ANALYSIS: Is this the beginning of a new era for Iraq without Iran?

The military phase of the fight against ISIS is winding down after the liberation of Mosul, and the battle for the nearby town of Tal Afar is predicted to end soon. This has provided an opportunity for Iraq to begin distancing itself from the influence gained by Iran following the disastrous 2003 war, and returning to its true Arabic heritage.

Iraq was known as a melting pot where Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens lived alongside and in mixed societies for centuries. Prior to Iran gaining its disastrous sway across Mesopotamia, this was a land where the majority of Shiites lived and prospered with their Sunni, Christian, Yazidi and all other religious minority brothers.

Has not the time arrived for Iraq to regain its true position as part of the Arab world, and rid its soil of the meddling of Iran’s clerics?

Long-awaited developments

Iraqi officials have embarked on a new campaign of visiting Saudi Arabia and other Arab Sunni states, signaling long-welcomed changes. The influential Sadrist leader Muqtada was seen in the final days of July meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman.

Only days later Sadr paid a visit to the United Arab Emirates, another critic of Iran’s policies, where he was welcomed as an Iraqi leader by a slate of leading politicians and clerics.

Sadr’s visit rendered a variety of measures by Riyadh, including launching a Saudi Consulate in Sadr’s hometown of Najaf, one of the two holiest Shiite cities in Iraq. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, known as Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric, his distance from Tehran’s viewpoints and calling for Iraq to practice openness in establishing relations, did not block such a proposition.

Muqtada al Sadr with Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman in Riyadh. (Al Arabiya)

Iran, however, resorted to strong remarks against Sadr for his visits to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The visit was even described by a local wire as an act of betrayal to the Houthis in Yemen.

Iran’s support for the Shiite proxy militias, through arms, logistics and finances, parallel to advisors dispatched by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and Lebanese Hezbollah, have resulted in the humanitarian catastrophe Yemen finds itself today.

Sadr is also planning a visit to Egypt, adding to the list of senior Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the ministers of foreign affairs, interior, oil and transportation who are set to visit Saudi Arabia. Despite investing in Iraq for the past 14 years, Iran has been deprived of visits of such high stature.

No future

Iran’s proxies, while taking the credit for much of the fight against ISIS on the ground, have been accused of law violations and refusing to obey the state of Iraq. Iraqi authorities affiliated to Iran have a very poor report card of being involved in corruption and sacrificing Iraqi national interest in Tehran’s favor.

This became a major issue during the second term of former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, who some have even described as Iran’s “puppet.” Maliki is known to have close relations with Tehran and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself.

To make matters even worse, the recent departure of Majid al-Nasrawi, governor of the oil-rich city of Basra located at the southern tip of Iraq, has recently left for Iran. His departure followed being accused of numerous corruption offences by a government transparency committee. Choosing Iran as a destination has left further impression of him fleeing to a safe haven, and Tehran having a hand in Iraqi corruption.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in Tehran on June 20 2017. (AFP)

Rebuilding cities

As Sadr and other Iraqi officials continue their meetings with senior Arab officials of the region, there are also major talks under way between Baghdad and Riyadh to establish a new alliance that would provide Saudi Arabia a leading role in rebuilding war-torn cities across Iraq.

On August 14th the Cabinet of Saudi Arabia announced a coordination committee to spearhead a variety of health care and humanitarian projects, including building hospitals in Baghdad and Basra, and providing fellowships to Iraqi students in Saudi universities. Opening border crossings and establishing free trade areas between the two countries is also on the agenda.

Riyadh should lead the Arab world in tipping the balance of power against Tehran’s interests in Iraq. The truth is Iran has not carried out any major economic project in Iraq from 2003 onward, due to the fact that the mullahs do not seek the prosperity of their western neighbor.

Saudi Arabia and the Arab world should provide the support Iraq needs after suffering from Iran’s menacing influence that has brought nothing but death and destruction. Evicting Iran from Iraq must come parallel to efforts of ending its presence in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

The main obstacle before the Arab world in establishing a coalition against Iran’s clerics is this regime’s meddling and the IRGC presence across the region. With Iran evicted from Iraq, the void should be filled by economic support by the Arab world for Iraq.

And with the US Congress adopting a bill against the IRGC, Riyadh must take the lead to have all IRGC members, proxies and Iran-related elements expelled from the region. Only such a policy will allow the Middle East to one day experience tranquility and peaceful coexistence.

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ANALYSIS: Iran’s lethal role expanding in Syria as war enters seventh year

On March 15th the international community will unfortunately be marking a milestone of disastrous nature. The conflict in Syria began as peaceful demonstrations by a nation seeking freedom from the reign of a dictatorship and to establish true democracy.

The regime in Iran, however, viewed such a development as a red line and placed its weight fully behind Bashar Assad and his ruthless killing machine.

Why is Syria so important for Iran?

Syria is of strategic significant for Iran, as the mullahs considers the country their 35th province. This reached the point that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei immediately dispatched his Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to prop Assad’s lines in order to maintain their reach to the Mediterranean Sea and continue the flow of much needed weapons, including dangerous missiles, to the Lebanese Hezbollah.

This Shiite group has provided Iran a platform to advance its agenda to a serious extent from the 1980s to this day. Hezbollah has transformed into a rogue military force while also taking control over a large swathe of the country’s political power. Hezbollah has taken actions forcing the West to see no other solution but to adopt a highly flawed appeasement policy in their faceoff with Iran.

In short, Syria provides the Iranian regime crucial grounds to maintain all challengers and challenges at bay, meaning far from its own borders.

A glance at the 6-year war

Shortly after the Syrian protesters were gunned down by Assad’s forces, the Free Syrian Army began to form as a large swathe of Assad’s ranks and files defected. By June 30th, 2011, Assad was on the verge of being overthrown.

Understanding the impact of such a blow, Iran began its covert support and its efforts were certainly not an unknown factor for the West, especially the U.S. under the Obama administration.

Iran’s forces gradually took command of the war in Syria and by August 2013 the IRGC ordered Assad to launch a chemical attack against a Damascus suburb that rendered around 1,500 civilians killed, including many women and children.

Irony lies in the fact that Tehran was involved in secret nuclear talks with Washington at the time, and senior regime officials came to the conclusion the international community, held back by the Obama White House, would not take any serious action against their killing crusade in Syria.

Iran established its Syria strategy on two principles:

a) Providing all-out support for Assad in quelling any and all forms of dissent,
b) Indirectly supporting extremist groups with the goal of creating rifts amongst opposition lines to deprive the Syrian opposition of meaningful international support demanding Assad’s ouster.

Iran: The Godfather of ISIS

It is now a known fact that ISIS is the rendered phenomenon of the lethal crackdown imposed by Iran’s dual puppets, former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and Syria’s Bashar Assad.

Firstly, Iran’s policies in the Middle East have provoked deadly face/offs between Shiites and Sunni communities that used to live alongside, and even within each other, for centuries. Iran’s support for Shiite proxy groups has been well-documented.

However, it must be understood that Tehran also instigate sectarian hatred amongst Sunni to pursue its broad blueprint of maintaining the entire region in flames. Iran began to purge and literally cleanse the Sunni population in Iraq and beyond following the 2003 US-led invasion of this country.

Secondly, Maliki and Assad have both been accused of facilitating the release of a joint sum of over 2,500 inmates from their prisons who went off to form ISIS. The Assad regime is also under severe scrutiny on evidence of purchasing oil from ISIS, providing the group much needed revenue to maintain its activities.

Iran rallying Russia to the rescue

The Syrian opposition was once again on the initiative in early 2015, delivering significant blows to the Assad apparatus in the country’s north and south. The Iran/Assad/Hezbollah alliance was no longer able to hold ground and the IRGC was becoming desperate in maintaining Syria.

IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani visited Moscow and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to ask for much needed air support for Iran’s army of proxy militias alongside IRGC officers and troops. Despite launching the so-called “Operation Moharram” in Aleppo, the IRGC failed to reach its objective and Hossein Hamedani, commander of all IRGC forces in Syria, was killed in battle, alongside dozens of other senior Iranian military officers.

Sensing the threat, the IRGC doubled its troops in Syria to 60,000 and Khamenei even resorted to tasking units of his regular army to dispatch to Syria. Various gains were made, resulting in horrific cases such as the IRGC massacring Sunni locals in the city of Mayer.

The siege on Aleppo began in late 2016, depriving 300,000 civilians in the eastern branch of the city of any food or water, while bombings and unspeakable war crimes continued.

Finally, with the involvement of tens of thousands of militias, and reports indicate up to 25,000 IRGC troops, East Aleppo was retaken by pro-Assad forces and a ceasefire was reached on December 29th, 2016, allowing tens of thousands of civilians to leave the city – despite continuous reports of continued killings – alongside thousands of armed Syrian opposition members.

While Iranian-related forces violated the ceasefire seeking their desired objective, being the Syrian opposition’s complete annihilation, the Syrian opposition was able to evacuate a large number of innocent civilians from Aleppo and preserve their armed forces. This downgraded Aleppo into a mere tactical gain Iran and Assad.

Trusted commander

On Syria, Khamenei is the figure making the final calls and he has entrusted the Syria dossier to his most trusted senior commanders. The dilemma forced Tehran to also dispatch members of the IRGC and regular army ground forces alongside the Quds Force and its network of proxy militias. The IRGC navy and air force have also had their share of battle in Syria.

Iran has gone as far as sending over 70,000 foot-soldiers to Syria, literally dwarfing the number of soldiers fighting for Assad, being less than 50,000, according to IRGC reports.

All Iranian ministries and government institutions have shares in the Syria war, adding to the IRGC dedicating vast economic resources to the Syria war. This goes part in parcel to the fact Iran has through the course of the past six years allocated above $100 billion to the Syria war. This massive capitol is used to procure weapons, provide for the Syrian army’s expenses and IRGC militia members’ salaries adding up to around $1 billion a year.

And the casualties Iran and its forces have suffered, meaning excluding those of the Syrian army, add up to over 10,000, including 1,500 IRGC members. To add insult to injury, 70 IRGC deaths involved colonels or more senior ranks.

This sheds light on Iran’s fundamentalist role and the importance of the Syria dossier for the mullahs, and exactly why the international community, from the Middle East, Europe and the US, should take very powerful actions to completely evict the Iranian regime from Syria.

One right step in this path is to designate the IRGC, being the Iranian entity in charge of the mullahs’ Syria campaign, as a foreign terrorist organization. This will make Iran begin to understand its meddling across the region will have consequences, and the international community will no longer tolerate such atrocities.

Originally published in Al Arabiya English

Trump Must Pressure Iran

Iran was involved in a long slate of aggressive measures up to the very doorsteps of President Donald Trump taking the helm in Washington. This concerning pattern of escalating extremism ironically increased following the Iran nuclear deal sealed between the P5+1 and Tehran, despite many in the West arguing such an accord would rein in the mullahs. And now, a new U.S. president has rightfully pinpointed “radical Islamic terrorists,” of which the root lies in Iran.

Further to the mullahs’ advantage was the Obama administration’s reluctance to adopt any serious stance against Iran running its Shiite extremist rampage across the region. Obama’s White House only imposed sanctions considered anything but harsh.

This paved the path for Iran to unleash its Shiite puppets and proxies throughout the region, cementing sectarian strife and as a result pushing more Sunni youth to join ISIS and other radicals.

Obama’s nuclear deal, with all its flaws made evidently clear, only placed speed bumps in Iran’s quest for the bomb. This came at the heavy price of America losing the trust of its regional allies, disheartening them also in their efforts against Iran-supported terrorism in their backyards.

President Donald Trump has rightfully pinpointed the root of all crises in the Middle East.

“We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth,” he said.

This is exactly where the Trump administration has an extraordinary opportunity to begin launching a widespread strategy vis-à-vis Tehran, targeting specifically the disease Iran is spreading: meddling across the region and fueling sectarian emotions.

While the international community was focused sealing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran used the opportunity to storm Syria and Iraq with Shiite militias dispatched from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and its own paramilitary forces, all commanded by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

While Obama continuously boasted the JCPOA campaign, Iran’s Middle East interference reached a point where 11 Arab states unprecedentedly voiced their rage by accusing Iran of supporting terrorism and completely disrupting the sheer Middle East fabric.

Iran’s atrocities had reached the point that even Secretary John Kerry’s State Department cited Tehran’s scope of “activities to destabilize the region” in designating Iran as the world’s state sponsor of terrorism.

President Trump and his team can easily take action by simply covering the numerous loopholes left by the Obama administration. U.N. travel bans on senior Iranian figures, including IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani. This individual is known to travel across the Middle East and literally wreak havoc by commanding Iran’s Shiite militias.

Iran has also taken advantage of Obama’s negligence — aiming to safeguard his previous Iran-JCPOA legacy — to pursue its ballistic missile ambitions and carry out major test launches. This has been in violation of U.N. Resolution 2231, and President Trump can easily begin holding Tehran accountable.

Iran came to the nuclear negotiations following continuous revelations made by Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance (NCRI) and under pressure from international sanctions. This policy has worked once and it can work again. President Trump and his team should care less about Iran’s remarks or reactions in threatening to “burn” the JCPOA.

Iran’s financial pipeline, established through a windfall of billions provided to Iran under the nuclear pact, should come to an end, and licenses revoked for Airbus and Boeing deals. Iran’s airlines are known to provide manpower and weapons to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and Lebanese Hizb’allah.

These efforts only promote further killings and, as previously explained, instigate a Shiite-Sunni conflict across the Middle East. Iran is profiting from the existence of ISIS, using this phenomenon as a pretext to justify its presence in Iraq and Syria.

President Trump can also team up with Congress under a new bipartisan effort aiming to curb Iran’s destabilizing role in the region. A strong foundation can be found in the Preventing Destabilization of Iraq and Syria Act of 2016 aiming to mandate new sanctions against foreign states and terrorist organizations.

This initiative must include Iran, as the mullahs are known to “threaten the peace or stability of Iraq or Syria,” as the bill explains. U.S. allies can benefit extremely, especially the Gulf Sunnis that Obama sidelined in the past eight years.

“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 NCRI President Maryam Rajavi.

The NCRI is an umbrella dissident group including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

And yet the nail in the coffin for the mullahs would be for the Trump administration to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people in their struggle to establish freedom and democracy. Nearly two dozen former senior U.S. government officials provided such a game-plan to President in a hand-delivered letter encouraging his administration to work with the NCRI.

Such initiatives send clear messages to Tehran about the unacceptable nature of its current involvement in the flashpoint Middle East. As President Trump takes actions to diminish Iran’s role across the region, especially from backing Assad, sectarian friction will diminish and all efforts can focus on ISIS.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/01/trump_must_pressure_iran.html#ixzz4XbuXARGf
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Analysis: The Iranian regime and evolution of ISIS

Support for international terrorism received a major boost the moment the mullahs hijacked Iran’s 1979 revolution. After a very short-lived period of a so-called open political atmosphere, their thugs organized in the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and paramilitary Basij militia, launched a campaign of oppression, arrests, torture and executions targeting not only dissidents, but anyone daring to raise a voice.

Born was “the first ISIS” and through the past 38 years this entity has proven to be more ruthless than anything resembled today in ISIS. Iranian regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini, sitting on the throne in Tehran, was determined to focus all power under his grip, unleashing his wrath against all Iranians.

As he established his crackdown apparatus, Khomeini began setting his sights abroad, imposing his hegemonic desires through a doctrine of suicide attacks. The IRGC began training numerous proxy groups to help spread the Khomeini’s terror under the pretext of Islam.

Khomeini’s “ISIS” in Iran, more than three decades before ISIS’s charge from Syria into northern Iraq, became the nesting ground for many fledgling groups now wreaking havoc across the Middle East, Europe and as far away as Argentina.

This is Khomeini’s ideology of “Islamic Revolution,” spreading his foul interpretation of a divine religion. He dreamed of a Shiite empire and to this end started targeting all potential countries beginning with Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and so forth.

Lethal campaign

Iran’s lethal campaign has resulted in death and destruction across the Middle East. Over a million killed and hundreds of billions lost in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. Countless others killed and injured in the aftermath of the 2003 war in Iraq, which Iran used to covertly occupy this land and destroy the lives of so many. Not to mention half a million killed and over 11 million displaced from their homes in the Iran-backed inferno engulfing Syria.

All this has been parallel to Tehran’s spree of assassinations against dissidents exiled across Europe. Iranian intelligence service, using embassies across the Green Continent as safe houses to dispatch their killers, began eliminating exiled dissidents in a campaign dubbed as the “chain murders.”

While pursuing this onslaught, Khomeini’s successor, now Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has continuously maintained executions up at an atrocious rate. Understanding the threat of any day passing without at least one execution somewhere in Iran, even the so-called “moderate” President Hassan Rowhani has a report card of nearly 3,000 executions during his four year tenure.

Yet probably the most atrocious carnage of all launched was aimed at cleansing an entire generation by massacring over 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988. Most of these victims were members and supporters of main Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

Iran also has no tolerance for freedom of speech as academics, bloggers and journalists are targeted and quelled by the regime’s crackdown apparatus. The West must come to realize this true nature of Iran’s regime.

The international community’s failure to adopt serious measures against the mullahs has encouraged Tehran to continue hangings and lethal meddling across the Middle East. This is Iran’s campaign of establishing a “Shiite Crescent,” again launched decades before any notion of Daesh and its onslaught in the Levant and Mesopotamia.

Thanks to the Obama administration, Iran received Iraq in a silver plate and enjoys significant influence over Assad with troops in Syria. This has also encouraged Tehran to look further. “The victory in Aleppo will pave the way for liberating Bahrain,” said IRGC General Hossein Salami.

Rest assured one day the world will come to realize how ISIS considered Khomeini, the founder of the first ever “ISIS,” as its mentor on how to spread their reign of terror. No wonder the Iranian people consider the current mullahs ruling Iran, all minions of Khomeini, the Godfathers of ISIS.

Is there a solution?

“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 Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group consisting of a long slate of various Iranian dissident groups, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

The administration of Donald Trump, as advised in a hand-delivered letter written by 23 senior former American government officials, enjoys the opportunity to adopt a policy supporting the Iranian people’s call for regime change. This goes in line with President Trump’s first position against “radical Islamic terrorism,” terrifying the Iranian regime from top to bottom.

“We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones – and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth,” President Trump said.

Iran’s Trepidation Over Entering Uncharted Trump Territory

By Heshmat Alavi

US President Donald Trump posted a statement only minutes after his inauguration indicating the administration’s intention to launch a “state-of-the-art” missile-defense system to help protect allies against possible attacks from Iran and North Korea. This only adds to the trepidation felt in Tehran, already anxious about a new team in Washington and the end of the Obama “golden era.”

Iran has revealed its major concerns about the fate of the nuclear pact, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), under Trump. This is also clear in recent remarks made by senior American figures.

The new US president “is going to be much more forceful on the terms of the nuclear deal itself, and that itself may cause the ayatollahs to walk away, but I also know that he intends to confront…Iranian regional aggression, and their imperial project around the Middle East,” said Senator Tom Cotton, a fierce critic of the JCPOA, which he recently described as “dead.”

Former CIA director and renowned US Army general David Petraeus made very specific suggestions to the new administration never to rule out the possibility of military action.

“The US must prepare for action against Iran, if necessary,” he said at a recent security conference. “I told Trump we need to repeat what we want, for Iran not to have nuclear weapons and for the Islamic Republic to stop striving for a Shiite hegemony in the region. If you ask the Gulf States, their first problem is Iran, and only afterwards comes ISIS, Yemen…”

And despite the fact that senior Iranian regime officials have threatened to “burn” the JCPOA if the Trump administration decides to tear it up, one simple principle should be kept in mind: Iran needs the deal to remain intact more than any other party. Thus, the mullahs’ macho rhetoric is meant for domestic use only, in order to maintain a straight face.

In the meantime, President Trump’s West Asia affairs adviser, Walid Fares, raised the stakes further for Iran, proving yet again that the road ahead will be very difficult for Tehran.

“Iran must accept a JCPOA revision. Otherwise, the US will be forced to adopt other methods to protect regional countries,” he said in a recent Asharq Al-Awsat interview.

In response to such remarks, and the White House announcement of launching new missiles systems in the Middle East, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir used the opportunity of a joint press conference with his French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, to express his support.

Trump has “spoken about containing Iran and its ability to cause mischief, and making sure Iran abides by the agreement,” Jubeir said, adding, “This is exactly our position.”

Signs are showing President Trump will ratchet up JCPOA provisions and firmly enforce these measures, to say the least. As a result, cheating on the margins — something Tehran enjoyed during the Obama years — will become much more difficult.

Furthermore, on issues the Obama White House neglected in the flawed JCPOA, the Trump administration will most likely focus much-needed attention on Tehran’s support for terrorism abroad – as seen so vividly in Iran’s involvement in Syria – and human rights violations back home.

If the US administration penalized the mullahs in this realm in the coming months — by, for example, encouraging activities aimed at isolating Tehran — it will send a very strong message to the regime not used to such stark measures, and leave a lasting and meaningful impact on the establishment’s overall economic fortunes.

To this end, Washington shouldn’t be the least concerned about any recent saber-rattling from Tehran regime officials, as it is merely a sign of Iran’s fear about trekking into uncharted Trump territory.

To add insult to injury, nearly two dozen former senior American officials, some with very close relations to the new president, signed a hand-delivered letter encouraging the White House to work with the main Iranian opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), under the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, a charismatic Muslim woman advocating a peaceful, progressive and tolerant interpretation of Islam. The NCRI is a conglomerate of Iranian dissident groups, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

All this and the new administration is just getting warmed up.

Originally published in algemeiner

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

Iran’s Middle East ambitions more dangerous than nuclear threat

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By Shahriar Kia

The Syrian people’s six-year uprising for freedom from decades of dictatorship in their country, now evolving into a regional war and global crisis, is proof of two undeniable facts:

First, proving the international community’s inaction and a failed Western policy in the face of Middle East challenges.

Second, devious intentions pursued by Iran, as the root of all current unrests and crises engulfing the region.

Far from any political or economic interests, determining the root of this dilemma will make the true and lasting solution for this Middle East calamity crystal clear.

Currently, following the Aleppo tragedy and the loss of nearly half a million people in Syria, we should seek to end this humanitarian catastrophe and reach peace and security in Syria, and across the Middle East.

However, all yet solutions have failed to target the actual source of the Syria predicament, being none other than the Bashar Assad regime and Iran. Doubts and reservations in adopting a firm solution will lead to the disaster intensifying, and various parties getting involved in an unwanted war plunging the entire region into further bloodshed.

Roots

The Assad regime and the religious dictatorship ruling Iran are attempting to portray the Syria crisis as the war between a legitimate government and extremist/terrorist groups, especially Daesh (ISIS/ISIL).

Iran, chasing a strategic objective of safeguarding its very existence, sees its interests in hindering any efforts to reach a lasting peace, while canvassing its role as an effective party in the war against ISIS.

“If the ill-wishers and seditionists–who are the puppets of America and the Zionists–had not been stopped in Syria, we would be fighting them in Tehran, Fars, Khorasan, and Esfahan. They grounded the enemy,” said Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

It is worth noting that hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrians seeking life under a free state are paying the price of Khamenei’s ruthless dictatorship.

Iran’s meddling in the region and provoking sectarianism have rendered increasing fundamentalism and the rise of Daesh and al-Qaeda.

The horrific crimes committed by Iran-backed Shiite militias against the Sunni community in Iraq, Syria and other countries have prepared the grounds for Sunni fundamentalist groups to expand and recruit more members.

Parallel to appeasing Iran to maintain the mullahs at the negotiating table, silence and inaction seen from the West in the Middle East, especially by the Obama administration, have further intensified the Levant inferno and complicated regional conditions, especially Syria. To this end, Iran has been the main benefactor as a result.

The status quo further proves a warning issued by Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

“Four years ago I warned the threat of the mullahs’ meddling in Iraq is 100 times more dangerous than its nuclear ambitions,” Rajavi said in a speech on June 30, 2007 in Paris.

Although Iran failed to obtain nuclear weapons thanks to continuous NCRI revelations, Tehran’s destructive meddling and crimes carried out by affiliated Shiite militias in IraqSyria and abroad are far more dangerous. This campaign has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the region, leveled cities and displaced millions.

Tehran’s interventions in the Middle East have brought any and all efforts to establish peace, stability, and security to a complete halt. Of course, this is not due to Tehran’s strength and capabilities. In fact, it is all the byproduct of inaction, silence, and policy of appeasement adopted by the West vis-à-vis Iran, and 16 years of strategic mistakes by Washington in this flashpoint region of the globe.

Occupying Iraq and delivering the country in a silver plate to Iran, parallel to disarming the leading organized opposition entity, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), were all gifts provided by the West and U.S. to the leading state sponsor of terrorism.

“Iraq’s Governing Council voted yesterday to expel the leading Iranian opposition group and confiscate its assets, a surprise move that could alter the regional balance of power,” reads a Washington Post article on Dec. 10, 2003, following a Council ruling.

Without a doubt any involvement of Iran in the war against Daesh will only register as an aberration in establishing regional peace and security, forcing the international community to pinpoint resources on derivatives of Iran’s terrorism crusade.

Solution

Of course, true and lasting Middle East peace and security are only possible through regime change in Iran and the establishment of a democratic and secular government in Tehran.

This is the objective set by the Iranian opposition under Mrs. Rajavi’s leadership. Her 10-point-plan for the future Iran, enjoys the support of thousands of MPs, political, religious, legal and civil dignitaries across the globe. These articles are based on recognized international basics of democracy, social freedoms, gender equality, equality amongst all religions and ethnicities, peaceful coexistence with others and a non-nuclear Iran.

A bi-partisan letter   signed by 23 former top officeholders in the past five administrations to the president-elect urges the incoming Trump administration “to establish a dialogue with Iran’s exiled resistance, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI),” which has called for free elections to establish a secular, democratic, non-nuclear republic in Iran as well as an end to what it calls Tehran’s “religious dictatorship.”

Middle East stability can only be achieved in bringing an end to Iran’s meddling in Syria and across the region.

Moving forward, Iran’s state and proxy entities supporting terrorism, including the Revolutionary Guards and affiliated Shiite militia groups, must be sanctioned.

With Iran evicted from the Middle East all forms of fundamentalism, including Daesh, will have no reason to exist. And naturally, the West will be relieved of the current wave of lethal terrorist attacks.

Originally posted in The Hill

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

Iran Threatens the Syria Ceasefire Effort

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By Heshmat Alavi

Following nearly six years of bloody warfare and an atrocious takeover of Aleppo by the Russia-Iran-Assad axis, the world has finally reached a relatively reliable settlement in this war-ravaged country. Unfortunately, Iran continues to pose a serious threat to this yet shaky and fledgling settlement.

Russia, replacing the United States, has become the main counterparty involved in the ceasefire talks with the Syrian opposition and its ally, Turkey.

Considering the lame-duck season between November 8th and January 20th before the new U.S. president-elect takes the helm at the White House, these efforts to establish a lasting ceasefire — and hopefully tangible peace — in Syria need to be respected by the international community. This is especially true since the Syrian opposition have blessed this campaign, directly engaging Russia and Turkey.

The new Russia-Turkey relationship has also led to actions against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) targets in Syria.

“Turkish warplanes and artillery have struck Daesh targets in Syria, killing 22 of the group’s terrorists, while Russian aircraft hit terrorists near the Daesh-controlled town of al-Bab,” reports indicate citing Turkish military officials.

In addition to Turkey, the Syrian opposition also enjoys the support of a majority of its neighbors and Middle East countries, all believing Assad’s departure is key to reach a true political solution for this crisis that has taken the lives of nearly half a million and displaced over 11 million Syrians inside the country and abroad.

The dilemma, however, lies in the fact that Iran and its slate of proxy groups are erecting barriers in the path of establishing true ceasefire and peace conditions. Tehran is in full-speed mode to disrupt the entire process, as the mullahs in Iran seek nothing but the Syrian opposition’s all-out annihilation and to completely repaint the country’s social fabric in favor of Assad, ultimately maintaining his regime in power.

The Lebanese Hizb’allah, perhaps the main Iran-backed proxy entity, is feeling the heat following the latest developments in relation to Syria. Hizb’allah desperately relies on a land route from Iran to northern Lebanon to maintain the ongoing flow of support from Tehran.

“Sources in Lebanon told the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Arab that Hezbollah has rejected the Russia-Turkey-mediated ceasefire agreement for the Syrian civil war,” algemeiner reported.

The Lebanese Hizb’allah, known to be fighting in Syria on behalf of Assad as its army has dwindled during the years, is furious over the fact that Ankara has demanded all foreign fighters depart Syria even prior to any discussion of a possible diplomatic solution.

To add insult to injury for Hizb’allah, and Tehran for that matter, is the fact that Moscow has discussed Ankara’s demands with the mullahs, meaning that the Kremlin supports the measure and is seeking an all-out diplomatic solution. This is completely against Iran’s domination and destructive policy to derail the peace process.

Such a turn of events would be the final nail in the coffin for Iran as it continues to rely on foreign recruits and the Hizb’allah to provide the ground forces necessary in Syria.

This is especially significant considering the fact that dissent inside Iran regarding the regime’s participation in the war in Syria is growing.

“On December 16th, 2016, the fans of Foolad Khuzestan B F.C chanted slogans against the dictator Assad in support of Syrians and the people of Aleppo during the football match,” opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)website reported.

The NCRI is a conglomerate of Iranian opposition organizations, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), advocating democratic regime change.

Videos posted on the internet show demonstrations inside Iran demanding the regime stop meddling in Syria and plunging billions to shore up the faltering Bashar Assad regime, and actually think of the Iranian people’s needs and demands.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has comissioned the Revolutionary Guards to pursue his lethal policy in Syria, resulting in horrific death and destruction across the Levant.

As long as the IRGC and its proxy militias, including the Hizb’allah, remain on Syrian soil, this country will never witness peace and tranquility. The IRGC is a major threat to any campaign to bring an end to the mayhem devastating this land.

The IRGC deserves to be designated as a terrorist organization, being Iran’s main leverage to export terrorism abroad.

It is also high time for the international community to call for the very eviction of Iran, the IRGC and all of Tehran’s proxy elements from Syria.

Originally published in American Thinker

IRAN SHIITE MILITIAS ENDANGERING FUTURE OF IRAQ

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By Heshmat Alavi

The regime continues on its path of death and destruction.

Conditions allowing the PMU’s presence and its foreign connections have raised major concerns across the board. Human rights violations and crimes by this group against dissidents in areas retaken from Daesh are amongst the many other reasons intensifying anxieties about the very nature of this alliance. The PMU is also accused of launching revenge attacks and atrocities against displaced Sunnis fleeing these areas.

A strange and disturbing irony lies in the fact that the arms provided by a broad spectrum of the international community are being used for ill purposes.

“Paramilitary militias nominally operating as part of the Iraqi armed forces in the fight against the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) are using arms from Iraqi military stockpiles, provided by the USA, Europe, Russia and Iran, to commit war crimes, revenge attacks and other atrocities,” Amnesty International reported.

The PMU “have used those arms to facilitate the enforced disappearance and abduction of thousands of mainly Sunni men and boys, torture and extrajudicial executions as well as wanton destruction of property,” the alarming statement adds.

The report highlights “four main militias that Amnesty International has documented committing serious human rights violations: Munathamat Badr (Badr Brigades or Badr Organization), Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), Kata’ib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades) and the Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades).”

Other international human rights organizations have time and again exposed the sectarian crimes committed by PMU ranks and files.

“Human Rights Watch and the UN have previously blamed the pro-government militias for perpetrating atrocities against civilians,” Alaraby reported.

“Members of Shia militias, who the Iraqi government has included among its state forces, abducted and killed scores of Sunni residents in a central Iraq town and demolished Sunni homes,” HRW warned back in January 2016.

While such warnings fell to deaf ears, HRW demanded from Baghdad to “prevent militias with records of serious abuses from taking part in planned military operations for the city of Mosul.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein cited strong evidence that Kata’ib Hezbollah perpetrated atrocities against a Sunni community.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubair has gone as far as describing this group as extremely sectarian and run by Iranian military officers. Topping this list of commanders is none other than Revolutionary Guards Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani.

The Iraqi Parliament in late 2016 adopted a bill recognizing the PMU as an official security entity, throwing “a wrench into efforts to adopt a national settlement proposal — basically a grand plan to abolish sectarian and ethnic quotas,” as described in Al-Monitor.

This law is in fact in violation of the Iraqi Constitution Article 9 banning the establishment of any militia group not falling under the command and control of the armed forces. The PMU is a force parallel to the Iraqi military – much like Iran’s IRGC alongside its classic army – and not part of its structure and framework. Their very existence is in violation of the Iraqi Constitution and as a result lacks any legality.

It is an undeniable fact that the PMU pursues the fundamental interests of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, receiving their orders directly from Tehran. The Iranian opposition, itself the target of the Iranian regime’s attacks, has time and again warned of Tehran’s increasing meddling in Iraq.

“Commander of Iraq’s al-Hashd al-Shaabi militant group affiliated to the Iranian regime, referring to the possibility that these mobilization forces are present in Syria to help Assad regime for more killings and massacre of Syrian people, claimed that Hashd al-Shaabi could help Syria to get rid of terrorism,” according to a report posted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group of Iranian dissident organizations including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and others.

With a sectarian structure, the PMU first poses a major threat for Iraq and its sovereignty, and will move on to spread their disease across the Middle East. If the international community seeks to calm and resolve crises plaguing the Middle East, one very necessary step is to bring an end to Iran’s meddling across the region.

As NCRI President Maryam Rajavi explained, “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.”

Originally published in FrontPage Magazine