ANALYSIS: Prelude to a showdown between the US and Iran?

With the United States boosting “combat power” in southern Syria and bolstering measures with the Kurds in the north in preparation for a major assault on the self-proclaimed ISIS capital of Raqqa, word is in the air about a confrontation in the making between the US and Iran in the Middle East, with Syria acting as a launch site.

Does this piece intend to promote war against Iran? Absolutely not. While some do argue this would play into the Iranian regime’s hands and provide pretext for the clerics to rally fighters to take on the “World Arrogance” or “Great Satan,” as Tehran describes Washington, there is no basis to go that far.

Most importantly is the sheer fact that the regime lacks such a social base. Recall how former Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said this regime represents four percent of Iran’s society. And yet the increase in US military presence in the Middle East should be considered a welcome measure, certainly so after the Obama administration disastrously created a dangerous void by prematurely pulling out US troops from Iraq in late 2011.

Iran’s destructive policies

Iran usurped the opportunity and opened the gates of hell into Mesopotamia. The destructive policies Tehran dictated to Baghdad under former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki paved the path for the rise of ISIS in 2014 to storm the country’s north and central lands.

It has taken three dreadful years and a volume of human and financial resources to push the terror group out of Iraq, leaving large swathes of the country devastated and more importantly, Iran enjoying unprecedented and highly sensitive influence across the spectrum in Iraq through its conglomerate of militias.

The international coalition, led by the US, has provided air support for the Hashid al-Sha’bi in its advances against ISIS. The correct/incorrect nature of such a policy, however, is the topic of another debate.

Importance of the Levant

On Syria, there is no doubt in the importance of the Levant for Iran. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has, time and again, highlighted the imperative of Iran confronting its enemies in Syria far from its own borders.

“Had the ill-wishers and plotters not been prevented from their evil deeds in Syria we would have to prevent them in the Iranian provinces of Tehran, Fars, Khorasan and Isfahan, so it is better we do it there,” he said recently. “The door for martyrdom, which was closed by the end of the war with Iraq, is now open in Syria.”

So if no war with Iran is in suggestion here, what foreign policy advice can be provided to the West, and especially Washington?

Constant is the fact that non-military options are always preferred and have proven their effectiveness. Iran is undeniably a rogue and authoritarian regime determined to gain and impose an illegitimate dominance across the region, meddle in other nations’ domestic affairs, export terrorism/extremism/Islamic fundamentalism, and kill civilians and military personnel of all adversaries, including the United States, Saudi Arabia and all their regional allies.

Rajavi has provided the initial building blocks of how to tackle the Iranian regime dilemma. (AP)

Against all parties

Confronting Iran by military force is considered illogical by politicians from both sides of the aisle in Washington, and their counterparts across Europe and the Middle East. Iran’s policies in the Middle East have been against the interests of all parties, with the exception of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and its slate of proxy forces behind the rampage we are witnessing today.

The question is how to confront Iran correctly. Those in control are taking advantage and misrepresenting Islam for their interests and their sponsored atrocities are against the teaching of all holy books, including the Torat, Bible and Quran.
Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran is a strong coalition providing a platform on how to take on the Iranian regime in the most effective of manners.

NCRI President Maryam Rajavi, herself a Muslim woman representing a tolerant vision of Islam in far contrast to the mullahs’ atrocities, held a gathering on Sunday in Paris marking the holy month of Ramadan.

Rajavi’s call

Encouraging “Interfaith Solidarity Against Extremism,” Rajavi provided the initial building blocks of how to tackle the Iranian regime dilemma. “I would like to propose a three-pronged initiative on behalf of the Iranian people and Resistance. And I urge all the states and countries in the region to support it.

First, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which is the main operative advancing all the regime’s policies in the region, must be officially recognized and declared a terrorist entity. The presence of this force and its proxy militias in Middle East countries must not be tolerated and they must be evicted all together from countries in the region.

“Second, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) must expel the Iranian regime and grant Iran’s seat in this organization to the Iranian people’s Resistance.

“Third, they should recognize the Iranian people’s struggle to bring down the clerical regime and establish freedom and democracy.”

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Trump’s Middle East Visit, New Alliances, and a Terrified Iran

The reaction seen from Iranian state media outlets to the visit paid by US President Donald Trump last week to Saudi Arabia have been unorthodox, to say the least.

State-run IRIB TV, May 22: “The US president is hand in hand with the supporters of terrorism, human rights victimized in the dances of swords… US raises allegations against Iran to ‘milk’ Saudi Arabia, according to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.”

Following Zarif’s undiplomatic and unprofessional remarks, Amir Abdullahian — an adviser to Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and known to be close with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — provided a different perspective.

“First of all, they intend to strike a blow to the axis of resistance (read Iran’s coalition) in the region,” he said in remarks aired by IRIB TV. “This is a very important entity in the region as it has provided Iran’s utmost national security and interests.”

“This is the initiative pursue by the Saudis following the election of Mr. Trump,” Abdullahian continued. “In response to the existing Saudi Arabia, with a group of warmongering extremists at the helm, we must react with wisdom, power and force. We don’t consider Saudi Arabia as a strategic enemy. No. The Saudis lack such a capacity.”

While this senior Iranian official resorted to such claims in an effort mainly aimed at maintaining a straight face in the wake of continuous setbacks suffered by the regime, the semi-official Fars news agency, known as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) mouthpiece, shed light on the regime’s true concerns over Trump’s visit to Riyadh.

“The editor-in-chief of the Kayhan daily described recent remarks made by [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani against various entities inside the Iranian government as fuel to provoke the US and the sheikhs of various Arab countries,” the piece reads. “Mr. Rouhani’s government, in its first day back in office has returned the shadows of war over our nation.”

“Despite Rouhani boasting of distancing the shadows of war from our country, the Riyadh conference, focusing on establishing an Arab NATO and sales of $110 billion in military equipment underscore how the weak actions of [Rouhani’s] cabinet not only emboldened the US to take aggressive actions against our country, even small Arab countries have reached the point of openly speaking of establishing an Arab NATO to launch a military confrontation against Iran,” the Fars piece continued.

As all elements of the Iranian regime are evaluating how to analyze and respond to the consequences of Trump’s visit to the region, the voice of the Iranian opposition welcomed the recent developments.

Maryam Rajavi — president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a coalition of Iranian dissident groups leading the struggle to bring about regime change in Iran — hailed the positions adopted at the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in the face of Iran’s actions.

For nearly four decades Tehran’s measures have robbed the region, and the world over, of quiet and stability. It is time to take firm action against Iran’s terrorism and fundamentalism endeavors, its dangerous ballistic missile program and its meddling in the affairs of others. Steps similar to those embraced in the Riyadh conference are what are needed to bring a final end to terrorism, war and bloodshed, and establish peace and harmony. The recent tragic bombing in Manchester leading to the loss of too many more innocent lives was yet another reminder of the utter importance of this.

While condemning Iran’s actions and crimes is a constant necessity, practical measures, and more specifically, ending all diplomatic relations with the mullahs, expelling this regime’s delegations from international organizations, blacklisting the notorious IRGC and other military/paramilitary/security entities associated with the government, are necessary follow-ups.

Iran’s human rights violations and the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), have gone ignored for far too long. This horrific dossier deserves immediate referral to the United Nations Security Council and The Hague to bring all affiliated Iranian regime officials to justice.

President Trump correctly described the Iranian people as the first victims of the mullahs’ regime. King Salman of Saudi Arabia, while delivering his respects to the Iranian nation, emphasized that ever since late regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini’s rise to power the mullahs have become the spearhead force behind global terrorism.

The ultimate solution for the current crisis engulfing the entire Middle East is regime change in Iran, carried out by the Iranian people and their organized resistance, symbolized by the NCRI.

Freedom and returning sovereignty to the Iranian people by ending the mullahs’ rule is the desire of all Iranians. Recognizing this nation’s true demand is essential to establishing peace and tranquility in the region, and indispensable to international security.

ANALYSIS: Adopting a different approach on Iran

Signaling a major buzz topic in Washington these days, with the international community waiting anxiously, the new US administration is on the verge of implementing a significant Iran policy overhaul.

America nearly lost all of its influence in the Middle East as a result of a devastating engagement policy captained by the Obama-Kerry team, all in a desperate effort to obtain Tehran’s consent in completing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The impact of the support by the Obama Administration of the Arab Spring did the rest, as main Arab allies came under immense pressure.

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks on nuclear deal with Iran at American University in Washington August 5, 2015. (File photo: Reuters)

Considering Obama’s yearning to seal the JCPOA as the foreign policy hallmark of his legacy, he was seen succumbing to literally any and all demands made by the Iranians. Tehran understood and used this leverage to issue threats of walking away from the deal.

While President Trump has not torn up the deal as candidate Trump pledged, his administration has taken the lead to strongly criticize Iran’s current behavior in the Middle East that poses a major threat to America’s strategic position and the security of regional allies.

The Trump administration, unlike its fledgling predecessor, is weighing on how to bring Iran’s mischievous behavior under control and have it completely halted.

Selling a false deal

The pro-JCPOA camp sold the deal to the international community by claiming Iran’s mullahs’ would become more moderate and begin acting reasonably.

Let’s review the facts on the ground:

– The Middle East is in carnage, with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and proxies launching deadly killings in Syria in support of Assad, massacring Sunnis and other minorities in Iraq, supporting Houthi militants in Yemen, and the Lebanese Hezbollah, just to name a few.

– Tehran is continuing its ballistic missile program full speed ahead, preparing to couple the project with an ongoing secret nuclear weapons drive, as exposed recently by the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

– Military confrontations between US-Arab allies and Iranian forces continue, as shown in the Gulf and the Bab Al Mandab.

– Flagrant human rights violations and increasing domestic crackdown. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, now seeking a second term, has presided over 3,000 executions.

We were reminded recently by US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley ,when she referred to existing Security Council resolutions banning Iran from importing or exporting arms, and end all ballistic missile testing.

Haley clearly indicated Trump will not allow such measures slide, as we witnessed far too often under the Obama watch.

“The United States will work closely with our partners to document and address any actions that violate these resolutions,” Haley said. “We must take a stand against Iran and Hezbollah’s illegal and dangerous behavior.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also raised eyebrows in remarks unseen from America’s top diplomat for many years. Iran continues to enjoy the top ranking of the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. The nature of sanctions being vital to the national and security interests of America, and its regional allies in particular, will be a major topic of a new JCPOA review.

Fresh sanctions

Meanwhile, a new bill seeking to slap fresh sanctions against Tehran for continuing its illicit missile program is in the preparation process in the House of Representatives.

Sanctions and economic pressures are a major leverage the US enjoys against Tehran. Blocking access to the global banking system and compelling companies and various institutions to choose between America’s $19 trillion economy and Iran’s half a trillion should not make the decision any harder.

Irony lies in the fact that Obama initially boosted US sanctions against Iran, only to ignore Iran’s highly belligerent proliferation activities and support for terrorism.

A recent Politico report highlighted how the Obama administration even released Iranian arms dealers apprehended by US authorities and dropped international arrest warrants seeking others. To this end, Obama literally risked US national security for the sake of appeasing Tehran’s mullahs.

The Trump administration is set to draw a major line in the sand. Beefing up sanctions could be a major policy change adopted by the new White House. To take steps further, Washington should seriously consider designating the mullahs’ Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization for its role in Iran’s meddling and supporting terrorism, extremism and Islamic fundamentalism across the Middle East, Tehran’s ongoing military development programs -especially the ballistic missile drives – and horrific human rights violations across the country.

Missed opportunity

In 2009 Obama missed the opportunity to support the Iranian people’s cry for freedom and democracy, and now the new US administration cannot stand again on the sidelines. Supporting the Iranian people and their organized opposition, currently openly represented by liberal movements such as the NCRI, seeking a democratic, secular and non-nuclear Iran, living in harmony with its regional neighbors and returning to the international community as a responsible member, could be a starting point.

If Washington would be able to address these options in full, not falling into the trap of removing the Iranian regime under the umbrella of “bringing democracy”, but supporting a growing liberal democratic opposition, a better future for Iran is possible. This will take time, during which economic and political pressure should be increased on the regime. Appeasing the mullahs will not reap any positive rewards, Tehran will not see any need to change at all.

– Dr. Cyril Widdershoven is the co-writer of this article.

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

Time for a principled approach on Iran

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By Heshmat Alavi – December 21, 2016
The time has come to reassess, readdress, and readjust the course of action in Western foreign policy in respect with Iran.
Last year’s nuclear deal between the international community and Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has proven flawed on the global position over human rights and worldwide security. Continue reading “Time for a principled approach on Iran”

Iran’s Use Of Extremism To Gain Political Leverage Must Be Confronted

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Lebanese Hezbollah supporters carry a replica of Hezbollah emblem during a religious procession to mark Ashura in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Lebanon October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

Ever since day one in 2011 when war erupted in Syria Iran has been dispatching tens of thousands of troops to shore the Syrian military. These efforts were parallel to Iran’s decades of support for Shiite extremist groups such as the likes of the Lebanese Hezbollah, a conglomerate of others in Iraq and across the region, constituting a major pillar of Iran’s policies.

Continue reading “Iran’s Use Of Extremism To Gain Political Leverage Must Be Confronted”

Trump and Iran’s Achilles Heel(s)

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Donald Trump & Hassan Rouhani

Any entity in this world has its strong points, and its weaknesses. And there is a certain weakness, known as the Achilles Heel, which leads to a disastrous outcome.

The regime in Iran, after nearly 38 years in power, has based its entire existence and survival on two pillars of domestic crackdown and exporting a conglomerate of terrorism, extremism, and Islamic fundamentalism, under the mantra of “Islamic Revolution.” Continue reading “Trump and Iran’s Achilles Heel(s)”

What Is Iran’s Syria Policy After Donald Trump?

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Iranian regime president Hassan Rouhani

By Heshmat Alavi

The election of Donald Trump as the new president of the United States came as an expected turn of events. Iran may be the most concerned regime, weighing how to adjust its approach, foreign in particular. Continue reading “What Is Iran’s Syria Policy After Donald Trump?”