ANALYSIS: Why Iran can’t take a decision similar to North Korea

Al Arabiya

The historic meeting between the leaders of the United States and North Korea, and the resulting Korean Peninsula denuclearizing deal, has the potential of resolving a decades-old international crisis.

This very important development will most definitely have its impact on another flashpoint in today’s world, being the Middle East, and most importantly, Iran.

Comprehensive document

The meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is the first of its kind following the end of the Korean War back in 1953.

The signed document is currently dubbed as a “Comprehensive Document,” sending a signal to the signatory parties of the 2015 “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” over the Iran nuclear program.

This agreement can is a cornerstone to include nuclear disarmament and halting its ballistic missile program by North Korea, and the US lifting its sanctions.

Prior to this signing, the Iranian Foreign Ministry claimed to agree with and welcome any peaceful measure. Following the signing, however, Tehran’s tone changed drastically.

“The North Korean government should be on high alert in this regard,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi.

“North Korea should be on alert that the US President is not loyal to his signature,” said Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Reza Nobakht.

Aside from these remarks, senior Iranian officials are concerned of North Korea sharing secrets of their nuclear and missile collaborations with the US and possibly other international community members.

Iranian protesters burn a representation of the US flag at a rally in Tehran on June 8, 2018. (AP)

Different viewpoints

A variety of reactions have been heard from Iran’s perspective.

There are those who believe the US/North Korea deal was made possible due to Pyongyong’s ability to obtain nuclear weapons. As a result, this camp argues flatly against any thought of destroying Tehran’s nuclear program or closing down its nuclear sites, let alone destroying them.

“Some experts have different viewpoints on this matter, claiming North Korea destroyed its nuclear sites due to its excessive age and being worn out,” according to a piece in Iran’s Vatane Emrooz daily.

“Despite sanctions and global threats, for years North Korean officials continued their nuclear and ballistic missile tests to now enjoy this capability of safeguarding their country,” the piece adds.

Others in the Iranian regime are also voicing concerns of Washington having more dangerous intentions. “Trump seeks to force Iran into a new round of negotiations,” according to the Hemayat daily.

Impact on Iran

There’s no doubt the Trump/Kim summit will increase pressure on the Iranian regime domestically and internationally. Signs indicate a growing number of parties will be demanding Tehran to finalize its decision between:

a) Entering new talks with Washington after succumbing to the 12 conditions raised by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

b) Standing firm on a 40-year long position and continuing their belligerence across the board.

Neglected in the past four decades is the fact that Iran has kicked the can down the road on this issue and taken advantage of surrounding developments to prolong its very existence.

The important factor here is the difference between North Korea and the Iranian regime. Despite the variety of claims heard about the result of the Trump/Kim agreement, North Korea’s capacity made such a change in policy and strategy possible. The Iranian regime, on the other hand, lacks any such aptitude, proven in the past four decades.

People protest in Tehran, Iran December 30, 2017 in in this picture obtained from social media. (Reuters)

Tehran is not Pyongyang

Another issue gone neglected is the fact that North Korea has never faced resistance from within or an organized opposition movement. While such a factor has plagued the Iranian regime ever since day one back in 1979.

This goes to prove that the deciding factor in Iran are the people and their opposition movement, symbolized in the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). This movement has encouraged and organized protests and uprisings for the past 40 years, especially since the Dec/Jan nationwide protests that swept 142 cities across Iran.

This phenomenon is Tehran’s main concern and Pyongyang has been free of any such dilemma. Iran’s society is a powder keg ready to explode and regime officials acknowledge the fact that their apparatus is facing 21 super challenges on a daily basis. This slate includes:

• The deep and increasing rift between the people and the ruling regime,

• The incurable trust divide as people continuously lose faith in anyone with any association to this regime,

• The people’s abhorrence of the regime being present in every part of their daily lives,

• The active presence of educated women in daily protests,

• The climaxing water shortage crisis witnessed in numerous areas of the country,

• Unemployment and skyrocketing prices,

• Brain drain and the increasing flow of billions in currency exiting the country.

It is interesting how the status quo is the psychological impact of Trump exiting the nuclear deal as the 90-day and 180-day deadlines for returning sanctions have yet to arrive.

In such circumstances, with or without sanctions, with or without negotiations, the Iranian people will relentlessly continue their struggle against this regime.

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What Iran Needs Are Not Concessions But Sanctions

With concerns escalating, North Korea should not lead us to tone down our voice and provide further concessions to Pyongyang and Tehran. We should in fact do the opposite.

More than two years after the flaws of a deal between the P5+1 and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program have become obvious, a chorus is busy insisting there is no other option. While the rendered pact, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has failed to rein in the Tehran regime, correct measures are available at hand.

Some argue the JCPOA has successfully slowed Iran’s dangerous drive to obtain nuclear weapons. The Center for a New American Security held a forum titled, “Consequences of a Collapse of the Iran Nuclear Deal,” featuring “a plethora of prominent speakers advocating in favor of preserving the deal, including former senior Obama administration official, Colin Kahl, a chief proponent of the agreement,” according to The Washington Free Beacon.

We Do Indeed Have Other Viable Options

The highly controversial Parchin military complex, located southeast of Tehran, was “inspected” by Iran’s own “scientists” to provide samples to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. That is tantamount to asking a murderer to deliver his DNA, in privacy without any supervision, as evidence to compare with that found at a crime scene where closed-circuit cameras recorded his presence at the time of the crime.

JCPOA advocates say the deal isn’t perfect, yet also claim measures against Iran are ill-founded and can be counterproductive. This is not the case.

“The administration could discourage global firms from doing business with Iran by leaving open its final position on the deal, and thus placing at risk their business with America,” as proposed in a recent Foreign Policy piece by James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Turkey.

Yes, such measures would disappoint Tehran. Yet knowledge of this regime’s nature suggests such actions will not push Iran to the brink of abandoning the JCPOA ship, as they are benefiting from the present terms.

And yes, the Iran nuclear deal is a multilateral agreement, as European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini reminded. Yet also as a reminder, in case of Iran violating the JCPOA terms, the United States can unilaterally launch the “snapback” process and have UN sanctions re-imposed on Iran. In such a scenario there is no need to garner support from Russia or China, both known for backing Tehran, as Security Council veto authority is irrelevant in this regard.

Appeasement Is a Failed Approach

With concerns over this issue escalating, the case of North Korea should not lead us to tone down our voice and provide further concessions to Pyongyang and Tehran. We should in fact do the opposite. This dossier should help us realize that appeasement—the same mentality embraced by the Obama administration in blueprinting the highly flawed JCPOA—has placed us where we are today with North Korea.

Do we seek to trek down the same path with Iran, a state with dangerous influence across the already flashpoint Middle East? One such horrible example is Iran’s involvement in Syria. JCPOA advocates are also describing a “best-case scenario” of providing more concessions to North Korea to muster a “far-from-perfect” pact, similar to the Iran deal, in exchange for Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear development.

Déjà vu. Haven’t we already experienced this with the Clinton administration’s “Agreed Framework” of 1994? Kim Jong Un recently tested his state’s sixth and most powerful nuclear device, claiming to be a hydrogen bomb. As another harsh reminder, rapprochement with North Korea led to the notorious 2010 sinking of the South Korean destroyer, the Cheonan. It is quite obvious by now that a Pyongyang submarine torpedoed the warship and left 46 sailors dead.

Does another South Korea naval ship, or a city for that matter, have to be targeted for us to realize that rogue states such as Iran and North Korea will only consider engagement as a sign of the international community’s weakness and take full advantage of it? Or must a U.S. Navy ship in the Persian Gulf come into the crosshairs of Revolutionary Guards’ fast boats for the West to finally open its eyes?

Some think Iran lacks the necessary will and understands all too well how such a move would spark drastic international measures against its interests. JCPOA advocates (read Iranian apologists) have also delegitimized any concern about Tehran’s intentions by claiming pact violations, such as breaching limits set on heavy water—the substance needed for plutonium-based nuclear bombs—as mere “bumps in the road.”

This shows those making such arguments either lack the necessary knowledge of Iran’s belligerent nature in the past four decades, or simply fall into the category of Iran lobbyists. Fierce international sanctions left Iran no choice but to succumb to nuclear talks with knees bleeding. More non-nuclear sanctions are needed to make Tehran understand the international community means business.

“Peace for our time” was the claim made by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in his September 30, 1938 speech concerning the Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler. Seventy million people paid the price of that strategic mistake with their lives. Let us finally learn our lesson of appeasement and put aside such an approach for good.

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.

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.

How Iran Is More Dangerous Than North Korea

 

Iran’s nuclear program even without a bomb as we speak, enjoys the potential of becoming more dangerous than today’s North Korea after a recent hydrogen bomb testing – with new reports showing the blast delivering a far more powerful yield than presumed – and its increasing row with the international community.

True is the fact that North Korea’s nuclear program is more advanced than that of Iran. True is the fact that Pyongyang has also provided ballistic missile hardware and technology to Tehran for decades now.

Iran’s nuclear program, however, elevates to a higher level when we come to fully comprehend the nature of Tehran’s ambitions in pursuing objectives through treacherous measures. This is a regime that has yet to be punished for its malevolent actions throughout the past decades, and this needs to change.

The clerics in Tehran rule a state fully acknowledging the fact that its very survival hinges on the ability to literally adopt an aggressive approach that is germane to causing mayhem abroad.

Taking advantage of the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, launching terrorist attacks and assassinations throughout the 90s, and in the new millennium enjoying the devastating 9/11 aftermath in the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq, leading onto Syria and Yemen today.

While there is no intention to justify North Korea obtaining nuclear weapons, it is crystal clear that Pyongyang has gone the limits in procuring its nuclear arsenal for defensive purposes and to be legitimately recognized and respect.

Iran’s regime, however, has far more hostile goals in its crosshairs. As the Islamic State terror group is being defeated in Iraq and Syria, an increasing concern is focused on Tehran’s intention of establishing a land-bridge to the Mediterranean.  This would provide Iran the capability to send boots, arms, finances and other necessities for its proxy forces checkered across these lands to establish a long-lasting foothold.

Coupling a nuclear arsenal with Iran’s other assets escalates the threat even further. Iran is sitting on a sea of oil, possessing the world’s fourth largest crude oil reserves. If that were not enough, Iran also enjoys the luxury of owning the world’s second largest natural gas reserves.

North Korea lacks any such natural resources. Again, this does not legitimize in any way Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, especially how its population continues to struggle with poverty and starvation.

Speaking of people, Iran’s over 80 million is the second largest population in the region, providing it with a very large and capable workforce. Whereas North Korea has a population of 25.4 million and is forced to send tens of thousands of workers abroad to send money back home for their careworn families.

Another very distinct difference between the two states is the fact that Iran is significantly religious, taking advantage and provoking sectarian strife in the Middle East. Iran becoming a nuclear power will elevate the stakes in this flashpoint region and most certainly launch a nuclear arms race of disastrous prospects.

North Korea, however, is surrounded by South Korea and Japan, two major US allies, and tens of thousands US boots stationed in various bases and ships.

China, most likely North Korea’s only key ally, and Russia most certainly will not side by Pyongyang in the case of a substantial conflict with the international community. This has been proven as the United Nations Security Council on Monday slapped the harshest sanctions to date on North Korea, capping fuel deliveries and banning all its profitable textile exports.

Pyongyang understands very well it can quite easily lose the support of Beijing, especially with new threats from Washington, and Moscow is no party to count on.

Reports indicate the Trump administration is busy weighing a more aggressive strategy on Iran. This should include inspecting the regime’s military sites, especially after a senior advisor of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei rejected any such measures by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Interesting is the fact how former IAEA deputy director general Dr. Olli Heinonen described the agency’s Iran inspections program as “less comprehensive and less intrusive since the implementation of the JCPOA.”

There will most definitely be a chorus of warnings by Iran apologists claiming such a stance will only render negative results. Unfortunately, as a result of such lobbying, the West and the international community as a whole has to this day embraced engagement with Iran, refraining to take necessary actions.

Furthermore, this is not a call for another unnecessary war in the Middle East, as many Iran apologists would quickly paint it so.

Considering the process we have witnessed with Iran to this day, the vital steps ahead are actually quite straightforward:

  • Launching rigorous inspections of Iran’s military sites, beginning with the controversial Parchin complex, located southeast of Tehran, to resolve outstanding questions over “possible military dimension” issues.
  • Adopting a UN Security Council resolution demanding Iran halt all ballistic missile tests, through which Tehran seeks perfecting this know-how to deliver nuclear payloads.
  • Taking action to end Iran’s support for terrorism; meddling in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and other countries; and this regime’s ignoble history of human rights violations at home.
  • Adopting sanctions targeting Iran’s belligerence across the region. The House of Representatives has taken a step in the right direction by voting in favor of measures aimed at blocking commercial aircraft sales to Iran. The US Treasury Department also imposed new sanctions on 11 firms and individuals involved in Tehran’s ballistic missile program, cyberattacks and support for terrorism.
  • Support the Iranian people’s legitimate pursuit of replacing the current theocracy with a state based on equality, freedom and true democracy. JCPOA-opponents have proposed such measures to Trump, calling for “strengthened ties with pro-democratic groups in Iran.”

Sanctioning the Terrible Twosome

The world currently faces two atomic crises in Iran and North Korea, despite long strides in the effort of nuclear non-proliferation. Deep military and nuclear cooperation between the two states makes dealing with these challenges even more difficult. One may have thought lessons would have been learnt from the devastating lessons of appeasement from World War II – yet the approaches adopted vis-à-vis North Korea and Iran in signing nuclear agreements have raised accusations that Neville Chamberlain’s famous policy is still alive and well.

It’s obvious that Iran has learned from North Korea, and vice-versa, in both military and diplomatic spheres: in a recent Raddington Report article we argue that there are few nations that view North Korean missile tests with more interest than Iran. The Islamic Republic yearns to be in the position North Korea finds itself in – to have developed a nuclear arsenal, along with the means of deliver the payload. And North Korea covets to have had the opportunity Iran found: usurping Obama’s desperate need for a legacy-defining foreign policy achievement to garner a slate of concessions.

There is seemingly little appetite for a military confrontation with North Korea or Iran – yet the appeasement of these two rogue regimes have left the international community in more of a quagmire. North Korea is holding South Korea and Japan hostage (along with tens of thousands of stationed US troops) while Iran continues its regional meddling, support for terrorism, ballistic missile advances and human rights violations, all whilst reaching an agreement with the P5+1.

Pyongyang and Tehran have both sought nuclear weapons as insurance for their notorious regimes. Enjoying enticement by US administrations since the 1990s, North Korea has reached its objective, at the expense of it’s starving people – and economy more broadly. Iran, whilst seeking nuclear capability, began feeling the heat of international sanctions and escalating public anger, which forced it to trade a curbing of its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. What goes unnoticed, however, is how agreements signed by the international community with these two regimes provide a green light to the ruling autocrats to pursue the oppression of their own populations.

Iran has continued its practice of abducting American citizens and sentencing them to long prison terms. A situation in which Kim Jung Un was provided more inducements to come to the negotiating table – as in Iran’s case – could possibly result in further abductions, assassinations and more tens of thousands of political prisoners held in facilities so large they are visible in satellite images. Concessions have already provided Iran a green light to expand its domestic crackdown and meddling abroad. The definition of insanity, famously, is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

Offering a possible insight into the Trump administration’s future approach to Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Nikki Haley delivered a speech recently in the American Enterprise Institute, stating that; “…if the President does not certify Iranian compliance, the Corker-Cardin law also tells us what happens next. What happens next is significantly in Congress’s hands,” she explained, in reference to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.

“Congress could debate whether the nuclear deal is in fact too big to fail. We should welcome a debate over whether the JCPOA is in U.S. national security interests. The previous administration set up the deal in a way that denied us that honest and serious debate,” the US Ambassador to the United Nations continued.

Following Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test, which led to claims that the DPRK has acquired the ability to test a hydrogen bomb, there is belief amongst high circles in Washington that North Korea is supporting Iran in return to the path of obtaining nuclear weapons. While Washington is weighing its options in responding to North Korea’s latest nuclear bomb test, most concerning are obvious shows of allegiance, such as a recent 10-day visit to Tehran by Pyongyang’s parliament speaker Kim Yong Nam.

Thanks to a ‘windfall’ of billions of dollars provided by the Obama-blueprinted nuclear deal, Iran has the hard currency and financial assets North Korea needs. In return, Pyongyang can deliver the nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology Tehran wants to acquire. It has become increasingly obvious these regimes are far from rational actors who can be persuaded into taking action for the better benefit of the international community. North Korea must be made to bow before demands to give up nuclear weapons, whilst Iran must be made to understand that following the path of its East Asian partner is not an option.

The response Tehran receives from the international community, with the US at the helm, is of vital importance. The failure of previous US administrations to take any meaningful action to prevent the growth of such a dangerous nexus leaves us with the circumstances we face today. It is a known fact that many of Tehran’s ballistic missile designs, such as the Hwasong series, are based on Pyongyang prototypes. This is the result of political and military ties leading back to the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. Concerns escalate to a highly lethal level when we realize Iran’s missiles, mirroring those of its North Korean sisters, could enjoy the capability of delivering nuclear payloads. These decades-long close exchanges have now also provided Iran the ability to construct missile production factories in Syria and Libya, some underground.

It is increasingly difficult to deny Tehran’s diplomatic, economic and military ties with Pyongyang. It is even possible the two country’s scientists have been present at each other’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests, one after another. Tehran and Pyongyang must be made to comprehend that a continuation of their provocations cannot not be tolerated – senior Iranian and North Korean leaders, along with the institutions maintaining their rule, should be the target of crippling international sanctions. Kim, Khamenei and their henchmen, must find it far more difficult to plunder their people’s wealth for their own interests, while the two populations suffer in poverty. The international community should also boost campaigns aimed at drying up the two regimes’ supply chains providing the needs for their missile and nuclear drives.

This question is now raised over the meaning of seeking a new nuclear arrangement with North Korea, especially as the JCPOA is currently being usurped by Iran. Surely rapprochement will only encourage Pyongyang to continue its current aggressive nature – and what lessons would Tehran, a regime enjoying a dangerous reach across the Middle East, learn from this? There is no need to explain how Tehran and Pyongyang have most likely followed each other’s negotiations with the international community, the deals sealed to buy time, the successful and unsuccessful lies and deceptions and how to come to each other’s support when needed. Most importantly, however, they have learned how to create rifts amongst Western countries, such as the United States, France and Britain, and to utilise Russian and Chinese postures, to divide in the UN Security Council.

As Haley correctly said, “Enough is enough.” War is neither needed nor welcomed. An international consensus to impose crippling sanctions on the regimes of Iran and North Korea is necessary.

Although watered down to garner the support of Beijing and Moscow, the sanctions adopted unanimously by the United Nations Security Council on Monday against North Korea, capping the regime’s oil imports from China and banning its profitable textile exports, is a step in the right direction. One hopes this is the beginning of a continuing trend to bring an end to Pyongyang’s dangerous bellicosities, and sends a powerful message to Tehran of the international community’s resolve and intolerance for such rogue behavior.

If history is to teach us any lesson, it is that of rapprochement rendering nothing but death and destruction. If we seek an end to the current nuclear standoffs, all parties must further set aside their short term interests and think for the better good of all.

ANALYSIS: How the tide is turning against Iran

As ISIS is losing ground in its two last enclaves of Raqqa and Deir el-Zor, there are many rightfully concerning reports of Iran seeking to chip further control in Syria.

All the while, there are also signs of contradictory remarks heard from senior Iranian officials, parallel to indications on the ground of how international counterparts are seeking their own interests that fall completely against those of Tehran’s.

Such incoherency signals nothing but troubling times ahead for Iran in losing its grasp of strategic interests across the Middle East, including Syria.

‘Not tantamount to meddling’

Similar sentiments were heard recently from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani. Zarif exerted himself to defend Tehran’s carnage in other countries under the pretext of a mandate to defend human rights.

“The foreign policy of the Islamic Republic, based on the constitution, is a policy that is naturally founded on human rights. What is the meaning of human rights? It means defending the rights of innocent against oppressors… We have this definition in our constitution. This is not tantamount to meddling,” he claimed.

Zarif’s remarks were followed by Suleimani’s insight. “There were friends in high places, in our country’s domestic and foreign hierarchy, who argued not to get involved in Syria and Iraq, and sit back and respectfully defend the revolution. One individual asked you mean we go and defend dictators? The leader (referring to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei) provided a clear response in saying when you look at the countries we have relations with, who is a dictator and who is not? We simply look at our interests,” he explained.

A troubling slate

The relations Khamenei refers to promote an image into the very nature of his establishment. Bashar Al-Assad’s dictatorship in Syria can be read as a reign of death and destruction. With Iran’s support and in the absence of a coordinated global response over 500,000 have been killed, scores more injured, over 12 million are internally displaced or forced to seek refuge abroad, and swathes of the country is left in ruins.

Iraq’s former prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki, another figure described as Tehran’s puppet, has a similar report card unfortunately gone neglected. The Sunni community was the main target of Al-Maliki’s Iran-backed wrath, fueling the rise of ISIS.

In Yemen the Houthis and ousted dictator Ali Abdullah Salah have also been at the receiving end of Iran’s support. As the Saudi-led coalition advances against Iran’s disastrous efforts, signs of major rifts, and even reports of clashes between the two forces, constitute a major quagmire for Tehran.

The Lebanese Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy offspring brought to life by the IRGC back in the early 1980s, are known to instigate the Syrian war by supporting Al-Assad, and pursuing Tehran’s interest wherever needed across the Middle East.

Looking abroad, Iran has established cozy relations with North Korea and Venezuela, both dictators whose people are starving. The Pyongyang-Tehran axis is especially raising concerns considering their close nuclear and ballistic missile collaboration.

Iran’s own dictatorship

This is a regime provoking a variety of bellicosities. Recent threats by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Atomic Energy Organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi of relaunching certain nuclear activities are reminders of the dangers of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

Extending equally to such concerns, and not receiving adequate consideration, is Iran’s ongoing human rights violations. Over 100 executions were reported in the month of July alone. This comes after more than 3,000 were sent to the gallows during Rouhani’s first term.

President Hassan Rouhani with Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis at his office in Tehran, on Jan. 18, 2017. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

More recent cases include the ongoing hunger strike of dozens of political prisoners in a jail west of Tehran going on for nearly four weeks now. These inmates are protesting prison guards resorting to violence and other repressive measures used to impose further pressures.

Concerned of this and the overall situation in Iran, Amnesty International in a statement demanded Iranian authorities “allow international monitors, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, to conduct independent, unannounced inspections of Raja’i Shahr Prison and other prisons across the country.”

While this and many other such cases deserve an international inquiry, they do signal a significant change in tone of courage in Iran’s powder keg society against the ruling regime.

From others’ perspectives

Fortunately, there is an end to be seen in the Syrian war. However, six years after the spark of that revolution, the Syrian people have suffered tremendously mainly due to Obama’s compelling kowtowing to Iran.

The war has been draining Iran, forcing it to seek the support of other parties, including Russia. The more parties with stakes in Syria, and with the US taking a far more active stance, the more Iran sees its future in the country threatened.

As the Levant’s forthcoming is being blueprinted, high on the agenda must be thwarting Iran’s interests. With ISIS defeated in Iraq, there will be no legitimacy for Iran’s presence in Iraq in any shape or form. The same argument goes for Syria.

The international community, coming to realize Iran’s destructive nature, should take the initiative and demand the eviction of all Iranian elements from Syria, including IRGC members and foreign proxy members transferred from abroad.

Peace is the end

All said and done, comprehending Iran’s regime thrives on the mentality of spreading crises across the region is vital. Ceasefire and reconciliation are not in this regime’s nature, knowing increasing public demands will follow.

This regime has failed to provide in elementary needs inside Iran for the past four decades. Thus, satellite states abroad will be no exception. Peace and tranquility in the Middle East hinges on containing Iran’s influence from all its neighboring countries and a complete end to its lethal meddling.

A new chapter is being written in this flashpoint region’s history.

Iran’s Challenges in Rouhani’s Second Term

The second term of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has officially begun. His first four years were experienced by the people of Iran, the region and the international community. It is necessary to discuss the challenges his second term will pose. The most important matter in Iranian politics is the issue of hegemony, authority and power. As long as the regime is formed around the supreme leader, known as the velayet-e faqih, the presidency and his executive branch will literally be functioning to his service and demands. In such a structure, the president in the Iranian regime, now Rouhani, literally enjoys no authority. Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami once described his role as a mere “procurer.”

Considering the fact that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has blessed the nucleardeal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Rouhani’s role is to provide for the establishment’s best interests while dodging and sidestepping international demands.

Khamenei understands very well there is no better option for his regime’s future. Yet he also needs to maintain a straight face before a social base that may even accuse him of giving in to the enemy, being the United States, the “Great Arrogance.”

Following the JCPOA signing Khamenei has to this day ordered the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to launch 15 ballistic missile tests, all in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 and all supervised by Rouhani as chair of the Supreme National Security Council.

Twelve such tests were carried out during Obama’s tenure, without any punishments imposed. The next three tests, however, saw the new Trump administration taking action each time by slapping new sanctions.

Iran’s measures have not been limited to ballistic missile launches.They include collaborating with North Korea on nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests, instigating US Navy warships in the Persian Gulf, continuing involvement in Syria and supporting Bashar Assad’s killings of innocent civilians, providing the Lebanese Hezbollah underground missile factories, and arming, equipping and financing the Houthis in Yemen

The message received by the outside world is the JCPOA has emboldened Tehran, its destabilizing measures must be contained and sanctions increased.

The end of the Obama years and Donald Trump taking the helm at the White House, while believing the JCPOA is the worst deal in US history, has made circumstances even more difficult for Tehran. As defined above, obvious is the fact that Iran began violating the JCPOA spirit from the very beginning.

Considering that Tehran has failed to change any approaches in different fields, it is Rouhani’s mission, as the facilitator of Khamenei’s policies, is to portray Iran in compliance with the JCPOA.

Iran’s global correspondents have major demands and expectations from Iran. The Riyadh Summit in May, which the US and 55 other countries attended, ended with a statement placing certain conditions before Rouhani and the regime in its entirety:

  • Stop supporting terrorism in Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and rein in all terror cells;
  • End ongoing provocations in Gulf waters;
  • Order back all IRGC members, Shiite militias and proxy forces from the four Arab capitals of Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Sanaa;
  • Refrain from attacking embassies and diplomatic missions in Iran;
  • End plots to assassinate ambassadors in various cities;
  • Halt all ballistic missile test launches;

While these are all under the authority of Khamenei and IRGC, Rouhani has a record of supporting and facilitating such actions.

Therefore, there is no actual expectation that Rouhani will bring any change in his second term as this regime’s president. This was quite obvious from his humiliating inauguration ceremony. Which senior Western or Arab state official from a leading country took part in this event? None.

The most important official to take part was EU foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini, who merely attended as head of the JCPOA committee. Her entire visit became a complete embarrassment, being seen with a mandatory scarf and taking selfies with members of the parliament of a regime with a terrible human rights record.

European media and officials went as far as using the terms “shameful” and “disgraceful” for Mogherini supporting the president of a regime who has explicitly described this regime’s 38-year rule as riddled with executions and prisons.

During Rouhani’s first tenure the world witnessed this regime send more than 3,000 individuals to the gallows. Amnesty International has issued a comprehensive reportexpressing grave concerns over human rights violations in Iran.

And speaking of prisons, political prisoners across the country are enduring extremely harsh conditions. Dozens have been on hunger strike since July 30th after being transferred to a hall and placed under extreme surveillance. They are also deprived of minimal hygiene products, adequate clothing and even family visits.

The heavy shadow of increasing sanctions pose a very difficult economic hurdle for Rouhani and the clerical regime. The current circumstances have left Iran’s market, domestic and foreign investors in limbo, and literally locked the country’s economy.

Add to this situation Iran’s systematic economic corruption, smuggling and credit institutions associated to the IRGC, the regime’s security organs and Khamenei himself.

Further add the IRGC economic empire, and a conglomerate of foundations and organs supervised by Khamenei. This leaves no breathing room or hope for the average Iranian.

There is literally no solution for Rouhani as the regime’s president. He is running a politically, economically and socially-failed administration. And this failure is of fundamental importance.

Considering the absence of former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one can reach an absolute conclusion that Iran’s so-called “moderate” and/or “reformist” current has come to a complete end.

This branch of the Iranian regime, which played a very important role in maintaining the entire clerical establishment in power, will no longer be able to function to its intended role.

The JCPOA has failed politically. This pact was hoped to open new relations between the West and Iran, and especially lead to significant and meaningful economic relations. Again, another failure.

The JCPOA only enjoyed any chance of success under the former Obama administration. This window of opportunity for Tehran has obviously been closed.

The fate of presidents in the clerical regime are quite obvious, and concerning for Rouhani. A look back provides a preview of a grim future awaiting Rouhani:

  1. Abolhassan Bani Sadr (1980) – sacked and removed from power
  2. Mohammad-Ali Rajai (1981) – killed
  3. Ali Khamenei (1981-89) – transitioned to the role of Supreme Leader
  4. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-97) – died a very suspicious death and diminished proile
  5. Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) – dubbed a “seditionist” and dismissed
  6. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-13) – described as “deviant” and sidelined
  7. Hassan Rouhani (2013-…) – To be determined

Despite all the efforts made by the Iranian regime and its lobbies with millions of dollars, there are very few figures left who truly have any hopes of change from within this regime, let alone by Rouhani.

The most important and gravest challenge before him, being part and parcel of the clerical establishment, is the threat of Iran’s powder keg society rendering nationwide protests and uprisings.

The average Iranian is completely opposed to the ruling regime, and those sitting on the throne in Tehran are no longer able to bandage the bleeding wounds of this corrupt system.

Iran is heading for regime change and such a platform is gaining international recognition as we speak.

Before Anyone Further Appeases Iran…

 

The pro-Iran deal camp is recently making much noise about how the Trump administration and critics of the pact, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), are making rightful complaints of the text failing to address Iran’s destructive belligerence in the Middle East.

These are valid concerns, considering the fact that even if the deal remains intact come October’s decision by President Donald Trump to find Iran in compliance or not, the mullahs are hell-bent to continue wreaking havoc and expanding influence across the region.

The pro-Iran deal camp claim Washington has no evidence to hold Tehran in violation of the JCPOA terms. Not true.

  • Tehran has exceeded its heavy water production cap, necessary for a plutonium nuclear bomb,
  • testing more advanced centrifuges,
  • illicitly procuring highly sensitive nuclear and ballistic missile technology in Germany, according to Berlin’s intelligence services,
  • surpassing its uranium enrichment cap, another key non-compliance factor

The pro-JCPOA camp also argues this deal has prevented Iran from becoming the next North Korea. This is partially true and misleads only the uninformed reader. A deal very similar to the JCPOA, led by the Clinton administration, was signed with North Korea and ended up in dismal failure. This left the world with a rogue state now equipped with at least 20 nuclear bombs, intercontinental ballistic missiles and the technology to miniaturize a nuclear warhead in its payload.

While the JCPOA was intended to keep Iran away from nuclear weapons, why shouldn’t Washington lead the West in demanding Iran curb its further belligerence, such as advances in its ballistic missile drive, increasing executions and atrocious human rights violations, and stirring mayhem in the Middle East?

 

Iran must be held responsible for “its missile launches, support for terrorism, disregard for human rights, and violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said Tuesday.

Speaking of this flashpoint region, legitimate concerns exist over Iran establishing a “Shiite crescent” stretching from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean. Important to note is the fact that JCPOA flaws, and the Obama administration’s desperate nature to sign a deal as a foreign policy legacy, provided Iran a windfall of billions to stoke its support for the Assad regime in Syria.

“Iran has been helpful in Iraq by fighting the Islamic State,” is how The New York Times describes Tehran’s campaign in its western neighbor, failing to even mention how Iran-backed Shiite militias and death squads have launched massacres, killing sprees and forced displacements targeting Iraq’s Sunnis and other minorities. While Iraq was a melting pot of peoples of different backgrounds living intertwined in peace and for centuries, Iran’s fueling of sectarian wars has created a dangerously wide rift of hatred.

Iran’s measures in supporting Yemen’s Houthis in their illegitimate fight against an internationally recognized government, funding of the Lebanese Hezbollah and supporting the Afghan Taliban as an ally against the US add all the more reason for strong action against Tehran.

In parallel fashion, the pro-appeasement camp continues to seek ties between Washington and Tehran, similar to the “working relationship” established between former US top diplomat John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Iran apologists are quick to criticize current US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for refusing to meet Iranians, while easily brushing aside the undeniable truth that Tehran usurped its warmed relations with the Obama administration to concurrently prop up the Assad regime and its massacring of innocent Syrian women and children, especially with chemical weapons.

Another question Iran apologists have allowed Tehran to go by never answering is this: Why do the mullahs continuously insist on such a politically and economically expensive nuclear program while sitting on the world’s second largest natural gas reserve and fourth largest crude oil reserve?

If the mullahs truly sought the better interest of the “Iranian nation,” as they have claimed for the past forty years, why don’t they turn off the lights on their nuclear program and reap in all the incentives and lucrative economic contracts that will most definitely follow?

And why the sudden regime change-phobia on Iran? Yes, many critics correctly point out the fact that regime change policies in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have gone south. Yet why do these critics fail to go the distance and carefully evaluate the main reason behind these failures?

Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya lacked any solution and alternative to replace their ruling states with true democracies. This is not the case with Iran.

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a coalition of numerous dissident groups and individuals, led by its charismatic President Maryam Rajavi, has a ten-point plan for the future of Iran.

Universal suffrage, pluralism, individual freedoms, abolition of the death penalty, separation of church state, gender equality, rule of law, commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, peaceful coexistence and a non-nuclear Iran all meet the modern democracies in the West.

The NCRI, with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) as its core member, has been gaining serious momentum in the past few months. Senator John McCain, Chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee met with NCRI President Rajavi in April. Last month hundreds of international dignitaries and over 100,000 members of the Iranian Diaspora voiced support for regime change in Iran in a massive Paris rally.

And as the Trump administration is weighing its comprehensive Iran policy, a high-profile delegation of US senators recently visited Maryam Rajavi and PMOI/MEK members in Albania. This visit sends strong signals as Rajavi and the PMOI/MEK are the legitimate flagbearers of regime change in Tehran.

Credit : National Council of Resistance of Iran
NCRI President Maryam Rajavi meeting with a delegation of US senators in Tirana Albania.

At such a sensitive timing, Tehran is on its last leg and Iran apologists are desperately attempting to provide a crutch. This is a highly mistaken approach.

Washington should lead the West in raising the stakes for Iran. Demands must be placed before the mullahs to end all its menacing activities, parallel to the international recognition of the Iranian opposition NCRI to realize regime change in Tehran.