Iran’s internet clampdown

During the unprecedented November uprising that spread to over 190 cities checkered throughout Iran, the ruling mullahs’ regime was terrified of this fire expanding. One major source of concern was the constant uploading of footage vividly depicting the regime’s horrific crackdown and killing spree against Iranian demonstrators.

Desperate to prevent such a flow, the regime quickly ordered a massive internet shutdown on November 16. Nearly a month after the uprising, conditions have yet to return to pre-protests status.

As we look back, no regime official has been able to deny the fact that the reasoning behind this decision was none other than “national security.” With internet connection restored at a very controlled rate, recently obtained video shed light on the scope of the mullahs’ vicious and bloody crackdown that followed the protests sparked by a gasoline price hike that saw costs soaring up to 300 percent.

This internet clampdown was ordered by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Rouhani, the “moderate,” issues final orders

While Iranian regime apologists/lobbyists and pro-appeasement voices describe Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a “moderate,” it is worth noting that Rouhani chairs the regime’s Supreme National Security Council and signed on the internet shutdown move. Iranian officials describe Rouhani as the “most security-minded” president in the regime’s history.

All the while, dubbed by Iranian media as a “fox,” Rouhani is very careful to depict himself as an advocate of civil rights and against such hardline policies. Yet when push came to shove during the November uprising and the regime’s entire apparatus was facing a massive national movement, Rouhani showed his true colors, calling for a massive crackdown and broadcasting coerced confessions from arrested protesters on state TV (a known tactic of the mullahs’ regime and dictators throughout history).

Rouhani went even further and during his presentation of the 2020 fiscal budget plan to the regime’s parliament, he shed light on the internet shutdown by announcing plans to launch the “National Information Network” (NIN). Of course, his remarks forced various cabinet officials and apologists/lobbyists across the board to quickly interpret his words as not an internet shutdown.

It was also interesting to see Kayhan daily, a known Khamenei mouthpiece, place its weight behind the regime’s plans to shut down the internet and launch NIN. This made it crystal clear that both the regime’s hardliners and “reformists” are behind the NIN initiative to keep a major lid on the Iranian people.

It is a known fact that the true meaning of NIN is none other than censorship and a highly restricted/controlled network for the Iranian nation while the regime enjoys access to the internet for its needs. Similar measures have been imposed on social media platforms. As the Iranian people are banned from access to Twitter, Facebook and other such apps, Iranian regime officials are tweeting and posting on a daily basis.

Why is the mullahs’ regime so utterly concerned, and terrified, of the Iranian people enjoying access to the world wide web alongside billions of other people across the globe?

Dictators fear the internet

A state unable to adapt itself to a society’s needs and the daily transformation of life in today’s world, while responding to major societal management challenges, has no choice but imposing a closed and isolated way of life. Why? People gaining more knowledge is a nightmare for such a state.

Dictatorships are utterly terrified of different nations joining force in solidarity and they seek to place “walls” preventing such relationships. In Iran, the mullahs’ regime intends to keep the Iranian people separated from the outside world as much as possible. This is especially important when political, economic and social dissent reach boiling points across the country. In such circumstances, keeping a lid on the people is of the utmost essence for the mullahs’ regime. If possible, the rulers in Tehran would impose North Korea-style conditions on the Iranian society.

The problem, which the mullahs realize all too well, is that shutting down the internet in Iran – being a society with a long history of freedom-loving resistance, and its powder keg society in this day and age – will have major consequences for Tehran. For this very reason, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabie had no choice but clarify and interpret Rouhani’s NIN remarks in the Majlis, emphasizing there is no intention to shut down the internet.

Such concern is also quite visible inside the mullahs’ regime. The Jahan-e Sanat daily published an article on December 9 titled “Living in the Stone Age!” The piece emphasizes an intranet system implemented by various countries is not possible in today’s Iran.

Wishful thinking

We do need to remind ourselves that the mullahs’ main objective is to block the Iranian people’s open access to a free flow of information and news from the outside world, and restricting Iran’s population to the mullahs’ filtered network. However, aware of the public backlash, the regime intends to cloak its plans under the “National Information Network” pretext.

Meaning: maintaining the country’s administrative apparatus linked to the internet network, while filtering the population from the world wide web. There are voices inside the regime describing such plans as wishful thinking, knowing these measures would fuel further backlashes far more aggressive than the November gasoline price hike protests.

There is no doubt that Khamenei yearns the control enjoyed by Iranian regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini back in the 1980s where there was no internet. This allowed Khomeini carry out any and all atrocities across the country, including the summer 1988 massacre that left over 30,000 political prisoners executed, while the world was kept in the dark.

Today, as we head into the third decade of the 21st century, circumstances have changed in favor of the people. Each and every individual killed by dictators quickly become martyrs and national heroes, inspiring millions and sparking a wave of global condemnations parallel to escalating political isolation.

The current conditions of the mullahs’ regime ruling Iran indicate that their end is very near. Shutting down the internet, with the objective of preventing the free flow of information and secretly killing protests and activists will no longer cure this regime’s lethal viruses.

The end of the mullahs’ regime is not a matter of if, but when.

Iran: How the regime miscalculated the November uprising

Following the December 2017/January 2018 uprising in Iran, the issue of another nationwide protest being in the making has been a constant talking point of senior Iranian officials. Faces from across the regime spectrum have been warning and calling for preparatory measures for some time. And yet the November uprising caught their entire apparatus off guard, signaling the Iranian people’s desire to overthrow the mullahs.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself had time and again warned about a new uprising in 2019, describing the new “sedition” as far more significant. The plot aiming to overthrow the mullahs’ regime in the 2019 uprising was very deep, broad and dangerous in comparison to the Dec 2017/Jan 2018 episode, according to Khamenei.

He was right. The people of Iran, fed up with the mullahs, took to the streets following the November 15 gasoline price hike, challenging the mullahs’ rule in a new round of nationwide protests rocking the very pillars of Khamenei’s regime.

The November uprising reflected the Iranian people’s utter hatred of the mullahs’ rule, using the opportunity to voice their wrath, targeting Khamenei, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the mullahs’ foreign policy and the very foundations that has made life a living hell for tens of millions of Iranians for 40 years and counting.

The November uprising came to life despite the fact that Khamenei had been warning of an outburst in 2019 and the Rouhani cabinet had been paving the path for the gasoline price hike for months. A number of state media outlets were announcing – and thus denying – plans for the price increase a number of times to test public opinion/outrage, and to downgrade the shock imposed on the society through this plan.

Uprising overcomes massive preparations

Following the warnings issued by Khamenei himself and various analyses carried out by the regime’s security apparatus weighing public response, the entire domestic crackdown machine was on high alert prior to the official gasoline price hike announcement. According to senior national security officials, the IRGC, state police, Basij, the intelligence apparatus and other security institutions all believed they could control the population’s outburst.

“It has been two years that we have been discussing the issue of increasing the price of gasoline. We had four scenarios. Several working groups were launched, one being the security-police working group established in the Supreme National Security Council. Another working group was the psychological operations and response committee,” said Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli in a state TV interview on November 26.

“All discussions and analysis were carried out under the supervision of the Intelligence Ministry, considering their experience in overt and covert monitoring. Officials from the IRGC, police and the judiciary were also present… the police across the country were on high alert, and specifically protecting gas stations due to security reasons… the country’s circumstances and the people’s economic conditions were analyzed… stock market officials were missioned to control the entire market. The Ministry of Industries, Mines and Trade was ordered to control the prices of goods and services, and especially prevent price increases. The Central Bank was ordered to monitor currency and gold prices,” he added. These remarks by the Interior Minister sheds light on the regime’s grave concerns regarding the overall crisis engulfing their entire apparatus.

Despite all this readiness and the fact that there was no element of surprise for the regime, the Iranian people still delivered a striking blow to the mullahs, with protests reported in 189 cities, dozens of military/security bases attacked, and hundreds of banks torched. The Iranian people consider these banks as symbols of a regime that is constantly plundering their money and resulting in over 80 percent of the population living in utter poverty.

Scale of regime’s violence reflects vulnerability

Khamenei and his regime completely miscalculated the powder keg potential of the Iranian society and the Iranian people’s will to pay the ultimate price on their quest to topple the mullahs. The November uprising literally left the security forces helpless, leaving Khamenei with no choice but ordering a full and complete crackdown by his forces opening direct fire on unarmed protesters.

IRGC chief Hossein Salami compared the uprising scope to the Second World War. “We are engaged in a major global war. This war has begun in our streets,” he said on November 25. It’s quite interesting that his remarks indicate the regime is involved in an ongoing war and does not consider this a matter of the past.

IRGC deputy chief Ali Fadavi also voiced concerns on this dire subject. “During these few days we witnessed a major conspiracy. We are informed about the various aspects of this plot. Not through analysis or news reports. We have precise intelligence that a major conspiracy was in the making,” he said on the same day.

Fadavi’s boasting aside, his remarks do indicate how senior Iranian officials are concerned over the very survival of their regime. The mullahs’ political, economic and social crises are only escalating. With at least 1,029 protesters killed, over 4,000 injured and at least 12,000 behind bars, public rage can be described as a fire burning in the ashes, with enormous potential to flare once again very soon.

The uprising of the impoverished

The first uprising shook the regime in 1999, 20 years after the 1979 revolution. Ten years later, millions took to the streets again in 2009. Eight years later, the Iranian lower class, supposedly being the regime’s base, rushed to the streets and shook the mullahs’ very pillars. Less than two years later, we have witnessed the November uprising with unprecedented proportions, once again by the impoverished. Senior regime officials sounding alarm bells across the board about the nature of the latest protesters, with people rushing to the streets who literally have nothing to lose.

Rest assured the “world war” mentioned by the IRGC chief is not over and Iran will witness an uprising soon. This time, bringing an end to the mullahs’ regime.

The deep impact of Zarif’s sanctioning

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

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

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

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

Zarif’s main argument

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

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

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

Expiration date

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

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

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

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

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

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

Internal turmoil

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

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

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

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

Dark shadow

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

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

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

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

How to analyze the Zarif resignation façade in Iran

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif returned to his post around 30 hours after his Instagram resignation post. During this entire charade, speculations were heard across the board about the motivation and true nature of this latest episode of escalating turmoil for the mullahs’ regime in Iran.

What is certain, however, is the fact that Zarif’s resignation indicates a new acceleration of crises for Tehran, especially in regards to international relations and on specific matters, including the 2015 nuclear deal and outstanding anti-money laundering/terrorism financing resolutions under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

With the Trump administration turning up the heat on Iran, international pressures and global/regional isolation are engulfing Tehran. State-run media outlets in Iran are also acknowledging these developments that are raising eyebrows and keeping senior decision-making officials awake at night.

“Another conclusion of [Zarif’s] resignation is the 2015 nuclear deal coming to an end… There are figures who are disappointedly concluding how Zarif’s resignation is tantamount to the complete failure of Hassan Rouhani’s government,” according to the state-run Fararu website.

A variety of analysis have also been circling in regards to Zarif’s resignation. However, lesser voices have pinpointed the root of the entire matter.

The failing “Hassan Rouhani project,” referring to the regime’s president, and deep internal crisis is a result of Tehran’s failure in preserving the nuclear deal, overcoming the impact of U.S. sanctions, and the regime’s dead-end in regards to FATF regulations.

This defeat began with the Dec 2017/Jan 2018 uprising, disrupting all of the regime’s apparatus, including its foreign policy agenda. The first example was witnessed in the U.S. withdrawing from the highly flawed 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Rouhani laid it out clearly in his remarks on August 28, 2018, saying everything began on December 26, 2017, when protesters poured into the streets and chanted anti-regime slogans. This was followed with U.S. President Donald Trump withdrawing from the JCPOA, triggering the Iranian regime’s troubles, Rouhani added.

Rouhani’s Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri voiced even more concerns about the regime’s future.

“Super domestic challenges [ongoing protests] are impacting super global challenges, further intensifying these dilemmas,” he said.

The Javan daily, known to be affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), added to the tempo.

“Voices inside the country, and more abroad, are considering this truly low-class resignation as signs of deteriorating conditions for the [regime], and even called on the president of Iran to follow in line with his minister and resign himself!” the piece reads in part.

To add insult to injury for the clerical regime in Iran, 2018 was riddled with a number of foiled terror and assassination plots in Europe. In March, Albanian authorities arrested two operatives for plotting to bomb an opposition gathering, leading to the expulsion of the regime’s ambassador several months later.

In late June, another bombing plot targeting the annual Iranian opposition rally near Paris was foiled. Tens of thousands of people, along with hundreds of international dignitaries, including Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, were also attending the event.

Tehran also targeted dissidents in the Netherlands and Denmark, leading to unprecedented European Union sanctions against a branch of the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence, parallel to expelling a number of diplomats.

These crises escalated even further during the Warsaw ministerial conference and a large rally held close to the site by supporters of the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Giuliani delivered a speech emphasizing on the sole alternative for the Iranian regime, symbolized in NCRI President Maryam Rajavi.

NCRI supporters held another rally during the Munich Security Conference, signaling to the world the very source of Tehran’s main concerns. And Zarif, described as “charming” and a “moderate” by some, literally lost his temper in his remarks about the Iranian opposition.

Whatever the reasoning behind Zarif’s resignation, the big picture indicates a regime neck-deep in crises with no light at the end of the tunnel. International crises are escalating, with Washington intending to zero Tehran’s oil exports.

Zarif may have returned to his post. Yet this entire façade portrays a regime neck-deep in turmoil, both inside the country and abroad.

ANALYSIS: The reasoning behind Iran’s recent nuclear, military measures

Al Arabiya

The Iranian regime has recently moved up its fall military exercises, due to the re-imposition of US sanctions as they say, and test fired a short-range ballistic missile. This launching comes after a pause of more than a year.

On Monday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei placed what may be a nail in the coffin for any possible negotiations between his regime and the Trump administration.

Parallel to this, while making much lesser noise in the media, is the second return of ten batches of 20 percent enriched uranium that Iran sent to Russia under the 2015 nuclear accord. Iran claims this highly sensitive nuclear material is needed to fuel Tehran’s Research Reactor and threatens to restart the 20 percent uranium enrichment cycle if the deal goes south.

All the while, Iran’s ultraconservative Guardian Council, answering only to Khamenei, has signed measures to bring the regime a step closer to international anti-money-laundering standards. What is the reasoning behind these two threats and one concession?

Missile and military threats

Having the final call on all on all state matters in Iran, especially national security and foreign policy, Khamenei silenced any talk for negotiations with the U.S. From his remarks it is obvious that the Iranian regime is hoping to somehow live through US President Donald Trump’s first term and hope for him to not be reelected.

Back home, with a recent short-range ballistic missile test launch Iran is obviously sending a message to Washington regarding the sanctions. Iran test-fired a missile immediately after Trump came into office. This prompted the famous “on notice” remarks from former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the Trump administration slapping sanctions against the Iranian regime, signaling the new White House would not tolerate such behavior.

Tehran is returning to such practices as US sanctions bear down hard, parallel to protests across the country gaining momentum. Even weekend football matches are turning into scenes where people are chanting “Death to the dictator” in reference to Khamenei, as seen vividly in Ahvaz and Tehran in the past few days.

US sanctions re-installed last week are taking Iran out of the US dollar market, shutting down their access to gold and other precious metals such as aluminum, steel and graphite, automobiles and etc.

Extreme sanctions against the Iranian regime’s energy and banking sectors are set to return in November, with the high potential of an already severely struggling economy completely crumbling. As we speak the country’s currency, the rial, is becoming valueless and all businesses are turning to the black market.

Feeling cornered, will the Iranian regime live up to its threat of blocking the Strait of Hormuz where nearly one-third of the world’s seaborne oil trade passes through? After its first 18 months the Trump administration has shown it will consider such measures as an act of war.

“If the block the Strait of Hormuz we would literally take out all their military on the Strait of Hormuz,” said Ret. Gen. Jack Keane to Fox News recently.

Rest assured the Iranian regime does not wish to instigate a conflict with the US For nearly 40 years now Iran has constantly used proxy forces to attack the US and its regional allies, specifically avoiding direct confrontation through their military.

Interesting reminders

Iran, under growing threats, is known to resort to face-saving measures. As international pressures escalate and facing a restless nation, the Iranian regime desperately needs to maintain a strong posture.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the regime’s Atomic Energy organization, reported recently the returning of a second batch of 20 percent enriched uranium sent to Russia under the 2015 nuclear accord inked by the Obama administration and nixed by Trump back in May as promised during his presidential campaign.

“If the nuclear deal remains alive, the other sides should sell us the fuel and if the nuclear deal dies, then we would feel unimpeded to produce the 20% fuel ourselves,” Kamalvandi threatened, according to the semi-official Fars news agency, known to be associated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

He continued his threatening remarks of Iran being entitled to resume production of 20 percent enriched uranium in 2030. Furthermore, Iran has reopened a nuclear plant recently after remaining idle for nine years.

What shouldn’t go missing is the Iranian regime’s necessity to make such threats being very telling in and of itself. These are signs of a regime in crisis mode and needing to maintain a poker face, knowing their hand has nothing to offer while rivals are breathing down their neck with a full house.

Facing reality

It is, however, crystal clear for the Iranian regime that such a trend of ongoing threats cannot continue. Long gone are the Obama years when Tehran open-handedly imposed its will and continued to wreak havoc across the Middle East while advancing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, all aligned with a ruthlessly repressive domestic crackdown machine.

For example, Iran is now heavily investing on deepening an Atlantic rift between the US and Europe. And with the European Union demanding Iran comply with anti-money-laundering standards specified by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a senior body linked directly to Khamenei is approving measures to place the regime more in line with the globally recognized norms.

Iran is now in desperate need of foreign investments as US sanctions begin to such dry the regime’s access to the global financial market. The FATF, considered the world’s financial-crime watchdog, had in June provided the Iranian regime until October to impose reforms or face drastic consequences.

The main definition of FATF restrictions for the Iranian regime is defined into the hampering of Tehran’s financial support for terror groups, including the Lebanese Hezbollah and others. This has the potential of severely crippling the regime’s influence throughout the Middle East.

Back in June Khamenei called for domestic laws to tackle money laundering inside the country, in an attempt to safeguard the flow of financial support to its proxies abroad. Recent development go to show how dire circumstances are leaving Khamenei no choice but succumbing to such humiliating terms. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

We are only one week into the return of US sanctions and protests across Iran have been gaining continuous momentum ever since the Dec/Jan uprising. Tehran on Saturday and Sunday witnessed the shoe market going on strike as store-owners were protesting high prices and the scarcity of raw material.

The impact of new sanctions will continue to sink in deep, weakening the regime in the face of expanding protests. Prior to November the Iranian regime will be on its knees.

Iran: Changes in Revolutionary Guards’ senior command?

IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari & Quds Force chief may be sacked

The following report is from sources inside Iran and has yet to be confirmed.

At a family event on July 18th, Seyed Massoud Khamenei, the son of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has told Sadeq Kharazi, his brother in law, that Khamanei has been unhappy with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) recently, especially considering the major setbacks Iran has suffered in Syria.

Changes in the senior IRGC ranks are in the making, Massoud Khamenei said, and Deputy IRGC chief Hossein Salami will be replacing IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari.

Image result for hossein salami
Deputy IRGC chief Hossein Salami

IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani is also said to be sacked, yet his replacement has yet to be specified.

Massoud Khamenei has told Sadeq Kharazi, who enjoys close relations with Suleimani, that the Quds Force chief has twice recently requested to meet with the Supreme Leader, only to be turned down on both occasions.

Image result for khamenei IRGC
IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani

Sadeq Kharazi has said the Supreme Leader sought to keep a lid on the information about changes in the IRGC ranks. However, information has leaked out of Khamenei’s home and office.

In a move intended to prevent already decreasing morale among IRGC personnel, Khamenei recently ordered officials to deny any rumors of changes among senior IRGC officials.

In line, Brigadier General Mohammad Shiraz, head of Khamenei’s Military Office, on Saturday denied rumors claiming Jafari’s replacement.

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.”

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.