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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prelude

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

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

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

Double impact

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

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

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

Underestimation

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

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

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

Sweeping changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ultimate concern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Did Yemen’s Iran-Backed Houthis Fire Missiles Into Saudi Arabia?

Forbes

Common sense would suggest Iran toning down its language and measures as domestic and international pressures increase.

One cannot claim Tehran’s rulers lack common sense, as many accused Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi. The Iranian regime has been in power for four decades and their mentality hinges on pragmatism with the sole objective of maintaining their existence to the utmost extent.

Sunday night, local time, Saudi civilians became the target of seven ballistic missiles fired by the Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen.

“The Iran-aligned Houthi rebels fired three missiles at Riyadh and four others at the southern cities of Khamis Mushait, Jizan and Najran,” according to reports.

Saudi Patriot missile air defense batteries were able to destroy at least one projectile heading for an urban area, reports indicate. These batteries are programmable to allow missiles headed for remote areas lacking civilian population to hit the ground, preventing the unnecessary deployment of costly Patriot missiles.

This turn of events is resulting in a long slate of negative international reactions.

The United Nations, a long slate of Middle East countries, the United States and European Union have condemned the missile attacks, recommitting their support for the Kingdom.

London, despite its history of seeking to maintain ties with Tehran and expanding economic relations, grilled the latest developments in strong terms.

“We question why Iran is spending significant revenue in a country with which it has no real historical ties or interests,” reads a joint statement from Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt.

The text also calls for Iran to stop transferring weapons into Yemen. This is a litmus test for Tehran to prove it favors ending the violence and establishing peace in the Arab World’s poorest country. A test the Iranian regime has and will continue to fail, considering its nature of trekking from one crisis to another.

In line with this argument, Iran’s regular army chief commander again voiced threats of total annihilation against Israel.

“We will finish off Israel’s life within less than 25 years,” said Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi referring to a comment by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

This goes alongside the necessity for senior Iranian regime officials to save face in times of increasing domestic unrest parallel to elevating international isolation.

“We must choose between hard & harder. If we don’t accept the hard methods, we will have to succumb to more difficult circumstances,” said Iran’s Deputy Trade Minister Ali Sarzaeem.

Such comments from Iran come as the Trump administration undergoes major reshuffling, with analysts believing increasing pressure on Iran is a major focus.

After more than a year’s work with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump’s move to appoint CIA Director Mike Pompeo as his top diplomat is raising eyebrows across the globe, including most importantly in Tehran. Tillerson is well-known for convincing Trump, along with former National Security H.R. McMaster, to stick to the controversial Iran nuclear deal for a year.

With a new Secretary of State, and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton set to take over as National Security Advisor, many believe the coffin is completing for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the Iran nuclear agreement is formally known.

Tehran understands the unfolding situation is completely against its short- and long-term interests. Prior to the recent visit of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to Tehran, the West was seeking major curbing of Iran’s ballistic missile program and Middle East meddling. Tehran turning down that offer and taking into consideration the latest string of developments, the entire JCPOA now hangs in the balance.

Despite what you might read in mainstream media or hear from Iranian officials thumping their chests, Tehran desperately needs the JCPOA to remain intact.

Domestic circumstances are changing significantly following the December protests surge across Iran. Tehran’s rulers understand better than anyone their apparatus lacks the capacity to withstand a return to pre-JCPOA sanctions. The status quo is taking its toll on the regime’s day-to-day affairs, let alone with sanctions suffocating the economy.

For this very reason Iran’s regime is testing waters, such as through increasing hostilities in Yemen. Tehran seeks to maintain a poker face and claim more such steps will come if the U.S. decides to exit the JCPOA. This goes alongside previous claims of relaunching 20% uranium enrichment in a matter of 48 hours.

Although what needs understanding, as Europe is beginning to, is that Trump is not Obama. And Iran’s regime is far weaker due to the recent uprising, alongside growing intensifying internal disputes.

As a result, the circumstances are ripe to increase pressure on Tehran with actions such as sanctioning the mullahs’ Central Bank and crippling the Revolutionary Guards.

The likes of these actions, and not foreign military intervention, will place Washington and the West shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people in their struggle to set aside the mullahs and finally establish freedom and democracy.

The result of decades of appeasement is leaving no option but a firm policy vis-à-vis Tehran, and Washington is patching all loopholes.

Tehran comprehends these circumstances. If the mullahs’ back down from measures such as the recent Houthis’ missile attack, demands across the board will only increase.

ANALYSIS: Spotlight on Iran’s media apparatus

Media discussions continue over the nuclear deal with Iran and the need to curb Tehran’s ballistic missile program.

There’s also discussion relating to the degree with which the regime, through its militias and proxies, meddles in the affairs of other countries in the region, such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon.

There is, however, another highly dangerous reality, spreading from Tehran throughout the region and beyond, in the shape of the regime’s growing media empire.

The powerful threat posed by this network is must be understood. It is high time to put a spotlight on this growing phenomenon by focusing on containing and ultimately ending it.

The use of media and publications is a very important element of the regime’s ‘export of revolution,’ together with actual military operations, the establishment of religious footholds by founding centers and institutions and, as seen in Lebanon, appealing to the people by building free clinics, distributing food and other such charitable measures.

The United States has recently threatened to issue sanctions against Iran’s state TV and radio broadcasting empire, but, undeterred, Iran has announced its intentions to launch new French and Russian language networks, as well as targeting West Africa.

In a recent interview with Voice of America Farsi TV, Mr. Hassan Dai, a researcher into Iran’s international affairs, sheds light on Tehran’s vast media/publications grid.

A few numbers

There is no exact figure for how many TV networks Iran has launched to support its objectives abroad, but there are at least 55 stations known to broadcast programs in a variety of languages, mainly focusing on the Middle East.

Over 200 radio stations are aligning with hundreds of websites and printed newspapers.

The Iranian regime also fully understands and embraces the power of social media, using this platform to great effect in spreading the word about its television productions.

The Islamic TV/Radio Union

Founded ten years ago, Iran’s Islamic TV/Radio Union holds annual meetings and official numbers claim this Tehran-based union enjoys a membership of 236 organizations from 36 countries.

Former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki described the objective of this union as providing “honest support for armed groups in the field.”

This union is known as an umbrella entity for all Tehran-influenced regional and international media outlets. The main member of this union is the Iranian regime’s state provider, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) operating inside the country with branches in Lebanon and Iraq.

In 2002, the Arabic language “Al-Alam TV” launched to cover the entire Middle East.

Iranian and foreign staff members of “Press TV” news channel work at the newsroom in Tehran, 20 June 2007. (AFP)

A few years later, the English language “Press TV” began broadcasting with branches in London and Lebanon. Due to sanctions, this network was later cut-off from Europe’s cable TV network.

“HispanTV” in Spanish provides similar broadcasts in Spanish for Latin America and parts of Europe.

“Al-Kowthar” airs religious programs in different languages while Sahar TV has recently expanded its activities in Azeri, Bosnian, French, Turkish and other languages.

Middle East focus

In addition to the IRIB, Iran is placing significant focus on supporting its Middle East militias.

No other country has such a high number of militia groups, each equipped with their own media outlet. IRIB chief Ali Asgari’s October visit to Lebanon provided a glimpse into the depth of Tehran’s established network.

According to Dai, using such media outlets, Iran continues its gain of significant experience in disseminating lies and spreading propaganda over many years.

Journalists work 07 December 2004 at the Al-Manar television station, the mouthpiece of the Lebanese Shiite Muslim fundamentalist Hezbollah. (AFP)

The Lebanese Hezbollah has through the years carried out a two-pronged campaign comprising military operations and media activities, especially using satellite TV networks. “Al-Manar TV” launched in 2000, developing into the new “Al-Mayadeen” network in 2012. With numerous Arab language TV networks stationed on its soil, Lebanon is of great importance for Iran.

Iraq is also home to many Iran-backed militia groups, each now enjoying a separate media platform. While distinct in name, their activities are well coordinated.

The main media stations and militia groups are:

  • “Al-Qadir,” associated to the Badr Organization led by Hadi al-Ameri, airs in Baghdad, Karbala and Basra;
  • “Al-Ettejah,” associated to the Katayeb al-Hezbollah led by senior Revolutionary Guards Quds Force member Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes;
  • “Al-Ahd TV,” associated to Asaeb al-Haq led by Qeis al-Khazali, whose men have vowed to fight U.S. Marines in Iraq;
  • “Al-Forat,” associated to Ammar Hakim, former leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a group known for its close ties to Tehran;
  • “Al-Nojaba,” associated to the Harekat al-Nojaba group that is witnessing a recent rise.

The Dawa Party has three different TV networks.

  • “Afaq,” associated to former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.
  • “Al-Baladi,” associated to Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jafari.
  • “Al-Mesar,” associated to the party itself.

Moving on to Yemen, a country now witnessing a proxy war launched by Iran against Saudi Arabia. While its role continues unconfronted, Tehran has provided the Yemen Ansarollah, aka the Houthis, the “al-Masireh TV” and “al-Saha” networks. These establishments, based in Beirut, enjoy Lebanese Hezbollah support.

Despite the fact that al-Masireh’s satellite provider ended its services, this TV station continues to air its programs.

In Palestine the two networks of Palestine “al-Yawm” and “al-Quds” are fully controlled and funded by Iran. They are in close relations with Islamic Jihad and the Quds Force Saberin unit, known for its extraterritorial special operations. “Al-Aqsa,” however, is associated to Hamas and cannot completely be described as under Tehran’s control, while they specifically oppose peace efforts with Israel.

Main target for expanding activity

Following the transfer of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) from Iraq to Albania, Tehran has been redoubling its efforts to establish a wide variety of outlets in this country and across the Balkans.

The PMOI/MEK have been a target of Iran’s demonizing campaign for decades and Tehran understands it needs to invest even further in this regard to delegitimize this opposition coalition that significantly threatens its entire establishment.

This urgency is increasing daily as protests continue across the country following a recent uproar from the whole spectrum of Iran’s society, incited, according to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, by the PMOI/MEK.

Measures taken by the Iranian regime against the PMOI/MEK in Albania include paying various Albanian TV networks to air anti-PMOI/MEK propaganda during the past few months. A new website called “Iran-Freedom-Albania” presents such posts in Farsi, English and Albanian.

In addition, the Habilian website, known for its links to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence, and Pars Today are now presenting Albanian language segments to their platform to target the PMOI/MEK.

This vast onslaught of media propaganda goes alongside Iran’s cyber campaign, used as domestic surveillance to hunt down protesters and gain knowledge about foreign-based activists.

Iran’s media campaign against its dissidents and opposition aims to help quell the current uprising. Be in no doubt that discovering the PMOI social network inside Iran and their supporter cells across the country are a major priority for Tehran.

The costs

First, taking into consideration the lack of transparency that Iran’s regime is known for, we should most certainly refrain from relying on official statistics. At least 30 percent of Iran’s entire economy is completely behind the curtains, controlled by the IRGC and other Khamenei-supervised institutions. There is no information on how the revenue of this large segment of Iran’s economy is allocated.

The same goes for Iran’s foreign belligerence. There is no mentioning of the budgets allocated for Syria, said to be $10 to $15 billion a year. This includes the money Iran provides to launch a new satellite TV network in this ravaged country.

There are no official statistics for these measures. Estimates indicate the Hezbollah-affiliated “al-Manar” TV station demands an annual budget of $20 million. As a result, aside from networks managed by the IRIB, Iran’s foreign-based media cost the regime around $150 million a year.

Blanket sanctions

Iran is certainly feeling the international pressure to significantly curb its ballistic missile program and meddling across the Middle East. As we trust this article shows, concentrated measures are also necessary to closing the curtain on its destructive media empire.

With reports of a controversial secret deal between the Obama administration and Tehran preventing new sanctions against Iran’s IRIB, Washington should lead an effort to impose blanket sanctions on this regime’s method used to spread its malign ideology and belligerence.

The time to act is now.

نتيجه سفر وزير خارجه فرانسه به ايران چيست؟

سفر روز دوشنبه وزير خارجه فرانسه ژان ايو لودريان واكنشهاي مختلفي را، بطور خاص از داخل ايران، برانگيخته است.

روزنامه کیهان، كه به عنوان ارگان علي خامنه اي، ولي فقيه ايران شناخته ميشود، با تیتر «وزیر خارجه فرانسه در راه تهران با کلاه برجام ۲» مدعی تلاش فرانسه برای اعمال جامهای زهر بعدی است.

سایت رویداد ۲۴نوشت: ۳ موضوع برجام، موشک و نقش ایران در منطقه، از مهمترین چالشهای پیش‌روی ایران، اروپا و آمریکا و کشورهای منطقه است.»

اين موضوعي است كه تهران را بيش از هرچيز ديگر نگران ميكند، چرا كه بسيار روشن است اروپاييها هرگز بجاي آمريكا طرف ايران را نمي گيرند.

در تلاشي براي بالا بردن قيمت قبل از سفر لودريان، تهران روز دوشنبه اعلام كرد در صورتي كه واشينگتن از برجام خارج شود از توانايي توليد اورانيوم غنيشده غلظت بالا ظرف دو روز برخوردار است.

بهروز كمالوند، سخنگوي سازمان انرژي اتمي ايران به تلويزيون العالم گفت، «اگر آمريكا از توافق خارج شود… ايران ميتواند ظرف كمتر از 48 ساعت غني سازي اورانيوم 20 درصد خود را از سر گيرد.»

قاسمی، سخنگوی وزارت‌خارجه رژیم گفت لودريان تنها وارد رایزنی خواهد شد و مذاکره‌یی در کار نیست. اما مواضع رسمی فرانسه چیز دیگری را بیان می‌کند.

لودریان وزیر خارجه فرانسه روزنامه فرانسوی «ژورنال دو دیمانش» گفت: «برنامه موشکهای بالستیک ایران که چند هزار کیلومتر برد دارند، با قطعنامه‌های شورای امنیت سازگار نیستند و فراتر از نیاز ایران برای دفاع از مرزهایش هستند… در صورتی که این مشکل مستقیماً حل نشود، ایران با خطر تحریم‌های جدید مواجه خواهد شد.»

در حال حاضر فرانسه نقش رهبری اروپا در مذاکرات با رژیم را برعهده دارد. لودریان در سفر به تهران در مورد شروط ترامپ برای تغییر برجام و موضوعات منطقه‌یی با مقامات رژیم صحبت می‌کند.

خبرگزاری فارس نوشت آمریکا به فرانسه وکالت داده است شروط ترامپ را روی میز رژیم بگذارد و کشورهای اروپایی هم با تأیید همان شروط همراهی خودشان را با آمریکا نشان دادند.

در ديدار خود با لودريان، اظهارات حسن روحاني، رئيس جمهوري ايران بطور روشن نگرانيهاي عميق تهران در مورد آينده برجام را فاش ساخت.

روحاني گفت، «برجام آزمايشي براي همه طرفها است و لغو آن منجر به پشيماني همگان خواهد شد.»

بايد موضوع زمانبندی این سفر را هم در نظر داشته باشيم چرا كه درست پیش از سفر نخست‌وزیر اسراییل به آمریکا طراحی شده است. سفری که موضوع اصلی آن ایران بود.

دو هفته بعد هم ولیعهد عربستان به آمریکا می‌رود که این سفر هم در رابطه با دخالتهای منطقه‌یی رژیم انجام می‌شود. نقش تهران در سوريه نگرانيهايي را ايجاد كرده است.

سناتور ليندزي گراهام اخيراً در مصاحبه يي گفت، «… اگر ما ايران را اخراج نكنيم و در ژنو به توافقي دست نيابيم كه سوريه را به سوريها بدهد، اين جنگ هرگز تمام نخواهد شد. بنابراين، آقاي رئيس جمهوري، مسأله فقط شكست داعش نيست. اگر سوريه را در دستان روسيه و ايرانيان رها كنيد، اين جنگ هرگز تمام نخواهد شد.»

 و سرانجام ماه آینده هم، زمان دیدار ماکرون ـ از موضع رهبری اروپا در بحث برجام ـ با ترامپ است.

در نتيجه، هدف سفر لودريان به ايران را ميتوان اعمال فشار جدي از طرف ترامپ و شروط او توصيف كرد. تهران به شدت نگران خواهد بود، با اشراف به اينكه همه ملاقاتها در گفتگوهاي ماكرون در واشينگتن به بلوغ خواهند رسيد. دو هفته بعد از آن ترامپ تصميم خود در مورد برجام را اعلام خواهد كرد.

اين مسأله تهران را در برابر يك مشكل جدي قرار ميدهد. تن دادن به شروط جديد جهت حفظ برجام منجر به ضربه يي استراتژيك خواهد شد، كه حداقل آن كاهش برنامه موشكهاي بالستيك و نفوذ خود در خاورميانه است. ايران اين دو ركن را افتخار و عمق استراتژيك منطقه يي خود ميداند.

اما تصميم براي رد شروط واشينگتن يقيناً باعث بازگشت تحريمهاي فلج كننده براي تهران خواهد بود.

علاوه بر اين مسأله ادامه اعتراضات توسط ايرانيان در سراسر كشور است. اين در كنار فراخوانهايي است جهت برپايي اعتراضات سراسري بيشتر به مناسبت چهارشنبه سوري ميباشد.

اپوزيسيون ايران، سازمان مجاهدين خلق ايران، فراخواني براي قيام سراسري در اين روز داده است. مقامات ارشد ايراني گفته اند مجاهدين سازماندهنده آخرين موج از اعتراضات سراسر كشور بودند.

بحرانهاي تهران تازه آغاز شده است.