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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran’s state TV – August 26, 2019

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

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

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

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

IRGC in Lebanon

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

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

Naameh, Lebanon

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The deep impact of Zarif’s sanctioning

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

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

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

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

Zarif’s main argument

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

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

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

Expiration date

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

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

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

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

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

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

Internal turmoil

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

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

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

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

Dark shadow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, Nasiri could care less.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shame.

Iran deeply concerned over upcoming Arab conferences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran’s new line of defense

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report: Iran-backed Iraqi militias seeking new bases following F-35 dispatching

A source in the Iraqi Parliament Security and Defense Committee shed light on various objectives pursued by the United States in dispatching its strategic F-35 fighter jets, according to Bahrain’s Al-Khaleej daily. The F-35 is a single-seat, single-engine and all-weather stealth multirole fighters. The fifth-generation combat aircraft is designed to perform ground attacks and air-superiority missions.

Amer al-Faez, a member of the Iraqi Parliament and the Security and Defense Committee, claims targeting Iraqi sites with F-35 fighter jets – labeled by locals as the “Ghost” – sends a message that Washington has access to any target it wishes across Iraq.

These remarks by al-Faez were made following reports claiming U.S. fighter jets targeting Iraqi police positions in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Reports claimed the attack was the result of an error by U.S. forces in Iraq.

Sources in Iraq’s Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi  (aka Popular Mobilization Forces – PMF) are saying armed groups associated to these units are seeking new bases following the U.S. dispatching its F-35 fighter jets to the region. All the while, to prevent attacks by the advanced U.S. fighter jets, the PMF have been relocating their ammunition caches to previously unidentified locations.

“Dispatching ‘Ghost’ fighter jets to Iraq and their use in attacks targeting sites inside Iraq is considered as the U.S. flexing its muscles against Iran,” al-Fayez said, emphasizing the Americans have practically blueprinted plans to keep an eye on and continue observation/monitoring missions focusing on Iran from Iraqi soil.

Furthermore, Iraqi MP Abbas Sarut claimed missiles are ready to target the al-Taji airport located north of Baghdad. This is a clear reflection of the economic and military war between Washington and Tehran, he added.

“Armed militia groups that have been designated by Washington as terrorist groups may now be planning to target U.S. targets. This will increase tensions between the two sides and Iraq may become a conflict zone for these two competitors,” Sarut added.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry had previously reported government specialists discovering and neutralizing three ready-to-fire missiles aimed at the al-Taji airport. He provided no details about who was behind this failed attempt.

In other reports, Israeli intelligence sources are reporting Russia has begun pressuring Iran in Syria. The Russians have reportedly begun forcing the Iranian regime’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) out of their military bases and returning advanced drones from Syria to Iran.

Reports are claiming unexpected measures being carried out by the Russians in recent days against Tehran’s interests in Syria. The Russians have ordered a number of IRGC bases to evacuate immediately without providing any warnings.

Analysts are saying this indicates the Russians will also prevent Syrian dictator Bashar Assad from handing the Latakia ports over to Iran. This strategic port has access Mediterranean waters and is located to the Russian base in Homaymim. Further reports indicate the Russians have forced IRGC-linked militia groups out of important various airbases across Syria. This goes against Russia’s past agreement of allowing Iran’s IRGC to have a presence in such sites.

The website also explained that Russia had also exerted pressure on Iran to remove its sophisticated drones from Syria, including the Saegheh (Thunderbolt), enjoying the ability to carry precision-guided and anti-tank guided missiles. This drone was built on the model of an American RQ-170 drone that Iran claimed to have shot down back in 2011.

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The Iranian ‘Saegheh’ drone (AP)

Russia’s expulsion policy also includes the removal of Iran’s IRGC units from the Mazze military airport, located on the southwestern outskirts of the capital Damascus; the Khalkhala Airbase in al-Suwaida Province near the Jordanian border; Beit Saham in the southeastern suburbs of Damascus overlooking the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights; and the Tiyas airbase, known as T4, near the city of Homs.

Last year, Iran transferred a variety of armed drones to Syria, including the single-engine “Shaheed 129,” Mohajer-4 and Mohajer-6. These drones are able to carry missiles and bombs.

It appears that Russia and the U.S., along with Israel, have reached an agreement and are on the verge of ending Iran’s influence in Syria. Recent reports also Russia-associated forces clashing with Iran’s IRGC and IRGC-affiliated proxy groups from a number of Syrian regions. Furthermore, there is word of a trilateral agreement involving the U.S., Russia and Israel strengthening the initiative to force Iran out of Syria.

Iran: Senior IRGC officer flees, increasing defections reported

Ali Nasiri, a former brigadier general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), previously head of this entity’s counterintelligence apparatus, has reportedly fled from Iran.

Sources say an individual close to Hossein Taeb, head of the IRGC Intelligence Organization, has shed light on an April 11 meeting held between senior intelligence ranks, during which a verbal dispute erupted between Taeb and Nasiri, leading to Nasiri prematurely leaving the meeting.

Afterwards, Nasiri reportedly refused to show up at work for two days. A follow-up investigation made indicated he has fled the country.

Sources say a probe launched by IRGC counterintelligence units reveals that Nasiri fled to a Persian Gulf country, requesting political asylum at the local U.S. embassy. Reports indicate Nasiri had in possession a large volume of documents recording the travels of senior IRGC commanders, intelligence personnel and operational units to foreign countries, all under the cover of diplomatic missions.

Nasiri was also previously in command of the IRGC’s “Hazrate Seyed al-Shohada” corps stationed in Tehran.

To this day, the IRGC Intelligence Organization and Counterintelligence Organization have gone the distance preventing the publication of such news reports in the media.

On April 13, the al-Mayadeen news network, associated to the Lebanese Hezbollah, posted a report about this matter on its website without providing any details. The report was taken off less than half an hour later.

The IRGC Counterintelligence Organization is a conglomerate missioned to provide flight security, security for government officials and figures, and foreign dignitaries during their visits to Iran.

The office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has appointed IRGC veteran Vahid Haghanian as their man in this case to coordinate the measures taken by the regime’s intelligence apparatus in this regard.

Nasiri’s fleeing from Iran has had an extremely negative impact among the hierarchy under his command. On April 19, the IRGC-associated Fars news agency referred to the fate of Nasiri without any further explanation.

“Under an order issued by Mohammad Ali Jafari, the [then] Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander-in-chief, Brigadier General Fat’ollah Jamiri has been appointed as commander of the IRGC Counterintelligence Organization.” This report made no mentioning of Nasiri.

The IRGC Counterintelligence Corps was established back in 1985.

No U.S. or Iranian official has shown any reaction to reports of Nasiri’s fleeing from Iran.

Is Khamenei merging the IRGC into Iran’s regular army?

Following the U.S. State Department’s unprecedented step of designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” (FTO), there have reportedly been movements in the IRGC hierarchy, sources say. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has recently held a number of meetings with senior commanders of the IRGC and Iran’s regular army, along with Ali Akbar Veleyati, Khamenei’s senior international affairs advisor.

Kamal Kharazi, a former Iranian foreign minister, made the following remarks in a private meeting on the IRGC’s terrorist designation:

“The subject of new developments in the IRGC is nothing new and [Khamenei] has held a number of meetings with the IRGC and regular army hierarchy, issuing a numbers of orders on this matter. [Khamenei] has placed senior IRGC officers Vahid Haghanian, Hassani Sa’di (deputy of the IRGC-linked Khatam al-Anbia Headquarters), and General Ali Bagheri, Iran’s armed forces chief of staff, in charge of implementing these instructions. However, this process was accelerated with the IRGC’s terrorist designation on April 8.”

Kharazi shed light on the history of this important issue in Iran.

“The ‘phase by phase merging’ of portions of the IRGC into the regular army is nothing new. [U.S. President Donald] Trump laid out a new U.S. strategy vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran in his speech on October 13, 2017, and placed the IRGC in the U.S. sanctions list… Khamenei held a meeting with senior IRGC and regular army commanders on October 22, 2017, forecasting that the IRGC sanctions are a prelude to the IRGC’s terrorist designation. Therefore, in that meeting a decision was made to gradually merge the IRGC into the regular army. Arrangements were made to merge a portion of the senior IRGC ranks – including colonels and higher commanders – into the regular army. This phase has been completed to a large extent,” he explained.

“Following the IRGC’s terrorist designation by the U.S., defections and disappointment have increased significantly among the IRGC files. One day after this announcement, the IRGC issued a call to all its forces stationed in provincial bases and the Basij Resistance units saying considering the people’s growing dilemmas following the recent floods, the possibility of popular protests and unrest in the coming two months is quite high, and the consequences go far beyond what was witnessed in the Dec 2017/Jan 2018 uprising,” Kharrazi continued.

That particular episode in Iran’s history of uprisings saw protests mushrooming in over 140 cities across the country and the regime eventually arrested over 8,000 dissidents.

Citing a senior official in the regimes Armed Forces Headquarters, Kharrazi added the number of retirement requests have increased at an alarming rate among senior IRGC ranks. Low morale among Basij members is becoming a grave concern, with a growing number of such individuals deserting their units and bases.

Confronting Iran’s influence in Syria is vital

While Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of the regime ruling Iran, sought to garner attention and boast victory in Syria through the recent visit of Syrian regime dictator Bashar Assad to Tehran, developments in the Levant are actually  by far against the clerical regime’s interests.

U.S. President Donald Trump is now fully agreeing to maintaining a contingency in Syria – said to be 400 troops – in what appears to be a dual mission in the country’s northeast and the strategic al-Tanf base on the Syria-Jordan border.

Reporting on how his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin focused mainly on Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underscored how he and the Russian leader agreed on the need to remove all foreign forces that came into Syria.

Considering the fact that the Lebanese Hezbollah also plays a highly devastating role in Syria, the U.S. is seeking new sanctions against this terrorist group that was founded and continues to enjoy funding by Tehran.

All these measures are principally important, especially bearing in mind the fact that the regime in Iran seeks to establish an all Syrian militia in Syria, most likely a replica of its Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and Basij paramilitary forces. Tehran was the main force behind the launching of the Hashd al-Shabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces, in Iraq, who stand accused of fueling sectarian strife in the Mesopotamia.

And to add insult to injury, despite claims made by various Iranian regime officials, Russia is now confirming a decision to establish a “Syria Working Group” with Israel. Netanyahu has also been heard making remarks about launching a joint Israel-Russia working group to have all foreign forces leave Syria.

Tehran, sensing the need to save face in light of such developments, resorted to hasty comments to dampen the impact of this setback. Bahram Ghassemi, spokesperson for the Iranian regime’s Foreign Ministry, claimed Russia does not follow in line with Israel and claimed Tehran and Moscow enjoy “strong ties.” While the mullahs’ regime in Iran claim remarks made by Israeli officials have no impact on them, a Kremlin spokesperson confirmed a decision was made between Putin and Netanyahu to establish this working group soon.

The question now is how can the U.S. facilitate the pushing of Iran’s malign forces out of Syria?

Iran is already under tight U.S. sanctions. These measures should continue to especially deprive Tehran of finances used to fuel its regional agenda of wreaking havoc and continuous warmongering in Syria. As a reminder, Tehran insiders have been heard voicing the importance of maintaining influence in Syria for the sake of remaining in power back home.

Despite being long overdue, the United Kingdom recently designated all branches of the Lebanese Hezbollah – founded and funded by the regime in Iran – as a terrorist organization, putting an end to the separation between this group’s political and military segments.

The U.S. Treasury Department also sanctioned “Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba,” a radical Muslim militia group known to be loyal to Tehran and having around 10,000 fighters. The group leader, Akram Kaabi, is also blacklisted. These measures are necessary to chip the wings of Iran’s warmongering apparatus.

Tehran is known to be funding a conglomerate of extremist groups across the Middle East, parallel to billions provided annually to Assad in Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Houthis in Yemen and extremist militias in Iraq. Denying Iran access to the global financial system will deplete its treasury of the funds needed to continue this unbridled campaign of belligerence.

To put a nail in the coffin, Washington should designate Iran’s IRGC, the main force behind all these destructive activities, as a foreign terrorist organization. This can go parallel to a similar designation of the mullahs’ Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), now more legitimate following a recent surge of Iran-backed terror plots and assassinations across Europe. Even the Europeans are sanctioning portions of the MOIS in response.

Ending Iran’s influence in Syria is pivotal to returning peace to the Middle East. Interestingly, this also weakens Tehran’s crackdown apparatus and renders direct support to the Iranian people in their ongoing struggle against the mullahs’ regime.

Israel targets sites of Iran’s IRGC Quds Force, militia groups in Syria

https://twitter.com/HeshmatAlavi/status/1077656867931914241A variety of sites west of Damascus, Syria, associated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force and proxy groups, were targeted in an Israeli air and missile strike Tuesday night. More than 30 missiles were launched in this attack that also saw a number of planes carrying weapons from Iran to Syria targeted.

At least 20 missiles were fired by Israeli warplanes as they targeted a base belonging to Iran where Lebanese Hezbollah members were stationed. Reports indicate Israeli warships were also participating in this strike, launching more than 20 cruise missiles towards targets in Damascus.

More than 20 rockets were also fired at bases located west of Damascus.

The Syrian Human Rights Observatory in Damascus said the cruise missiles were targeting arms caches belonging to Iran’s regime. Signs indicate this attack consisted of two waves of strikes carried out by Israel.

The Israeli government has made it clear time and again it will not allow Tehran establish permanent bases and provide arms and ammunition to proxy groups in Syria.

Further attacks were staged against targets in Qatana, southwest of Damascus. Sources on the ground reported a large number of ambulances were dispatched to western areas of Damascus, indicating a high number of casualties.

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Map by @sfrantzman indicating the sites reportedly targeted by Israel on Tuesday night

The second wave of Israel’s attack consisted of F16s bomber escorted by advanced F35 warplanes targeting various sites in Damascus. The targets included Hezbollah sites in a school in Dimas, the Syrian army 4th Saboura brigade headquarters, the 10th Qatana brigade, Syrian Defense Ministry factories in the mountain tops west and north of Damascus, the 67th and 137th brigades in the al-Sheikh region and other arms caches belonging to the Iranian regime.

This is described as the largest attack by Israel following the downing of a Russian military plane. Israel has also targeted two Syrian S200 surface to air missile sites.

The Israeli army also destroyed a site where Iran’s Fajr-5 missiles were being held in secret. There are also reports indicating Israel targeted a Hezbollah command site, killing a number of senior Hezbollah officials.

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Images of Iran’s Fajr-5 missile system

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Fajr-5, a guided 333 mm missile system

Newsweek, citing a source in the U.S. Defense Department, said the Israeli airstrikes were carried out minutes after senior Hezbollah officials were boarding an Iranian plane in Damascus intending to leave for Iran. This report also indicates Iran’s strategic arms warehouses, including advanced weapons GPS equipment, were targeted in last night’s air raid.

Two suspicious Iranian planes left the Damascus airport just half an hour prior to the attack. One Boeing 747 cargo plane associated to the Fars “Qeshm” airline landed in Damascus International Airport at 7 pm Tuesday night and left the airport at 9:28 pm, meaning half an hour prior to reports of an air attack in Syria.

According to Flightradar24.com, one of the Iranian planes, a Boeing F281-747, took off from Damascus and headed to the east and Tehran, escalated to 30,000 feet and entered Iraqi airspace at around 10 pm to then enter Iranian airspace at around midnight.

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Tweets by @sfrantzman on the suspicious Iranian flights

This thread provides a look at the various videos posted of this latest Israel attack targeting Iran’s interests in Syria.