ANALYSIS: Does the Middle East’s stability hinge on Iran’s expulsion?

As developments across the Middle East continue to signal landmark breakthroughs in the near future, Iran is resorting to desperate measures to safeguard a fading role.

As over 85 percent of Yemen is retaken by the Saudi-backed coalition, reports indicate a second ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s armed Iran-supported Houthi militias targeting Saudi soil was shot down on Thursday near the south-western city of Khamis Mushait.

In Syria there are signs of hostilities nearing an end after nearly seven years of carnage. This is in fact against Iran’s interests as this regime thrives on unrest outside of its borders to keep the flame of turmoil burning and focus attention at bay from its domestic woes back home.

Desperate times, desperate measures

While standard viewpoints and common sense lead us to the conclusion that certain measures signal Iran’s strengths, this piece is meant to argue otherwise. Iran, nowadays, is forced to choose between bad and worse.

With Yemen slipping out of its control, Tehran is desperate and resorting to a variety of measures to maintain a straight face despite significant setbacks. This includes deadly clashes between Houthi forces and those loyal to ousted Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Salah, significantly endangering Tehran’s future interests.

The circumstances in Yemen are obvious. It has become a no-brainer that Tehran supports the Shiite Houthis against the internationally-recognized government of Yemen. Yet Iran cannot engage directly in Yemen through ground, air or sea measures. Launching missiles from Iran to Yemeni soil against the Saudi-led coalition or into Saudi soil is also out of the question.

Remains only the option of smuggling arms and missile parts through Oman and other routes into Yemen to support the Houthis and have the missiles assembled and readied to target Saudi targets. Riyadh’s missile defense units have defended their territories. Despite all the calamities, Iran is left with the sole option of continuing such measures, or succumb to forgoing its Yemen campaign and accepting defeat.

To make matters worse, the European Parliament recently adopted a resolution calling on Iran to halt its support for the Houthis. With 539 votes in favor against a mere 13 against, the European Parliament condemned the Houthis’ recent missile attacks targeting Saudi interests, especially a civilian airport in Riyadh and the King Khaled International Airport.

A confidential United Nations sanctions monitors report seen by Reuters indicates the remains of “four ballistic missiles fired into Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Houthi rebels this year appear to have been designed and manufactured by Riyadh’s regional rival Iran.”

Iran’s meddling has escalated tension across the region to unimaginable levels. (Reuters)

Publicity stunt

A similar mentality and practice of understanding is needed to compensate a recent move by a reporter of Iran’s state broadcaster embedded with Tehran’s foot-soldiers in Syria.

It is common knowledge that recruiting juveniles for war is banned by international law. All the while, a November 25th video showing a 13-year-old boy in the Syrian border city of Abu Kamal made a frenzy on Iranian websites and social media channels.

Describing himself as a “defender of the shrine”– using terminology branded by the Iranian regime for foot-soldiers and cannon-fodders recruited for battles in Syria and Iraq – the young boy says he is from the northern Iranian province of Mazandaran and resorts to various explanations about his motivation for being in such circumstances while expected to be attending school.

Although obviously a publicity stunt, why would Iran resort to such a measure knowing organizations such as the Human Rights Watch would raise major concerns? If Iran is boasting about major victories in Syria, why the need to resort to such a PR measure with more cons than pros?

Adding to the controversy is remarks made by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif over Tehran’s forces insisting to remain in the Levant. “The US and Russia cannot decide for Iran… It’s our region… We are going nowhere,” Zarif said in remarks going against Iran’s claims of maintaining a presence in Syria to fight ISIS and “defend Islamic shrines.”

It is becoming an undeniable reality that Iran is losing hegemony in Syria to a long slate of players. And after wasting dozens of billions of dollars in the Levant, bringing death to hundreds of thousands and literally destroying an entire nation, Tehran is desperately in need to save face.

What the future may hold

Iran’s meddling across the region has escalated tension across the region to unimaginable levels and left a path of ruins. Tehran currently seeks a corridor to its main proxy, the Lebanese Hezbollah, to easily provide necessary logistics and maintain influence throughout the Middle East.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir raised the stakes by accusing Hezbollah of using Lebanese banks for smuggling and money laundering to finance their terrorist activists. Riyadh’s top diplomat went as far as describing Lebanon as another country’s hostage, most likely referring to Iran.

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has long called for strict measures aimed at evicting Iran from the region, especially Syria and Iraq. The war in Syria is coming to an end against Iran’s interests.

The forces supported by Tehran in Yemen are losing ground fast. Hezbollah is coming under increasing pressure in Lebanon and in Iraq, after the routing of ISIS, Iran can no longer justify the presence of proxy forces.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday met with Iraqi Kurdistan leaders in Paris and called on Iraq to dismantle the Iran-backed militia known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. This is a very public call for such a measure considered highly sensitive for Iraq and Iran.

All the while, the Iranian regime is no entity to remain silent or inactive. There are ongoing conspiracies to obtain further influence in Iraq’s upcoming general elections set for May 12th. Establishing underground missile factories and a land-bridge are in the blueprints for Lebanon.

Wreaking endless havoc in Yemen and creating obstacles one after another in the Syria talks are Iran’s agenda. In response, a strong and united international effort is needed to confront Tehran’s ambitionsand deter it back once and for all.

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ANALYSIS: Is Iran’s influence fading in Lebanon and Yemen?

Recent developments across the region are signaling increasing isolation for Tehran. Despite investing for decades, Lebanon and Yemen are literally slipping out of Iran’s hands.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri sent shockwaves across the region by announcing his resignation. The recent missile attack by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen targeting Riyadh crossed a costly red line for Tehran.

Turning point in Lebanon

In Hariri’s own words, Iran and Hezbollah had literally taken the entire country of Lebanon hostage, making it impossible to carry out his duties.

Evidence also revealed an assassination plot threatening his life. Western and Arab intelligence services unveiled how his entourage was targeted, in a blueprint similar to his father’s assassination.

“Those who planned to assassinate prime minister Hariri deactivated the observation towers while his motorcade was passing by,” Reuters wired citing Al Arabiya.

YEMEN-CONFLICT-POLITICS-HUTHI
Supporters of Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebel movement gather in Sanaa on September 21, 2017. (AFP)

Three issues related to this development are worth pondering over:
1) Hariri announced his resignation from Riyadh only one day after his meeting with Ali Akbar Velayati, international affairs advisor of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in Beirut.
2) The United States launched a new Iran policy targeting this regime’s destabilization and terrorism across the region.
3) Hezbollah has come under severe sanctions, including three bills passed by the US House of Representatives on October 25th.
a. H.R. 359 calling on the European Union to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization
b. H.R. 3342 sanctioning Hezbollah for using innocent civilians as human shields
c. H.R. 3329, known as HIFPA, targets Hezbollah’s international financial support

In short, Hariri’s resignation changed all calculations for Iran in Lebanon.

A look into the past

After a long stalemate Lebanon established a government on 18th December 2016, seeing Hariri as the prime minister and Michel Aoun as president. Lebanon’s power structure and political fabrication comprises of a Christian president, Sunni prime minister and a Shiite head of parliament.

This combination provided a major advantage for Iran, carrying out all its crimes under the cover of a legitimate Sunni government. Hezbollah is attacking its dissidents in Lebanon, under the pretext of Lebanese Army operations. This terrorist designated entity is also using Lebanon’s financial infrastructure for its own benefit.

This farce legitimacy is now coming to an end. Hariri himself said the status quo could not continue.

Concerns and reactions

Iran and Hezbollah are both sensing the dangers ahead after Hariri’s resignation. “Without a doubt this resignation has raised our concerns and we did not welcome it,” said Hezbollah leader Hassan Nassrallah.

Media in Iran are known to voice the general opinion of its ruling regime. “It appears that Hariri’s resignation is the operational beginning of this strategy in the region, with the ground being paved by the US Congress sanctioning [Iran] and Hezbollah,” according to the semi-official Entekhab daily.

A shot period after Hariri’s resignation, the Houthis in Yemen launched a missile targeting the King Salman International Airport near Riyadh.

“Iran has provided the capability for ballistic missile attacks launched from Yemen,” wire services reported citing Jeffrey Harrigian, commander for southwest Asia at the US Air Forces Central Command on Friday.

“What we have seen, clearly from the results of the ballistic missile attacks, that there have been Iranian markings on those missiles, that’s been demonstrated,” Harrigian added.

One can raise three possible reasons for this retaliation by Iran:
– A response to the blow received from Hariri’s resignation.
– The Houthis are suffering a series of setbacks on the ground.
– The United Nations has proposed peace plans for Yemen. The Houthis missile launch signals Iran’s response to peace and any negotiations whatsoever in Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition accused Iran of launching a “direct military aggression” and declaring war, threatening possible retaliation. Article 51 of the UN Charter entails countries the right to take defensive military action in such scenarios. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said adequate action will be taken at the proper timing.

Two air strikes targeting the defense ministry in Yemen’s militant-held capital Sanaa late Friday were carried out by the Saudi-led coalition, according to witnesses and rebel media. No casualties were reported.

Iran’s Kayhan daily, known as Khamenei’s mouthpiece, printed contradictory remarks and mentioned Dubai and other sites as possible future target. (Screengrab)

Iran’s paradox

Iranian military officials, however, denied any part in the Riyadh missile attack. “We don’t even have the means to transfer missiles there,” said Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) chief Mohammad Ali Jafari, understanding the consequences in this regard.

This is the very individual who threatened all US bases in the region in the case of IRGC’s designation as a terrorist organization. The US Treasury Department blacklisted the IRGC without any such response from Iran.

Furthermore, the Houthis lack the necessary industrial capacity to manufacture light weapons, let alone ballistic missiles. Iran’s Kayhan daily, known as Khamenei’s mouthpiece, printed contradictory remarks and mentioned Dubai and other sites as possible future target.

“… where shall be the next target for long-range ballistic missile: maybe Riyadh, Jaddah, Taef and ARAMCO…,” it wrote.

International response

The ballistic missile launch is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions 2216 and 2231. UNSC Resolution 2216 bans any provision of weapons for Houthi leaders in Yemen. UNSC Resolution 2231 specifically prohibits Iran from transferring and selling weapons abroad without Security Council consent.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called for the world body to take action against Iran in response to this ballistic missile attack. Yemen lacked such hardware prior to Iran’s support and delivery of weaponry to the Houthis.

The White House condemned the Houthis missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, adding they threatened regional security and undermined efforts aimed at halting the conflict. France and the United Kingdom also condemned these measures, followed by President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Riyadh where he stressed on pressuring Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Consequences of appeasement

Iran and Houthis reaching the point of launching such an attack can be traced back to eight years of appeasement by the Obama administration. Despite the UNSC obligating the Houthis to handover heavy weaponry, pull forces out of all cities and transfer all administrational entities to the officially recognized government, no measures were carried out in this regard.

The policy adopted by the Trump administration vis-à-vis Iran is causing major concerns for Tehran. (Reuters)

 

Diplomats of former US Secretary of State John Kerry held talks with the Houthis in the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, yet refused to receive representatives of Yemen’s legal government. The Obama administration would foster numerous ceasefire agreements, allowing time the battered Houthis to regain their momentum.

One example of the Obama-Kerry engagement policy with Iran was witnessed when the Houthis and forces loyal to sacked Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Salah advanced south with lightning speed from Sanaa towards Aden.

On March 25, 2015, in the midst of Obama’s negotiations with Tehran, Washington issued evacuation orders to US forces stationed in a large airbase north of Aden, including transferring all weaponry and hardware to the Houthis.

Times are changing

Iran enjoyed 16 years of highly flawed US policy across the region, providing it ample time to gain ample influence in four different Arab states of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Following the Riyadh Conference back in May of this year, the decertification of the controversial Iran nuclear deal and the IRGC designation as a terrorist organization, it has become crystal clear for Tehran that times are changing.

The policy adopted by the Trump administration vis-à-vis Iran is causing major concerns for Tehran. Loophole-proof implementation is now needed and signs of such measures are beginning to mushroom in Lebanon and Yemen.

Upon Saudi Arabia’s requested, the Arab League has scheduled to hold an extraordinary meeting next Sunday to weigh Iran’s regional “violations,” wire services reported. This momentum must continue abroad and rest assured Iran’s regime is sensing the growing isolation.

ANALYSIS: Iran’s Hassan Rouhani and his relations with the Arab world

As Iran’s incumbent President Hassan Rouhani reached a second term on May 19th, one major issue of concern must be how to bring an end to Tehran’s destructive meddling across the Middle East.

If we take into consideration how The Telegraph said, “The re-election of President Hassan Rouhani changes nothing. Iran remains an impoverished dictatorship governed by a theocratic elite,” Tehran, from its own perspective, will need to continue defying domestic demands and international calls for a changed approach.

At a time when Saudi Arabia and the entire region were sidelined by the Obama administration, Tehran enjoyed eight years of disastrous concessions leading to atrocities across the board in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Bahrain and so forth.

Sensing how Obama turned his back on the 2009 uprising in Iran, the mullahs of Tehran came to realize they could exploit the young and inexperienced president to realize much of their objectives in the Middle East. Obama also began distancing from the Arab World and downgrading vital US presence in the fledgling and highly Iran-influenced state of Iraq, providing a green light to Iran to expand its reach across the region.

Battle between good and evil

US President Donald Trump arrived in the region with a mission to launch a Middle East initiative aimed at establishing an unprecedented coalition, only hours after the announcement of Rouhani obtaining a second term.

Following the signing of mammoth economic contracts worth hundreds of billions of dollars, Trump delivered a cornerstone speech on Sunday at the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh on the challenge of uprooting extremism and describing this endeavor as a “battle between good and evil.”

“Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism… we can only overcome this evil if the forces of good are united and strong… Terrorism has spread across the world. But the path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land… If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned,” excerpts of his speech included.

“The Iranian regime’s longest suffering victims are its own people,” he added, indicating his stark difference with his predecessor’s fallacy dogma of literally embracing Iran.

Focusing on Iran

The top diplomats of America and Saudi Arabia, Rex Tillerson and Adel al-Jubeir, respectively, very specifically embarked on blueprinting a new and powerful alliance as a bulwark to counter and rein in Iran’s dangerously growing regional influence.

Setting the stakes high, Tillerson and al-Jubeir made their points understood very clearly by demanding Iran to terminate its notorious efforts in numerous fronts.

Rouhani should use his second term “to begin a process of dismantling Iran’s network of terrorism, dismantling its financing of the terrorist network, dismantling of the manning and the logistics and everything that they provide to these destabilizing forces that exist in this region,” Tillerson underscored, adding “if Rouhani wanted to change Iran’s relationship with the rest of the world those are the things he could do.”

Iran is known to support a conglomerate of proxy entities and its “Shiite Crescent” is a clear indication of the mullahs’ long running desire to establish their own influence across the entire Middle East. Former Iranian regime leader Ruhollah Khomeini was the flagbearer of “Quds (Jerusalem) Through Karbala”.

On other hand, as Iran’s relationship with al-Qaeda has been documented every now and then in various reports, there is a high probability of Tehran facilitating all terrorists across the region, being Shiite or Sunni. One question in this regard is why hasn’t ISIS ever threatened Iran’s interests?

Changes at home?

During the short campaign trail Rouhani resorted to extraordinary remarks that raised eyebrows across Iran’s political spectrum. While Rouhani initially scolded the Revolutionary Guards at an election rally, after his so-called “re-election” – despite a very low voter turnout – he quickly resorted to remarks of actually praising the notorious IRGC once again.

“We are proud of our armed forces, the Revolutionary Guards, the Basij and the security forces, we consider their strength as a guarantee for peace and stability in the region, the security and the well-being of our people,” he said in televised remarks.

And there is also no light at the end of Iran’s human rights violations tunnel, as the mullahs know very well their need to continue a nationwide crackdown campaign to maintain a lid on Iran’s powder keg society. The Shah of Iran ended his use of torture and execution at the demand of the Carter administration, and his rule was overthrown only a few years later. This is a lesson the mullahs have not forgotten.

Final thoughts

Rouhani, and the entire regime for that matter, will very soon start to comprehend the stark contrast between the last four years, and the rocky road ahead. Trump’s visit to Riyadh was a sign of the Arab World coming out of Obama’s Dark Ages and most probably uniting in their positions vis-à-vis Tehran.

As explained in a recent New York Times piece by Arabia Foundation Executive Director Ali Shihabi, the Trump has affirmed “the depth and importance of the strategic relationship and to further strengthen that alliance” with the Arab world.

Rest assured Tehran has received the new message. Rouhani, and the post of the presidency in Iran, are nothing but a marionette with strings controlled by the Supreme Leader. There are no moderates in Iran, but the mullahs are pragmatists always seeking their interests.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Sees the Beginning of a New Era

By Shahriar Kia

Following a rocky first month in Trump-Iran relations, it’s significant that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has chosen to maintain a substantially low profile. Comprehending the threat of vast changes in Washington, Khamenei also knows he cannot show weakness to his dwindling social base already terrified of major changes in the new U.S. administration’s policies vis-à-vis Iran following Obama’s eight years of appeasement.

In recent remarks, Khamenei even said there is no difference between the Obama and Trump administrations (!) and “the real war is the economic war, the sanctions war.”

These are interesting observations from Khamenei, and they should be considered deceptive, because he understands fully well that with Obama gone, so are the concessions the previous White House provided to his regime. Khamenei’s own change in reactions is further proof, as he is seen choosing his words quite carefully.

“To pass this stage, Iran has two options ahead. First, to strongly counter-react in areas in which the United States has vital interests, and the second is for Iran to act within the frameworks laid out by the United States in order to continue to have a role in the region and get out of the harnessed state. No doubt, the second option would ensure more strategic advantages for Iran.” (Jahan-e-Sanat, February 20)

During the Obama years, Khamenei himself used strong terms in threatening American interests across the globe. He went as far as saying that his regime would “raze” Haifa and Tel Aviv to the ground, wasting no time in lashing out at any threats. This also showed how Obama’s appeasement policy failed miserably.

Now that Khamenei is receiving “on notice” level warnings from Washington, he is in fact completely terrified to use any strong terms. However, he is resorting to a new tactic of claiming there being “no difference” between the Obama and Trump administrations. From January 20th onward, Khamenei has repeatedly made such remarks about the two administrations.

This comes at a time when the supreme leader and his inner circle used believed sanctions could have no impact. Such a shift in tone seen in Khamenei is the index that a policy of firm language against Iran, parallel to economic pressures through sanctions, can bring this regime to its knees.

On the other hand, we are witnessing that Tehran’s lobbies, and those who capitalized on massive economic gains rendered through the appeasement policy, are desperately speaking out against any sanctions, and especially the possible designation of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.

The IRGC controls much of Iran’s economy, and yet Tehran’s lobbies have gone the distance in claiming its blacklisting will threaten America’s interests in Iraq and other countries hosting U.S. bases, and also endangering so-called “moderates” in the face of “hardliners.”

This is nothing but fake news, signaling that not only officials in Tehran, but their decreasing number of international correspondents, are concerned about Obama’s appeasement policy coming to an end.

A firm policy against Iran goes far further than only containing this regime’s nuclear ambitions and foreign meddling. Such a shift can also fuel the Iranian people’s increasing protests against this regime. The exact opposite of Obama turning his back to the 2009 uprising in Iran.

Recent protests in Ahvaz and other cities resembles the Iranian people’s hatred of this regime and their thirst for change.

Ended Sunday, February 20, the Munich Security Conference condemned the Iranian regime for disrupting security and stability in the region. The delegations in the conference had one sentence in common when speaking against the Iranian regime: the Iranian regime is the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, said by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence as well as Saudi FM Adel al-Jubeir. Also, Turkish finance minister Mevlut Chavushoghlu put this same issue another way while pointing to the regime’s interventions in Syria and Iraq. “Iranian regime is seeking sectarianism in the region”, he said.

The new alliance of Arab nations, and especially the participation of Turkey, has raised major concerns among senior officials in Tehran as a strong front against its terrorism and meddling in other countries is formed.

The formation of such a front is a sign of significant policy changes in Washington. This appears to be a step in the direction of regaining the trust lost amongst U.S. allies during the Obama tenure to confront Iran’s terrorism and meddling in the Middle East.

Etemad, for instance, writes on February 21: “the leaders and elite in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Turkey had this vision in recent years that with Barack Obama as President, the US administration wouldn’t take any specific measure against Iran in order to put Tehran under pressure.”

Military drills and hollow saber rattling by IRGC commanders during the past few days shed light on Iran’s fear and severe weakness of developments in the makings with the incoming policy alterations in Washington.

What needs to be understood is  that we are already at the beginning of a new era where the regime in Iran will no longer benefit from an appeasement policy that allows it to both increase its domestic crackdown and foreign warmongering, such as Iran’s involvement in Syria, and continuously threaten to abandon ship on the accord aimed at curbing the Iran nuclear program.

This provides a golden opportunity for the international community to begin standing shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people and its organized resistance under the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, a Muslim woman who represents a tolerant and democratic Islam against a fundamentalist version of Islam advocated by the mullahs’ regime. Bringing an end to the appeasement policy and, as being recently weighed by the Trump administration, designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist designation are necessary steps in a long overdue roadmap.

Shahriar Kia is a political analyst writing on Iran and the Middle East. He is the member of the Iranian opposition, the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, also known as the MEK). He graduated from North Texas University.

Originally posted in American Thinker

Iran’s Trepidation Over Entering Uncharted Trump Territory

By Heshmat Alavi

US President Donald Trump posted a statement only minutes after his inauguration indicating the administration’s intention to launch a “state-of-the-art” missile-defense system to help protect allies against possible attacks from Iran and North Korea. This only adds to the trepidation felt in Tehran, already anxious about a new team in Washington and the end of the Obama “golden era.”

Iran has revealed its major concerns about the fate of the nuclear pact, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), under Trump. This is also clear in recent remarks made by senior American figures.

The new US president “is going to be much more forceful on the terms of the nuclear deal itself, and that itself may cause the ayatollahs to walk away, but I also know that he intends to confront…Iranian regional aggression, and their imperial project around the Middle East,” said Senator Tom Cotton, a fierce critic of the JCPOA, which he recently described as “dead.”

Former CIA director and renowned US Army general David Petraeus made very specific suggestions to the new administration never to rule out the possibility of military action.

“The US must prepare for action against Iran, if necessary,” he said at a recent security conference. “I told Trump we need to repeat what we want, for Iran not to have nuclear weapons and for the Islamic Republic to stop striving for a Shiite hegemony in the region. If you ask the Gulf States, their first problem is Iran, and only afterwards comes ISIS, Yemen…”

And despite the fact that senior Iranian regime officials have threatened to “burn” the JCPOA if the Trump administration decides to tear it up, one simple principle should be kept in mind: Iran needs the deal to remain intact more than any other party. Thus, the mullahs’ macho rhetoric is meant for domestic use only, in order to maintain a straight face.

In the meantime, President Trump’s West Asia affairs adviser, Walid Fares, raised the stakes further for Iran, proving yet again that the road ahead will be very difficult for Tehran.

“Iran must accept a JCPOA revision. Otherwise, the US will be forced to adopt other methods to protect regional countries,” he said in a recent Asharq Al-Awsat interview.

In response to such remarks, and the White House announcement of launching new missiles systems in the Middle East, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir used the opportunity of a joint press conference with his French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, to express his support.

Trump has “spoken about containing Iran and its ability to cause mischief, and making sure Iran abides by the agreement,” Jubeir said, adding, “This is exactly our position.”

Signs are showing President Trump will ratchet up JCPOA provisions and firmly enforce these measures, to say the least. As a result, cheating on the margins — something Tehran enjoyed during the Obama years — will become much more difficult.

Furthermore, on issues the Obama White House neglected in the flawed JCPOA, the Trump administration will most likely focus much-needed attention on Tehran’s support for terrorism abroad – as seen so vividly in Iran’s involvement in Syria – and human rights violations back home.

If the US administration penalized the mullahs in this realm in the coming months — by, for example, encouraging activities aimed at isolating Tehran — it will send a very strong message to the regime not used to such stark measures, and leave a lasting and meaningful impact on the establishment’s overall economic fortunes.

To this end, Washington shouldn’t be the least concerned about any recent saber-rattling from Tehran regime officials, as it is merely a sign of Iran’s fear about trekking into uncharted Trump territory.

To add insult to injury, nearly two dozen former senior American officials, some with very close relations to the new president, signed a hand-delivered letter encouraging the White House to work with the main Iranian opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), under the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, a charismatic Muslim woman advocating a peaceful, progressive and tolerant interpretation of Islam. The NCRI is a conglomerate of Iranian dissident groups, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

All this and the new administration is just getting warmed up.

Originally published in algemeiner