What Iran Needs Are Not Concessions But Sanctions

With concerns escalating, North Korea should not lead us to tone down our voice and provide further concessions to Pyongyang and Tehran. We should in fact do the opposite.

More than two years after the flaws of a deal between the P5+1 and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program have become obvious, a chorus is busy insisting there is no other option. While the rendered pact, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has failed to rein in the Tehran regime, correct measures are available at hand.

Some argue the JCPOA has successfully slowed Iran’s dangerous drive to obtain nuclear weapons. The Center for a New American Security held a forum titled, “Consequences of a Collapse of the Iran Nuclear Deal,” featuring “a plethora of prominent speakers advocating in favor of preserving the deal, including former senior Obama administration official, Colin Kahl, a chief proponent of the agreement,” according to The Washington Free Beacon.

We Do Indeed Have Other Viable Options

The highly controversial Parchin military complex, located southeast of Tehran, was “inspected” by Iran’s own “scientists” to provide samples to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. That is tantamount to asking a murderer to deliver his DNA, in privacy without any supervision, as evidence to compare with that found at a crime scene where closed-circuit cameras recorded his presence at the time of the crime.

JCPOA advocates say the deal isn’t perfect, yet also claim measures against Iran are ill-founded and can be counterproductive. This is not the case.

“The administration could discourage global firms from doing business with Iran by leaving open its final position on the deal, and thus placing at risk their business with America,” as proposed in a recent Foreign Policy piece by James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Turkey.

Yes, such measures would disappoint Tehran. Yet knowledge of this regime’s nature suggests such actions will not push Iran to the brink of abandoning the JCPOA ship, as they are benefiting from the present terms.

And yes, the Iran nuclear deal is a multilateral agreement, as European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini reminded. Yet also as a reminder, in case of Iran violating the JCPOA terms, the United States can unilaterally launch the “snapback” process and have UN sanctions re-imposed on Iran. In such a scenario there is no need to garner support from Russia or China, both known for backing Tehran, as Security Council veto authority is irrelevant in this regard.

Appeasement Is a Failed Approach

With concerns over this issue escalating, the case of North Korea should not lead us to tone down our voice and provide further concessions to Pyongyang and Tehran. We should in fact do the opposite. This dossier should help us realize that appeasement—the same mentality embraced by the Obama administration in blueprinting the highly flawed JCPOA—has placed us where we are today with North Korea.

Do we seek to trek down the same path with Iran, a state with dangerous influence across the already flashpoint Middle East? One such horrible example is Iran’s involvement in Syria. JCPOA advocates are also describing a “best-case scenario” of providing more concessions to North Korea to muster a “far-from-perfect” pact, similar to the Iran deal, in exchange for Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear development.

Déjà vu. Haven’t we already experienced this with the Clinton administration’s “Agreed Framework” of 1994? Kim Jong Un recently tested his state’s sixth and most powerful nuclear device, claiming to be a hydrogen bomb. As another harsh reminder, rapprochement with North Korea led to the notorious 2010 sinking of the South Korean destroyer, the Cheonan. It is quite obvious by now that a Pyongyang submarine torpedoed the warship and left 46 sailors dead.

Does another South Korea naval ship, or a city for that matter, have to be targeted for us to realize that rogue states such as Iran and North Korea will only consider engagement as a sign of the international community’s weakness and take full advantage of it? Or must a U.S. Navy ship in the Persian Gulf come into the crosshairs of Revolutionary Guards’ fast boats for the West to finally open its eyes?

Some think Iran lacks the necessary will and understands all too well how such a move would spark drastic international measures against its interests. JCPOA advocates (read Iranian apologists) have also delegitimized any concern about Tehran’s intentions by claiming pact violations, such as breaching limits set on heavy water—the substance needed for plutonium-based nuclear bombs—as mere “bumps in the road.”

This shows those making such arguments either lack the necessary knowledge of Iran’s belligerent nature in the past four decades, or simply fall into the category of Iran lobbyists. Fierce international sanctions left Iran no choice but to succumb to nuclear talks with knees bleeding. More non-nuclear sanctions are needed to make Tehran understand the international community means business.

“Peace for our time” was the claim made by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in his September 30, 1938 speech concerning the Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler. Seventy million people paid the price of that strategic mistake with their lives. Let us finally learn our lesson of appeasement and put aside such an approach for good.

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Iran Nuclear Deal Continues to Raise Concerns

One would think critics of the Iran nuclear deal would have raised all the flawed aspects of the accord during former President Barack Obama’s tenure or new President Donald Trump’s first days in office. If so, think twice, as new revelations indicate Obama conceded far beyond what we already knew about.

Politico’s Josh Meyer wrote an eye-opening investigative report unveiling how the Obama team freed seven apprehended Iranians by overruling the judgment of veteran prosecutors, while publicly claiming merely economic sanctions were violated by the discussed individuals. The truth was, however, through their membership in a weapons procurement entity, these Iranians posed major threats to US national security.

To add insult to injury, the Obama administration went further in dropping all charges against 14 fugitives, despite clear evidence gathered by US authorities showing their involvement in smuggling advanced weaponry to Iran and its terrorist associates. This measure signaled an end to international arrest warrant efforts against the 14 individuals, and all the while the Obama administration was busy hindering all attempts to seek their apprehension:

“The major issue is not [attaining] an agreement, but ensuring the actual implementation of the agreement in practice. The number…

“The administration didn’t disclose their names or what they were accused of doing, noting only in an unattributed, 152-word statement about the swap that the US ‘also removed any Interpol red notices and dismissed any charges against 14 Iranians for whom it was assessed that extradition requests were unlikely to be successful.’”

Senior White House, State Department and Justice Department officials time and again went the distance to deny requests filed by prosecutors seeking to lure one of the 14 fugitives to a US-friendly country to implement a plan for their arrest. To this end, the arms merchants were able to use the opportunity to evade the net of US law enforcement. One can speculate they are now safe in Iran.

Extradition efforts targeting in-custody suspects were also stalled by Obama’s people, parallel to the slow-walking of probes and prosecution procedures focusing on US-based procurement,

According to Meyer’s report, the Obama administration was successful in deliberately derailing its own measures at very crucial moments:

“Through action in some cases and inaction in others, the White House derailed its own much-touted National Counterproliferation Initiative at a time when it was making unprecedented headway in thwarting Iran’s proliferation networks.”

In effect, this provided Iran a green light to continue ignoring and defying international law.

When the seven were released, the Obama White House claimed such this “one-time gesture” had ended in the release of “civilians” to render the freedom of Americans who were illegally apprehended by the Iranian regime on bogus charges:

“In his Sunday morning address to the American people, Obama portrayed the seven men he freed as ‘civilians.’ The senior official described them as businessmen convicted of or awaiting trial for mere ‘sanctions-related offenses, violations of the trade embargo.’”

It is quite obvious that such an Iran appeasement policy hinged on and came at the price of doing whatever was needed to get Iran to sign a highly-flawed nuclear agreement, and resorting to whatever lies necessary in selling the pact to the American people:

All this came as proof to Iran of how desperate Obama was, and how far he would go, providing Tehran the exact circumstances to take full advantage.

Iran’s mullahs further sensed such weakness in the Obama administration as it failed to enforce its red line regarding Bashar Assad’s chemical attacks, and thus green-lighting Iran’s involvement in Syria.

The irony, as I explained in Forbes piece back in February, lies in the fact that while Obama was busy selling the deal, Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were actively taking advantage of the pact’s benefits.

“In the past 18 months Khamenei-controlled companies, including the IRGC conglomerate, have sealed deals with foreign companies valued at over $11 billion…

”Debate over the JCPOA’s future remains a major issue. If kept intact despite all its flaws, the U.S. should fully implement all articles and have each and every loophole sealed. This initiative can be coupled with further sanctions punishing Iran’s lethal meddling across the Middle East, pursuing a dangerous ballistic missile program and atrocious human rights violations.”

Parallel to an extensive JCPOA review, the next necessary step forward for the Trump administration in adopting a new Iran approach is to designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, and thus showing Iran that the devastating appeasement policy championed by the Obama administration has come to an end.

This will correctly place America alongside the Iranian people in the effort to bring about regime change that will result in a free, democratic and non-nuclear Iran.

Iran belligerence proves tough U.S. policy is needed

Less than 10 days into U.S. President Donald Trump’s term in office Iran test-launched a ballistic missile, proving once more how the Obama administration’s appeasement policy was an utter failure.

It is now up to the new Trump administration to right the many wrongs of their predecessors, and begin correctly enforcing every single aspect of the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), parallel to a side agreement calling on Iran to refrain from such provocative missile testing and further hostility.

Tensions are rising, seen in recent statements made by senior U.S. officials.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley highlighted the threat posed by Iran in the Middle East, underscoring how Syria cannot transform into a “safe haven for terrorists” and the necessity of getting “Iran and their proxies out”.

“Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world,” said CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph L. Votel at a Thursday hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
There are also reports of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards stationing units near the Golan Heights, opposite Israeli troops across the 1967 ceasefire line.

Troubles have further escalated as Iran test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles last weekend, IRGC fast-attack boats staged a new episode of harassing a U.S. Navy surveillance vessel on Thursday and went ahead to launch laser-guided anti-ship missile hitting a target at a range of 250 kilometers.
The U.S. satellite intelligence network identified January 29th testing from the missile launch heat signatures. Iran’s medium-range ballistic missile, dubbed the “Khorramshahr”, was able to travel around 600 miles (960 kilometers/550 nautical miles) before failing to reenter Earth’s atmosphere and exploding as a result.

In September of last year Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan indicated Iran would make good on intentions to initiate such missile production.

In response to Tehran’s seemingly bold move, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a known JCPOA critic, blasted Iran for violating specific international commitments.

“No longer will Iran be given a pass for its repeated ballistic missile violations, continued support of terrorism, human rights abuses and other hostile activities that threaten international peace and security,” Corker said in a statement.

Iran has a long history of violating United Nations Security Council resolutions through a variety of ballistic missile activities. This includes UNSC Resolution 1929, of which Iran was accused of violating by U.S. officials back in 2015.

Iran is also known to be flaunting restrictions imposed by a U.N. ban, as part of the 2015-sealed JCPOA, restricting such test launches for eight years.

U.N. Resolution 2231, passed to bless the JCPOA, demanded Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

The new U.S. State Department also voiced grave concerns in this regard.

“When actions are taken that violate or are inconsistent with the resolution, we will act to hold Iran accountable and urge other countries to do so as well,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner, indicating how Washington will consider Iran a major confrontational subject.

If there were any hope of Iran curbing its ballistic missile program as sought by JCPOA founders, the latest missile test has literally put an end to such wishful thinking.

“Iran is always working on every aspect of its missile program: better guidance, more payload capacity, and better reliability,” said Christopher Harmer, a military analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.

The Trump administration now faces a new challenge and opportunity on how to strategically respond to this first provocation that can be evaluated as Tehran seeking to test new Washington limits.

Considering its major role in domestic crackdown, foreign military intervention and most significantly the involvement in Syria, and Iran’s nuclear program and ballistic missile drive, the first and very effective step forward in this roadmap can be to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

The IRGC has transformed into a vast political and economic empire in Iran, enjoying unprecedented control and a “network of companies that came to dominate Iranian industries from energy to telecommunications,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Iranian opposition, itself a victim of IRGC-led attacks, has for years promoted a policy to contain the IRGC and recently welcomed the new U.S. sanctions on Iran.

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

The NCRI is a coalition of Iranian dissident groups including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), known for its long track record of blowing the whistle on Iran’s clandestine nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

For at least 18 months Iran has conducted a slate of missile tests that should be considered unacceptable acts of aggression deserving the type of action to make Tehran understand such measures will render consequences.

Blacklisting the IRGC would send such a message. After the Obama administration turned its back on the Iranian people back in 2009, the Trump administration has an opportunity to show them its support and stand on the right side of history.

Containing Iran

The new White House with President Donald Trump at the help has rightfully placed Iran “on notice.” Washington also responded with a new round of sanctions after Tehran’s January 29th ballistic missile test, in defiance of a United Nations Security Council resolution in relation to the controversial Iran nuclear deal.

The firm policy adopted vis-a-vis Iran is a step in the right direction toward a new Middle East foreign policy. And as the White House and Congress have begun to weigh new measures and designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization, there are voices heard raising the alarm about the U.S. intending to go to war.

It is a known fact that the IRGC is behind all of Iran’s terrorist activities, including the regime’s involvement in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. Through the past decades the IRGC has also gained an iron grip over the regime’s economy, with some estimates ranging between 30 to 50 percent.

To this end, blacklisting the IRGC would certainly target the very entity that is also behind Iran’s nuclear program and a massive apparatus, including the paramilitary Basij and state security forces, responsible for a long slate of human rights violations across the country.

Unfortunately, those continuing to advocate a policy pivoting on appeasement — despite failing to achieve any true results — remain steadfast on their promotions for such a perspective.

The truth is that the nuclear deal, or JCPOA, a byproduct of the Obama appeasement mentality, has also raised a long list of critical remarks as the accord is now functioning as an instrument of leverage that Tehran took advantage of.

Whenever there was even a rumor of the Obama administration seeking strong action against Iran, Tehran’s lobbyists, with their unprecedented access to the White House, would warn that such measures would provoke the IRGC to attack American allies and interests in the region.

Tehran also effectively held a hanging sword over the Obama administration, threatening to abandon the JCPOA ship in case of punitive economic measures in reaction to Iran’s regional belligerence, 14 different ballistic missile tests and violating the JCPOA itself.

During the Obama “golden era” Iran felt completely free to pursue its dangerous ambitions and the end result was atrocious. The world witnessed in horror as Syria burned in flames, leaving 500,000 dead and millions displaced across the Middle East and Europe.

Iraq remains a land of havoc as Iran-backed Shiite militias roam free and carry out horrendous atrocities, all in the name of battling the Islamic State. Tehran continues to ship boatloads of weapons to Yemen’s Houthis and threatening the security of Saudi Arabia.

Hizb’allah chief Hassan Nassrollah openly confirms that his group receiving financial support from Iran. The mullahs’ meddling in Bahrain and Afghanistan also goes without need of mentioning.

A very quick look at the Middle East brings us to a correct conclusion that the current flashpoint status is the end result of many years of appeasement, parallel to the strategic mistakes of launching wars that all played into the hands of Iran’s mullahs.

The West, spearheaded by the U.S., placed its crosshairs on all the wrong targets, further engulfing the region in bloodshed and allowing Iran instigate sectarian hatred that lacked any such existence for centuries. Yet now, the scene before us resembles an image of an ongoing and vicious dispute, all thanks to Iran taking advantage of a highly flawed engagement policy.

What is needed now is to end this failed policy and set aside any talk of U.S.-led military attacks against Iran, which would only play into the mullahs’ hands.

Instead, a correct parallel approach consists of implementing the JCPOA to its true nature and punishing all of Iran’s aggressive measures and its atrocious human rights record with more economic sanctions. We must not forget how the crippling effect of international sanctions brought Iran’s mullahs to the negotiating table, fearing an explosive powder keg of domestic social unrest.

In line with these measures, the U.S. should take the long overdue action of designating the IRGC, as the main element behind Iran’s nuclear program, warmongering across the region, and domestic crackdown, as a foreign terrorist organization.

This would be the first major ultimatum the mullahs have received in a long time. And rest assured, as the senior Iranian regime leadership have toned down their rhetoric in response to President Donald Trump taking office, they will fully understand the meaning of the IRGC blacklisting.

This is how the regime is contained, without firing a single bullet, and all the while weakening the very force that is preventing the Iranian people from voicing their demands for regime change to establish a free and democratic Iran.
Originally posted in American Thinker

Iran Irony: IRGC And State Firms Are Benefiting From JCPOA

Those who raised the Iran deal flag, mainly in the United States and Europe, claimed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) would boost trade and encourage foreign investment, enhancing Iran’s private sector and eventually downgrading the regime’s tight grip on the economy.

This was back in 2015 when the P5+1 agreed to lift sanctions in return for having Iran’s nuclear program curbed. Now in early 2017, however, signs indicate the main winners in Iran are none other than state-owned companies. This means Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the terrorist-supporting Revolutionary Guards are enjoying JCPOA benefits.

At least 90 of the nearly 110 agreements, totaling nearly $80 billion, involve such state-controlled companies. This includes the National Iranian Oil Company, parallel to others run by regime pension funds and massive conglomerates of semi-public nature.

Despite a long slate of harsh remarks made by Iran’s hardliners against the JCPOA, a recent Reuters study shows those businesses answering directly to Khamenei are benefiting most from the JCPOA.

 

Many deals, spanning the energy, infrastructure, pharmaceuticals and other sectors, remain in the preliminary stage. Iran’s foreign partners mainly include France, Germany, Italy, Russia and South Korea.

Iran’s “Setad Ejraiye Farman-e Hazrat-e Emam,” also known as the Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam and best known as Khamenei’s personal empire, has been the main benefactor of the highly flawed nuclear pact. This entity has stakes in and control over nearly all of Iran’s economy and benefits significantly through the JCPOA.

A 2013 Reuters probe shed light on Setad’s $95 billion empire, established through illegally seizing thousands of properties owned by business people, Iranians living abroad and religious minorities.

“A major network of front companies controlled by Iran’s leadership” is how the U.S. Treasury Department described Setad as it sanctioned the massive entity. Through the JCPOA, however, this conglomerate has enjoyed doing business with foreign companies.

One of the three such deals signed with foreign companies involves a $10 billion oil refinery construction plan. While Khamenei may not personally own these companies, his shadow—described as supervision—is essentially routing all invested finances.

In the past 18 months Khamenei-controlled companies, including the IRGC conglomerate, have sealed deals with foreign companies valued at over $11 billion.

It is a known fact that Tehran maintains a heavy hand over the economy, providing circumstances allowing state-controlled firms to acquire most business deals made possible after sanctions were lifted. The private sector makes up a mere 20% of Iran’s economy, according to official estimates.

To this end, private companies have received a dismal 17 deals, including a hotel management contract sealed most probably because of the French partner’s chief executive being the brother of Eshaq Jahangiri, Iran’s vice president.

The first slate of investments inked for Iran is most likely to strengthen state power, meaning Khamenei, counter to any hopes raised prematurely by JCPOA supporters. The supreme leader enjoys vast control, especially in the IRGC, through which he pursues his Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Lebanon policies.

Conglomerates, or foundations, whose chiefs are appointed directly by Khamenei, were the recipients of five of the 90 deals. Several of these entities enjoy widespread business transactions and not being obligated to pay full taxes. This includes Astan Qods Razavi, a vast religious institution controlling at least 36 subsidiary companies and entities.

One such firm is the Razavi Oil & Gas Development Company that sealed a preliminary agreement with Italy’s Saipem, also an oil and gas company.

The IRGC, known for its domestic crackdown and dispatching tens of thousands of Shiite militia members and arms throughout the region, is also considered a major destination point of JCPOA benefits.

The IRGC controls or has large stakes in four of the 90 deals sealed with the Iranian regime. And of course, Khamenei enjoys full hegemony over the IRGC. Despite remaining U.S. sanctions banning any “significant” business transactions with the IRGC, many of its front companies are free of any blacklisting.

Three of the four mentioned deals are signed with companies with strong ties to the IRGC and yet are not sanctioned. And to add insult to injury, the fourth company is on sanctions and yet enjoys involvement in a foreign deal through indirect routes.

Loopholes remain in the sanction regime imposed against Iran, all resulting from an appeasement/engagement approach adopted by former president Barack Obama. This is a gap in need of closing at a policy level.

“Despite a decline in sanctions… the Iranian economy is suffering from recession. The Iranian economy is under the control of the regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei and the IRGC. They are the only one who will benefit from trade with Iran and not the Iranian people,” said Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi in a conference. Rajavi is president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group of Iranian dissident entities, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

Debate over the JCPOA’s future remains a major issue. If kept intact despite all its flaws, the U.S. should fully implement all articles and have each and every loophole sealed. This initiative can be coupled with further sanctions punishing Iran’s lethal meddling across the Middle East, pursuing a dangerous ballistic missile program and atrocious human rights violations.

Originally published in Forbes

How Deep Was the Obama-Iran Relationship?

The Obama administration’s effort to engage Iran remained a matter of suspicion until the 44th American president left the White House. Concerns began mounting especially after Obama turned his back on the 2009 uprising  in parallel to the revelation of secret correspondence with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

As more light is shed, the more we realize how far this relationship expanded. Known members of Iran’s lobbies and others enjoyed unprecedented access to the White House. This new knowledge calls for a complete overhaul of the corrupt U.S. foreign policy establishment.

Shocking Numbers

Through the course of the nuclear talks that rendered the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Obama White House welcomed a slate of different Iranian-American so-called “experts” and organizations who agreed completely over how Washington must engage in Tehran rapprochement.

Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a known Iran-funded lobby, was reportedly welcomed in up to 33 meetings in the White House, from 2013 to 2016.

Seyed Mousavian, a former Iranian diplomat and head of its national security council, was hosted at the White House at least three times,” the Washington Free Beacon explained.

Parsi’s record was second only to Jeremy Ben Ami, President of J Street, described as a strong advocate of the Iran appeasement camp, who visited the White House on 44 occasions.

And finally, one NIAC alumni, Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, National Security Council Director for Iran in Obama’s White House, reached the point of obtaining daily access to the White House and promoting a pro-Iran regime approach.

“President Obama’s NSC Director for Iran, Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, apparently worked as a lobbyist for NIAC,” according to Western Journalism.

Who is Trita Parsi?

Described as having links to the Obama White House’s cheerleading of the narrative in support of the Iranian regime, Parsi, head of NIAC, was able to meet with several senior Obama administration officials in dozens of White House visits, according to the logs.

Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security advisor, provided exclusive access to Parsi in private talks. He also arranged meetings with Colin Kahl, former Vice President Joe Biden’s national security advisor.

Various sources also indicated Parsi meeting with other senior officials including NSC director for Iran.

One instance shows West Wing intern Solomon Tarlin, known to support J Street, signed Parsi into the White House.

However, Parsi is a figure who during the Bush administration dined with Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, suggesting that he pursues the interest of the Iranian regime in its entirety, and not the so-called “moderates“.

Parsi was also pictured in conversation with the brother of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Parsi is known to brag about his access to senior Iranian regime officials.

“Few analysts in Washington have the access of Dr. Parsi to decision makers in Iran,” he described in a bio.

NIAC

NIAC, a Washington-based lobbying organization founded by Parsi in 2002, focuses on influencing senior American officials and politicians. A piece written by Iranian dissident Alex Shirazi in the Daily Blaze sheds more light on NIAC’s intentions, serving completely in Iran’s interests.

NIAC was architected by the little known Namazi family in Iran, described as favoring “political interests in the Islamic Republic.”

Insight into NIAC’s background can be obtained from regrets made public by Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy. Gershman accused NIAC of misrepresenting its true nature.

“… NIAC showed itself as a lobby organization, so we have nothing to do with them anymore.”

Al Arabiya English cited the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg referring to Parsi as an individual who “does a lot of leg-work for the Iranian regime.” (Goldberg at one point retracted this description, but shortly afterward retracted his retraction.)

NIAC misleadingly presented its agenda as meeting U.S. national interests. The very regime NIAC sells is known for “Death to America!” mantras and killing at least hundreds, if not thousands, of American personnel.

NIAC goes as far as claiming to advocate “human rights” in Iran and “civil rights” in the U.S., insulting Americans by placing their country alongside the ruthless regime in Iran.

In fact, NIAC lobbies for a friendly U.S. relationship with the current Iranian regime and strongly opposes economic sanctions. All this goes while Iran state media describe NIAC as the “Iran lobby in the U.S.”

NIAC and Parsi Exposed by Others

There has been abundant reporting about the true nature of NIAC and Trita Parsi.

“…Parsi admits that his group only has 2,500 to 3,000 members. Internal documents, uncovered by Lake, show that less than 500 people responded to a membership survey that the group put out last year. So, far from representing the views of any appreciable number of Iranian Americans, it is far more accurate to say that NIAC represents the views of Trita Parsi.

“…may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws, according to law enforcement authorities…

“… former FBI special agent in counterintelligence and counterterrorism Kenneth Piernick, said, ‘It appears that this may be lobbying on behalf of Iranian government interests.’”

The report continues:

“…the group’s acting director for policy, Patrick Disney, authored a memo last year in which he stated, “I believe we fall under this definition of “lobbyist.’” And according to other communications Lake obtained, Parsi himself used the word ‘lobby’ to describe the purpose and mission of NIAC.”

Parsi and Zarif

Released email records indicate close ties between Parsi and Tehran, especially through Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Reports in this regard are quite vivid.

According to NIAC emails released under a lawsuit, in April 2006, Zarif, then Iran’s ambassador to the U.N., gave a copy of Iran’s 2003 offer for a “grand bargain” to Parsi, subsequently released to the press and used in a campaign to prove Iran was ready for peace and dialogue. (For more information on Parsi’s role in providing a copy of Iranian offer to the press, read theWashington Post, Anti-War, and IPS reports.)

A few weeks later, Parsi launched the “Iran Negotiation Project” and began arranging meetings between Congressional members and Zarif. Then in his 25 October 2006 email, Parsi told Zarif about Congressional members who had decided to oppose George Bush’s policy on Iran and requested a meeting.

A Deeper look into NIAC

Many within the Iranian-American community consider NIAC to be a de facto lobby for the Iranian regime. In 2008 as criticism against NIAC’s pro-regime activities mounted, NIAC and Parsi raised a defamation lawsuit against one of its critics, attempting to destroy him through the financial burden of a lawsuit and as a result silence all other critics.

In 2012 a court dismissed the lawsuit and sanctioned NIAC and Trita Parsi for abuses which included false declarations to the court, ordering them to pay $184,000 towards the defendant’s legal expenses.

This lawsuit forced NIAC to release some internal documents that turned out to be devastating. The Washington Times and many others published these documents.

NIAC claims to have a goal of preventing war between the U.S. and Iran. Critics, however, affirm NIAC’s lobby has always primarily focused on business and the peace mantle it wears is nothing but a face for its lobby efforts.

In a memo sent to Washington lobbyist Roy Coffee, Parsi explained the true nature of his efforts.

Back in 2002-03, Parsi used his access to the U.S. Congress to prepare reports about the latest developments regarding Iran and send the reports to Tehran.

Final Thoughts

This newly revealed White House log shows how the Obama administration bent over backwards in hosting advocates seeking Iran’s interests, and not that of America.

Allowing Parsi into the White House more than 30 times, despite his foreign policy positions being completely in line with the Iranian regime, provides intriguing insight into how far the Obama administration went to aid the mullahs, while they continued, and continue today, to describe America as the “Great Satan”.

The access provided to the likes of Parsi and NIAC provides all the knowledge needed about the true nature of the highly flawed nuclear deal sealed by the Obama administration with Tehran.

And this is only a tip of the iceberg of how far Obama’s failed appeasement policy provided unprecedented access to NIAC, and to this end, the Iranian regime.

This signifies the necessity of the new Trump administration to completely overhaul agencies dealing with Iran, and to impose radical changes on Washington’s Iran policy altogether.

Originally published in American Thinker

Iran apologists have a misleading narrative on Trump’s policies

By Amir Basiri

The Trump administration’s decision to put Iran “on notice” for its provocative ballistic missile test and to subsequently slap new sanctions on individuals and entities affiliated with its missile program was a positive break from the previous administration’s policy of ignoring Iran’s belligerent behavior while showering it with concessions.

The measure was welcomed by the critics of the failed appeasement policy toward Iran in Capitol Hill and across the world.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., called the announcement “a new day in U.S.-Iran relations,” stressing that it’s past time to undertake a “coordinated, multi-faceted effort to push back against a range of illicit Iranian behavior.”

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, welcomed the new round of sanctions and underlined the need for the United States and its allies to deal with Iran’s destabilizing behavior around the world.

Mohammad Mohaddessin, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the exiled opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran, called the measure “a positive step” in confronting an illegitimate and terrorist dictatorship, and stressed the need to impose total sanctions on Iranian entities involved in suppression, terrorism and fundamentalism.

Proponents of rapprochement also reacted to Trump’s tougher stance against Iran. In order to prevent the unraveling of their interests, however, they are driving their point by drawing dangerous conclusions through a narrative based on misrepresenting the facts of Obama’s tried-and-failed playbook.

Organizations like NIAC, an Iran lobby deeply tied to Tehran, suggest that communication channels created between the Obama administration and Iran paved the way for a nuclear deal that prevented a war with the country and also facilitated the release of ten U.S. sailors captured by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) in early 2016, both false assumptions.

The former is a flawed deal that has only made the Iranian regime a more hostile state by legitimizing its nuclear program and giving it billions of dollars to squander on its violent agenda in Syria and elsewhere, while the latter was an opportunity that the IRGC seized upon to humiliate the U.S.

Swedish-Iranian expat Trita Parsi refers to the release of U.S. hostages as another achievement of open dialog with Iran, referring to the Obama administration’s $1.7 billion ransom, which drove the mullahs into turning hostage-taking into a lucrative business.

Another example is former Obama advisor Philip Gordon’s op-ed in The New York Times, in which he claims that under the previous administration, “the United States made significant efforts to contain Iran.”

However, in the same piece, Gordon admits that the nuclear pact has failed to address Iran’s ballistic missile program. He also implicitly confesses that Iran’s Shiite proxies in Iraq, which grew in size after Obama’s hasty retreat from the country, are a potential threat for U.S. troops in the region.

This is not exactly what you would call containment.

Both writers base their argument that Trump should continue to appease Iran on the presumption that a firm stance toward Tehran will lead the U.S. to a military confrontation, or “an embarrassing retreat,” as Gordon likes to put it.

But the U.S. doesn’t need to go to war with the Iranian regime to contain it. There is already an organized Iranian resistance movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK/PMOI), which is quite capable of doing so and has strong bipartisan support among U.S. lawmakers and politicians.

Backers of diplomatic capitulation to Iran have constantly tried to discredit the MEK in order to conclude that the only solution to mend fences with Iran is to seek moderates within the regime, a proven hoax and myth and an empty goal that will only help keep the leading state sponsor of terrorism in power.

If the past is any indication, appeasing regimes that have no respect for universal democratic values is a recipe for disaster, yielding short-term jubilation at the expense of long-term insecurity.

Thanks in large part to the Obama administration’s kid-glove treatment of Iran, the Middle East is already a hotbed of chaos and extremism, a powder keg that can only be defused by a serious change in policy. That change should be to stand with the Iranian people in their plight and struggle for freedom and regime change, a crucial step toward promoting peace in the Middle East and across the globe.

Originally posted in Washington Examiner

ANALYSIS: Iran feeling US policy shift after Obama

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, known to lead a regime based on a mantra of “Death to America,” has been cautiously silent ever since US President Donald Trump took the helm in the White House.

With a recent medium-range ballistic missile test launch backfiring severely, both politically and substantially–the vessel exploded during reentry into Earth’s orbit–the regime leader, who has the final word on all national security and foreign affairs, is maintaining a low profile.

The new White House lashed back with a series of measures Tehran has not been used to, especially after enjoying eight years of the Obama administration’s highly flawed appeasement policy.

Tensions escalated last week following Iran’s missile test confirmation, triggering US National Security Advisor Michael Flynn using his first public appearance to lash back a staunch warning, placing Tehran “on notice.” Trump has been very active, to say the least, taking to Twitter and warning Iran about the high contrast between he and his predecessor. “Iran is playing with fire – they don’t appreciate how “kind” President Obama was to them. Not me!

Iran is playing with fire – they don’t appreciate how “kind” President Obama was to them. Not me!

And his administration wasted no time before the weekend by slapping a new slate of economic sanctions targeting 25 Iranian individuals and entities involved in Iran’s missile program, while suggesting the possibility of more to come. “President Donald Trump’s press secretary suggested Friday afternoon that more sanctions, and even military action, could be on the way,” reports indicate.

Khamenei’s silence

And to add insult to injury, US Defense Secretary James Mattis, in his first foreign visit, labelled Iran as the world’s “biggest state sponsor of terrorism.”

Despite Fridays traditionally providing a platform for senior Iranian officials to voice positions over foreign affairs and pump back the spirit lost among their dwindling social base, Khamenei remained silent. And this is a time where his Revolutionary Guards and paramilitary Basijis are in most need of his so-called guidance.

These are all signs of the Iranian regime establishment being caught off guard after trekking into uncharted Trump waters. With its ballistic missile Tehran was actually testing the new Trump administration. The mullahs are now highly regretting such a poorly calculated measure.

Interesting is the fact that the pro-appeasement camp is continuing their old tactics of warning how Iran may do this and that. “…terrorist attacks against Americans, attacks by Shiite militias against the thousands of American troops in Iraq, or pressure on the Iraqi government to deny the United States access to the bases where it trains Iraqi security forces,” wrote Philip Gordon in The New York Times. Gordon was Obama’s White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf region from 2013 to 2015.

After leaving the entire region in mayhem by handing Iraq over to Iran in a silver plate and cowardly failing to take any meaningful measure against Syrian dictator Bashar Assad after declaring a so-called chemical attack “red line”, any individual in any way even merely affiliated to the Obama Doctrine is not in any position to make any comment about how the new White House should blueprint its Middle East policy.

The golden era

Iran understands very well that the Obama “golden era”, as one figure close to former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani put it, is over. And the recent saga, from Tehran’s January 29th missile test to the sanctions imposed by the Trump White House on February 3rd, forecasts stormy weather conditions for the mullahs.

As the Trump administration weighs various measures vis-à-vis Iran, there are a few issues worth keeping in mind. The past 16 years have proven that foreign military intervention and an appeasement/engagement/rapprochement approach have failed miserably. And yet, there is a third option for the US to consider: standing alongside the Iranian people in their struggle to establish freedom and democracy in their country.

Considering its significant role in domestic crackdown, foreign military intervention and most significantly the involvement in Syria, and Iran’s nuclear program and ballistic missile drive, the first and very effective step forward in this roadmap is to blacklist Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

To this end, all deals and trade with IRGC-affiliated companies will be banned, as proposed by Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

Welcoming the new US sanctions on Iran, the NCRI is an alliance of dissident organs, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), best known for first blowing the whistle on Tehran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

After Obama turned its back on the Iranian people back in 2009 and sold them out to the mullahs’, the Trump administration placing the IRGC in its crosshairs sends a message to the Iranian people that this new administration stands shoulder to shoulder in their efforts to be free.

Why is Iran, with the 2nd largest reserves, importing natural gas?

By Heshmat Alavi

The sheer fact that Iran, sitting on the world’s 2nd largest natural gas reserves, second only to Russia, is forced to import up to 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year from Turkmenistan, its northern neighbor, sheds interesting light on the regime’s true economic status. This comes at a time when many European countries have weighed increasing economic relations with Iran.

Recent reports indicate Turkmenistan brought its gas exports to Iran to a halt amidst rising tension and row over debt payments Ashgabat has been demanding from Tehran. Iran has violated previous payment terms, forcing Turkmenistan to make such a decision. Talks on the matter showed no positive forecast and Iran continues to owe at least $1.8 billion for purchasing Turkmen gas supplied back in 2007 and 2008. Tehran claims the amount ranges between $600 million to $1.5 billion.

Iranian state media reported Tehran reaching a five year deal and coming to terms to discuss the debt through the course of coming months. Their counterparts in Ashgabat have yet to confirm, however.

The main issue at hand is why is Iran, with such enormous natural gas reserves, even importing such gas from another country? If Iran is producing 700 million cubic meters of gas each day, is it not actually embarrassing to import natural gas for domestic consumption? What happened to the economic boom promised following the highly fanned, yet flawed, nuclear deal sealed between the P5+1 and Iran?

Freezing winter cold conditions years before led to reports of “severe shortages across 20 Iranian province, forcing the country to raise gas imports from it northeastern neighbor…” But why? Why wasn’t, and still isn’t, Iran’s natural gas infrastructure able to provide necessary service for all households?

With such an abundant God-given supply in reserves Iran should be providing state-sponsored gas service, parallel to exporting natural gas abroad. However, lack of funds have maintained Iran’s domestic gas distribution network unable to link its southern gas-rich regions to the country’s north.

If Tehran actually sought to resolve this dilemma, the billions in assets unfrozen following the boasted Iran nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, could have easily provided for this and other much needed domestic needs to actually benefit the Iranian people.

Unfortunately, Iran is known to waste billions in pursuing its warmongering policies across the Middle East, from its involvement in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad relies on billions of dollars and tens of thousands of Revolutionary Guards and Shiite proxy foot-soldiers to remain in power, while massacring more and more innocent Syrians.

Shiite militias in Iraq enjoy vast support from Iran in their so-called fight against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL), while launching horrific cleansing campaigns against the Sunni minority population. Shiite Houthisand the Lebanese Hezbollah also continue to receive large supplies of arms and financial support from Tehran, further destabilizing the entire Middle East.

This spike in sectarian warfare has in fact increased Daesh’s recruitment efficiency, as it continues to wreak havoc with attacks in various European cities and beyond.

Such measures, alongside political reservations over future U.S.-Iran relations under a new administration after January 20th, are reasons why many firms remain highly suspicious of investing in Iran.

UK-oil giant British Petroleum “has opted out of the first wave of agreements to develop oil and gas reserves in Iran after the lifting of international sanctions,” the Financial Times reported. This is despite the fact that BP enjoys “corporate roots in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company responsible for the first Iranian oil discovery in 1908,” and yet “is taking a more cautious approach ahead of a Donald Trump presidency which threatens renewed diplomatic tensions with Tehran.”

Unfortunately, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry predicted himself, the money released following sanctions reliefs is being allocated to Iran-backed terrorist groups and other malevolent objectives. To this end, it is quite obvious why the Iranian people will continue to suffer and never actually enjoy any benefit from the nuclear pact windfall of released billions.

The higher interest of the Iranian people lies in preventing the regime from continuing its meddling across the Middle East.

“The regime in Tehran is the source of crisis in the region and killings in Syria; it has played the greatest role in the expansion and continuation of ISIS. Peace and tranquility in the region can only be achieved by evicting this regime from the region,” said Maryam Rajavi, President of the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran.

The international community, and very specifically the European Union, should also end its appeasement policy that has provided billions in cash and gold to Iran. Such money cannot be traced and Iran easily allocates these funds for evil purposes. Any and all assets unfrozen for Iran must be guaranteed to directly benefit the Iranian people.

Originally published in Vocal Europe

Appeasement of Iran Must End

appeasement

By Shahriar Kia

A tumultuous year lies ahead. With a new administration taking the helm in Washington, the French elections upcoming, then the sham “elections” in Iran, and unprecedented developments in the making in the Middle East and on the international stage.

2017 has begun with enormous concerns for the mullahs in Iran. With the death of former Iranian regime president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s establishment witnessed the fall of one of its two pillars.

To this end, Tehran’s religious dictatorship suffered a devastating blow and weakened in its entirety.

The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the most ruthless factions of his regime are trekking down the path of further contraction, advocating extremismsupporting terrorism, and pursuing their nuclear ambitions.

With the regime weakness bringing joy to the Iranian population, the mullahs are left terrified of a repeat of uprisings on the model of 2009. This is especially significant with crucial presidential “elections” coming in May.

The general public and even political prisoners are voicing their dissent like never before, especially thanks to social media. Families of regime victims are protesting, especially those whose loved ones perished amongst the 30,000 political prisoners massacred by the mullahs back in 1988. The people are demanding an end to ruthless executions and the regime’s existence.

The Iranian people, one year after the Iranian nuclear pact’s implementation, have gained nothing. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, however, has ironically benefited Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), allowing Iran to finance lethal ambitions in Syria and throughout the Middle East.

The world has come to realize that the mullahs, the IRGC, the Lebanese Hizb’allah and other Shiite militias have no such role of confronting extremism and Daesh (ISIS/ISIL). In fact, their goal has been to maintain Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in power.

They have the main source of distributing terrorism and instability across this flashpoint region. In fact, their presence in Syria guarantees the mullahs’ continued rule back home.

Khamenei recently said if they hadn’t fought in Syria, they “had not been confronted [in Syria], we should have stood against them in Tehran, Fars, Khorasan and Isfahan.”

In response to the latest Syrian ceasefire effort, Iran and its proxy elements are the sole parties seeking to sabotage the entire initiative. According to Syrian opposition leaders, Iran is the sole party seeking nothing but to maintain Assad in power at all costs.

No political solution is possible in the Levant as long as the IRGC and their Shiite militias are present in the country. Thus, if we seek peace in this land, the only serious path forward lies in expelling the mullahs from Syria. The main party in detriment from a ceasefire and eventual peace in Syria is none other than Tehran.

The Obama administration’s appeasement policy vis-à-vis Iran is the main reason behind the Syria tragedy and the mullahs’ dominance in this war. Iran counted on the West’s engagement approach to literally export its extremism under the banner of Islam.

The end of Obama’s tenure leaves little hope for the mullahs’ regime to act as they wish. This situation intensified ever since the occupation of Iraq back in 2003. Khamenei has been the main benefactor in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. But such days are over.

Considering the failed rapprochement approach, a policy change is needed to end the Middle East crisis. Actions must be taken in the face of the IRGC’s terrorism and its destructive role in the region. Otherwise neither the Middle East nor the world, for that matter, will ever experience true peace and tranquility.

We cannot ally with one form of extremism to root out another. Extremism under the name of Islam, be it Sunni or Shiite, is no different in viciousness and none represent Islam. In fact, they are better described as forms of religious fascism.

Therefore, no government can promote an alliance with Tehran under the pretext of pursuing a security policy. Furthermore, we cannot neglect our principles for the mere sake of short-term economic gains and turn our backs on human rights and women’s rights violations in Iran.

Today’s Iran has an alternative with a democratic agenda based on respecting religious freedoms, universal suffrage, separation of church and state, and gender equality. The voice of this alternative should be heard, as proposed by nearly two dozen senior top U.S. officials in a hand-delivered letter to President Donald Trump.

This alternative is none other than the National Council of Resistance of Iran under the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, who years ago presented her vision for a future Iran in a 10-point-plan.

The solution presented by the Iranian opposition can render a new era for the people of Iran, nations across the Middle East and beyond. We only need to remain loyal to our democratic values and principles.

Originally published in American Thinker

Shahriar Kia is a political analyst and member of Iranian opposition (PMOI/MEK). He graduated from North Texas University. @shahriarkia