ANALYSIS: Does the Middle East’s stability hinge on Iran’s expulsion?

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.”

Iran’s meddling has escalated tension across the region to unimaginable levels. (Reuters)

Publicity stunt

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.

Iranian Resistance in Paris calls for regime change in Tehran

Originally published in the Dutch website OpinieZ Magazine

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) held its annual convention on Saturday in Paris calling on the international community to adopt a firm policy vis-à-vis the regime in Tehran. Hundreds of influential political figures from across the globe joined a massive gathering of the Iranian Diaspora demanding an end to the mullahs’ rule after 38 years of devastation.

NCRI President Maryam Rajavi was the keynote speaker at the rally, voicing the strongest position and representing the only true alternative able to realize true change in Iran.

Other speakers included a strong American delegation led by former New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, both known for their very close ties to the Trump administration. A very bold European presence was also seen voicing their support for the Iranian people and condemning Tehran’s belligerence.

Rajavi delivered the strongest speech of the event, signaling how the end of the mullahs’ rule is very much at hand.

“The regime’s overthrow is possible and within reach, and a democratic alternative and organized resistance exists that can topple it,” she emphasized.

“The regime is not capable of reform because the so-called reformists who were in office for more than half of this regime’s rule, did nothing but serving the velayat-e faqih (absolute rule of the clergy). This regime cannot be contained, because more than three decades of West’s concessions did not bring about any change in this regime,” the NCRI President said.

Rajavi underlined the plight of Iran’s population under the mullahs’ rule and hailed Iran’s political prisoners for backing the rally “from the depths of the regime’s torture chambers.”

It is high time for the international community to recognize the Iranian people’s struggle to overthrow the mullahs’ religious dictatorship, blacklist the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization and bring an end to Tehran’s destructive influence across the Middle East.

The NCRI President went on to underscore her movement’s unwavering belief in the people’s free choice, separation of church and state, women’s active and equal participation in political leadership, and Iran’s various ethnic groups provided the opportunity to enjoy autonomy under the framework of national territorial integrity.

“As I have reiterated, repeatedly, we want neither money, nor arms. We urge you to recognize the Iranian people’s right to overthrow the mullahs’ religious dictatorship,” Rajavi highlighted.

Europeans also voiced their views on any future relations between the Green Continent and Iran.

“We urge the EU and the European Member States, the US and the UN to condemn human rights violations in Iran, blacklist the Islamic Revolutionary Guards and call for those who were involved in crimes against humanity to be brought to international tribunals. Any further expansion of relations with Iran must be conditioned to a clear progress on human rights, women’s rights and a halt to executions,” reads a statement issued by 265 Members of the European Parliament.

The presence of Mayor Giuliani and former House Speaker Gingrich added enormous political weight behind the entire event.

“You, I, my government and your leadership, we see Iran in exactly the same way. The regime is evil and it must go. #FreeIran,” Giuliani emphasized, referring to the main convention hashtag.

“I think it’s fair to say that the Trump administration has much fewer illusions about the nature of the Iranian dictatorship,” Gingrich explained. “I think it’s fair to say that Secretary of Defense Mattis in his years in the Central Command understands exactly who the Iranian dictatorship is…I think it’s fair to say that the National Security Advisor, General McMaster, in his years of service in the Middle East, knows exactly who the Iranian dictatorship is.”

The Arab World’s main representative in the convention was former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal who called for the prosecution of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other senior Iranian officials for “crimes against the Iranian people,” who he described as the “first victims” of the Iranian regime.

Prince Turki described the Arab and Iranian nations as brothers through “not only geography, but the humanitarian relationships.”

“All the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and their neighbor Iran have always been living in harmony until the [mullahs’ regime] came into being in 1979,” Prince Turki added.

Faisal stressed elections in Iranian are undemocratic and illegitimate due to the regime installing a strict vetting system to filter all candidates. The mullahs’ behavior does not qualify it as a democratic system, he finalized.

Tehran has undergone a series of setbacks following last month’s Riyadh Summit where American, Arab and Islamic leaders established a strong coalition against the mullahs’ regime. That, parallel to the US overhauling its comprehensive Iran policy, are recipes of disaster for the future of the Iranian regime.



Iraanse oppositie roept in Parijs op tot machtswisseling in Teheran

De Iraanse oppositiebeweging National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) hield afgelopen zaterdag haar jaarlijkse conventie in Parijs met een oproep aan de internationale gemeenschap tot een stevige aanpak van het regime in Teheran. Honderden invloedrijke politici uit alle delen van de wereld namen deel aan een massale bijeenkomst van de Iraanse Diaspora waarin het einde werd geëist van de regering van de mollahs na 38 jaar rampspoed.

Titelfoto: Screenshot door redactie OpinieZ van YouTube-video, kanaal Iranncr

Maryam Rajavi
NCRI-president Maryam Rajavi was de keynote speaker op de bijeenkomst, waar ze in krachtige taal het enige werkelijke alternatief voor echte verandering in Iran verkondigde. Andere sprekers waren een zware Amerikaanse delegatie onder leiding van de voormalige burgemeester van New York Rudi Giuliani en de voormalige House Speaker Newt Gingrich, beiden bekend om hun nauwe banden met de regering-Trump. Een forse Europese delegatie gaf ook haar steun aan het Iraanse volk en veroordeelde de oorlogszuchtigheid van Iran.

Rajavi hield de stevigste toespraak van het evenement. Ze vertelde dat het einde van de regering van de mollahs steeds dichterbij komt.

“Het omverwerpen van het regime is mogelijk en binnen bereik en er bestaat een democratisch alternatief en georganiseerd verzet om het omver te werpen”, benadrukte ze. “Het regime is niet in staat tot hervorming omdat de zogenaamde hervormers, die al de helft van de regeringsperiode van dit regime in functie zijn, niks anders hebben gedaan dan de velayat-e faqih (de absolute macht van de geestelijkheid) dienen. Dit regime kan niet in toom worden gehouden, omdat meer dan drie decennia van concessies door het Westen geen verandering in het regime hebben teweeggebracht”, sprak de NCRI-president.

Zwarte lijst
Rajavi onderstreepte het lijden van de Iraanse bevolking onder het bewind van de mollahs en prees de Iraanse politieke gevangenen voor hun steun aan de bijeenkomst “vanuit de krogten van de martelkamers van het regime”. Het is de hoogste tijd voor de internationale gemeenschap om de strijd van Iraanse volk voor het omverwerpen van de religieuze dictatuur van de mollahs te erkennen, de Islamitische Revolutionaire Garde (IRGC) op de zwarte lijst van terroristische organisaties te zetten en een eind te maken aan de destructieve invloed van Iran in het Midden-Oosten.

De NCRI-president vervolgde met het benadrukken van het onwankelbare geloof van haar beweging in de vrije keuze van het volk, de scheiding van kerk en staat, actieve en gelijke participatie van vrouwen in politiek leiderschap en de mogelijkheid voor Iran’s diverse etnische groepen om autonomie te verkijgen binnen het kader van nationale territoriale integriteit. “Zoals ik al vaker heb gezegd, we willen geen geld en geen wapens. We dringen er bij jullie op aan om het recht van het Iraanse volk te erkennen om het religieuze dictatorschap van de mollahs omver te werpen”, vatte Rajavi samen.

Europees Parlement
Europeanen maakten ook hun opvattingen bekend over de toekomstige betrekkingen met Iran. “We dringen er bij de EU, de Europese lidstaten, de VS en de VN op aan om de mensenrechtenschendingen in Iran te veroordelen, de Islamitische Revolutionaire Garde op de zwarte lijst te zetten en er voor te zorgen dat zij die betrokken waren bij misdaden tegen de menselijkheid voor internationale rechtbanken te brengen. Elke verdere uitbreiding van de betrekkingen met Iran moet afhankelijk zijn van duidelijke vooruitgang op het geboed van mensenrechten, vrouwenrechten en een einde aan de executies” luidt een verklaring van 265 leden van het Europees Parlement.

Giuliani en Gingrich
De aanwezigheid van burgemeester Giuliani en de voormalige House Speaker Gingrich gaven een enorm politiek belang aan het hele evenement.

“Jij, ik, mijn regering en jouw leiding, wij zien Iran op precies dezelfde manier. Het regime is kwaadaardig en het moet opstappen. #FreeIran”, benadrukte Giuliani, verwijzend naar de belangrijkste hashtag voor de conferentie.

“Ik denk dat terecht kan worden gezegd dat de regering-Trump veel minder illusies heeft over de aard van de Iraanse dictatuur”, verklaarde Giuliani.”Ik denk dat terecht kan worden gezegd dat minister van Defensie Mattis door zijn ervaring bij het centrale opperbevel precies begrijpt wie de Iraanse dictatuur is…Ik denk dat terecht kan worden gezegd dat de Nationale Veiligheidsadviseur, Generaal McMaster, door zijn dienstjaren in het Midden-Oosten precies weet wie de Iraanse dictatuur is”.

De belangrijkste afgevaardigde van de Arabische wereld was het vroegere hoofd van de Saoedische veiligheidsdienst prins Turki al-Faisal die opriep tot vervolging van de Iraanse Hoogste Leider Ali Khamenei en andere ervaren Iraanse functionarissen wegens “misdaden tegen het Iraanse volk”, dat hij aanduidde als de “eerste slachtoffers” van het regime.

Prins Turki beschreef de Arabisch en Iraanse naties als broeders “niet alleen vanweege de geografie, maar ook vanwege de menselijke betrekkingen”.”Alle Golfstaten en hun buur Iran hebben altijd in harmonie met elkaar geleefd tot (het regime van de mollahs) ontstond in 1979″, voegde prins Turki er aan toe. Faisal benadrukte dat de verkiezingen in Iran ondemocratisch zijn en onrechtmatig doordat het regime een streng controlesysteem gebruikt om de kandidaten te filteren. Het gedrag van de mollahs kwalificeert niet als een democratisch systeem, sloot hij af.

Teheran heeft een reeks tegenslagen ondergaan na de top in Riyad vorige maand waar Amerikaanse, Arabische en islamitische leiders een sterke coalitie tegen het regime van de mollahs vormden. Dat, in combinatie met de herziening van het Iranbeleid van de VS, vormt een rampscenario voor de toekomst van het Iraanse regime.

Crosshairs focusing on Iran

Originally posted in Dutch in OpinieZ Magazine

As tensions continue to rise in the flashpoint country of Syria in the already boiling Middle East, and voices heard of a possible conflict between the United States and Russia, they are all mistaken.

The Cold War is over and will not be repeated. These two powers have more common interest to risk any unnecessary military conflict that neither will benefit from. The only party set to gain anything in such a scenario would be Iran, and more and more experts are raising alarm bells.

Yes, Russia has issued a warning to the US about flying its planes or drones west of Syria’s Euphrates River that snakes through the country from the north to the southeast. Rest assured this is nothing but a bluff as Australia first responded by suspending its fighter jet flights, only to resume its activities one day later.

Russia looks to maintain its interests in Syria and is in no need of a conflict with the far more technologically-advanced US military.

Iran poses a far greater threat to the US, and the entire world for that matter, than Russia. And as we inch forward down the path of seeking a solution to bring an end to the war in Syria and turmoil across the region, crosshairs are more than ever before being rightfully placed on Iran.

Iran’s meddling in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and its decades’ long support of its offspring, the Lebanese Hezbollah, are all signs of a vast imperial campaign seeking to gain further control over the future of the entire Middle East. Tehran has long calibrated its foreign policy for this very objective. This goes alongside Iran’s other pillars, being domestic crackdown and advancing nuclear/ballistic missile program, to maintain its rule and remain in power.

Long before the Islamic State, Iran has sought to expand its mentality of establishing a Middle East-wide caliphate. This is exactly why Iranian regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini adopted and imposed the velayat-e faqih (governance of jurist enjoying custodianship over all state affairs and people’s lives).

This mentality of Iran’s mullahs must be acknowledged by the West and appropriate measures are needed to prevent any further devastation. A short look at the atrocities we are currently witnessing due to Iran’s influence over Baghdad, Damascus and Sana’a should be proof enough to highlight the need for a firm and decisive policy vis-à-vis Iran.

The Obama administration continuously backed the US into a corner and only sought to obtain a highly flawed nuclear deal at any cost. It is imperative for Washington and the international community to understand the imperative nature of setting the correct goals in relations to Iran.

Senator Tom Cotton in the US has recently made a significant call for Washington to seriously consider regime change in Iran as a serious possibility.

“The policy of the United States should be regime change in Iran. I don’t see how anyone can say America can be safe as long as you have in power a theocratic despotism,” Cotton, a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, said in a recent interview.

Washington had supported reform from inside the current regime in Iran, only to end in no fruit. Officials in the Trump administration, however, are indicating this may no longer provide the results they seek. Allies of this administration are even heard urging a far more aggressive position.

To accelerate the entire subject even further, Washington and Tehran have been experiencing a high fraught increase in their relations.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson responded to a question in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing emphasizing Washington’s support for peaceful regime change, a first bye any US official.

Iran has responded by filing an official complaint to the United Nations. All this goes parallel to numerous face-offs between the US-backed coalition and Iran-backed forces in Syria.

As the Trump administration continues to weigh its all-out Iran policy, such developments and voices heard from across Washington and Europe will most definitely place the mullahs on edge.

265 Members of the European Parliament issued a statement condemning flagrant human rights violations in Iran. This initiative enjoys vast support, “including all political groups and tendencies in the European Parliament. They include 4 Vice-Presidents of the parliament and 23 Committee and Delegation Chairs. This clearly shows that when the issue of human rights violations, repression of women and minorities and the Iranian regime’s support of terrorism are concerned, we are all united.”

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), however, is gearing for its annual Paris rally scheduled for July 1st this year.

Hundreds of prominent dignitaries from the US, Europe and Middle East will most likely be joined by over 100,000 members of the Iranian Diaspora from all corners of the globe. As seen in previous year this platform will express support for NCRI President Maryam Rajavi and her ten-point plan consisting gender equality, peaceful coexistence, abolishing capital punishment, torture and crackdown, and bringing an end to Iran’s nuclear program, meddling and support of terrorism.

The combination of calls for regime change in the West and the Iranian opposition delivering a very capable platform to realize this initiative is a recipe for disaster in the eyes of Tehran’s mullahs.