A look at Iran’s history of assassinating dissidents

Al Arabiya

The Jamal Khashoggi case has taken the world by storm, all in favor of the Iranian regime to take attention from its domestic and international crises, and place the spotlights elsewhere.

What should not go overlooked is the fact that Iran has a long history of brutal methods to eliminate dissidents inside the country and abroad, especially Europe.

This goes alongside the Iranian regime’s atrocious report card of massive terrorist attacks, killing scores of innocent people. Unfortunately, through the past 39 years, the West’s appeasement approach has saved Tehran from any meaningful accountability in this regard. This must change.

Special targets

The names of Kurdish opposition leader Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, former Iranian prime minister Shapour Bakhtiar and opposition figure Fereydoun Farrokhzad have been heard as victims of Iran’s terror machine. One objective of this piece is to see into other cases unfortunately lesser mentioned by mainstream media.

One of the most high-profile cases was the 1990 assassination of Dr. Kazem Rajavi, the brother of Massoud Rajavi, leader of Iran’s main opposition, People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The murder of Kazem, representing the Iranian opposition in Switzerland and the United Nations European Headquarters, was a highly sophisticated operation involving numerous Iranian regime embassies and conducted outside his home on the outskirts of Geneva.

Being a strong critic of the Iranian regime’s human rights violations, Tehran’s mullahs wanted him dead and went to extreme measures for this end result. As in many cases, there is a strong belief that the mullahs’ Intelligence Ministry was directly involved in this plot. Kazem was gunned down in his car on April 24, 1990. In Rome, Iranian intelligence agents assassinated Mohammad Hossein Naghdi, a member of the Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), on March 16, 1993.

This former charge d’affairs of Iran was on Tehran’s hit list for joining the opposition ranks and Iranian regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini had called for his assassination back in 1983. After one failed attempt in that same year, Khomeini once again called for Naghdi’s assassination in 1988, resulting in his murder 10 years after the initial order.

Focusing on the main Iranian opposition movements, the Iranian regime’s Supreme National Security Council took steps forward in specifying a list of dissidents whose elimination was considered necessary for Tehran. After Kazem Rajavi and Naghdi, this list included NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mohammad Mohadessin and other senior NCRI figures such as Jalal Ganjei, Manouchehr Hezarkhani, Abbas Davari, Parviz Khazaie and Abolghasem Rezaie

Gruesome measures

The Mykonos restaurant killings is arguably described as one of the most vicious assassinations carried out by Iranian regime operatives. Tehran’s terrorists in Berlin gunned down Iranian Kurdish dissidents in a very brutal manner to send a message.

In 1997, a German court ruled that the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati and former intelligence ministers Ali Fallahian were all involved in this assassination.

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The Anglo-Iranian communities, supporters of Iran’s democratic opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran and main organised opposition movement PMOI, hold a rally in London on Jan. 4, 2018. (AP)

When it comes to eliminating dissidents, Iran’s regime truly recognizes no borders and crosses all red lines of morality. At the age of 39, Ms. Zahra Rajabi was a senior PMOI/MEK member stationed in Turkey when brutally assassinated on February 20, 1996. She was in Istanbul on assignment to protect the rights of Iranian women and refugees in Turkey.

She was found murdered in an apartment with bullets in her body. This assassination proved the Iranian regime is extremely ruthless to the point that even an individual seeking to protect the rights of refugees is considered a target and national security concern.

These assassination dossiers across various counties portray how the Iranian regime’s presidents and senior ministers, along with other high-ranking officials, are directly involved in the murder of Iranian dissidents.

More recently, Saeed Karimian, chairman of Gem TV, was assassinated in Istanbul by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) along with a colleague. This April 2017 killing was immediately followed by Iran’s state media running a chorus of fake news reports claiming the victim had been in collaboration with the PMOI/MEK.

This, parallel to a doctoring of Karimian’s image in a photo next to Iranian opposition President Maryam Rajavi, made it obvious how Iran’s main objective in this assassination of a TV official was to demonize and defame the main Iranian opposition organization.

And speaking of the PMOI/MEK, their members and supporters have been targets of a recent surge in terror and espionage plots, including in Albania, France and the United States. Iran’s Vienna-based diplomat and intelligence operatives in the US and across Europe have been arrested, some facing charges.

Foreign aspects

The Lebanese Hezbollah, a known Iran offspring, has been a designated terrorist organization by the US State Department since 1997. Funded by Tehran, this terrorist group was responsible for the bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut, killing over 50, and the US Marine barracks in Lebanon’s capital six months later, leaving 241 Americans and 58 French peacekeepers dead in 1983.

In 1985, Hezbollah hijacked a TWA flight, holding dozens of American hostage for weeks and eventually killing a US Navy sailor. Hezbollah also played a major role in the Iranian regime’s 1994 attack targeting the AMIA Jewish center that left 85 killed and over 300 injured. In 2006, a US federal judge held Tehran responsible for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 American service members.

At the end of the day, the murder of one human being, let alone more, must be responded with due justice. And if any party deserves facing justice it is the Iranian regime for its four decades long history of assassinations and terror attacks. This undeniable fact is especially worth reminding to the slate of Iranian regime apologists/lobbyists going the distance regarding the Jamal Khashoggi case.

Iran regime change is in the making

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stressed in a recent Congressional hearing that the U.S. should literally “work towards support of those elements inside Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government,” signaling the overhaul needed in Washington’s Iran policy.

From Tehran’s point of view this was, of course, a completely unpleasant surprise, as the Trump administration unexpectedly placed its weight behind those seeking true and democratic change.

Considering escalating public dissent and growing rifts in Iran’s senior hierarchy, the international community should brace for a major impact in developments centered on Iran.

Before and after the May 19th presidential “election,” Iran’s powder keg society witnessed a major outbreak of protests, especially by investors placing their savings in institutions linked to the state and/or the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

The vast network associated with the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) has for a year now focused its widespread effort inside the country on raising awareness, especially amongst the younger generation, about the true nature of this regime’s 38-year report card.

One very troubling dossier was the summer 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in dozens of prisons throughout Iran. Perpetrators of that horrendous purging enjoy high rank in today’s regime. Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi is ironically the minister of justice in President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet.

Conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, known to be the favored candidate of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the May race, along with being groomed to succeed the ill Khamenei in the regime’s ultimate leadership post. Both Pour-Mohammadi and Raisi were leading members of the four-man “Death Commission” presiding over the mass executions.

Activities and revelations made by the PMOI/MEK network inside Iran exposed those involved in the 1988 massacre. This turn of events placed Khamenei before a major decision of enforcing his candidate as president and risking a major uprising even more powerful than that of 2009, or succumb to another term of Rouhani as his regime’s president.

Rest assured that despite promising to realize freedoms, Rouhani in his second term neither bears the intention nor will to realize anything even remotely similar to reforms.

Parallel to these developments are unprecedented divides amongst senior officials in Tehran. On a number of occasions Khamenei and his faction have indirectly issued threats against Rouhani, even comparing his fate to that of the Iranian regime’s first president back in the 1980s, who was impeached.

When IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani lashed out at those targeting the Guards, it was considered by many to be aimed at Rouhani.

“In the Islamic Republic, we’re all responsible towards martyrs, society, religion and our country. The biggest betrayal is to cast doubt toward the foundations of this system… none today must weaken the corps,” he said recently.

This is most probably a reference to Rouhani’s recent remarks against the IRGC through the elections process and after presidential campaign.

This dangerous dispute will also leave Khamenei incapable of grooming any successor to his throne or managing a smooth transitional process, set to become deadly for the mullahs’ already unclear future.

Couple all these dilemmas on Khamenei’s table with the growing turmoil in the Middle East as ISIS’ days are numbered. Attention among the international community is focusing on post-ISIS circumstances and the Trump administration is receiving further calls to weigh options blacklisting the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, and ultimately seeking regime change through supporting the Iranian opposition.

“Iran must be free. The dictatorship must be destroyed. Containment is appeasement, and appeasement is surrender. The only practical goal is to support a movement to free Iran. Any other goal will leave a dictatorship finding ways to get around any agreement and to lie about everything,” said Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House of Representatives, at a recent Iranian opposition rally near Paris. Gingrich is known for his very close relations with President Trump.

Such an initiative also enjoys vast regional support, voiced also recently by a prominent Saudi figure.

“The Iranian people are the first victims of [the mullahs’] dictatorship,” said former Saudi intelligence chief Turki Faisal. “Your effort in challenging this regime is legitimate and your resistance for the liberation of the Iranian people of all ethnicities, including Arabs, Kurds, Baluchis, Turks and Fars of the mullahs’ evil, as [Iranian opposition leader Maryam] Rajavi said, is a legitimate struggle.”

Even a brief glance at ongoing developments emerging domestically and abroad for Iran, provides convincing evidence that regime change is absolutely in the making in Tehran.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2017/07/iran_regime_change_is_in_the_making.html#ixzz4mhivuhfY
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Iran Opposition Unveils IRGC Missile Sites

Iran has been pursuing an extensive ballistic missile program through dozens of very important sites, including twelve unknown to this day and one specifically linked to its highly sensitive and controversial nuclear program, the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) revealed at a press conference Tuesday in Washington.

The NCRI, citing sources of coalition member People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) network inside Iran, in this case in Iran’s Defense Ministry & the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), has a history of blowing the whistle on Tehran’s ballistic missile program, nuclear weapons drive, terrorism and meddling across the Middle East and beyond, and human rights violations.

Various aspects of the dozen hitherto-unknown sites involved in ballistic missile production, testing and launches, all controlled by the IRGC, were also unveiled.

NCRI US Office Deputy Director Alireza Jafarzadeh presented satellite imagery on the sites and details of North Korean experts who took part in the construction of such highly essential centers.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei demanded the acceleration of missiles production and tests following the nuclear deal signed with the P5+1 and specifically tasking the IRGC Aerospace Force to realize this objective.

The scope of Iran’s IRGC-pursued missile program is far more extensive than previously perceived. In this press conference the NCRI identified the locations of 42 IRGC sites, of which 15 are involved in missile manufacturing and containing several factories linked to a missile industry group.

Four of Iran’s most important missile sites are located in the cities of Semnan (east of Tehran), Lar (southcentral Iran), Khorramabad (western Iran) and near Karaj (west of Tehran), according to the PMOI/MEK sources. Iran has only acknowledged the existence of two of these sites to this day.

The Semnan site has been actively associated to SPND, Iran’s organization in charge of building a nuclear weapon, PMOI/MEK sources revealed. SPND has carried out many of its tests at this site.

SPND is the Persian acronym for the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, including Iran’s nuclear weapons program engineering unit. The NCRI first unveiled the existence of SPND in July 2011, leading to its sanctioning three years later.

IRGC missile sites have all been constructed based on North Korean blueprints, according to PMOI/MEK sources, adding Pyongyang’s experts have also been present at sites assisting their Iranian counterparts.

The NCRI revelation comes at a sensitive timing as the US Senate levied extensive new sanctions on Iran covering particularly its ballistic missile program, and support for terrorism and human rights violations.

All factions of the regime in Iran are fully supportive of their drive to upgrade their ballistic missile program, considered a critical aspect of the mullahs’ national security framework and foreign policy.

“We will have a new ballistic missile test in the near future that will be a thorn in the eyes of our enemies,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani boasted recently.

The region is currently engulfed in escalating tension as Iran launched six medium-range ballistic missiles targeting ISIS in eastern Syria on Sunday. Adding to the list of turmoil, the US military shot down a Syrian regime Su-22 fighter jet near the city of Raqqa for dropping bombs on US-allied ground forces. This is a first for Washington in the six-year long multi-faceted Syrian conflict.

This increase in foreign crises, parallel to Iran’s powder keg society causing major dilemmas for the mullahs as protests elevate across the country, will be a major issue of discussion in the upcoming NCRI annual convention scheduled for July 1st in Paris.

The NCRI, representing the most powerful Iranian opposition coalition, is calling for the following measures against Tehran:

  • Enacting and implementing effective and comprehensive sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program and all associated individuals and entities,
  • Designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization as the institution behind Iran’s missile program, terrorism and meddling,
  • Evicting the IRGC and all affiliated proxy militias from Middle East countries, specifically Syria and Iraq.

ANALYSIS: In the middle of election fever, Iran opposition gets major boost

As the regime in Iran is engulfed with major turbulence over its upcoming presidential election, scheduled for May 19, Tehran saw its concerns increase significantly as Senator John McCain, Chairman of the US Senate Armed Forces Committee and a very influential senior member of the Republican Party, visited Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in Albania on Friday.

McCain went on to meet with Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a conglomerate of different Iranian dissident organizations and individuals seeking regime change in Iran. The PMOI/MEK is the largest of five different organizations in the NCRI.

The leading American senator also congratulated PMOI/MEK members on their successful relocation to Albania from Iraq after being the target of at least seven attacks by Iran-backed proxy militias in camps named Ashraf and Liberty near Baghdad from 2009 to 2016.

The visit signals the NCRI being the solution in the face of the regime in Iran, especially since Senator McCain endorsed the NCRI’s goals while considering the regime in Iran responsible for terrorism across the region and citing the Bashar Assad regime in Syria as just one such example.

“We now see an Iranian government that is attempting to extend its influence and tyranny throughout the Middle East. It is a fact that Bashar Assad would not be in power today if it had not been for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian help and Hezbollah that came in to Syria when Bashar Assad was about to fall,” Senator McCain said at a gathering held by the PMOI/MEK at one of their sites in the Albanian capital of Tirana.

‘Tyranny and terrorism’

“I express my condolences to everyone in this room who has lost a loved one as a result of the Iranian tyranny and terrorism. You have stood up, fought, and sacrificed for freedom, for the right to live free, for the right to determine your future, for the right that is God given. …I thank you for being an example,” Mr. McCain said as he also thanked the government of Albania for accepting the PMOI/MEK members.

Senator McCain commended Mrs. Rajavi’s leadership and emphasized, “Someday Iran will be free.” In her remarks NCRI President Maryam Rajavi also highlighted the atrocities committed by Tehran across the Middle East, most notably seen in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

“There is consensus on the destructive role of the clerical regime in the region and that the religious fascism ruling Iran is the main source of war, terrorism, crisis in the Middle East,” Mrs. Rajavi underscored, going on to explain how regime change in Iran is not only essential to bringing an end to gross human rights violations, but also considered a necessity for terminating war and crisis, and finally establishing peace and tranquility across the region.

As long as Iran’s mullahs are in power, Mrs. Rajavi said, they will continue to export their terrorism and fundamentalism in their quest to obtain dominating hegemony throughout the Middle East.

The nuclear program

This significant development places further spotlight on the regime in Iran, its nuclear program and its decades of support for terrorism throughout the Middle East. After enjoying eight years of appeasement and rapprochement from the US under the Obama administration, Iran is now facing extreme pressure after being placed “on notice” by the Trump administration and seeing its puppet, the Assad regime, being the target of a cruise missile attack that analysts say was highly calculated by the White House, both militarily and politically.

While not specifically mentioned during the Senator’s visit, one major initiative pursued by the NCRI is the designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization. This campaign enjoys vast bipartisan support in Congress and has the potential of delivering a major blow to Iran’s nefarious role in the Middle East.

It is a known fact that the IRGC is the main party training and dispatching foot-soldiers to Syria to maintain Assad in power, supporting Shiite extremists in Iraq in their killings of Sunnis and other minorities, and continuously funneling arms and other logistics to the Houthis in Yemen.

Senator McCain’s backing of the NCRI has escalated at a sensitive timing for Tehran as the regime is less than a month away from a crucial presidential election. The entire Iranian regime apparatus is currently engulfed in the resulting power struggles amongst feuding factions that can lead to massive protests and uprisings by the powder keg Iranian society.

Is Iran expanding its spying and lobbying efforts?

The Iranian intelligence minister’s recent remarks, pertaining to Tehran overseeing a spy/lobby network in important capitals across the world, is cause for concern. Mahmoud Alavi, Iran’s spy chief, bragged about the regime’s capability to run a lobby group in Washington with the aim of promoting Tehran’s hardline agenda.

According to Alavi, Iranian dual citizens in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom have maintained their loyalty to the “Islamic revolution,” the mullahs’ hallmark motto ever since 1979, through which they have wreaked havoc across the region and beyond.

A “lobby group for the Islamic Republic of Iran” is actively bolstering Tehran’s status in the international stage and helping to sell and legitimize its nuclear ambitions as just causes to the globe, Alavi claimed

The head of Iran’s intelligence apparatus did not bother to name the specific lobby entity. One certain group, however, the National Iranian American Council, has been the target of major criticism in the past several months, with accusations of the group lobbying on Tehran’s behalf. Various dissident organizations are demanding the Trump administration to launch an official probe digging into NIAC’s history and nature of its current events.

Congress has also been petitioned to investigate ties between Iran and the NIAC, and the latter’s active drive to promote a pro-Tehran agenda in Washington. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., who chair the foreign affairs committees in each chamber of Congress, have received specific letters signaling the importance of urgent action in this regard.

NIAC was once again under the spotlight this January for its actions of presenting a positive image of the Iran nuclear deal and advocating a pro-diplomatic approach with Tehran. The media reported extensively on how two senior Iranian regime supporters, former Iranian nuclear diplomat Hossein Mousavian and NIAC founder and president Trita Parsi, enjoyed access to the Obama White House on more than 30 occasions, conducting meetings with senior administration officials.

Such meetings took place at critical points of the Obama administration’s decision-making process and engagement with Iran in their effort to push forward the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Alavi’s recent remarks are source for serious concern as entities advocating Iran’s agenda in the American capital are obliged by the Foreign Agents Registration Act to disclose the nature of their work. This even includes conditions where the relationship does not involve money exchanges, at least not through legal and opaque channels.

A legitimate question now hovers over the possibility of any ties between the groups referred to by Iran’s intelligence minister and the Islamic Republic’s positions on foreign policy.

Another just query circles around the many visits Parsi has made to the White House and the State Department during former President Obama‘s tenure, and can they be attributed to what the Iranian intelligence minister describes as lobbying for Tehran.

Any group seen to be advocating the promotion of Iran’s ballistic missile program, and caring less about the Iranian people’s human rights and the regime’s crackdown, should be subject of suspicion.

For years Iran has been known to forward an official plot of boosting relations with groups promoting anti-war and pro-regime policies in the West. Improving contacts with Iranian dual nationals living in the West has been high on Tehran’s agenda on this matter.

One major task of this network has been discrediting those opposing the regime in Tehran and taking measures against any efforts voicing support for Iran regime change. The main Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, and its most important member, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), have been the constant target of smear campaigns launched and orchestrated by the Iranian regime and NIAC.

Their nightmare involves Washington discussing possibilities with Iranian opposition groups, and upscaling the effort into direct cooperation aimed at further sanctions and ultimately regime change.

Originally published in Washington Examiner

Amir Basiri (@amir_bas) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner and an Iranian human rights activist.

ANALYSIS: Here’s how to blueprint the most effective Iran policy

Iran has been continuing its series of blatant measures in defiance of norms accepted as standard by the international community, all as the Trump administration continues to weigh on blacklisting the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Iran has gone as far as pledging to launch “roaring missiles” in response to threats. To this day, several ballistic missile launches – capable of delivering nuclear payloads – have been Tehran’s report card.

Reports also show Iran increasing its support of the Houthis in Yemen by providing “Kamikazi” drones, water and airborne, to threaten shipping lines in Bab el-Mandeb and most certainly Saudi Navy ships, as weapons analysts confirmed forces aligned with former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh are also using these weapons to target missile-defense systems used by Saudi-led coalition units.

And after harassing US warships in the Strait of Hormuz, Iran has gone as far as not only denying the entire ordeal, but also holding Washington responsible for any future face-offs in a shipping route key for international oil trade.

Iran’s objective

Fully aware of its weak and outdated military capabilities, the mullahs are attempting to both keep a straight face at home and obtain as much leverage as possible in regards to the new White House completely overhauling its predecessor’s Iran engagement approach.

Trump has shown his muscular perspective through an array of thorny statements followed by new sanctions, welcomed by the Iranian opposition. However, if Washington is truly serious about returning peace and security to the Middle East, targeting the destabilizing epicenter is crucial.

The Trump White House is continuously pledging more severe US action if the mullahs see their interests in continuing to breach international norms by taking on prohibited missile launches.

A number of Iranian first official dismissed the tough talk by President Trump over the deal that initially aimed to curb Iran’s nuclear program as nothing but empty rhetoric usually resorted to on the campaign trail. However, through appointing Gen. James Mattis as his defense secretary and with a second round of sanctions against Iran, many voices are being silenced.

A bad deal

With the nuclear deal being described as “weak and ineffective” by President Trump, his administration has moved forward to addressing another very important matter in the US-Iran relationship. As Tehran was witnessing its money and influence going down the drain, the nuclear deal provided the regime an escape route to evade a military conflict.

And while the accord was claimed to focus on weakening the mullahs’ regime and boosting the Iranian people’s status, the concessions provided by the Obama administration delivered the exact life support the regime needed both economically and symbolically.

As sanctions were rolled back, Iran’s practice of resorting to destabilizing measures across the region was provided a waterfall of financial support to sidestep a military conflict. This also greenlighted Iran to relaunch its illicit activity, only to be slapped warnings and sanctions in the past month or so by a new White House.

Despite senior Iranian officials being very active in voicing dissent, the consequences of America and allies regaining a very serious position on Iran and closing the nuclear deal faucet is crystal clear.

Targeting the roots

Trump has also taken the initiative of challenging Iran’s extended offensive with proxy groups throughout the region, threatening America’s interests and allies. After eight years of the Obama administration adopting a policy of nearly abandoning the Middle East at Iran’s will, the Trump administration has shown signs in complete contrast.

Iran’s support for the Assad regime in Syria, sectarian Shiite militias in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen and the Lebanese Hezbollah are the leverages Tehran must be deprived of.

Iran also comprehends quite well its firepower is no match for US arsenal, and resorting to mercenaries to obtain a charade of regional dominance. The White House has acknowledged the fluid and dynamic nature of the Middle East, and pinpointing Iran’s support for the Houthis as a group affronting the Saudi’s southern border.

This is a significant change of attitude as the Obama administration never acknowledged such a relation. This provided Iran a green light to expand its impact and direct regional proxy groups to spread terrorism and havoc throughout the Middle East. All eyes are now on the Trump administration, seeking a major strategy against Iran’s network of proxies. This can most specifically be achieved by severing all flows of funds and arms from the source: the IRGC.

Riyadh has also welcomed the new White House’s more serious approach regarding the Middle East, and backing America’s allies who are currently struggling to prevent transnational terrorists, including ISIS, and specifically focusing efforts to end Iran’s meddling in countries such as Yemen.

Swift and punitive response

Iran poses a major concern for international security, demonstrated in the Trump administration condemning the country’s support for terrorism on a broad scale. Funding and arming the Lebanese Hezbollah, knee-deep in the Syria crisis with arms and boots transferring, Shiite proxies on a rampage against Sunni minorities in Iraq in the name of fighting ISIS, and as mentioned above, the Houthis in Yemen.

True, the Trump administration has many cards to play against the regime in Tehran. Iran’s crusades in these four Arab countries can be brought to an end through one single measure. A swift and punitive response from the White House can be found in the US and all international correspondents designating Iran’s IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, ending the naïve policy of appeasement vis-à-vis Iran.

Through such measures the Trump administration will have correctly acknowledged the actual source of turmoil in the Middle East. It is high time for the West, and especially the US, to adopt a smart strategy targeting Iran’s key pillars in its network of international terrorism and draining the swamp of Tehran’s overreach across the region.

Originally published in Al Arabiya English

Why the US Should Target Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

The possibility of the Trump White House blacklisting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) is causing enormous tension in Tehran, as the regime understands the political, economic — and, perhaps most importantly — geopolitical consequences of such a move.

An Iranian opposition group has scheduled a Tuesday press conference to provide new information about the IRGC Quds Force “command headquarters for terrorist training of foreign mercenaries and a number of overt and covert training centers” across Iran, according to the online statement.

The IRGC was established supposedly to safeguard the “Islamic Revolution.” The FTO designation of this enormously important Tehran entity would further toughen US President Donald Trump’s push on Iran.

The IRGC is in full control of the mullahs’ cherished ballistic missile program, used especially to lift morale within the regime’s dwindling and highly fragile social base.

Washington has considered Tehran a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984, as the regime has continuously armed, trained and financed a conglomerate of terrorist groups in the Middle East — mainly Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen.

Designating the IRGC, an official armed force, rather than another militia group, would be unprecedented. It would send a signal to Iran that the new US administration is targeting the very core of its apparatus — one that also enjoys significant leverage over its economy.

The IRGC is the leading force behind Iran’s nuclear programballistic missile driveinvolvement in Syria and other states and atrocious domestic human rights violations. The FTO designation would ban any economic transactions and relations with IRGC-affiliated companies, thereby significantly curbing its access to the revenue needed to pursue all the above-mentioned ambitions.

There are already signs of increasing concerns in this regard having a considerable effect.

The France-based international oil and gas French company Total has hinged its plans for a $2 billion project in Iran in the summer on US sanctions waivers, which now seem unlikely, to say the least, with the Trump administration imposing a major policy overhaul.

Companies across the world are already described as wary about doing business with Iran. The FTO designation would bring an end to all the leeway provided for foreign businesses to enjoy working with entities that may be connected with the IRGC.

And while some argue that an FTO designation for the IRGC would result in Iran’s abandoning ship on the nuclear deal reached with the P5+1 in July 2015, they are absolutely wrong. Tehran needs the accord more than any other party, as crippling international sanctions were taking their toll on its economy. And rest assured that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei would never have blessed such a pact were better options available.

The Iranian opposition has a history of shedding important light on the IRGC’s destructive roles, and calling for necessary action in this regard.

Iran’s “nuclear and missile program is against the Iranian people’s interest and must be stopped,” Maryam Rajavi, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRIsaid recently.

The NCRI has welcomed the Trump administration’s recent round of sanctions against Tehran and earlier proposed measures aimed at “banning all deals and trade with IRGC-affiliated companies.”

The Trump administration is now facing a very important opportunity to deliver the message that the mullahs deserve to hear. In so doing, it will be on the right side of history where supporting the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom and democracy through peaceful regime change is concerned.

Originally published in Algemeiner

Iran Sabotages a Syrian Ceasefire

By Heshmat Alavi

Despite the boasted rhetoric about the agreement reached in the Astana talks over the Syria ceasefire, this latest stage unveiled the limits involved parties face in bringing an end to the six-year war. Even Russia’s chief negotiator at the discussion reached the point of complaining, more than once, about diverse complications. And the main obstacle remains Iran, due to the fact that a true ceasefire in Syria should spell the end of its foothold.

The talks have even been dubbed a diplomatic coup, with all three sponsors, Moscow, Ankara, and Tehran accused of seeking separate objectives. The truth is there is no ceasefire thanks to Iran’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Despite the so-called “ceasefire pact” sealed on December 30th, pro-Assad forces backed by Iran — including the Lebanese Hizb’allah — have continued attacks on the besieged rebel-held area of Wadi Barada near Damascus.

The Syrian regime has resorted to the ridiculous excuse that al-Qaeda-affiliated “terrorist groups” are in control of Ain al-Fijeh, a small town in Wadi Barada. This despite locals reporting only a “tiny minority” of such elements being present. It is thus crystal clear that neither Assad, nor his Iranian masters, have ever sought a meaningful ceasefire in Syria.

In other areas, regime warplanes launched further airstrikes targeting rebel-controlled areas in west Syria, leaving 12 dead in one area alone, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The fact is that the Astana talks have left many loopholes, and this is exactly what Iran will exploit to plunge the entire process into utter failure.

  • No details are available about a mechanism to monitor a supposed ceasefire.
  • Political issues failed to achieve any tangible progress and the talks are described as narrowly focused.
  • One senior Western diplomat criticized the entire initiative as “not very serious,” adding, “You don’t seal a ceasefire in two days.” There are no indications of any work on modalities, observers, mechanisms, maps, and so forth.
  • No document has been signed by Syrian opposition or regime representatives, the two parties who actually have to reach an arrangement.
  • While the agreement promises a separation of rebel forces into legitimate opposition and terrorists, no specific method is laid out over how, and according to what merits.

Russia may be considered the main benefactor of the talks, especially since the U.S. cited transition duties and participated only as an observer. Iran is amongst those tasked to monitor the ceasefire, while it is obvious Iran-backed Shiite militias, already accused of violating this ceasefire, will seek to exploit the numerous Astana agreement loopholes.

Even the next date set for future talks between Syrian opposition and regime delegations, Feb. 8 in Geneva, lacks firm confirmation. The Astana negotiations ultimately did not go as planned due to different interests pursued by all three sponsors, proving that Washington and the Gulf States must take part in any future effort.

Even such a goal encounters difficulty due to stark differences seen between Russia and Iran over the United States possibly taking part. Moscow is in favor of Washington, under the Trump administration, taking part, while Iran flatly rejects the proposal.

“They (the Russians) can now see how difficult their partners are,” one Western diplomat described, according to Reuters.

“They are finding a lot of obstacles from Hezbollah forces, Iran and the regime,” explained Mohammed Alloush, head of the Syrian opposition delegation.

Western diplomats have also voiced concerns, viewing Iran as a main obstacle to progress. Uncertainty is the least that can be said about Tehran’s commitment to what can hardly be described as a ceasefire.

At a time of concerns regarding Iran’s involvement in Syria, including a conglomerate of militias and Assad forces continuing to launch attacks on civilians in rebel-held areas, there are serious questions and doubts over Tehran’s legitimacy as a broker in this entire ordeal.

As seen over the past four decades, Tehran thrives on two pillars of domestic crackdown and provoking unrest across the Middle East. This leaves the international community lacking an obvious solution.

“The regime in Tehran is the source of crisis in the region and killings in Syria; it has played the greatest role in the expansion and continuation of ISIS. Peace and tranquility in the region can only be achieved by evicting this regime from the region,” said Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group of dissidents including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

Iran’s meddling report card in Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen proves this is the sole solution that can render a lasting ceasefire and pave the path to genuine peace.

Originally posted in American Thinker

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Donald Trump’s Possible Iran-To-Do List

One year into the highly boasted Iran nuclear deal, the work of the Obama administration dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the world witnessed how Iran returned the favor. Tehran continued to cause havoc across Syria with a conglomerate of Shiite militias rampaging and massacring innocent civilians. Iran also launched provocative war drills further destabilizing the flashpoint Persian Gulf region. We were also witness to how Qassem Suleimani, the notorious commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, was paraded in Falluja, Mosul and Aleppo. All in all, Tehran has taken advantage of Obama’s craftsmanship to accelerate its aggression across the region. As a result, President Donald Trump has before him a slate of available to-do measures against Iran.

Washington, under Obama, remained unfortunately mute in response to Tehran threatening America’s Middle East allies through known saber-rattling tactics. The Obama White House continuously ignored Iran’s threats and only responded with non-nuclear sanctions, aimed mainly at maintaining face amongst his critics.

To this end, Obama’s foreign policy in 2016 specifically paved the path for Iran to embark on a more emboldened journey throughout the Middle East.

The JCPOA shortcomings have been discussed to a full extent, as we have witnessed Iran’s nuclear drive only delayed, especially since Tehran has twice exceeded its heavy water production limit. In the process the West ear Deal, has lost significant leverage over Iran.

President Trump has the opportunity to adopt a policy aimed at isolating Iran by making Iranian intransigence come at a high cost for the regime. The Trump administration can take on issues that have always been vital with Iran, and far beyond the JCPOA’s reach. This most specifically involves a strong approach vis-à-vis Iran fueling Middle East crises through the spread of its Islamic fundamentalism mentality.

Through the course of JCPOA talks, Iran used the opportunity to dispatch tens of thousands of Shiite proxy militias from Afghanistan, Pakistan, its own forces and … to Syria to shore up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. This sparked eleven Arab states to take unprecedented measures voiced in a recent letter accusing Tehran of supporting Middle East terrorism and demanding a halt in Iran meddling in their internal affairs. Even the U.S. State Department could not neglect this troubling reality and once again designated Iran as the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism.

Needed now is a comprehensive drive to pressure Iran. The tools and assets available before President Trump are plenty and the first step in the right path would be to correctly and strongly enforce existing sanctions. A policy which, unfortunately, the Obama administration simply refused to abide by.

Senior Iranian officials, including Suleimani, are under a United Nations travel ban that the previous administration failed to enforce. This goes alongside Iran feeling no fear of any accountability as it launched numerous ballistic missile tests and streamlined frequent arms shipments to Yemen, neglecting the U.N. embargo in this very regard. The JCPOA was enshrined by U.N. Resolution 2231, and yet such measures by Iran have gone without any international response, thanks to the Obama administration’s continued silence. Here is another platform where the Trump administration can make it crystal clear for Tehran that the tides have changed and the mullahs’ can no longer count on Obama’s golden era.

Iran has also enjoyed the benefits of a major windfall resulting from the JCPOA, and President Trump can bring this to an end. Licenses for Airbus and Boeing deals can be revoked by the U.S. Treasury Department and conditioned on the mullahs halting their use of various Iranian airlines to transfer personal and arms to Assad and the Lebanese Hezbollah. And Iraq should be pressured by the U.S. to restrict its airspace to Iranian planes flying for such dangerous intents.

While the Obama administration drastically failed to live up to its Syria red line, the new administration in Washington has before it a chance to draw clear lines in the sand.

  1. Assad and Iran’s militias must be ordered to end all hostilities and attacks, especially against civilians that have resulted in uncountable cases of massacres.

  2. Iran must pull out all Shiite militias from Syria and dismantle the Popular Mobilization Units, acting as the Iraq IRGC parallel to the Iraqi classic army.

  3. Iran’s human rights violations must be curbed, especially the horrific practice of executions, including women and juveniles, public floggings and limb amputations. All this has continued under the so-called “moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

  4. Despite its flaws, the JCPOA regulations must be abided by Iran and enforced meaningfully by the international community, bringing an end to all existing loopholes.

This would resemble the right start for the Trump administration to springboard into reining in Iran’s regime. And yet, the Trump administration has potential to further broaden its agenda and bring an end to all of the mullahs’ unacceptable practices. A recent letter, signed by a rare bi-partisan slate of former senior U.S. government officials, and hand-delivered to President Trump encourages Washington to work with the Iranian opposition represented by the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

Iran’s regime has left no choice but for the U.S. and the international community to start a new campaign of pressuring all its assets to make Tehran understand the costs of continuing such behavior. Rest assured that after four decades of failed appeasement, the only option available is a comprehensive agenda of tough policies to confront the mullahs.

Originally published in The Daily Caller