Has Khamenei signaled dead-end for Iranian regime’s adventures?

The United States’ important policy shift against Iran’s growing ambitions, spelled out in a 12-article speech delivered by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is leaving Tehran’s clerical rulers facing quite a difficult challenge.

Iran experts believe these changes are based on two domestic and international pillars, acknowledging the reality of Tehran’s regime as a main threat in regards to its nuclear program, ballistic missile drive, exporting terrorism and fundamentalism, and a domestic crackdown machine on full throttle.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei understands how such dangerous circumstances are rendering severe setbacks for his forces both inside the country and militia proxies abroad.

Reports indicate the Afghan “Liwa Fatemiyoun” militias, hired to fight in Syria, are deserting their units, and Tehran is apparently ordering Houthi militia units in Yemen to withdraw from the country’s western coastline and surrender their most strategic port in al-Hudaydah.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrives for a meeting of the foreign ministers from Britain, France and Germany and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, at the Europa building in Brussels on May 15, 2018. (AP)

 

Six conditions

In a desperate effort to counter this offensive, Khamenei has placed six conditions before the European Union to issue resolutions against the US in the United Nations Security Council, not raise the issue of Iran’s ballistic missile program and Middle East influence, guarantee trade through European banks, assure Iran’s ability to fully sell its oil, compensate pledges the EU has not lived up to (according to Khamenei) and take a stand against US sanctions.

As preposterous as Khamenei’s words sound, we need to understand that he has no choice but to resort to such remarks. And of course, the words of French President Emmanuel Macron sink deep in the minds of Tehran’s senior officials. French firms have to decide on continuing their activities in Iran and assessing the risks imposed by US sanctions, he said in recent remarks. The French President cannot ask companies such as Total to pull out of their business in the US, Macron said.

As many European companies continue to rush out of Iran, Stadler of Switzerland has been the latest to jump on the train, halting a $1.1 billion contract to provide and build 960 wagons for the Tehran-Karaj metro, citing the return of US sanctions as the reason.

Iran’s own political figures are losing hope. “How do we expect the Europeans to forgo their $700 billion exports to the US for the sake of $20 billion exports to Iran?” recently said Sadegh Zibakalam, a Tehran professor University with ties to the Iranian regime’s so-called reformist camp.

Although Khamenei has taken what seems to the naked eye a strong position by placing demands before Europe, he is also seeking new negotiations with the Green Continent. This proves that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visits to China and Russia, and a recent drive of Iran seeking eastern shift in policy, failed miserably.

From day one after Washington pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, the reality about the Iranian regime’s destructive policies became clear. Neither the European Union, Russia nor China are willing to provide any guarantees to Tehran. This explains why Khamenei, desperately seeking a lifeline, sees the only path forward as establishing a rift in the international community to somehow find breathing room for his regime.

Iranian and US banknotes are on display at a currency exchange shop in downtown Tehran. (AP)

Dark future

One must also recognize the severe setbacks Iran will be suffering from Washington’s drastic change in policy, in comparison to the Obama years. This has not only brought a complete end to all the dreams of those advocating appeasement vis-à-vis Iran, but also the dark future awaiting Tehran if it chooses to continue its nuclear program, ballistic missile ambitions, regional influence and domestic crackdown.

The Iranian regime is coming to learn the days of mass arrests, torture in prisons and executions without paying the price are coming to the end. Tehran is feeling the heat across the region, understanding its missile launches, exporting terrorism and meddling in neighboring countries come with a major price tag.

All of the Revolutionary Guards’ vastly expanded bases throughout the region, parallel to networks of terrorism in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen, alongside the nuclear program and not providing the promised “anytime, anywhere” inspections of its civil and military sites, are now targets of a variety of punitive measures by the US and its allies.

All this Iranian belligerence received a major $150 billion as a result of a highly flawed nuclear deal. Money that could have provided for the over 50 million Iranians living in poverty. Ironically, it is the Iranian regime’s own semi-official outlets that are providing such drastic statistics.

The above have resulted in a growing volume of dissent inside Iran, as analysts now consider this country a powder keg ready to explode at any moment. What makes the status quo even more dangerous for the Iranian regime is the fact that the Iranian people’s thirst for regime change is symbolized in their support for the main Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

While there may be a long dispute about the issue of regime change in Iran, the current circumstances are quite telling for the Iranian regime itself. “[National Security Advisor John] Bolton makes the same remarks today as he did in a PMOI/MEK event,” according to an editorial in the semi-official Mardom Salari daily.

According to former Iranian parliament deputy chairman Mohammad Reza Bahonar, “The US administration receive their analysis from the PMOI/MEK… the strategy of behavior change is no different from regime change.”

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Iranians protest again: Is the regime going down a slippery slope?

The scenes of protests and rallies in cities across Iran on Tuesday night are a major reminder. This regime is on thin ice.

Many cities became scenes of people using the national “Fire Festival” to stage anti-government protests. Tehran, Tabriz, Mashhad, Rasht, Ahvaz, Kermanshah, Sanandaj and many others became witness to such major acts of protests.

This proves Iran’s nation will not rest until they realize their ultimate objective of regime change.

State measures

Very telling is how state security forces remain on high alert in cities across the country, including Qom, central Iran, known as the Iranian regime’s hub where numerous seminaries are located.

Protests are continuing daily across the country. Marking International Women’s Day, several protesters outside the Labor Ministry in Tehran were demanding equal rights for women. Marginalized farmers east of Isfahan continue to protest authorities’ rerouting of river waters and destroying their agriculture products as a result. All the while strikes and protests continue to mushroom across the country.

Understanding the nation will continuously discover new methods to express their protests, Iran’s authorities have taken numerous precautions.

“State police is using 5,000 officers, 10 million accomplices, 1,100 traffic police vehicles, 27,000 special police patrols, installing 1,330 police trailers, 3,770 patrol vehicles, 2010 motorcycle patrols, 2,900 on-foot patrols, 1,700 temporary inspection centers, 104 permanent inspection centers and 30 helicopters,” according to Iran’s state police spokesperson in an interview with state TV.

The Supreme National Security Council, chaired by the so-called “moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, most certainly adopts and approves such actions.

Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani depicts the road ahead best by indicating challenges lay ahead for the clerical regime.

Driving force

What superficially began as a protest over poor living conditions quickly swelled into an uprising growing nationwide aiming to overthrow the Iranian regime in its entirety.

As proven again on Tuesday night, these protests can no longer classify as isolated incidents of unorganized nature. This grassroot movement is proving conditions will never be same following the uprising born on December 28th.

The driving force behind these protests, rapidly spreading to over 140 cities and towns through Iran, are women and the deprived social sectors.

Protesters have been chanting and writing in graffiti, ‘Death to Khamenei’ and ‘Death to Rouhani,’ formally referring to the regime’s supreme leader.

“Despite any ups and downs, the uprising will move on. The regime is incapable of stopping it. There are signs of alarm and concern even inside the IRGC and Bassij militia. The wall of fear has been cracked, and nothing including arrests, killings and torture can prevent the advancement of the protests to overthrow the regime,” Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi said back at a February session in Paris held by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

The stakes at hand are grave, to say the least. The West has finally begun to acknowledge the threats Iran poses for its Middle East neighbors through ballistic missiles and regional meddling.

It is time the entire international community realizes the undeniable fact that the Iranian people are demanding sweeping regime change.

Tuesday night’s protests also prove a direct link between the protests and the Iranian resistance movement, following a call made by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the largest member of the NCRI coalition.

The NCRI is pioneering the struggle to realize regime change in Iran and that is what the people of Iran want. It is high time for the West to realize appeasement vis-à-vis Tehran is not welcome as protesters express their abhorrence of this clerical rule.

Known for blowing the whistle on Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program, the PMOI/MEK is the spearheading protest organization inside the country. Khamenei went public on January 9 acknowledging the PMOI’s leading role behind these protests.

Effective measures

The European Union and each member state should not only recognize the Iranian people’s legitimate demand for regime change, but to adopt effective measures aimed at compelling Tehran to release all recently arrested protesters, guarantee freedom of speech and assembly, end suppression targeting women and abolish laws imposing compulsory veil.

Iran’s regime is currently on shaky grounds.

As a result, the EU should refrain from any deals with companies and individuals affiliated to Iran’s crackdown apparatus, most specifically the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

As the people voice their demands ever so clearly, the future of political and economic relations with Tehran should hinge on the release of all political prisoners and an end to executions.

In line, it would be quite encouraging to witness the United Nations launch a commission missioned to investigate the arrests, disappearances and mysterious suicides of Iranian protestors while in custody.

Europe should jump on board with its Middle East allies and the United States in adopting a firm Iran policy. Silence in regards to Tehran’s unrestrained quelling of protestors simply seeking their God-given right of freedom is unacceptable.

Iran’s Future, In Its Own Words

On the very sensitive subject of how Iran plans to confront ongoing protests, described by some as an uprising, all the while attempting to resolve the very issues engulfing the ruling regime, there are critical concerns raising from various voices within.

And considering U.S. President Donald Trump’s powerful State of the Union message, underscoring “America stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom,” the stakes at hand in the months ahead for Tehran are extremely high.

Iran’s state-linked media are a good source, shedding significant and noteworthy light on the seemingly obscure nature of the Iranian regime.

The common tone heard in all such messages is hopelessness. Those loyal to the faction of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei see the solution in sacking the regime’s president, Hassan Rouhani.

Arguments from the other side of the aisle in Tehran’s politics rely on warning the Khamenei camp that such a scenario will not end the regime’s escalating quandaries. This is only the beginning and there is no stopping this train, adding the entirety of this regime is in the crosshairs.

There are those who believe dark days await those sitting on the throne in Tehran, speaking of future uprising waves. Providing no solutions, their words can mean nothing but succumbing to an inevitable downfall.

“Those who have continuously spread despair and anxiety through their platforms in state TV/radio and Friday prayers (in reference to the Khamenei camp) seek to portray Rouhani as incompetent. They issue and chant slogans of ‘Death to Rouhani,’ failing to answer the inescapable question of who after Rouhani. The answer is obvious: surpassing Rouhani means overcoming the government, reaching the very principle of our state, and finally surpassing the Islamic republic itself,” according to the Tadbir24 website, known for its affiliation to the Rouhani camp.

Interesting is how this piece considers Rouhani a synonym of the ruling state, or at least the velayat-e faqih regime’s last chance of survival, warning surpassing Rouhani is tantamount to the end of the clerical rule altogether.

Protesters in the streets, however, are crystal clear in their intentions and how they view the overall regime apparatus. Chanting “Death to Rouhani,” “Death to Khamenei,” and most interestingly, “Reformists, principalists, end of story,” the Iranian people are demanding sweeping changes, accepting nothing short of regime change. This ends Iran’s scheme of portraying a system established on two parties of conservatives and reformists.

“The issue at hand is not limited to merely surpassing Rouhani. More grave ends may be awaiting us,” according to the Jamaran website, explaining how these protests are raising eyebrows across the board amongst senior Iranian officials.

“Let us be frank: Taking into consideration the current heading, our destination will be nothing but all out ruin,” according to the Asr Iran website, another Rouhani camp mouthpiece.

“The society has become a cradle for numerous crises that will surface in other forms (read in further nationwide protests),” according to Rouhani’s economic advisor Hossein Zaghfar.

Warnings of other crises in the making and Iran anticipating further calamities are indicating signs of Iran’s ruling elite understanding very well there the harsh reality of these protests’ refusal to ever melt down.

To add insult to injury for the mullahs, the brave Iranian people are showing how the regime’s crackdown machine no longer enjoys its previous teeth. For forty years the clerical regime has been relying on this entity to remain intact and in power. Scenes of protesters tearing down Khamenei posters and attacking sites of the Revolutionary Guards Basij paramilitary force, parallel to a wave of Basij members burning their IDs and credentials, speak for themselves.

Iran’s protests will continue despite the fact that authorities killed 53 protesters and sent over 8,000 others behind bars, reports indicate.

The Iranian people are proving to the world over their objective of seeking regime change and establishing a republic based on democratic values rightfully cherished by most of today’s countries.

History shows those movements presenting a specific alternative to the ruling state have a far better chance of realizing victory for the people. A leading entity with a publicized plan for the future and the courage that the populace can rely on.

The time has come to set aside the “reformist” mirage in Iran. For decades, Maryam Rajavi, as President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is providing the sole, realistic alternative for Iran with a ten-point plan that enjoys the support of thousands of elected officials across the globe.

For starters, however, there are certain duties and obligations before the international community:

  • Demand the release of all recently arrested protesters & political prisoners.
  • Provide free internet access to all of Iran to allow activists report the truth about this regime, unfortunately cloaked by mainstream media.
  • Continue cutting off Iran’s access to the global financial system. This will deprive the IRGC from the financial sources it desperately needs to continue its slate of domestic and foreign belligerence.

This is a noble launch of standing shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people in “their courageous struggle for freedom.”

We Should Listen Closely To Iran

As the world continues to debate the recent Iranian outburst of protests, its “lack of leadership” as they claim, and the road ahead, there is no doubt in the minds of senior Iranian regime officials over who led, and continues to lead, this latest uprising that continues to rattle the very pillars of the mullahs’ rule.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei made his thoughts crystal clear.

“The incidents were organized” and carried out by the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), he said although using a different term. “The [MEK] had prepared for this months ago” and “the [MEK’s] media outlets had called for it.”

The MEK is best known for first blowing the whistle on Iran’s clandestine nuclear program back in 2002 and raising awareness over the possible military dimension (PMD) of this drive, a subject awaiting full clarification as we speak.

Interesting is how Khamenei’s remarks, however, mirror those of influential American figures.

“The resistance is making a difference,” said Newt Gingrich, former House of Representatives Speaker and an individual very close to U.S. President Donald Trump, at a “Regime change in Iran” meeting held recently by the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, the sole significant Iranian opposition coalition. The MEK is a member of this umbrella group.

Maryam Rajavi and Newt Gingrich are meeting on January 19, 2018 in the office of NCRI, Auvers sur Oise, north of Paris, France. They support the uprising of the Iranian people for regime change. (Photo by Siavosh Hosseini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“The MEK is making a difference. I have no doubt that, in the long run, you are on the right side of history. The resistance is knitting together both in the country and in the world a tremendous force that is sustaining the right to believe that you can be free,” Gingrich added while joined by former Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli.

Their participation marks bipartisan support the NCRI and MEK enjoy in Washington, considered rare these days.

“This is the beginning of a revolution. A regime that stays in power by killing its people has a numbered life. When Rouhani called French President Macron and asked him to clamp down on the MEK it made one thing clear: This is not a revolution without a leader. The leader is sitting here,” Senator Torricelli, in reference to NCRI President Maryam Rajavi.

“I agree with Khamenei on nothing except one thing: he is putting responsibility on the MEK and the PMOI and blaming Mrs. Rajavi. He is right about it. This has been organized for years, network has been created, by never compromising with the regime, never being part of it. The MEK and Mrs. Rajavi have kept credibility… So in identifying the MEK and Mrs. Rajavi, he is right because the MEK and the entire international community that supports it, we are all coming for Khamenei to end this nightmare,” he added.

Iran’s history of uprisings and the 1979 revolution specifically have witnessed their ups and downs. The current movement is undergoing a similar phase today and any argument that this round of protests have come to an end are baseless.

“The uprising showed that Iranian society is in an explosive state, simmering with discontent,” Rajavi said in her speech. “It showed that the regime is much weaker than perceived. It showed that the billions of windfall dollars from the nuclear deal did nothing to cure the regime’s instability. And finally, the uprising showed that the people of Iran detest both regime factions and want it overthrown in its entirety.”

Invited by numerous parliamentary groups, Rajavi continued her efforts on Wednesday in the European Parliament by calling on the Green Continent to break its dangerous silence in the face of ongoing protests in Iran and the regime resorting to numerous crackdown measures.

Khamenei understands the Iranian opposition’s threat and wastes no time in pinpointing the main sources of his regime’s concerns that is fueling and guiding the recent unrests. For decades West-based pro-Iranian regime lobby have also gone the distance in expressing their utmost abhorrence, especially in regards to the MEK.

A lobelog.com piece – later republished by the iran-interling.org, a site reportedly ran by known agents of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence to demonize the Iranian opposition– reads that rallies staged abroad recently in solidarity with Iranian protesters are “organized by a fringe, cult-like group,” referring to the MEK.

In this resort to yellow journalism, the piece fails to mention the fact that no other Iranian coalition or group was able to hold such organized rallies، and refuses to discuss the NCRI campaign calling for international action to pressure Tehran into releasing all political prisoners, especially the recently detained 8,000+ protesters.

The mere fact that such voices literally blow their horns in this regard not only raises eyebrows, it places us before this question of why?

The answer is simple. Iran’s regime is facing a major impasse, feeling the growing pressures of internal dissent and international isolation.

In response to Trump’s 120-day ultimatum to improve the Iran nuclear deal after waiving sanctions for “the last time,” France, Germany and the United Kingdom are discussing measures targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program and meddling in countries across the Middle East.

More than ever before, the Iranian people have shown their readiness for democratic change. The time has come for those governments that are pursuing appeasement policies with the Iranian regime to take a new approach.Washington and Europe should lead the global community into providing support for the Iranian people and recognizing the Iranian opposition NCRI in its call for regime change and the election of a representative government.

The Iranian people have spoken and continue to prove their legitimate demand for regime change to welcome a democratic and secular republic. Those countries continuing their appeasement vis-à-vis Tehran should set aside unreliable short-term benefits and begin thinking about their long-term interests.

The French “Pascal Coquis” recently wrote in an editorial piece describing the recent protests as a “volcano.”

“When it erupts, it can no longer be contained. The intensity of the fire may decrease, yet it will continue to erupt. Forever.”

Khamenei has genuine concerns over the NCRI, being the largest Iranian opposition coalition enjoying sweeping support on both sides of the Atlantic and having rooted connections to a vast network of supporters inside the country. This has provided the necessary tools for the NCRI to become the leading force of regime change with a clear blueprint for a democratic future for Iran.

On this highly imperative subject, we should actually listen to Khamenei’s words.

Iran: How The People Suffer As Billions Go To Waste

As we gear to welcome 2018 with celebrations across the globe, it is morally correct to take a moment and think about the lesser fortunate in such times.

The world’s most powerful earthquake in 2017 shook Iran’s western province of Kermanshah, leaving at least several hundred people killed – while posts on social media showed locals speaking of the death toll being in the thousands – and scores more injured.

For the survivors, despite living in a country sitting on an ocean of oil and gas, their hardships continue as we speak. Iran, being the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, stands accused of allocating billions to prop the Assad regime in Syria, funding the Lebanese Hezbollah, supporting Yemen’s Houthis and backing Shiite militias in Iraq.

This goes alongside further billions pumping into a controversial and unnecessary nuclear program, and a dangerous ballistic missile drive.

The Iranian people are continuously seen protesting the regime’s policies. On Thursday a large number of protesters took to the streets in the cities of Mashhad, Neyshabur, Kashmar and Birjand in northeast Iran, protesting unemployment, poverty and skyrocketing prices. Protesters were also seen chanting, “Death to Rouhani” and “Death to the Dictator,” in reference to the regime’s president and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, respectively.

As we speak, at least 85,000 earthquake victims are enduring dire circumstances, while longing meaningful government aid after more than six weeks into this ordeal.

Evaluations show around 18,000 homes are completely destroyed in this area and another 50,000 have suffered major damages, according to Iran’s official news agency.

The mayor of Sar Pol-e Zahab, the main town targeted by the quake, says many of those whose lives have been ruined remain waiting for trailers. The situation has also been discussed in the country’s parliament.

“Only 1,500 trailers have been sent and installed in the quake-stricken area by people’s charity,” Heshmattollah Falahat-Pishe, a member of Iran’s parliament said according to the semi-officials ISNA news agency.  “Arrangements were made for 400 trailers to be installed daily. This has not been realized and people are very unhappy with the process. Some villages have not received a single trailer…”

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A man injured following the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Iran’s Kermanshah province. (IRNA)

The province of Kermanshah is also known as the center of Iran’s kidney market. As the media sporadically covers the earthquake’s aftermath, unknown to many even inside Iran is the fact that this province faces a wide range of other difficulties.

“Our cities are tantamount to war-torn areas. No major factories, no source of employment… This fuels unemployment and poverty, making many in Kermanshah willing to sell a body part,” said Hossein Bigleri, head of the Kermanshah Kidney Patients Support Society, according to a state-run Iranian website.

The irony lies in the fact that with such a high percentage of Iran’s populace living in utter poverty, those who need kidney transplants the most lack the procuring ability. The price of a kidney now stands at around $5,000 in Iran, and at times even higher, reports show.

Lines are long at Kermanshah’s dialysis clinics, as both sides of a kidney transplant are facing serious jeopardy. As a result, many of those looking to sell their kidneys are seen seeking markets in other cities across the country.

For a society such as Iran, further disturbing is the rising number of women seeking to sell their kidneys, including women as young as 20 to 35 years of age. There are cases of such desperate women who are even willing to sell their kidneys for as low as $1,500 to desperately make ends meet.

As such numbers portray a drastic image, Iran’s next fiscal budget will provide the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) around $76 billion of the total $114 billion allocated to the regime’s armed forces. The IRGC and its extraterritorial unit, the Quds Force, enjoy a priority in the new budget, according to reports.

While claiming to be a moderate, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani submits the budget plan a month after the quake and presses the parliament to urgently approve the bill.

Mohammad Jamali, a member of the parliamentary defense committee, considers the Quds Force and the provocative missile program that has bought the regime numerous condemnations, deserving the utmost priority in the armed forces’ budget.

This MP argues regional and international threats demand Iran upgrade its capabilities, while continuously failing to provide the attention earthquake victims deserve.

Further concerning is the fact that Tehran is spending about $15-20 billion a year in Syria, revelations indicate.

Making a long story short, many in Iran face no choice but selling their body parts to provide for their daily needs. This regime, however, is designating 150 times the budget of a province such as Kermanshah to maintain a ruthless dictator such as Bashar Assad in power.

The Iranian regime’s aggression result in the people at home paying the price with their flesh and blood, and millions across the region losing their lives, being injured and/or displaced.

This must come to an end and all crosshairs must focus on the ruling elite sitting in Tehran. A TIME piece back in July explains how such measures are effective against Iran’s regime.

“Sanctions on Iran, on the other hand, have shown some results, because unlike North Korea, Iran wants a deeper commercial and political engagement with the rest of the world.”

ANALYSIS: Understanding Washington’s fast-evolving Iran policy

On the doorstep of US President Donald Trump’s first National Security Strategy speech, the administration launched an unprecedented campaign of pinpointing the crosshairs on the epicenter of all extremism causing havoc across the Middle East: Iran.

This comes following a Wall Street Journal article explaining how in the post-ISIS world Washington will begin pinpointing its focus and resources on the larger and more dangerous threat posed by Tehran.

‘Hard look’

The Trump administration has made it clear that a wide array of destructive policies adopted by Tehran have become unacceptable, a clear indication of the end of Iran’s years of windblown successes, thanks mainly to eight years of the Obama’s unbridled appeasement policy and strategic mistakes of previous administrations.

Described as a “first” by Reuters, last Thursday US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley displayed a detailed exhibition of Iranian equipment used to arm Yemen’s Houthi militias – long known to be backed by Iran – and thus, to destabilize the region, especially its archrival, Saudi Arabia.

“We are not just focused on the nuclear program,” Haley said during a press conference at a US Department of Defense hangar where the Iranian equipment were placed before the media. “We’re also taking a hard look at Iran’s ballistic missile program, its arms exports, and its support for terrorists, proxy fighters and dictators.”

Iran can also be described as the facilitator, and maybe even the godfather, of a slate of malign practices rendering suffering across the Arabian Peninsula, leading to the Levant and eastward to Central Asia.

“It’s hard to find a terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints all over it,” Haley continued, adding how this regime is “fanning the flames” of conflict.

It is worth reminding that for decades the US State Department has considered Iran the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. We may actually be on the verge of meaningful and long overdue measures against Tehran on this very important and vital subject.

A different Iraq

US policy shifting also faces major decisions regarding the path forward in Iraq, as the three year war against ISIS group begins to wind down and Washington seeks to roll back Tehran’s influence over Baghdad. Disputes between the central government and the Kurdish region, parallel to the May general elections in which Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi seeks reelection, are important subjects for all parties involved.

“Iran simply does not respect the sovereignty of its neighbors,” said Douglas Silliman, the US Ambassador to Iraq, while voicing how Washington is encouraged over recent efforts made by Baghdad to establish stronger ties with Riyadh and Amman.

This adds to Tehran’s troubles in Mesopotamia, as there are signs of growing rifts among its allies in Iraq’s Shiite majority. A stereotype mentality would suggest Iran is seeking the return of Nouri al-Maliki, a former prime minister considered by many as extremely loyal to Tehran.

Maliki, however, would need the unified support of Iraq’s Shiite community. Troubling Iran’s intentions is how various influential figures, such as Muqtada Sadr, have established close ties with Riyadh or signaled their own objectives.

Hadi al-Amiri, commander of Iraq’s largest Shiite paramilitary group, the so-called Badr Organization, called on his fighters on Thursday to begin taking orders from the national military and end their ties with the group’s political wing.

This move, parallel to unconfirmed reports of orders for the group’s fighters to withdraw from cities they currently control, paves the path for Amiri to take part in the upcoming May 12th parliamentary elections.

Back in July, Ammar al-Hakim, a politician known for his links to Iran, withdrew from the Tehran-backed Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq to launch a new party, the National Wisdom Movement. Al-Hakim has claimed to seek Sunni support for his new initiative.

July was the same month of Sadr’s Saudi and UAE visit, and he also raised eyebrows by calling for the controversial Popular Mobilization Forces to dismantle and integrate into the country’s armed forces.

Reports also indicate that Sadr intends to establish a political alliance with Abadi, the al-Wataniya slate of Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi and the Civil Democratic Alliance before May’s elections. Raising concerns for Iran is the fact that all these parties have called for political reforms in Iraq.

Necessary deterrence

With the US military effort against ISIS decreasing in necessity, the Trump administration is also weighing the future of its Syria campaign, with Iran on their mind. Having recently announced the presence of more than 2,000 American forces stationed currently in Syria, the new goal for these units is a highly debated subject.

As we remember the drastic experience of Obama’s premature pull-out of Iraq and the resulting consequences that paved the path for the rise of ISIS, US Defense Secretary James Mattis has indicated American troops have no intention of leaving the Levant in the foreseeable future.

It is vital to ensure ISIS is prevented the ability to morph into a dangerous new entity with the potential of raising new threats in this already hostile region. Furthermore, rest assured Washington is taking into considerable consideration the presence of Iranian proxies across the Levant, and how the stationing of US troops on the ground acts as a major deterrence element against Tehran’s treacherous initiatives.

Times have changed

Advocates of engagement vis-à-vis Iran are accusing the Trump administration of trailing the path of launching a war with Iran. Their intentions are far from preventing the US from entering a new war, but to protect Tehran from any strong measures, including international sanctions that target the regime and actually benefit the people by weakening the ruling system.

This piece is not a call for war with Iran, and there is a logic that needs understanding for those concerned about Iran responding violently to a US policy shift. Tehran’s support for militias in Iraq back in the 2000s enjoyed the support of two key elements:

1. A completely unified Iranian regime with former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad acting as the puppet of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

2. Billions in revenue rendered by skyrocketing oil prices soaring up to nearly $140 a barrel in June 2008.

This is not the case today, as Iranian politics is a scene of unprecedented internal quarrels described locally as “dogfights,” and the lowered price of oil and increasing sanctions leveled against Tehran are disrupting the regime’s efforts, seeking to maximize its regional bellicosity.

‘Global threat’

As emphasized by Ambassador Haley, it is high time for the international community to take decisive action, such as crippling sanctions targeting the regime and its belligerent institutions, to finally bring an end to what has become “a global threat.”

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran, known for blowing the whistle on Tehran’s clandestine nuclear program, indicates how a “firm policy hinges on the following practical measures:

– Evicting the IRGC and its proxy militias from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan, and preventing the transfer of Iran’s weaponry and troops to these countries;

– Imposing comprehensive sanctions on Iran and the IRGC, especially preventing their access to the global banking system;

– Referring Iran’s human rights violations dossier, particularly the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, to The International Criminal Court, and placing the regime’s senior officials responsible for these crimes before justice;

– Imposing previous UNSC resolutions covering Iran’s nuclear weapons program, banning uranium enrichment, and launching unconditional inspections into the regime’s military and non-military sites.”

Human Rights: Iran’s Ultimate Vulnerability

Developments in the Middle East have placed the spotlight once again on Iran and its hegemonic temptations. This goes parallel to calls from parties such as France and Germany, whom Iran previously counted on in the face of U.S. pressures, demanding Tehran reel in its ballistic missile program and support for proxy groups across the region.

While all such measures are necessary and deserve escalation, Tehran’s human rights violations demand even more attention. This is the one issue that both shivers fear in the ruling regime and provides direct support for the Iranian people in their struggle for freedom, democracy and all the other values embraced by today’s 21st century world.

As the world marks International Human Rights Day on December 10th, we are also well into the first year of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s second term.

Dubbed as a “moderate” figure in Iran’s politics, with many arguing otherwise, the scene witnessed in Iran during his tenure has been far from it. Over 3,500 executions are merely the first stain of an atrocious report card of human rights violations.

new report by Iran Human Rights Monitoring reviewing the plight of human rights in Iran during the course of 2017 sheds light on a reality the regime strives to cloak from the world.

Mrs. Asma Jahangir, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, in a semi-annual report referred to the absence of an independent judiciary in Iran. Improving the country’s human rights situation hinges on reforming the judiciary, she added.

Amnesty International in its 2016-2017 report indicated how, aside from China, Iran is host to 55 percent of all the world’s executions.

In June Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei used the term “fire at will” in a speech, leading to an increase in repressive measures and flagrant human rights violations.

This includes a 22 percent increase in the number of arrests, 25 percent increase in women executions, the execution of four juveniles, and a surge in inhumane and humiliating punishments, according to the Iran-HRM report.

Iran has witnessed 520 executions from the beginning of 2017 to the end of November, while only 91 such cases have been reported by the regime’s official news agencies. 28 of these were public hangings and five cases involved political prisoners.

The systematic murder of porters by state security forces in Iran’s border regions, counting to 84 such cases so far in 2017, raised a stir in social networks and even international media outlets.

Bent under the weight of their loads — smuggled cigarettes, alcohol, gasoline, and even home appliances — the mules are a common sight in Iran’s western border regions.

The report also sheds light on the atrocious conditions in Iran’s prisons, as severe crackdown measures have rendered jails packed with inmates. This has led to poor hygiene conditions, low quality food and many other dilemmas for the prisoners.

Iran’s jails are also home to at least 640 political prisoners, an issue Tehran refuses to recognize or provide any information about. These individuals are constantly tortured and placed under inhumane pressures, as more than 56 are victim to mental and psychological tortures.

One such hideous practice has been chaining inmates to a courtyard pole, seen carried out in Ardebil Prison, northwest Iran, according to the report.

Iran is also known to resort to inhumane measures resembling the Middle Ages. Five limb amputations, 32 lashings and more than 105 humiliating public parading of prisoners have been registered from January to November 2017.

Ruled by a regime founded on pillars of crackdown, Iran has long been criticized for its lack of press freedoms; more than 30 journalists and 18 bloggers are currently behind bars across the country. At least five journalists are banned from any such activities and dozens of others are serving heavy sentences.

In its April statement Reporters Without Borders ranked Iran as 165th among 180 countries on its index of press freedoms, adding the country ruled by Tehran’s regime is considered one of the world’s largest prisons for journalists.

After imposing censorship for decades and keeping the Iranian people cut off from the outside world, the regime ruling Iran understands the power of the internet and social media, in particular.

Women-in-an-internet-cafe-in-Iran.-specials.dw_.com_
Women in an internet cafe in Iran. (specials.dw.com)

While Iran cannot afford to completely cut off the internet, the mere fact that nearly 40 million Iranians are online daily is literally a time bomb for Tehran. The regime has gone the limits to ban and filter numerous websites and platforms, especially Telegram, considered to be very popular in Iran due to the privacy and security provides to its users.

Iranian officials have publicly announced the filtering of around 16,000 to 20,000 Telegram channels, went as far as blocking any live video streaming on Instagram and filtered Twitter.

Religious and ethnic minorities in Iran, specifically Christians and Baha’is, are experiencing similar restrictions, parallel to not being recognized by Iran’s ruling extremists and systematically placed under pressure from state officials and authorities. The UN Special Rapporteur in her report referred to the harassment of religious and ethnic minorities, specifically holding the IRGC responsible for arresting minority members.

For the first time the UN Special Rapporteur’s report refers to the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, consisting mostly of members and supporters of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

A panel of prominent American politicians participated in a recent discussion in Washington, DC, unveiling a new book published by the U.S. Representative Office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the main coalition consisting of the PMOI and other Iranian dissident groups.

U.S. President Donald Trump has twice expressed the American people’s solidarity with their Iranian brethren, signaling a stark contrast in policy with his predecessor who failed to stand alongside the Iranian people during their 2009 uprising.

Sanctions and a variety of restricting measures targeting Tehran’s nuclear drive, ballistic missile program, and support for terrorism and proxy groups are very necessary, and should increase. Parallel to such actions, measures targeting Iran’s senior officials and the entities behind human rights violations must be placed on agenda by the international community.