Forecast: Increasing Isolation for Iran

After enjoying eight “golden” years of President Barack Obama’s all-out appeasement approach, the mullahs in Iran are feeling the wrath of isolation, with senior international figures lashing out at the regime in Tehran and calling for action against it.

British Parliament members from all leading parties registered a resolution discussing crimes of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) against the Iranian people and its terrorist meddling across the Middle East. The move calls for the expulsion of the IRGC and all its dispatched proxy foot-soldiers spread out across the region.

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker called Iran the world’s greatest state sponsor of terrorism, saying:

Regionally, we’ve seen an escalation in Iranian intervention. Iran, along with its allies in Russia, has continued to prop up Assad at the cost of countless lives in Syria. Iran’s support to the Shia militias in Iraq threatens the interests of Sunnis and Kurds alike, not to mention the Shia in Iraq…Iran is arming the Houthis in Yemen, who are in turn attacking our Saudi allies and targeting our ships… Iran remains the foremost state sponsor of terrorism. It counts Lebanese Hezbollah – an organization that has killed hundreds of Americans – as among its closest allies.

US Senator Robert Menendez delivered a speech on Tuesday on his proposal to increase missile sanctions on the Islamic Republic and completely embargo the IRGC, explaining:

Many of us rightly predicted that an Iranian regime that prioritized funding terrorism over the well-being of its own citizens would see sanctions relief as a cash windfall for their terrorist proxies across the region. And on terrorism, we feared that much of Iran’s new economic capacity would be used to propagate violence…It is no surprise then that Iran has not suddenly transformed into a responsible member of the international community. Rather it remains an agent of instability throughout the Middle East, a nefarious actor that continues to undermine American national security interests and our efforts to partner with countries throughout the region working to protect civilians and build democratic governance structures.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated his criticism of the deal sealed between Tehran and world powers in July 2015, describing it as a “windfall” gift to Tehran. He said that the US can now take action against Iran’s financing, training and arming of terrorists, such as Hezbollah, Hamas and proxies in Syria.

House Speaker Paul Ryan suggested designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.

The above remarks can and should be seen as preparatory measures for the next round of practical actions. It is worth noting, however, that in the world of politics nothing is resolved overnight. Each practical action requires the undergoing of a process in stages.

Unlike Obama, President Donald Trump and his administration are confronting Tehran, causing the regime to become nervous about the road ahead. This is why it has been attempting to save face. For example, the Iranian Foreign Ministry just blacklisted 15 US companies — a move that even Iranian media outlets are ridiculing. After all, it is obvious that  it is the mullahs suffering from a weak and weakening economy, not the US.

With presidential elections in Iran to take place in May, rest assured that the regime will be trekking very carefully not to light a spark under Iran’s societal powder keg  — and unleash an explosion of nationwide uprisings similar to those in 2009. At that time, Obama was new in office and abandoned the demonstrators to the regime’s iron fist. Today, Trump is in the White House, and has a very different attitude.

Originally published in Algemeiner

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The Iran opportunity before Donald Trump

Donald Trump Holds Meetings At Trump Tower
If the Trump administration seeks to make Iran more amenable to take meaningful measures, they can be reminded with reference to the NCRI that their days are numbered. (AFP)

By Heshmat Alavi
Friday, 20 January 2017

Obama’s doctrine has allowed Iran to launch a string of anti-American measures and remarks throughout the course of his two terms, and most recently refuse any renegotiation of the nuclear deal sealed between the P5+1 and Tehran.

In response, sources say President-elect Donald Trump has received a hand-delivered letter signed by 23 top former US officials urging the adoption of a new approach vis-à-vis the regime in Iran. The text calls on the incoming Trump administration to engage and actively work with the Iranian opposition, an opportunity neglected and set aside by previous administrations.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) is an umbrella group of Iranian dissident groups, including mainly the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), known to first blow the whistle on Tehran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

The letter is signed by a colorful slate of bipartisan civil and military officials, including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, former senator Joe Lieberman, former attorney general Michael Mukasey and General Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Clinton administration, to name a few.

“President Obama expressed the hope that nuclear negotiations would induce Iran’s leaders to act with greater consideration of American interests. It is now clear that Iran’s leaders have shown no interest in reciprocating… Iran’s rulers have directly targeted US strategic interests, policies and principles, and those of our allies and friends in the Middle East…” the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Fox News, reads. “…to restore American influence and credibility in the world, the United States needs a revised policy,” the text adds.

Obama’s Iran doctrine

This prominent slate of influential American dignitaries has touched on a very right tone, calling for an overhaul of Obama’s Iran doctrine in its entirety. Ever since day one after hijacking the Iranian revolution back in 1979, the basic problem has been none other than the very mullahs’ regime sitting on the throne in Tehran.

While in this day and age many talk about terrorism and refer to ISIS and al-Qaeda, Tehran remains the true source of terrorism across the globe. The US State Department continues to designate this regime as a—if not the—leading state sponsor of terrorism. Iran is the world’s central banker of international terrorism by funding Hamas, the Lebanese Hezbollah and a long slate of other extremist Shiite militia groups rampaging Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

This letter, signaling a significant gathering very rare in Washington politics for the past 8 years and beyond, is underscoring the fact that the unpopular regime in Iran is the source of a variety of dilemmas. The mullahs are maintaining their control over 80 million Iranians through the ruthless Revolutionary Guards, the paramilitary Basij Revomilitia and other security entities.

These oppressive entities showed their wrath in 2009 following the highly disputed reelection–read reselection of firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad–as the regime’s president and quelling any and all dissent. The Obama administration missed the opportunity and turned its back on the Iranian people then.

Days numbered?

There is an alternative to the mullahs’ regime in Iran. If the Trump administration seeks to make Iran more amenable to actually take meaningful measures, they can be reminded with reference to the NCRI that their days are numbered, and counting down fast.

It would represent a remarkable message to Tehran if the new administration in Washington made a direct call to NCRI President Maryam Rajavi, a progressive Muslim woman who has devoted her life to regime change in Iran based on a 10-point plan aiming to bring about freedom, democracy, human rights, gender-religious-ethnic equality and a non-nuclear Iran.

Such a policy is not only in the best interest of the United States, but the Middle East and all nations who have suffered from Iran’s mischievous meddling policies. Of course, the mullahs and their lobbies in the US will not be happy at all if President Trump or members of his administration establish direct contact with the NCRI.

However, this should signal Tehran’s soft spot to Washington, and make the Trump administration even more interested about what can be done to support Iran’s legitimate opposition.

Originally posted in Al Arabiya English

How Iran aides the Afghan Taliban under America’s nose

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By Amir Basiri

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) has been active amongst Taliban terrorists opposing the Afghan government, Radio France International website reported on Tuesday citing Farah Province officials in western Afghanistan.

Farah Provincial Council Chair Jamile Amini has accused Iran of sending IRGC members to join the Taliban ranks and files, adding that 25 Taliban members recently killed in this province were IRGC members.

Farah Province intelligence services report Iranian officials have held ceremonies for IRGC members killed amongst the armed dissidents in their province opposing the Afghan government, according to Mohammad Nosser Mehri, spokesman of the Farah governor.

 These reports wired at a time when Farah Province Governor Mohammad Asef Nang accused Iran recently of provoking violence and spreading insecurity in this province.

Despite the apparent irony of Shiite Iran supporting Sunni Taliban, Tehran in fact has a long history of meddling in Afghan affairs and providing for this terrorist group.

Afghan security forces issued a formal complaint over Iran providing logistics and military support for the Afghan Taliban.

Official spokesman Mullah Zabihullah, the group’s second in command, went one step further and shed light on the relations between Iran and new Taliban networks. “He said to the London based Asharq Al-Awsat in an email 18 months ago, that the movement had received drone planes, which help film suicidal operations,” Al-Arabiya reported back in late October.

Iran has been the target of major accusations over providing lethal military support to the Taliban in its long-running war against the international ISAF coalition led by the United States in Afghanistan.

Various analysts, including Washington-based experts of the Institute for the Study of War, believe the ongoing relationship between Iran and the Taliban has been fueled by the pure sentiment of opposing the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Reports of deep Iran-Taliban relations dating back to June 2015 indicate how the Obama administration turned a blind eye to this very troubling phenomenon, most likely to not at all push Iran into derailing the controversial nuclear talks that led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“Afghan and Western officials say Tehran has quietly increased its supply of weapons, ammunition and funding to the Taliban, and is now recruiting and training their fighters, posing a new threat to Afghanistan’s fragile security,” The Wall Street Journal reported in June 2015.

“Iran supplies us with whatever we need,” Abdullan, a Taliban commander stationed in central Afghanistan who received a $580 monthly salary and arms from his Iranian sponsors, told the paper.

Afghan and Western officials accused Iran of slowly boosting its supply to the Taliban of arms, ammunition and funding, and moving forward to recruit and train their fighters. Iran’s IRGC has also been a long and vital ally for the Taliban.

Iranian intelligence has also recruited Afghan immigrants on their soil to assist their support for Taliban, ferrying a variety of weapons including “82mm mortars, light machine guns, AK-47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and materials for making roadside bombs,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

Tehran has further been accused of enjoying affiliations with al-Qaeda, a known ally of the Taliban.

Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security has “over the past 20 years, provided financial, material, technological, and other support services to AQI,” The Tower reported, citing the Pentagon’s Irregular Warfare Support Program analysis.

Further:

“In 2012, the United States Treasury Department exposed the extensive financial ties between Iran and al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the terrorist organization that evolved into ISIS.

“The generous support Iran afforded ISIS in its formative years was part of a broader alliance that the Islamic Republic established with al-Qaeda over a decade ago.”

According to Michael Pregent, a former U.S. military intelligence officer:

“Iran needs the threat of ISIS and Sunni jihadist groups to stay in Syria and Iraq in order to become further entrenched in Damascus and Baghdad.”

Down the road, U.S. officials raised similar charges against the Assad regime bombing non-Islamist rebels “in support of ISIL’s advance on Aleppo,” in practice supporting the terror group push back the Syrian opposition fighting the Assad regime.

Iran considers its support for terrorist and extremist groups, Shiites and Sunnis alike, through a perspective of convenience. From Hamas to Taliban, to the Lebanese Hezbollah and Shiite militias in Syria, Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen, Iran supports and backs groups precisely acting and pursuing its interests in specific areas of the Middle East.

Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group of entities including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran seeking peaceful regime change in Iran, recently warned of Tehran’s meddling across the region.

“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,” she said in a statement.

Such a relationship with the Afghan Taliban reveals the bogus nature of Iran’s claims of fighting terrorism and ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

In Afghanistan, we have to admit Iran is in fact supporting the Taliban and essentially destabilizing a state and government supported by the West, and the international community as a whole.

Iran has most likely, as forecasted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, used billions of previously sanctioned money released as a result of the Iranian nuclear deal to boost its efforts in supporting terrorism and insecurity across the region.

Amir Basiri is an Iranian human rights activist and analyst. His writing has appeared in Forbes and The Washington Examiner, among other publications. Follow him on Twitter: @amir_bas.

Originally published in The Hill