How To Address Iran’s Aggressive Contributions To Middle East Turmoil

For years, Iran’s nuclear program has been in the international spotlight, leading to a highly controversial and flawed global pact aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

That pact, known as The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, hasn’t reined in Iran’s belligerence. Instead, Iran’s ballistic missile program and dangerous collaboration with North Korea have become new sources of concern for the global community, while its proxies and influence in the quagmires of Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria pose troubling threats.

New Reports Suggest Iran Has Missile Factories In Syria

Iran’s Syria campaign has already caused unprecedented mayhem in the Levant, driving more than half a million to their deaths, displacing above 12 million, and leaving a country in ruins. Tehran-blessed Shiite militias are on the march in pursuit of implementing and fanning the regime’s interests. Most recently, reports indicate Iran has established missile factories in Syria, as well as in Lebanon.

“Syria is building missile factories with Iranian inspiration,” ImageSat International reports. Satellite imagery show detailed views of a valley packed with buildings east of Baniyas, in an area named Wadi Jahannam—translated “Hell Valley.” The complex, which takes up several kilometers, contains buildings that resemble factories designed to manufacture surface-to-surface missiles.

Other important military sites include the Port of Tartus, where Russia continues to maintain a highly valued warm water naval presence, and the Khmeimim Air Base near the city of Latakia in western Syria.

The Majlis, Iran’s parliament, has just approved a $260 million budget increase for the regime’s ballistic missile program. Given Iran’s broad scope of domestic missile sites, as well as its international efforts in Lebanon, Syria, and North Korea, researching the destination of these millions of dollars is worthwhile.

These sensitive and highly controversial facilities, buried more than 50 meters underground to enjoy protection from aerial attacks, allow Hezbollah to procure high-tech missiles equipped with state-of-the-art guidance systems and ranging up to 500 kilometers.

Extending Its Grasp Beyond the Middle East

But Iran has far broader ambitions. The Hezbollah and Syria factories are only a chapter in its book of strategies. Reports by the Washington Free Beacon, amongst others, indicate that Iran is eyeing the Atlantic Ocean in its latest dispatching of warships.

Iran’s involvement in Iraq runs deep, especially through the support it generously provides to Shiite militias, the Hashid al-Sha’bi, known to have directed numerous massacres targeting Sunnis and other disarrayed minorities.

Tehran has taken advantage of the war in Syria to establish a key role in maintaining Bashar al-Assad’s power and making him completely reliant upon the clerical rulers.

And thanks to Obama’s legacy-defining nuclear deal, billions of dollars are pouring into Iran to fuel and steer all this belligerence. European companies such as Airbus, Total, and Renault are taking advantage of various sanctions reliefs to begin investing in Iran. Considering the 40 percent control obtained by the Revolutionary Guards on Iran’s economy, Europeans are injecting new life into Iran’s dangerous bellicosity.

Iran Is Taking Advantage Of ISIS’ Decline

Obama’s appeasement policy toward Iran only served to embolden the country’s aggressive maneuvers. State TV networks sense no need to maintain any secrecy, boasting instead about how Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s new defense minister, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, has pledged to advance the regime’s ballistic missile capabilities.

Tehran also has plans to enhance its strategic air and maritime power, and boost the capabilities and reach of its rapid reaction force.

Strategic visits abroad by Iran’s senior defense officials provide another disturbing aspect: a visit to Moscow in April and most recently to Ankara by the former defense minister and chief of staff, respectively, to meet counterparts and other officials are such examples.

Maybe most troubling of all is the way Iran is taking advantage of the Islamic State’s steady decline in Iraq and Syria, seeking to fill the resulting void. Iran-backed proxy militias are seen roaming large swaths of western Iraq and southern Syria leading to the Euphrates River, an important waterway that snakes from the country’s northwest to the southeast into Iraq.

Establishing a land-bridge linking Tehran to the Mediterranean has been a long-sought objective for Tehran. It would provide a corridor, enabling Tehran to send arms and logistics to the Syrian regime and Lebanese Hezbollah, giving the regime unprecedented power and influence.

How To Halt Iran’s Aggressive Agenda

In order to halt Iran’s aggressive agenda, U.S. leaders need to recognize that Iran’s Middle East meddling poses a top-tier threat, requiring urgent attention and action.

Second, the United States and Arab World should craft a carefully calibrated road-map to correctly evict Iran back to its own borders. Tehran must realize its Middle East overreach is backfiring.

The recent sanctions imposed by Congress, designating the Revolutionary Guard as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group, is a long-delayed yet galvanizing start that deserves comprehensive implementation without any loopholes.

As the defeat of ISIS is nearing, this will allow the international community to begin combating Iran’s proxies and influence in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.

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Iran’s missile launches: A sign of strength or weakness?

How should we evaluate Iran’s medium-range missile strikes, boasted by the mullahs as an official response to the June 7th twin attacks allegedly staged by ISIS in Tehran? As a sign of strength showing Iran’s ability to take on ISIS while also sending a message to all adversaries, most importantly Washington? Or a desperate attempt by the mullahs to maintain a straight face against increasing domestic and foreign crises?

Iran last resorted to such drastic measures of launching ballistic missiles from its soil back in the final days of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988 after suffering major defeats, and once again in 2001 against former bases of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in Iraq in response to a vast opposition camp inside the country. This proves Tehran will fall to such lows when pinned against the wall as a last resort.

The question is, why would Iran launch expensive medium-range missiles, knowing it has yet to perfect a precision guiding system (as three of the seven missiles landed in Iraq and three others were far off their targets in Deir Ezzur)? Furthermore, Iran boasts of having tens of thousands proxy shock troops in Syria propping the Assad regime and there are also reports of Tehran launching missile factories in Syria. So why the need to use such poorly guided medium-range missiles from their own turf?

This was nothing but a publicity stunt following the June 7th attacks, and Iran seeking to take advantage of the entire scenario to press the gas pedal on domestic crackdown and justify their foreign meddling in the Middle East and beyond. I have explained my thoughts extensively in a Forbes and Al Arabiya English article.

Despite targeting Syria in this missile attack, Iran mainly intended to deliver a message to Saudi Arabia. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) accused Riyadh and also Washington over the June 7th attacks.

However, we should also take into notice that Tehran launched its missiles into the deserts of eastern Syria. And while the IRGC accuses Saudi Arabia and the U.S., rest assured Iran’s mullahs are not so foolish as to launch missiles into the Kingdom or target American interests in the Middle East.

Iran’s leaders may be extremists, but they are very pragmatic and know exactly when to back off. One such lesson was learned when the U.S. Navy in 1988 launched Operation Praying Mantis and nearly annihilated Iran’s naval forces in retaliation to the Iranian mining of the Persian Gulf during the Iran–Iraq War, with subsequent damage to an American warship.

The Iranian regime’s senior hierarchy and IRGC were in dire need of such a missile launching especially following five months of setbacks:

a) The election of Donald Trump as President of United States and the end of Obama’s dreadful era of appeasement.

b)  Iran being placed “on notice” by the Trump administration.

c)  Washington slapping two rounds of sanctions and a recent Senate resolution calling for sweeping action against Iran’s ballistic missile program, support of terrorism and human rights violations.

d)  The U.S. military taking direct action against Assad’s airbase in April, more recently attacking Iran-backed troops and two Iran-made drones in southeast Syria, and downing an Assad regime bomber near Raqqa.

e)  And possibly most significant of all, at a time when the Trump administration continues to weigh its comprehensive Iran policy, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is heard in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing emphasizing Washington will support elements inside Iran seeking peaceful regime change.

All this places a heavy burden on a regime that only enjoys merely four percent popular support, as explained by a candidate in last month’s faux presidential election.

As a result, to maintain a straight face Iran will resort to any and all desperate measures. All the while, such a turn of events and severe setbacks have come at the worst possible time for Tehran, as the PMOI/MEK, under the political umbrella of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), are preparing for their annual Paris rally scheduled for July1 this year.

Over 100,000 Iranians and hundreds of American, European and Middle East dignitaries gather to voice their support for NCRI  President Maryam Rajavi and her ten-point plan for the future of Iran enjoying gender equality, peaceful coexistence, abolishing capital punishment, torture and crackdown, and bringing an end to Iran’s nuclear program, meddling and support of terrorism.

As a result, from the mullahs’ perspective desperate times call for desperate measures. Considering the bleak-looking future for Tehran, expect more such reactions.

Iran’s Presidential Election Will Render A Weaker Regime

The so-called presidential “election” that is scheduled for May 19th in Iran is in far contrast to what is witnessed in today’s democratic countries. Polls in Iran under the mullahs’ regime are neither free nor fair, and the upcoming presidential election will weaken the regime in its entirety to an unprecedented scale.

What Tehran considers a constitution prevents any possible election based on internationally recognized standards. Candidates must prove their utter loyalty to the mullahs’ regime and the Supreme Leader. As a result, the word “opposition” has no meaning in Iranian politics. As a result any assertion of “moderates” facing off against “hardliners” in Iran is completely misleading. This is a regime of various factions, not different political parties.

The Supreme Leader has the final word in all state affairs, including national security and foreign relations. All three executive, legislative and judiciary branches of the government are under the heavy influence of the Supreme Leader.

The president in Iran is a post completely reliant to the Supreme Leader, knowing he can be sacked at any moment and without prior notice. True authority in Iran is controlled by the Supreme Leader’s office and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

“We are all merely facilitators of this regime,” once said Mohammad Khatami, the so-called “moderate” president who served from 1997 to 2005.

This regime’s core policies hover around domestic crackdown, exporting terrorism and fundamentalist abroad, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the form of a nuclear arsenal and ballistic missiles.

And all candidates, including the incumbent President Hassan Rouhani and a leading pro-Khamenei camp loyalist Ebrahim Raisi, are in line with all the regime’s strategic objectives. Otherwise, their candidacy would not enjoy Khamenei’s necessary approval.

Raisi has been a figure involved in Iran’s judiciary from the early days of this regime. He is mostly known for his notorious role in the “Death Commission” ordered by regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini himself to preside over the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mainly members and supporters of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

Rouhani, while claiming to be a moderate, bears a significant security profile serving the regime’s higher interests. He was key in imposing strictly conservative clothing regulations on Iranian women following the 1979 revolution; acted as Rafsanjani’s right hand man during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s and sending even juveniles to the front lines; remaining silent over the 1988 massacre; admitting to his direct involvement in the 1999 student uprising crackdown; and sending over 3,000 people to the gallows during the four years of his tenure.

Rouhani, known as the “Purple Fox” in Iran for his deceptive nature, has publicly supported Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s carnage against the innocent Syrian people and long pursued to advance Iran’s nuclear program and ballistic missile drive.

The only difference cited between Raisi and Rouhani is the latter’s ability to combine his brutality with a deceptive touch.

To this end, whoever becomes this regime’s president after May 19th or the possible May 26th runoff, will only be a puppet for the Supreme Leader.

However, the 2017 presidential election in Iran are taking place at a time when Tehran is facing a conglomerate of crises:

  • 18 months after the nuclear deal implementation, and despite the Obama administration and the West going the limits in providing Tehran concessions, the mullahs’ regime has failed to reach a solution to any fundamentalist dilemma. Khamenei and his regime are severely weakened after giving up their nuclear weapon leverage and left with increasing crises across the board.
  • A new era is in the making as Team Obama left the White House and the new Trump administration is involved in a major foreign policy overhaul. This has raised foremost concerns for the mullahs’ in Tehran about possible future consequences, and placed a significant shadow over Khamenei’s desired presidential election outcome.
  • The Iranian opposition PMOI/MEK was able to successfully relocate all its members in an organized fashion from Iraq to European countries, leaving the regime in utter shock. Iran had sought their complete annihilation during their stay in Iraq. Now, the formation of this opposition force far from the Iranian regime’s reach is extremely dangerous for Tehran as this movement enjoys significant influence inside Iran.
  • Rafsanjani’s death has left the entire regime extremely weaker and the Rouhani camp without his crucial weight and support. While Khamenei may enjoy a short lived freer hand to consolidate his rule, the strategic impact of such a loss is considered irrecoverable for Tehran.

Making the entire scene even far more complex is Khamenei’s deteriorating health and the very dire issue of determining his successor.

All said and done, this regime has one major red line: to prevent Iran’s powder keg society from launching major protests and nationwide uprisings similar to that of 2009.

Khamenei enjoys the authority to “engineer” the election result, so long as such a measure falls short of leading to further factional infighting that may spark uprisings across the country. Considering the abovementioned factors that have weakened the regime considerably, the current apparatus lacks the capacity to overcome such a massive blow and any repetition of scenes similar to that of 2009 will noticeably challenge the entire regime.

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) hosted a web conference on Thursday providing an in-depth analysis and different perspective of the election outcome.

“The take away from all these factors is that the choices for Khamenei are between worse, and even far worse. This is the reality that Khamenei has to deal with and a totally new situation and new prospects,” according to NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Mohammad Mohaddesin.

Sensing his regime’s weakness, Khamenei has brought Raisi forth to consolidate his power and continue exporting terrorism and fundamentalist, regional meddling and domestic crackdown. If he succeeds in Raisi becoming president, the regime will witness its already dwindling base diminish extensively. The international community will also realize once and for all that reforms and moderation in Iran are nothing but a delusion.

If Rouhani remains for a second term, however, Khamenei’s prestige will suffer a major blow resulting in unprecedented inner conflicts. His ability to determine his successor will also be damaged and the regime will need to seek further concessions from the international community.

While factional crises will escalate as a result, and with Rafsanjani gone and Washington adopting a firm approach vis-à-vis Iran, the horizon looks gloom to say the least for the mullahs’ regime. No election outcome has the potential of relieving Tehran from these brewing crises.

ANALYSIS: Is the Arab Summit alliance raising stakes for Iran?

It appears the recent Arab League Summit in Jordan should be considered an important development in the path of further isolating Iran in the Middle East. At a first glance, this was a conference in which the highest number of state leaders participated in comparison to previous such gatherings.

A more in-depth perspective places us before this important conclusion that most speakers strongly criticized Iran’s meddling and highlighted the necessity of solidarity and alliance amongst Arab states to confront this phenomenon. Leaders of Saudi Arabia and Jordan specifically expressed their grave concerns over Iran’s interference across the region, especially Syria, sectarian warmongering and Tehran’s state sponsorship of terrorism.

“Tehran provokes sectarianism and hinders efforts to resolve regional crises,” said Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

Iran’s setback

Significant is the fact that the Arab Summit initially prepared a relatively low-profile draft resolution adopting a soft tone in relation to Iran. However, the final resolution prepared and published by Arab League Foreign Ministers reflected the majority members’ position, being completely against Iran and the mullahs’ policies of meddling and supporting terrorism.

However, a few Arab countries such as Iraq and Lebanon – literally taken hostage by Iran – or Algeria, enjoying specific interests in its relations with the mullahs’ regime, could not jump on this resolution train.

This left the remaining member states before two options: either refusing to sign, forgoing any possibility of forming a consensus and accepting resulting rifts; or financing on their common grounds, being the subjects of Palestine and opposing any meddling in others internal affairs (without specifically mentioning Iran). Although the terms used in the resolution falls of short of directly pinpointing the mullahs’ regime in Iran, it is quite obvious who the crosshairs were placed on.

Importantly, of grave significance for the main member states in this conference was to enjoy Iraq’s signature, and that of its Prime Minister, on this initiative. Considering the new international status quo and Washington’s new policies, the gradual distancing of Iraq from Iran, and further advances in this regard is seen in the forecast.

Although the terms used in the Arab Summit resolution falls of short of directly pinpointing the regime in Iran, it is quite obvious who the crosshairs were placed on. (Reuters)

A new era

It is worth noting the Obama years rendered a complete passive and inactive American policy in regards to Iraq. Through a disastrous strategic mistake in pulling out prematurely from Iraq, Washington practically giftwrapped Baghdad to Tehran.
This policy has currently changed and American policymakers have made it crystal clear how they will not permit Iran take on any wished measures.

US CENTCOM commander General Joseph Votel in a recent hearing of the House of Representatives Armed Forces Committee emphasized on the necessity to confront Iran as the main long-term threat before stability in the Middle East. Votel also went the distance to insist on considering military assets and other capabilities to stop this regime.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi recently visited Washington and signs indicate he has been briefed and received specific instructions over the America’s major policy overhaul and shifts in relation to Iraq and the entire Middle East. To this end, Arab leaders saw it very important to have Iraq – a party voting against previous summit resolutions – to sign this new initiative. This allowed the summit to maintain its fabric and unity over two main subjects of Palestine and condemning meddling in the internal affairs of other countries.

General James Jones, former NATO commander and US national security advisor, recently called on all Gulf States to establish a defensive alliance similar to that of NATO against the threats Iran poses for regional states. Such an “Arab NATO” will enjoy America’s support, he added.

Global front against Iran

When we use the terms a substantial alteration in international politics, we must mention a recent hearing held at the British Parliament discussing Iran’s meddling in the region, widespread condemnations targeting the mullahs’ human rights violations, calls to establish an Arab alliance aimed at evict this regime from regional countries. For such a cause, designating the Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization would be a prelude measure and act as a necessary springboard.

This goes in line with further measures to enforce the flawed deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program. Rest assured if the Arab World adopts a firm stance and demands Iran’s eviction from their soil, the US will most definitely be encouraged to blacklist the IRGC and defang Iran’s meddling.

Moreover, the presence of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Organization of Islamic Cooperation Secretary-General Youssef bin al-Ottaimeen, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, envoys of the US And France in this conference indicated the decisions made in this platform enjoy enormous international support, rendering further worldwide isolation for Tehran.

Reactions seen from Iran prove the fact this Arab Summit in Jordan ended as a complete failure and delivered heavy damages to Tehran’s interests. As usual, the mullahs’ media resort to low-standard lies that deserve no repetition. The mullahs, however, cannot cloak their utter anger and fear of such a united position against its meddling in Arab countries.

As we close in to Iran’s presidential elections in May, rest assured this isolation on the international stage will have a major impact on Iran’s domestic politics, and the Iranian society – described as a powder keg – is watching very closely.

Originally published in Al Arabiya English

Iran: The story of proxy militias

By Shahriar Kia

Iran’s destructive role across the Middle East has become common knowledge and crystal clear for all. During the past two decades, especially, the presence of this regime’s proxy militias and affiliated Shiite groups has been considered an overt secret. Yet the question is how has Iran been able to dispatch so many fighters, and on a constant basis, to various flashpoint scenes in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Iran has trained, equipped, financed and dispatched thousands of fighters to various battlegrounds across the region. However, with its own economy literally in peril, how has Tehran afforded such an expensive campaign?

Iran allocates a large portion of its annual budget to finance a massive domestic crackdown machine, parallel to exporting terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism. This goes part in parcel to Tehran’s continuous effort to obtain weapons of mass destruction, including its clandestine nuclear drive and ballistic missiles program. A percentage of the capital necessary for such endeavors, and the repressive forces inside the country, have ironically been provided by the highly boasted Iran nuclear deal.

The mullahs’ regime is also known to plunder billions from the Iranian people’s pockets, leaving millions across the country living in poverty. Whereas it is worth noting Iran is one of the richest countries in the world in natural resources, registered as enjoying the second largest gas reserves and fourth largest crude oil reserves.

Not long ago Iranian and western media showed how many Tehran locals were resorting to sleeping in graves in the winter cold. The number of homeless people in Iran is skyrocketing at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, many Iranians have been forced to sell body parts, such as kidneys, to help make ends meet, making this a huge market in Iran.

Rallies and demonstrations are also on the rise in Iran as more and more people are protesting very poor living conditions rendered through the disastrous policies implemented by the mullahs’ regime. Just recently residents of Ahwaz in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan in southwest Iran staged a week-long rally demanding Tehran bring an end to its disastrous desertification campaign that has devastated the local economy. Thousands of people also took to the streets in Tehran in late February demanding secure employment and delayed paychecks.

As the Iranian people suffer, the money needed to provide for their needs is used by the mullahs’ regime to pursue their own domestic and foreign agendas. As a voice focusing on unveiling such efforts, the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) relies on a vast social base inside the country to gather such intelligence to unveil some of the regime’s most sensitive projects.

Senior U.S. officials have in the past acknowledged how the Iranian opposition, People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), has warned the globe over the most important aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, such as the Natanz uranium enrichment plant and the Arak heavy water plant back in 2002 that sent shockwaves across the globe.

The Iranian opposition has through the years delivered significant blows to the mullahs through over 100 different revelations shedding light on most specifically Tehran’s nuclear weapons program. Without such an important campaign the mullahs’ will most definitely have obtained nuclear weapons by now, placing them in a dangerously powerful position in a tumultuous Middle East.

The MEK has also provided valuable information on Iran’s terrorism and Islamic extremism, such as unveiling the names of 32,000 hired agents in Iraq back in 2007; training and financing Iranian and non-Iranian forces in Syria in the summer of 2016 along with details and maps; and the Revolutionary Guards’ role in massacring Aleppo residents in December 2016.

To train its foreign fighters Iran has launched a network of bases across the country, 14 of which were identified and made public by the NCRI in a February press conference held in Washington. Other such militias are being trained in Syria and Iraq near the very warfronts they are then sent off to.

Iran trains Iraqi Shiite militias in bases across Iraq, dispatching such individuals to pursue Iran’s objectives in Iraq. Iran also used this asset to target Iranian opposition members formerly in Iraq in 8 different attacksthat targeted their camps, Ashraf and Liberty, leaving over 175 MEK members killed and more than 1,000 injured. These attacks were mainly carried out by Iraqi militias under IRGC orders.

To end Iran’s ability to use proxy militias to wreak havoc across the Middle East the new U.S. administration should target the main entity behind this campaign, being none other than the mullahs’ cherished IRGC. The designation of this lethal entity as a foreign terrorist organization is long overdue, and such a measure will most definitely send a signal to Iran that both America, and the international community, mean business.

Tehran has to understand that such undertakings will no longer be tolerated, and continuing with such actions and further missile tests will bear a heavy price tag. This approach will place America as a shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people’s plight to establish freedom and democracy.

Shahriar Kia is a political analyst and member of Iranian opposition (PMOI/MEK). He graduated from North Texas University. He tweets at @shahriarkia.

Originally posted in The Hill

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

To Contain Iran, Blacklist the Revolutionary Guards

The Guards are the main force behind Iran’s nuclear program, lethal meddling across the Middle East, ballistic missile drive and domestic crackdown.

Iran has been dubbed a “de facto Islamic Caliphate” due to increasing domestic crackdown and lethal meddling across the region, especially through the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

Acting as Iran’s main armed force and sidelining the classic army, the IRGC has earned its reputation as an “Iranian expeditionary force for invading strategic Arab spaces.”

The Obama administration fostered a highly-flawed nuclear agreement with the theocratic regime riddled with far too many loopholes, leaving the new administration of President Donald Trump a handful of dilemmas to weigh.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the deal is known, has enabled Iran to take advantage of and engulf the entire Middle East into unimaginable mayhem, as we have unfortunately witnessed in Aleppo.

Yes, the JCPOA did suspend a portion of Iran’s nuclear program for a few years – with emphasis on “suspended” and “a few years.”

Yet, it allowed the mullahs’ to take advantage of the lame-duck period to expand their regional hegemony, increase nuclear capabilities and build their ballistic missile program.

Ever since day the day in 1979 when the mullahs rose to power by hijacking the Iranian people’s revolution, countries of the Middle East have been targets of Tehran’s endless meddling.

America’s unfortunate strategic mistake of invading Iraq in 2003 provided Iran with an opportunity it was unable to gain after eight years of direct warfare in the 1980s.

Iran flooded Mesopotamia, gaining ground links to Syria and Iraq through its conglomerate of Shiite militias . Through its lackey, the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, it has provided an endless flow of arms and missiles to dangerous players in the region and expanded its tentacles like never before.

Iran now boasts of enjoying significant influence, if not full control, over four Arab capitals, stirring unrest with troops in SyriaIraqYemen and Lebanon.

These menacing measures were also made possible through the West adopting a failed policy of appeasement vis-à-vis Iran. The international community, spearheaded by the Obama administration, turned its back on Iran’s atrocities against its own people and across the Middle East creating an opening for the mullahs’ further exploitation.

Iran went as far as defying the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (endorsed by the JCPOA) by testing (and continueing to test) a series of ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload. The most Washington and its European partners could muster in response was a strong letter condemning such measures as “inconsistent with” and “in defiance of” the resolution adopted by the world’s highest governing body.

Iran has also breached heavy water production limits without consequences.

One crystal clear message to Iran would be to blacklist the IRGC, which is the main force behind Iran’s nuclear programlethal meddling across the Middle East, ballistic missile drive and domestic crackdown.

This strong and well-founded policy will send the necessary message to Iran to understand what needs changing, to thus render the ultimate change benefiting the Iranian people, all nations of the Middle East and the world over.

Originally posted in The Clarion Project

ANALYSIS: Iran feeling US policy shift after Obama

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, known to lead a regime based on a mantra of “Death to America,” has been cautiously silent ever since US President Donald Trump took the helm in the White House.

With a recent medium-range ballistic missile test launch backfiring severely, both politically and substantially–the vessel exploded during reentry into Earth’s orbit–the regime leader, who has the final word on all national security and foreign affairs, is maintaining a low profile.

The new White House lashed back with a series of measures Tehran has not been used to, especially after enjoying eight years of the Obama administration’s highly flawed appeasement policy.

Tensions escalated last week following Iran’s missile test confirmation, triggering US National Security Advisor Michael Flynn using his first public appearance to lash back a staunch warning, placing Tehran “on notice.” Trump has been very active, to say the least, taking to Twitter and warning Iran about the high contrast between he and his predecessor. “Iran is playing with fire – they don’t appreciate how “kind” President Obama was to them. Not me!

Iran is playing with fire – they don’t appreciate how “kind” President Obama was to them. Not me!

And his administration wasted no time before the weekend by slapping a new slate of economic sanctions targeting 25 Iranian individuals and entities involved in Iran’s missile program, while suggesting the possibility of more to come. “President Donald Trump’s press secretary suggested Friday afternoon that more sanctions, and even military action, could be on the way,” reports indicate.

Khamenei’s silence

And to add insult to injury, US Defense Secretary James Mattis, in his first foreign visit, labelled Iran as the world’s “biggest state sponsor of terrorism.”

Despite Fridays traditionally providing a platform for senior Iranian officials to voice positions over foreign affairs and pump back the spirit lost among their dwindling social base, Khamenei remained silent. And this is a time where his Revolutionary Guards and paramilitary Basijis are in most need of his so-called guidance.

These are all signs of the Iranian regime establishment being caught off guard after trekking into uncharted Trump waters. With its ballistic missile Tehran was actually testing the new Trump administration. The mullahs are now highly regretting such a poorly calculated measure.

Interesting is the fact that the pro-appeasement camp is continuing their old tactics of warning how Iran may do this and that. “…terrorist attacks against Americans, attacks by Shiite militias against the thousands of American troops in Iraq, or pressure on the Iraqi government to deny the United States access to the bases where it trains Iraqi security forces,” wrote Philip Gordon in The New York Times. Gordon was Obama’s White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf region from 2013 to 2015.

After leaving the entire region in mayhem by handing Iraq over to Iran in a silver plate and cowardly failing to take any meaningful measure against Syrian dictator Bashar Assad after declaring a so-called chemical attack “red line”, any individual in any way even merely affiliated to the Obama Doctrine is not in any position to make any comment about how the new White House should blueprint its Middle East policy.

The golden era

Iran understands very well that the Obama “golden era”, as one figure close to former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani put it, is over. And the recent saga, from Tehran’s January 29th missile test to the sanctions imposed by the Trump White House on February 3rd, forecasts stormy weather conditions for the mullahs.

As the Trump administration weighs various measures vis-à-vis Iran, there are a few issues worth keeping in mind. The past 16 years have proven that foreign military intervention and an appeasement/engagement/rapprochement approach have failed miserably. And yet, there is a third option for the US to consider: standing alongside the Iranian people in their struggle to establish freedom and democracy in their country.

Considering its significant role in domestic crackdown, foreign military intervention and most significantly the involvement in Syria, and Iran’s nuclear program and ballistic missile drive, the first and very effective step forward in this roadmap is to blacklist Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

To this end, all deals and trade with IRGC-affiliated companies will be banned, as proposed by Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

Welcoming the new US sanctions on Iran, the NCRI is an alliance of dissident organs, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), best known for first blowing the whistle on Tehran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

After Obama turned its back on the Iranian people back in 2009 and sold them out to the mullahs’, the Trump administration placing the IRGC in its crosshairs sends a message to the Iranian people that this new administration stands shoulder to shoulder in their efforts to be free.

BLACKLIST IRAN’S REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS

The right signal to Tehran’s mullahs.

It is a known historical fact that actions speak louder than words. Iran is beginning to understand this loud and clear with a new administration in Washington.

U.S. National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, in his first public appearance, issued a stark warning Wednesday in response to Tehran’s latest ballistic missile test and continued support for Shiite Houthi proxies in Yemen.

The main apparatus behind Iran’s ballistic missile program, meddling across the Middle East, suspicious nuclear drive and horrendous domestic crackdown is none other than the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Shiite militias trained, financed and armed by the IRGC have also killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq.

Supplementary reports indicate U.S. President Donald Trump is preparing new sanctions against Iranian individuals and entities, intended to send a firm message to the mullahs: you may have enjoyed such leeway during Barack Obama’s tenure. But no more.

As Flynn condemned Iran’s recent medium-range ballistic missile test–which ended in failure–he went on to warn Tehran over instigating instability across the region.

Such a reaction marks a serious, and long due, tonal difference necessary in Washington vis-à-vis Iran. For too long the mullahs’ took advantage of the Obama “golden era” as they viewed it, furthering their reach across the region with their involvement in Syria and Iraq, both leading to unspeakable atrocities.

Iran has resorted to its old tactic of testing the new Trump administration and risking a bold move to win points domestically amongst a small, and depleting, social base. Yet this new measure is beginning to backfire significantly, unlike what Iran enjoyed during the past eight years.

President Trump is also considering how to approach the Iran nuclear deal, which he threatened to tear up during the elections campaign.

As heated discussions continue in this regard, the Trump administration should begin “vigorously enforcing” the deal, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as proposed by Senator Dan Sullivan of Arkansas.

For example, there should be no more toleration of Iran violating already excessive limits set on sensitive heavy water production.

While Washington is preparing to slap new sanctions and ratchet up further punishment measures against Iran by possibly beefing up military presence in the flashpoint Persian Gulf region, one silver-bullet-type measure is available with the potential of inflicting damning results on the mullahs.

The IRGC, considering its role in spearheading Tehran’s ballistic missile program, nuclear drive and meddling across the Middle East, should be blacklisted as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and sanctioned appropriately.

Such an initiative enjoys support in Congress.

U.S. lawmakers have called on the new administration to support designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. They cited its ongoing support of the Assad regime, where hundreds of thousands have been killed during the civil war,” reports show.

Iran’s “missile program is against the Iranian people’s interest and must be stopped,” Maryam Rajavi, President of the main Iranian opposition, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said recently.

“Banning all deals and trade with IRGC-affiliated companies” are further necessary measures proposed by Rajavi.

The NCRI is a coalition dissident organs, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), enjoying a history of consistently unveiling various aspects of Iran’s nuclear programballistic missile initiativesmeddling across the region and human rights violations.

The IRGC has become a vast political and economic empire in Iran, enjoying an iron grip and “network of companies that came to dominate Iranian industries from energy to telecommunications,” according to The Wall Street Journal. The IRGC is also known to broker deals with China, as the country’s oil-hungry economy seeks to increase crude imports.

Other measures include enforcing travel bans already imposed on IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani, the man who visited Moscow and begged the Russians to rush to Bashar Assad’s support in Syria, and who has been roaming the streets of FallujahMosul and Aleppo.

Iran is also vehemently seeking a United Nations blessing to begin executing a $10 billion purchase of Russian conventional weapons. While the Obama administration turned a blind-eye to Russia’s delivery of the S-300 anti-air missile system to Iran, Washington can make it clear to Moscow that any further arms deals with Iran will significantly damage bilateral relations.

To this end, the Trump administration has before it a variety of measures that can effectively teach Iran’s mullahs a dire lesson. The IRGC is the entity the mullahs consider most dear, and should be the focus of Trump’s crosshairs.

Originally published in FrontPage Magazine