Iran: From human rights violations to dangerous meddling

From day one the regime of Iran has been based on the pillars of domestic crackdown, and exporting terrorism and a reactionary, religious mentality.

As we speak, spreading extremism and Islamic fundamentalism remains a cornerstone policy of Iran’s state-run strategy, all hacked into this regime’s constitution.

The real image

Earlier this year Amnesty International’s 94-page report, “Caught in a web of repression: Iran’s human rights defenders under attack,” detailed this regime’s drastic human rights violations, with a specific focus on its extensive overdose of executions.

As witnessed for years running, Iran is the world’s leading executioner per capita, with many hangings continuously and horrendously carried out in public. All the while, secret executions are ongoing in dungeons across the country, including Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison.

This is the real image of Iran, cloaked by the ruling regime and their appeasers in the West for years, who continue to portray Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani as a moderate worth dealing with.

ANALYSIS: Does the Middle East’s stability hinge on Iran’s expulsion?

Rouhani heads a corrupt system responsible for executing around 3,500 people, and counting, from 2013 to this day. 350 such counts have been registered this year alone.

Iran lacks anything even remotely comparable to a justice system and the current Justice Minister, Alireza Avaie, has been on numerous terrorist lists since 2011 for human rights violations.

Avaie is also known to have played a leading role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, consisting of mostly members and supporters of Iran’s main opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

Nursing home

Iran is the godfather of human rights violations and terrorism, known as the main source of systematic human rights violations and expanding conflicts across the region.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and the Quds Force, responsible for the IRGC’s extraterritorial operations, led by Qassem Suleimani, famed for his ruthlessness, are the main parties responsible for Iran’s internal repression, and mainly, aggressively expanding Iran’s influence throughout the Middle East.

For decades the IRGC has been responsible for terrorist attacks in this flashpoint corner of the globe, including the countries of SyriaIraqLebanon and Yemen. In this regard, Tehran’s continuing practice of being the nursing home of proxy extremist groups is no matter of dispute or questioning.

What Iran has maintained a lid on has been its close collaboration with terror elements. For decades, the world has been deceived – conveniently for and by Iran – into believing that significant differences exist between Sunnis and Shiites, and thus cancelling any possibility of Tehran having links with its Sunni rivals.

Tehran has usurped this window of opportunity to portray itself and claim to be a de facto ally of the West in the fight against extremism, especially recently in the form of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Discussions in Washington are ongoing over how the US military, short of a direct conflict, can deter and contain Iran’s meddling in Middle East countries. The Pentagon has refrained from public comments.

One official familiar with the mentality of US Secretary of Defense James Mattis has hinted to the media that Iran is the focus of much attention in the Pentagon recently.

Last week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chaired a meeting between the US, UK, France and Germany to blueprint US-European collaboration aimed at countering Iran through the course of diplomatic and economic practices. Other senior Trump administration officials have also resorted to significant remarks.

“What the Iranians have done across the broader Middle East is fuel and accelerate these cycles of violence so that they can take advantage of these chaotic environments, take advantage of weak states, to make them dependent on them for support,” US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said to a security forum last weekend.

“We have to address what is a growing Iranian capability and an ability to use proxies, militias, terrorist organizations to advance their aim, their hegemonic aims in the region,” McMaster added.

This file photo taken on May 15, 2003 shows Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh (L) welcoming former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami at Sanaa International Airport. (AFP)

 

Game-changing revelations

Newly released documents obtained by US special forces in their raid on the residence of the now dead al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan prove what many scholars have argued for years.

Iran’s regime, known as the beating heart of Islamic fundamentalism, has never considered sectarian differences an obstacle to cooperate with extremists. Tehran seeks to strengthen its resolve in the objective of furthering influence and global support for fundamentalism and terrorism.

These documents prove how the Iranian regime was working closely with al-Qaeda, including bin Laden himself, which could have subsequently led to Tehran’s inevitable cooperation with ISIS.

Iran’s rulers, and their cohorts spread in various countries, seek the same objective of establishing a ruthless caliphate by deploying global jihad. This practice hinges on unbridled brutality, misogyny and immorality to its utmost extent. No limits in barbarity and viciousness is accepted by these parties in their effort to reach their objectives.

Further reports are emerging detailing the growing amount of ties linking the regime in Iran with extremists groups, such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. New evidence confirms how despite the existence of various factions of extremist groups such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda and ISIS, at the end of the day, they all look at Tehran as the main source fueling this infamous mentality.

Flashpoint Yemen

Iran’s support for the Houthis in Yemen has escalated and gained much attention recently. For example, a missile launched by the Houthis on November 4 was strikingly similar to an Iranian-made Qiam-1 short-range ballistic missile, added to its collection by Iran in 2010, and yet never before seen in Yemen’s missile arsenal, according to a confidential report prepared by a UN panel of experts missioned to monitor a 2015 arms embargo imposed on Yemen.

One component — a device, known to be an actuator, used to assist in steering the missile — was found among the debris bearing a metal logo of an Iranian company, Shadi Bagheri Industrial Group, known to be the subject of UN, EU, and US sanctions.

The Houthis “obtained access to missile technology more advanced” than what they had prior to the conflict’s birth in 2015, according to the panel report.

“The design, characteristics and dimensions of the components inspected by the panel are consistent with those reported for the Iranian manufactured Qiam-1 missile,” the text adds.

Serious measures

The dangerous nature of Iran’s regime is obvious to all. Parallel to military and terrorist measures throughout the globe, Tehran targets naïve and vulnerable subjects, using them to relay their reactionary mentality. This includes the various Western parliaments and significant international bodies, including UN and EU institutions. Tehran’s demonization agendas have shown to be predecessors to violent attacks.

Only serious measures against Iran’s regime, and ultimately the collapse of this ruthless entity, will mark the end of Iran’s human rights violations, and meddling and support for terrorism being spread deceivingly under the flag of Islam.

ALSO READ: Who is Qais al-Khazaali, godfather of Iranian-backed Shiite militias?

Iran’s increasing meddling abroad is not a policy signaling this regime’s strength. In fact, facing deep domestic crises, Tehran is attempting to cloak its internal weakness by increasing its influence across the region on the one hand, and resorting to saber-rattling to prevent the international community from adopting a firm policy.

Iran entered negotiations and succumbed to curbing its nuclear program due to fears of uncontrollable uprisings resulting from crippling international sanctions. This is the language Iran understands and more major sanctions are needed against this regime.

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Is Iran’s enhanced ballistic missile capability a calculated move?

As the North Korea nuclear standoff and the future of Iran’s nuclear deal has absorbed an all-too enormous amount of international attention, a more important prism on Iran’s regional hostility must not go neglected.

During the United Nations General Assembly the controversial nuclear pact, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), took center stage once again. All the while Tehran has throughout the years overtly and covertly pursued a massive campaign hinging on meddling and extending its lethal ideology of Islamic fundamentalism across the Middle East.

The rendered atrocities can be witnessed across the region, especially in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. This threatens the very fabric of the Middle East populace and bears the potential of plunging this flashpoint region into an abyss of proxy wars resulting in nothing but infernos of carnage.

Broken promises

As the Obama administration sought to sell the JCPOA to the American people, US allies and the international community, they claimed a different Iran would emerge as a responsible member of the global neighborhood and the Middle East would be the first region to enjoy the boasted outcome. Some even claimed Iran would become this region’s Japan.

“Regrettably, since the agreement was confirmed, we have seen anything but a more peaceful, stable region,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on the sidelines of his UNGA meetings. While Iran has enjoyed a rift between Europe and the US, Berlin made remarks sinking deep into the minds of those sitting on the throne in Tehran.

“The Americans are right: Iran is still not playing a constructive role in the Middle East, be it in Yemen or Lebanon,” said German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel in a statement. The Green Continent has also welcomed the idea of cooperating with Washington with the aim of containing Iran’s Middle East thirst, especially considering growing concerns over Iran’s dangerous role in Damascus, Baghdad, Sanaa and Beirut.

This train of thought also bears backing amongst Middle East states. “Two years have passed since Iran’s nuclear agreement with no sign of change in its hostile behavior; it continues to develop its nuclear program and violates the letter and spirit of that agreement,” UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahayan said during his UN General Assembly speech.

Yemen: The strategic state

Despite being a very poor country, the geostrategic importance of Yemen is undeniable. This is the very reason why al-Qaeda sought to establish a major foothold in Saudi Arabia’s back yard and now Iran vehemently continues its support of the Houthis in destabilizing this country and the vital international waters adjacent to its shores.

Tehran is continuing its efforts of smuggling illicit weapons and technology to prolong the Houthis’ campaign, according to Vice Admiral Kevin M. Donegan, the top US Navy commander in the Middle East. These measures stoke civil strife in Yemen and enable the Houthis to launch more precise and longer ranged missiles into its northern neighbor.

The Houthis are also receiving an “increasingly potent arsenal of anti-ship and ballistic missiles, deadly sea mines and even explosive boats that have attacked allied ships in the Red Sea or Saudi territory across Yemen’s northern border,” reported The New York Times citing Donegan’s remarks.

While there has been significant success in the initiative against Iran’s meddling in Yemen, the continuing crisis resembles the lethal potential of Tehran’s influence across the Middle East and its current focus on strategic junctures, such as this country’s influence over imperative shipping lines.

A ballistic missile is launched and tested in an undisclosed location, Iran, March 9, 2016. (Reuters)

Iran’s growing reach

Further grounds of Iran not changing habits following the JCPOA signing are found in its violation of a related accord, the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, by continuing to test launch a range of ballistic missiles.

As recently as Friday Iran unveiled a new ballistic missile as Rouhani increased his rhetoric against Washington through repeating the claim of this regime only seeking its defensive interests. In an even more provocative measure, the medium-range Khorramshahr missile was successfully test launched on Saturday. As claimed by the semiofficial Tasnim news agency, this new weapon has a range of 2,000 kilometers (nearly 1,250 miles) and enjoys the capability of carrying multiple warheads.

This raised strong responses across the board, including US President Donald Trump questioning the JCPOA altogether and accusing Tehran of colluding with Pyongyang. In line with such concerns, Francealso called on the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to deliver a full report on the recent missile test.

Rouhani’s emphasis on seeking to boost Iran’s ballistic missile capability is a completely calculated move. All the while it needs understanding that such rhetoric from senior Iranian officials are aimed at maintaining a straight face back home, and not appearing to give in to pressures raised by the international community.

Iran is also busy exporting weapons to the Lebanese Hezbollah and a slate of other terrorist and proxy groups. This conglomerate of violations reached the point of Team Obama alumni Samantha Power, former US envoy to the UN, felt obligated to highlight the cases. This is probably Rouhani’s definition of being a “moderate.”

Electing vetted candidates

Of course, this is the same individual who back in May, after reaching a second term through a process dubbed as an “election” carried out amongst vetted candidates said, “We are proud of our armed forces, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the Basij and the security forces.”

The IRGC is the godfather of Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile drive, in charge of quelling all forms of domestic dissent, and exporting the regime’s so-called “Islamic Revolution” abroad. For this very purpose, Iran has for decades fostered the rise of proxy offspring armies including the likes of the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Obama’s JCPOA and windfall of billions also provided Iran the opportunity to continue fueling terrorist groups across the region and even marshalling foot-soldiers from as far as Afghanistan and Pakistan to Syria to help maintain Syrian dictator Bashar Assad remain on his throne.

As a train of thought has remained intact from Obama’s flawed policies, there are voices who have gone as far as describing Iran being a “major diplomatic, military, and economic player throughout the Middle East and even into Central and Southwest Asia.” Unfortunately, this plays into Tehran’s hands and upgrades the dogma practiced vis-à-vis Tehran for the past four decades, rendering nothing but escalating death and destruction.

If Iran enjoys “considerable influence” in countries across the region it is not due to its righteous cause. Tehran, in fact, owes a great deal of gratitude to West for its tireless policy of rapprochement. Iran must be isolated, and this is not tantamount to a call for a new Middle East war. Imagining this regime can be a party to be constructively reckoned with is in fact naïve.

Broken promises

It has become crystal clear that the JCPOA has not lived up to its promises. The Middle East has evolved into a mess due to Iran’s meddling, leading to Europe leaning toward US’ position of pressuring Tehran to bring an end to its regional carnage.

For far too long Iran has taken advantage of its nuclear program and ambitions to advance its Middle East influence. This must come to an end, parallel to increasing international pressures on its nuclear/ballistic missile drive, support for terrorism and human rights violations at home.

For nearly four decades Tehran has utilized the engagement approach by the West based on the mistaken perspective on playing “nice” with Iran to encourage change. This has resulted in a Middle East engulfed in war, death and destruction, cloaked by the international brouhaha Iran has launched through its nuclear program.

All of the Iranian regime’s animosities deserve due attention in parallel fashion. Its regional meddling and support for terrorism should be top priority. One such solution was recently provided by Walid Phares, former Trump foreign policy advisor, for Washington to use the Arab coalition and Iranian opposition as means against Tehran.

Iran opposition convention pioneers call for regime change

A massive gathering of the Iranian Diaspora in a vast convention hall north of Paris voiced their compatriots’ demands for regime change in Tehran. The colossal and energetic event, staged annually by opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), led by its President Maryam Rajavi, brought together hundreds of former US, European and Middle Eastern officials and dignitaries.

Saturday’s rally was headlined by NCRI President Maryam Rajavi calling on the international community to acknowledge the Council as the legitimate voice and representative of the Iranian people, abandon once and for all the appeasement policy and adopt a firm strategy of standing alongside the Iranian people’s true demand of regime change.

American dignitaries representing both sides of aisle, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senator Joseph Lieberman, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Governor Ed Rendell and a slate of many other political and military officials also added their voice.

“You, I, my government and your leadership, we see Iran in exactly the same way. The regime is evil and it must go. #FreeIran,” said Mayor Giuliani.

“This is a regime which thinks it’s justice to kill 30,000 people. This is a regime which thinks it’s justice to have an election where no one is allowed to run. This is a regime which threatens all of its dissidents, all of its critics with jail at best and death at worst,” said former US presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

“The capital since 1979 of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism has been in Tehran under this extremist regime, and that is why it’s got to go,” said Senator Joseph Lieberman.

“We must avoid allowing the regime in Tehran to achieve its long sought objective of an arc of control from Iran through the Baghdad government in Iraq, the Assad regime in Syria, and the Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon,” said Ambassador John Bolton, former US envoy to the United Nations.

Decidedly vitriolic statements were also made by the high profile American delegation of influential figures. This significant slate of names issued a statement prior to Saturday’s convention emphasizing, “We believe that change is within reach, not only because the regime is becoming engulfed in crisis, but also because there is a large and growing movement organizing for positive change. A viable organization capable of ending the nightmare of religious dictatorship by establishing freedom and democracy, tolerance, and gender equality has steadily gained visibility, popular support and international recognition.”

A significant statement was the presence of a key Arab World figure, especially considering conditions simmering currently between Iran and its Middle East neighbors.

“The Iranian people are the first victims of Khomeini’s dictatorship,” said Turki Faisal, former Saudi ambassador in the United States and United Kingdom. “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 Mrs. Rajavi said, is a legitimate struggle.”

A large Arab delegation consisting of many former and current officials from more than a dozen countries also placed their weight behind the NCRI’s platform to bring about change in Iran.

The Iranian opposition leader delivered the keynote speech of the event.

“Our people want a constitution based on freedom, democracy and equality. The time has come for the international community to heed the demands of the people of Iran,” she said.

Rajavi also referred to the wide range of extensive activities carried out inside Iran by the vast network of supporters affiliated to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the leading member of the NCRI coalition, emphasizing how the exiled opposition is very much linked to the restive powder keg society inside the country.

“The overthrow of the religious dictatorship is possible and within reach because of the regime’s inabilities, including its inability to contain the country’s economic disintegration and environmental disasters, the inability to provide for the most rudimentary needs of our oppressed people,” Rajavi added.

On a different note, the NCRI President said it is high time to make Tehran understand its crimes will no longer go unanswered.

“Khamenei and other leaders of the regime must face justice for violations of human rights, crimes against humanity, particularly the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran, and for their war crimes in the region,” she said.

As the Trump administration continues to weigh its comprehensive policy on Iran, Rajavi called for sweeping sanctions targeting Iran’s belligerence, the blacklisting of the Revolutionary Guards, and supporting the Iranian people and their organized opposition in their quest for regime change.

“The mullahs’ time is up and the time has come to march forward,” she underscored. “This has also been stated in the American Declaration of Independence where it says, ‘whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of’ the people’s rights, ‘it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government’ of their liking.”

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ANALYSIS: Prelude to a showdown between the US and Iran?

With the United States boosting “combat power” in southern Syria and bolstering measures with the Kurds in the north in preparation for a major assault on the self-proclaimed ISIS capital of Raqqa, word is in the air about a confrontation in the making between the US and Iran in the Middle East, with Syria acting as a launch site.

Does this piece intend to promote war against Iran? Absolutely not. While some do argue this would play into the Iranian regime’s hands and provide pretext for the clerics to rally fighters to take on the “World Arrogance” or “Great Satan,” as Tehran describes Washington, there is no basis to go that far.

Most importantly is the sheer fact that the regime lacks such a social base. Recall how former Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said this regime represents four percent of Iran’s society. And yet the increase in US military presence in the Middle East should be considered a welcome measure, certainly so after the Obama administration disastrously created a dangerous void by prematurely pulling out US troops from Iraq in late 2011.

Iran’s destructive policies

Iran usurped the opportunity and opened the gates of hell into Mesopotamia. The destructive policies Tehran dictated to Baghdad under former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki paved the path for the rise of ISIS in 2014 to storm the country’s north and central lands.

It has taken three dreadful years and a volume of human and financial resources to push the terror group out of Iraq, leaving large swathes of the country devastated and more importantly, Iran enjoying unprecedented and highly sensitive influence across the spectrum in Iraq through its conglomerate of militias.

The international coalition, led by the US, has provided air support for the Hashid al-Sha’bi in its advances against ISIS. The correct/incorrect nature of such a policy, however, is the topic of another debate.

Importance of the Levant

On Syria, there is no doubt in the importance of the Levant for Iran. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has, time and again, highlighted the imperative of Iran confronting its enemies in Syria far from its own borders.

“Had the ill-wishers and plotters not been prevented from their evil deeds in Syria we would have to prevent them in the Iranian provinces of Tehran, Fars, Khorasan and Isfahan, so it is better we do it there,” he said recently. “The door for martyrdom, which was closed by the end of the war with Iraq, is now open in Syria.”

So if no war with Iran is in suggestion here, what foreign policy advice can be provided to the West, and especially Washington?

Constant is the fact that non-military options are always preferred and have proven their effectiveness. Iran is undeniably a rogue and authoritarian regime determined to gain and impose an illegitimate dominance across the region, meddle in other nations’ domestic affairs, export terrorism/extremism/Islamic fundamentalism, and kill civilians and military personnel of all adversaries, including the United States, Saudi Arabia and all their regional allies.

Rajavi has provided the initial building blocks of how to tackle the Iranian regime dilemma. (AP)

Against all parties

Confronting Iran by military force is considered illogical by politicians from both sides of the aisle in Washington, and their counterparts across Europe and the Middle East. Iran’s policies in the Middle East have been against the interests of all parties, with the exception of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and its slate of proxy forces behind the rampage we are witnessing today.

The question is how to confront Iran correctly. Those in control are taking advantage and misrepresenting Islam for their interests and their sponsored atrocities are against the teaching of all holy books, including the Torat, Bible and Quran.
Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran is a strong coalition providing a platform on how to take on the Iranian regime in the most effective of manners.

NCRI President Maryam Rajavi, herself a Muslim woman representing a tolerant vision of Islam in far contrast to the mullahs’ atrocities, held a gathering on Sunday in Paris marking the holy month of Ramadan.

Rajavi’s call

Encouraging “Interfaith Solidarity Against Extremism,” Rajavi provided the initial building blocks of how to tackle the Iranian regime dilemma. “I would like to propose a three-pronged initiative on behalf of the Iranian people and Resistance. And I urge all the states and countries in the region to support it.

First, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which is the main operative advancing all the regime’s policies in the region, must be officially recognized and declared a terrorist entity. The presence of this force and its proxy militias in Middle East countries must not be tolerated and they must be evicted all together from countries in the region.

“Second, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) must expel the Iranian regime and grant Iran’s seat in this organization to the Iranian people’s Resistance.

“Third, they should recognize the Iranian people’s struggle to bring down the clerical regime and establish freedom and democracy.”

ANALYSIS: Adopting a different approach on Iran

Signaling a major buzz topic in Washington these days, with the international community waiting anxiously, the new US administration is on the verge of implementing a significant Iran policy overhaul.

America nearly lost all of its influence in the Middle East as a result of a devastating engagement policy captained by the Obama-Kerry team, all in a desperate effort to obtain Tehran’s consent in completing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The impact of the support by the Obama Administration of the Arab Spring did the rest, as main Arab allies came under immense pressure.

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks on nuclear deal with Iran at American University in Washington August 5, 2015. (File photo: Reuters)

Considering Obama’s yearning to seal the JCPOA as the foreign policy hallmark of his legacy, he was seen succumbing to literally any and all demands made by the Iranians. Tehran understood and used this leverage to issue threats of walking away from the deal.

While President Trump has not torn up the deal as candidate Trump pledged, his administration has taken the lead to strongly criticize Iran’s current behavior in the Middle East that poses a major threat to America’s strategic position and the security of regional allies.

The Trump administration, unlike its fledgling predecessor, is weighing on how to bring Iran’s mischievous behavior under control and have it completely halted.

Selling a false deal

The pro-JCPOA camp sold the deal to the international community by claiming Iran’s mullahs’ would become more moderate and begin acting reasonably.

Let’s review the facts on the ground:

– The Middle East is in carnage, with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and proxies launching deadly killings in Syria in support of Assad, massacring Sunnis and other minorities in Iraq, supporting Houthi militants in Yemen, and the Lebanese Hezbollah, just to name a few.

– Tehran is continuing its ballistic missile program full speed ahead, preparing to couple the project with an ongoing secret nuclear weapons drive, as exposed recently by the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

– Military confrontations between US-Arab allies and Iranian forces continue, as shown in the Gulf and the Bab Al Mandab.

– Flagrant human rights violations and increasing domestic crackdown. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, now seeking a second term, has presided over 3,000 executions.

We were reminded recently by US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley ,when she referred to existing Security Council resolutions banning Iran from importing or exporting arms, and end all ballistic missile testing.

Haley clearly indicated Trump will not allow such measures slide, as we witnessed far too often under the Obama watch.

“The United States will work closely with our partners to document and address any actions that violate these resolutions,” Haley said. “We must take a stand against Iran and Hezbollah’s illegal and dangerous behavior.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also raised eyebrows in remarks unseen from America’s top diplomat for many years. Iran continues to enjoy the top ranking of the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. The nature of sanctions being vital to the national and security interests of America, and its regional allies in particular, will be a major topic of a new JCPOA review.

Fresh sanctions

Meanwhile, a new bill seeking to slap fresh sanctions against Tehran for continuing its illicit missile program is in the preparation process in the House of Representatives.

Sanctions and economic pressures are a major leverage the US enjoys against Tehran. Blocking access to the global banking system and compelling companies and various institutions to choose between America’s $19 trillion economy and Iran’s half a trillion should not make the decision any harder.

Irony lies in the fact that Obama initially boosted US sanctions against Iran, only to ignore Iran’s highly belligerent proliferation activities and support for terrorism.

A recent Politico report highlighted how the Obama administration even released Iranian arms dealers apprehended by US authorities and dropped international arrest warrants seeking others. To this end, Obama literally risked US national security for the sake of appeasing Tehran’s mullahs.

The Trump administration is set to draw a major line in the sand. Beefing up sanctions could be a major policy change adopted by the new White House. To take steps further, Washington should seriously consider designating the mullahs’ Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization for its role in Iran’s meddling and supporting terrorism, extremism and Islamic fundamentalism across the Middle East, Tehran’s ongoing military development programs -especially the ballistic missile drives – and horrific human rights violations across the country.

Missed opportunity

In 2009 Obama missed the opportunity to support the Iranian people’s cry for freedom and democracy, and now the new US administration cannot stand again on the sidelines. Supporting the Iranian people and their organized opposition, currently openly represented by liberal movements such as the NCRI, seeking a democratic, secular and non-nuclear Iran, living in harmony with its regional neighbors and returning to the international community as a responsible member, could be a starting point.

If Washington would be able to address these options in full, not falling into the trap of removing the Iranian regime under the umbrella of “bringing democracy”, but supporting a growing liberal democratic opposition, a better future for Iran is possible. This will take time, during which economic and political pressure should be increased on the regime. Appeasing the mullahs will not reap any positive rewards, Tehran will not see any need to change at all.

– Dr. Cyril Widdershoven is the co-writer of this article.

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

Iran apologists have a misleading narrative on Trump’s policies

By Amir Basiri

The Trump administration’s decision to put Iran “on notice” for its provocative ballistic missile test and to subsequently slap new sanctions on individuals and entities affiliated with its missile program was a positive break from the previous administration’s policy of ignoring Iran’s belligerent behavior while showering it with concessions.

The measure was welcomed by the critics of the failed appeasement policy toward Iran in Capitol Hill and across the world.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., called the announcement “a new day in U.S.-Iran relations,” stressing that it’s past time to undertake a “coordinated, multi-faceted effort to push back against a range of illicit Iranian behavior.”

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, welcomed the new round of sanctions and underlined the need for the United States and its allies to deal with Iran’s destabilizing behavior around the world.

Mohammad Mohaddessin, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the exiled opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran, called the measure “a positive step” in confronting an illegitimate and terrorist dictatorship, and stressed the need to impose total sanctions on Iranian entities involved in suppression, terrorism and fundamentalism.

Proponents of rapprochement also reacted to Trump’s tougher stance against Iran. In order to prevent the unraveling of their interests, however, they are driving their point by drawing dangerous conclusions through a narrative based on misrepresenting the facts of Obama’s tried-and-failed playbook.

Organizations like NIAC, an Iran lobby deeply tied to Tehran, suggest that communication channels created between the Obama administration and Iran paved the way for a nuclear deal that prevented a war with the country and also facilitated the release of ten U.S. sailors captured by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) in early 2016, both false assumptions.

The former is a flawed deal that has only made the Iranian regime a more hostile state by legitimizing its nuclear program and giving it billions of dollars to squander on its violent agenda in Syria and elsewhere, while the latter was an opportunity that the IRGC seized upon to humiliate the U.S.

Swedish-Iranian expat Trita Parsi refers to the release of U.S. hostages as another achievement of open dialog with Iran, referring to the Obama administration’s $1.7 billion ransom, which drove the mullahs into turning hostage-taking into a lucrative business.

Another example is former Obama advisor Philip Gordon’s op-ed in The New York Times, in which he claims that under the previous administration, “the United States made significant efforts to contain Iran.”

However, in the same piece, Gordon admits that the nuclear pact has failed to address Iran’s ballistic missile program. He also implicitly confesses that Iran’s Shiite proxies in Iraq, which grew in size after Obama’s hasty retreat from the country, are a potential threat for U.S. troops in the region.

This is not exactly what you would call containment.

Both writers base their argument that Trump should continue to appease Iran on the presumption that a firm stance toward Tehran will lead the U.S. to a military confrontation, or “an embarrassing retreat,” as Gordon likes to put it.

But the U.S. doesn’t need to go to war with the Iranian regime to contain it. There is already an organized Iranian resistance movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK/PMOI), which is quite capable of doing so and has strong bipartisan support among U.S. lawmakers and politicians.

Backers of diplomatic capitulation to Iran have constantly tried to discredit the MEK in order to conclude that the only solution to mend fences with Iran is to seek moderates within the regime, a proven hoax and myth and an empty goal that will only help keep the leading state sponsor of terrorism in power.

If the past is any indication, appeasing regimes that have no respect for universal democratic values is a recipe for disaster, yielding short-term jubilation at the expense of long-term insecurity.

Thanks in large part to the Obama administration’s kid-glove treatment of Iran, the Middle East is already a hotbed of chaos and extremism, a powder keg that can only be defused by a serious change in policy. That change should be to stand with the Iranian people in their plight and struggle for freedom and regime change, a crucial step toward promoting peace in the Middle East and across the globe.

Originally posted in Washington Examiner

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

Iran Has Changed, But For The Worse

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gives a press conference in Tehran on Jaunary 17, 2017, to mark the first anniversary of the implementation of a historic nuclear deal. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

By Heshmat Alavi

The pro-Iran engagement policy camp long advocated how a nuclear agreement with Iran would lead to a slate of numerous changes sought in the regime, rendering benefits to go around for everyone. More than one year down this road, the world has witnessed many changes in Iran. However, they are nothing to boast about.

The nuclear accord, while it should have never been supported or discussed by the international community in the first place, has been successively violated by the Iranian regime. Tehran continues its atrocious executions, human rights violations and ongoing oppression of ordinary citizens inside the country. And the mullahs in Tehran have continued their mantra of exporting “Islamic Revolution” by engulfing the entire Middle East, and beyond, into mayhem, as we are unfortunately witnessing so vividly today in Syria.

The main “change” we have witnessed in Iran has been the numerous instances where the regime has either stretched or actually violated the flaw-riddled Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the heavy water-level limit aggression being the latest such case.

The reinstatement of the Iran Sanctions Act with 99 votes in favor was a very important first step. This move has set an example of what is needed to guarantee Iran understands there will be consequences for agreement violations. And yet we need to go beyond and build upon this momentum.

 

This is the time to counter Iran’s terrorism in the region and the world. Iran is and has been, of course, the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism. Iran is busy destabilizing Syria with an incredible human catastrophe, as in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, boasting about enjoying control over four Arab capitals of the region.

The “change” we have seen in this regard is that Tehran is willing to dispatch tens of thousands of proxy militias to Syria and repeat a Srebrenica-style massacre, caring not an iota about how the international community might respond. Let us hope Aleppo has opened our eyes to the horrific potential in Iran’s support for extremism and its export of Islamic fundamentalism.

The “change” the world has witnessed in Iran’s pursuit of a vast weapons-of-mass-destruction program is its bold new approach in proliferating efforts related to mastering ballistic missiles. Iran’s missile tests have continued to violate United Nations Security Council resolutions, yet there has been hardly any serious global response.

Iran’s ballistic missile tests “are not consistent with the constructive spirit” of the JCPOA, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report.

As we speak, reports indicate the Iran-fostered and -nurtured Lebanese Hezbollah vaunts of stocking over 120,000 missiles in its arsenal. If gone unanswered, there is no limit to what extent Iran will exploit the lack of will diseasing the international community.

This is the time to confront Iran over its violation of human rights on its own home turf. In 2009, the Iranian people revolted for their God-given rights, shaking the very pillars of the regime’s foundations. And yet former U.S. President Barack Obama, then recently elected to the White House by the American people with high hopes of “change,” failed to respond to their cries for support. The oppression and repression of the mullahs’ regime that followed is something the world should never forget.

As Obama continued his devastating appeasement policy with Iran, the mullahs have not changed their course. They have not changed their designs. They have not changed their hegemonic focus.

This is a time for the United States to respond. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has in cooperation with Senator Robert Corker (R-TN), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, introduced the Countering Iran Threat Act. This, too, is an initiative that the next Congress can and is recommended to build upon.

If so, this can be the building blocks of the West, spearheaded by America, deterring Iranian aggression. This can lead us, as a world, in moving to a better day and a higher hope where the Iranian people can ultimately achieve the freedoms and blessings the democratic world enjoys today.

The world now finds itself before an opportunity to counter Iran’s continuing threats. We are entering a new era in American foreign and national security policy.

In a letter hand-delivered to U.S. President Donald Trump, nearly two dozen former senior U.S. government officials–representing a rare bipartisan spectrum–urged Washington to work with the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran.

As Iran continues its domestic oppression and military buildup, this should be one focus of the Trump administration’s foreign policy and the agenda of the new Congress.

Originally published in Forbes

Trump and Iran’s Achilles Heel(s)

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Donald Trump & Hassan Rouhani

Any entity in this world has its strong points, and its weaknesses. And there is a certain weakness, known as the Achilles Heel, which leads to a disastrous outcome.

The regime in Iran, after nearly 38 years in power, has based its entire existence and survival on two pillars of domestic crackdown and exporting a conglomerate of terrorism, extremism, and Islamic fundamentalism, under the mantra of “Islamic Revolution.” Continue reading “Trump and Iran’s Achilles Heel(s)”