ANALYSIS: The reasoning behind Iran’s recent nuclear, military measures

Al Arabiya

The Iranian regime has recently moved up its fall military exercises, due to the re-imposition of US sanctions as they say, and test fired a short-range ballistic missile. This launching comes after a pause of more than a year.

On Monday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei placed what may be a nail in the coffin for any possible negotiations between his regime and the Trump administration.

Parallel to this, while making much lesser noise in the media, is the second return of ten batches of 20 percent enriched uranium that Iran sent to Russia under the 2015 nuclear accord. Iran claims this highly sensitive nuclear material is needed to fuel Tehran’s Research Reactor and threatens to restart the 20 percent uranium enrichment cycle if the deal goes south.

All the while, Iran’s ultraconservative Guardian Council, answering only to Khamenei, has signed measures to bring the regime a step closer to international anti-money-laundering standards. What is the reasoning behind these two threats and one concession?

Missile and military threats

Having the final call on all on all state matters in Iran, especially national security and foreign policy, Khamenei silenced any talk for negotiations with the U.S. From his remarks it is obvious that the Iranian regime is hoping to somehow live through US President Donald Trump’s first term and hope for him to not be reelected.

Back home, with a recent short-range ballistic missile test launch Iran is obviously sending a message to Washington regarding the sanctions. Iran test-fired a missile immediately after Trump came into office. This prompted the famous “on notice” remarks from former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the Trump administration slapping sanctions against the Iranian regime, signaling the new White House would not tolerate such behavior.

Tehran is returning to such practices as US sanctions bear down hard, parallel to protests across the country gaining momentum. Even weekend football matches are turning into scenes where people are chanting “Death to the dictator” in reference to Khamenei, as seen vividly in Ahvaz and Tehran in the past few days.

US sanctions re-installed last week are taking Iran out of the US dollar market, shutting down their access to gold and other precious metals such as aluminum, steel and graphite, automobiles and etc.

Extreme sanctions against the Iranian regime’s energy and banking sectors are set to return in November, with the high potential of an already severely struggling economy completely crumbling. As we speak the country’s currency, the rial, is becoming valueless and all businesses are turning to the black market.

Feeling cornered, will the Iranian regime live up to its threat of blocking the Strait of Hormuz where nearly one-third of the world’s seaborne oil trade passes through? After its first 18 months the Trump administration has shown it will consider such measures as an act of war.

“If the block the Strait of Hormuz we would literally take out all their military on the Strait of Hormuz,” said Ret. Gen. Jack Keane to Fox News recently.

Rest assured the Iranian regime does not wish to instigate a conflict with the US For nearly 40 years now Iran has constantly used proxy forces to attack the US and its regional allies, specifically avoiding direct confrontation through their military.

Interesting reminders

Iran, under growing threats, is known to resort to face-saving measures. As international pressures escalate and facing a restless nation, the Iranian regime desperately needs to maintain a strong posture.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the regime’s Atomic Energy organization, reported recently the returning of a second batch of 20 percent enriched uranium sent to Russia under the 2015 nuclear accord inked by the Obama administration and nixed by Trump back in May as promised during his presidential campaign.

“If the nuclear deal remains alive, the other sides should sell us the fuel and if the nuclear deal dies, then we would feel unimpeded to produce the 20% fuel ourselves,” Kamalvandi threatened, according to the semi-official Fars news agency, known to be associated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

He continued his threatening remarks of Iran being entitled to resume production of 20 percent enriched uranium in 2030. Furthermore, Iran has reopened a nuclear plant recently after remaining idle for nine years.

What shouldn’t go missing is the Iranian regime’s necessity to make such threats being very telling in and of itself. These are signs of a regime in crisis mode and needing to maintain a poker face, knowing their hand has nothing to offer while rivals are breathing down their neck with a full house.

Facing reality

It is, however, crystal clear for the Iranian regime that such a trend of ongoing threats cannot continue. Long gone are the Obama years when Tehran open-handedly imposed its will and continued to wreak havoc across the Middle East while advancing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, all aligned with a ruthlessly repressive domestic crackdown machine.

For example, Iran is now heavily investing on deepening an Atlantic rift between the US and Europe. And with the European Union demanding Iran comply with anti-money-laundering standards specified by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a senior body linked directly to Khamenei is approving measures to place the regime more in line with the globally recognized norms.

Iran is now in desperate need of foreign investments as US sanctions begin to such dry the regime’s access to the global financial market. The FATF, considered the world’s financial-crime watchdog, had in June provided the Iranian regime until October to impose reforms or face drastic consequences.

The main definition of FATF restrictions for the Iranian regime is defined into the hampering of Tehran’s financial support for terror groups, including the Lebanese Hezbollah and others. This has the potential of severely crippling the regime’s influence throughout the Middle East.

Back in June Khamenei called for domestic laws to tackle money laundering inside the country, in an attempt to safeguard the flow of financial support to its proxies abroad. Recent development go to show how dire circumstances are leaving Khamenei no choice but succumbing to such humiliating terms. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

We are only one week into the return of US sanctions and protests across Iran have been gaining continuous momentum ever since the Dec/Jan uprising. Tehran on Saturday and Sunday witnessed the shoe market going on strike as store-owners were protesting high prices and the scarcity of raw material.

The impact of new sanctions will continue to sink in deep, weakening the regime in the face of expanding protests. Prior to November the Iranian regime will be on its knees.

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Why Washington’s willingness to listen to Iranians is nightmare for the regime

Al Arabiya

The speech delivered by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday evening at the Reagan Library in Los Angeles can be described as yet another nail in the Iranian regime’s coffin.

It is hard to recall the last time the leaders of a regime were compared to the “mafia,” as Pompeo did in his description of the clerics sitting on the throne in Tehran. It is only fair to say Pompeo has escalated his Iran ante suggestively after his May speech where he outlined the Trump administration’s new strategy vis-à-vis the Iranian regime and summarized it in 12 conditions Tehran must adhere to.

With the rial plummeting further against the US dollar, water and electricity shortages rendering further public dissent, and a new round of truck drivers’ strike launching on Monday, Iran’s domestic calamites are dangerously coupling with its escalating foreign isolation.

A disaster is in the making for the regime.

‘Polished front men’

After decades of enjoying full-fledged appeasement from various administrations in the United States and the West in general, Iran’s regime is facing a White House like none other.

Officials in Iran described the Obama years as the “golden era.” Nowadays, the circumstances are in deep contrast to what Tehran desires and needs to continue its domestic crackdown and foreign adventures.

“Despite the regime’s clear record of discretion, America and other countries have spent years straining to identify a political moderate; it’s like an Iranian unicorn! The regime’s revolutionary goals and willingness to commit violent acts haven’t produced anyone to lead Iran that can be remotely called a moderate, or a statesman,” he said.

This was a severe blow to Iran apologists continuing to claim reform from within this regime is possible.

Pompeo resorted to the term of “merely polished front men for the ayatollahs’ international con artistry” when dismissing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

‘Mafia’

With protesters across the country continuing to voice their dissent regarding the ruling regime and complaining about severe economic hardships, Pompeo voiced strong words in saying Iran “is run by something that resembles the mafia more than a government.”

“40 years of fruit from Iran’s Islamic Revolution has been bitter. 40 years of kleptocracy. 40 years of the people’s wealth squandered on terrorism. 40 years of Iranians jailed for expressing their rights,” he explained.

The “mafia” ruling Iran is also known for its horrific practice of supporting terrorism and sponsoring extremist groups to fuel sectarian strife across the Middle East and export crises across the globe, including Europe.

As we speak Iran is going the distance to have a Vienna-based “diplomat” – arrested recently in connection to a bomb plot targeting the Iranian opposition “Free Iran 2018” convention in Paris – returned to Vienna. Pompeo referred to this case in his speech and made an interesting conclusion about the regime.

Unexpected

In May, US President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear pact, supposedly aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. Trump had always described it as the worst deal in the world and lived up to his campaign promise of tearing up the accord.

Ever since US sanctions have been returning and an armada of foreign companies, including the likes of Total, Siemens and Boeing, to name a few, are ending their business with the Iranian regime.

Seeing its lifeline of oil exports threatened, Rouhani and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei made a series of retaliatory threats in response to imminent US embargoes. What they received was unexpected, to say the least.

Placing this alongside Pompeo’s strong speech on the same day once again bring us to this conclusion that Iran’s regime understands only a firm language.

The Trump administration has been implementing such a viewpoint, especially through meaningful sanctions that promise to make Tehran think twice about how to trek forward.

Historic

The Trump administration says its Iran policy is not specifically “regime change.”

A look at Pompeo’s recent speech, the 12-conditions he placed before Tehran in May, and how the stakes are escalating following Trump’s response to the Iranian regime’s threats, it is safe to say the changes we are witnessing and the road ahead are of historic proportion.

“While it is ultimately up to the Iranian people to determine the direction of their country, the United States … will support the long-ignored voice of the Iranian people,” Pompeo said.

Obama turned his back on the Iranian people back in 2009 and the rendered results continue to plague us globally.

Trump is not making that mistake. The sheer fact that Washington has decided to listen to the Iranian people inside the country and abroad is a nightmare turning into reality for Tehran’s rulers.

Iran: Changes in Revolutionary Guards’ senior command?

IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari & Quds Force chief may be sacked

The following report is from sources inside Iran and has yet to be confirmed.

At a family event on July 18th, Seyed Massoud Khamenei, the son of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has told Sadeq Kharazi, his brother in law, that Khamanei has been unhappy with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) recently, especially considering the major setbacks Iran has suffered in Syria.

Changes in the senior IRGC ranks are in the making, Massoud Khamenei said, and Deputy IRGC chief Hossein Salami will be replacing IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari.

Image result for hossein salami
Deputy IRGC chief Hossein Salami

IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani is also said to be sacked, yet his replacement has yet to be specified.

Massoud Khamenei has told Sadeq Kharazi, who enjoys close relations with Suleimani, that the Quds Force chief has twice recently requested to meet with the Supreme Leader, only to be turned down on both occasions.

Image result for khamenei IRGC
IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani

Sadeq Kharazi has said the Supreme Leader sought to keep a lid on the information about changes in the IRGC ranks. However, information has leaked out of Khamenei’s home and office.

In a move intended to prevent already decreasing morale among IRGC personnel, Khamenei recently ordered officials to deny any rumors of changes among senior IRGC officials.

In line, Brigadier General Mohammad Shiraz, head of Khamenei’s Military Office, on Saturday denied rumors claiming Jafari’s replacement.

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: How to cripple the Iranian regime and help its people

Al Arabiya

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

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

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

Iran deal finale

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

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

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

What is SWIFT?

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

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

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

Remaining neutral?

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

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

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

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

Iran, SWIFT & US sanctions

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

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

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

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

New measures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Front cover

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

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

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

‘Exporting Revolution’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terrorism & arms transfers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nuclear program

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

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

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

Politics & sanctions

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Will Iran Respond To The Syria Attacks?

Forbes

We can consider the April 14th airstrikes against the Syrian regime’s chemical infrastructure as a point of no return in regards to this country’s future developments. For many years Bashar Assad and Iran were able to take the utmost advantage of the Obama administration’s policy of appeasement, and thus pave the path for Russia’s entrance into the Middle East. The main victims have been directly the peoples of Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other regional states.

Iran seeks to respond to these attacks, both to lift the spirits of its military and security forces across the country, and in regards to the regional balance of power. Facing increasing anti-government protests and its consequences, however, Tehran lacks the capacity to take on measures outside of its borders .

Considered Assad’s main sponsor after spending dozens of billions of dollars in Syria, Iran had prior to these attacks threatened repeatedly that such a US-led initiative will not go unanswered.

Tehran, however, has yet to take any action after the early morning April 14th airstrikes, while further reports in Middle East outlets indicate other bases associated to the Assad regime and Iran-backed militias in Syria are being targeted.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei unprecedentedly described the leaders of the United States, France and the United Kingdom as “criminals,” going against all diplomatic norms. Can such remarks be considered a green light for terrorist attacks by Iran and/or its affiliates?

The semi-official Tasnim news agency, associated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force, claims the Asaeb al-Haq, a 40,000- strong militia group affiliated to Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) with long-term relations with Iran, has several units currently besieging U.S. forces stationed in the Al Zahra airbase located northwest of Baghdad.

Tehran’s rulers are comprehending clearly how Obama’s appeasement policy, in the face of this regime’s crimes inside the country and those of its affiliated militias abroad, has ended. Ever since the Trump administration has entered the White House, we have witnessed firm actions against Iran’s belligerence, rendering significant results.

For some time, we are no longer hearing reports of IRGC boats harassing US warships in international waters of the Persian Gulf. It has been months since Tehran last test-launched a ballistic missile. Instead they are using Yemen’s Houthis to launch Iranian missiles into Saudi Arabia to both cover any tracks and save face to some extent.

In the nationwide uprisings of the past months that rocked the very pillars of Tehran’s entire apparatus, the Iranian people are extensively protesting the regime’s Middle East meddling. This, parallel to the recent currency nosedive crisis, is preventing the Iranian regime from executing widespread military initiatives in the region.

Trump’s firm policy has also forced North Korea to agree into significantly curbing its nuclear weapons program and ballistic missiles. Russia, able to voice demands in the past few years due to Obama’s weakness and gaining a significant Middle East foothold through its Syria campaign, refused to respond to the US-led airstrikes against Assad’s forces.

Iran took advantage of the highly flawed appeasement policy by staging military attacks seeking physically elimination, and also demonizing its opposition, being the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and specifically the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main member of this political coalition that is considered the alternative to the Iranian regime.

In Iraq PMOI/MEK members were target to numerous ground and rocket attacks by Iran-associated militias. Tehran resorted to such methods to  balance in the face of regional defeats, including a lethal September 2013 raid into the PMOI/MEK’s main base in Iraq as Tehran’s nuclear negotiators began secret negotiations to curb their nuclear program.

Following the transfer of all PMOI/MEK members to Albanian in the Balkans, Tehran’s ability to carry out military attacks against them is limited. Iran, however, has launched an active propaganda machine and extensively expanded its embassy mission in Albania.

The PMOI/MEK in Albania have hosted senior American dignitaries such as Trump’s new National Security Advisor John Bolton, Trump’s cybersecurity advisor Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator John McCain and senior delegations from Congress all on separate occasions. Tehran’s lobbyists, especially those in the U.S., label such developments as the U.S.’ leniency towards war against Iran. This is Tehran’s effort to distract attention from the main issue at hand, being the existence of a popular resistance movement and an Iranian democratic alternative representing the Iranian people’s true will of regime change.

In response to senior U.S. figures supporting the PMOI/MEK and the policy of regime change in Iran, Tehran is focusing its main demonizing measures against this organization to both distort Albanian sympathy regarding the PMOI/MEK’s presence in Albania on one hand, and claim the Iranian regime has no alternative.

“Considering their own experience with dictatorship and oppression, Albanians understand the PMOI/MEK’s pain and suffering,” said former Albanian MP Namik Kopliku. “We are proud to provide a safe haven to the PMOI/MEK who seek freedom for Iran. On the other hand, we are witnessing a long slate of measures by Iran’s lobbyists in Albanian media attempting to spread lies and tarnish the PMOI/MEK’s image amongst our people.”

As a result, this possibility exists of Iran responding to setbacks in Syria by launching a new media campaign against PMOI/MEK members in Albania through its ties to western media outlets, attempting to delegitimize this alternative and portray the Iran dossier as a decision merely between war and appeasement.

If Washington intends to materialize its firm Middle East policy into meaningful results it must place its crosshairs on Iran . This is not a call for a new and unnecessary war in the Middle East. In fact, this is a call to support the Iranian people and their organized resistance movement in the ongoing anti-government protest, coupled with imposing crippling sanctions against the IRGC and Iran’s Central Bank. US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin recently signaled the possible return of “very strong” sanctions against Iran.

These coordinated measures will significantly weaken Tehran inside the country and abroad, and facilitate true change by the Iranian people and their rooted opposition.

ANALYSIS: Are Syria strikes a wake-up call for Iran?

Al Arabiya

Despite many speculations, the anticipated US-led airstrike inflicted severe blows to Syria’s Bashar Assad regime. While many chemical facilities became targets to provide some cover for civilians from horrendous attacks in the future, the main message was sent to Iran.

A rain of missiles and warplanes attacking Assad’s military and chemical sites made the Syrian dictator understand the golden years of Obama’s presidency has ended completely for him, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei & Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Iran, considering Syria its own backyard, is now facing major decisions about its future in the Middle East and back home. After the West has raised demands for Tehran to significantly curb its ballistic missile program & regional meddling, this attack, only a month prior to US President Donald Trump’s May 12th deadline, will certainly demand a heavy price from Tehran.

Specifics

US warships and B1 stealth bombers, French Navy vessels, Rafael and Mirage warplanes, and British Tornado fighter jets were the western alliances’ arsenal against Assad’s military. Tomahawk cruise missiles levelled the Mezze military airbase southwest of Damascus. Iran-made Zolfaqar & Qiam missiles, along with their launchers, were reportedly destroyed.

The Jibil Qasioun base, north of Damascus, is destroyed, reports add. This was the Syrian army’s intercepting facility, modernized by Iran, and used as a base by the Lebanese Hezbollah.

The Chemical Research Center near Damascus & the Barzeh military-research base were both targeted by US missiles, leaving at least 5 Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force members killed, reports indicate.

Even though 90 percent of Iran’s IRGC Quds Force units evacuated all bases prior to the attack, sources in Syria say at least 15 IRGC Quds Force advisors were killed in these attacks. Their bodies are reportedly missing.

40 Lebanese Hezbollah members & 35 Syrian military personnel were also killed. Sources indicate these attacks have inflicted billions of dollars in damages to missile & arms depots in Homs, and military facilities in Hama, Mezze & Jibil Qasioun.

Despite claims made by Iran & Syria-associated media, all missiles inflicted severe damages on their targets, to say the least. In a desperate measure, Iran and Syrian state TV stations aired archived footage of Saudi air defense units intercepting Houthi missiles, claiming to be Assad’s forces taking action.

The Pentagon literally ridiculed such claims, saying Syria’s air defense units fired around 40 SAM missiles that were mostly ineffective after mainly fired after the airstrike, most likely placing civilians in danger.

‘Locked and loaded’

With France and the United Kingdom directly taking part in these attacks, it is now clear that the U.S. and Europe will join forces against Iran’s interests at times of sensitive geopolitical matters.

Russia chose to remain completely inactive and Iran, despite its previous threats of wiping Israel off the map in response to an attack on Syria, literally sees its forces on the run.

Claims of Assad’s units downing missiles are highly questionable, especially since the French and British warplanes would have been far easier targets. To add insult to injury for Tehran, further reports indicate further attacks targeting Iran-backed units on Saturday night and early Sunday morning local time.

Trump has warned that the US is ready to strike again if the Syrian regime resorts to further chemical attacks. America is ready to maintain pressure on Bashar Assad until he ends the process of killing his own people, he added.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley used very blunt language in saying her country is ‘locked and loaded’ to strike again in response to any new chemical attack, sending a very significant message to Damascus, Moscow and most importantly, Tehran.

Against principle?

Trump came under criticism over his remarks of seeking to pull out of Syria and leaving for others to finalize the remaining necessities. Criticism continued after he tweeted saying the missiles “will be coming,” apparently going against his principle and giving away the element of surprise.

However, the element of surprise is useful in mostly single-stage attacks, such as the April 2017 US missile strike on the Al Shayeerat air base following Assad’s chemical attack against Khan Sheikhoun.

Although that sent a political message to Assad and his sponsors, it did not prevent the regime from resorting to further chemical attacks. The early morning April 14th airstrike enjoyed the support of France and the UK, and a conglomerate of weaponry.

Parallel to the political message, Assad’s chemical arsenal is now crippled at least for years to come, according to the Pentagon.

Broader perspective

There are signs that the military presence of Iran’s IRGC and other militias in the region will become the next of focus of US policy in the region. It is clear Iran will continue its blueprint of using militias in Iraq, Syria and even Persian Gulf states, such as Bahrain, to advance its objectives across the region.

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran issued a statement following the attackcalling for the eviction of Iran’s “Revolutionary Guards and mercenaries from Syria, Yemen, Iraq and other countries of the region. The mullahs’ regime is the main source of survival of Bashar al-Assad and the main source of terrorism and extremism and warfare in the Middle East and the vast sections of the world.”

If Washington is serious about establishing meaningful peace and security across the region, placing Iran’s Middle East meddling in its crosshairs is a must. Crippling sanctions against Iran’s IRGC and the regime’s Central Bank will deliver the necessary punch.

Such a policy can go alongside pressures on the Iran nuclear deal prior to Trump’s deadline and the US Treasury Department vowing to add “very strong,” new “primary and secondary sanctions” against the regime.

Washington is taking steps to corner Tehran. A comprehensive strategy is necessary to resolve the nuclear deal mess, completely end Iran’s destructive influence throughout the Middle East, impose meaningful sanctions targeting Tehran’s financial network and most importantly, supporting the ongoing Iranian protests as this nation vividly abhors their unjust rulers and demands regime change.