Airstrike or bombing: What happened at Iran’s Natanz nuclear site?

The July 2 explosion at the Natanz nuclear site in central Iran targeting an advance centrifuge assembly lab has everyone talking. There has been speculation and experts are weighing the possibility of an industrial incident, a cyber-attack, sabotage with explosives and even an airstrike.

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The possibility of an airstrike with manned aircraft, such as F-16s or F-35s, is next to none. Why? Other than the long range and refueling demands, the amount of damage caused is not worth the risk. Such an airstrike would only be allowed if it renders massive damage and a long-term strategic setback.

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Why? Because such an operation cannot be repeated and bears the risks of pilots being shot down and arrested. Therefore, taking such a risk would not be logical for striking just one building of a single nuclear site, as important as it may be.

If the United States and/or Israel decided to launch manned aircraft airstrikes targeting Iran’s nuclear program, they would deliver a wide-range blow aimed at forcing Iran to halt its ambitions in its entirety, and thus bend the knee before their demands. And rest assured Iran would feel the need to respond through conventional and non-conventional means.

While the Iranian regime is denying any airstrikes, the possibility of using drones for such a surgical attack is not unlikely. On August 25, 2014, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency, affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force, reported that the IRGC shot down an Israeli Elbit Hermes 450 spy drone near Natanz.

To save face regarding such a brazen infiltration into Iranian airspace, state media focused on beating their chests about the regime’s “air defense capabilities.” No one ever thought to answer why was Israel able to penetrate so far into Iran’s airspace? And if so, couldn’t that or a larger, more advanced drone launch missile(s) targeting sensitive sites deep inside Iran?

In contrast to the recent explosion at a military complex in Khojir, east of Tehran, a normal industrial incident in Natanz is also unlikely. Due to various reasons, including massive investing and constant advice provided by experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Natanz site is most likely one of Iran’s most advanced industrial complexes when it comes to health, safety and environmental considerations.

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The destroyed building that exploded was used for the mechanic assembly of centrifuges, meaning there were no special explosive material inside. Furthermore, a night shift is unlikely in such a building. Images indicate a pressure wave (explosion) inside the building.

The possibility of sabotage through an unauthorized entrance into the site (special forces) is near to none. The possibility of people with access inside to secretly transfer explosives into the site is doubtable due to the security measures taken at the site that are stronger than airports these days. It appears that everyone is tested for explosives before entrance.

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Back in November 2019 Iran alleged that the U.N. inspector it blocked from entering a nuclear site tested positive for suspected traces of explosive nitrates, according to the Associated Press.

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Moreover, if this explosion was deliberate, considering its small proportions, it appears the attackers sought a specific objective and to inflict a psychological blow, as if such measures can be repeated in the future.

However, since preventing such a future attack through any form of sabotage would be quite easy with further inspections and security measures, the sought psychological impact cannot be realized through sabotage.

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The possibility of a cyberattack is even less than sabotage considering the abovementioned reasoning (lack of explosive material) and escalated security measures following the Stuxnet attack.

A recent New York Times piece citing an IRGC member and a Middle East intelligence official is quite suspicious due to its very timely nature and mysterious sources.

Keep in mind:

a. It is written by Farnaz Fassihi, who has a long report card of being described as an Iran apologist, praising both Zarif & Qasim Soliemani in previous NYT pieces.

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b. The possibility of an advanced air/cruise missile strike targeting Natanz would deliver a major and humiliating setback to the regime after all its propaganda about purchasing the S300 air defense system from Russia and claiming to have produced indigenous missile defense system “even more advanced than the S300”!

Another example of an Iran apologist rushing to Tehran’s rescue is Babak Taghvaee who in a July 6 Farsi article published in the Independent claims the attack on Natanz could be anything but an airstrike. Like Fassihi, Taghvaee says, “It appears a bombing inside this building rendered significant damage and a fire, not an air strike.”

Again, the concern is to divert any and all attention from the airstrike scenario, knowing how humiliating this would be for the regime in Iran. For those unfamiliar with Taghvaee, he has long been under heavy criticism from Iranians living abroad for justifying and whitewashing the regime’ crimes, such as his claims about technical errors leading to the IRGC shooting down the Ukrainian airliner PS752 back in early January.

And a lesser discussed aspect of Natanz is the material damage the mullahs’ regime has inflicted on the Iranian people with this 300-hectare complex in the past 18 years.
Reminder: Iran has spent at least $800 billion dollars in its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Initial higher resolution satellite images of the centrifuge assembly building in Natanz show a major explosion. Some believe this raises the possibility of an “air projectile impact” scenario.

Yellow dot shows the possible point of impact and the arrow indicates the general direction of the projectile.

Before we examine the destruction caused in the Natanz site, let us evaluate similar situations seen in the aftermaths of airstrikes in Syria.

This 48m x 26m building was destroyed in Homs, central Syria. It’s around two thirds of the 45m x 75m building in Natanz. A portion of the Homs building remained intact after the strike.

This is another target near the Damascus Int’l Airport around half of the Natanz building. One fifth of this Damascus building remained intact after the strike. Pay close attention to how the building’s remnants and shrapnel are spread (seen in green arrows).

In this attack two flat-bed trucks next to the building were apparently the target of an airstrike. However, the attack inflicted damage to parts of the building.

Now let us return to Natanz:

The damage is Category B (50% to 75% of external brickwork destroyed, remaining walls have gaping cracks that are unrepairable) inflicted in the yellow circle area of 20m radius. This amount of damage needs around 200 to 300 kgs of TNT-equivalent explosives (with initial velocity).

Moreover, the building remnants spreading in east to west direction to a distance of more than 50m (light yellow lines) support the possibility of a foreign projectile impact from the general east direction.

A cruise missile with a medium-size warhead cannot create a crater as it explodes aboveground to inflict maximum damage on the target, not the ground.

Looking at these filtered images one realizes that a corner of the building is completely gone. There is a low number of small remnants and they are blown far away. A wall of about 5m height is completely gone. We don’t even see any columns.

Iranian officials should know by now what type of projectile was used (possibility a cruise missile). Air-launched weapons, be it cruise missiles or glide bombs (most likely not used in this attack), leave remnants that can be quickly analyzed at the site.

Reminder:

Iranian officials claim they are informed of the source of this attack but refrain from public announcements due to security considerations (most likely due to the psychological impact). Determining an airstrike is far easier than sabotage or cyber-attacks.

If “advanced equipment and precision measurement devices” have been damaged in this attack, it will set back Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons for many weeks and even months. Some are saying a year. Considering IAEA inspections, we may see more bits of intelligence leaking in the future.

Better images show a possible second point of impact on the asphalt road outside the Natanz building. Considering the destruction and shrapnel both inside and outside the building, two projectiles could have been used in this attack.

Remarks made by Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesperson of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, about the possibility of reconstructing the building at the same site, or another location “with air defense considerations” further the possibility of an airstrike in this attack.

“Air defense considerations” is the key to the Natanz riddle here. It is worth noting that building another site in another location other than Natanz is a violation of the 2015 nuclear deal that can result in a strong international backlash even from Russia and China.

And its quite interesting that Reuters, after four days, continues to deliberately provide false and face-saving reporting for Iran’s regime. Of course, one shouldn’t be surprised considering the piece was written by Parisa Hafezi, a known Iran apologist at Reuters.

Reminder:

-2007 doc, mentioning Parisa Hafezi, shows how the Reuters team needs approval from #Iran’s Intelligence Ministry to visit the city of Qom.

-All foreign media reports in Iran must abide by Intel Ministry guidelines.

-Shame on Reuters for falling to such lows.

When sabotage bombing doesn’t convince, Iran’s state media are even going the distance in claiming the strike targeting Natanz was a “deliberate attack” to thus claim “an airstrike is nearly impossible.”

Conclusion, you ask?

For me, this is looking more and more like a precision and surgical airstrike carried out by Israel with U.S. support and maybe even U.S. allies in the region. Remember that Iran first claimed the building was nothing but a shed and now we know it was probably the regime’s most advanced centrifuge assembly lab.

Now that more signs are indicating a foreign attack, Tehran needs to save face. In my opinion, that is why an Iran apologist such as Farnaz Fassihi published a New York Times piece claiming the explosion was caused by a sabotage bombing.

This video from July 5, four days after the attack, shows Iran moving air defense missile batteries to the Natanz nuclear site. If it was a sabotage bombing, why move such strategic units to Natanz?

Finally, as I explained earlier, Iran acknowledging a foreign airstrike targeting its most advanced nuclear site in the heart of the country would deliver a humiliating blow and weaken the regime at a time when domestic crises are already overflowing.

Anyhow, time will tell.

Why doesn’t Iran enter talks with the U.S.?

The recent prisoner exchange between the United States and Iran resulted in U.S. Navy veteran Michael White returning home on Thursday, June 4. Following this welcomed development U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, “So great to have Michael home. Just arrived. Very exciting. Thank you to Iran. Don’t wait until after U.S. Election to make the Big deal. I’m going to win. You’ll make a better deal now!”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted a seemingly defiant response. “We achieved humanitarian swap *despite* your subordinates’ efforts, @realDonaldTrump. And we had a deal when you entered office. Iran & other JCPOA participants never left the table. Your advisors—most fired by now—made a dumb bet. Up to you to decide *when* you want to fix it.”

First and foremost, Trump’s invitation of Iran for talks is not a change in U.S. policy. It also proves wrong all the mainstream media propaganda, especially pushed by the Iran apologists/lobbyists crowd, about Trump being a warmonger and seeking armed conflict with Iran.

However, we also need to keep in mind that Iran understands very well that Trump’s policy differs from his predecessor, and any negotiations with Trump will not be without significant consequences for the regime’s future.

If the regime in Iran enjoyed the capacity to enter talks with the U.S., it should be doing so now prior to the U.S. presidential election. Considering the coronavirus and social unrest crises in the U.S., Iran’s regime could be considering now a good time to enter talks as Trump is entangled with troubles at home and there is no better time to obtain concessions. Tehran agreeing to talks could provide Trump a political victory prior to the elections and allow Iran’s regime to demand for more concessions.

So why doesn’t Iran enter talks with such a window of opportunity? A subject not discussed in western media is the utterly fragile state of Iran’s regime and the fact that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei completely lacks the capacity to enter talks with the “Great Satan,” as he likes to call the U.S.

Khamenei’s level of authority is nowhere near regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s previous supreme leader. Khomeini relied on his internal support to give in to ending the 1980s Iran-Iraq war despite his eight-year modus operandi of continuing the war until the very last house in the Iranian capital Tehran. Furthermore, the regime in its entirety is far weaker in 2020 than it was back in 1988.

Khamenei, the current supreme leader, cannot hold together the regime’s ranks and files and internal disputes are escalating with each passing day. Khamenei has lost Qassem Soleimani, a key behind-the-scenes figure during the three years of talks that led to the 2015 nuclear deal with Obama. Soleimani was able to continue Iran’s expansions in the Middle East (thanks to Obama’s appeasement) and thus portray a strong image to help Khamenei convince his dismal social base to follow his blessing of talks that led to the 2015 deal with Washington, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

And again, thanks to Obama’s appeasement, Khamenei was able to obtain a long list of incentives in the JCPOA. These flaws led to Trump’s decision to tear up the nuclear deal in May 2018 and impose crippling sanctions that have wreaked havoc to the regime’s economy, plunging its currency parallel to nearly all its desperately needed oil exports.

Khamenei is also very much concerned about defections from his ranks and files. Twice in recent years he has specifically voiced concerns about defections and disillusionment among the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the entity that is supposedly the strongest ideological force keeping the regime in power and missioned to safeguard the regime’s “Islamic Revolution.”

Khamenei has also signaled that a new deal with the U.S. will inevitably result in more deals demanding the regime to scale back on its very pillars of domestic crackdown and foreign warmongering. These are absolute red lines for the mullahs’ regime.

More recently, Khamenei has been preparing his regime for difficult times ahead. He is publicly calling for a “young Hezbollahi government.” In parallel nature, a senior IRGC officer, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, has been selected as the new Majlis (parliament) speaker after a record low voter turnout in February’s parliamentary elections, and Ebrahim Raisi, known for his role in the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, is the regime’s judiciary chief. This line-up is no signal of a regime gearing for talks.

And why doesn’t Iran follow North Korea’s lead of entering talks with the U.S. and kicking the can down the road? Quite simple. Pyongyang has the bomb. Iran does not, thanks to decades of revelations made by the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), especially the August 2002 exposure of the Natanz uranium enrichment site and the Arak heavy water reactor. Ever since, Iran has been involved in a cat-and-mouse game with the international community in its ongoing drive to obtain nuclear weapons while claiming to only seek peaceful nuclear energy.

All in all, Iran’s is now desperately hoping for Trump to somehow lose in November or at least for the Democrats to gain control of Congress, making Trump a lame duck president for at least two years. This is highly unlikely, to say the least.

Tehran giving in to talks with Washington will portray a very weak image of the mullahs’ regime inside the country. This will without a doubt leave the mullahs’ regime very fragile in the face of an increasingly restive population that is described as a powder keg. The next round of nationwide uprising will dwarf the November 2019 protests that swept over 140 cities across Iran. This is the Iranian regime’s main concern.

Iran’s interests in the ambush targeting Gen. Michael Flynn

We have been learning quite significantly about the corrupt nature of the Obama administration. One specific case is the exoneration of Gen. Michael Flynn who happened to be the U.S. President Donald Trump’s first National Security Advisor. Lesser talked about is the media these days is the interests Iran’s regime had in the ambush targeting Gen. Flynn.

Now, one may ask where does Iran play in this already complicated legal and political dispute that has been ongoing for more than three years now? The answer is actually quite simple.

From Iran’s perspective, Gen. Flynn had the audacity of adopting a very strong stance against this malign regime and famously placed Tehran’s mullahs “on notice” in the very early days of the Trump presidency.

Now, one may ask where does Iran play in this already complicated legal and political dispute that has been ongoing for more than three years now? The answer is actually quite simple.

From Iran’s perspective, Gen. Flynn had the audacity of adopting a very strong stance against this malign regime and famously placed Tehran’s mullahs “on notice” in the very early days of the Trump presidency.

Of course, these remarks were made after President Trump entered the Oval Office. A legitimate question would be: Did Gen. Flynn sound alarm bells for the Iranian regime even prior to the Trump presidency? Most certainly.

Gen. Flynn was one of the few voices to stand firm against former U.S. president Barack Obama’s highly flawed 2015 Iran nuclear deal. This is his tweet on the very day the pact was signed.

Gen. Flynn also realized how the deal played right into Tehran’s hands, providing it billions of dollars to fund its terror groups across the Middle East.

In August 2016, more details of the Obama/Iran nuclear deal were emerging, especially the $400 million ransom Obama paid in cash to Iran for a number of hostages.

And it is interesting that one of the U.S. citizens released by Tehran was none other than Jason Rezaian who very conveniently came back to the U.S. and began pushing Iran’s talking points in his Washington Post columns. This, of course, is another story for another time.

Gen. Flynn had a very good understanding of Iran’s threat and he was hated by Tehran apologists/lobbyists in the West; most specifically, members of Iran’s main lobby group, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) founded by Trita Parsi. They were quick to push Tehran’s narrative against Flynn following the General’s position against the mullahs’ regime.

Considering his strong position vis-à-vis Iran, Gen. Flynn would have certainly not tolerated Iran’s influence in U.S. government, especially those figures who had reached high places during the Obama administration.

Gen. Flynn would have not tolerated the likes of Sahar Nowrouzzadeh of Iran’s lobby NIAC in the White House. Nowrouzzadeh worked directly on Obama’s Iran nuclear deal. While she may deny it, this card proves her previous membership in NIAC.

“NIAC’s most accomplished alum is Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, who is now National Security Council director for Iran in the Obama admin & the top US official for Iran policy, bringing together various departments working on US strategy toward [Iran],” reads a Daily Beast article form back in September 2015.

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Sahar Nowrouzzadeh alongside former U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House apparently prior to a TV interview

Nowrouzzadeh was probably effective in having NIAC founder/then president Trita Parsi & a former Iranian regime ambassador to Germany invited to the White House more than 30 times. Their objective: pave the path for the 2015 Iran nuclear and Obama providing the utmost concessions to Tehran.

“Two high-level Iranian government backers, including a former Islamic Republic official and another accused of lobbying on Tehran’s behalf, were hosted at the Obama White House for more than 30 meetings with top officials at key junctures in the former administration’s contested diplomacy with Iran, according to White House visitor logs that provide a window into the former administration’s outreach to leading pro-Iran advocates,” according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Remember how President Trump had to work through many obstacles until finally tearing up the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May 2018? Knowing General Flynn, he would not have tolerated the deal and all the lies behind it.

It is worth noting that in July 2015, Obama Treasury Secretary Jack Lew assured the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that, under the nuclear accord, Iran “will continue to be denied access to the [U.S.] financial and commercial market” and that “Iranian banks will not be able to clear U.S. dollars through New York, hold correspondent account relationships with U.S. financial institutions, or enter into financing arrangements with U.S. banks.”

However, Senate Republicans unveiled a report indicating that “the Obama administration secretly tried to help Iran use U.S. banks to convert $5.7 billion in Iranian assets, after promising Congress that Iran would not get access to the U.S. financial system — and then lied to Congress about what it had done,” according to The Washington Post. This is more reason that should Gen. Flynn have remained as National Security Advisor, the Iran nuclear deal would have most likely been torn apart far before May 2018.

Iran’s regime and its lobby group NIAC also realized that Gen. Flynn was a threat to all the relatives of government officials granted U.S. citizenship by the Obama administration as the Iran nuclear was being hammered out.

“When Obama, during the negotiations about the JCPOA, decided to do a favor to these men, he granted citizenship to 2,500 Iranians and some officials started a competition over whose children could be part of these 2,500 Iranians,” Mojtaba Zolnour, a member of the regime’s Majlis (parliament), claimed back in July 2018.

Gen. Flynn most likely had realized that “the Obama administration derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah,” according to a Politico report. Hezbollah procures massive funds through such a network and any disruption would be a devastating blow to Tehran.

Of course, much more can be added to this text. The point is that Gen. Flynn would never tolerate appeasement vis-à-vis Iran’s regime. This was realized early on and there is belief it was one of the main reasons he was attacked in such dishonorable fashion.

Despite all the kicking and screaming regarding the exoneration process of Gen. Flynn, justice is finally being done. And the sky is the limit to the goods Gen. Flynn can do, and the devastating defeats Iran’s regime can suffer.

Originally published in Quodverum

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.

A short Q&A on Iran and its nuclear program

Last Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the regime will no longer abide by two obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Rouhani blamed the Europeans for “not living up to their promises.”

 

Q: What were the reactions?

The United States carried out two decisive measures literally ridiculing Tehran:

1) Dispatching the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group to the region to confront the mullahs’ threats.

2) Imposing a new series of sanctions targeting the Iranian regime’s metal industry, including the vital steel, aluminum, copper and iron branches.

 

Q: How about Europe?

Despite the fact that Iran announced a 60-day ultimatum for Europe, the EU humiliated Tehran by delivering a response in 24 hours through a strong-worded statement. Two specific issues were reiterated to the mullahs’ regime:

1) Europe will not accept any ultimatum.

2) Threatening to refer Iran’s nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council.

Furthermore, French President Emmanuel Macron, in a rare move, said the JCPOA is incomplete and must be completed by addressing Iran’s ballistic missile program and the regime’s destructive meddling across the region.

 

Q: What is the meaning of Europe’s position?

Not only has Europe refused to provide any incentives to Iran, in fact they have taken a serious step towards the U.S. position and distanced away from Tehran. Europe has effectively confirmed two of the U.S. 12 conditions from Iran (ballistic missiles and regional meddling) should be included in the JCPOA.

This has resulted in escalating rifts inside the mullahs’ regime.

Figures such as Ahmad Alamalhoda, representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the city of Mashhad, second largest city in Iran, are calling for a stronger tone and literally saying the regime should be ready for war.

On the other hand, those close to Rouhani’s faction are voicing deep concerns about the road ahead.

“If we don’t negotiate we will be inching closer to a military conflict,” according to the regime’s Arman daily. Other voices are going even further with the deep concerns.

“It is better to surrender to the pressures today. Next year we will have no card to play,” said Ehsan Khanduzi, a known Iranian regime pundit. In the next 12 months, the country’s economy will crumble completely. Social uprisings will boil over and we will be “sitting at the negotiating table with the [U.S.] government” with a far weaker hand, he further explained.

 

Q: Is all this the result of the U.S. dispatching military forces to the region?

One cannot deny the impact of these measures by Washington. However, the main reason lies elsewhere.

If we take into consideration the past 17 years, whenever the regime’s nuclear dossier becomes a topic of serious discussion we have witnessed a deepening of Tehran’s internal rifts. This specifically dates back to August 2002 when the Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) blew the whistle on Iran’s secret nuclear weapons drive by disclosing top secret information on the locations of the previously unveiled Natanz uranium enrichment site and Arak heavy water facility. To this day, the NCRI has carried out more than 100 more revelations to open the world’s eyes to the mullahs’ drive to obtain nuclear weapons.

As a result, on three occasions we have witnessed former U.S. President George Bush and President Donald Trump emphasizing how America and the world were not informed of Iran’s nuclear program until the Iranian opposition shed light on this dossier.

 

Q: What was Iran’s objective in pursuing a nuclear weapons program?

Following the 1980s Iran-Iraq War, senior officials of the mullahs’ regime in Iran reached a conclusion that Tehran needs an element to guarantee their survival. This guarantee was sought in obtaining nuclear weapons and thus the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) was assigned to pursue the regime’s nuclear weapons drive.

Pakistan’s Abdulqader Khan and other former Soviet republic scientists were involved in the regime’s drive to obtain the ultimate weapon. However, as a result of the NCRI revelations, the guarantee sought by the mullahs’ regime has now literally transformed into a trap.

Furthermore, the U.S. State Department has recently designated the IRGC as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” (FTO).

Another question left unanswered by Iran’s regime and its pundits is that while sitting on world’s second largest natural gas and fourth largest proven crude oil reserves, what is the need for a nuclear program that has brought about such turmoil, endless crises and escalating international isolation? Could it be anything other than the regime’s desperate need to obtain nuclear weapons?

With the NCRI revelations, the mullahs have realized their nuclear weapon drive is now a noose tightening around their neck. Rouhani himself has described the current conditions under escalating U.S. sanctions as harsher than the Iran-Iraq War era of the 1980s.

In 2013, Iran had no choice but to give into sanctions and reach the 2015 nuclear agreement. Despite all its flaws, the JCPOA forced Iran to cut back on its nuclear weapons drive and Khamenei described it as an “utter setback” in March 2016.

As the NCRI continued its revelations, exposing Iran’s ballistic missile program, terrorism and meddling across the Middle East, Washington withdrew from the JCPOA and placed forward 12 preconditions prior to any negotiations with Tehran. The mullahs’ regime has described these preconditions as “suicide in fear of death!”

Iranian Vice President Es’hagh Jahangiri recently said, “The wrong decision made by the White House (against Tehran) are based on biased reports provided by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).”

The PMOI/MEK is the main member of the NCRI coalition.

The current tsunamis witnessed in the region against Iran’s interests are the continuation of such a history of utter setbacks for Tehran.

The status quo for the mullahs’ regime has reached a point of escalating defections and Khamenei’s representatives in cities and towns across the country are saying, “People, don’t be afraid! Officials, don’t be afraid! The executive branch, don’t be afraid! The Majlis (parliament), don’t be afraid.”

Iran’s new line of defense

 

There is no doubt that tensions have been escalating between the United States and the regime ruling Iran. Tehran has a new line of defense – inside the United States – that has caught lesser attention and yet deserves a strong response.

It has been one year since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the highly flawed 2015 Iran nuclear deal and began reinstalling sanctions lifted under this Obama-era framework.

As we speak, Iran’s vital oil industry – from which the mullahs obtain at least $50 billion in revenue annually – has been sanctioned and the administration is on track of zeroing Tehran’s exports. The regime is also under a long slate of further sanctions across the board, including financial, banking and the recently advanced measures signed into law by President Trump against Iran’s mining industry.

It has become common knowledge that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) – rightfully designated by the Trump administration as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” (FTO) – has control over a vast portion of the Iranian economy. As a result, much of the regime’s revenue earned from oil, mining and other sectors are being channeled by the IRGC for the mullahs’ malign activities, including:

  • funding the Bashar Assad dictatorship in its onslaught against the Syrian people that has left at least 500,000 people killed;
  • fueling terrorist groups across the Middle East such as the Lebanese Hezbollah, Houthi militias in Yemen, Shiite proxies in Iraq, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, and Afghan-Pakistani conscripts dispatched to prop up Assad’s killing machine;
  • developing and procuring ballistic missiles both inside the country providing such an arsenal to proxies across the region;
  • and last but not least, stubbornly pursuing a nuclear weapons program under the cover of
    “a civilian nuclear energy drive.”

Suffering a series of devastating blows, Iran has been retaliating by accusing the United States and its allies in the Middle East of seeking war. While such a response from Tehran is of no surprise, what is alarming, however, is the support the mullahs are enjoying from rivals of the Trump administration inside the United States.

1

Senator Sanders is literally calling for a return to the Obama years and falling to the low of appeasing Tehran’s murderous mullahs. What he fails to take into consideration is the fact that such a policy will dangerously threaten U.S. national security.

Unfortunately, Senator Sanders has fallen to the low of parroting talking points used by Iran regime apologists/lobbyists.

2

For those interested, this Twitter thread provides more details about Senator Sanders’ hypocrisy that is playing into the hands of Tehran’s ruling mullahs.

And we also have Matt Duss, Senator Sanders’ foreign policy advisor, rushing to the support of Iran’s regime and defending the mullahs’ desperate measures that are aimed at saving face.

3

Duss is citing Vali Nasr, a known Iran regime apologist/lobbyist that goes around spreading the mullahs’ talking points in Western circles and media. This thread sheds light into Nasr and his mentality.

Another example in this line of thought is Senator Chris Murphy. One of his latest tweets is quite interesting.

4

Such a mentality adopted by these American figures – who should be more concerned about the American people – has driven them into an utter state of hypocrisy.

5

It is interesting how Sen. Murphy refuses to recall how the Obama-blessed 2015 nuclear deal allowed Iran to continue wreaking havoc across the Middle East and beyond. Of course, appeasing a dictator leads to such results. However, when the likes of Sen. Murphy choose to neglect such a harsh reality, it results into such low-level, childish remarks:

6

Such an approach by Sen. Murphy should be of no surprise considering his attendance at sessions held by Iran’s lobby group in the U.S., the disgraced National Iranian American Council (NIAC), loathed by the Iranian Diaspora across the West.

7

This thread provides more information on how Sen. Murphy has become a pawn of the mullahs’ regime.

Sen. Tim Kaine’s hatred of U.S. President Donald Trump is no secret. What is disappointing, however, is that Sen. Kaine would resort to any measure to attack President Trump. Even if it means rushing to the support of Iran’s mullahs by parroting claims raised by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his network of apologists/lobbyists scattered across the U.S. and Europe.

8

When we are discussing blind hatred targeting President Trump, we cannot leave out Rep. Ilhan Omar who just couldn’t miss the opportunity.

9

A question for Rep. Omar & all her colleagues: If you are talking about “war,” why not a single line of criticism against the mullahs’ regime of Iran that has been at war with the Iranian people, nations across the Middle East, and America for the four decades?

Of course not, as that would go against Omar’s personal interests.

Next in line is Rep. Barbara Lee who has no originality and nearly copied the very lines used by Zarif. To define her words, she is actually calling for a return to Obama’s weak foreign policy of bending backwards and providing even further billions to the mullahs’ regime.

10

Iran’s latest move has been to end two measures of compliance under the 2015 nuclear agreement, commonly known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran will no longer abide by two limitations:

  • Maintaining the production of low enriched uranium (3.67% for nuclear reactor fuel) to a cap of 300 kilograms and selling any excess amount abroad.
  • Maintaining the production of heavy water below 130 tons and storing any excess amount in Oman.

As of Wednesday, Iran will be producing unlimited amounts of low enriched uranium and heavy water, and keeping all excess amounts inside the country. Tehran went on to define a 60-day ultimatum for the remaining JCPOA to “live up to their obligations” and deliver the incentives promised to Iran under the nuclear deal: specifically purchasing oil form Iran and opening their financial networks to the mullahs’ regime.

It is quite interesting how these two specific actions were already sanctioned by the U.S. just days earlier.

“The United States acted on Friday to force Iran to stop producing low-enriched uranium and expanding its only nuclear power plant, intensifying a campaign aimed at halting Tehran’s ballistic missile program and curbing its regional power,” Reuters reported.

“The U.S. actions announced on Friday included an end to a sanctions waiver that allowed Iran to evade a 300-kg limit on the amount of low-enriched uranium it can store under the nuclear deal at its main nuclear facility of Natanz… the United States would no longer waive sanctions that allowed Iran to ship to Oman for storage heavy water produced at its Arak facility beyond a 130-ton limit set in the 2015 nuclear deal.”

Adding to Iran’s miseries, the European Union responded to Tehran’s threats on Thursday by rejecting any ultimatums issued by the mullahs’ regime. As a result, if Iran was counting on raising its tone level to drive a gap between Europe and the United States, they failed miserably. Additionally, it is worth noting that the Europeans are actually realizing the Iran threat and taking a stronger position than the abovementioned Members of the U.S. Congress.

Furthermore, isn’t it interesting that no one asks why Iran even needs a “civilian nuclear energy” program? The country is sitting on the world’s second largest natural gas and fourth largest crude oil reserves. Why on earth would you waste hundreds of billions of dollars on a nuclear program, confine many facilities deep into mountains and bring upon your country decades of political turmoil?

The answer is quite simple. In envy of North Korea, the mullahs’ regime seeks nuclear weapons in order to obtain security guarantees. Yet the likes of Ben Rhodes are suffering from a blind hatred towards President Trump, rendering a list of American figures playing into the mullahs’ hands and literally placing U.S. national security in grave danger.

11

All voices providing life support to the regime in Iran are running a dangerous line of appeasement.

We should recall how former UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain believed in appeasing Hitler of Nazi Germany in an attempt to prevent war. The rest is history.

How to analyze the Zarif resignation façade in Iran

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif returned to his post around 30 hours after his Instagram resignation post. During this entire charade, speculations were heard across the board about the motivation and true nature of this latest episode of escalating turmoil for the mullahs’ regime in Iran.

What is certain, however, is the fact that Zarif’s resignation indicates a new acceleration of crises for Tehran, especially in regards to international relations and on specific matters, including the 2015 nuclear deal and outstanding anti-money laundering/terrorism financing resolutions under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

With the Trump administration turning up the heat on Iran, international pressures and global/regional isolation are engulfing Tehran. State-run media outlets in Iran are also acknowledging these developments that are raising eyebrows and keeping senior decision-making officials awake at night.

“Another conclusion of [Zarif’s] resignation is the 2015 nuclear deal coming to an end… There are figures who are disappointedly concluding how Zarif’s resignation is tantamount to the complete failure of Hassan Rouhani’s government,” according to the state-run Fararu website.

A variety of analysis have also been circling in regards to Zarif’s resignation. However, lesser voices have pinpointed the root of the entire matter.

The failing “Hassan Rouhani project,” referring to the regime’s president, and deep internal crisis is a result of Tehran’s failure in preserving the nuclear deal, overcoming the impact of U.S. sanctions, and the regime’s dead-end in regards to FATF regulations.

This defeat began with the Dec 2017/Jan 2018 uprising, disrupting all of the regime’s apparatus, including its foreign policy agenda. The first example was witnessed in the U.S. withdrawing from the highly flawed 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Rouhani laid it out clearly in his remarks on August 28, 2018, saying everything began on December 26, 2017, when protesters poured into the streets and chanted anti-regime slogans. This was followed with U.S. President Donald Trump withdrawing from the JCPOA, triggering the Iranian regime’s troubles, Rouhani added.

Rouhani’s Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri voiced even more concerns about the regime’s future.

“Super domestic challenges [ongoing protests] are impacting super global challenges, further intensifying these dilemmas,” he said.

The Javan daily, known to be affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), added to the tempo.

“Voices inside the country, and more abroad, are considering this truly low-class resignation as signs of deteriorating conditions for the [regime], and even called on the president of Iran to follow in line with his minister and resign himself!” the piece reads in part.

To add insult to injury for the clerical regime in Iran, 2018 was riddled with a number of foiled terror and assassination plots in Europe. In March, Albanian authorities arrested two operatives for plotting to bomb an opposition gathering, leading to the expulsion of the regime’s ambassador several months later.

In late June, another bombing plot targeting the annual Iranian opposition rally near Paris was foiled. Tens of thousands of people, along with hundreds of international dignitaries, including Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, were also attending the event.

Tehran also targeted dissidents in the Netherlands and Denmark, leading to unprecedented European Union sanctions against a branch of the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence, parallel to expelling a number of diplomats.

These crises escalated even further during the Warsaw ministerial conference and a large rally held close to the site by supporters of the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Giuliani delivered a speech emphasizing on the sole alternative for the Iranian regime, symbolized in NCRI President Maryam Rajavi.

NCRI supporters held another rally during the Munich Security Conference, signaling to the world the very source of Tehran’s main concerns. And Zarif, described as “charming” and a “moderate” by some, literally lost his temper in his remarks about the Iranian opposition.

Whatever the reasoning behind Zarif’s resignation, the big picture indicates a regime neck-deep in crises with no light at the end of the tunnel. International crises are escalating, with Washington intending to zero Tehran’s oil exports.

Zarif may have returned to his post. Yet this entire façade portrays a regime neck-deep in turmoil, both inside the country and abroad.

ANALYSIS: Europe’s non-stop appeasing of Iran’s clerics

The distance Europe is going, aiming to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, can be described as shameless. While disturbing to admit, it is a stark reminder of how British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain fell to Hitler’s knees in the late 1930s, only to pave the path for World War II.

One would think the Green Continent would have learned its lesson, especially after the death of over 60 million people. Unfortunately, Europe’s policy vis-à-vis the Iranian regime is mirroring the shame witnessed 80 years ago.

Appeasement and short-term economic interests are blinding Europe to the extent that senior officials are neglecting the very dangerous security terrorist threats posed by Iran’s regime, being the number one state sponsor of terrorism.

Denying reality

While the United States re-imposed crippling oil/banking/shipping sanctions against Iran on November 5, and considering the exodus of international firms pulling out of Iran, the Europeans are relentlessly preserving a highly flawed nuclear deal crafted by the pro-appeasement Obama administration.

The main initiative floats around a so-called special purpose vehicle through which companies would avoid the US financial system and prolong business relations with Tehran. It has been weeks now that European governments are playing “hot potato,” refusing to host the circumventing apparatus. Austria and Luxembourg – and Belgium, according to some reports – have rejected the burden.

After failing to convince any smaller European partner to do their dirty work, France and Germany feel compelled to take on the burden, mainly to save face and avoid humiliation in the case of complete failure. Keep in mind the threat of damning US penalties hangs over their heads.

It has become quite embarrassing to witness European policymakers be so utterly determined to literally fund the clerics ruling Iran. (File photo: Reuters)

 

Consequences

It actually remains unknown if the Europeans have seriously weighed the national security threats resulting from their ongoing efforts. The SPV would provide the Iranian regime another channel to garner revenue for the malign purposes of funding terrorists and militaristic objectives across the Middle East.

The cash Iran received under the 2015 nuclear deal can most certainly be presumed to have ended up in the pockets of the Assad regime in Syria, Houthi militias in Yemen, Shiite extremist groups in Iraq, the Lebanese Hezbollah, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, to name a few. Iran’s notorious Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) plays a leading role in this campaign.

Furthermore, it is interesting how Europe is neglecting the threats on its own soil. Newly provided revenue, thanks to the hard efforts of EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and company, will most likely fund Iran’s future terror plots even in their own backyard.

In 2018 alone, European authorities have been busy foiling numerous plots. The first in March, targeting members of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in Albania; a highly dangerous bomb plot in June targeting an opposition rally near Paris; and an October assassination plot in Denmark.

All this was in parallel to similar schemes in Turkey and the Netherlands, as Iran’s spies also sought “capture and kill” initiatives targeting Iranian opposition figures in the US.

Interesting is how the Europeans are falling over themselves to preserve economic benefits for a regime that continues such measures across the continent and has showed no sign of slowing down its malign activities. This was demonstrated vividly in the most recent ballistic missile test by Iran made known to the world by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Correct course

It has become quite embarrassing to witness European policymakers be so utterly determined to literally fund the clerics ruling Iran. All the while, the Iranian people are braving all odds in voicing their abhorrence of this regime.

The mentality of allowing the Iranian regime profit from international trade with the hope of turning it away from its menacing nature has proven to be wishful thinking.

In fact, the Obama-era showed how the Iranian regime took full advantage of this foolish fantasy and wreaked havoc across the region, never stopping their proliferation of menace after the Obama-blessed nuclear deal.

Europe must learn from the mid-20th century and modern history, and finally bring an end to its humiliating indulging of Iran’s terror-fueling regime. Tehran’s malign activities must not go ignored, including human rights violations, the proliferation of ballistic missiles and a very suspicious nuclear program while sitting on an ocean of crude oil and natural gas.

Iran’s regime will soon be obligated to set aside its bellicosity or face dire consequences, especially as a restive nation continues to chip away at its foundation.

Europe should decide to stand on the right side of history and prevent a 21st century Chamberlain catastrophe.

ANALYSIS: The meaning of new US sanctions for Iran

Al Arabiya

Despite weeklong claims of US President Donald Trump caving in to pressure, Washington has unleashed the full measure of US sanctions against Iran’s regime. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed reporters Friday that, come 12 a.m. ET Monday, all sanctions will return to pre-2015 Iran nuclear deal levers.

This is “aimed at depriving the regime of the revenues that it uses to spread death and destruction around the world,” Pompeo explained. “Our ultimate aim is to compel Iran to permanently abandon its well-documented outlaw activities and behave as a normal country.”

While a long shot, this policy has potential of reining in Iran’s regime, especially coupled with a highly explosive population and a society described as a powder keg.

Sweeping measures

Since pulling out of the nuclear deal back in May, the US administration has specifically voiced intentions to sanction the regime until Tehran ends its malign activities.

“The Treasury Department will add more than 700 names to our list of blocked entities,” said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, alongside Pompeo during Friday’s conference call with reporters. “This includes hundreds of targets previously granted sanctions relief under the JCPOA, as well as more than 300 new designations. This is substantially more than we ever have previously done.”

On the highly controversial issue of oil sanctions waivers, the Trump administration has intentions to grant temporary exemptions to eight “jurisdictions,” which Pompeo says will receive six-month waivers from US penalties on the condition that they significantly “wind down” oil imports from Iran.

What specifically is going into effect?

As a result of the 2015 nuclear deal, the Obama administration lifted a slate of sanctions severely curbing the Iranian regime’s economy. The move, considered a major step in appeasing the regime, provided Iran access to crucial markets in Europe and Asia, and the regime gained access to $150 billion in previously frozen oversees assets.

When Trump’s administration recalled the first major round of sanctions in May, Tehran was slapped with barriers regarding on Iranian metals, alongside its automotive and airline industries. In this round of crippling sanctions, the regime’s oil and banking sectors will receive major blows – exactly the areas Trump wants targeted.

Crosshairs are on major oil exporters, shipping companies and major Iranian banks — including the country’s Central Bank and other financial institutions, according to the White House. The administration will also “target those who attempt to violate or circumvent [the sanctions].”

“One hundred percent of the revenue that Iran receives from the sale of crude oil will be held in foreign accounts and can be used by Iran only for humanitarian trade or bilateral trade in non-sanctioned goods and services,” Pompeo explained Friday, adding insult to injury for Tehran.

The additional penalties are blueprinted to “cut off revenues the regime uses to bankroll terrorist groups, foment global instability, fund nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and enrich its leaders.”

The White House, however, has plans permitting the sales of humanitarian goods —including food, medicine and raw agriculture products — to Iran.

Why waivers for certain countries?

Washington’s ultimate goal is to have all trading partners zero oil purchases from Iran. Of course, this objective needs time and two of the eight “jurisdictions” receiving exemptions have reportedly agreed to seek other sources “within weeks” and the remaining six have been provided a maximum six-month period to do the same.

These jurisdictions “have demonstrated significant reductions in their crude oil and cooperation on many other fronts, and have made important moves toward getting to zero crude oil importation,” Pompeo said Friday.

While refusing to identify the eight jurisdictions, Pompeo did clarify that the full European Union would not be one of them. The list will release Monday when sanctions are re-implemented, Pompeo added.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, present details of the new sanctions on Iran. (AP)

 

The main objective

The US administration is seeking to keep the Iranian regime from getting cash. This “maximum-pressure” campaign intends to guarantee Tehran does not have the funds to support terror groups checkered across the Middle East, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, Yemen’s Houthis, Shiite militias in Iraq and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

The White House says the sanctions buildup has already deprived Iran of some $2 billion over the past several months, plunging the regime’s economy into a crisis. And despite claims by a slate of Iranian regime apologists and lobbyists in the West, Washington’s actions “are targeted at the regime, not the people of Iran,” as Pompeo explained.

Iran’s reactions

On Friday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry sought to save face after the sanctions onslaught. “America will not be able to carry out any measure against our great and brave nation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said to state media. “We have the knowledge and the capability to manage the country’s economic affairs.”

On the same day, Alam Alhoda, Friday prayer imam and the representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Mashhad, resorted to blatant threats of terror attacks across the Gulf region.

“If we reach a point that our oil is not exported, the Strait of Hormuz will be mined. Saudi oil tankers will be seized and regional countries will be leveled with Iranian missiles,” he said.

Furthermore, in a sign of Iran’s regime becoming extremely concerned about the upcoming sanctions, Tabatabaie-Nezhad, the Friday prayer imam of Isfahan said, “The US will be implementing the second round of sanctions on November 4th. This is the work of the Mojahedin!” referring to the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

And in what is considered a significant turn of events, Iran’s Guardian Council – comprised of six clerics directly appointed by Khamenei and six others appointed indirectly – vetoed the Financial Actions Task Force CFT (countering the financing of terrorism) convention on Sunday.

The FATF CFT adoption was the main condition raised by the EU, Russia, China & India for maintaining financial relations with Tehran. The future of these ties have become all the more controversial.

Final thoughts

The new US sanctions will make it far more difficult for Iran to obtain money at such desperate times. Despite the European Union’s initial disapproval of Washington’s new measures, a newly foiled terrorist plot by the Iranian regime in Denmark has made matters all the more difficult.

Danish officials are seeking EU action after arresting a Norwegian of Iranian descent on charges of actions aimed at assassinating an Iranian dissident on their soil. European leaders are opening the door to sanctions against the Iranian regime in response to terror plots in Albania, France and now Denmark.

Despite the need to calm relations with the West, Tehran’s regime understands desperate times call for desperate measures. This is especially true when new US sanctions are destined to suffocate the regime’s economy.

The importance of banning Iran’s regime from SWIFT

Al Arabiya

Crippling US sanctions are set to kick in early next month against Iran’s regime, targeting its oil and banking sectors.

While initially calling for “maximum pressures,” as we speak, the Trump administration is weighing to what extent these measures should push forward in denying Tehran access to the global financial system.

There is word that US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is informing foreign governments that Washington may be stepping back from an onslaught aimed at forcing the Belgium-based financial messaging network, Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or SWIFT, to cut off sanctioned Iranian banks, according to the Wall Street Journal.

This is a highly important matter as SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, is considered part and parcel of Washington’s upcoming oil sanctions on Tehran.

If the US were to allow SWIFT continue providing even limited services to the Iranian regime, loopholes would be exploited by Tehran to facilitate money transactions the regime desperately needs.

This is why senior US administration officials are calling for sanctioning SWIFT board members should they decide to facilitate such financial transactions for Tehran. If Trump allows Iran access to SWIFT, his measures would not meet the “maximum pressures” litmus test and be weaker than Barack Obama’s actions.

Turn of events?

The potential SWIFT exemption can be considered as the Trump administration recalibrating their sanctions due to their high severity or even caving in to demands raised by America’s partners in Europe, various observers say.

The decision has apparently launched a struggle inside the Trump administration, particularly pinning Mnuchin against National Security Adviser John Bolton, a fierce advocate of tough action against the Iranian regime. While Mnuchin has made hints of his own, Bolton specifically used the term “squeeze Iran” in his recent visit to Armenia.

“We are going to squeeze Iran because we think their behavior in the Middle East and, really globally, is malign and needs to be changed,” Bolton said. These remarks are completely in line with Trump’s initial demand of “maximum pressure” against Tehran.

Mnuchin was also careful to balance his wording, indicating there has yet to be a final decision on disconnecting the Iranian regime from SWIFT.

Humanitarian goals

“Our objective is to make sure that financial institutions do not process sanctioned transactions,” Mnuchin told WSJ.

His office is “having very specific discussions with SWIFT,” he added. “I will use all the tools in my power to make sure that sanctioned transactions do not occur.” Humanitarian transactions, however, will be allowed, he added, launching suspicions across the board.

An Iranian goldsmith counts gold coins in Grand Bazaar, which has seen customers buying gold as a hedge against falling rial, in Tehran, on Aug. 12, 2018. (AP)

 

Brian Hook, the US Special Representative on Iran, specifically stated the Trump administration’s position in this regard.

“Our sanctions do not now, nor have they ever, targeted humanitarian goods. Our sanctions pressure the Iranian regime into changing its behavior and they do not target the Iranian people. The United States does not sanction the export of food or medicine to Iran,” Hook said at a July 2 press briefing.

Collective effort

While it would be more effective for the Europeans to be aboard US sanctions on Iran, as some argue, all countries will eventually realize it is in their interest, and the world’s, to impose heavy measures against the Iranian regime.

After all, which CEO in his/her right mind would jeopardize their future of doing business in the US $19 trillion economy for the sake of preserving business with the Iranian regime’s $400 billion economy? Especially considering the fact that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the notorious Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) control a large portion of Iran’s economy.

There is also talk of European governments retaliating to develop what has been described as a “special purpose vehicle” in the case of US sanctions becoming too severe. This mechanism, being largely symbolic, aims to protect European corporations from damning US sanctions.

“Europe’s much-vaunted ‘special-purpose vehicle’ for trading around US financial sanctions, announced last month, is expected to be little more than a glorified barter arrangement with limited scope,” according to another WSJ article.

In the overall discussion of preventing any loopholes, Trump administration officials are also seeking measures against firms, such as Turkey’s Halkbank, for assisting Iran bypass and violate sanctions.

In this regard, persuading Ankara to restrict Tehran’s measures is merely a minimum objective for Washington. The main aim is to prevent Iran from escaping penalties in the face of tough US sanctions and Washington would prefer its allies not resorting to rearranging international financial systems.

‘Full snapback’

It is a known secret that Trump seeks to impose severe sanctions against Iran, reminding the world most recently about his intentions while adding further sanctions will be added even after November 5. Bearing in mind the fact that Iran was told to brace for a “full snapback” of sanctions, analysts believe Trump will settle for nothing less.

Washington is also seeking to impose increasingly tough sanctions to portray the number of Iranian companies, including so-called humanitarian organizations, are in fact associated to the IRGC.

The US Treasury Department has blacklisted the IRGC as a terrorist group, while the State Department has yet to list this entity as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. A measure necessary in line with Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy.

Various observers are describing any exemption provided for Iran, especially in regards to SWIFT, as “caving” in to the Europeans. The Iranian regime suffered a damning blow back in 2012 when the Obama administration cut off its access to the SWIFT.

With access to the SWIFT network Iran will enjoy the ability to fund terrorism, continue destabilizing the Middle East, and may even finance their ballistic and nuclear programs. As Benny Avny explained, “It would certainly be ironic if Trump gave Iran a SWIFT exemption — since his sanctions would then be weaker than Obama’s.”