What Comes After French FM’s Iran Visit

Monday’s Tehran visit by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is startling a wide variety of responses, especially from inside Iran.

Kayhan daily, known as the mouthpiece of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, ran a piece titled “French Foreign Minister heading to Tehran with a JCPOA-2 hat,” using the acronym for the Iran nuclear deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, while describing Paris’ efforts to impose further setbacks upon Iran’s regime.

The semi-official Ruydad 24 website in Iran writes, “The JCPOA, ballistic missile program and Iran’s role in the region are of the most important challenges before Iran, Europe, the United States and Middle East countries.”

This is what concerns Tehran the most, being crystal clear the Europeans would never side with Iran over the U.S.

Seeking to raise the stakes prior Le Drian’s visit, Tehran on Monday announced it enjoys the capability of producing higher enriched uranium within two days if Washington’s abandons ship on the 2015 nuclear deal between.

“If America pulls out of the deal … Iran could resume its 20 percent uranium enrichment in less than 48 hours,” Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi told al-Alam TV.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said Le Drian will be merely involved in discussions and there are no negotiations involved. France’s official position says otherwise.

“Iran’s ballistic missile program, with a range of a few thousand kilometers, is definitely non-consistent with United Nations Security Council resolutions and goes beyond Iran’s need to defend its borders,” Le Drian said in an interview with the French daily Le Journal du Dimanche.

“If this dilemma is not resolved directly, Iran will be facing the threat of new sanctions,” he added.

France is leading Europe in talks with Iran and it is very likely Le Drian discussed with Iran’s officials the conditions raised by U.S. President Donald Trump.

“The U.S. has asked France to lay Trump’s conditions before Iran. European countries have confirmed these conditions,” according to the semi-officials Fars news agency, said to be linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

In his meeting with Le Drian, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s remarks vividly displayed Tehran’s deep concerns about the JCPOA’s future.

“The JCPOA is a litmus test for all parties and its dismantling will bring disappointment for everyone,” Rouhani said.

We must also take into consideration the timing of Le Drian’s visit, coming prior to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, in which Iran was the main issue of talks.

Two weeks later Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman to Washington where Iran’s regional meddling will most likely be discussed. Tehran’s role in Syria has raised major concerns.

“…if we don’t push Iran out and come up with an agreement in Geneva that gives Syria back to the Syrians. This war never ends. So, Mr. President it’s just not about defeating ISIL. If you leave Syria in the hands of Russia and the Iranians this war never ends,” said Senator Lindsey Graham in a recent interview.

Finally, Trump will be hosting his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, as the leader of Europe in regards to the JCPOA.

As a result, the objective of Le Drian’s visit to Iran can be described as placing Trump’s significant pressures and imposing his conditions. Tehran will most definitely be concerned, knowing all meetings will evolve in Trump’s talks with Macron in Washington. Two weeks later Trump will announce his decision on the JCPOA.

This leaves Tehran before a particular dilemma. Succumbing to the new conditions set to preserve the JCPOA will deliver a strategic setback, being, to say the least, significantly curbing its ballistic missile program and Middle East influence. Iran considers these two pillars its pride and regional strategy depth.

Choosing to reject Washington’s conditions, however, will most certainly lead to the return of crippling sanctions for Tehran.

Add to this dilemma the ongoing protest staged by Iranians across the country. This goes alongside calls for further nationwide protests next Tuesday, marking the country’s annual “Fire Festivities” held on the last Tuesday night of the Iranian calendar before inviting in the new year.

Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) has issued a call for a nationwide uprising to mark this celebration. Senior Iranian officials have acknowledged how the PMOI/MEK organized the recent flare of protests across the country.

Tehran’s troubles are only beginning.


Iran Seeks Breathing Room Through Yemen Missile Attacks

What is the objective behind the recent surge of ballistic missile attacks staged by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militias against Saudi Arabia?

With the Saudi-led coalition retaking 85% of the country from the Houthis, Tehran understands fully its Yemen campaign is coming to a dismal end. All the while, the Iranian regime faces increasing mayday scenarios domestically and abroad.

Iran is a regime established on crises: Unable to resolve one or a number of dilemmas, or anticipating others in the making, Tehran resorts to launching new turmoil.

The mentality of this regime, and its four decades of unjustified rule, has resulted in the status quo of constantly choosing between bad and worse.

Following similar ballistic missile launches on Nov. 4th and 30th, the Houthis on Tuesday resorted to yet another such attack resulting in the Saudi air defense downing the projectile northeast of Riyadh, located 850 kilometers from Houthi controlled areas of Yemen.

Condemning the attack “enabled by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” President Donald Trump in his Wednesday phone call with Saudi King Salman “discussed the importance of engaging the United Nations to hold Iran accountable for its repeated violations of international law,” according to a White House readout.

This measure can be weighed as in response to an unprecedented press conference held by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, displaying remnants of various military equipment, including parts of a ballistic missile, an unmanned aerial vehicle and an anti-tank guided missile, all made in Iran and provided to the Houthis of Yemen.

Ambassador Haley also described Tuesday’s missile attack by the Houthis as bearing the hallmarks of a weapon provided by Iran.

At the same UN Security Council meeting, UN political chief Jeffrey Feltman said:

“… the two missiles launched at the Saudi cities of Yanbu and Riyadh had similar features which suggested a common origin, and are consistent with missiles of the Scud family and had features known to be consistent with [Iran’s] Qiam-1 missile.”

“One of the missiles bore castings similar to that of an Iranian entity on the list maintained pursuant to resolution 2231, he added.

“In terms of restrictions on arms-related transfers, the Secretariat is confident that close to 900 of the assault rifles seized by the United States in March 2016 are identical to those seized by France also in the same month, which the Secretariat had assessed were of Iranian origin and shipped from Iran, Mr. Feltman said.

“The Secretariat is also confident that half of the 200 rocket propelled grenade launchers had characteristics similar to Iranian-produced RPG launchers.

“Further, the Secretariat had received information on an unmanned surface vessel (USV) laden with explosives allegedly used against the Saudi-led coalition and had the opportunity to examine parts of its guidance and detonation systems, which included a computer terminal with a dual English/Farsi keyboard and characteristics similar to those of Iranian-produced terminals.

“The Secretariat was also requested to examine two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), reportedly recovered in Yemen after Implementation Day. One of the UAVs – which Saudi authorities ascertain was similar to that of the Iranian-made Ababil-II – is similar to other drones reportedly seized in Yemen brought to our attention by the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Feltman said.”

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey D. Feltman at the Security Council briefing on Non-proliferation. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

To add insult to injury for Tehran, Ambassador Haley argued the new U.N. Secretary General report provides basis for new pressure on Tehran’s ongoing behavior, such as a new resolution or strengthening already existing measures.

Almost simultaneously, the UN General Assembly adopted a Canada-sponsored resolution condemning Iran’s human rights violations for the 64th time, expressing:

“…serious concern at the alarmingly high frequency of the imposition and carrying-out of the death penalty… including the imposition of the death penalty against minors and persons who at the time of their offence were under the age of 18, and executions undertaken for crimes that do not qualify as the most serious crimes, on the basis of forced confessions.”

The UN resolution calls on Iran “to abolish, in law and in practice, public executions.”

The onslaught of crises troubling Iran includes a very dangerous row between former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – once considered a very close confidant of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei – and the judiciary, another entity considered tightly under Khamenei’s influence.

During May’s presidential elections Ahmadinejad refused to bow to Khamenei’s recommendation to refrain from participating, sparking a significant dispute among the hardliners and rocking the boat in Iran’s highly turmoil seas of domestic politics.

The judiciary recently threatened to accuse Ahmadinejad of “sedition” and supporting Babak Zanjani, an oil-tycoon known to have stolen billions of dollars’ worth of revenue and reportedly enjoying extensive ties with senior regime officials.

Considering the increasing foreign calamities Khamenei’s apparatus faces on a daily scale, such internal rifts couldn’t have arrived at a worse timing.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s inaugural national security strategy describes Iran as a “rogue state” and a principal challenger to U.S. interests in the Middle East. While the text blasts former president Barack Obama for sealing a “disastrous, weak, and incomprehensibly bad deal with Iran,” a recent bombshell published by Politico unveiled how the Obama administration literally protected a $1 billion Hezbollah-led drug trafficking network to maintain Iran in line with an already controversial nuclear pact.

Hezbollah is a terrorist designated group launched by Iran in Lebanon in the early 1980s.

To confront all these crunches, Iran has no solutions other than resorting to an old tactic of creating new mayhem to robe previous others. This behavior would seem illogical for a stereotype government, but Iran is anything but a normal or stereotype government.

For example, in the year 2000, after enduring Mohammad Khatami – now under house arrest – as president of his regime for four years, Khamenei had no choice but to pave the path for his second term.

Yet to coat such a setback, Khamenei ordered a major missile attack against the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), then stationed in a series of bases aligning the Iran-Iraq border. While the PMOI initially reported 77 missiles targeted their bases, years later former IRGC chief Rahim Safavi said the avalanche consisted of 1,000 long and medium-rangefired from Iran into Iraqi soil.

The bottom line is that Iran is facing major domestic and foreign dilemmas, to say the least, and its tactic is to screen one impasse through creating yet another. This is no regime to arrange deals and agreements with, and this is no time to decrease any pressure on Iran.

The international community must adopt a firm policy to force Tehran into relinquishing such a slate of belligerence, including its ballistic missile program, support for terrorism and proxy groups, and human rights violations at home.

Otherwise, rest assured this regime will mushroom newer and more serious calamities across the board.

Iran: From human rights violations to dangerous meddling

From day one the regime of Iran has been based on the pillars of domestic crackdown, and exporting terrorism and a reactionary, religious mentality.

As we speak, spreading extremism and Islamic fundamentalism remains a cornerstone policy of Iran’s state-run strategy, all hacked into this regime’s constitution.

The real image

Earlier this year Amnesty International’s 94-page report, “Caught in a web of repression: Iran’s human rights defenders under attack,” detailed this regime’s drastic human rights violations, with a specific focus on its extensive overdose of executions.

As witnessed for years running, Iran is the world’s leading executioner per capita, with many hangings continuously and horrendously carried out in public. All the while, secret executions are ongoing in dungeons across the country, including Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison.

This is the real image of Iran, cloaked by the ruling regime and their appeasers in the West for years, who continue to portray Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani as a moderate worth dealing with.

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Rouhani heads a corrupt system responsible for executing around 3,500 people, and counting, from 2013 to this day. 350 such counts have been registered this year alone.

Iran lacks anything even remotely comparable to a justice system and the current Justice Minister, Alireza Avaie, has been on numerous terrorist lists since 2011 for human rights violations.

Avaie is also known to have played a leading role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, consisting of mostly members and supporters of Iran’s main opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

Nursing home

Iran is the godfather of human rights violations and terrorism, known as the main source of systematic human rights violations and expanding conflicts across the region.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and the Quds Force, responsible for the IRGC’s extraterritorial operations, led by Qassem Suleimani, famed for his ruthlessness, are the main parties responsible for Iran’s internal repression, and mainly, aggressively expanding Iran’s influence throughout the Middle East.

For decades the IRGC has been responsible for terrorist attacks in this flashpoint corner of the globe, including the countries of SyriaIraqLebanon and Yemen. In this regard, Tehran’s continuing practice of being the nursing home of proxy extremist groups is no matter of dispute or questioning.

What Iran has maintained a lid on has been its close collaboration with terror elements. For decades, the world has been deceived – conveniently for and by Iran – into believing that significant differences exist between Sunnis and Shiites, and thus cancelling any possibility of Tehran having links with its Sunni rivals.

Tehran has usurped this window of opportunity to portray itself and claim to be a de facto ally of the West in the fight against extremism, especially recently in the form of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Discussions in Washington are ongoing over how the US military, short of a direct conflict, can deter and contain Iran’s meddling in Middle East countries. The Pentagon has refrained from public comments.

One official familiar with the mentality of US Secretary of Defense James Mattis has hinted to the media that Iran is the focus of much attention in the Pentagon recently.

Last week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chaired a meeting between the US, UK, France and Germany to blueprint US-European collaboration aimed at countering Iran through the course of diplomatic and economic practices. Other senior Trump administration officials have also resorted to significant remarks.

“What the Iranians have done across the broader Middle East is fuel and accelerate these cycles of violence so that they can take advantage of these chaotic environments, take advantage of weak states, to make them dependent on them for support,” US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said to a security forum last weekend.

“We have to address what is a growing Iranian capability and an ability to use proxies, militias, terrorist organizations to advance their aim, their hegemonic aims in the region,” McMaster added.

This file photo taken on May 15, 2003 shows Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh (L) welcoming former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami at Sanaa International Airport. (AFP)


Game-changing revelations

Newly released documents obtained by US special forces in their raid on the residence of the now dead al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan prove what many scholars have argued for years.

Iran’s regime, known as the beating heart of Islamic fundamentalism, has never considered sectarian differences an obstacle to cooperate with extremists. Tehran seeks to strengthen its resolve in the objective of furthering influence and global support for fundamentalism and terrorism.

These documents prove how the Iranian regime was working closely with al-Qaeda, including bin Laden himself, which could have subsequently led to Tehran’s inevitable cooperation with ISIS.

Iran’s rulers, and their cohorts spread in various countries, seek the same objective of establishing a ruthless caliphate by deploying global jihad. This practice hinges on unbridled brutality, misogyny and immorality to its utmost extent. No limits in barbarity and viciousness is accepted by these parties in their effort to reach their objectives.

Further reports are emerging detailing the growing amount of ties linking the regime in Iran with extremists groups, such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. New evidence confirms how despite the existence of various factions of extremist groups such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda and ISIS, at the end of the day, they all look at Tehran as the main source fueling this infamous mentality.

Flashpoint Yemen

Iran’s support for the Houthis in Yemen has escalated and gained much attention recently. For example, a missile launched by the Houthis on November 4 was strikingly similar to an Iranian-made Qiam-1 short-range ballistic missile, added to its collection by Iran in 2010, and yet never before seen in Yemen’s missile arsenal, according to a confidential report prepared by a UN panel of experts missioned to monitor a 2015 arms embargo imposed on Yemen.

One component — a device, known to be an actuator, used to assist in steering the missile — was found among the debris bearing a metal logo of an Iranian company, Shadi Bagheri Industrial Group, known to be the subject of UN, EU, and US sanctions.

The Houthis “obtained access to missile technology more advanced” than what they had prior to the conflict’s birth in 2015, according to the panel report.

“The design, characteristics and dimensions of the components inspected by the panel are consistent with those reported for the Iranian manufactured Qiam-1 missile,” the text adds.

Serious measures

The dangerous nature of Iran’s regime is obvious to all. Parallel to military and terrorist measures throughout the globe, Tehran targets naïve and vulnerable subjects, using them to relay their reactionary mentality. This includes the various Western parliaments and significant international bodies, including UN and EU institutions. Tehran’s demonization agendas have shown to be predecessors to violent attacks.

Only serious measures against Iran’s regime, and ultimately the collapse of this ruthless entity, will mark the end of Iran’s human rights violations, and meddling and support for terrorism being spread deceivingly under the flag of Islam.

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Iran’s increasing meddling abroad is not a policy signaling this regime’s strength. In fact, facing deep domestic crises, Tehran is attempting to cloak its internal weakness by increasing its influence across the region on the one hand, and resorting to saber-rattling to prevent the international community from adopting a firm policy.

Iran entered negotiations and succumbed to curbing its nuclear program due to fears of uncontrollable uprisings resulting from crippling international sanctions. This is the language Iran understands and more major sanctions are needed against this regime.

Human Rights: Iran’s Ultimate Vulnerability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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