ANALYSIS: Iran’s lethal role expanding in Syria as war enters seventh year

On March 15th the international community will unfortunately be marking a milestone of disastrous nature. The conflict in Syria began as peaceful demonstrations by a nation seeking freedom from the reign of a dictatorship and to establish true democracy.

The regime in Iran, however, viewed such a development as a red line and placed its weight fully behind Bashar Assad and his ruthless killing machine.

Why is Syria so important for Iran?

Syria is of strategic significant for Iran, as the mullahs considers the country their 35th province. This reached the point that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei immediately dispatched his Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to prop Assad’s lines in order to maintain their reach to the Mediterranean Sea and continue the flow of much needed weapons, including dangerous missiles, to the Lebanese Hezbollah.

This Shiite group has provided Iran a platform to advance its agenda to a serious extent from the 1980s to this day. Hezbollah has transformed into a rogue military force while also taking control over a large swathe of the country’s political power. Hezbollah has taken actions forcing the West to see no other solution but to adopt a highly flawed appeasement policy in their faceoff with Iran.

In short, Syria provides the Iranian regime crucial grounds to maintain all challengers and challenges at bay, meaning far from its own borders.

A glance at the 6-year war

Shortly after the Syrian protesters were gunned down by Assad’s forces, the Free Syrian Army began to form as a large swathe of Assad’s ranks and files defected. By June 30th, 2011, Assad was on the verge of being overthrown.

Understanding the impact of such a blow, Iran began its covert support and its efforts were certainly not an unknown factor for the West, especially the U.S. under the Obama administration.

Iran’s forces gradually took command of the war in Syria and by August 2013 the IRGC ordered Assad to launch a chemical attack against a Damascus suburb that rendered around 1,500 civilians killed, including many women and children.

Irony lies in the fact that Tehran was involved in secret nuclear talks with Washington at the time, and senior regime officials came to the conclusion the international community, held back by the Obama White House, would not take any serious action against their killing crusade in Syria.

Iran established its Syria strategy on two principles:

a) Providing all-out support for Assad in quelling any and all forms of dissent,
b) Indirectly supporting extremist groups with the goal of creating rifts amongst opposition lines to deprive the Syrian opposition of meaningful international support demanding Assad’s ouster.

Iran: The Godfather of ISIS

It is now a known fact that ISIS is the rendered phenomenon of the lethal crackdown imposed by Iran’s dual puppets, former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and Syria’s Bashar Assad.

Firstly, Iran’s policies in the Middle East have provoked deadly face/offs between Shiites and Sunni communities that used to live alongside, and even within each other, for centuries. Iran’s support for Shiite proxy groups has been well-documented.

However, it must be understood that Tehran also instigate sectarian hatred amongst Sunni to pursue its broad blueprint of maintaining the entire region in flames. Iran began to purge and literally cleanse the Sunni population in Iraq and beyond following the 2003 US-led invasion of this country.

Secondly, Maliki and Assad have both been accused of facilitating the release of a joint sum of over 2,500 inmates from their prisons who went off to form ISIS. The Assad regime is also under severe scrutiny on evidence of purchasing oil from ISIS, providing the group much needed revenue to maintain its activities.

Iran rallying Russia to the rescue

The Syrian opposition was once again on the initiative in early 2015, delivering significant blows to the Assad apparatus in the country’s north and south. The Iran/Assad/Hezbollah alliance was no longer able to hold ground and the IRGC was becoming desperate in maintaining Syria.

IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani visited Moscow and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to ask for much needed air support for Iran’s army of proxy militias alongside IRGC officers and troops. Despite launching the so-called “Operation Moharram” in Aleppo, the IRGC failed to reach its objective and Hossein Hamedani, commander of all IRGC forces in Syria, was killed in battle, alongside dozens of other senior Iranian military officers.

Sensing the threat, the IRGC doubled its troops in Syria to 60,000 and Khamenei even resorted to tasking units of his regular army to dispatch to Syria. Various gains were made, resulting in horrific cases such as the IRGC massacring Sunni locals in the city of Mayer.

The siege on Aleppo began in late 2016, depriving 300,000 civilians in the eastern branch of the city of any food or water, while bombings and unspeakable war crimes continued.

Finally, with the involvement of tens of thousands of militias, and reports indicate up to 25,000 IRGC troops, East Aleppo was retaken by pro-Assad forces and a ceasefire was reached on December 29th, 2016, allowing tens of thousands of civilians to leave the city – despite continuous reports of continued killings – alongside thousands of armed Syrian opposition members.

While Iranian-related forces violated the ceasefire seeking their desired objective, being the Syrian opposition’s complete annihilation, the Syrian opposition was able to evacuate a large number of innocent civilians from Aleppo and preserve their armed forces. This downgraded Aleppo into a mere tactical gain Iran and Assad.

Trusted commander

On Syria, Khamenei is the figure making the final calls and he has entrusted the Syria dossier to his most trusted senior commanders. The dilemma forced Tehran to also dispatch members of the IRGC and regular army ground forces alongside the Quds Force and its network of proxy militias. The IRGC navy and air force have also had their share of battle in Syria.

Iran has gone as far as sending over 70,000 foot-soldiers to Syria, literally dwarfing the number of soldiers fighting for Assad, being less than 50,000, according to IRGC reports.

All Iranian ministries and government institutions have shares in the Syria war, adding to the IRGC dedicating vast economic resources to the Syria war. This goes part in parcel to the fact Iran has through the course of the past six years allocated above $100 billion to the Syria war. This massive capitol is used to procure weapons, provide for the Syrian army’s expenses and IRGC militia members’ salaries adding up to around $1 billion a year.

And the casualties Iran and its forces have suffered, meaning excluding those of the Syrian army, add up to over 10,000, including 1,500 IRGC members. To add insult to injury, 70 IRGC deaths involved colonels or more senior ranks.

This sheds light on Iran’s fundamentalist role and the importance of the Syria dossier for the mullahs, and exactly why the international community, from the Middle East, Europe and the US, should take very powerful actions to completely evict the Iranian regime from Syria.

One right step in this path is to designate the IRGC, being the Iranian entity in charge of the mullahs’ Syria campaign, as a foreign terrorist organization. This will make Iran begin to understand its meddling across the region will have consequences, and the international community will no longer tolerate such atrocities.

Originally published in Al Arabiya English

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Trump Taking Syria Safe-Zone Initiative That Iran Dreads

Since US President Donald Trump took the helm in Washington, the issue of a “safe zone” in Syria has come to the fore, reflecting the changes taking place in the international arena following the end of the Obama administration.

Throughout the election campaign, Trump pledged to establish safe zones in Syria to curb the refugee crisis. As soon as he was inaugurated on January 20, he ordered his secretaries of State and Defense to formulate a roadmap for the proposal within 90 days.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey expressed support for the move. Iran, Russia and Syrian President Bashar Assad vehemently opposed the initiative. However, the three-pronged front began to crumble as a result of events in Aleppo, causing Moscow to become more flexible in its view. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov even raised the possibility of discussing the matter with the UN Human Rights Council and other international organizations.

From Iran’s perspective, Russia’s distancing itself by seeking to safeguard its own interests is a recipe for disaster, leaving Tehran to face the problem of keeping Assad in power alone.

Most signs indicate that Turkey has a blueprint to establish a safe zone along its southern border with Syria, with another in Syria’s Deraa Province bordering Jordan. The zone along Syria’s northern border would be 100 kilometers in length, stretching from the city of Jarabulus in the northeast and reaching Aezaz in the west.

The challenges are numerous. For a safe zone to be established, there has to be international recognition, in the form of a United Nations Security Council resolution or accord — similar to the pact that blessed an Iraqi Kurdistan safe zone in 1991 — unless the US decides to go it alone. It certainly has the power, assets and resources to do so.

In addition, a safe zone must be secured in some fashion — by banning military units, creating a no-fly zone or stronger US presence in the region, with drones, sorties and/or satellites. It will also need ground protection, to prevent penetration by suspicious elements, whether Syrian intelligence, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or affiliated Shiite proxies.

All of this requires supervision and monitoring and much money, as the safe zone will be a full city, requiring schools and other adequate facilities.

One must admit that the scope of this disaster and the humanitarian crisis in Syria has gone well beyond neglect. Kudos to the Trump administration for brazenly taking such an initiative in relation to the victims of a war that is nearing the end of its sixth year. Iran must be prevented from putting a wrench in it.

Originally published in Algemeiner

BLACKLIST IRAN’S REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS

The right signal to Tehran’s mullahs.

It is a known historical fact that actions speak louder than words. Iran is beginning to understand this loud and clear with a new administration in Washington.

U.S. National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, in his first public appearance, issued a stark warning Wednesday in response to Tehran’s latest ballistic missile test and continued support for Shiite Houthi proxies in Yemen.

The main apparatus behind Iran’s ballistic missile program, meddling across the Middle East, suspicious nuclear drive and horrendous domestic crackdown is none other than the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Shiite militias trained, financed and armed by the IRGC have also killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq.

Supplementary reports indicate U.S. President Donald Trump is preparing new sanctions against Iranian individuals and entities, intended to send a firm message to the mullahs: you may have enjoyed such leeway during Barack Obama’s tenure. But no more.

As Flynn condemned Iran’s recent medium-range ballistic missile test–which ended in failure–he went on to warn Tehran over instigating instability across the region.

Such a reaction marks a serious, and long due, tonal difference necessary in Washington vis-à-vis Iran. For too long the mullahs’ took advantage of the Obama “golden era” as they viewed it, furthering their reach across the region with their involvement in Syria and Iraq, both leading to unspeakable atrocities.

Iran has resorted to its old tactic of testing the new Trump administration and risking a bold move to win points domestically amongst a small, and depleting, social base. Yet this new measure is beginning to backfire significantly, unlike what Iran enjoyed during the past eight years.

President Trump is also considering how to approach the Iran nuclear deal, which he threatened to tear up during the elections campaign.

As heated discussions continue in this regard, the Trump administration should begin “vigorously enforcing” the deal, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as proposed by Senator Dan Sullivan of Arkansas.

For example, there should be no more toleration of Iran violating already excessive limits set on sensitive heavy water production.

While Washington is preparing to slap new sanctions and ratchet up further punishment measures against Iran by possibly beefing up military presence in the flashpoint Persian Gulf region, one silver-bullet-type measure is available with the potential of inflicting damning results on the mullahs.

The IRGC, considering its role in spearheading Tehran’s ballistic missile program, nuclear drive and meddling across the Middle East, should be blacklisted as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and sanctioned appropriately.

Such an initiative enjoys support in Congress.

U.S. lawmakers have called on the new administration to support designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. They cited its ongoing support of the Assad regime, where hundreds of thousands have been killed during the civil war,” reports show.

Iran’s “missile program is against the Iranian people’s interest and must be stopped,” Maryam Rajavi, President of the main Iranian opposition, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said recently.

“Banning all deals and trade with IRGC-affiliated companies” are further necessary measures proposed by Rajavi.

The NCRI is a coalition dissident organs, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), enjoying a history of consistently unveiling various aspects of Iran’s nuclear programballistic missile initiativesmeddling across the region and human rights violations.

The IRGC has become a vast political and economic empire in Iran, enjoying an iron grip and “network of companies that came to dominate Iranian industries from energy to telecommunications,” according to The Wall Street Journal. The IRGC is also known to broker deals with China, as the country’s oil-hungry economy seeks to increase crude imports.

Other measures include enforcing travel bans already imposed on IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani, the man who visited Moscow and begged the Russians to rush to Bashar Assad’s support in Syria, and who has been roaming the streets of FallujahMosul and Aleppo.

Iran is also vehemently seeking a United Nations blessing to begin executing a $10 billion purchase of Russian conventional weapons. While the Obama administration turned a blind-eye to Russia’s delivery of the S-300 anti-air missile system to Iran, Washington can make it clear to Moscow that any further arms deals with Iran will significantly damage bilateral relations.

To this end, the Trump administration has before it a variety of measures that can effectively teach Iran’s mullahs a dire lesson. The IRGC is the entity the mullahs consider most dear, and should be the focus of Trump’s crosshairs.

Originally published in FrontPage Magazine

Donald Trump’s Possible Iran-To-Do List

One year into the highly boasted Iran nuclear deal, the work of the Obama administration dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the world witnessed how Iran returned the favor. Tehran continued to cause havoc across Syria with a conglomerate of Shiite militias rampaging and massacring innocent civilians. Iran also launched provocative war drills further destabilizing the flashpoint Persian Gulf region. We were also witness to how Qassem Suleimani, the notorious commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, was paraded in Falluja, Mosul and Aleppo. All in all, Tehran has taken advantage of Obama’s craftsmanship to accelerate its aggression across the region. As a result, President Donald Trump has before him a slate of available to-do measures against Iran.

Washington, under Obama, remained unfortunately mute in response to Tehran threatening America’s Middle East allies through known saber-rattling tactics. The Obama White House continuously ignored Iran’s threats and only responded with non-nuclear sanctions, aimed mainly at maintaining face amongst his critics.

To this end, Obama’s foreign policy in 2016 specifically paved the path for Iran to embark on a more emboldened journey throughout the Middle East.

The JCPOA shortcomings have been discussed to a full extent, as we have witnessed Iran’s nuclear drive only delayed, especially since Tehran has twice exceeded its heavy water production limit. In the process the West ear Deal, has lost significant leverage over Iran.

President Trump has the opportunity to adopt a policy aimed at isolating Iran by making Iranian intransigence come at a high cost for the regime. The Trump administration can take on issues that have always been vital with Iran, and far beyond the JCPOA’s reach. This most specifically involves a strong approach vis-à-vis Iran fueling Middle East crises through the spread of its Islamic fundamentalism mentality.

Through the course of JCPOA talks, Iran used the opportunity to dispatch tens of thousands of Shiite proxy militias from Afghanistan, Pakistan, its own forces and … to Syria to shore up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. This sparked eleven Arab states to take unprecedented measures voiced in a recent letter accusing Tehran of supporting Middle East terrorism and demanding a halt in Iran meddling in their internal affairs. Even the U.S. State Department could not neglect this troubling reality and once again designated Iran as the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism.

Needed now is a comprehensive drive to pressure Iran. The tools and assets available before President Trump are plenty and the first step in the right path would be to correctly and strongly enforce existing sanctions. A policy which, unfortunately, the Obama administration simply refused to abide by.

Senior Iranian officials, including Suleimani, are under a United Nations travel ban that the previous administration failed to enforce. This goes alongside Iran feeling no fear of any accountability as it launched numerous ballistic missile tests and streamlined frequent arms shipments to Yemen, neglecting the U.N. embargo in this very regard. The JCPOA was enshrined by U.N. Resolution 2231, and yet such measures by Iran have gone without any international response, thanks to the Obama administration’s continued silence. Here is another platform where the Trump administration can make it crystal clear for Tehran that the tides have changed and the mullahs’ can no longer count on Obama’s golden era.

Iran has also enjoyed the benefits of a major windfall resulting from the JCPOA, and President Trump can bring this to an end. Licenses for Airbus and Boeing deals can be revoked by the U.S. Treasury Department and conditioned on the mullahs halting their use of various Iranian airlines to transfer personal and arms to Assad and the Lebanese Hezbollah. And Iraq should be pressured by the U.S. to restrict its airspace to Iranian planes flying for such dangerous intents.

While the Obama administration drastically failed to live up to its Syria red line, the new administration in Washington has before it a chance to draw clear lines in the sand.

  1. Assad and Iran’s militias must be ordered to end all hostilities and attacks, especially against civilians that have resulted in uncountable cases of massacres.

  2. Iran must pull out all Shiite militias from Syria and dismantle the Popular Mobilization Units, acting as the Iraq IRGC parallel to the Iraqi classic army.

  3. Iran’s human rights violations must be curbed, especially the horrific practice of executions, including women and juveniles, public floggings and limb amputations. All this has continued under the so-called “moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

  4. Despite its flaws, the JCPOA regulations must be abided by Iran and enforced meaningfully by the international community, bringing an end to all existing loopholes.

This would resemble the right start for the Trump administration to springboard into reining in Iran’s regime. And yet, the Trump administration has potential to further broaden its agenda and bring an end to all of the mullahs’ unacceptable practices. A recent letter, signed by a rare bi-partisan slate of former senior U.S. government officials, and hand-delivered to President Trump encourages Washington to work with the Iranian opposition represented by the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

Iran’s regime has left no choice but for the U.S. and the international community to start a new campaign of pressuring all its assets to make Tehran understand the costs of continuing such behavior. Rest assured that after four decades of failed appeasement, the only option available is a comprehensive agenda of tough policies to confront the mullahs.

Originally published in The Daily Caller

Iran’s strategic defeat in Syria before Astana talks

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By Heshmat Alavi

The war in Syria has reached a major turning point. The Iran-Russia honeymoon is over, and Moscow is warming relations with Ankara. Reports indicate the two coordinated airstrikes targeting Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) and other terrorist groups. Such a turn of events has even been described as Russia throwing Iran under the bus.

Turkish armed forces and the Free Syrian Army, under Russian air support, advanced in northern Syria to liberate key areas. This is strikingly similar to the measures adopted by Iran-backed Shiite militias with Russia’s support in taking control over Eastern Aleppo.

This new shift in Russian policy from supporting Tehran-Damascus to Turkey-FSA clearly indicates a strategic defeat for Iran. A sudden and unpredicted change of decorations, in line with heavy military operations, parallel to political agreements in writing. We are also on the verge of Astana talks set to place all parties involved at a round table, including representatives of the new Trump administration. This is much to the dissent of Iran.

“Iran, Russia and Turkey laid the foundations for the recent ceasefire in Syria… however, Russia and Turkey have taken the helm under a framework of bilateral negotiations in Ankara,” Iran’s state-run Alef website explained.

“Concerns remain over future Russian policy… Moscow has close relations with Ankara, and specific reservations about Riyadh. Inviting Saudi Arabia to the Syria talks… can shift the balance against Iran…,” Iran’s Arman daily added.

“Russia’s actions in Syria, cooperating with Turkey… neglecting Iran shows Moscow never takes Tehran seriously, and the hoax of strategic relations with Russia is only sought by Iran, while there is no such rejoice seen in Russia,” Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported citing Sharq daily.

It has now become quite obvious that Iran’s policymakers–read the mullahs–have made yet another strategic mistake, in line with their decisions to continue the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s even after Iraqi forces withdrew to internationally recognized borders; the occupation and hostage-taking fiasco of the U.S. Embassy back in November 1979; launching the completely unnecessary nuclear program while the country sits on an ocean of God-given oil and gas reserves; and meddling in possibly all neighboring and Middle East countries, most vividly seen today in Syria and Iraq.

The only difference now is the mullahs face very serious questions, such as why have they wasted billions in fueling a war machine killing hundreds of thousands of Syrians? Especially at a time when we witnessed heart breaking scenes of Iran’s homeless having no choice but to find refuge in pre-dug graves.

Here is a brief look at how Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has actually allocated the country’s wealth.

  • May 28th, 2013:  Iran opened two credit lines for Syria worth $4 billion and provided a $3 billion loan, according to Syrian Central Bank President Adib Miale. (com)
  • August 27th, 2013: Iran has up to this day allocated $17 billion for the Syrian war. (According to Liberation)
  • September 4th, 2014: Tehran opens a new $4 billion credit line for the Assad regime. (According to Le Figaro)
  • In December 2014 Reuters reported: “If it had not been for Iranian support we could not have survived the crisis,” a senior Syrian trade official said from Damascus, requesting anonymity… In July last year, Iran granted Syria a $3.6 billion credit facility to buy oil products, according to officials and bankers at the time. Another $1 billion went for non-oil products.
  • May 7th, 2015: Iran’s state-run Sharq daily estimated Iran, China and Russia provided around $500 million to Syria each month.
  • April 27th, 2015: “Diplomatic sources in Beirut estimate that Iran spends between $1 billion and $2 billion a month in Syria in cash handouts and military support. Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations envoy to Syria, recently told a private gathering in Washington that Iran has been channeling as much as $35 billion a year into Syria, according to one of the participants at the meeting.” (Christian Science Monitor)
  • July 5th, 2015: Syrian President Bashar Assad approves a new bill consisting of a $1 billion credit from his regional ally Iran. (According to the state-run Syrian news agency)
  • August 2016: Iran has spent $100 billion in Syria, according to a report provided by Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

These numbers shed light only on a small portion of the billions Khamenei and his regime have stolen from the Iranian people to provide for their war machine, as so unfortunately witnessed in Aleppo most recently. Without a doubt the actual amount is far higher.

The question is where have the mullahs reached, strategically speaking, after wasting tens of billions in the Syria inferno, allowing a dictator to kill nearly half a million of his own people and leave more than 11 million stranded inside the country and abroad?

The Iranian opposition has time and again warned about the dangers of such a policy pursued by Tehran in Syria, and across the Middle East, and provided the sole solution to this deadly dilemma.

“The regime in Tehran is the source of crisis in the region and killings in Syria; it has played the greatest role in the expansion and continuation of ISIS. Peace and tranquility in the region can only be achieved by evicting this regime from the region,” said Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group of organizations including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

From day one, exporting crises, terrorism and warmongering has been one of the main pillars maintaining the mullahs’ regime intact, all meant to quell domestic crises. This is exactly why senior Iranian officials continuously explain the necessity of fighting there (Syria) to not fight here (inside Iran).

Never mentioned are the Iranian people and their interests. The mullahs only seek to preserve their establishment, at all costs. And yet with the sudden death of former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the regime in its entirety is now utterly weakened as he played the highly important role of a balancing mast.

This is a regime bracing for further strategic defeats.

Iran Has Changed, But For The Worse

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gives a press conference in Tehran on Jaunary 17, 2017, to mark the first anniversary of the implementation of a historic nuclear deal. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

By Heshmat Alavi

The pro-Iran engagement policy camp long advocated how a nuclear agreement with Iran would lead to a slate of numerous changes sought in the regime, rendering benefits to go around for everyone. More than one year down this road, the world has witnessed many changes in Iran. However, they are nothing to boast about.

The nuclear accord, while it should have never been supported or discussed by the international community in the first place, has been successively violated by the Iranian regime. Tehran continues its atrocious executions, human rights violations and ongoing oppression of ordinary citizens inside the country. And the mullahs in Tehran have continued their mantra of exporting “Islamic Revolution” by engulfing the entire Middle East, and beyond, into mayhem, as we are unfortunately witnessing so vividly today in Syria.

The main “change” we have witnessed in Iran has been the numerous instances where the regime has either stretched or actually violated the flaw-riddled Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the heavy water-level limit aggression being the latest such case.

The reinstatement of the Iran Sanctions Act with 99 votes in favor was a very important first step. This move has set an example of what is needed to guarantee Iran understands there will be consequences for agreement violations. And yet we need to go beyond and build upon this momentum.

 

This is the time to counter Iran’s terrorism in the region and the world. Iran is and has been, of course, the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism. Iran is busy destabilizing Syria with an incredible human catastrophe, as in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, boasting about enjoying control over four Arab capitals of the region.

The “change” we have seen in this regard is that Tehran is willing to dispatch tens of thousands of proxy militias to Syria and repeat a Srebrenica-style massacre, caring not an iota about how the international community might respond. Let us hope Aleppo has opened our eyes to the horrific potential in Iran’s support for extremism and its export of Islamic fundamentalism.

The “change” the world has witnessed in Iran’s pursuit of a vast weapons-of-mass-destruction program is its bold new approach in proliferating efforts related to mastering ballistic missiles. Iran’s missile tests have continued to violate United Nations Security Council resolutions, yet there has been hardly any serious global response.

Iran’s ballistic missile tests “are not consistent with the constructive spirit” of the JCPOA, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report.

As we speak, reports indicate the Iran-fostered and -nurtured Lebanese Hezbollah vaunts of stocking over 120,000 missiles in its arsenal. If gone unanswered, there is no limit to what extent Iran will exploit the lack of will diseasing the international community.

This is the time to confront Iran over its violation of human rights on its own home turf. In 2009, the Iranian people revolted for their God-given rights, shaking the very pillars of the regime’s foundations. And yet former U.S. President Barack Obama, then recently elected to the White House by the American people with high hopes of “change,” failed to respond to their cries for support. The oppression and repression of the mullahs’ regime that followed is something the world should never forget.

As Obama continued his devastating appeasement policy with Iran, the mullahs have not changed their course. They have not changed their designs. They have not changed their hegemonic focus.

This is a time for the United States to respond. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has in cooperation with Senator Robert Corker (R-TN), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, introduced the Countering Iran Threat Act. This, too, is an initiative that the next Congress can and is recommended to build upon.

If so, this can be the building blocks of the West, spearheaded by America, deterring Iranian aggression. This can lead us, as a world, in moving to a better day and a higher hope where the Iranian people can ultimately achieve the freedoms and blessings the democratic world enjoys today.

The world now finds itself before an opportunity to counter Iran’s continuing threats. We are entering a new era in American foreign and national security policy.

In a letter hand-delivered to U.S. President Donald Trump, nearly two dozen former senior U.S. government officials–representing a rare bipartisan spectrum–urged Washington to work with the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran.

As Iran continues its domestic oppression and military buildup, this should be one focus of the Trump administration’s foreign policy and the agenda of the new Congress.

Originally published in Forbes

Iran’s Middle East ambitions more dangerous than nuclear threat

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By Shahriar Kia

The Syrian people’s six-year uprising for freedom from decades of dictatorship in their country, now evolving into a regional war and global crisis, is proof of two undeniable facts:

First, proving the international community’s inaction and a failed Western policy in the face of Middle East challenges.

Second, devious intentions pursued by Iran, as the root of all current unrests and crises engulfing the region.

Far from any political or economic interests, determining the root of this dilemma will make the true and lasting solution for this Middle East calamity crystal clear.

Currently, following the Aleppo tragedy and the loss of nearly half a million people in Syria, we should seek to end this humanitarian catastrophe and reach peace and security in Syria, and across the Middle East.

However, all yet solutions have failed to target the actual source of the Syria predicament, being none other than the Bashar Assad regime and Iran. Doubts and reservations in adopting a firm solution will lead to the disaster intensifying, and various parties getting involved in an unwanted war plunging the entire region into further bloodshed.

Roots

The Assad regime and the religious dictatorship ruling Iran are attempting to portray the Syria crisis as the war between a legitimate government and extremist/terrorist groups, especially Daesh (ISIS/ISIL).

Iran, chasing a strategic objective of safeguarding its very existence, sees its interests in hindering any efforts to reach a lasting peace, while canvassing its role as an effective party in the war against ISIS.

“If the ill-wishers and seditionists–who are the puppets of America and the Zionists–had not been stopped in Syria, we would be fighting them in Tehran, Fars, Khorasan, and Esfahan. They grounded the enemy,” said Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

It is worth noting that hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrians seeking life under a free state are paying the price of Khamenei’s ruthless dictatorship.

Iran’s meddling in the region and provoking sectarianism have rendered increasing fundamentalism and the rise of Daesh and al-Qaeda.

The horrific crimes committed by Iran-backed Shiite militias against the Sunni community in Iraq, Syria and other countries have prepared the grounds for Sunni fundamentalist groups to expand and recruit more members.

Parallel to appeasing Iran to maintain the mullahs at the negotiating table, silence and inaction seen from the West in the Middle East, especially by the Obama administration, have further intensified the Levant inferno and complicated regional conditions, especially Syria. To this end, Iran has been the main benefactor as a result.

The status quo further proves a warning issued by Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

“Four years ago I warned the threat of the mullahs’ meddling in Iraq is 100 times more dangerous than its nuclear ambitions,” Rajavi said in a speech on June 30, 2007 in Paris.

Although Iran failed to obtain nuclear weapons thanks to continuous NCRI revelations, Tehran’s destructive meddling and crimes carried out by affiliated Shiite militias in IraqSyria and abroad are far more dangerous. This campaign has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the region, leveled cities and displaced millions.

Tehran’s interventions in the Middle East have brought any and all efforts to establish peace, stability, and security to a complete halt. Of course, this is not due to Tehran’s strength and capabilities. In fact, it is all the byproduct of inaction, silence, and policy of appeasement adopted by the West vis-à-vis Iran, and 16 years of strategic mistakes by Washington in this flashpoint region of the globe.

Occupying Iraq and delivering the country in a silver plate to Iran, parallel to disarming the leading organized opposition entity, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), were all gifts provided by the West and U.S. to the leading state sponsor of terrorism.

“Iraq’s Governing Council voted yesterday to expel the leading Iranian opposition group and confiscate its assets, a surprise move that could alter the regional balance of power,” reads a Washington Post article on Dec. 10, 2003, following a Council ruling.

Without a doubt any involvement of Iran in the war against Daesh will only register as an aberration in establishing regional peace and security, forcing the international community to pinpoint resources on derivatives of Iran’s terrorism crusade.

Solution

Of course, true and lasting Middle East peace and security are only possible through regime change in Iran and the establishment of a democratic and secular government in Tehran.

This is the objective set by the Iranian opposition under Mrs. Rajavi’s leadership. Her 10-point-plan for the future Iran, enjoys the support of thousands of MPs, political, religious, legal and civil dignitaries across the globe. These articles are based on recognized international basics of democracy, social freedoms, gender equality, equality amongst all religions and ethnicities, peaceful coexistence with others and a non-nuclear Iran.

A bi-partisan letter   signed by 23 former top officeholders in the past five administrations to the president-elect urges the incoming Trump administration “to establish a dialogue with Iran’s exiled resistance, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI),” which has called for free elections to establish a secular, democratic, non-nuclear republic in Iran as well as an end to what it calls Tehran’s “religious dictatorship.”

Middle East stability can only be achieved in bringing an end to Iran’s meddling in Syria and across the region.

Moving forward, Iran’s state and proxy entities supporting terrorism, including the Revolutionary Guards and affiliated Shiite militia groups, must be sanctioned.

With Iran evicted from the Middle East all forms of fundamentalism, including Daesh, will have no reason to exist. And naturally, the West will be relieved of the current wave of lethal terrorist attacks.

Originally posted in The Hill

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

Iran Threatens the Syria Ceasefire Effort

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By Heshmat Alavi

Following nearly six years of bloody warfare and an atrocious takeover of Aleppo by the Russia-Iran-Assad axis, the world has finally reached a relatively reliable settlement in this war-ravaged country. Unfortunately, Iran continues to pose a serious threat to this yet shaky and fledgling settlement.

Russia, replacing the United States, has become the main counterparty involved in the ceasefire talks with the Syrian opposition and its ally, Turkey.

Considering the lame-duck season between November 8th and January 20th before the new U.S. president-elect takes the helm at the White House, these efforts to establish a lasting ceasefire — and hopefully tangible peace — in Syria need to be respected by the international community. This is especially true since the Syrian opposition have blessed this campaign, directly engaging Russia and Turkey.

The new Russia-Turkey relationship has also led to actions against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) targets in Syria.

“Turkish warplanes and artillery have struck Daesh targets in Syria, killing 22 of the group’s terrorists, while Russian aircraft hit terrorists near the Daesh-controlled town of al-Bab,” reports indicate citing Turkish military officials.

In addition to Turkey, the Syrian opposition also enjoys the support of a majority of its neighbors and Middle East countries, all believing Assad’s departure is key to reach a true political solution for this crisis that has taken the lives of nearly half a million and displaced over 11 million Syrians inside the country and abroad.

The dilemma, however, lies in the fact that Iran and its slate of proxy groups are erecting barriers in the path of establishing true ceasefire and peace conditions. Tehran is in full-speed mode to disrupt the entire process, as the mullahs in Iran seek nothing but the Syrian opposition’s all-out annihilation and to completely repaint the country’s social fabric in favor of Assad, ultimately maintaining his regime in power.

The Lebanese Hizb’allah, perhaps the main Iran-backed proxy entity, is feeling the heat following the latest developments in relation to Syria. Hizb’allah desperately relies on a land route from Iran to northern Lebanon to maintain the ongoing flow of support from Tehran.

“Sources in Lebanon told the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Arab that Hezbollah has rejected the Russia-Turkey-mediated ceasefire agreement for the Syrian civil war,” algemeiner reported.

The Lebanese Hizb’allah, known to be fighting in Syria on behalf of Assad as its army has dwindled during the years, is furious over the fact that Ankara has demanded all foreign fighters depart Syria even prior to any discussion of a possible diplomatic solution.

To add insult to injury for Hizb’allah, and Tehran for that matter, is the fact that Moscow has discussed Ankara’s demands with the mullahs, meaning that the Kremlin supports the measure and is seeking an all-out diplomatic solution. This is completely against Iran’s domination and destructive policy to derail the peace process.

Such a turn of events would be the final nail in the coffin for Iran as it continues to rely on foreign recruits and the Hizb’allah to provide the ground forces necessary in Syria.

This is especially significant considering the fact that dissent inside Iran regarding the regime’s participation in the war in Syria is growing.

“On December 16th, 2016, the fans of Foolad Khuzestan B F.C chanted slogans against the dictator Assad in support of Syrians and the people of Aleppo during the football match,” opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)website reported.

The NCRI is a conglomerate of Iranian opposition organizations, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), advocating democratic regime change.

Videos posted on the internet show demonstrations inside Iran demanding the regime stop meddling in Syria and plunging billions to shore up the faltering Bashar Assad regime, and actually think of the Iranian people’s needs and demands.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has comissioned the Revolutionary Guards to pursue his lethal policy in Syria, resulting in horrific death and destruction across the Levant.

As long as the IRGC and its proxy militias, including the Hizb’allah, remain on Syrian soil, this country will never witness peace and tranquility. The IRGC is a major threat to any campaign to bring an end to the mayhem devastating this land.

The IRGC deserves to be designated as a terrorist organization, being Iran’s main leverage to export terrorism abroad.

It is also high time for the international community to call for the very eviction of Iran, the IRGC and all of Tehran’s proxy elements from Syria.

Originally published in American Thinker

Iran: What to do?

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By Heshmat Alavi

When it comes to Iran, the transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration is a hopeful one.

There is high hope the incoming administration will challenge Iran’s domestic policies, expansionism and support of terrorism, and its controversial nuclear program.

Those who have negotiated with the regime and trusted its envoys have actually deceived themselves, and in the process endangered the rest of the world, including particularly the people of Iran. Their hopes blind their eyes to the truth.

Nothing has changed in Iran under Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. In fact, there is a good argument to be made the status quo has excessively deteriorated.

The Nuclear Ordeal

We are now moving to a new administration, not protective or defensive of the Iran nuclear agreement, but ready to challenge it. President-elect Trump has emphasized in his words the disastrous nature of the agreement. It is in his words a disaster, as agreed by many across the American political spectrum. He has even expressed his readiness to tear up the entire agreement.

It’s almost 18 months since the Iran nuclear deal was signed. We have to ask, has anything about Iran’s behavior changed? No. Iran, under the alleged but not real moderate Hassan Rouhani, has already violated terms of the Iran nuclear agreement. These are real substantial terms. The limits on heavy water production and ballistic missile development, both contrary to a United Nations resolution embracing Iran nuclear agreement.

Middle East Mayhem

Iran continues to violate the sovereignty of the neighboring countries of the region. Under Rouhani, Iran extended its funding and training violent extremists terrorists in the Middle East and beyond.

Iran-backed militias, commanded by Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani, have launched horrendous crime and killing sprees across Syria and Iraq, and most recently in Aleppo, targeting even innocent women and children in summary street executions.

The appeasement policy adopted by the West during the past four decades has provided both the political green light and the economic greens necessary for Iran to pursue such atrocities. The international community must recognize the failure of this approach and begin tracing a new road map.

Disastrous Human Rights Record

Iran under Rouhani continues to punish and imprison Iranians who speak their minds against the regime or advocate independent ideas. Unprecedented numbers of citizens of Iran have been executed under this allegedly “moderate” regime.

Numerous international human rights figures and organizations have expressed grave concern as over 3,000 have been sent to the gallows under Rouhani’s tenure. 2015 came to be a year when an average of nearly three people each day were executed in Iran.

The regime in Iran is holding this country’s proud nation, its culture and history hostage. While claiming to be a religious government, the mullahs in Tehran are continuously resorting to measures considered profoundly sacrilegious. It is denying the people of Iran the human rights provided by most religions, including Islam, as are the direct endowment from God Almighty.

The Way Forward

U.S. Congress has been the bulwark and the foundation on a truly bipartisan basis of support for measures against the Iranian regime. Just recently, Congress returned to the bipartisan ground on Iran policy and extended the Iran Sanctions Act with overwhelming bipartisan support.

This is a very helpful sign and provides open territory and responsive ears as the case for more sanctions and a tough administration policy against Iran are made. Those continuing to advocate the appeasement policy believe it is actually possible the current regime in Iran could become a democratic entity respecting the rule of law. However as the past 38 years have shown, don’t hold your breath.

Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin declared long ago, “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.” That is the same mantra adopted by National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a political umbrella group of opposition movements seeking peaceful transition to peace, freedom and democracy for all people in Iran.

NCRI President Maryam Rajavi, a Muslim woman who is strongly against a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam and who enjoys vast international support, has placed forward a 10-point plan. This proposal provides a realistic solution for a future Iran ensuring gender equality, freedom of speech, religion and the media, an end to all executions and torture, a nuclear free Iran and more of the values cherished by today’s free world democracies.

Iran Will be Free

A new day is dawning for the cause of a liberated, stable, free and independent Iran, free of the rule of the mullahs.

We must choose to become part of history, not to sit passively by, but to act in support of the long and proud history of courageous people who have fought and achieved their freedom, often against extreme odds.

History is on the side of those struggling for freedom, democracy, and human rights. Iran seeks to return to its place in the community of civilized nations.

Seeing horrifying scenes from Aleppo and the entire Middle East in chaos, one questions is it really possible that the regime in Iran, with its growing wealth and military strength, can be stopped and overturned? Based on history, this is possible.

We must never underestimate the capacity of a small group of ordinary citizens in bringing about huge change in this world. In fact, history has proven this is the only method such changes have ever formulated.

“The moral arc of the universe often bends slowly. But it always bends towards justice,” the great Dr. Martin Luther King once said.

The evil regime that now rules over the good people of Iran will also collapse, and it will happen in our time. Iran will once again be free.

Originally posted in American Thinker

How Iran aides the Afghan Taliban under America’s nose

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By Amir Basiri

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) has been active amongst Taliban terrorists opposing the Afghan government, Radio France International website reported on Tuesday citing Farah Province officials in western Afghanistan.

Farah Provincial Council Chair Jamile Amini has accused Iran of sending IRGC members to join the Taliban ranks and files, adding that 25 Taliban members recently killed in this province were IRGC members.

Farah Province intelligence services report Iranian officials have held ceremonies for IRGC members killed amongst the armed dissidents in their province opposing the Afghan government, according to Mohammad Nosser Mehri, spokesman of the Farah governor.

 These reports wired at a time when Farah Province Governor Mohammad Asef Nang accused Iran recently of provoking violence and spreading insecurity in this province.

Despite the apparent irony of Shiite Iran supporting Sunni Taliban, Tehran in fact has a long history of meddling in Afghan affairs and providing for this terrorist group.

Afghan security forces issued a formal complaint over Iran providing logistics and military support for the Afghan Taliban.

Official spokesman Mullah Zabihullah, the group’s second in command, went one step further and shed light on the relations between Iran and new Taliban networks. “He said to the London based Asharq Al-Awsat in an email 18 months ago, that the movement had received drone planes, which help film suicidal operations,” Al-Arabiya reported back in late October.

Iran has been the target of major accusations over providing lethal military support to the Taliban in its long-running war against the international ISAF coalition led by the United States in Afghanistan.

Various analysts, including Washington-based experts of the Institute for the Study of War, believe the ongoing relationship between Iran and the Taliban has been fueled by the pure sentiment of opposing the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Reports of deep Iran-Taliban relations dating back to June 2015 indicate how the Obama administration turned a blind eye to this very troubling phenomenon, most likely to not at all push Iran into derailing the controversial nuclear talks that led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“Afghan and Western officials say Tehran has quietly increased its supply of weapons, ammunition and funding to the Taliban, and is now recruiting and training their fighters, posing a new threat to Afghanistan’s fragile security,” The Wall Street Journal reported in June 2015.

“Iran supplies us with whatever we need,” Abdullan, a Taliban commander stationed in central Afghanistan who received a $580 monthly salary and arms from his Iranian sponsors, told the paper.

Afghan and Western officials accused Iran of slowly boosting its supply to the Taliban of arms, ammunition and funding, and moving forward to recruit and train their fighters. Iran’s IRGC has also been a long and vital ally for the Taliban.

Iranian intelligence has also recruited Afghan immigrants on their soil to assist their support for Taliban, ferrying a variety of weapons including “82mm mortars, light machine guns, AK-47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and materials for making roadside bombs,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

Tehran has further been accused of enjoying affiliations with al-Qaeda, a known ally of the Taliban.

Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security has “over the past 20 years, provided financial, material, technological, and other support services to AQI,” The Tower reported, citing the Pentagon’s Irregular Warfare Support Program analysis.

Further:

“In 2012, the United States Treasury Department exposed the extensive financial ties between Iran and al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the terrorist organization that evolved into ISIS.

“The generous support Iran afforded ISIS in its formative years was part of a broader alliance that the Islamic Republic established with al-Qaeda over a decade ago.”

According to Michael Pregent, a former U.S. military intelligence officer:

“Iran needs the threat of ISIS and Sunni jihadist groups to stay in Syria and Iraq in order to become further entrenched in Damascus and Baghdad.”

Down the road, U.S. officials raised similar charges against the Assad regime bombing non-Islamist rebels “in support of ISIL’s advance on Aleppo,” in practice supporting the terror group push back the Syrian opposition fighting the Assad regime.

Iran considers its support for terrorist and extremist groups, Shiites and Sunnis alike, through a perspective of convenience. From Hamas to Taliban, to the Lebanese Hezbollah and Shiite militias in Syria, Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen, Iran supports and backs groups precisely acting and pursuing its interests in specific areas of the Middle East.

Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group of entities including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran seeking peaceful regime change in Iran, recently warned of Tehran’s meddling across the region.

“The regime in Tehran is the source of crisis in the region and killings in Syria; it has played the greatest role in the expansion and continuation of ISIS. Peace and tranquility in the region can only be achieved by evicting this regime from the region,” she said in a statement.

Such a relationship with the Afghan Taliban reveals the bogus nature of Iran’s claims of fighting terrorism and ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

In Afghanistan, we have to admit Iran is in fact supporting the Taliban and essentially destabilizing a state and government supported by the West, and the international community as a whole.

Iran has most likely, as forecasted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, used billions of previously sanctioned money released as a result of the Iranian nuclear deal to boost its efforts in supporting terrorism and insecurity across the region.

Amir Basiri is an Iranian human rights activist and analyst. His writing has appeared in Forbes and The Washington Examiner, among other publications. Follow him on Twitter: @amir_bas.

Originally published in The Hill