ANALYSIS: The reasoning behind Iran’s recent nuclear, military measures

Al Arabiya

The Iranian regime has recently moved up its fall military exercises, due to the re-imposition of US sanctions as they say, and test fired a short-range ballistic missile. This launching comes after a pause of more than a year.

On Monday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei placed what may be a nail in the coffin for any possible negotiations between his regime and the Trump administration.

Parallel to this, while making much lesser noise in the media, is the second return of ten batches of 20 percent enriched uranium that Iran sent to Russia under the 2015 nuclear accord. Iran claims this highly sensitive nuclear material is needed to fuel Tehran’s Research Reactor and threatens to restart the 20 percent uranium enrichment cycle if the deal goes south.

All the while, Iran’s ultraconservative Guardian Council, answering only to Khamenei, has signed measures to bring the regime a step closer to international anti-money-laundering standards. What is the reasoning behind these two threats and one concession?

Missile and military threats

Having the final call on all on all state matters in Iran, especially national security and foreign policy, Khamenei silenced any talk for negotiations with the U.S. From his remarks it is obvious that the Iranian regime is hoping to somehow live through US President Donald Trump’s first term and hope for him to not be reelected.

Back home, with a recent short-range ballistic missile test launch Iran is obviously sending a message to Washington regarding the sanctions. Iran test-fired a missile immediately after Trump came into office. This prompted the famous “on notice” remarks from former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the Trump administration slapping sanctions against the Iranian regime, signaling the new White House would not tolerate such behavior.

Tehran is returning to such practices as US sanctions bear down hard, parallel to protests across the country gaining momentum. Even weekend football matches are turning into scenes where people are chanting “Death to the dictator” in reference to Khamenei, as seen vividly in Ahvaz and Tehran in the past few days.

US sanctions re-installed last week are taking Iran out of the US dollar market, shutting down their access to gold and other precious metals such as aluminum, steel and graphite, automobiles and etc.

Extreme sanctions against the Iranian regime’s energy and banking sectors are set to return in November, with the high potential of an already severely struggling economy completely crumbling. As we speak the country’s currency, the rial, is becoming valueless and all businesses are turning to the black market.

Feeling cornered, will the Iranian regime live up to its threat of blocking the Strait of Hormuz where nearly one-third of the world’s seaborne oil trade passes through? After its first 18 months the Trump administration has shown it will consider such measures as an act of war.

“If the block the Strait of Hormuz we would literally take out all their military on the Strait of Hormuz,” said Ret. Gen. Jack Keane to Fox News recently.

Rest assured the Iranian regime does not wish to instigate a conflict with the US For nearly 40 years now Iran has constantly used proxy forces to attack the US and its regional allies, specifically avoiding direct confrontation through their military.

Interesting reminders

Iran, under growing threats, is known to resort to face-saving measures. As international pressures escalate and facing a restless nation, the Iranian regime desperately needs to maintain a strong posture.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the regime’s Atomic Energy organization, reported recently the returning of a second batch of 20 percent enriched uranium sent to Russia under the 2015 nuclear accord inked by the Obama administration and nixed by Trump back in May as promised during his presidential campaign.

“If the nuclear deal remains alive, the other sides should sell us the fuel and if the nuclear deal dies, then we would feel unimpeded to produce the 20% fuel ourselves,” Kamalvandi threatened, according to the semi-official Fars news agency, known to be associated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

He continued his threatening remarks of Iran being entitled to resume production of 20 percent enriched uranium in 2030. Furthermore, Iran has reopened a nuclear plant recently after remaining idle for nine years.

What shouldn’t go missing is the Iranian regime’s necessity to make such threats being very telling in and of itself. These are signs of a regime in crisis mode and needing to maintain a poker face, knowing their hand has nothing to offer while rivals are breathing down their neck with a full house.

Facing reality

It is, however, crystal clear for the Iranian regime that such a trend of ongoing threats cannot continue. Long gone are the Obama years when Tehran open-handedly imposed its will and continued to wreak havoc across the Middle East while advancing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, all aligned with a ruthlessly repressive domestic crackdown machine.

For example, Iran is now heavily investing on deepening an Atlantic rift between the US and Europe. And with the European Union demanding Iran comply with anti-money-laundering standards specified by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a senior body linked directly to Khamenei is approving measures to place the regime more in line with the globally recognized norms.

Iran is now in desperate need of foreign investments as US sanctions begin to such dry the regime’s access to the global financial market. The FATF, considered the world’s financial-crime watchdog, had in June provided the Iranian regime until October to impose reforms or face drastic consequences.

The main definition of FATF restrictions for the Iranian regime is defined into the hampering of Tehran’s financial support for terror groups, including the Lebanese Hezbollah and others. This has the potential of severely crippling the regime’s influence throughout the Middle East.

Back in June Khamenei called for domestic laws to tackle money laundering inside the country, in an attempt to safeguard the flow of financial support to its proxies abroad. Recent development go to show how dire circumstances are leaving Khamenei no choice but succumbing to such humiliating terms. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

We are only one week into the return of US sanctions and protests across Iran have been gaining continuous momentum ever since the Dec/Jan uprising. Tehran on Saturday and Sunday witnessed the shoe market going on strike as store-owners were protesting high prices and the scarcity of raw material.

The impact of new sanctions will continue to sink in deep, weakening the regime in the face of expanding protests. Prior to November the Iranian regime will be on its knees.

Advertisements

Why Washington’s willingness to listen to Iranians is nightmare for the regime

Al Arabiya

The speech delivered by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday evening at the Reagan Library in Los Angeles can be described as yet another nail in the Iranian regime’s coffin.

It is hard to recall the last time the leaders of a regime were compared to the “mafia,” as Pompeo did in his description of the clerics sitting on the throne in Tehran. It is only fair to say Pompeo has escalated his Iran ante suggestively after his May speech where he outlined the Trump administration’s new strategy vis-à-vis the Iranian regime and summarized it in 12 conditions Tehran must adhere to.

With the rial plummeting further against the US dollar, water and electricity shortages rendering further public dissent, and a new round of truck drivers’ strike launching on Monday, Iran’s domestic calamites are dangerously coupling with its escalating foreign isolation.

A disaster is in the making for the regime.

‘Polished front men’

After decades of enjoying full-fledged appeasement from various administrations in the United States and the West in general, Iran’s regime is facing a White House like none other.

Officials in Iran described the Obama years as the “golden era.” Nowadays, the circumstances are in deep contrast to what Tehran desires and needs to continue its domestic crackdown and foreign adventures.

“Despite the regime’s clear record of discretion, America and other countries have spent years straining to identify a political moderate; it’s like an Iranian unicorn! The regime’s revolutionary goals and willingness to commit violent acts haven’t produced anyone to lead Iran that can be remotely called a moderate, or a statesman,” he said.

This was a severe blow to Iran apologists continuing to claim reform from within this regime is possible.

Pompeo resorted to the term of “merely polished front men for the ayatollahs’ international con artistry” when dismissing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

‘Mafia’

With protesters across the country continuing to voice their dissent regarding the ruling regime and complaining about severe economic hardships, Pompeo voiced strong words in saying Iran “is run by something that resembles the mafia more than a government.”

“40 years of fruit from Iran’s Islamic Revolution has been bitter. 40 years of kleptocracy. 40 years of the people’s wealth squandered on terrorism. 40 years of Iranians jailed for expressing their rights,” he explained.

The “mafia” ruling Iran is also known for its horrific practice of supporting terrorism and sponsoring extremist groups to fuel sectarian strife across the Middle East and export crises across the globe, including Europe.

As we speak Iran is going the distance to have a Vienna-based “diplomat” – arrested recently in connection to a bomb plot targeting the Iranian opposition “Free Iran 2018” convention in Paris – returned to Vienna. Pompeo referred to this case in his speech and made an interesting conclusion about the regime.

Unexpected

In May, US President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear pact, supposedly aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. Trump had always described it as the worst deal in the world and lived up to his campaign promise of tearing up the accord.

Ever since US sanctions have been returning and an armada of foreign companies, including the likes of Total, Siemens and Boeing, to name a few, are ending their business with the Iranian regime.

Seeing its lifeline of oil exports threatened, Rouhani and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei made a series of retaliatory threats in response to imminent US embargoes. What they received was unexpected, to say the least.

Placing this alongside Pompeo’s strong speech on the same day once again bring us to this conclusion that Iran’s regime understands only a firm language.

The Trump administration has been implementing such a viewpoint, especially through meaningful sanctions that promise to make Tehran think twice about how to trek forward.

Historic

The Trump administration says its Iran policy is not specifically “regime change.”

A look at Pompeo’s recent speech, the 12-conditions he placed before Tehran in May, and how the stakes are escalating following Trump’s response to the Iranian regime’s threats, it is safe to say the changes we are witnessing and the road ahead are of historic proportion.

“While it is ultimately up to the Iranian people to determine the direction of their country, the United States … will support the long-ignored voice of the Iranian people,” Pompeo said.

Obama turned his back on the Iranian people back in 2009 and the rendered results continue to plague us globally.

Trump is not making that mistake. The sheer fact that Washington has decided to listen to the Iranian people inside the country and abroad is a nightmare turning into reality for Tehran’s rulers.

Iran: Changes in Revolutionary Guards’ senior command?

IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari & Quds Force chief may be sacked

The following report is from sources inside Iran and has yet to be confirmed.

At a family event on July 18th, Seyed Massoud Khamenei, the son of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has told Sadeq Kharazi, his brother in law, that Khamanei has been unhappy with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) recently, especially considering the major setbacks Iran has suffered in Syria.

Changes in the senior IRGC ranks are in the making, Massoud Khamenei said, and Deputy IRGC chief Hossein Salami will be replacing IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari.

Image result for hossein salami
Deputy IRGC chief Hossein Salami

IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani is also said to be sacked, yet his replacement has yet to be specified.

Massoud Khamenei has told Sadeq Kharazi, who enjoys close relations with Suleimani, that the Quds Force chief has twice recently requested to meet with the Supreme Leader, only to be turned down on both occasions.

Image result for khamenei IRGC
IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani

Sadeq Kharazi has said the Supreme Leader sought to keep a lid on the information about changes in the IRGC ranks. However, information has leaked out of Khamenei’s home and office.

In a move intended to prevent already decreasing morale among IRGC personnel, Khamenei recently ordered officials to deny any rumors of changes among senior IRGC officials.

In line, Brigadier General Mohammad Shiraz, head of Khamenei’s Military Office, on Saturday denied rumors claiming Jafari’s replacement.

Iran after the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki

Al Arabiya

The Middle East situation on the ground is significantly different in comparison to a short while ago. There were times when Iran sought to become the leading hegemon in the region.

With Tehran’s honeymoon coming to an end after eight years of Obama at the helm in Washington, the regime is finding itself severely marginalized. There are also analysts saying the days of Iran’s clerics in power are numbered, especially with protests spreading throughout the country.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki to discuss a variety of issues, including trade, military, missiles, nuclear weapons and China.

Another topic highly anticipated by many is the Middle East and especially Iran’s destructive role in the Middle East. Trump has been crucial on Tehran, pulling out of a flawed nuclear pact and having a series of new sanctions return against the regime that is already rendering a long list of international companies heading out of Iran. The Helsinki Summit was only promising to add to the regime’s miseries.

President Trump speaks about Iran and the Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington on October 13, 2017. (Reuters)

 

Decision makers

The highly debated Helsinki summit will most likely kick-start a process completely in contrast to the Iranian regime’s interests, especially in Syria. Trump and Putin are expressing hopes their military forces in Syria will enjoy good cooperation. This means no word of Iran on future decisions for whatever is left of this war-devastated land.

When Trump resorts to terms such as the plague of Islamic terrorism, rest assured the Iranian regime is getting the message. Tehran has been the main beneficiary of extremists from all colors wreaking havoc across the Middle East; from Pakistan and Afghanistan all the way to the shores of the Mediterranean. Anyone ever ask how Iran has remained so secure while sitting in the middle of all this mayhem?

Trump continued on the necessity to place Iran’s regime under pressure to prevent its ambitions and activities focusing on supporting violence across the region, adding the US will not allow Tehran take advantage of the international coalition’s successful war against ISIS in Syria.

With all of Iran’s hopes lying on Putin, the Russian president praised his talks with Trump and emphasized conditions are ripe for effective cooperation in Syria. Again, no mentioning of a role for Iran. While Russia’s role in Syria is a very controversial topic, especially with the Russian air force launching massive bombing raids on civilians, Putin’s words mean trouble from Tehran’s perspective.

“We will be cooperating with the US on the war against terrorism and establishing peace,” Putin said. Iran thrives on chaos and any talk of fighting terrorism and establishing peace are a nightmare for this regime, to say the least.

Harsh times

Iran’s plights were already piling prior to Helsinki, with the US imposing sanctions one after another. Tehran is known to be spending huge budgets on Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and extremists in Palestine. And with heavy sanctions set to kick in on August 6th and November 4th, what Iran needs the most now is foreign investment.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had dispatched his senior advisor, former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, to Moscow. Considering today’s circumstances and Iran’s regime feeling the heat from Washington, the message delivered by Velayati was obviously a mayday call asking Putin to refrain from sealing a deal with Trump.

A major embarrassment came after Velayati claimed Moscow is ready to invest a whopping $50 billion in Iran. Putin had other thoughts, however, as Kremlin’s spokesman highlighted he cannot confirm such a claim and that Russia is willing to evaluate the possibility of providing Russian goods in return for Iranian oil.

Iranian MP Hedyatollah Khademi said sarcastically in response, “We thank Russia for providing us goods in return for oil so at least we won’t die of hunger!”

Iran’s regime is fighting for survival, knowing Washington will be demanding their proxies throughout the region to place down their arms, pack their bags and go home. (AP)

 

The first of many

With Tehran losing its grip on Yemen as the Houthis suffer defeats on the ground, Iran’s rulers consider any step back from Syria as the beginning of the end to all their devious regional ambitions of reaching “Quds through Karbala.”

This was a motto Iranian regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini resorted to in justifying the devastating Iran-Iraq War back in the 1980s. Those days are over. Iran’s regime is fighting for its very survival, knowing Washington will be demanding their proxies throughout the region to place down their arms, pack their bags and go home.

The Helsinki Summit also proves that Moscow is no longer interested in anything Tehran can offer. Putin seeks to preserve his own future interests in the Middle East and as sanctions against Iran increase, Tehran’s rulers will lack the money to maintain Kremlin’s political and military support.

As a nail in the coffin for Iran’s regime, Trump said US and Russian national security council representatives will be hammering out the details of Monday’s initial agreements. This means National Security Advisor John Bolton representing Washington’s interests. He’s certainly one American figure the Iranian regime is familiar with.

After seven years of pouring billions into Syria, Helsinki has left Khamenei watching in agony as world powers decide Iran’s future in the region. Add to this escalating protests and strikes across Iran, you have the exact ingredients needed for a recipe for disaster. From Tehran’s viewpoint, of course.

ANALYSIS: Why Iran can’t take a decision similar to North Korea

Al Arabiya

The historic meeting between the leaders of the United States and North Korea, and the resulting Korean Peninsula denuclearizing deal, has the potential of resolving a decades-old international crisis.

This very important development will most definitely have its impact on another flashpoint in today’s world, being the Middle East, and most importantly, Iran.

Comprehensive document

The meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is the first of its kind following the end of the Korean War back in 1953.

The signed document is currently dubbed as a “Comprehensive Document,” sending a signal to the signatory parties of the 2015 “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” over the Iran nuclear program.

This agreement can is a cornerstone to include nuclear disarmament and halting its ballistic missile program by North Korea, and the US lifting its sanctions.

Prior to this signing, the Iranian Foreign Ministry claimed to agree with and welcome any peaceful measure. Following the signing, however, Tehran’s tone changed drastically.

“The North Korean government should be on high alert in this regard,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi.

“North Korea should be on alert that the US President is not loyal to his signature,” said Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Reza Nobakht.

Aside from these remarks, senior Iranian officials are concerned of North Korea sharing secrets of their nuclear and missile collaborations with the US and possibly other international community members.

Iranian protesters burn a representation of the US flag at a rally in Tehran on June 8, 2018. (AP)

Different viewpoints

A variety of reactions have been heard from Iran’s perspective.

There are those who believe the US/North Korea deal was made possible due to Pyongyong’s ability to obtain nuclear weapons. As a result, this camp argues flatly against any thought of destroying Tehran’s nuclear program or closing down its nuclear sites, let alone destroying them.

“Some experts have different viewpoints on this matter, claiming North Korea destroyed its nuclear sites due to its excessive age and being worn out,” according to a piece in Iran’s Vatane Emrooz daily.

“Despite sanctions and global threats, for years North Korean officials continued their nuclear and ballistic missile tests to now enjoy this capability of safeguarding their country,” the piece adds.

Others in the Iranian regime are also voicing concerns of Washington having more dangerous intentions. “Trump seeks to force Iran into a new round of negotiations,” according to the Hemayat daily.

Impact on Iran

There’s no doubt the Trump/Kim summit will increase pressure on the Iranian regime domestically and internationally. Signs indicate a growing number of parties will be demanding Tehran to finalize its decision between:

a) Entering new talks with Washington after succumbing to the 12 conditions raised by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

b) Standing firm on a 40-year long position and continuing their belligerence across the board.

Neglected in the past four decades is the fact that Iran has kicked the can down the road on this issue and taken advantage of surrounding developments to prolong its very existence.

The important factor here is the difference between North Korea and the Iranian regime. Despite the variety of claims heard about the result of the Trump/Kim agreement, North Korea’s capacity made such a change in policy and strategy possible. The Iranian regime, on the other hand, lacks any such aptitude, proven in the past four decades.

People protest in Tehran, Iran December 30, 2017 in in this picture obtained from social media. (Reuters)

Tehran is not Pyongyang

Another issue gone neglected is the fact that North Korea has never faced resistance from within or an organized opposition movement. While such a factor has plagued the Iranian regime ever since day one back in 1979.

This goes to prove that the deciding factor in Iran are the people and their opposition movement, symbolized in the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). This movement has encouraged and organized protests and uprisings for the past 40 years, especially since the Dec/Jan nationwide protests that swept 142 cities across Iran.

This phenomenon is Tehran’s main concern and Pyongyang has been free of any such dilemma. Iran’s society is a powder keg ready to explode and regime officials acknowledge the fact that their apparatus is facing 21 super challenges on a daily basis. This slate includes:

• The deep and increasing rift between the people and the ruling regime,

• The incurable trust divide as people continuously lose faith in anyone with any association to this regime,

• The people’s abhorrence of the regime being present in every part of their daily lives,

• The active presence of educated women in daily protests,

• The climaxing water shortage crisis witnessed in numerous areas of the country,

• Unemployment and skyrocketing prices,

• Brain drain and the increasing flow of billions in currency exiting the country.

It is interesting how the status quo is the psychological impact of Trump exiting the nuclear deal as the 90-day and 180-day deadlines for returning sanctions have yet to arrive.

In such circumstances, with or without sanctions, with or without negotiations, the Iranian people will relentlessly continue their struggle against this regime.

ANALYSIS: How to cripple the Iranian regime and help its people

Al Arabiya

The US administration taking significant measures to re-impose sanctions on Iran’s regime aims to reach a variety of objectives. Crippling sanctions are being implemented on Tehran and there are methods to pinpoint these efforts against the regime and in fact support the Iranian people’s strive for freedom and democracy.

One very effective initiative is severing all access for Iranian banks to SWIFT, or the Society for the Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.

These actions have the potential of exerting crippling economic and financial pressure Tehran, including exerting unprecedented damages to the regime’s trade relations and import/export process.

Iran deal finale

Numerous outlets are running a variety of reports and articles discussing the impact of US President Donald Trump exiting the Iran nuclear deal and the future of relations between Iranian banks and SWIFT.

If Tehran’s rulers see their apparatus cut off from SWIFT, the regime Central Bank, Bank Melli, Bank Sepah and Bank Saderat (Exports) will no longer enjoy the highly important facilities provided by the Belgian firm.

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on June 4, 2018 shows him greeting the crowd in Tehran. (AFP)

What is SWIFT?

This Brussels-based company is quite large in size and is mainly involved in facilitating transactions. Simply put, SWIFT lubricates the wheels of financial relations across the globe.

Placing this subject into better perspective, financial transactions were carried out through telex messages, taking a few days to arrive at the destination. These transactions are accelerated to a matter of minutes under SWIFT services.

Today, SWIFT is known to manage around 11,000 banks and financial institutions across 209 countries, facilitating around six billion financial messages annually.

Remaining neutral?

SWIFT opened eyes into this world back in May 1973 with a very noteworthy characteristic of refraining any involvement in political disputes. Launched with the support of a number of countries, this institution aims to accelerate money and financial transactions for trade across the globe.

While SWIFT officials strive to distance their entity from politics, the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York had the US, a major SWIFT member, demanding further control over financial transactions across the globe. This included American authorities seeking increasing access to personal information of individuals using SWIFT.

Despite initial opposition by SWIFT authorities, the European Union agreed to U.S. demands of establishing methods of controlling and monitoring trade and banking transactions.

In July, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran over its missile program. (Shutterstock)

Iran, SWIFT & US sanctions

Iran joined the SWIFT in 1992, linking its Central Bank, Banks Melli, Sepah and Saderat (Export), alongside other Iranian regime banks to the world’s financial network.

In 2012, under pressure from the US and major sanctions against Tehran’s nuclear program, the links between Iranian regime banks and SWIFT, and effectively the global financial network, were severed.

Following the 2015 Iran nuclear deal signing and initial measures implemented by Iran, SWIFT lifted its restrictions on Iranian banks in 2016. This goes alongside the $1.7 billion in cash provided to Tehran by the Obama administration and the $150 billion in assets unfrozen.

Despite pledges provided by senior Iranian officials, not a single dollar of this huge amount went to provide the Iranian population’s necessities. While over 50 million people across the country are living in poverty, Tehran continues to fuel its terrorist proxies across the Middle East, an unnecessary nuclear program and ballistic missile drive.

New measures

On June 4th the three countries of France, Germany and the United Kingdom issued a letter to US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin asking for new American sanctions to not include the SWIFT apparatus.

Following the developments of the recent G7 meeting in Canada, there are no signs of Washington taking the European request into consideration. If so, the Green Continent will be significantly limited in continuing its economic cooperation with Iran.

The sanctions that are scheduled to be back on line come November 4 are set to include financial and banking collaboration. Any entity refusing to abide by these regulations, already seen very unlikely, will be the target of US punishment. This comprises their US-based assets being frozen, officials banned to enter US soil and their activities limited in the US.

Iran’s domestic crackdown organs and its foreign belligerence are all funded through state banks and financial institutions. All actions taken against these entities and limiting their power will benefit the Iranian people in their daily protests and long struggle to establish freedom and democracy in their country.

Following the Dec/Jan nationwide protests, described by many as an uprising, there is no longer any doubt that the Iranian people want this regime gone. As a result, any measures against Tehran’s interests will support this nation’s quest to achieve their objectives.

A look at the current trend leads to this conclusion that the months leading to November will be of grave importance for the future of Iran’s regime, knowing the continuation of today’s actions will cripple its entire apparatus very soon.

ANALYSIS: Amid widening protests, time to side with Iranian people

Tuesday (June 5) marks the 15th consecutive day of a nationwide strike launched by tens of thousands of truck drivers in Iran. Video footage and still images widely circulated on social media indicate both the vast scope and organized nature of this movement, two characteristics causing major concerns for the Iranian regime.

As truckers in nearly 300 cities across the country continue to emphasize their rightful and long-neglected demands, colleagues throughout the globe are displaying sympathy and solidarity. This is one very effective method of both taking measures against the Iranian regime’s unjust rule and standing alongside the Iranian people’s just cause.

The Teamsters, known as one of the largest labor unions in the United States and the world over, issued a very powerful message recently in support of Iranian truckers.

“Iranian truck drivers in 25 provinces and 160 cities have been on strike over low pay, rising operating costs, increased tolls and other regulatory fees. #Teamsters stand in #solidarity with our Iranian brother & sisters!” said Teamster General President James Hoffa in a letter to Abolfazl Mehrabadi, deputy director of the Iranian regime’s interest branch at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Taking a step further and boosting the Iranian truckers’ efforts even further, Hoffa emphasized that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, representing the voice of 1.4 million transportation and supply chain employees across the US and Canada, also “stands in solidarity with our Iranian brothers and sisters.”

“We urge the government of Iran to listen to the grievances of the striking Iranian truck drivers, address their just demands and recognize their internationally recognized rights to assembly, speech, freedom of association and collective bargaining,” Hoffa added.

Objectives

Iran’s truck drivers are raising a series of demands they have been pursuing for several years now, including:

– A 35 to 50 percent increase for haulage charges. Iranian regime authorities are reportedly promising a 20 percent increase and truck drivers are refusing to back down, encouraging their colleagues to stand firm.
– Retirement pensions to be provided after 25 years of hauling goods.
– Their field of work being recognized and classified as harsh and demanding for the drivers, paving the path for further pensions.
– Decreasing insurance bills. Many of Iran’s truck drivers are unable to receive medical care because of such high fees.
– Decreasing supplementary fees, such as road tolls and commissions demanded at a high number of terminals (without abiding by any specific framework).
– Decreasing the price of spare parts, spare tires and fuel.
– The head of Iran’s truck drivers/owners union resigning as the protesting drivers complain he is not standing up for their rights and instead implementing the authorities’ will.
– Iranian police and other authorities ending their repressive measures against the drivers.

Further measures upsetting the truckers include authorities compelling them to install tracking devices on their vehicles. Not only are the truckers forced to pay for related expenses, they are complaining of how the regime’s only security forces, intelligence authorities and the regime-controlled National Oil Company benefit from the data provided through these trackers.

As the truckers have stood firm, daily reports from inside Iran indicate people from all walks of life joining their ranks. Taxi drivers in several cities throughout the country are adding their voice to the truckers demanding higher wages, protesting the skyrocketing price of spare parts and seeking a considerable raise in social welfare premiums.

Since Saturday chicken farm owners in numerous cities including Amol, Sardasht, Miandoab, Meshkin Shahr, Maraqeh, Hamedan, Yazd, Arak and Semnan are reportedly holding rallies outside governors’ offices protesting skyrocketing prices of chicken food and their industry being on the verge of bankruptcy.

People are affected by tear gas fired by anti-riot Iranian police to disperse demonstrators in a protest in Tehran on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. (AP)

 

Broader concerns

Iran’s security forces are seeing this crisis escalate as truckers and taxi drivers are taking measures to resist oppression, spreading calls and seeking solidarity and unity in their effort and seeing such measures spread extensively on social media.

This indicates a growing number of people are becoming informed and realizing the importance of uniting against the regime. And this is exactly what Tehran seeks to prevent. Clashes are reported from Isfahan and Shiraz, as truckers from smaller towns sought to join the ranks of their colleagues in larger cities to voice their demands in a stronger tone.

Remarks heard from officials show the regime is feeling the pressure. “Haulage fees have already been increased up to 20 percent and the problem of truckers’ subsidies addressed, but meeting their other demands takes time,” the Iranian regime’s Roads and Urban Development Ministry Deputy Abdol-Hashem Hassan Nia said on May 31. These remarks came after senior officials realized they cannot merely neglect the truckers’ demands and how the economic impact began kicking in for the regime.

To this day, the truckers are showing no intention to back down and have flatly rejected promises made by regime officials, promising to continue their initiative until authorities meet their demands. There are also reports of truckers from southern Iran heading toward Tehran, the capital, on Monday to have more people hear their reasonable and legitimate demands.

Iran is home to nearly 370,000 trucks delivering goods across the country. An increasing number of drivers are realizing how they have tolerated their unjust conditions far too long and now is the time to stand firm, knowing their voices are heard by the international community.

As the United States and its partners in the Middle East – and eventually Europe – are realizing and adopting a firm policy vis-à-vis the Iranian regime, one very effective and necessary initiative is to stand shoulder to shoulder with Iran’s protesting populace.

Has Khamenei signaled dead-end for Iranian regime’s adventures?

The United States’ important policy shift against Iran’s growing ambitions, spelled out in a 12-article speech delivered by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is leaving Tehran’s clerical rulers facing quite a difficult challenge.

Iran experts believe these changes are based on two domestic and international pillars, acknowledging the reality of Tehran’s regime as a main threat in regards to its nuclear program, ballistic missile drive, exporting terrorism and fundamentalism, and a domestic crackdown machine on full throttle.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei understands how such dangerous circumstances are rendering severe setbacks for his forces both inside the country and militia proxies abroad.

Reports indicate the Afghan “Liwa Fatemiyoun” militias, hired to fight in Syria, are deserting their units, and Tehran is apparently ordering Houthi militia units in Yemen to withdraw from the country’s western coastline and surrender their most strategic port in al-Hudaydah.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrives for a meeting of the foreign ministers from Britain, France and Germany and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, at the Europa building in Brussels on May 15, 2018. (AP)

 

Six conditions

In a desperate effort to counter this offensive, Khamenei has placed six conditions before the European Union to issue resolutions against the US in the United Nations Security Council, not raise the issue of Iran’s ballistic missile program and Middle East influence, guarantee trade through European banks, assure Iran’s ability to fully sell its oil, compensate pledges the EU has not lived up to (according to Khamenei) and take a stand against US sanctions.

As preposterous as Khamenei’s words sound, we need to understand that he has no choice but to resort to such remarks. And of course, the words of French President Emmanuel Macron sink deep in the minds of Tehran’s senior officials. French firms have to decide on continuing their activities in Iran and assessing the risks imposed by US sanctions, he said in recent remarks. The French President cannot ask companies such as Total to pull out of their business in the US, Macron said.

As many European companies continue to rush out of Iran, Stadler of Switzerland has been the latest to jump on the train, halting a $1.1 billion contract to provide and build 960 wagons for the Tehran-Karaj metro, citing the return of US sanctions as the reason.

Iran’s own political figures are losing hope. “How do we expect the Europeans to forgo their $700 billion exports to the US for the sake of $20 billion exports to Iran?” recently said Sadegh Zibakalam, a Tehran professor University with ties to the Iranian regime’s so-called reformist camp.

Although Khamenei has taken what seems to the naked eye a strong position by placing demands before Europe, he is also seeking new negotiations with the Green Continent. This proves that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visits to China and Russia, and a recent drive of Iran seeking eastern shift in policy, failed miserably.

From day one after Washington pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, the reality about the Iranian regime’s destructive policies became clear. Neither the European Union, Russia nor China are willing to provide any guarantees to Tehran. This explains why Khamenei, desperately seeking a lifeline, sees the only path forward as establishing a rift in the international community to somehow find breathing room for his regime.

Iranian and US banknotes are on display at a currency exchange shop in downtown Tehran. (AP)

Dark future

One must also recognize the severe setbacks Iran will be suffering from Washington’s drastic change in policy, in comparison to the Obama years. This has not only brought a complete end to all the dreams of those advocating appeasement vis-à-vis Iran, but also the dark future awaiting Tehran if it chooses to continue its nuclear program, ballistic missile ambitions, regional influence and domestic crackdown.

The Iranian regime is coming to learn the days of mass arrests, torture in prisons and executions without paying the price are coming to the end. Tehran is feeling the heat across the region, understanding its missile launches, exporting terrorism and meddling in neighboring countries come with a major price tag.

All of the Revolutionary Guards’ vastly expanded bases throughout the region, parallel to networks of terrorism in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen, alongside the nuclear program and not providing the promised “anytime, anywhere” inspections of its civil and military sites, are now targets of a variety of punitive measures by the US and its allies.

All this Iranian belligerence received a major $150 billion as a result of a highly flawed nuclear deal. Money that could have provided for the over 50 million Iranians living in poverty. Ironically, it is the Iranian regime’s own semi-official outlets that are providing such drastic statistics.

The above have resulted in a growing volume of dissent inside Iran, as analysts now consider this country a powder keg ready to explode at any moment. What makes the status quo even more dangerous for the Iranian regime is the fact that the Iranian people’s thirst for regime change is symbolized in their support for the main Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

While there may be a long dispute about the issue of regime change in Iran, the current circumstances are quite telling for the Iranian regime itself. “[National Security Advisor John] Bolton makes the same remarks today as he did in a PMOI/MEK event,” according to an editorial in the semi-official Mardom Salari daily.

According to former Iranian parliament deputy chairman Mohammad Reza Bahonar, “The US administration receive their analysis from the PMOI/MEK… the strategy of behavior change is no different from regime change.”

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.”

ANALYSIS: After Trump nuclear deal exit, different perspective on Iran sanctions

Al Arabiya

Following the United States’ decision to exit the Iran nuclear deal, we are witnessing the beginning of a significant series of measures against Tehran. Cascading sanctions are in the making and continuing economic relations with Iran would be tantamount to shooting yourself in the foot.

Iran’s economy is on the ropes and Washington knows quite well how to make the ruling clerics understand how their four decades of belligerence will no longer go tolerated. Interesting is how the new US sanctions are targeting the regime, its entities and senior officials, going the Iran apologists camp arguing such measures will hurt the Iranian people.

And these sanctions against Iran’s regime will continue, especially since Tehran believes any back-stepping will lead to devastating defeats in the very near future for its entire apparatus.

Quick glance

The US Treasury Department explains how all pre-JCPOA sanctions will return in two 90 and 180 day phases, while no new contracts will be permitted with Iran. The regime’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its extraterritorial unit, the Quds Force, are in the center of Washington’s crosshairs.

The very significant nature of these sanctions lies in the fact that Washington’s latest endeavor targets Iran’s financial sources, being the root of its domestic crackdown and foreign meddling.

Trump has tweeted how Iran’s military budget has interestingly skyrocketed by 40 percent following the JCPOA, while the accord claimed to seek peace and security across the region. There has been cooperation with the US to sanction an Iran-linked currency exchange network involved in transferring millions of dollars for the IRGC Quds Force.

Such entities, linked directly or indirectly to the IRGC, result in the utmost concerns for Washington as they facilitate the Iranian regime’s measures causing havoc across the Middle East. The US is now also calling on Qatar to end its support for Iran-associated militia groups.

The fact that Middle East countries are supporting Washington’s sanctions against Iran is quite imperative to counter Tehran’s measures to establish and take advantage of financial institutions for its malign activities across the region.

Europe

The Green Continent is not happy about US President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Iran accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Yet it doesn’t need rocket science to understand Europe would never make the strategic mistake of standing alongside the Iranian regime in the face of crippling US sanctions.

The Europeans will eventually find a method to work with their American allies, and rest assured Iran’s regime will be the party suffering from Europe distancing from its market. While there are tariff issues ongoing between Washington & Brussels, facts and numbers speak for themselves:

– US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell emphasizes, “Trump has said US sanctions will include important sections of Iran’s economy. German firms should lower their activities in Iran as soon as possible.”
– Italy’s Eni energy company announced it has no plans for new investments in Iran and from 2019 onward the firm will begin purchasing oil from other countries.
– Back in 2007, European Union/United States relations rendered $1.045 trillion in trade, while the EU’s trade with Iran reached a maximum of $15 billion. It’s not hard to do the math.

An Iranian holding US 100-dollar bills in a shopping center in Tehran on April 10, 2018. (AFP)

Iran’s view

Ahmad Khatami, this week’s Friday prayer imam in Tehran, made it clear how the Iranian regime has no hope in Europe.

“To say America no, the European Union yes goes against edification. We have to understand that the European Union has a bad track record on promises. They are no better than the US Plans were made for the EU to invest in Iran. Did they? They also cancelled a signed contract to sell us airplanes. The JCPOA didn’t save the country. In fact, sanctions upon sanctions are now imposed on us,” he said.

It is worth noting that Ahmad Khatami has very close relations to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Furthermore, the Tehran Friday prayer tribune has become a stage where Khamenei sends his representative to express his views about weekly developments. As a result, knowing Khamenei has the last word on all state matters, recent events are depicting a very dangerous slope for the Iranian regime’s future.

The next move

Knowing this enormous amount of international pressure cannot go unanswered, Iran first responded by launching around 20 rockets from IRGC-associated bases in Syria into the Golan Heights. This sparked a massive retaliation by the Israelis against a variety of IRGC targets throughout Syria, to which Tehran has remained silent on.

Tehran is now threatening to relaunch its nuclear fuel enrichment cycle and escalate military confrontation, all claims worth following to understand Iran’s future options in these troubling times. What goes less discussed are the Iranian regime’s domestic troubles. Protests by people from all walks of life continue to increase and the country’s currency, the rial, is nosediving.

On Saturday, the air travel currency cap was decreased from €10,000 to €5,000, and €2,000 for ground/sea travel.

All said and done, we will see in the coming weeks if Tehran exits the JCPOA and be bold enough to restart high level uranium enrichment. Trump has warned such steps by Iran would lead to “very severe consequences,” and history shows between bad and worse the Iranian regime will ultimately choose the bad option.

Options before Tehran trace a very gloomy future. This will play into the Iranian people’s interests in their struggle against the clerical regime’s four decades of oppression and devastation.