How Iran signals future waves of crackdown, terror attacks

The recent car bombing incident in Chabahar, southeast Iran, sounds alarm bells for those familiar with the history of the Iranian regime. What is being described as a suicide car bombing outside a city police station, considering the conglomerate of Iran’s security entities, is quite suspicious to say the least.

With a long history of crackdown and execution campaigns following such attacks with questionable nature, there is concern of the clerical regime preparing yet another onslaught targeting a particular sector of Iran’s society. The Chabahar incident bears signs of regime hallmarks paving the path for yet another wave of atrocities.

Iranian Arabs

Back in September, a military parade in the southwestern city of Ahvaz became the target of gunmen going on a rampage, opening fire and killing 25 people in the process, with half of those killed being members of the regime’s notorious Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

Targeting a military parade and the IRGC allows the regime to play the innocent game. The entire incident looked very misleading and convenient:

– IRGC members in very clean clothes rescuing small children before cameras,
– the attackers reaching the stage where many high ranking officials were watching the parade but only targeting low-ranking IRGC members,
– the ambush taking place just days before US President Donald Trump chairing a United Nations Security Council session focusing on Iran,
– and the attack leading to a major crackdown against the Iranian Arab community in Ahvaz and Khuzestan Province.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif posted this tweet using terms “respond swiftly and decisively,” signaling a heavy clampdown to come.

It’s also interesting how Zarif quickly reached a conclusion of terrorists being “recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime” just hours after the attack, suggesting the text was prepared and merely needed a few carefully prepared photos.

Up to 600 activists were arrested, according to Amnesty International, in very overt public raids, clearly indicating the authorities’ intention to install a climate of fear among restive locals and across the country.

Following the crackdown, disturbing reports from locals and human rights organizations indicated around 22 men were executed “in secret” within days in November. As always, Iranian regime officials have and continue to dismiss those reports.

“The timing suggests that the Iranian authorities are using the attack in Ahwaz as an excuse to lash out against members of the Ahwazi Arab ethnic minority, including civil society and political activists, in order to crush dissent in Khuzestan province,” according to Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

 

Iranian Kurds

In June of last year, another suspicious attack targeted Iran’s parliament and the mausoleum of regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini.

Six assailants armed with AK-47 rifles and explosive vests aimed their assault at two heavily secured sites in the Iranian capital. The twin attack left 17 killed and dozens more wounded, raising numerous questions about how the attackers were able to penetrate two symbolic and fortified sites.

People cannot bring even a pen into the parliament without passing through security, one wounded individual said to the media at the time. There were also comments among social media users inside Iran raising questions over if ISIS was actually behind the attack; and how the entire scenario provided pretext for the regime to launch a new oppressive wave.

The Iranian regime’s security forces responded to this attack by first launching a wave of arrests against Iran’s Kurdish communities, especially in Kermanshah Province bordering Iraq. Dozens of Kurdish citizens were apprehended on vague charges of cooperating with “extremist religious groups” in various Iranian cities. Eight of the detainees were sentenced to death in May.

Furthermore, Iran launched a series of ballistic missiles into the Syria-Iraq border area, claiming to target ISIS positions. All in all, the entire dossier was used by the Iranian regime to justify a massive crackdown against the Kurdish community, respond to accusations of why Iran has never been targeted by ISIS, and launch a highly publicized missile attack to boost the lowering morale of its depleting social base back home.

Looking abroad

Using such so-called threats at home, Iran’s regime justifies its targeting of dissidents exiled abroad, with a specific surge witnessed this year in Europe.

Danish authorities are accusing the Iranian regime of seeking to assassinate an Arab separatist leader living in Denmark. Tehran claims the figure is linked to the group that carried out the Ahwaz attack back in September.

Other plots of the Iranian regime have also been foiled in Albania back in March and in France in late June, both targeting large rallies of the principle Iranian opposition entity, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Paris is refusing to dispatch a new ambassador to Tehran and is not accepting Iran’s envoy in Paris until the regime provides a clear explanation over the Paris bomb plot targeting a massive rally.

The convention was attended by tens of thousands of Iranian exiles and senior international figures including Rudy Giuliani, lawyer of US President Donald Trump, and former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Final thoughts

Considering the nature and history of the Iranian regime, and recent developments following the Chabahar bombing, there is legitimate concern of Iranian authorities carrying out a new wave of crackdown and executions possibly targeting the minority Baluchi community in the southeast.

There are already reports of arrests in this area with authorities claiming they are in connection to the recent attack. Interesting are remarks and threats heard from Iran’s “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani at a Tehran conference on Saturday.

“With Iran being weakened through sanctions, many will be in danger… You won’t survive the rubble of drugs, refugees, bombs & assassinations…”

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ANALYSIS: Is this the beginning of a new era for Iraq without Iran?

The military phase of the fight against ISIS is winding down after the liberation of Mosul, and the battle for the nearby town of Tal Afar is predicted to end soon. This has provided an opportunity for Iraq to begin distancing itself from the influence gained by Iran following the disastrous 2003 war, and returning to its true Arabic heritage.

Iraq was known as a melting pot where Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens lived alongside and in mixed societies for centuries. Prior to Iran gaining its disastrous sway across Mesopotamia, this was a land where the majority of Shiites lived and prospered with their Sunni, Christian, Yazidi and all other religious minority brothers.

Has not the time arrived for Iraq to regain its true position as part of the Arab world, and rid its soil of the meddling of Iran’s clerics?

Long-awaited developments

Iraqi officials have embarked on a new campaign of visiting Saudi Arabia and other Arab Sunni states, signaling long-welcomed changes. The influential Sadrist leader Muqtada was seen in the final days of July meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman.

Only days later Sadr paid a visit to the United Arab Emirates, another critic of Iran’s policies, where he was welcomed as an Iraqi leader by a slate of leading politicians and clerics.

Sadr’s visit rendered a variety of measures by Riyadh, including launching a Saudi Consulate in Sadr’s hometown of Najaf, one of the two holiest Shiite cities in Iraq. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, known as Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric, his distance from Tehran’s viewpoints and calling for Iraq to practice openness in establishing relations, did not block such a proposition.

Muqtada al Sadr with Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman in Riyadh. (Al Arabiya)

Iran, however, resorted to strong remarks against Sadr for his visits to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The visit was even described by a local wire as an act of betrayal to the Houthis in Yemen.

Iran’s support for the Shiite proxy militias, through arms, logistics and finances, parallel to advisors dispatched by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and Lebanese Hezbollah, have resulted in the humanitarian catastrophe Yemen finds itself today.

Sadr is also planning a visit to Egypt, adding to the list of senior Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the ministers of foreign affairs, interior, oil and transportation who are set to visit Saudi Arabia. Despite investing in Iraq for the past 14 years, Iran has been deprived of visits of such high stature.

No future

Iran’s proxies, while taking the credit for much of the fight against ISIS on the ground, have been accused of law violations and refusing to obey the state of Iraq. Iraqi authorities affiliated to Iran have a very poor report card of being involved in corruption and sacrificing Iraqi national interest in Tehran’s favor.

This became a major issue during the second term of former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, who some have even described as Iran’s “puppet.” Maliki is known to have close relations with Tehran and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself.

To make matters even worse, the recent departure of Majid al-Nasrawi, governor of the oil-rich city of Basra located at the southern tip of Iraq, has recently left for Iran. His departure followed being accused of numerous corruption offences by a government transparency committee. Choosing Iran as a destination has left further impression of him fleeing to a safe haven, and Tehran having a hand in Iraqi corruption.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in Tehran on June 20 2017. (AFP)

Rebuilding cities

As Sadr and other Iraqi officials continue their meetings with senior Arab officials of the region, there are also major talks under way between Baghdad and Riyadh to establish a new alliance that would provide Saudi Arabia a leading role in rebuilding war-torn cities across Iraq.

On August 14th the Cabinet of Saudi Arabia announced a coordination committee to spearhead a variety of health care and humanitarian projects, including building hospitals in Baghdad and Basra, and providing fellowships to Iraqi students in Saudi universities. Opening border crossings and establishing free trade areas between the two countries is also on the agenda.

Riyadh should lead the Arab world in tipping the balance of power against Tehran’s interests in Iraq. The truth is Iran has not carried out any major economic project in Iraq from 2003 onward, due to the fact that the mullahs do not seek the prosperity of their western neighbor.

Saudi Arabia and the Arab world should provide the support Iraq needs after suffering from Iran’s menacing influence that has brought nothing but death and destruction. Evicting Iran from Iraq must come parallel to efforts of ending its presence in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

The main obstacle before the Arab world in establishing a coalition against Iran’s clerics is this regime’s meddling and the IRGC presence across the region. With Iran evicted from Iraq, the void should be filled by economic support by the Arab world for Iraq.

And with the US Congress adopting a bill against the IRGC, Riyadh must take the lead to have all IRGC members, proxies and Iran-related elements expelled from the region. Only such a policy will allow the Middle East to one day experience tranquility and peaceful coexistence.

Forecast: Increasing Isolation for Iran

After enjoying eight “golden” years of President Barack Obama’s all-out appeasement approach, the mullahs in Iran are feeling the wrath of isolation, with senior international figures lashing out at the regime in Tehran and calling for action against it.

British Parliament members from all leading parties registered a resolution discussing crimes of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) against the Iranian people and its terrorist meddling across the Middle East. The move calls for the expulsion of the IRGC and all its dispatched proxy foot-soldiers spread out across the region.

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker called Iran the world’s greatest state sponsor of terrorism, saying:

Regionally, we’ve seen an escalation in Iranian intervention. Iran, along with its allies in Russia, has continued to prop up Assad at the cost of countless lives in Syria. Iran’s support to the Shia militias in Iraq threatens the interests of Sunnis and Kurds alike, not to mention the Shia in Iraq…Iran is arming the Houthis in Yemen, who are in turn attacking our Saudi allies and targeting our ships… Iran remains the foremost state sponsor of terrorism. It counts Lebanese Hezbollah – an organization that has killed hundreds of Americans – as among its closest allies.

US Senator Robert Menendez delivered a speech on Tuesday on his proposal to increase missile sanctions on the Islamic Republic and completely embargo the IRGC, explaining:

Many of us rightly predicted that an Iranian regime that prioritized funding terrorism over the well-being of its own citizens would see sanctions relief as a cash windfall for their terrorist proxies across the region. And on terrorism, we feared that much of Iran’s new economic capacity would be used to propagate violence…It is no surprise then that Iran has not suddenly transformed into a responsible member of the international community. Rather it remains an agent of instability throughout the Middle East, a nefarious actor that continues to undermine American national security interests and our efforts to partner with countries throughout the region working to protect civilians and build democratic governance structures.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated his criticism of the deal sealed between Tehran and world powers in July 2015, describing it as a “windfall” gift to Tehran. He said that the US can now take action against Iran’s financing, training and arming of terrorists, such as Hezbollah, Hamas and proxies in Syria.

House Speaker Paul Ryan suggested designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.

The above remarks can and should be seen as preparatory measures for the next round of practical actions. It is worth noting, however, that in the world of politics nothing is resolved overnight. Each practical action requires the undergoing of a process in stages.

Unlike Obama, President Donald Trump and his administration are confronting Tehran, causing the regime to become nervous about the road ahead. This is why it has been attempting to save face. For example, the Iranian Foreign Ministry just blacklisted 15 US companies — a move that even Iranian media outlets are ridiculing. After all, it is obvious that  it is the mullahs suffering from a weak and weakening economy, not the US.

With presidential elections in Iran to take place in May, rest assured that the regime will be trekking very carefully not to light a spark under Iran’s societal powder keg  — and unleash an explosion of nationwide uprisings similar to those in 2009. At that time, Obama was new in office and abandoned the demonstrators to the regime’s iron fist. Today, Trump is in the White House, and has a very different attitude.

Originally published in Algemeiner

Iran increasing meddling in Iraq, planning long term

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Iran-backed Shiite militia groups in Iraq

A conglomerate of different forces are involved in the battle aimed at retaking the Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) stronghold of Mosul in northern Iraq. A variety of Iraqi security forces, Peshmerga fighters from the Kurdistan region, Sunni Arab tribal fighters and the notorious Iran-backed Shiite militia groups, known for launching horrendous massacres against the country’s minorities. American special forces are also involved parallel to the Iraqis, playing an advisory role as Washington claims. Continue reading “Iran increasing meddling in Iraq, planning long term”