerns over Tehran’s ballistic missile program and Middle East belligerence. This portrayed the JCPOA’s fragile nature and Tehran’s failure to use Europe as a shield against the Trump administration.

Couple all this with escalating Iranian protests across the country, and the regime’s recent intention of filtering Telegram, a popular messaging app used by over 40 million people, and you have a recipe for disaster from Tehran’s perspective.

Prelude

Paving the path for Iran’s miseries, the Financial Action Task Force issued its latest report in February placing a June ultimatum for Tehran to input significant changes in its banking system and end financial relations with terrorist groups through nine specific procedures.

As Iran remains blacklisted in the financial market, investors are very hesitant over launching any meaningful project with the clerical regime.

Iran’s economic bankruptcy, parallel to widespread protests by people from all walks of life that continue as we speak, provide a very clear understanding about Tehran’s chief crises.

Double impact

The groundworks of such circumstances are vivid in two very specific JCPOA weak points, from Iran’s perspective. While Europe lifted many sanctions, similar steps imposed by the U.S. remained considering how Congress disagreed with the Obama administration’s engagement with Tehran.

Obama used his executive authority to suspend nuclear sanctions, while non-nuclear sanctions imposed by the U.S., blocking America’s financial system to Iran. As a result, European banks are unable to get involved in dollar transactions with Iran.

This, again, leaves the JCPOA very fragile and allows Trump to annul the entire accord while financial & non-nuclear sanctions remain intact.

Underestimation

Failing to comprehend the impact, Iran was boasting about Western companies lining up for business. This honeymoon ended quickly as Tehran came to understand its grave underestimation.

Former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry began receiving calls from his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, seeking measures to set aside banking sanctions.

In March 2016, Mohammad Nahavandian, then chief of staff of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, travelled to London warning of unaccountable results if the JCPOA fails to resolve Tehran’s economic dilemmas. Maybe he was referring to the Iranian uprising where the poor flooded the streets and raised demands for regime change.

Sweeping changes

Iran’s economic predicaments continue as we speak, especially with the Obama years ending and the Trump administration executing sweeping changes in U.S. policy vis-à-vis Iran. Banks and companies across the globe, especially Europe, are showing cold feet in engaging with this regime.

Speaking at London’s Chatham House back in February, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi vividly voiced his regime’s concerns, complaining how Tehran is not fully benefiting from the JCPOA and describing the atmosphere as “destructive” resulting from Washington’s “confusion” regarding the nuclear pact’s future.

Iran also miscalculated the JCPOA as a green light by the international community to deploy the Lebanese Hezbollah and dozens of other Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force-linked militia to not only massacre the Syrian people, but enjoy military presence in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

From 2015 onward Tehran is significantly developing its ballistic missile arsenal, providing such an inventory to the Houthis in Yemen to target Saudi Arabia. All the while, Iranian officials continue boasting about Hezbollah’s missile capabilities.

In response, the U.S. Congress is continuously adopting sanctions targeting the Iranian regime’s belligerence, especially blacklisting the IRGC.

Another expressively sweeping change that proved Iran’s calculations completely came as Europe began distancing from Tehran. Iran’s JCPOA dream story is culminating, realizing Europe will never choose business with this regime over its strategic economic relations with the U.S.

European officials went to great lengths to have Iran curb its ballistic missile program and regional meddling in the face of Trump’s threat to exit the JCPOA.

This resulted in Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other senior officials adopting strong positions against France, expressing their discontent of Europe siding with the U.S.

“If we have maintained our missile range to 2,000 kilometers, it is not due to technological limitations… we will increase our missile reach to the extent which we feel threatened,” said IRGC deputy Hossein Salami in a state TV interview on November 26.

Ultimate concern

While international isolation creates mounting quandaries for Iran, domestic unrest has forever been Tehran’s ultimate concern. To add insult to injury, Iran’s ongoing protests and uprising is under the navigation of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). This coalition has for four decades been the main target of the Iranian regime’s onslaught.

Professor Ivan Sascha Sheehan in his recent article in The Hill says:

“Tehran’s violent reaction to peaceful protests demonstrates that the language of strength is the only language the regime understands. Even under current president Hassan Rouhani’s so-called ‘moderate’ leadership, the Islamic Republic continues its illicit activities to every extent it is permitted to do so.”

This is not a call to war. Quite the contrary. The world should acknowledge Iran’s current wars in Syria and Yemen, conveniently gone neglected by mainstream media and appeasement supporters.

The international community can best support the Iranian people’s uprising by crippling the regime’s entities, such as the Central Bank and IRGC. This goes analogous to recognizing the Iranian people’s organized resistance for regime change, symbolized in the PMOI/MEK.

An Iranian expression translate into “April showers bring May flowers.”

This spring is already promising a stormy summer for the Iranian regime and a year of historical developments for the Iranian people.

Why is Iran’s currency nosediving?

From late July of last year Iran’s currency, the rial, has lost 40 percent of its value against the United States dollar. This is considered a national catastrophe by many analysts.

What is the reason and roots of this significant crisis?

We are hearing a variety of answers these days, including:

  • Unknown fate of the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)
  • S. President Donald Trump appointing former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton as his new National Security Advisor after sacking General H.R. McMaster
  • Deliberate increasing of the U.S. dollar value by the government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to provide for a portion of the regime’s budget deficit
  • Banks going bankrupt as people are losing their trust

All these are correct. A closer look, however, leads us to this conclusion that these developments have formulated during the past two years. All the while, the rial’s nosedive began immediately after the mullahs’ regime took the reigns of power in 1979.

1980 – U.S. dollar = 100 rials

1986 – U.S. dollar = 610 rials

1995 – U.S. dollar = 2630 rials

November 2011 – U.S. dollar = 10,600 rials

February 2012 – U.S. dollar = 26,050 rials

Conclusion: The events of the past two years cannot be the root cause of the rial’s nosedive.

Iran’s corrupt infrastructure and economic foundations are the main origin of this epidemy. A country’s economic structure is based on a specific infrastructure.

For example:

Germany – Heavy industry

Turkey – Tourism and industry (in 2005 Turkey was listed as among the world’s 20 industrial countries)

Japan – Electronics and auto manufacturing

South Korea – Auto manufacturing and …

What is the Iranian regime’s economy founded upon?

Industry? Tourism? Auto manufacturing? Agriculture? …

None of the above. The Iranian regime’s economic foundation is extremely corrupt, heavily based on massive smuggling and large-scale imports. This is blocking “all paths for any efforts to heal Iran’s economy,” according to Radio France Internationale.

One side-effect of an ill-founded economic infrastructure resembles in the price of a country’s currency against the U.S. dollar. For the past 39 years of the mullahs’ rule in Iran, we are continuously witnessing the rial nosediving, people losing their purchasing power, increasing poverty and …

Of course, political developments, such as the unknown future of the JCPOA and … will render spontaneous falls in the rial’s value. However, we must keep in mind the root reason, being Iran’s deeply corrupt economic structure (or lack thereof).

The Iranian regime, in nature, belongs to a time-period dating back to the Middle Ages, leaving it without any capacity to generate necessary changes.