ANALYSIS: How Iranian regime sinks deeper into isolation

Al Arabiya

Following Iran’s announcement of missiles tests under the pretext of “launching satellites” into space, the regime in Tehran is facing a new wave of political isolation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement in response: “The Iranian Regime’s Ministry of Defense has publicly announced plans to launch three Space Launch Vehicles (SLV) in the coming months. Such actions would once again demonstrate Iran’s defiance of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231, which calls upon the Iranian regime not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons… The United States will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime’s destructive policies place international stability and security at risk. We advise the regime to reconsider these provocative launches and cease all activities related to ballistic missiles in order to avoid deeper economic and diplomatic isolation.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded in a tweet claiming, “Iran’s launch of space vehicles— & missile tests—are NOT in violation of Res 2231…”

Two months after the US launched new sanctions against the Iranian regime, Washington apparently intends to increase its political and economic pressures to compel Tehran into at least ending its adventurous policies.

Important details

Zarif’s remarks are nothing new, as the regime claims their missiles are for defensive purposes and do not bear the capability of delivering a nuclear payload. However, both the US and Europe are showing grave sensitivity in this regard and making contrast comments.

The missile ranges are key and upgrading these vehicles into delivering a nuclear warhead are an easy step. This subject becomes especially important when placed alongside threats made by senior Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) officials saying Iranian missiles now reach Europe.

Why the tests?

It is common knowledge that the Iranian regime is facing a conglomerate of crises as we speak. One particular issue, being Iran’s restive society and continuing protests, is of the utmost importance for the ruling regime, having severe impacts on their entire apparatus, especially more members of their ranks and files throwing in the towel.

Tehran’s clerics are now in dire need of what they describe as “hope therapy.” One such measure is through ballistic missiles and satellite launching vehicles to elevate diminishing spirits.

A protestor chants slogans against the Iranian regime and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki following a deadly attack on a camp near Baghdad housing Iranian exiles. (AFP)

 

In regards to Iran’s nuclear program, the regime continues to claim this initiative is for peaceful purposes and/or medical isotopes, knowing a complete shutdown of their “civilian” nuclear program would be humiliating in the face of the “Great Satan.”

Inside Iran and abroad, it would be considered as the regime beginning to succumb to the 12-demands raised by Pompeo.

Not so easy

These adventurous measures, however, create certain issues in already tense relations between the Iranian regime and Europe.

While Tehran desperately continues effort to create a rift between the US and Europe, the Green Continent cannot overlook Tehran’s meddling in the Middle Eastsupport for terrorismballistic missile tests and human rights violations, to some extent. Making things even more complicated is the position long adopted by Tehran, saying a step back on any of these issues will be the beginning of the end on all far more important subjects.

One such sign is the impasse Iran’s regime faces in regards to Europe’s “special purpose vehicle”initiative aimed at providing a mechanism to bypass US sanctions.

This subject has become so provocative for the European Union – especially considering Washington’s start opposition – that members of Iran’s Majlis (parliament) are heard claiming Tehran is not counting on the SPV!.

Seeing the matter becoming utterly embarrassing, Zarif has made similar remarks saying there was no economic objective in signing into the 2015 nuclear deal. It appears Zarif has forgotten how the Iranian regime went on a trade-signing rampage following the nuclear signing, including with companies such as AirBus, Boeing, Total and so forth.

Mehdi Mohammadi, described as an “expert in nuclear and international policy issues,” provided an interesting response after Zarif’s remarks raised quite a few eyebrows across the board.

“If we assume that Mr. Zarif was honest in his remarks, and these words were not the result of pressures from public opinion after the nuclear deal failed to provide economic fruit… this question comes to mind that if there were no economic/sanctions-lifting objectives involved in the nuclear deal, then what objective was the nuclear deal seeking?… Why did we even negotiate in the first place?”

Final thoughts

It is an undeniable fact that Iran’s regime is facing growing isolation, as the international community is coming to understand the clerics’ mortal weakness in the face of mushrooming protests.

Having no solutions, the Iranian regime is kicking the can down the road. 2019, with protests showing no signs of cooling and Washington determined to increase economic and diplomatic pressures, is promising to be a devastating period for Tehran.

Pompeo provided a preview in a recent interview with Newsmax: “The sanctions on Iran have the ultimate goal which we are trying to achieve. Creating an outcome where the Iranian people could have better lives than they have today under this tyrannical regime.”

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Understanding the US policy on Iran in light of Pompeo speech

Dedicating his first foreign policy speech to the grave subject of Iran, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined the Trump administration’s new strategy vis-à-vis Iran on Monday, coming shortly after President Trump announced the US would withdraw from the Obama-era nuclear deal.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., Secretary Pompeo vividly explained how the US administrations is standing alongside the Iranian people and their aspirations for freedom and democracy, especially the ongoing protests across the country.

The new strategy encompasses “a new security architecture” extending beyond Tehran’s nuclear program to also include its missile technology, support for terrorism and actions in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, amongst other countries.

A long slate of conditions were set forth by America’s top diplomat, demanding the Iranian regime to fall in line regarding concerns shared by the international community:

– The regime must come clean of all previous nuclear activities and disclose full account of the military dimensions of its nuclear program. It must also abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions in perpetuity.

– The regime must stop uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing. It must also close its heavy water reactor at Arak.

– The Iranian regime must provide the IAEA full access to all its sites throughout the country.

– Tehran must stop its ballistic missile development and the launching of ballistic missiles.

– The release of all foreign citizens held hostage by the regime.

– The Iranian regime must end its support for terrorist groups in the Middle East.

– Respect for the sovereignty of Iraq and the disbanding of its proxy militia in the country.

– End of support for the Houthi militias.

– The regime must withdraw all forces under its command from Syria.

– End of support for Taliban and other terrorists in the region. The regime must also cease providing shelter to the leaders of al-Qaeda.

– The regime must end the IRGC Quds forces support for terrorism across the globe.

– The regime must end its threatening behavior against its neighbors.

Mike Pompeo and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir during a press conference in Riyadh on April 29, 2018. (AP)

 

As Pompeo explained himself, this list is actually quite longer and the Iranian regime has only itself to blame. The way measures are forecasting, Tehran will never again enjoy a carte blanche to terrorize the Middle East.

Pompeo’s comments come as the as Iran is scrambling diplomats across the globe after Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal, in an effort to somehow preserve what they can of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), how the deal is formally known.

All the while, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has described the JCPOA as a “dying patient,” adding there is no guarantee if Europe can actually stand in the face of US sanctions.

Zarif has specifically added European support isn’t enough to safeguard the Iran nuclear deal. This notion was given a very strong shock as Pompeo said in his speech, “We will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime.”

As actions begin to bite and an increasing number of foreign companies are abandoning their endeavors inside Iran, Tehran is comprehending how this is just the beginning of a very strong sanctions tsunami, described as Pompeo of eventually becoming the strongest sanctions in history.

The sting of sanctions will be painful if the regime doesn’t change its course, Pompeo added. With an already ailing economy and its currency, the rial, nosediving, the Iranian regime will be in an uphill battle to prevent its economy from a highly possible episode of complete collapse.

Arguably the strongest aspect of Pompeo’s speech came in his emphasis on Washington’s stance alongside the Iranian people, underscoring how the US administration intends to advocate tirelessly for the Iranian people.

America’s top diplomat referred how the protests of the past show the Iranian people are deeply frustrated with the regime. Workers and others across the society aren’t getting paid. Strikes and protest rallies are a daily scene. Unemployment is skyrocketing, with the youth being at least 25 percent.

At a short Q&A after his speech, Secretary Pompeo was asked to deliver a possible timeline on how Washington intends to fulfill these measures against the Iranian regime.

“At the end of the day the Iranian people will decide the timeline,” Pompeo said interestingly. As far as Tehran is concerned, reactions to Pompeo’s speech are very telling.

The Youth Journalists Club, known for its affiliation to the faction close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, described Pompeo’s remarks as “baseless.”

The semi-official Tasnim news agency, however, associated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, went as far as using this title for its post-Pompeo speech take:

“The US Secretary of State and his regime change speech.”

Will Iran Gain Or Lose By Blocking Telegram?

Forbes

Reports of Iran’s regime intending to block the popular messaging app, Telegram, is the source of a variety of reactions. If Iran’s rulers had it their way this platform would be blocked as we speak after similar measures temporarily grounded the network following the January uprising.

Various Iranian officials have also expressed their belief that the internet must remain intensely monitored and filtered. This is part of a broad cyber-repression campaign led by Tehran, pushing users towards domestically-made apps that can be monitored by the regime’s security apparatus.

However, even Iranian President Hassan Rouhani posed to oppose such actions due to his concerns of its consequences.

Iranian media outlets are criticizing Rouhani, saying as the President he stands against blocking, while as chair of the Supreme National Security Council he orders such actions. The question is why did Iran lift its initial blocking after the quelling of recent unrests? The answer is simple: social pressures and international backlashes.

In Iran’s current powder keg society any issue can ignite a major movement. On December 28th an increase in the price of eggs sparked a major nationwide uprising. In a matter of just hours protesters were chanting “Death to Khamenei-Rouhani,” referring to the regime’s Supreme Leader and President, respectively.

To this day Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli acknowledges that these protests spread to more than 100 cities, 42 of which witnessed serious unrests. He also went on to confirm that an uprising can begin at any moment in Iran.

When a price hike can result in the most significant crisis for the Iranian regime since the 2009 uprising, rest assured blocking Telegram – used by over 40 million people across the country and the jobs of at least more than half a million people depend on this application – will generate extremely dangerous consequences.

Reactions of this announcement, made by Aladdin Borujerdi, chair of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, saying the decision was made at the highest level, obviously referring to Khamenei himself, are more than telling.

“Blocking Telegram will not result in people shifting towards homegrown platforms. It will backfire,” said Iranian MP Farid Mousavi.

“This will distance the people further from the government,” added Gholamali Jafarzadeh, another Iranian MP.

Censoring the internet at any extent will also come with a heavy global price tag. Considered a violation of freedom of speech and other liberties, the international community has an obligation to condemn such a move by Iran’s regime.

During the few days that Tehran blocked Telegram in January, American political figures and Members of Congress hit back hard. This rendered the U.S. Treasury Department to permit private companies to launch free and high-speed internet access for the Iranian people.

Considering today’s developments throughout the world, escalating international isolation for Iran and significant changes in the U.S. political structure, any move by Tehran can bear unprecedented penalties.

More importantly, from Iran’s perspective, is future uprisings and the society’s explosive atmosphere. Iranian officials are saying Telegram was the main tool used to coordinate and issue calls for continuous demonstrations during the January uprising.

Saeed Hajarian, a political strategist in Iran, describes uprisings in Iran as a retreating wave that returns with far more force.

As a result, Tehran must decide if it has reached the point of no return and has no choice but to block Telegram for good. Iran is no longer choosing between bad or worse. Decisions now are between hard and harder.

Interesting is how in a recent TV interview Iranian Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Jahromi said there are 8,000 dissident Telegram channels. Twice he also mentioned a channel – or group – belonging to the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), signaling the very threat Tehran is specifically concerned about in regards to the source of the recent uprising and ongoing protests.

A few weeks ago, another Telegram channel that is allegedly associated to the Iranian Intelligence Ministry and yet criticizes Tehran, placed a thought-provoking post asking:

“Why do people shift towards PMOI-linked channels? True, they have high quality posts. True, they have good video and … but those who do refer to PMOI channels are traitors.”

Ahmad Khatami, a senior member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts and a close figure to Khamenei also voiced concerns most likely mirroring those of the supreme leader:

“Cyberspace has become a major social dilemma and brought the enemy into our homes. Mothers should protect their children against cyberspace that is polluted with the enemy(!) The enemy intends to strike against the state through all means.”

To make matters worse, Iran is facing a very tumultuous period and a very high-risk decision. May 12th marks the end of U.S. President Donald Trump’s deadline regarding the Iran nuclear deal.

Tehran has only two options:

  • succumbing to significantly curbing its ballistic missile program and Middle East meddling, while permitting snap inspections at all sites,
  • or maintaining its position and bracing for a return of crippling sanctions.

The irony for Iran lies in the fact that both options pave the path for further social uprisings. This leaves Khamenei with no choice but to block, at least temporarily, the very medium fueling the ongoing uprising and accept the consequences.

There is an undeniable reality that senior Iranian regime officials understand far better than anyone. Although the internet is a powerful tool in driving Iran’s protests forward, the very basis is the fact that conditions across the country are ripe for protest snowballing into nationwide uprisings and an all-out revolution.

 

Storm brewing in Iran over nuclear deal, terror ties and domestic unrest

Recent developments are indicating a tough road ahead for Iran in what is promising to be a tumultuous summer.

U.S. President Donald Trump sacked his top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, on March 13, citing specifically differences regarding the Iran nuclear deal.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, nominated to lead the State Department, favors a firm approach confronting Tehran’s regional policy and is a major critic of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the Iran accord is formally known.

Former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, a strong critic of Tehran, is now Trump’s National Security Advisor.

Prior to this, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Iran on March 5, expressing concerns over Tehran’s ballistic missile program and Middle East belligerence. This portrayed the JCPOA’s fragile nature and Tehran’s failure to use Europe as a shield against the Trump administration.

Couple all this with escalating Iranian protests across the country, and the regime’s recent intention of filtering Telegram, a popular messaging app used by over 40 million people, and you have a recipe for disaster from Tehran’s perspective.

Prelude

Paving the path for Iran’s miseries, the Financial Action Task Force issued its latest report in February placing a June ultimatum for Tehran to input significant changes in its banking system and end financial relations with terrorist groups through nine specific procedures.

As Iran remains blacklisted in the financial market, investors are very hesitant over launching any meaningful project with the clerical regime.

Iran’s economic bankruptcy, parallel to widespread protests by people from all walks of life that continue as we speak, provide a very clear understanding about Tehran’s chief crises.

Double impact

The groundworks of such circumstances are vivid in two very specific JCPOA weak points, from Iran’s perspective. While Europe lifted many sanctions, similar steps imposed by the U.S. remained considering how Congress disagreed with the Obama administration’s engagement with Tehran.

Obama used his executive authority to suspend nuclear sanctions, while non-nuclear sanctions imposed by the U.S., blocking America’s financial system to Iran. As a result, European banks are unable to get involved in dollar transactions with Iran.

This, again, leaves the JCPOA very fragile and allows Trump to annul the entire accord while financial & non-nuclear sanctions remain intact.

Underestimation

Failing to comprehend the impact, Iran was boasting about Western companies lining up for business. This honeymoon ended quickly as Tehran came to understand its grave underestimation.

Former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry began receiving calls from his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, seeking measures to set aside banking sanctions.

In March 2016, Mohammad Nahavandian, then chief of staff of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, travelled to London warning of unaccountable results if the JCPOA fails to resolve Tehran’s economic dilemmas. Maybe he was referring to the Iranian uprising where the poor flooded the streets and raised demands for regime change.

Sweeping changes

Iran’s economic predicaments continue as we speak, especially with the Obama years ending and the Trump administration executing sweeping changes in U.S. policy vis-à-vis Iran. Banks and companies across the globe, especially Europe, are showing cold feet in engaging with this regime.

Speaking at London’s Chatham House back in February, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi vividly voiced his regime’s concerns, complaining how Tehran is not fully benefiting from the JCPOA and describing the atmosphere as “destructive” resulting from Washington’s “confusion” regarding the nuclear pact’s future.

Iran also miscalculated the JCPOA as a green light by the international community to deploy the Lebanese Hezbollah and dozens of other Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force-linked militia to not only massacre the Syrian people, but enjoy military presence in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

From 2015 onward Tehran is significantly developing its ballistic missile arsenal, providing such an inventory to the Houthis in Yemen to target Saudi Arabia. All the while, Iranian officials continue boasting about Hezbollah’s missile capabilities.

In response, the U.S. Congress is continuously adopting sanctions targeting the Iranian regime’s belligerence, especially blacklisting the IRGC.

Another expressively sweeping change that proved Iran’s calculations completely came as Europe began distancing from Tehran. Iran’s JCPOA dream story is culminating, realizing Europe will never choose business with this regime over its strategic economic relations with the U.S.

European officials went to great lengths to have Iran curb its ballistic missile program and regional meddling in the face of Trump’s threat to exit the JCPOA.

This resulted in Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other senior officials adopting strong positions against France, expressing their discontent of Europe siding with the U.S.

“If we have maintained our missile range to 2,000 kilometers, it is not due to technological limitations… we will increase our missile reach to the extent which we feel threatened,” said IRGC deputy Hossein Salami in a state TV interview on November 26.

Ultimate concern

While international isolation creates mounting quandaries for Iran, domestic unrest has forever been Tehran’s ultimate concern. To add insult to injury, Iran’s ongoing protests and uprising is under the navigation of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). This coalition has for four decades been the main target of the Iranian regime’s onslaught.

Professor Ivan Sascha Sheehan in his recent article in The Hill says:

“Tehran’s violent reaction to peaceful protests demonstrates that the language of strength is the only language the regime understands. Even under current president Hassan Rouhani’s so-called ‘moderate’ leadership, the Islamic Republic continues its illicit activities to every extent it is permitted to do so.”

This is not a call to war. Quite the contrary. The world should acknowledge Iran’s current wars in Syria and Yemen, conveniently gone neglected by mainstream media and appeasement supporters.

The international community can best support the Iranian people’s uprising by crippling the regime’s entities, such as the Central Bank and IRGC. This goes analogous to recognizing the Iranian people’s organized resistance for regime change, symbolized in the PMOI/MEK.

An Iranian expression translate into “April showers bring May flowers.”

This spring is already promising a stormy summer for the Iranian regime and a year of historical developments for the Iranian people.

Why Did Yemen’s Iran-Backed Houthis Fire Missiles Into Saudi Arabia?

Forbes

Common sense would suggest Iran toning down its language and measures as domestic and international pressures increase.

One cannot claim Tehran’s rulers lack common sense, as many accused Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi. The Iranian regime has been in power for four decades and their mentality hinges on pragmatism with the sole objective of maintaining their existence to the utmost extent.

Sunday night, local time, Saudi civilians became the target of seven ballistic missiles fired by the Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen.

“The Iran-aligned Houthi rebels fired three missiles at Riyadh and four others at the southern cities of Khamis Mushait, Jizan and Najran,” according to reports.

Saudi Patriot missile air defense batteries were able to destroy at least one projectile heading for an urban area, reports indicate. These batteries are programmable to allow missiles headed for remote areas lacking civilian population to hit the ground, preventing the unnecessary deployment of costly Patriot missiles.

This turn of events is resulting in a long slate of negative international reactions.

The United Nations, a long slate of Middle East countries, the United States and European Union have condemned the missile attacks, recommitting their support for the Kingdom.

London, despite its history of seeking to maintain ties with Tehran and expanding economic relations, grilled the latest developments in strong terms.

“We question why Iran is spending significant revenue in a country with which it has no real historical ties or interests,” reads a joint statement from Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt.

The text also calls for Iran to stop transferring weapons into Yemen. This is a litmus test for Tehran to prove it favors ending the violence and establishing peace in the Arab World’s poorest country. A test the Iranian regime has and will continue to fail, considering its nature of trekking from one crisis to another.

In line with this argument, Iran’s regular army chief commander again voiced threats of total annihilation against Israel.

“We will finish off Israel’s life within less than 25 years,” said Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi referring to a comment by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

This goes alongside the necessity for senior Iranian regime officials to save face in times of increasing domestic unrest parallel to elevating international isolation.

“We must choose between hard & harder. If we don’t accept the hard methods, we will have to succumb to more difficult circumstances,” said Iran’s Deputy Trade Minister Ali Sarzaeem.

Such comments from Iran come as the Trump administration undergoes major reshuffling, with analysts believing increasing pressure on Iran is a major focus.

After more than a year’s work with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump’s move to appoint CIA Director Mike Pompeo as his top diplomat is raising eyebrows across the globe, including most importantly in Tehran. Tillerson is well-known for convincing Trump, along with former National Security H.R. McMaster, to stick to the controversial Iran nuclear deal for a year.

With a new Secretary of State, and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton set to take over as National Security Advisor, many believe the coffin is completing for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the Iran nuclear agreement is formally known.

Tehran understands the unfolding situation is completely against its short- and long-term interests. Prior to the recent visit of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to Tehran, the West was seeking major curbing of Iran’s ballistic missile program and Middle East meddling. Tehran turning down that offer and taking into consideration the latest string of developments, the entire JCPOA now hangs in the balance.

Despite what you might read in mainstream media or hear from Iranian officials thumping their chests, Tehran desperately needs the JCPOA to remain intact.

Domestic circumstances are changing significantly following the December protests surge across Iran. Tehran’s rulers understand better than anyone their apparatus lacks the capacity to withstand a return to pre-JCPOA sanctions. The status quo is taking its toll on the regime’s day-to-day affairs, let alone with sanctions suffocating the economy.

For this very reason Iran’s regime is testing waters, such as through increasing hostilities in Yemen. Tehran seeks to maintain a poker face and claim more such steps will come if the U.S. decides to exit the JCPOA. This goes alongside previous claims of relaunching 20% uranium enrichment in a matter of 48 hours.

Although what needs understanding, as Europe is beginning to, is that Trump is not Obama. And Iran’s regime is far weaker due to the recent uprising, alongside growing intensifying internal disputes.

As a result, the circumstances are ripe to increase pressure on Tehran with actions such as sanctioning the mullahs’ Central Bank and crippling the Revolutionary Guards.

The likes of these actions, and not foreign military intervention, will place Washington and the West shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people in their struggle to set aside the mullahs and finally establish freedom and democracy.

The result of decades of appeasement is leaving no option but a firm policy vis-à-vis Tehran, and Washington is patching all loopholes.

Tehran comprehends these circumstances. If the mullahs’ back down from measures such as the recent Houthis’ missile attack, demands across the board will only increase.

Iranians protest again: Is the regime going down a slippery slope?

The scenes of protests and rallies in cities across Iran on Tuesday night are a major reminder. This regime is on thin ice.

Many cities became scenes of people using the national “Fire Festival” to stage anti-government protests. Tehran, Tabriz, Mashhad, Rasht, Ahvaz, Kermanshah, Sanandaj and many others became witness to such major acts of protests.

This proves Iran’s nation will not rest until they realize their ultimate objective of regime change.

State measures

Very telling is how state security forces remain on high alert in cities across the country, including Qom, central Iran, known as the Iranian regime’s hub where numerous seminaries are located.

Protests are continuing daily across the country. Marking International Women’s Day, several protesters outside the Labor Ministry in Tehran were demanding equal rights for women. Marginalized farmers east of Isfahan continue to protest authorities’ rerouting of river waters and destroying their agriculture products as a result. All the while strikes and protests continue to mushroom across the country.

Understanding the nation will continuously discover new methods to express their protests, Iran’s authorities have taken numerous precautions.

“State police is using 5,000 officers, 10 million accomplices, 1,100 traffic police vehicles, 27,000 special police patrols, installing 1,330 police trailers, 3,770 patrol vehicles, 2010 motorcycle patrols, 2,900 on-foot patrols, 1,700 temporary inspection centers, 104 permanent inspection centers and 30 helicopters,” according to Iran’s state police spokesperson in an interview with state TV.

The Supreme National Security Council, chaired by the so-called “moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, most certainly adopts and approves such actions.

Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani depicts the road ahead best by indicating challenges lay ahead for the clerical regime.

Driving force

What superficially began as a protest over poor living conditions quickly swelled into an uprising growing nationwide aiming to overthrow the Iranian regime in its entirety.

As proven again on Tuesday night, these protests can no longer classify as isolated incidents of unorganized nature. This grassroot movement is proving conditions will never be same following the uprising born on December 28th.

The driving force behind these protests, rapidly spreading to over 140 cities and towns through Iran, are women and the deprived social sectors.

Protesters have been chanting and writing in graffiti, ‘Death to Khamenei’ and ‘Death to Rouhani,’ formally referring to the regime’s supreme leader.

“Despite any ups and downs, the uprising will move on. The regime is incapable of stopping it. There are signs of alarm and concern even inside the IRGC and Bassij militia. The wall of fear has been cracked, and nothing including arrests, killings and torture can prevent the advancement of the protests to overthrow the regime,” Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi said back at a February session in Paris held by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

The stakes at hand are grave, to say the least. The West has finally begun to acknowledge the threats Iran poses for its Middle East neighbors through ballistic missiles and regional meddling.

It is time the entire international community realizes the undeniable fact that the Iranian people are demanding sweeping regime change.

Tuesday night’s protests also prove a direct link between the protests and the Iranian resistance movement, following a call made by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the largest member of the NCRI coalition.

The NCRI is pioneering the struggle to realize regime change in Iran and that is what the people of Iran want. It is high time for the West to realize appeasement vis-à-vis Tehran is not welcome as protesters express their abhorrence of this clerical rule.

Known for blowing the whistle on Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program, the PMOI/MEK is the spearheading protest organization inside the country. Khamenei went public on January 9 acknowledging the PMOI’s leading role behind these protests.

Effective measures

The European Union and each member state should not only recognize the Iranian people’s legitimate demand for regime change, but to adopt effective measures aimed at compelling Tehran to release all recently arrested protesters, guarantee freedom of speech and assembly, end suppression targeting women and abolish laws imposing compulsory veil.

Iran’s regime is currently on shaky grounds.

As a result, the EU should refrain from any deals with companies and individuals affiliated to Iran’s crackdown apparatus, most specifically the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

As the people voice their demands ever so clearly, the future of political and economic relations with Tehran should hinge on the release of all political prisoners and an end to executions.

In line, it would be quite encouraging to witness the United Nations launch a commission missioned to investigate the arrests, disappearances and mysterious suicides of Iranian protestors while in custody.

Europe should jump on board with its Middle East allies and the United States in adopting a firm Iran policy. Silence in regards to Tehran’s unrestrained quelling of protestors simply seeking their God-given right of freedom is unacceptable.

New Round In Iran’s Nationwide Protests?

Celebrating fire festivities marking the last week of Iran’s calendar year, people in many cities across the country took to streets staging yet another round of protests challenging the mullahs’ rule.

People transformed this national celebration into a major act of protest. This followed a recent call issued by a network based inside the country associated to the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) encouraging people to take advantage of this opportunity to stage nationwide demonstrations. People from all walks of life have also issued letters and statements supporting this new initiative.

Prior to this event Tehran’s concerns focused on such an occasion providing the people an opportunity to stage a large number of pocket, hit-and-run protests throughout various areas of all cities and towns.

Fox News interviewed a protester inside the country saying, “We are like a wave — we come back even stronger, and the Iranian people want regime change… There is no going back.”

Following the Dec 2017/Jan 2018 nationwide uprising that caught the regime by surprise, Iran has witnessed a surge in over 8,000 arrests and more than 50 protesters killed in custody, according to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

Greater Tehran police chief Hossein Rahimi emphasized all measures are being taken in regards to a variety of possibility forecasted for such an occasion, adding all forces are on full alert. Tehran’s main concern focuses on such protests avalanching into sweeping and uncontrollable storms.

Authorities insist people can uphold their traditional ceremonies on the condition of not disrupting public order. Interesting is how this regime hangs people and carries out lashings in public, yet now is thumping its chest about “public order.” Based on the Iranian regime’s terminology, “public order” is tantamount to the mullahs’ rule.

One should ask why such authorities are taking no measures to provide decent education, create jobs and the needed recreation needed for the country’s younger generation.

While claiming many people were killed and injured in such celebrations held in previous years, there is no action taken to resolve increasing air pollution across the country that is sending thousands of people to hospitals. Why are no measures blueprinted to prevent thousands of road accidents each year?

Iran has the highest number of deaths caused by road accidents in the world, according to the World Health Organisation’s most recent report on road safety.

Iran’s authorities are facing a crackdown impasse, extremely concerned of opening fire on such increasing protests across the country. There was a time, however, that Iran’s mullahs severely quelled any dissent, such as the 1994 Qazvin uprising where authorities even launched rockets at protesters, according to former senior intelligence officer Saeed Hajjarian.

This year, however, protesters across the country are chanting “Death to (Ali) Khamenei” and “Death to (Hassan) Rouhani” targeting the regime’s supreme leader and president, respectively.

IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari specifically said, “the PMOI prevented us from taking measures to silence the recent Dervish Gonabadi protests in the northeast suburbs of Tehran.”

If authorities order forces to open fire, the uprisings will flare in an uncontrollable manner. If they refuse to open fire, the protests will spread gradually expand and engulf the entire country.

Tehran cannot deny the undeniable. Iran’s 80-million+ population is demanding change. Regime change.

Washington has realized the changing times and the Trump administration has been showing signs of intending to stand alongside the people. Further measures targeting the regime’s Central Bank and the Revolutionary Guards are necessary to support Iran’s uprising nation.

In line, Europe should build upon its recent pressures on Iran to significantly curb its ballistic missile program and meddling across the Middle East. These demands must expand and also place the crosshairs on Tehran’s atrocious human rights record.

This is how the West can stand alongside the Iranian people and their organized resistance in the face of a malevolent regime.

A Close Look At Iran’s Budget

A country’s budget is the government’s fiscal plan for that state for a period of 12 months. All the country’s revenue and resources to provide credit are forecasted, placed alongside anticipated costs and expenses. The intention of this piece is to provide a much-needed close examination of Iran’s budget.

Iran’s next fiscal budget (from March 2018 to March 2019) is equal to around $350 billion. How is this money provided for? In general, Iran’s budget is funded through oil, taxes, increasing bonds and eliminating cash handouts or subsidies.

Oil, a natural resource belonging to the Iranian people, is currently being plundered by the ruling mullahs for foreign expenditures.

The second source of Iran’s budget is taxes. The government of President Hassan Rouhani has decided to increase taxes by 11%, equaling to $55 billion. This means Rouhani intends to take $55 billion out of the people’s pockets and use it for the government’s expenses. For a better understanding, we should compare these numbers to that of oil revenues.

Iran will have sold $50 billion of oil from March 2017 to March 2018, according to Deputy Oil Minister Amir Hossein Zamani. This means Iran’s regime seeks to extract $5 billion dollars more than their oil revenue in taxes from the people.

This is not an ordinary government with a live economy asking for people to pay their taxes. This is “Plundering 101” by Iran’s mullahs.

This is also something to think about for those European companies seeking to economic contracts with Iran, despite senior U.S. officials warning this being tantamount to sending a check to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Moscow should also take this into consideration, especially after providing a major concession to Tehran this week.

These taxes are being demanded from the Iranian people when the economy is already suffering under heavy recession. The country’s industry is literally nearing a complete halt.

In any other country undergoing such conditions taxes are relieved and the industry/production branch is provided necessary loans. Rouhani, however, is raising taxes.

Bonds are another source of providing for a government’s budget and Rouhani’s cabinet intends to escalate this amount by at least $45 billion.

Bonds, however, are only applicable in a popular government, last experienced in Iran under Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh back in the early 1950s. This is not the case in today’s Iran where protesters are heard chanting, “Death to Rouhani” and “Death to Khamenei,” in reference to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Another source from which Rouhani seeks to provide for his budget is through slashing cash handouts/subsidies. This “moderate” figure intends to deprive 30 million people, providing an additional $5 billion to his budget. This is tantamount to taxes, being nothing but plundering millions of Iranians already living in poverty.

The question now is where the oil revenue, being the main source of Iran’s budget, is actually allocated?

The semi-official ILNA news agency wrote Rouhani’s cabinet has significantly increased the IRGC’s suggested budget by 42%, parallel to a 33% elevation of the defense budget. All the while the country’s construction budget will witness a nosedive.

The IRGC will receive $8 billion from Iran’s fiscal budget. This is equal to cash handouts for 49 million people a year. If Rouhani had not increased the IRGC’s budget by 42%, at least 21 million people would be receiving subsidies.

In a country where its rulers consider ballistic missiles more important than the people having something to eat, it’s only natural that the nation’s money is poured into the pockets of IRGC members and other security personnel.

Now that we’re here, it’s good to take a look at the budget allocated to Iran’s notorious Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). These spies are being provided a $1 billion budget from the Iranian people’s pockets, only to focus mainly on spying on the Iranian people. The irony.

This amount should be compared to a number of entities, intended to serve the people, yet apparently are of lesser importance for the ruling state: The Social Security Organization, the Environment Protection Organization and the Organization for Research, Education & Agriculture Promotion.

The budget of all these entities combined are no match to the money provided to the MOIS. It is crystal clear that the security of Tehran’s mullahs are far more important for Rouhani than the drying Lake Urmia and Zayande River, retirees’ pensions, employees’ insurance and ….

Iran’s semi-official Jahan-e San’at daily analyzed the country’s next fiscal budget as: “Iran’s oil revenue is being allocated to foreign obligations and our presence in regional developments. Even the National Development Fund, intended for future generations, is not provided its share. In such circumstances when no money is coming from abroad to manage the country, the officials have seen no solution other than placing their hands into people’s pockets…”

To make a long story short, if up to now people were managing to make ends meet, with prices skyrocketing across the board, all families throughout the country will be facing major challenges.

This is the end result of Rouhani strengthening the IRGC at the price of the poor becoming poorer and the very few rich becoming richer. This will keep the fire burning beneath the ashes, igniting again and again until the people overthrow this regime.

While Washington has reversed Obama’s destructive appeasement policy vis-à-vis Iran, Europe must understand that investing in Iran is not only betting on the wrong horse, but standing alongside the murderous mullahs’ regime against the will of the Iranian people.

How The World Views Iran’s Role In Syria

As protests across Iran experience a variety of ups and downs following a major surge early this year, a wide array of analysts are seen writing about this important country’s domestic and foreign developments.

More recently, concerns for Tehran are also increasing abroad as its international isolation begins to take its toll.

To stand alongside the Iranian people, the international community must raise the cost of Tehran’s belligerence.

In a piece some time ago I discussed How Iran Is Losing Europe, especially taking into consideration the distancing of France from Iran and President Emmanuelle Macron’s improving relations with the United States.

Considering the fact that Iran’s economy is in desperate need of business ties with large French firms, such developments have become increasingly concerning for the Iranian regime’s ruling elite.

President Macron recently threatened military action against the Assad regime in Syria, widely known to be remaining in power thanks to the support of Iran and Russia.

“France will strike” if the Syrian conflict witnesses the use of chemical weapons against civilians, being in violation of international treaties, according to Reuters.

“On chemical weapons, I set a red line and I reaffirm that red line,” Macron added. “If we have proven evidence that chemical weapons proscribed in treaties are used, we will strike the place where they are made.”

Last May Macron emphasized chemical weapons use would represent a “red line” crossing. Updating his position, Macron took advantage of last Friday’s telephone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to weigh in grave concern over signs of chlorine bomb usage against civilians in Syria.

In recent weeks, rescue workers and aid groups in Syria, and the U.S. government, have been accusing Damascus of repeatedly deploying chlorine gas as a chemical weapon against civilians in Ghouta and Idlib.

This highly dangerous chemical substance, which Syria claims to possess legally for purposes such as water purification, can be lethal when used as a weapon and causes suffocation.

The “Syrians for Truth and Justice” organization is reporting how missiles carrying poisonous gasses targeting Ghouta belonged to Iran:

“According to Bellingcat, the munitions used in the February 1 attack are Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions (IRAMs), based on modified Iranian 107mm rockets. The standard warhead has been replaced with a large pressurized gas cylinder, and tail fins have been added to the rocket.”

Such developments go alongside further troubles brewing for Iran, emanating from strong remarks by other senior U.S. officials and figures.

Daniel R. Coats, Director of National Intelligence at a Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday:

“Iran remains the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism, providing financial aid, advanced weapons and tactics, and direction to militant and terrorist groups across the Middle East and cultivating a network of operatives across the globe as a contingency to enable potential terrorist attacks.”

In yet another reminder of Iran’s troubles regarding the controversial nuclear deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton emphasized in a FOX News TV interview of only three months remaining to U.S. President Donald Trump’s deadline regarding a decision over the accord’s future.

Promises were made Tehran would join the community of civilized nations as a result of this deal. The result, however, has been anything but.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday renewed his government’s call on Iran to withdraw from Syria, accusing Tehran of destabilizing the Middle East through military presence.

“Iran needs to withdraw its military, its militia from Syria, and allow a hope for the peace process to take hold in Geneva,” Tillerson emphasized at a news conference in Amman, the capital of Jordan.

As argued extensively in the past, an interesting insight is now provided into how Washington can impose meaningful pressure on Tehran at a time when protesters are chanting for Iran’s regime to “Let go of Syria, think about us.”

New York Post article reads in part:

“Now is the time for Trump to re-establish a robust military deterrent toward Iranian expansionism in close collaboration with regional allies. His administration declared the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist entity in October, and he should target key Guards’ bases and weapons in Syria accordingly. Such an approach could help prevent a larger-scale conflict.”

Iran understands how more money pumped abroad will flame their already crisis-riddled political status quo back home.

Washington may particularly be focusing on also closing Iran’s “land bridge,” connecting Tehran to Damascus to easily influence the entire region and connect to the Mediterranean.

Iran’s regime is very vulnerable following the recent uprising. Public unrest and the protesters’ demands for fundamental change are Tehran’s Achilles’ heel.

Identifying and supporting the very element that can realize this change is crucial.

ANALYSIS: How Iran’s regime enters its 40th year as an Islamic Republic

February 11 marked the beginning of the 40th year Iran’s clerics are ruling over what they describe as an “Islamic Republic.”

The fact that this regime is facing a whirlwind of domestic and foreign crises goes beyond doubt. While Tehran’s state media boasts massive support among the populace, remarks heard recently from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei portray a canvas of impasse, a weak entity and the road ahead being uphill, to say the least.

In response to increasing unrest across the country protesting political and economic corruption, Khamenei acknowledged the fact that “fighting cruelty and corruption is very difficult… it will not be resolved easily.”

He is acknowledging the growing scope of systematic corruption riddling the ruling apparatus, and his regime’s weakness in tackling such a demanding issue. Khamenei’s words also indicate Iran’s population will no longer tolerate discrimination, injustice and state-sponsored corruption.

Interesting is how in his latest remarks Khamenei refuses to discuss the 120-day ultimatum issued by U.S. President Donald Trump over the fate of the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. This further shows his weak hand, especially since Europe is cooperating with Washington’s demands of taking on Tehran’s meddling across the Middle East and ballistic missile program.

Khamenei’s silence is very meaningful and will be devastating for his regime in the near future.

“Systemized corruption”

Political and economic corruption is now considered institutionalized in Iran’s governing systems, ranking this country as one of the world’s most corrupts states. Obviously, economic corruption is merely one result of political corruption, and after 40 years we have come to learn the very subject of corruption has become an inseparable aspect of Iran’s regime.

Iranian Vice President Es’hagh Jahangiri says “termite corruption” is infecting every essence of Iran’s political and economic infrastructure, while Ahmad Tavakoli, head of Iran’s Expediency Council goes further.

“Unfortunately, corruption has become systematic. If measures are not taken, corruption will most definitely bring an end to the Islamic republic,” he adds, cited by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

Changing times

Once known for its chest-thumping in refusing to discuss its role in the internal affairs of countries across the Middle East and the so-called “defensive” ballistic missile program, Iran, sensing the changing times, is now signaling steps back in this regard.

In a public acknowledgment of increasing international pressures and Europe distancing away from Iran, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said in Paris how Tehran would be willing to discuss “other issues” if the West makes certain the JCPOA remains “a successful experience.”

Although these remarks may seem rather harsh, those familiar with the language used by Iranian officials understand this is saber-rattling to save face, knowing discussions over “other issues” will be grueling and far more demanding than anything Tehran experienced during the Obama years.

Obvious is how Iran’s hardliners fiercely oppose such talks, yet all parties of this factionalized regime are realizing there is no good option ahead, and only choosing from bad and worse.

With Trump providing a last chance for what he describes as “the worst deal ever,” the Europe trio of Britain, France and Germany, all seeking to preserve the JCPOA due to their economic interests in Iran, are scrambling to blueprint a plan addressing Trump’s concerns over Tehran’s destructive role in the Middle East and ballistic missile drive.

Dirty money

Despite Araqchi’s claim of there being no link between the Iran nuclear accord and its influence across the region, new evidence shows the U.S. government tracing portions of the $1.7 billion released by the Obama administration to Tehran – as part of the JCPOA signing – has found its way into the hands of Iran-supported terrorists.

Informed sources are indicating how Tehran has been allocating such funds to pay members of the Lebanese Hezbollah, known as Iran’s main proxy group and provide the budget needed for the Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guards element described as Iran’s leading foreign intelligence arm involved also in covert action.

The Houthis of Yemen should also be sending their gratitude to Team Obama as evidence shows they, too, have received dividends of the notorious cash load airlifted to Iran. Tehran is using the Houthis to exert pressure on Riyadh from its own backyard.

This is not good news for Iran as such findings will most likely further convince Trump in his effort against the JCPOA. As heard from Araqchi, Tehran understands perfectly well the scrapping of this accord and the return of crippling sanctions, coupled with ongoing domestic protests, are a recipe for disaster.

Troubling months

In another sign of the Trump administration’s determination to take on the issue of Iran’s belligerence, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in the region, paying visits to Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Kuwait.

Iran is most definitely a major topic of his discussions and Tehran is bracing for possibly a new onslaught of regional pressure, similar to that of Europe, making costing demands.

With Iran protests taking a toll on the regime – as seen on Sunday with many cities witnessing people boycotting pro-regime rallies and protesters hitting the streets at night – and increasing word of banks going bankrupt, the months ahead look grim for Iran. This regime understands better than anyone that the public’s increasing wrath will be demanding, and it is using the JCPOA, its regional influence and ballistic missile program to bargain with the international community.

The difference between now and 2015 is that the White House is not at all fond of Iran’s bellicosity, and more importantly, the Iranian people are making serious demands of regime change.