Secrets of the 1983 Beirut Bombings: The role of Iran’s IRGC

The 1983 double bombing in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, left 241 American service members, 58 French military personnel and six civilians killed, alongside hundreds of others injured.

21 years later in 2004 Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) unveiled a “monument” in “honor” of that terrorist attack.

This “memorial” column, installed in a section dubbed “Martyrs of the Islamic World” in Tehran’s Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery, carried a very vivid message: Iran’s IRGC was behind the 1983 blast targeting the peacekeeping force in Beirut.

34 years have passed since that attack and today the IRGC has been designated a terrorist organization by the US Treasury Department. Such a measure deserves praise, yet is long overdue.

On October 23 of that year a suicide bomber drove a water tanker into the U.S. Marines barracks and detonated around 1,000 kilograms of explosives (equal to 15,000 to 21,000 pounds of TNT), transferred with large trucks into buildings where the Multi-National Forces in Lebanon were stationed.

The United Nations was involved in a broader peacekeeping mission to bring an end to the Lebanese civil wars. The Islamic Jihad, an Iranian offspring terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Background

In line with its pillar policy of exporting terrorism and warmongering across the Middle East, one of Iran’s first objectives was to launch a central command base for the IRGC and its local mercenaries in Lebanon. These elements were initially dispersed in towns and villages of the Baalbek area in eastern Lebanon near the border Jordan.

In 1980, coinciding with Tehran paving the grounds to ignite the Iran-Iraq War, then Iranian regime leader Ayatollah Khomeini dispatched former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaee to Lebanon to blueprint possible terrorist attacks and hostage taking measures in this country, considered Iran’s “strategic depth.”

(R-L) Mohsen Rezaee, Anis al-Naqqash, Mohamed Salih al-Hosseini and Mohsen Rafighdoust – Beirut, 1980. (Supplied)

On September 10, 2003, Iran’s state-run Mashreq daily published a photo imaging Rezaee, former IRGC logistics officer Mohsen Rafighdoust, former IRGC foreign relations officer Mohammad Saleh al-Hosseini and Lebanese terrorist Anis al-Naqqash, said to be behind the first assassination attempt targeting former Iranian Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar in 1980.

With support provided by the IRGC and under the command of former defense minister Hossein Dehghan, the Lebanese Hezbollah took over the Sheikh Abdullah Base in early September 1983. This site was the main center of the Lebanese Army in Bekaa Valley, and was later renamed Imam and transformed to become the IRGC’s main command center in Lebanon.

From this very site the IRGC controlled Hezbollah militia units and directed the Beirut bombings alongside senior Hezbollah commanders, most specifically the known terrorist Imad Mughniyah.

The orders for the Beirut bombings were first issued by the IRGC to Ali Akbar Mohtashemipour, Iran’s then ambassador to Syria. He then relayed the orders to IRGC units stationed in Beirut under Dehghan’s command.

The Islamic Jihad organization was in fact a special ops branch. Until its final days in 1992 this entity was jointly commanded by the Lebanese Hezbollah and IRGC.

Following the Beirut bombings France began aerial attacks in the Bekaa Valley targeting IRGC-linked bases. The US responded to these terrorist attacks by planning raids on the Sheikh Abdullah Base where the IRGC was training Hezbollah militias.

On July 20th, 1987, Iran’s Resalat daily wrote the Beirut bombings citing Rafiqdoust, “… both the TNT and ideology behind the attacks that sent 400 American officers and soldiers to hell in the U.S. Marines command base in Beirut came from Iran.”

34 years have passed since that attack and today the IRGC has been designated a terrorist organization by the US Treasury Department. (Supplied)

On August 14th, 2005, World Net Daily wrote in this regard: “…Two years ago, a US federal court order identified the suicide bomber as Ismail Ascari, an Iranian national.”

Tehran expressing joy

There should be no feeling of positivity in response to terrorist attacks, no matter where in the world. Terrorism is terrorism.

Yet the Iranian regime follows no such standards.

The state-run Rasekhoon website posted a piece literally praising the Beirut double attack.

“…Two massive explosions, six minutes apart, levelled the U.S. Marines command center and the interventionist French forces command base … The heroic reaction… against US and French bases in Beirut delivered a heavy blow to Western powers and forced them to leave Lebanon in a humiliating manner.”

The legal war

“A US federal judge has ordered Iran to pay more than $813 million in damages and interest to the families of 241 US soldiers killed in the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks in Lebanon,” according to Agence France-Presse.

“After this opinion, this court will have issued over $8.8 billion in judgments against Iran as a result of the 1983 Beirut bombing,” Judge Royce Lamberth, presiding over this case, wrote in the ruling.

In late April of last year Iran’s state-run Javan daily, said to be affiliated to the IRGC, wrote:

“In 2003 relatives of the U.S. Marines killed in Lebanon’s terrorist bombings 30 years ago, successfully gained the opinion of a U.S. appeals court to receive compensation from Iran. Four years later, in 2007, a U.S. federal court issued an order demanding this payment be extracted from Iran’s frozen assets.”

In September 2013 a US federal court in New York presided by Judge Katherine Forrest ruled in favor of the families of the Beirut bombings victims.

In July 2014 an appeals court in New York turned down a request filed by Iran’s Central Bank and ordered $1.75 billion in compensation from Tehran’s frozen assets be distributed amongst the victims’ families. This ruling was issued by a three-judge panel of the 2nd branch of New York’s federal appeals court.
That same year Iran’s Central Bank filed for an appeal, arguing this ruling is in violation of US’ obligation according to accords signed back in 1955. With their notion turned down, Iran’s Central Bank referred the case to the US Supreme Court.

On April 20th, 2016, America’s highest court ordered $2 billion dollars from Iran’s blocked assets to be extracted and used to pay the families of the Beirut bombings victims. Enjoying 6 votes in favor in the face of two against, this order was adopted despite Iran’s Central Bank request for an appeal.

The status quo

For more than thirty years the curtains have gradually fallen and the true face of Iran’s IRGC, as a source of support for terrorism, has become crystal clear. Rest assured the footprints of this notorious entity will be found in more crimes inside Iran, around the Middle East and across the globe.

This is further proof of the necessity of strong measures against the IRGC as the epicenter of Iran’s war machine.

Utter belligerence has been Tehran’s offspring for four long decades. The time has come to say enough is enough.

The victims of the 1983 Beirut double bombings, and literally the millions of others who have perished due to Iran’s policies, should know their blood was not shed in vein.

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ANALYSIS: Certified or decertified, Iran faces tough road ahead

All eyes are on US President Donald Trump and his upcoming Iran speech later this week to clarify his decision to certify or decertify Tehran’s compliance with a nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), designed to curb the regime’s controversial atomic drive.

This has Iran’s regime on its toes, as senior elite in Tehran understand fully how the US can lead the international community in adopting strong measures against its broad scope of malign activities. Expected to be addressed is also a wide range of concerns over Iran’s dangerous policies in relation to its ballistic missile advances, meddling in Middle East states and supporting terrorist proxy groups as explained in a new video.

‘Iran’s unacceptable behavior’

Iran’s rogue behavior, currently imposing its influence on four major regional capitals of Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Sanaa, are the result of the Obama administration’s “overly lenient foreign policy, which sought to promote America’s priorities through consensus, rather than through the frank display of power,” as put by a recent The New Yorker piece.

“Lifting the sanctions as required under the terms of the JCPOA has enabled Iran’s unacceptable behavior,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a late September meeting with his P5+1 counterparts and Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The Trump administration is also deeply concerned over Iran’s proxies mining the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait waterway, aiming its indigenous missiles from Yemen towards cities in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, and from southern Lebanon towards Israel. This is Tehran in action with the objective of taking advantage of the destruction left behind by ISIS across the region, especially in Syria and Iraq.

“The Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence, bloodshed and chaos across the Middle East,” Trump told reporters before a Thursday evening meeting with senior military leaders at the White House. “That is why we must put an end to Iran’s continued aggression and nuclear ambitions,” he said. “They have not lived up to the spirit of their agreement.”

Trump has put Iran “on notice” over charges that Tehran violated a nuclear deal with the West by test-firing a ballistic missile. (Reuters)

Joint effort

Parallel to the White House there are voices on Capitol Hill advocating the new approach weighed by the administration.

“The president should decline to certify, not primarily on grounds related to Iran’s technical compliance, but rather based on the long catalog of the regime’s crimes and perfidy against the United States, as well as the deal’s inherent weakness,” Senator Tom Cotton said last week at a speech in the Council on Foreign Relations.

As the Trump administration seeks to place necessary focus on Iran’s illicit Middle East ambitions and actions, talks are also ongoing as we speak over how to amend the JCPOA’s restrictions.

“Sunset clauses,” Iran’s ballistic missile development and testing, and an inspections regime lacking the bite to gain necessary access into the regime’s controversial military sites. Under the current framework Iran can easily conduct nuclear weapons research and development in military sites and claim such locations do not fall under the JCPOA jurisdiction.

While it is expected of Trump to decertify Iran, he most likely will not go the distance to completely pull America out of the nuclear agreement. Obama refused to send the JCPOA to Congress for discussion and approval. Trump, however, seems set to place the decision to impose further sanctions on Iran upon the shoulders of US lawmakers.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks about the Iran nuclear deal at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, on September 5, 2017. (Reuters)

More than ‘one piece’

The new mentality sought by Washington is to address all of Iran’s belligerence and not allow its nuclear program and the JCPOA devour all of the international community’s attention.

The new US response, including blacklisting Iran’s notorious Revolutionary Guards, to be announced by Trump is said to cover missile tests, support for terrorism and proxy groups checkered across the Middle East, hopefully human rights violations at home, and cyberattacks.

Iran has a history of resorting to such measures, including targeting Saudi oil interests. Raising the stakes for Iran, Trump described a meeting with his top military brass on Thursday evening as “the calm before the storm.” Neither the US President nor the White House provided further details, yet rest assured Tehran received the message.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivering a statement on Iran in the Treaty Room of the State Department in Washington, DC, on April 19, 2017. (AFP)

Fear renders contradiction

Sensing an increasingly escalating tone from Washington, Tehran signaled its first sign of fear by expressing readiness to discuss its ballistic missile program, according to Reuters. And yet less than 24 hours later, Iranian officials said no offers were made to negotiate such restrictions.

“Iran regards defensive missile programs as its absolute right and will definitely continue them within the framework of its defensive, conventional and specified plans and strategies,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, according state media.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also felt the need to make remarks to save face before the regime’s already depleting social base. “In the nuclear negotiations and agreement we reached issues and benefits that are not reversible. No one can turn that back, not Mr. Trump or anyone else,” Rouhani said at a recent Tehran University ceremony, according to state media.

Of course, we all remember how prior to the JCPOA signing in 2015 senior Iranian officials went the limits in describing any “retreat” regarding their nuclear program as a “red line.” To make a long story short, Tehran is comprehending how the times are changing at a high velocity, endangering its domestic, regional and international interests. And unlike the Obama years, its actions will not go unanswered.

Senator Cotton made this crystal clear at his speech: “Congress and the President, working together, should lay out how the deal must change and, if it doesn’t, the consequences Iran will face.”

ANALYSIS: Understanding Iran’s missile belligerence

Iran has recently witnessed increasing pressures from both sides of the Atlantic, especially over its ballistic missile ambitions. After weeks of deliberations, the US Congress passed initiatives imposing unprecedented restrictions on Tehran.

Just one day after Iran test-launched a satellite-carrying rocket, the Europeans on Friday joined their American allies in sharpening their tone on Iran’s mullahs, demanding an immediate cessation.

The US Treasury Department also responded sharply, imposing even further sanctions on six companies owned or supervised by the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, known to play a central role in Tehran’s ballistic drive. All their US assets have been frozen and US citizens barred from dealing with the six firms.

As expected, Iran has continued its refusal to cooperate. “We will continue with full power our missile program,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi to state broadcaster IRIB.

The differentiation

A logical conclusion would be for Iran is to yield back on its ballistic missile program. Yet this isn’t necessarily the case for Tehran.

We are dealing with a completely pragmatic regime, moving its pawns very carefully, with the utmost calculus to the very end. Iran needs to maintain face on two different issues:

1) While not understood by many in the West, the mullahs desperately need to maintain a straight face before its already dwindling social base.
2) Iran will continue to set the stakes high for the international community – meaning continue their missile program – until pressures corner it in the ring, similar to 2013 when sanctions forced Iran into the nuclear negotiations.

Iran needs to undergo missile tests similar to those seen Thursday, claiming to seek placing satellites into orbit. Whereas it is common knowledge the same technology is used to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles enabling Iran to threaten targets in mainland United States.

A handout picture released by Iran’s Defense Ministry on July 27, 2017 shows a Simorgh (Phoenix) satellite rocket at its launch site at an undisclosed location in Iran. (AFP)

Foul objectives

While Iran abandoned any intention to place a man into space, it continues to seek similar objectives even despite reports of the recent “Simorgh” test-launch failure last week.

As Iran’s ballistic missile program is known to have received huge amounts of support from the North Koreans, Iran itself is known for parties abroad through providing missile armament.

The Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen launched a ballistic missile Thursday fired targeting the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, only to be shot down, according to the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Tehran proxies. This shows both the threats posed by Iran’s ballistic missile program, as such arsenal can be provided to dangerous groups abroad, and to what extent Iran will go.

Further to the west in the flashpoint Middle East region reports also indicate of Iran building and launching underground missile production factories in Lebanon. This is a new form of exporting instability and extremism for Iran, and these sites are currently controlled completely by the Lebanese Hezbollah, Tehran’s main terrorist offspring.

On a side-note of Iran’s missile ambitions, L. Todd Reed explains in The Washington Times, “The argument could be made that the consequence of the nuclear deal was Iran being able to buy sophisticated weapons and Russia having the cash to stay in the Middle East as a military power.”

Zolfaghar missiles on display during a rally marking al-Quds Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017. (AFP)

A new era

What is terrifying Iran, however, is the new and unexpected landscape it finds itself in as the Trump administration is busy overhauling the highly flawed Obama foreign policy vis-à-vis Tehran.

Senior Iranian regime officials were heard threatening attacks against American bases prior to last week’s unparalleled sanctions mainly targeting the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Both chambers of the US Congress passed their bills with veto-proof authority.

Iran has also sensed this change in language by the West and has begun to act accordingly. A recent piece in The Hill best explains this transition:

“A mere shift in tone from the [Trump] administration already appears to have affected Iran’s calculus. While Iran has continued missile and space launch vehicle testing, it has not launched another nuclear capable, medium-range ballistic missile since being put “on notice” by the White House in February. In Syria, Iranian-backed forces have not targeted the U.S. military outright, even though the US twice downed Iranian-made Shahed-129 drones.”

The Europeans have also shown signs of significant changes. While Iran has taken advantage of its relations with the Green Continent to close economic agreements, the European Troika – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – also joined their American allies in condemning Iran’s recent rocket test as “inconsistent with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231.”

Neither destabilizing impact of Iran’s ballistic missile ambitions on the Middle East, nor the IRGC’s role in this regard can be denied. It is also true that Iran took advantage of Obama’s disastrous appeasement/engagement policy to advance its missile arsenal to the utmost extent.

Despite the new US sanctions restricting and blacklisting the IRGC being long overdue, needed now is for the Trump administration to fully implement such actions against Iran. There is no more room for reservations that have to this day provided Iran paths to bypass and derail international community efforts.

The countries of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen have suffered the most of Iran’s belligerence, and the full eviction of the IRGC footprints from these states would be the next necessary step forward against Tehran’s regime.

ANALYSIS: How to protect Iraq from Iranian influence

With the recapturing of Mosul, the rein of ISIS in northern Iraq is coming to an end. This, however, can lead to the reemergence of a far more dangerous threat for the future of this fledgling democracy.

Iran and its destructive meddling Mesopotamia has devastated this entire nation, leaving at least tens of thousands killed, scores more wounded, injured and displaced.

Tehran has continuously targeted the Sunni community in Iraq and taken advantage of the war against ISIS to change the very fabric of this minority. Sunni provinces have been the target of this wrath especially after Nouri al-Maliki, described by many as Iran’s puppet in Iraq, reached the premiership in 2006.

Dark history

Ever since 2003, with a surge beginning under al-Maliki’s watch, Iran has flooded its western border neighbor with financial, logistical and manpower resources, spearheaded by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

The track record of Iran-backed proxy groups and death squads in Iraq is nothing short of deadly and atrocious. One group alone, Asai’b Ahl al-Haq, claims to have launched over 6,000 attacks targeting US soldiers from 2006 onward.

Amnesty International has also filed a disturbing report over Iran-backed militias being supplied US arms by the Iraqi government, only to carry out war crimes targeting the Sunni community.

War against ISIS

The defeat of ISIS must not be considered the end of the nightmare. Far from it. General Stephen Townsend, commander of the coalition forces against ISIS, recently emphasized the importance of all Iraqi parties reaching a political consensus in the post-ISIS stage.

To emphasize his point, Townsend touched on the sensitive topic of Iraqi Sunnis feeling unrepresented in Baghdad.

Former US defense secretary Ashton Carter, who supervised the anti-ISIS effort from early 2015 to January of this year, underscored “chaos and extremism” will follow if the “political and economic campaigns that must follow” fail to render the results needed for Iraq future’s.

The hidden occupation

On a side-note, the internal sectarian drives in Iraq are not be considered the result of an especially bloody history. Iraq’s conglomerate of communities experienced peaceful coexistence for over a millennium.

As Iran began its hidden occupation from 2003 onward, one campaign pillar focused on instigating sectarian strife with the objective of expanding its influence through Shiite communities in strategic areas across the country. Such policies have been carried out vividly in all Sunni provinces recaptured from ISIS control.

There is no need to divide Iraq into federalized states, as this would deepen the rifts amongst a nation that needs to begin rebuilding the bridges and bonds destroyed.

Members of Popular Mobilization hold portraits of Ayatollah Khomeini (C), Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) and Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani during a parade marking the annual al-Quds Day in Baghdad on June 23, 2017. (Reuters)

Independent figure

Despite all the flaws in the campaign against ISIS, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has the potential to be pulled out of Iran’s influence and act as an independent figure. This is especially true as he has stood in the face of Iran’s pressures, while there remains far more necessary cleansing of the mullahs’ influence in Iraq.

Following the historic Riyadh summit earlier this year, it is time for the Trump administration, allied with the Arab World, to take serious action curbing Iran’s influence in Iraq.

All al-Abadi government officials must prove their allegiance to the Iraqi people and not the Iranian regime. The Iraqi judiciary is also heavily under Tehran’s influence, seen specifically when the country’s supreme court last October blocking al-Abadi’s reform package aiming to “decrease the political space — and platform — for sectarian saboteurs and political spoilers like Maliki,” as explained in The Hill.

Steps ahead

Iraq now lays in devastation and the road ahead will be difficult. This country needs the correct support from its well-meaning neighbors – not the regime in Iran – and the international community to once again stand on its own and play its expected part in today’s world.

This is a breakdown of the utmost necessary measures:

1) Stanching Iran’s influence, especially at senior levels in Baghdad and the security apparatus, and supporting al-Abadi distance from Iran
2) Confront Iran’s meddling by preventing al-Maliki from regaining the premier seat, and dismantling the Popular Mobilization Units and all death squads, parallel to blacklisting Iran’s IRGC
3) Supporting the Sunni community in all Iraqi hierarchy and security forces, and establishing an equal method of governance across the country.

In a recent speech, Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi highlighted how Iran has for 38 years been at war with Iraq and other nations in the region and beyond.

She underscored, “…the ultimate solution to the crisis in the region and to confronting groups like ISIS lies in the overthrow of the Iranian regime by the Iranian people and it’s Resistance.” That seems to be the only way to protect Iraq from Iran.

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’s Supreme Leader Sees the Beginning of a New Era

By Shahriar Kia

Following a rocky first month in Trump-Iran relations, it’s significant that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has chosen to maintain a substantially low profile. Comprehending the threat of vast changes in Washington, Khamenei also knows he cannot show weakness to his dwindling social base already terrified of major changes in the new U.S. administration’s policies vis-à-vis Iran following Obama’s eight years of appeasement.

In recent remarks, Khamenei even said there is no difference between the Obama and Trump administrations (!) and “the real war is the economic war, the sanctions war.”

These are interesting observations from Khamenei, and they should be considered deceptive, because he understands fully well that with Obama gone, so are the concessions the previous White House provided to his regime. Khamenei’s own change in reactions is further proof, as he is seen choosing his words quite carefully.

“To pass this stage, Iran has two options ahead. First, to strongly counter-react in areas in which the United States has vital interests, and the second is for Iran to act within the frameworks laid out by the United States in order to continue to have a role in the region and get out of the harnessed state. No doubt, the second option would ensure more strategic advantages for Iran.” (Jahan-e-Sanat, February 20)

During the Obama years, Khamenei himself used strong terms in threatening American interests across the globe. He went as far as saying that his regime would “raze” Haifa and Tel Aviv to the ground, wasting no time in lashing out at any threats. This also showed how Obama’s appeasement policy failed miserably.

Now that Khamenei is receiving “on notice” level warnings from Washington, he is in fact completely terrified to use any strong terms. However, he is resorting to a new tactic of claiming there being “no difference” between the Obama and Trump administrations. From January 20th onward, Khamenei has repeatedly made such remarks about the two administrations.

This comes at a time when the supreme leader and his inner circle used believed sanctions could have no impact. Such a shift in tone seen in Khamenei is the index that a policy of firm language against Iran, parallel to economic pressures through sanctions, can bring this regime to its knees.

On the other hand, we are witnessing that Tehran’s lobbies, and those who capitalized on massive economic gains rendered through the appeasement policy, are desperately speaking out against any sanctions, and especially the possible designation of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.

The IRGC controls much of Iran’s economy, and yet Tehran’s lobbies have gone the distance in claiming its blacklisting will threaten America’s interests in Iraq and other countries hosting U.S. bases, and also endangering so-called “moderates” in the face of “hardliners.”

This is nothing but fake news, signaling that not only officials in Tehran, but their decreasing number of international correspondents, are concerned about Obama’s appeasement policy coming to an end.

A firm policy against Iran goes far further than only containing this regime’s nuclear ambitions and foreign meddling. Such a shift can also fuel the Iranian people’s increasing protests against this regime. The exact opposite of Obama turning his back to the 2009 uprising in Iran.

Recent protests in Ahvaz and other cities resembles the Iranian people’s hatred of this regime and their thirst for change.

Ended Sunday, February 20, the Munich Security Conference condemned the Iranian regime for disrupting security and stability in the region. The delegations in the conference had one sentence in common when speaking against the Iranian regime: the Iranian regime is the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, said by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence as well as Saudi FM Adel al-Jubeir. Also, Turkish finance minister Mevlut Chavushoghlu put this same issue another way while pointing to the regime’s interventions in Syria and Iraq. “Iranian regime is seeking sectarianism in the region”, he said.

The new alliance of Arab nations, and especially the participation of Turkey, has raised major concerns among senior officials in Tehran as a strong front against its terrorism and meddling in other countries is formed.

The formation of such a front is a sign of significant policy changes in Washington. This appears to be a step in the direction of regaining the trust lost amongst U.S. allies during the Obama tenure to confront Iran’s terrorism and meddling in the Middle East.

Etemad, for instance, writes on February 21: “the leaders and elite in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Turkey had this vision in recent years that with Barack Obama as President, the US administration wouldn’t take any specific measure against Iran in order to put Tehran under pressure.”

Military drills and hollow saber rattling by IRGC commanders during the past few days shed light on Iran’s fear and severe weakness of developments in the makings with the incoming policy alterations in Washington.

What needs to be understood is  that we are already at the beginning of a new era where the regime in Iran will no longer benefit from an appeasement policy that allows it to both increase its domestic crackdown and foreign warmongering, such as Iran’s involvement in Syria, and continuously threaten to abandon ship on the accord aimed at curbing the Iran nuclear program.

This provides a golden opportunity for the international community to begin standing shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people and its organized resistance under the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, a Muslim woman who represents a tolerant and democratic Islam against a fundamentalist version of Islam advocated by the mullahs’ regime. Bringing an end to the appeasement policy and, as being recently weighed by the Trump administration, designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist designation are necessary steps in a long overdue roadmap.

Shahriar Kia is a political analyst writing on Iran and the Middle East. He is the member of the Iranian opposition, the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, also known as the MEK). He graduated from North Texas University.

Originally posted in American Thinker

ANALYSIS: New revelations call for US blacklisting Iran’s IRGC

The slate of sanctions slapped on Iran by the new Trump White House in response to Tehran’s January 29th ballistic missile test is a welcome development. There are hopes such a move will signal to the mullahs to begin curbing, and eventually ending, their support for global terror, testing of ballistic missiles and the ongoing domestic crackdown.

While the Trump administration’s actions to this day may be considered lacking the necessary might to make Iran’s regime truly feel the pain, they represent a key U-turn from his predecessor’s appeasement drive. And now, while long overdue, there is serious talk of labelling Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.

This necessity has become more vital following a press conference held Tuesday by Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Washington.

Citing based on information obtained by the social network of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) inside Iran, NCRI US Representative Office Deputy Director Alireza Jafarzadeh revealed with details and specific locations how the IRGC Quds Force has assigned a major branch to increase the number militia members trained to take part in Tehran’s proxy wars already threatening Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Afghanistan and beyond.

“Daesh (ISIS) and the Tehran regime armed with its Revolutionary Guards are two sides of the same coin, with the distinction that the Revolutionary Guards has at its disposal a nation state with all its strategic resources,” Jafarzadeh said.

The IRGC’s role in fomenting crises across the region and terrorism on a global scale is undeniable. This includes provocative meddling in Saudi Arabia, and goes in line with the necessity to designate this entity as an organization focused on global terrorism.

Long history

Iran has a long history of aggravating instability and shedding blood. The 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Lebanon that left over 240 dead and the 1994 Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, resulting in 85 deaths and hundreds injured, are two hallmarks of the Iranian regime’s terrorist nature.

Iran’s mullahs are the godfathers of the Lebanese Hezbollah, the force behind many of its international terrorist attacks, and it is only a logical conclusion that the entity providing the arms, training and finances would be none other than the IRGC.

As we entered the new millennium, and the presence of international troops led by the United States became ever more present in the Middle East, the IRGC launched intensified countermeasures by resorting to organizing and dispatching Shiite militias on a mission to wreak havoc.

Iran’s involvement in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon are different fronts coordinated by the IRGC as unconventional means to tilt the region’s balance of power in its favor, boosted by a failed appeasement policy during the Obama presidency.

The IRGC was also able to take advantage of the Obama doctrine to advance Iran’s nuclear program and ballistic missile drive, emboldening the mullahs into testing the new Trump administration with a medium-range ballistic missile test.

By taking advantage of loopholes in the Obama administration’s ironically cherished nuclear accord with Iran, the IRGC has pursued the nuclear program – now claiming to have tested new centrifuge designs – and their troubling ballistic missile aspiration threatening US interests and strategic allies across the Middle East.

Parallel to all these troubling activities, and not of any less importance, has been the IRGC’s leading role in the mullahs’ domestic crackdown. The main IRGC entity in implementing this policy is the paramilitary Basij militias that roam the streets to enforce a climate of fear and oppression, leading to an array of violations of human rights in Iran.

Top executioner

Iran continues to top the list in executions per capita, and such a trend has intensified during the tenure of Iranian President Hassan Rowhani. Iran’s jails are also known as dungeons where many such executions are performed, and the IRGC enjoys specific wards used to torture inmates for coerced confessions.

Iran as a regime is designated as the leading state sponsor of terrorism by the US State Department, and also described most recently by Defense Secretary James Mattis. The IRGC, known as the main entity pursuing the mullahs’ policies, meets the necessary legal index of a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) designation.
a) A foreign organization
b) Involved in terrorism or terrorist engagement, or retaining the ability and intention to engage in terrorism or launch terrorist activities
c) US nationals and/or national security is threatened through the organization’s terrorism or terrorist engagements.

Initiatives have also been instigated in both chambers of Congress, as the “The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Terrorist Designation Act” underscores how the IRGC meets the designation criteria of an FTO.

Tuesday’s revelations by the NCRI in Washington according to MEK-obtained information highlight the major role the IRGC enjoys in Iran’s vast terrorism apparatus, and the utmost necessity for the Trump administration to issue an FTO designation for the IRGC as it rightfully deserves.

Such a move will have the new US administration stand along its allies in the Middle East and signal to the Iranian people the true support they now enjoy in America.

Originally published Al Arabiya English