Trump’s Middle East Visit, New Alliances, and a Terrified Iran

The reaction seen from Iranian state media outlets to the visit paid by US President Donald Trump last week to Saudi Arabia have been unorthodox, to say the least.

State-run IRIB TV, May 22: “The US president is hand in hand with the supporters of terrorism, human rights victimized in the dances of swords… US raises allegations against Iran to ‘milk’ Saudi Arabia, according to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.”

Following Zarif’s undiplomatic and unprofessional remarks, Amir Abdullahian — an adviser to Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and known to be close with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — provided a different perspective.

“First of all, they intend to strike a blow to the axis of resistance (read Iran’s coalition) in the region,” he said in remarks aired by IRIB TV. “This is a very important entity in the region as it has provided Iran’s utmost national security and interests.”

“This is the initiative pursue by the Saudis following the election of Mr. Trump,” Abdullahian continued. “In response to the existing Saudi Arabia, with a group of warmongering extremists at the helm, we must react with wisdom, power and force. We don’t consider Saudi Arabia as a strategic enemy. No. The Saudis lack such a capacity.”

While this senior Iranian official resorted to such claims in an effort mainly aimed at maintaining a straight face in the wake of continuous setbacks suffered by the regime, the semi-official Fars news agency, known as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) mouthpiece, shed light on the regime’s true concerns over Trump’s visit to Riyadh.

“The editor-in-chief of the Kayhan daily described recent remarks made by [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani against various entities inside the Iranian government as fuel to provoke the US and the sheikhs of various Arab countries,” the piece reads. “Mr. Rouhani’s government, in its first day back in office has returned the shadows of war over our nation.”

“Despite Rouhani boasting of distancing the shadows of war from our country, the Riyadh conference, focusing on establishing an Arab NATO and sales of $110 billion in military equipment underscore how the weak actions of [Rouhani’s] cabinet not only emboldened the US to take aggressive actions against our country, even small Arab countries have reached the point of openly speaking of establishing an Arab NATO to launch a military confrontation against Iran,” the Fars piece continued.

As all elements of the Iranian regime are evaluating how to analyze and respond to the consequences of Trump’s visit to the region, the voice of the Iranian opposition welcomed the recent developments.

Maryam Rajavi — president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a coalition of Iranian dissident groups leading the struggle to bring about regime change in Iran — hailed the positions adopted at the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in the face of Iran’s actions.

For nearly four decades Tehran’s measures have robbed the region, and the world over, of quiet and stability. It is time to take firm action against Iran’s terrorism and fundamentalism endeavors, its dangerous ballistic missile program and its meddling in the affairs of others. Steps similar to those embraced in the Riyadh conference are what are needed to bring a final end to terrorism, war and bloodshed, and establish peace and harmony. The recent tragic bombing in Manchester leading to the loss of too many more innocent lives was yet another reminder of the utter importance of this.

While condemning Iran’s actions and crimes is a constant necessity, practical measures, and more specifically, ending all diplomatic relations with the mullahs, expelling this regime’s delegations from international organizations, blacklisting the notorious IRGC and other military/paramilitary/security entities associated with the government, are necessary follow-ups.

Iran’s human rights violations and the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), have gone ignored for far too long. This horrific dossier deserves immediate referral to the United Nations Security Council and The Hague to bring all affiliated Iranian regime officials to justice.

President Trump correctly described the Iranian people as the first victims of the mullahs’ regime. King Salman of Saudi Arabia, while delivering his respects to the Iranian nation, emphasized that ever since late regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini’s rise to power the mullahs have become the spearhead force behind global terrorism.

The ultimate solution for the current crisis engulfing the entire Middle East is regime change in Iran, carried out by the Iranian people and their organized resistance, symbolized by the NCRI.

Freedom and returning sovereignty to the Iranian people by ending the mullahs’ rule is the desire of all Iranians. Recognizing this nation’s true demand is essential to establishing peace and tranquility in the region, and indispensable to international security.

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ANALYSIS: Is the Arab Summit alliance raising stakes for Iran?

It appears the recent Arab League Summit in Jordan should be considered an important development in the path of further isolating Iran in the Middle East. At a first glance, this was a conference in which the highest number of state leaders participated in comparison to previous such gatherings.

A more in-depth perspective places us before this important conclusion that most speakers strongly criticized Iran’s meddling and highlighted the necessity of solidarity and alliance amongst Arab states to confront this phenomenon. Leaders of Saudi Arabia and Jordan specifically expressed their grave concerns over Iran’s interference across the region, especially Syria, sectarian warmongering and Tehran’s state sponsorship of terrorism.

“Tehran provokes sectarianism and hinders efforts to resolve regional crises,” said Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

Iran’s setback

Significant is the fact that the Arab Summit initially prepared a relatively low-profile draft resolution adopting a soft tone in relation to Iran. However, the final resolution prepared and published by Arab League Foreign Ministers reflected the majority members’ position, being completely against Iran and the mullahs’ policies of meddling and supporting terrorism.

However, a few Arab countries such as Iraq and Lebanon – literally taken hostage by Iran – or Algeria, enjoying specific interests in its relations with the mullahs’ regime, could not jump on this resolution train.

This left the remaining member states before two options: either refusing to sign, forgoing any possibility of forming a consensus and accepting resulting rifts; or financing on their common grounds, being the subjects of Palestine and opposing any meddling in others internal affairs (without specifically mentioning Iran). Although the terms used in the resolution falls of short of directly pinpointing the mullahs’ regime in Iran, it is quite obvious who the crosshairs were placed on.

Importantly, of grave significance for the main member states in this conference was to enjoy Iraq’s signature, and that of its Prime Minister, on this initiative. Considering the new international status quo and Washington’s new policies, the gradual distancing of Iraq from Iran, and further advances in this regard is seen in the forecast.

Although the terms used in the Arab Summit resolution falls of short of directly pinpointing the regime in Iran, it is quite obvious who the crosshairs were placed on. (Reuters)

A new era

It is worth noting the Obama years rendered a complete passive and inactive American policy in regards to Iraq. Through a disastrous strategic mistake in pulling out prematurely from Iraq, Washington practically giftwrapped Baghdad to Tehran.
This policy has currently changed and American policymakers have made it crystal clear how they will not permit Iran take on any wished measures.

US CENTCOM commander General Joseph Votel in a recent hearing of the House of Representatives Armed Forces Committee emphasized on the necessity to confront Iran as the main long-term threat before stability in the Middle East. Votel also went the distance to insist on considering military assets and other capabilities to stop this regime.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi recently visited Washington and signs indicate he has been briefed and received specific instructions over the America’s major policy overhaul and shifts in relation to Iraq and the entire Middle East. To this end, Arab leaders saw it very important to have Iraq – a party voting against previous summit resolutions – to sign this new initiative. This allowed the summit to maintain its fabric and unity over two main subjects of Palestine and condemning meddling in the internal affairs of other countries.

General James Jones, former NATO commander and US national security advisor, recently called on all Gulf States to establish a defensive alliance similar to that of NATO against the threats Iran poses for regional states. Such an “Arab NATO” will enjoy America’s support, he added.

Global front against Iran

When we use the terms a substantial alteration in international politics, we must mention a recent hearing held at the British Parliament discussing Iran’s meddling in the region, widespread condemnations targeting the mullahs’ human rights violations, calls to establish an Arab alliance aimed at evict this regime from regional countries. For such a cause, designating the Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization would be a prelude measure and act as a necessary springboard.

This goes in line with further measures to enforce the flawed deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program. Rest assured if the Arab World adopts a firm stance and demands Iran’s eviction from their soil, the US will most definitely be encouraged to blacklist the IRGC and defang Iran’s meddling.

Moreover, the presence of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Organization of Islamic Cooperation Secretary-General Youssef bin al-Ottaimeen, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, envoys of the US And France in this conference indicated the decisions made in this platform enjoy enormous international support, rendering further worldwide isolation for Tehran.

Reactions seen from Iran prove the fact this Arab Summit in Jordan ended as a complete failure and delivered heavy damages to Tehran’s interests. As usual, the mullahs’ media resort to low-standard lies that deserve no repetition. The mullahs, however, cannot cloak their utter anger and fear of such a united position against its meddling in Arab countries.

As we close in to Iran’s presidential elections in May, rest assured this isolation on the international stage will have a major impact on Iran’s domestic politics, and the Iranian society – described as a powder keg – is watching very closely.

Originally published in Al Arabiya English

Iran in Crisis

The recent dust storms that wreaked havoc in southwest Iran signaled only one of the many crises the mullahs are facing less than three months before critical elections. Tehran has been hit with severe blows during the Munich Security Conference, contrasting interests with Russia, the recent escalating row with Turkey, and most importantly, a new U.S. administration in Washington.

These crises have crippling effects on the mullahs’ apparatus, especially at a time when Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sees his regime facing a changing balance of power in the international community, and is faced with a major decision of selecting the regime’s so-called president.

Iran and Ahvaz

The dust storms crisis in Ahwaz, resulting from the mullahs’ own destructive desertification policies, caused severe disruptions in water and power services and people pouring into the streets in major protests.

The regime, and especially the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), has for decades pursued a desertification policy of constructing dams, drying lagoons, digging deep oil wells beneath underground water sources with resulting catastrophic environmental disasters. Various estimates indicate the continuation of such a trend will literally transform two-thirds of Iran into desert lands in the next decade. This will place 14 to 15 million people at the mercy not only dust storms but also salt storms.

Iran and the Munich Security Conference

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attended this conference with a series of objectives in mind, only to face a completely unexpected scene. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence described Iran as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the mullahs are the source of threats and instability throughout the Middle East. Turkey went one step further and said Tehran is the heart of sectarianism and spreads such plots across the region, and all traces in Syria lead to Iran’s terrorism and sectarian measures.

This resembles a vast international coalition against Tehran, inflicting yet another blow to the mullahs following a new administration taking control of the White House. These developments are very costly for Khamenei and the entire regime.

In comparison to the early 2000s when the U.S. launched wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran was the main benefactor. The current balance of power now is quite different, as seen in Munich. While there is talk of an Arab NATO, any coalition formed now in the Middle East will be completely against Iran’s interests.

Iran and Russia

Following a disastrous joint campaign in Syria, for the first time Russia is reportedly supporting a safe zone in Syria. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said contacts have been made with the Syrian regime to establish safe zones in Syria. These are the first remarks made by any Russian official on the issue of safe zones in Syria.

Moscow’s increasing contrast in interest with Iran over Syria has the potential of playing a major role in regional relations. Russia certainly doesn’t consider Bashar Assad remaining in power as a red line, a viewpoint far different from that of Iran. Moscow is also ready to sacrifice its interests in Syria in a larger and more suitable bargain with the Trump administration over far more important global interests.

Iran and Turkey

Yes, Ankara and Tehran enjoy a vast economic partnership. However, recent shifts in geopolitical realities have led to significant tensions. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the mullahs of resorting to “Persian nationalism” in an effort to split Iraq and Syria.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused Iran of seeking to undermine Bahrain and Saudi Arabia as part of Tehran’s “sectarian policy.” Cavusoglu used his speech in Munich to say, “Iran is trying to create two Shia states in Syria and Iraq. This is very dangerous. It must be stopped.”

Tehran considers Ankara’s soldiers in Iraq and Syria as a major obstacle in its effort to expand its regional influence.

U.S. president Donald Trump’s strong approach vis-à-vis Iran and the possibility of him supporting the establishment of a Turkish-administered northern Syria safe zone may have also played a major part in fuming bilateral tensions between these two Middle East powers.

Erdogan has obviously realized completely the new White House in Washington intends to adopt a much more aggressive stance against Tehran. This is another sign of changing tides brewing troubles for Iran’s mullahs.

Iran and Presidential Elections

With new reports about his ailing health, Khamenei is extremely concerned about his predecessor. One such signal is the candidacy of Ibrahim Reisi, current head of the colossal Astan Quds Razavi political empire and a staunch loyalist to Khamenei’s faction, for the presidency. With former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani out of the picture, Khamenei may seek to seal his legacy by placing Reisi against Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in the upcoming May elections.

This is literally Khamenei playing with fire, as Reisi is considered a hardline figure and such an appointment may spark 2009-like protests across the country, as the country has become a scene of massive social challenges. Rouhani himself doesn’t enjoy any social base support, especially after four years of lies and nearly 3,000 executions.

Final Thoughts

This places the entire regime in a very fragile situation. From the internal crises of Ahwaz, the upcoming elections and the formation of a significant international front threatening the Iranian regime’s strategic interests.

Forecasting what lies ahead is truly impossible, making Khamenei and his entire regime extremely concerned, trekking this path very carefully and with a low profile. As we witnessed with the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, Iran immediately released the 52 hostages held for 444 days.

This regime understands the language of force very carefully. And yet, there is no need to use military force to inflict a significant blow and make Tehran understand the international community means business. Blacklisting Iran’s IRGC as a terrorist organization by the U.S. at this timing would be the nail in the coffin for the mullahs.

Originally posted in American Thinker