ANALYSIS: Iran feeling US policy shift after Obama

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

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

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

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

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

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

Khamenei’s silence

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

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

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

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

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

The golden era

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Iran opportunity before Donald Trump

Donald Trump Holds Meetings At Trump Tower
If the Trump administration seeks to make Iran more amenable to take meaningful measures, they can be reminded with reference to the NCRI that their days are numbered. (AFP)

By Heshmat Alavi
Friday, 20 January 2017

Obama’s doctrine has allowed Iran to launch a string of anti-American measures and remarks throughout the course of his two terms, and most recently refuse any renegotiation of the nuclear deal sealed between the P5+1 and Tehran.

In response, sources say President-elect Donald Trump has received a hand-delivered letter signed by 23 top former US officials urging the adoption of a new approach vis-à-vis the regime in Iran. The text calls on the incoming Trump administration to engage and actively work with the Iranian opposition, an opportunity neglected and set aside by previous administrations.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) is an umbrella group of Iranian dissident groups, including mainly the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), known to first blow the whistle on Tehran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

The letter is signed by a colorful slate of bipartisan civil and military officials, including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, former senator Joe Lieberman, former attorney general Michael Mukasey and General Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Clinton administration, to name a few.

“President Obama expressed the hope that nuclear negotiations would induce Iran’s leaders to act with greater consideration of American interests. It is now clear that Iran’s leaders have shown no interest in reciprocating… Iran’s rulers have directly targeted US strategic interests, policies and principles, and those of our allies and friends in the Middle East…” the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Fox News, reads. “…to restore American influence and credibility in the world, the United States needs a revised policy,” the text adds.

Obama’s Iran doctrine

This prominent slate of influential American dignitaries has touched on a very right tone, calling for an overhaul of Obama’s Iran doctrine in its entirety. Ever since day one after hijacking the Iranian revolution back in 1979, the basic problem has been none other than the very mullahs’ regime sitting on the throne in Tehran.

While in this day and age many talk about terrorism and refer to ISIS and al-Qaeda, Tehran remains the true source of terrorism across the globe. The US State Department continues to designate this regime as a—if not the—leading state sponsor of terrorism. Iran is the world’s central banker of international terrorism by funding Hamas, the Lebanese Hezbollah and a long slate of other extremist Shiite militia groups rampaging Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

This letter, signaling a significant gathering very rare in Washington politics for the past 8 years and beyond, is underscoring the fact that the unpopular regime in Iran is the source of a variety of dilemmas. The mullahs are maintaining their control over 80 million Iranians through the ruthless Revolutionary Guards, the paramilitary Basij Revomilitia and other security entities.

These oppressive entities showed their wrath in 2009 following the highly disputed reelection–read reselection of firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad–as the regime’s president and quelling any and all dissent. The Obama administration missed the opportunity and turned its back on the Iranian people then.

Days numbered?

There is an alternative to the mullahs’ regime in Iran. If the Trump administration seeks to make Iran more amenable to actually take meaningful measures, they can be reminded with reference to the NCRI that their days are numbered, and counting down fast.

It would represent a remarkable message to Tehran if the new administration in Washington made a direct call to NCRI President Maryam Rajavi, a progressive Muslim woman who has devoted her life to regime change in Iran based on a 10-point plan aiming to bring about freedom, democracy, human rights, gender-religious-ethnic equality and a non-nuclear Iran.

Such a policy is not only in the best interest of the United States, but the Middle East and all nations who have suffered from Iran’s mischievous meddling policies. Of course, the mullahs and their lobbies in the US will not be happy at all if President Trump or members of his administration establish direct contact with the NCRI.

However, this should signal Tehran’s soft spot to Washington, and make the Trump administration even more interested about what can be done to support Iran’s legitimate opposition.

Originally posted in Al Arabiya English

Time to end the Iran “reformist-moderate” hoax

lopBy Heshmat Alavi

Eight years of Barack Obama’s tenure has come to an end. We are also winding down on the first, and maybe last, term of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. This should mark the long overdue end of the U.S.-Iran appeasement doctrine, based on a mirage of “reformists” and/or “moderates” actually existing inside the extremist establishment ruling Iran.

If you search mainstream media for news about Iran, there has always seemed to be an ongoing deafening chorus of “reformists” gaining the upper hand. This has a long history.

When then senior cleric Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani became president back in 1989, many claimed he was a newly found “reformists,” forgetting his role as commander of Iran’s armed forces through the 8-year-long Iran-Iraq War and the horrific summer 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners across Iran. Rafsanjani can also be dubbed the father of Iran’s nuclear weapons drive, and went on to launch an atrocious series of assassinations targeting exiled dissidents, dubbed the “chain murders.”

Then came Mohammad Khatami and the appeasement camp in the West went mad claiming he, too, was a “reformist” and “moderate,” with their sole argument most likely based on the fact that he smiled. During his first term Khatami showed his true face by blessing the vicious crackdown of the 1999 student uprisings that rattled the very foundations of the mullahs’ entire establishment.

When Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei needed to tighten his regime’s belts following the toppling the occupation of neighbors Iraq and Afghanistan, he selected–yes, selected–firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president to pursue his nuclear weapons drive, parallel to the covert meddling in Iraq and across the entire Middle East.

During this phase instead of admitting to their failure in finding any so-called “reformist” or “moderate” in Iran, the West appeasement entourage claimed their initiative was neglected and did not receive the support it deserves. They seemingly forgot the support they enjoyed from the long slate of governments and mainstream outlets.

In 2013 when Khamenei realized he could no longer continue his macho tactics in the face of international sanctions bringing his economy to its knees, he pulled another “reformist” out of his hat. Hassan Rouhani, another grinning mullah, was appointed–yes, appointed by Khamenei since there is no such concept of elections, as understood in the West, in Iran–to facilitate his decision to backtrack on his regime’s drive for nuclear weapons, and save face during the process.

Despite the West appeasement camp going the limits in portraying Rouhani as a “reformist/moderate” figure, they quickly forgot how he served as secretary the regime’s Supreme National Security Council, and boasted of deceiving the Europeans during the 2003 Paris nuclear negotiations. During his tenure, Rouhani has presided over nearly 3,000 executions, leaving a record far worse than his predecessors.

On the Syria conflict, Rouhani has continuously supported Iran’s backing of ruthless dictator Bashar Assad, and even opposed calls to halt the violence.

“Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday joined in opposing a call by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to halt all flights over Syria in efforts to get relief shipments through,” as reported by Daily Mail.

Obama is departing the White House, signaling the end of a “golden era” for the Iranian regime, and the new Donald Trump administration and Republican Congress is taking over in Washington. To this end, the time has come for America to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people and their long struggle for freedom and democracy.

Nearly two dozen former senior U.S. government officials hand-delivered a letter to now President Trump urging him to work with the Iranian opposition, symbolized in Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

This represents the best possible launching pad to end the appeasement policy based on the illusion of any such notion of “reformists” or “moderates” inside the brutal Iranian regime.

Originally posted in American Thinker

 

The Future Of Iran Following Rafsanjani’s Death

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Former Iran’s president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaks during Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran on Friday May, 26, 2006. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

Originally published in Forbes

By Heshmat Alavi

The regime in Iran suffered a major setback after former president and figurehead Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died of a heart attack on Sunday. He was 82.

Following the 1979 revolution, Rafsanjani played an influential role in structuring the regime’s policies, and his death will leave a significant power vacuum, coming less than four months prior to significant presidential elections.

Known for his persuasive role in shaping the regime’s politics following the 1979 revolution, Rafsanjani will leave a power vacuum in his wake.

During the past four decades Rafsanjani preserved a top role in the regime’s domestic crackdown, exporting Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism and extremism, and spearheading Iran’s effort to acquire nuclear weapons through an underground program.

“The death of Rafsanjani, one of the pillars of the religious fascism ruling Iran and its balance factor collapsed, and the regime in its entirety is closer now to its overthrow,” said Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

Following the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988, serving as Parliament Speaker and deputy commander of armed forces, Rafsanjani reached the presidency in 1989 and held this post until 1997. After two years of the so-called “reformist” Mohammad Khatami as president, Rafsanjani attempted to run for the office once again in 2005, only to succumb to hothead Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Recently Rafsanjani gained a reputation for his aggressive challenge against Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, while playing the role model for Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s so-called “moderate” president.

Of course, Rafsanjani was definitely considered part and parcel to the religious establishment in Iran, bearing in mind his special ties to regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini, who died back in 1989. However, appeasement advocates in the West dubbed him as a “pragmatic conservative” willing to work with the outside world, especially the “Great Satan.”

While Rafsanjani’s power diminished noticeably in recent years, he continued to enjoy a final post as chief of the Expediency Council, assigned to seemingly resolve disputes between the Guardian Council and parliament. The former is an ultra-conservative body closely knitted to Khamenei and known to screen all electoral candidates according to their loyalty to the regime establishment.

Rafsanjani sought last to take part in the 2013 presidential elections as a “reformist,” only to be disqualified by the Guardian Council. Angered at being purged, Rafsanjani lashed back by criticizing the measure as ill-informed.

Parallel to his rivalry with the Supreme Leader, Rafsanjani went on to place his weight behind Rouhani in 2013 when the latter assumed authority as president.

Alongside his political campaign, in the past decades Rafsanjani also used his post to slice his entire family an economic fortune from the country’s organs and natural resources.

“One brother headed the country’s largest copper mine; another took control of the state-owned TV network; a brother-in-law became governor of Kerman province, while a cousin runs an outfit that dominates Iran’s $400 million pistachio export business; a nephew and one of Rafsanjani’s sons took key positions in the Ministry of Oil; another son heads the Tehran Metro construction project (an estimated $700 million spent so far),” states a 2003 Forbes analysis.

The report also mentions billions stashed by the Rafsanjanis in overseas bank accounts.

“Some of the family’s wealth is out there for all to see. Rafsanjani’s youngest son, Yaser, owns a 30-acre horse farm in the super-fashionable Lavasan neighborhood of north Tehran, where land goes for over $4 million an acre. Just where did Yaser get his money? A Belgian-educated businessman, he runs a large export-import firm that includes baby food, bottled water and industrial machinery.”

Despite canvasing as a reasonable negotiator to the West, Rafsanjani was in fact shoulder to shoulder with his “hardline” partners in quelling dissident voices, specifically members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the leading opposition group gaining reputation after being the first to blow the whistle on Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

“Four rulings are a must for the [PMOI]: 1. Be killed; 2. Be hanged; 3. Arms and legs be amputated; 4. Be separated from society,” Rafsanjani said back in 1981. He also played a dominant role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in jails across the country.

As president, Rafsanjani supervised a slate of dissident assassinations abroad, such as renowned human rights advocate Dr. Kazem Rajavi, former Iranian ambassador to Italy Mohammad Hossein Naghdi and Iranian Kurdish leader Abdulrahman Ghassemlou.

Continuing this string of terrorist attacks, Rafsanjani has also been indicted for his part in the 1994 Buenos Aires AMIA bombing that left 85 killed and hundreds more wounded.

Rafsanjani has, through the past four decades, acted as the regime’s No. 2 figure and a balancing component, always preserving the regime’s higher interests. His death will considerably weaken the entire regime and spark major disturbances throughout the regime’s ranks and files. If the past is any sign of the possible road ahead, the mullahs will most probably resort to additional violence and the export of extremism, terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism to avert this latest crisis from escalating beyond control.