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.

What Comes After French FM’s Iran Visit

Monday’s Tehran visit by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is startling a wide variety of responses, especially from inside Iran.

Kayhan daily, known as the mouthpiece of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, ran a piece titled “French Foreign Minister heading to Tehran with a JCPOA-2 hat,” using the acronym for the Iran nuclear deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, while describing Paris’ efforts to impose further setbacks upon Iran’s regime.

The semi-official Ruydad 24 website in Iran writes, “The JCPOA, ballistic missile program and Iran’s role in the region are of the most important challenges before Iran, Europe, the United States and Middle East countries.”

This is what concerns Tehran the most, being crystal clear the Europeans would never side with Iran over the U.S.

Seeking to raise the stakes prior Le Drian’s visit, Tehran on Monday announced it enjoys the capability of producing higher enriched uranium within two days if Washington’s abandons ship on the 2015 nuclear deal between.

“If America pulls out of the deal … Iran could resume its 20 percent uranium enrichment in less than 48 hours,” Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi told al-Alam TV.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said Le Drian will be merely involved in discussions and there are no negotiations involved. France’s official position says otherwise.

“Iran’s ballistic missile program, with a range of a few thousand kilometers, is definitely non-consistent with United Nations Security Council resolutions and goes beyond Iran’s need to defend its borders,” Le Drian said in an interview with the French daily Le Journal du Dimanche.

“If this dilemma is not resolved directly, Iran will be facing the threat of new sanctions,” he added.

France is leading Europe in talks with Iran and it is very likely Le Drian discussed with Iran’s officials the conditions raised by U.S. President Donald Trump.

“The U.S. has asked France to lay Trump’s conditions before Iran. European countries have confirmed these conditions,” according to the semi-officials Fars news agency, said to be linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

In his meeting with Le Drian, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s remarks vividly displayed Tehran’s deep concerns about the JCPOA’s future.

“The JCPOA is a litmus test for all parties and its dismantling will bring disappointment for everyone,” Rouhani said.

We must also take into consideration the timing of Le Drian’s visit, coming prior to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, in which Iran was the main issue of talks.

Two weeks later Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman to Washington where Iran’s regional meddling will most likely be discussed. Tehran’s role in Syria has raised major concerns.

“…if we don’t push Iran out and come up with an agreement in Geneva that gives Syria back to the Syrians. This war never ends. So, Mr. President it’s just not about defeating ISIL. If you leave Syria in the hands of Russia and the Iranians this war never ends,” said Senator Lindsey Graham in a recent interview.

Finally, Trump will be hosting his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, as the leader of Europe in regards to the JCPOA.

As a result, the objective of Le Drian’s visit to Iran can be described as placing Trump’s significant pressures and imposing his conditions. Tehran will most definitely be concerned, knowing all meetings will evolve in Trump’s talks with Macron in Washington. Two weeks later Trump will announce his decision on the JCPOA.

This leaves Tehran before a particular dilemma. Succumbing to the new conditions set to preserve the JCPOA will deliver a strategic setback, being, to say the least, significantly curbing its ballistic missile program and Middle East influence. Iran considers these two pillars its pride and regional strategy depth.

Choosing to reject Washington’s conditions, however, will most certainly lead to the return of crippling sanctions for Tehran.

Add to this dilemma the ongoing protest staged by Iranians across the country. This goes alongside calls for further nationwide protests next Tuesday, marking the country’s annual “Fire Festivities” held on the last Tuesday night of the Iranian calendar before inviting in the new year.

Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) has issued a call for a nationwide uprising to mark this celebration. Senior Iranian officials have acknowledged how the PMOI/MEK organized the recent flare of protests across the country.

Tehran’s troubles are only beginning.

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.

ANALYSIS: Why is Iran raising the stakes in Syria?

As the world continues to fail in stopping the bloodshed of innocent people in Syria, Iran seeks two main objectives of saving face back home & raising the price any possible deal in the future that is becoming more and more likely now.

The Assad regime is continuously bombing innocent people in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, killing at least 500. Rescue workers are continuously pulling dead civilians from the rubble. As the United Nations Security Council has adopted a 30-day ceasefire resolution, it has become crystal clear that strong actions need to back-up such demands.

As the killings are appalling, we must keep in mind how Tehran is the driving force to maintain Syria as part of a dreamed Shiite-Persian empire. Iran continues to expand its foothold in Syria, while Arab countries across the Gulf, Germany and France are also being heard making strong demands. The European Union as a whole should also be making Iran understand such hostilities are unacceptable.

‘Proxy army’

Ever since the Assad waged war on the Syrian people back in 2011 Iran has placed its entire weight behind his dictatorship, and pleading Russia’s air support in 2015 to ensure the regime’s survival, knowing its own rule would be threatened in the case of losing Damascus.

Following the fall of Aleppo and ISIS being routed from Raqqa, and especially after enjoying Obama’s appeasement approach, this Tehran-Moscow-Damascus axis now has its crosshairs focused on the Syrian opposition’s remaining strongholds.

This alliance will thus seek to re-establish Assad’s control over Syria through Russia-sponsored peace, degrading an already weak UN-backed effort in this regard. Russia will demand to maintain its military bases, and Iran seeks to achieve its long desire of establishing meaningful influence across the region to the Mediterranean.

As widely reported, in areas now controlled by Assad, Iran is in the effort of establishing a lasting military presence for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Lebanese Hezbollah, hired mercenaries from Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, and local Syrian proxies.

US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster expressed concerns back in December about “the prospect of Iran having a proxy army.” Estimates indicate Hezbollah building an armada of 100,000 rockets based in Lebanon and possibly Syria. Such an Iranian fortification in Syria bears the potential of another Middle East war, although Tehran will most definitely back down knowing its apparatus lacks such a capacity.

Hassan Rouhani, Vladimir Putin and Tayyip Erdogan meet in Sochi, Russia, on November 22, 2017. (Reuters)


While Iran may publicly boast the ultimate goal of seeking “the eradication of Israel,” as the leader of the IRGC’s Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, said recently, its main intention is twofold.

Tehran’s need for growing belligerence abroad is increasing as recent protests flare at home. Earlier this month tensions sparked across the region as the Israeli military shot down a drone launched by Iran-backed forces from the Syrian city of Homs. Fighter jets were also deployed to target the base controlling the drone, parallel to other military targets.

This escalation in provocation stems from Iran’s mentality of showing a strong stance abroad to maintain influence among an already dwindling social base at home. Today’s circumstances are forcing Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to publicly admit people are criticizing the ruling state and his position.

At such an extraordinary situation for Iran’s clerics, boasting a powerful position abroad against foreign enemies also provides a pretext for Tehran to quell domestic dissent.

Global collaboration

For Iran it is highly important how the global community responds to its bellicosity, understanding when is the time to dial down and when the timing is proper to further hostilities.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in a European Parliament speech emphasized the necessity for global collaboration to prevent Iran’s interference abroad, adding Tehran should end its efforts and the “revolution is over.” Across the Atlantic, US Vice President Mike Pence reiterated the fact that Tehran remains the main state supporter of terrorism, warning Washington will no longer tolerate Iran’s destabilizing activities across the region.

And returning from his Middle East tour, Ed Royce, Chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee issued a statement emphasizing the threat Iran poses for the entire region. Financial and diplomatic measures against Iran’s missile program and its support for terrorism were discussed in his meetings, according to a statement.

Moving back to the Green Continent, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on the European Union to increase pressure on Russia and Iran to end Syria’s violence. Merkel enjoys the opportunity and influence to lead Europe into putting aside its appeasement policy vis-à-vis Iran and stand on the right side of history.

Understanding the situation at hand, Iran is raising the price in Syria – such as the horrendous bombing campaign of East Ghouta – to use as a lever in possible future talks over its ballistic missile program and meddling in other states’ internal affairs.

Final thoughts

The international community, and especially the European Union, should be concerned over the Middle East experiencing a new wave of dangerous tension. US President Donald Trump promised last October to counter Iran’s “destabilizing activity and support for terrorist proxies in the region.”

It is high time to realize how Iran needs to escalate the stakes in Syria to both continue quelling dissent at home and renew saber-rattling for its correspondents.

The answer lies in supporting the Iranian people’s uprising against the ruling clerics and significantly elevating the price of Tehran’s destructive role outside its borders by threatening a return of crippling sanctions targeting the regime’s entities.

Digging Into Iran’s Latest Plane Crash

On Sunday, February 18th, Flight No. 3704 of Aseman Airlines, Iran’s 3rd airline company with a fleet of 29 planes, left Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport at 8:03 am local time, heading for Yasuj. The plane, with 66 aboard, including six crew, never reached its destination, crashing into a mountainous region near the town of Semirom, close to Isfahan, south-central Iran.

All on board were confirmed perished as rescuers reached the site on foot at an altitude of around 4,000 meters (4,375 yards) after authorities failed to land a helicopter failed on the snowy mountain.

While such an incident in any ordinary country is followed with the government taking measures to quickly find the crash site in an attempt to save even one passenger, the Iranian regime is no such entity.

Many questions and concerns are circling since the crash, especially since Iran’s regime is not known for its transparency.

1) Why did authorities rush to announce all passengers dead before the crash site was found?

One family member of a crash victim was seen weeping and saying she was at the mountain and no rescue team was sent. They called from the crash site and said we are alive, she added.

2) If weather conditions grounded helicopters and prevented search and rescue teams to rush to the scene instantly, why was the flight given a green light?

Bad weather disrupted several Tehran flights on Sunday, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Authorities at Abadan International Airport in southwestern Iran were also forced to ground two domestic flights due to pollution that severely reduced visibility to literally two meters.

Iranian MP Mohammad Damadi has reportedly said mismanagement in Aseman Airlines can be one of the reasons behind the crash, adding the Weather Forecast Organization had warned of dangerous conditions around the mountainous area.

Damadi adds many Aseman Airlines pilots had filed complaints & more than 30 very capable pilots had resigned due to mismanagement.

3) Human error is also ruled out. The flight pilot, Hojatollah Fooled, successfully landed a similar plane despite an engine problem in 2013, according to an Aseman Airline Instagram post, adding Fooled was “very experienced.”

“On a previous flight from Yasuj to Tehran in 2013 he had an issue where the second engine of the ATR72 went out,” the post adds. “But he managed to land the plane safely at Yasuj airport.”

4) The translation of this Farsi tweet reads: “Aseman Airlines did not provide the budget needed for the ELT system on this plane. The system went inactive. Only a few planes flying abroad have the ELT system active. ILNA”

This text is citing the state-run Iran Labor news agency.

ELTs are emergency transmitters carried aboard most general aviation aircraft in the world today. These devices are designed to transmit a distress signal in the event of an aircraft incident.

5) Only one drone was deployed in the aftermath of the crash, according to CNN. This raises concerns as Iran is currently in the middle of a regional crisis of a drone being downed by Israeli air force after flying from Syria into that country’s airspace. How is it that Tehran has the budget to provide capable drones to take on such sensitive missions abroad and yet its rescue teams lack the means to carry out their duties?

6) This plane was grounded for seven years to undergo repairs and overhaul, according to the The Guardian. Furthermore, Aseman Airlines flights are banned to enter the European Union due to safety reasons. Why was this plane suddenly allowed into service only months ago?

To add insult to injury, Iranian news website Roozarooz reported the aircraft suffered “technical problems midair during a recent flight a few weeks ago” and had to make an emergency landing, according to The New York Post.

Questions regarding the ATR-72 planes’ suitability to fly over mountainous regions are already raised in various reports.

In an interview with EuroNews on Wednesday, ATR spokesman David Vargas said Iran has not purchased this company’s new generation planes available since 2011. The Tehran-Yasuj plane was an old generation plane, he added.

7) Iranian MP Mohammad Reza Tabesh, linked to the parliament’s environment faction, made remarks indicating a number of environment/natural resources experts, who in recent weeks had defended the work of such activists, lost their lives in this crash.

This follows the mysterious death of Iranian-Canadian environment expert Kavoos Seyed Emami.

Moreover, from 1989 to this day Iran has been home to 31 air incidents, 17 being severely fatal accidents where at least a dozen passengers lost their lives. By comparison, in the same timeframe UK airlines witnessed only two air crashes resulting in 12 or more fatalities.

In 2009, a Caspian Airlines Tupolev TM-154 experienced a bird strike and crashed, killing 168 on board.

In 2011, an Iran Air Boeing 727 crashed in north-western Iran en route to Armenia, killing 78 people.

Iran’s most recent case was in 2014, when a Sepahan Airlines flight crashed near Tehran minutes after taking off, killing 40 passengers.

Iran also has a long history of such disasters and failing to take necessary measures, including the February 2004 Neishabur train crash in northeast Iran; the January 2017 Plasco building fire in Tehran; the November 2017 Kermanshah earthquake and the January 2018 Sanchi oil tanker sinking in the East China Sea.

More disturbing is how Iran’s regime takes advantage of such disasters to divert attention from its own calamites. The recent Aseman Airline crash came just in time to cloak reports about the Dervish Gonabadi protest in Tehran and the mysterious “suicide” of Prof. Emami while in detention.

This entire crisis is arriving as internal feuds are flaring with former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his deputy, Hamid Baghai, daring to make strong remarks against the country’s judiciary, known to be highly influenced by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

The regime leader has also been forced to acknowledge increasing criticism from the people targeting his ruling apparatus, and even him personally. This is a significant turn of events in Iranian politics.

Parallel to all this is the brewing friction Tehran is experiencing in the region, especially as its future interests in Syria seem threatened.

The United Nations has recently filed a damning report about Iran’s involvement in the Yemen and providing ballistic missiles to the Houthi militia. And Iraq, another country where Iran has invested billions in, will be entering parliamentary elections in three months. The result of this poll will prove crucial for Iran’s future in the region, especially considering that Obama is gone and President Donald Trump is in office in Washington.

The end result looks very grim for Tehran, both domestically & on the world stage.

The list that says a lot about ‘suspicious suicides’ in Iran

Desperate times call for desperate measures, they say.

Suspicious suicides in Iran’s prisons are recently gaining attention inside the country and abroad, resulting in a wave of criticism targeting Tehran’s rulers.

For those unfamiliar with the sensitive topic of Iran’s suicides that mushroom at desperate times for the clerical regime, a short look at the history behind this concept is necessary.

Furthermore, interesting is how Tehran kills an individual to destroy any evidence of wrongdoing and diverts attention from one issue to another.

Saeed Imami

Saeed Imami, or Saeed Islami, was deputy Minister of Intelligence during the presidency of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. He was introduced as the main suspect of Iran’s “chain murders,” a string of crimes that took the lives of a number of writers and political activists back in the 1990s.

Following his arrest, reports of Imami’s death in a Tehran hospital made headlines on June 20th, 1999. The next day an official of Iran’s Armed Forces Judiciary Organization said Imami committed suicide in the capital’s Evin Prison.

Imami took all knowledge of the chain murders to his grave and his “suicide” diverted attention completely away from those gruesome crimes.

Zahra Kazemi

During the college student protests of June 2003 and the apprehension of a number of activists, their families staged a rally on June 23rd outside Evin Prison. Zahra Kazemi, a 55-year-old Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, was doing her job at the scene.

Arrested on that day, Kazemi spent 18 days in detention and died on July 11th. Judiciary officials said she fainted, leading to her falling and suffering a brain haemorrhage, resulting in a brain stroke. Her death was officially announced on July 16th.

Iran’s parliament at the time accused the controversial judge Saeed Mortazavi as the first suspect in this case. Considering the consequences of such a judge being placed on trial and those he could take down with him, a year later a 42-year-old Intelligence Ministry employee was condemned on charges of murdering Kazemi. However, he was acquitted due to “lack of evidence.”

Kazemi’s death sent a message to anyone seeking to stage protests or cover such news in Iran, and completely cloaked the subject of why the college students were protesting at the time.

From July 16th, 2003 to this day relations between Canada and Iran have been tarnished and never fully recovered.

Zahra Bani Yaghoub

This 27-year-old woman studying medicine in Tehran University was arrested on October 12, 2007. However, 48 hours later, her family learned their daughter died in “suspicious circumstances” while held at a detention center in Hamedan, western Iran.

A report claimed Yaghoub committed suicide the very night she was apprehended. Her family has never accepted such claims.
Protests and the referral of this case to an appeals court in Tehran Province only resulted in the accused being acquitted.

Ruholamini, Kamrani and Javadifar

These three individuals all “committed suicide” in Iran’s notorious Kahrizak Prison, a detention center gaining attention following the 2009 uprising. Mohsen Ruholamini, Mohammad Kamrani and Amir Javadifar were all arrested during the unrest and transferred to Kahrizak along with many others.

Ruholamini was arrested on July 9th of that year and died six days later during his transfer to Evin Prison.

Kamrani, 18, was arrested on the same day near Tehran’s Vali Asr Square and taken to Kahrizak. Following his transfer to Evin Prison he was taken to the capital’s Loghman Hospital and lost his life on July 16th at Mehr Hospital.

Javadifar, also arrested on July 9th, died on July 14th.

Despite a court hearing on this matter, the families of these three young men sought the prosecution of the main elements involved in their sons’ murder. Once again, the name of Saeed Mortazavi and two of his colleagues, Ali Akbar Heidarifar and judge Haddad, the officials who ordered those arrested to Kahrizak, were mentioned significantly.

The “suicides” of these three, one being the son of an individual close to the regime, sent messages across the board and boosted Tehran’s efforts focusing to divert attention away from the 2009 unrest that rocked the nation.

Hoda Saber

Hoda Rezazadeh Saber, aka Hoda Saber, a journalist serving her time behind bars, launched a hunger strike on June 2nd, 2011, protesting the suspicious death of activist Hale Sahabi at the funeral ceremony of her father, Ezzatollah Sahabi.

Saber died on June 11th following her transfer to Tehran’s Modares Hospital. Authorities claimed she died of heart disorder.
Her death again diverted attention from a more important subject, being the Sahabis and the mysterious nature of deaths among their family members.

A picture taken on June 7, 2017 shows the scene outside Iranian parliament in Tehran during an attack on the complex. (AFP)

Sattar Beheshti

This 35-year-old laborer attracted the Iranian authorities’ attention through his blogs. Iran’s cyber police, FATA, arrested Beheshti on October 30, 2012, accusing him of staging “measures against national security” through Facebook. Beheshti died four days later.

“Following an autopsy on November 5th the forensics said there was no reason for an unnatural death,” according to the spokesman of Iran’s judiciary in this regard.

This incident raised quite a stir inside the country and abroad. As a result, following a complaint filed by the Beheshti family, a FATA police member was sentenced to three years behind bars. The Beheshti family protested the ruling and the case was referred to a public court that denied their request, refusing to rule out the “semi-deliberate murder” ruling of the initial court.

Complicating the judicial process and ruling, and sending the family scrambling between a variety of courts were all part of the Iranian authorities’ measures to again cloak the main issue at hand of why Beheshti was murdered under torture for merely placing posts on Facebook.

Sina Ghanbari

During the recent unrest, this young man was arrested and mysteriously died on January 6th following his transfer to the quarantine section of Evin Prison’s ward 4.

“Ghanbari hanged himself early morning after going to the bathroom,” said Mostafa Mohebi, Director General of Tehran Province prisons.

Iranian MP Alireza Rahimi, among the representatives who visited Evin Prison and viewed the “Sina Ghanbari suicide” video, said the footage shows the prison bathroom hours prior to Ghanbari’s deathand there is no actual scene of his claimed suicide.

Again we see how Iranian authorities raise the issue of alleged footage to divert attention from the murder, while the entire scenario sidetracks attention from the main issue at hand, being the nationwide Iranian uprising and the people’s demands for regime change.

Kavous Seyed Emami

The latest case of such mysterious deaths is related to Iranian-Canadian environmental activist and sociology professor Kavous Seyed Emami, arrested on January 24th and announced dead February 8th in prison.

“This individual was amongst those accused of spying under the cover of environmental work,” said Tehran public prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlat Abadi.

Emami’s death was vastly covered in the media and discussed in social media. The Canadian government has twice demanded Iran explain his death.

Iranian MP Ali Mottahari says authorities showed him and other MPs footage of Imami’s prison cell. However, the claimed moment of suicide is not vividly seen in the footage, Mottahari said to the media.

Recent reports in Iranian websites are citing an official in the Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence rejecting all claims of Emami’s suicide, adding he was murdered with a high dosage of sodium thiopental in ward 2A of Tehran’s Evin Prison.

Final thoughts

The very essence of suicides in Iran should sound alarm bells. All such cases are suspicious, to say the least.

Considering the fact that many more dissidents are behind bars, unfortunately it is safe to say we will hear more such “suicides“ in the future.

Concentrated efforts pressuring Tehran are needed to have all political prisoners, dissidents and protesters currently behind bars released. This type of support will boost the Iranian people’s struggle to obtain freedom from this regime and establish democracy.

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.

What Do Iran’s People Think?

Following continuing reports of unrest in Iran, a recent opinion poll claims only 4.9 percent of the Iranian people seek regime change. Interesting is the fact that figures accused of having close relations with Tehran and Iran’s state-run media launched an orchestrated campaign to publicize this so-called survey.

What needs understanding is first the nature of this opinion poll, conducted merely through phone calls from Farsi speaking strangers, as if the Iranian people would trust such calls and express their true beliefs about the oppressive regime. Second, the background of those who claim to have gathered this information is worth a deeper look.

Why would one want to conduct a poll at a time when the state is rocked by protests across the board and slogans are targeting the ruling regime’s very existence? Unless those initiating the polls intend to depict a result contrary to public opinion, i.e., seeking to portray a rock-solid regime enjoying significant popularity.

Iran’s regime is in such desperate need to claim popular support that poll organizers don’t even take the time to portray their numbers as even slightly acceptable, making astonishing claims such as:

– Only 8.8 percent of the people believe Iran should decrease its ballistic missile program budget

– Only 11.3 percent believe the government is too involved in their personal lives

– Only 17.2 percent believe Iran’s role in Syria and Iraq is not in the country’s interests

– Only 21.5 percent believe Iran should decrease its Syria/Iraq budgets

– Only 21.7 percent believe the government should not impose seriously Islamic laws

This comes at a time that the majority of Iran’s populace lives in poverty, with disturbing images from inside the country showing the homeless living in graves, and others searching the trash for food or something to sell. People are also selling their kidneys and other body parts to help make ends meet. Moreover, one of the most prevalent chants by the protesters nationwide was, “Let go of Syria, think of us” and “We don’t want an Islamic Republic.”

A Voice of America Farsi TV report covering a similar poll in the past raised such a stir among the Iranian-American community that VOA Farsi removed it from its website.

This latest poll was prepared by Ebrahim Mohseni, a Research Associate at Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM), a Lecturer on the Faculty of World Studies at the University of Tehran, and a Senior Analyst at the University of Tehran Center for Public Opinion Research.

Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council, provided the publicity campaign support.

Mohseni is described as procuring “fabricated polls” and his “connection with the University of Maryland also helps him disguise the real paymaster of his fabricated polls, i.e. the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Parsi is also labelled as an “Iran apologist” and his disturbing views about the U.S. are quite interesting, to say the least.

This poll, naturally, received wide coverage by Iranian media linked to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), such as the Fars news agency, and Khorasan daily.

Supporting the system, criticizing economic situation (Khorasan daily)

This organized “fabricated polls” effort and publishing in the U.S. dates back to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency (2005-2013), alongside Iran’s claim of having the right to a nuclear energy program and enjoying popular support for this drive.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry specifically launched this initiative in 2007. In 2009, with cooperation from Ahmadinejad’s cabinet, the Faculty of World Studies was established in Tehran University, headed by Mohammad Marandi, seen speaking in support of the Iranian regime in international media outlets. Activists have gone as far as describing him as affiliated to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the IRGC.

The Tehran University Center for Public Opinion Research was launched under Marandi’s supervision, with Mohseni in charge, to take over the role of launching and literally creating such fabricated polls. Mohseni is allegedly in collaboration with the IRGC Basij paramilitary. This is one of his speeches on the U.S. “Wall Street” movement.

Mohseni was then transferred to the U.S. and using the Iranian regime’s connections he began working at the University of Maryland. From that date forward Mohseni is said to have collaborated with Iranian officials in preparing such polls to be eventually published by the University of Maryland.

Mohseni, along with Parsi and a number of pro-Iran appeasement policy figures, published the first such “fabricated” poll, titled “Public Opinion in America and American on Key International Issues,” in January 2007. They astonishingly went as far as claiming 91 percent of the Iranian people supported the nuclear program and fuel cycle as very important.

In September 2009, as waves of Iranians were in the streets protesting the controversial re-election of Ahmadinejad and demanding their votes back, and the regime responding with a vicious crackdown, Mohseni conveniently prepared another poll claiming 81% of the people consider Ahmadinejad as Iran’s legitimate president.

The obvious question here is: Then why were so many people in the streets?

In February 2010, following months of further repression and killings in Iran’s streets, a new pollclaimed 83 percent of the Iranian populace considered the 2009 election to be free and fair.

In October 2012, an even more astounding poll published by Mohseni and his colleagues claimedthe wide majority of Iranians, already suffering in poverty, were willing to bear sanctions, war and all the leading hardships, yet unwilling to have domestic nuclear enrichment stopped.

Mohseni explained a question in a conference presenting the poll.

“Which is closer to your opinion:

1- Iran should continue its nuclear enrichment activity even if it results in war.
2- Iran should prevent war even if it means suspending nuclear enrichment activity.

“55 percent say we should continue enriching uranium while 33 percent say preventing war is of higher importance.”

When necessary, the Marandi/Mohseni team will also carry out certain campaigns inside Iran. In 2014 Iran’s hardliners sought to impose gender segregation at worksites and offices, beginning with Tehran’s municipality.

This initiative resulted in widespread protests across Iran, even inside the government and various factions of the ruling apparatus. Mohseni conveniently presented another fabricated poll actually claiming the majority of Iranians essentially support gender segregation “to render more calm among families.”

To conduct a “telephone poll” in a totalitarian state such as Iran on a subject related to the ruling system, and not on which brand of laundry detergent they prefer, is tantamount to conducting a poll in Germany under the Third Reich! Which would have undoubtedly resulted in showing outright support for Hitler.

Considering Iran’s intense crackdown and surveillance apparatus, especially when all secure means of communications are shut down, to believe one can obtain a measure of public opinion through calling Iranians on their landlines and asking them whether they support regime change borders on naiveté if not outright charlatanism.