We have recently witnessed an increasing effort by America’s European partners, specifically France and Germany, aimed at convincing US President Donald Trump to not abandon ship on the Iran nuclear deal.
Debate over the accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), there has been a neglect – playing into Tehran’s interests – of how the international community can bring the Iranian regime to its knees, benefiting the Iranian people significantly.
While pressuring Tehran over the JCPOA is necessary, the West can impose even further pressure on the oppressive regime by placing its crosshairs on the country’s political situation, its ailing economy and how to support the protesting Iranian population.
Last ditch effort
Visits payed to Washington by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have apparently made Trump all the more determined on his tough stance against Tehran.
Macron delivered a severe blow to the Iranian regime’s hopes of maybe Paris being able to convince Washington’s Trump through a slate of likely meaningless short-term concessions in order to maintain the current JCPOA framework intact.
With Macron saying he believes Trump will exit the JCPOA by his May 12th deadline, all hopes were lost in Tehran and the regime’s internal disputes flared.
This significant development left diminutive expectation from Merkel’s visit – described as cold – and may even bring an end to all speculations about a possible visit by UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
Iranian regime must be preparing for the worst in regards to the JCPOA, especially after France and the UK joined the US in a coalition to deliver a military strike – and a more important political message – in Syria to the Bashar Assad regime and his allies, Iran and Russia.
Iran’s regime has become an expert in boasting and exaggerating its influence across the region, all aimed at cloaking escalating crises back home.
In the past several weeks Iran’s currency, the rial, has witnessed a 25 percent value nosedive against the US dollar. Three weeks ago, Tehran fixed exchange rates at an official amount of 42,000 rials to the dollar, hoping to reign in the mayday plunge and control the market. Considering the current street value (black-market) rial price of 60,000 to the dollar, people are finding their means to purchase and the regime’s efforts are vividly failing.
Largely gone unnoticed by mainstream media is the continuous failure of one financial institution after another in Iran. Numerous such firms, all linked to the ruling regime and related entities, are refusing to return people’s savings, resulting in ongoing protests seen in cities such as Tehran, Mashhad, Ahvaz, Rasht and so forth.
Iran’s economic decline is rooted in two spectacles. Unbridled “corruption” and “mismanagement” are the groomed descriptions of plundering people’s belongings in broad daylight.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) now has a firm grip over key industries and businesses, including a long list of ports in Iran’s southern coastlines where billions of goods are imported without any taxes. This has resulted in a large number of production lines to fail.
Second, the Iranian regime’s forty year “Exporting Revolution” motto comes with a cost and the population has been paying the price. The fact that Bashar Assad remains in power in Syria, the Lebanese Hezbollah continues to wreak havoc and Houthi militias continue to make life a living hell in Yemen are all due to the financial support provided by Iran.
As billions are poured out of the country, millions are bearing the burden inside Iran.
Around 50 million of Iran’s 80 million population is living under the poverty line, all due to incorrect economic policies, according to the Iranian regime’s own semi-official Tasnim news agency, affiliated to the IRGC Quds Force.
This poses a grave risk for the Iranian regime, especially considering the fact that the 2017/2018 uprising began with the lower class, having nothing to lose, revolting in over 140 cities across the country.
Signs indicate Iran has failed to remedy the causes of that uprising. With international isolation increasing – especially after a peace agreement in the Korean Peninsula – Tehran must be evaluating how the world will have high expectations from its regime to forgo its dangerous belligerences.
Failing to do so will have Iran’s poverty-stricken majority up and revolting in the not so distant future.
Adding insult to injury for Tehran are the Trump administration’s new wave of sanctions and the increasingly likely setting of Trump’s JCPOA departure. This initiative has the potential of reviving crippling sanctions.
The mere notion of such a development is already discouraging foreign investor from Iran and boosting uncertainty. Firms such as France’s Total and America’s Boeing will most likely think twice about investing in an insecure environment.
While Europe will obviously pursue its own interests and objectives in regards to sanctions against Iran, unilateral US sanctions are fully capable of having a damning effect on the Iranian regime and the IRGC. This would actually benefit Iran’s revolting populace.
The way forward
Should Trump live up to his promise of withdrawing from the JCPOA, the U.S. will enjoy an unprecedented opportunity to significantly escalate pressure on the Iranian regime. Considering decades of failed Western policies vis-à-vis Tehran, and the Iranian people suffering as a result, it is high time to adopt the right strategy.
Iran’s regime must be completely banned from using the global SWIFT transactions system, cripple the IRGC’s domestic crackdown and foreign war machine, and as explained in a recent Washington Postpiece, provide “political support for the regime’s opponents.”
The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) is clearly Iran’s main and only organized opposition entity advocating a firm policy against the Iranian regime for four decades. Following the recent uproar in protests, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei mentioned the PMOI/MEK, clearly saying their cases are different.
If Tehran is specifically addressing the main source of its concerns, shouldn’t the international community be investing on this very organization to bring about meaningful change benefiting the Iranian people, all nations across the Middle East and the world over?
As developments across the Middle East continue to signal landmark breakthroughs in the near future, Iran is resorting to desperate measures to safeguard a fading role.
As over 85 percent of Yemen is retaken by the Saudi-backed coalition, reports indicate a second ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s armed Iran-supported Houthi militias targeting Saudi soil was shot down on Thursday near the south-western city of Khamis Mushait.
In Syria there are signs of hostilities nearing an end after nearly seven years of carnage. This is in fact against Iran’s interests as this regime thrives on unrest outside of its borders to keep the flame of turmoil burning and focus attention at bay from its domestic woes back home.
Desperate times, desperate measures
While standard viewpoints and common sense lead us to the conclusion that certain measures signal Iran’s strengths, this piece is meant to argue otherwise. Iran, nowadays, is forced to choose between bad and worse.
With Yemen slipping out of its control, Tehran is desperate and resorting to a variety of measures to maintain a straight face despite significant setbacks. This includes deadly clashes between Houthi forces and those loyal to ousted Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Salah, significantly endangering Tehran’s future interests.
The circumstances in Yemen are obvious. It has become a no-brainer that Tehran supports the Shiite Houthis against the internationally-recognized government of Yemen. Yet Iran cannot engage directly in Yemen through ground, air or sea measures. Launching missiles from Iran to Yemeni soil against the Saudi-led coalition or into Saudi soil is also out of the question.
Remains only the option of smuggling arms and missile parts through Oman and other routes into Yemen to support the Houthis and have the missiles assembled and readied to target Saudi targets. Riyadh’s missile defense units have defended their territories. Despite all the calamities, Iran is left with the sole option of continuing such measures, or succumb to forgoing its Yemen campaign and accepting defeat.
To make matters worse, the European Parliament recently adopted a resolution calling on Iran to halt its support for the Houthis. With 539 votes in favor against a mere 13 against, the European Parliament condemned the Houthis’ recent missile attacks targeting Saudi interests, especially a civilian airport in Riyadh and the King Khaled International Airport.
A confidential United Nations sanctions monitors report seen by Reuters indicates the remains of “four ballistic missiles fired into Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Houthi rebels this year appear to have been designed and manufactured by Riyadh’s regional rival Iran.”
A similar mentality and practice of understanding is needed to compensate a recent move by a reporter of Iran’s state broadcaster embedded with Tehran’s foot-soldiers in Syria.
It is common knowledge that recruiting juveniles for war is banned by international law. All the while, a November 25th video showing a 13-year-old boy in the Syrian border city of Abu Kamal made a frenzy on Iranian websites and social media channels.
Describing himself as a “defender of the shrine”– using terminology branded by the Iranian regime for foot-soldiers and cannon-fodders recruited for battles in Syria and Iraq – the young boy says he is from the northern Iranian province of Mazandaran and resorts to various explanations about his motivation for being in such circumstances while expected to be attending school.
Although obviously a publicity stunt, why would Iran resort to such a measure knowing organizations such as the Human Rights Watch would raise major concerns? If Iran is boasting about major victories in Syria, why the need to resort to such a PR measure with more cons than pros?
Adding to the controversy is remarks made by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif over Tehran’s forces insisting to remain in the Levant. “The US and Russia cannot decide for Iran… It’s our region… We are going nowhere,” Zarif said in remarks going against Iran’s claims of maintaining a presence in Syria to fight ISIS and “defend Islamic shrines.”
It is becoming an undeniable reality that Iran is losing hegemony in Syria to a long slate of players. And after wasting dozens of billions of dollars in the Levant, bringing death to hundreds of thousands and literally destroying an entire nation, Tehran is desperately in need to save face.
What the future may hold
Iran’s meddling across the region has escalated tension across the region to unimaginable levels and left a path of ruins. Tehran currently seeks a corridor to its main proxy, the Lebanese Hezbollah, to easily provide necessary logistics and maintain influence throughout the Middle East.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir raised the stakes by accusing Hezbollah of using Lebanese banks for smuggling and money laundering to finance their terrorist activists. Riyadh’s top diplomat went as far as describing Lebanon as another country’s hostage, most likely referring to Iran.
The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has long called for strict measures aimed at evicting Iran from the region, especially Syria and Iraq. The war in Syria is coming to an end against Iran’s interests.
The forces supported by Tehran in Yemen are losing ground fast. Hezbollah is coming under increasing pressure in Lebanon and in Iraq, after the routing of ISIS, Iran can no longer justify the presence of proxy forces.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday met with Iraqi Kurdistan leaders in Paris and called on Iraq to dismantle the Iran-backed militia known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. This is a very public call for such a measure considered highly sensitive for Iraq and Iran.
All the while, the Iranian regime is no entity to remain silent or inactive. There are ongoing conspiracies to obtain further influence in Iraq’s upcoming general elections set for May 12th. Establishing underground missile factories and a land-bridge are in the blueprints for Lebanon.
Wreaking endless havoc in Yemen and creating obstacles one after another in the Syria talks are Iran’s agenda. In response, a strong and united international effort is needed to confront Tehran’s ambitionsand deter it back once and for all.
From the early days of its rule Iran’s regime has been increasing economic pressure on the people, especially the lower class and most deprived. A vivid result of such practice has been the astonishing phenomenon of many Iranians willing to sell their kidneys and other organs, and even mothers pre-selling their unborn fetus. This is parallel to the growing phenomenon of child labor, a swelling number of homeless people roaming the streets and people even resorting to making homes out of graves.
Tehran has a history of increasing domestic pressure and skyrocketing prices to provide for the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, exporting terrorism and fundamentalist across the region, and currently, the onerous finances needed to confront international sanctions and managing an economy in ruins.
Iran’s regime has shown it cares less about such matters as billions are poured into various domestic and international campaigns. This includes meddling in Middle East countries, boosting its nuclear and ballistic missile drives, and launching dozens of military and security forces imposing an intense atmosphere of internal crackdown.
In a recent initiative Iran’s regime seeks to increase the price of bread and medicine. A large portion of Iran’s lower class is currently deprived of a daily portion of bread. Bakeries in Iran’s poor neighborhoods are already selling bread based on monthly payments.
“… the price of bread will be increased by 32 percent… the Minister of Industries spoke of decreasing government supervision over wheat and bread sales,” according to a report broadcast by state TV.
Such price increases, originally 15 percent for bread, have resulted in alarming dilemmas for ordinary life.
“…prices of various goods have risen significantly while annual salary increases are equal to the value of a few kilograms of fruits,” according to the Baharestaneh website.
Conditions have sank to such lows that even Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), reportedly controlling a large portion of the country’s economy and allocating billions for regional meddling, have attacked other institutes to escape from any such criticism.
“The 10th parliament can be described as lacking courage, and being fluid and unpredictable. Members of parliament no longer have any sensitivity over the people’s economic woes, especially increasing poverty in our society,” according to Mashreq News, another state-run outlet in Iran.
Although having concerns about ordinary Iranian’s welfare is not one of the IRGC’s strong attributes.
In response, a member of Iran’s parliament, Amir Khojaeste, resorted to remarks seeking to place the blame on the government of President Hassan Rouhani.
“Why have they increased bread prices by 15 percent and imposing pressure on the people? Salaries are low and the lower class are enduring enormous pains,” he said.
This is the same parliament that adopted a bill providing $600 million dollars to further develop Iran’s already controversial ballistic missile program and the Quds Force, pursuing the IRGC’s extraterritorial campaigns. This includes recruiting foot-soldiers and cannon fodders, from as far as Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Iran “has Basijis of the Islamic world from six countries in Syria and Iraq,” said General Mohammad Reza Yazdi, commander of the IRGC division stationed in Tehran.
Iran’s meddling in Syria was a topic in a recent phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, underscoring “the need to confront and reverse Iran’s destabilizing activities in Syria.”
Tehran has been accused of allocating $30 billion annually for its support and promotion of terrorism through proxies, also including the Houthis of Yemen.
Suspicion over the IRGC’s intentions have increased following remarks by senior officials seeking to expand the force’s reach.
The IRGC will play an active role in establishing an enduring “ceasefire” in crisis-hit Syria, its chief commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said according to Reuters. Disarming Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iran’s main proxy in the region and a designated terrorist group known for its nefarious attacks, was non-negotiable, Iranian state TV reported last Thursday. Reports have placed “Hezbollah’s annual income at between $800 million and $1 billion, with 70-90 percent coming from Iran…”
IRGC deputy chief commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami has gone as far as warning to increase the range of missiles above 2,000 kilometers to target Europe, according to wires citing the IRGC-affiliated Fars news agency.
The Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has long exposed Tehran’s role in the region, especially in Syria. Advocating a policy of regime change in Iran, the NCRI has welcomed the IRGC terrorist designation by Washington and considers the expulsion of Iran from Syria and Iraq as necessary for the region to finally begin heading towards peace and stability.
Considering Tehran’s decades of supporting terrorism and meddling in other countries’ internal affairs, this regime will continue to plunder the Iranian people to provide for its range of belligerence.
The Iranian people have been suffering under such a state and a recent surge in protests are raising eyebrows and escalating concerns in Tehran. For example, following the recent earthquake that shook western Iran the lack of state support for the victims has been alarming.
The earthquake inflicted damages equaling to 11 years of the targeted province’s budget, according to the Kermanshah governor. It is worth noting that Tehran’s annual support for Assad in Syria equals 150 times that of this province’s annulal budget.
One Iranian state daily warned:
“The recent earthquake unveiled the Iranian citizens’ distrust in state institutions… This will not remain without specific political and social consequences… this is a reminder of the imminent threat of a complete meltdown of social trust…”
As the United States adopts new strategy vis-à-vis Iran, senior officials in Tehran are desperately seeking a new life-rope. With Obama and his appeasement gone, Iran is also sensing how Europe is distancing.
Tehran is also witnessing how developments across the Middle East and the international spectrum are cornering its regime, detecting how all parties will choose to side with its rivals.
British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson made a call to Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman condemning the Iran-backed Houthis’ missile launch against Riyadh.
In her recent trip to Washington, European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini expressed confidence the Iran nuclear deal, decertified by U.S. President Donald Trump, would not be killed.
Sources in Congress, however, are saying senior Republicans emphasized the deal’s deficiencies and stressed how financial and economic relations established with Iran are endangered, reports indicate.
Iran has feared such an outcome.
“The Europeans must stand against the U.S. government, including its violations of the Iran nuclear deal by imposing sanctions…,” Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on October 18th.
Prior to this Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sought to take advantage of the rift between Washington and Brussels to lure Europe into economic deals.
Iranian media outlets have described recent remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron, the French Foreign Ministry spokesperson, and the French oil giant Total announcing its complete compliance with U.S. sanctions as further signs of Europe taking the high hills on the Iranian regime.
Macron said on Wednesday he sought to remain firm with Iran over its ballistic missile program and Middle East influence. The semi-official Siasat daily on November 4th had lashed at Macron and called on senior Iranian regime officials to end being “naïve.”
This pro-Khamenei faction daily quoted the French Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s remarks against Iran’s ballistic missile activities as:
“Iran’s ballistic missile policy is not in-line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231… The French President has discussed this matter with his counterpart, Mr. Rouhani. We are in close relations with our European partners and members of the [Gulf] Cooperation Council. We are concerned about the recent remarks made by Iranian officials.”
Furthermore, France’s Foreign Ministry more recently indicated it is taking seriously accusations raised by Washington over Tehran violating two U.N. Security Council resolutions, urging Iran to observe with all its international commitments.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley accused Tehran on Tuesday of supplying Yemen’s Houthi rebels with a missile fired into Saudi Arabia back in July, called for the U.N. to hold Tehran accountable.
Europe has to this day taken its share of advantages rendered from the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Yet this will never result in the Green Continent threatening its long-term and strategic relations with the U.S. in favor of Iran trade deals.
Iran’s official Kayhan daily, described as Khamenei’s mouthpiece, published a piece on November 5th referring to a “Joint U.S.-Europe project aimed at ending Iran’s authority,” describing the regime as “enchained” by the West.
Senior Iranian clerics are also voicing major doubts and concerns.
“We consider European countries with the U.S. as our enemies… their suggestions may seem decent at first, but we must focus on the inside. Their prepositions of peace may even aim to catch us off guard,” Movahedi Kermani, one of Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leaders, said on November 3rd during a sermon.
The future of Iran’s $4.8 billion deal with France’s Total has also become a topic of immense anxiety.
“The senior financial director in Total has said until the beginning of 2018 as Washington’s new Iran policy is materializing, this company will sign no contracts with Iranian companies regarding the South Pars phase 11 gas development project,” according to the semi-official Fars news agency. “As emphasized in their 2015 Iran strategy, they will completely synchronize with the U.S. considering their cooperation with Iran,” the piece adds.
This daily in another piece dated November 5th titled “Total opens office in U.S. against Iran” writes: “During the deal’s signing a few months ago in Tehran, Total’s chairman emphasized we need not U.S. permission to be present in Iran. However, this company has just recently established an office in Washington for further cooperation with U.S. sanctions policies against Iran.”
Iran’s efforts to invest in establishing a rift between Europe and the U.S. is nothing but a mirage. Important are companies’ economic interests, and not necessarily the political positions adopted by this or that individual.
It is quite obvious that European firms are not willing to risk violating U.S. sanctions violations and the consequential fines for the sake of maintaining relations with Iran.
BNP Paribas was slapped a whopping $8.9 billion fine due to its transactions with Iran. Tehran understands this even better. Europe will never endanger its stake in U.S.’ $19 trillion economy for Iran’s $400 billion economy.
Iran must be brought to this comprehension that both sides of the Atlantic consider it the main element behind Middle East crisis. The West should unify in clipping Iran’s wings of terror, in particular targeting the Revolutionary Guards with terrorist designations.
“Once the deal is decertified, and Congress appears to be on the brink of reapplying sanctions, that could change not only Iran’s calculus but also the European allies’ calculus,” said James Phillips, a Middle Eastern affairs expert at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation tank in an interview with CNBC.
The Trump Administration is raising the tempo on decertifying Iran over the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), envisaging a temporary relief of various sanctions imposed on Iran in return for a curb of this regime’s nuclear program.
According to Politico, Trump’s national security team has urged him unanimously to decertify the JCPOA prior to the October 15th deadline, while National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is brewing an inclusive Iran strategy, due October 31st, on escalating pressure against the regime.
Reports also indicate the White House has scheduled a major Iran speech by Trump on October 12th. This goes parallel to a Thursday night meeting with his military brass focusing on Iran and North Korea, where Trump spoke of “calm before the storm.”
Tough actions are also on schedule Friday against the Iran-offspring Lebanese Hezbollah, as part of a broader effort to make Tehran further feel the heat.
In response to Trump’s United Nations General Assembly speech, Tehran first attempted to lash back with strong remarks through its so-called “reformist” President Hassan Rouhani.
Iran “will not be the first country to violate the agreement, but it will respond decisively and resolutely to its violation by any party,” Rouhani said at his UNGA speech on September 20th.
Yet witnessing no backing down from Washington’s part, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has been seeking to calm tensions, resorting to all but begging the European Union for support.
“If Europe and Japan and Russia and China decided to go along with the U.S., then I think that will be the end of the deal. Europe should lead,” he said in an interview with Financial Times.
Following his New York tour and a series of media interviews, Zarif reportedly rushed to Oman asking the Sultanate to relay to Washington a new series of proposals blueprinted to avoid a faceoff over the JCPOA’s future.
Trump’s running concerns regarding the deal include:
“sunset clauses” that portray all Iran sanctions coming to an end in 10 to 30 years,
Tehran’s refusal to ratify and implement the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty’s Additional Protocol, allowing the regime to possibly maintain all options available to quickly boost the military aspect of its nuclear ambitions,
Iran has been carefully following the signs received from the Trump Administration in regards to its wide variety of bellicosities, and how the White House is not budging in the face of North Korea’s threats.
Realizing the going is getting tough, Tehran is reportedly loosening the rope and providing incentives previously thought to be red lines for the regime.
Seeking to continue various aspects of its nuclear program while offering guarantees not to design its ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warhead payloads.
Tehran has continuously kicked the can down the road on ratifying the Additional Protocol. This provides the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, “further inspection authority,” and enables the organization’s “inspectorate to provide assurance about both declared and possible undeclared activities…”
Tehran also seeks to suggest cooperating in the war against the so-called Islamic State and is seeking to separate Iran’s regional policies from its nuclear dossier. The West should be very aware in this regard and consider the issue as a leverage Iran is pursuing for its future Middle East endeavors.
All the while, key members of the Trump Administration are unifying their position on the JCPOA’s future. As mentioned above about the unanimous vote to decertify the deal before the October 15th deadline, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is reportedly seeking a new outlined approach enabling the US to remain in the deal while avoiding a recertification process every 90 days. This can allow the administration to begin allocating necessary focus and resources on Iran’s assets used to pursue its devastating policies.
“The Trump administration is already … imposing sanctions on companies linked to Iran’s ballistic missile program, its cyberattacks, and its terrorist-sponsoring Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). There is much more to be done on the targeted sanctions front, including designating the IRGC a terrorist organization. But there are also important steps that Trump can take on the ground in Syria and Iraq,” as explained in a recent Foreign Policy article.
This is specifically vital for Iran as the Guards have through the past four decades also usurped control over 40% of the country’s economy.
In regards to Iran’s economy, Europe is a major party and considered crucial for Tehran’s ruling elite. The new approach sought by the Trump Administration, however, has the potential of maintaining the Europeans, anxious to safeguard the JCPOA, in line with Washington’s efforts to confront Tehran’s destabilizing actions.
Following the JCPOA implementation Iran has signed numerous economic contracts with France’s Airbus, Renault and Total.
And yet, French President Emmanuel Macron has specifically mentioned his readiness to discuss future sanctions in response to Iran’s ballistic missile tests, the regime’s expanding reach across the Middle East and amending the JCPOA to improve conditions after its expiration in 2025.
“Just because we want to keep the JCPOA doesn’t mean we want to ignore the other concerns,” one European diplomat said to CNN.
Iran’s Raja News website wrote recently, “The European Union will never sacrifice economic ties with the US for relations with Iran.”
It is completely understandable how the JCPOA’s future has political impacts for Iran. There are times, however, that numbers transmit powerful messages.
No party in their right mind, including European states, Russia, China, India and all others involved in economic transactions with Tehran are willing to sacrifice their ties with the US’ $19 trillion economy for Iran’s $400 billion.
On Tuesday the world witnessed US President Donald Trump defining his utmost contrasted difference from that of his predecessor. In his landmark first speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Trump sided with the Iranian people in affirming that the people of Iran are not only far separate from the ruling clerics of Tehran, but also are the main victims and threat to this regime’s survival.
Although long overdue, this is a highly welcomed U-turn in US policy vis-à-vis Iran and a very significant strategic decision to stand alongside the Iranian people. Obama missed his opportunity in 2009 when hundreds of thousands of brave Iranians took to the streets and rattled the regime’s very foundations. What followed afterwards has been more than 8 years of human rights violations at home, and a slate of belligerence abroad.
This can deliver a positive message from the US to the Iranian people in the face of the oppression imposed by Tehran’s regime throughout the past four decades.
Iran is ruled by a “corrupt dictatorship” hell-bent on spreading death and destruction across the Middle East, Trump explained. By demanding Iran cease its support for terrorism, he affirmed how his administration continues to weigh its Iran policy, said to be announced at the end of the month, and is extremely concerned over Tehran’s backing of proxy groups in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and across the region.
Trump’s senior diplomat also voiced his strong viewpoints against the Obama-blueprinted Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“We can almost start the countdown as to when they will resume the nuclear weapons capability,” State Secretary Rex Tillerson said, indicating how Iran has sought the ability to obtain a nuclear arsenal.
Tillerson went on to highlight that the JCPOA must undergo significant alterations and enhancements for Washington to remain loyal to the pact. This is viewed as an initial indication of how key “sunset” limitations on Iran’s controversial nuclear program must be extended.
The Iranian opposition welcomed Trump’s speech and underlined the most significant aspect of his words.
“The remarks by President Trump was the first time a US President attested to the need for regime change in Iran by the Iranian people,” said opposition leader Maryam Rajavi.
Rajavi’s supporters and a large gathering of the Iranian Diaspora responded to a call made by the Organization of Iranian American Communities for a New York rally protesting the presence of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the UN General Assembly. The demonstrators made their presence felt, voicing how they do not consider neither Rouhani nor the regime in Tehran as their representatives, and demanding he be expelled from the UN.
Prominent US dignitaries from both sides of the aisle joined the rally and voiced their support for the demonstration’s cause.
Senator Joseph Lieberman, Chairman of the United Against Nuclear Iran, highlighted on the necessity for a collective effort to change the Tehran regime.
While emphasizing Iran’s clerics must not celebrate their 40th anniversary in February and if Rouhani is allowed into the United Nations, Ambassador John Bolton emphasized so should a representative of the Iranian opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Congressman Eliot Engel, a long-standing supporter of the Iranian people’s struggle, also voiced his backing for the rally’s cause.
“I say to the Iranian regime and the mullahs that the people must have freedom to choose whoever they want for their government, and that would not be the current dictators,” he said.
Former Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi shed light on a perilous humanitarian plight regarding the summer 1988 massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners in Iran, stressing the international community must hold Tehran accountable.
UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran Asma Jahangir recently issued an unprecedented report recognizing the atrocious carnage and seeking actions on this highly sensitive subject.
For many years the United Nations General has been condemning Iran’s human rights violations. Considering Jahangir’s significant reporting, efforts should elevate to the level of seeking an international inquiry aimed at bringing the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre to justice.
Tehran, however, wasn’t too pleased of these recent developments, responding angrily in an undiplomatic fashion.
“Trump’s ignorant hate speech belongs in medieval times – not the 21st Century UN – unworthy of a reply,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif through Twitter.
Speaking a day after Trump, Rouhani resorted to merely emphasizing Tehran will not be departing the JCPOA. This proves how the regime is in fact desperately needs the nuclear agreement and will seek to keep it intact. Rouhani knows Tehran will be the main, and maybe sole party to see its interests hampered severely in such a scenario.
Despite previous with his American counterpart, French President Emmanuel Macron shed further concerns over Iran’s growing belligerence across the region and explaining the JCPOA’s limits in this regard. This most definitely will not sit well with Tehran.
The bold tone adopted by the Trump administration will most likely launch a new chorus of Iran apologists threatening how any action against the JCPOA will lead the US into war with Iran.
Such a flawed line of thought would neglect how appeasement vis-à-vis Iran has led to decades of war, destruction and terrorism from the very first days of this regime’s rule.
Washington’s comprehensive Iran policy will shed more light on what the future holds. Certain, however, is the fact that Iran’s “golden era” of the West’s appeasement policy is over and the road ahead looks promising for the Iranian people in realizing their demands for freedom, democracy and human rights for all.
Thanks to years of Western appeasement in the face of Iran’s belligerence across the Middle East, evidence of Tehran’s dangerous footprints are now visible in several countries across the region, including even Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.
The Trump administration, however, has made it quite vivid its adoption of a firm approach. This stance, signaled in the historic May conference in Riyadh, is long overdue and should be enhanced by Washington supporting the Iranian people’s desire for regime change.
A history of devastation
Iran has a long record of hostility against neighboring countries and US interests in the Middle East. The 1983 bombings targeting the US Embassy and barracks in Beirut, the Khobar Towers attack in 1996, all climaxed in the support Iran provided for Shiite proxies and the Sunni Taliban in their campaign against US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In parallel form, the Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas, two known terrorist groups, have for over 30 years enjoyed contributions from Tehran to fuel sectarianism throughout the Middle East and carry out terrorist attacks.
The Obama administration handed Iraq over to Iran in a silver plate through a strategic mistake of prematurely pulling out all US troops. This paved the path for Iran to further export its “revolution” through a convenient medium of extremist proxies.
The West can literally be accused of standing aside and watching Iran’s aggressive policy. This has rendered a slate of countries, including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen feel threatened and/or left utterly devastated from Iran’s meddling on their soil.
Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani (top-R) attends President Hassan Rouhani’s swearing-in ceremony in Tehran, on August 5, 2017. (AFP)
Of late, Iran has been reported to send further weapons and narcotics to Yemen’s Houthis. These drugs are sold to provide income for Iran’s supported militias on the ground in the flashpoint country south of Saudi Arabia, Tehran’s archenemy in the region.
Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) are present in Yemen also to instruct and guide the Houthis in assembling weapons smuggled into the country by Tehran.
“For the last six months the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has begun using waters further up the Gulf between Kuwait and Iran as it looks for new ways to beat an embargo on arms shipments to fellow Shi’ites in the Houthi movement,” Reuters cited Western and Iranian sources.
“Using this new route, Iranian ships transfer equipment to smaller vessels at the top of the Gulf, where they face less scrutiny. The transshipments take place in Kuwaiti waters and in nearby international shipping lanes, the sources said.”
The Iranians are also taking provocative measures against the US Navy in the same region recently, viewed by analysts as actions to learn the limits of US President Donald Trump. On July 26th an armed Iranian patrol boat closed within less than 150 meters of the USS Thunderbolt, yielding back only in response to warning shots fired by a US Navy ship.
Such developments are reasons why Trump contacted his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron “to explore how to increase cooperation in addressing the ongoing crises in Syria and Iraq and countering Iranian malign influence,” according to a White House readout.
Positive steps forward
Despite the utterly wrong decision of EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini visiting Tehran for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration, the Trump administration is sending push-back signals and making Iran learn its aggressions will not go without cost.
This is a necessary and welcomed shift in Washington’s foreign policy.
President Trump has signed into law a strong bipartisan Congressional initiative imposing strict sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea. The IRGC is now considered a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group. Considering the Guards’ control over at least 40 percent of Iran’s entire economy, this raises the stakes for companies considering doing business with Tehran.
It would be wise to reconsider investing in Iran’s $400 billion economy and ponder placing one’s bets in other regional countries, or say, the United States’ $19 trillion establishment.
And in news that most certainly raised eyebrows in Tehran, Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr visited Saudi Arabia recently and called for the controversial Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units in his country to be dissolved now that the Islamic State has been defeated.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, left, speaks in the official endorsement ceremony of President Hassan Rouhani, right, in Tehran, on Aug. 3, 2017. (AP)
The nuclear deal
High hopes were placed in the nuclear deal sealed between the P5+1 and Iran, which Obama hoped to leave behind as his foreign policy legacy.
Two years down this road it has become vivid that Iran’s behavior has not changed, to say the least. In fact, Tehran’s support for Hezbollah and other extremist entities have escalated. Iran’s role in the Middle East, namely Syria, Iraq and Yemen have been horrifically destructive.
The Trump administration can lead the international community in instituting the first real and effective initiative against the Iranian regime.
Any trade with Tehran should hinge on:
– the regime halting all executions and human rights violations,
– withdrawing their forces from Syria and Iraq, and severing any ties and support for terrorist groups,
– completely stopping missile activities, especially ballistic missile production and tests,
– ending all nuclear initiatives and providing true “anytime, anywhere” access to all suspected sites, including military facilities.
Moreover and parallel to recent sanctions, which must be executed immediately and without any loopholes, the Iranian people’s organized opposition, resembled in the National Council of Resistance of Iran, should be recognized. This will pave the path for regime change by this coalition without war or military intervention.
Failure in this regard is tantamount to aiding Tehran’s regime.