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.

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Has The Iran Nuclear Deal Changed Anything After Two Years?

July 14th marks two years of a controversial nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), brokered between the international community, represented by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States – and Germany, with Iran.

Where are we now? Has Iran changed for the better? Or has Tehran taken advantage of the Obama administration’s concessions to further advance their domestic crackdown, foreign meddling and nuclear/ballistic missile programs?

We are now at a crucial juncture. The Trump administration is currently weighing all options, including regime change, in their evaluation of a comprehensive Iran policy. As wars in various countries and appeasement with Iran have all proved disastrous, regime change by supporting the Iranian people and their organized opposition is the best viable option.

The pro-deal camp described Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a “reformist” and decided to neglect the massive wave of executions launched during his first tenure. The Iran nuclear deal gave a green light to Tehran, leading to over 3,000 executions during Rouhani’s first term as president.

Despite all the naive expectations in Rouhani’s second term, there are reports of increasing executions. This month alone 57 prisoners have been sent to the gallows.

View image on Twitter

The regime in Iran is fearing a repeat of widespread protests mirroring those seen rocking its very pillars back in 2009. In response, Iranian regime security forces are seen raiding homes of a long slate of political and human rights activists in Iran, most specifically those supporting the main opposition group, People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

This YouTube video shows a brave Iranian activists declaring “My Vote is Regime Change” on May 19th when the regime held its elections.

Rest assured Iran will ramp up its domestic crackdown as rifts in its senior hierarchy continue to deepen. To add insult to Iran’s injury, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson mentioned his support for regime change through backing domestic opposition at a June 14th congressional hearing.

Looking abroad, Iran took advantage of the nuclear deal to first convince Russia to launch its Syria campaign in September 2015 and provide the air support needed to help prop up the Bashar Assad dictatorship. Prolonged death and destruction resulted as Syria is bearing nearly half a million dead and over 12 million internally and externally displaced.

Iraq has also seen the wrath of Iran’s foreign intervention. Under the pretext of the fight against ISIS and the US-led coalition providing air coverage, Tehran’s proxies are literally changing the social fabric of Iraq’s Sunni provinces.

ISIS may have been defeated in Iraq, but the battle to establish stability and true Iraqi sovereignty has only just begun. Iran’s influence runs deep in this country despite the US spending $3 trillion of its resources, and thanks to Obama’s premature troop departure handing over Baghdad to Tehran in a silver plate.

Yemen and Iran’s support for the Houthi proxies is no better story. As Obama focused solely on preserving his legacy-defining nuclear deal with Iran, the mullahs continued to support the Houthis financially, logistically and with crucial arms supplies. The country will not see peace unless a strong will is adopted to end Tehran’s deadly involvement.

Iran’s mullahs have also been fast advancing their ballistic missile program, all in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. Knowing the Obama administration would fail in taking any punishing actions, Tehran carried out numerous test launches after the Iran nuclear deal signing and continued to do so after Obama left office.

The Trump administration has slapped three rounds of sanctions against Iran. In one instance Tehran cancelled plans for one missile test launch. The mullahs need these test launches to maintain face and curb many internal issues amongst its already dwindling social base.

Moreover, Tehran’s ballistic missiles have become a leverage to threaten the Middle East. As North Korea continues its ballistic missile advances, a possible trade between Pyongyang and Tehran could be devastating for future regional stability and possibly even world peace.

“And it’s clear that the regime’s behavior is only getting worse. Their continued violations of the agreement; their work with North Korea on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles only continues to grow… North Korea is already perilously close to the point where they can miniaturize a nuclear weapon, put it on an intercontinental ballistic missile and hit targets in the United States. And the day after North Korea has that capability, the regime in Tehran will have it as well simply by signing a check,” said John Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN at a recent Iranian opposition rally in Paris.

Reports also indicate Iran is continuing to focus activities with the objective of obtaining nuclear weapons.

In a recent publication the state of Hamburg in Germany reports “there is no evidence of a complete about-face in Iran’s atomic polices in 2016” [after the Islamic Republic signed the JCPOA deal with Western powers in 2015, aimed at restricting Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief]. Iran sought missile carrier technology necessary for its rocket program.”

For the road ahead, the Trump administration should adopt a firm policy of first inflicting the true nature of strict measures implemented in the JCPOA, especially the tough inspections of all facilities and holding Tehran in violation without any reservation.

GOP Senators have made a call on President Trump to find Iran in non-compliance with the nuclear accord. Tehran has enjoyed far too much time to cheat its way around the deal and Washington should bring an end to this.

Targeting the core entity responsible for these measures is key. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is involved in domestic crackdown, foreign meddling and the mullahs’ nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. To this end, designating this entity as a foreign terrorist organization is long overdue.

Finally, the Trump administration should lead the international community to first bring an end to the highly flawed appeasement policy with Iran. This will lead to the world standing alongside the Iranian people and their organized opposition movement, symbolized in the National Council of Resistance of Iran, in bringing about true change in order to establish freedom, democracy and a non-nuclear Iran peacefully coexisting with all its neighboring countries.

Iran lobby gets excited over nothing

The State Department officially notified Congress on Wednesday that Iran has met all its commitments under the Obama-negotiated nuclear agreement. The certification is required every 90 days and the previous administration dutifully rubberstamped it each time.

What was unusual is that this approval was the first under the Trump administration and was being closely watched by regime supporters and foes alike. The decision to provide the approval was being loudly hailed and trumpeted by the Iran lobby, especially the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a known pro-Iran lobby, as a sign that the nuclear deal was working and even U.S. President Donald Trump had to admit so.

In the immortal words of ESPN college football analyst Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend!”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the nuclear deal has failed to squash Iran’s ability and determination to develop atomic weapons, arguing that the country’s ambitions still threaten international peace and security, according to The Washington Post.

“An unchecked Iran has the potential to follow the same path as North Korea and take the world along with it,” Tillerson said in remarks to reporters in the formal setting of the State Department’s Treaty Room. “The United States is keen to avoid a second piece of evidence that strategic patience is a failed approach.”

The White House has decided to conduct a top-to-bottom review of its Iran policy, including an evaluation of the deal officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. To this end, the granting of approval was a pro forma act and means relatively little moving forward.

“With this certification, President Trump must now uphold the United States’ obligations and renew the sanctions waivers,” said NIAC president Trita Parsi. “If not, Trump will place the U.S. in violation of its commitments and be responsible for unilaterally killing the nuclear deal.”

Parsi is correct in saying President Trump can effectively kill the Iran nuclear deal in a heartbeat by not renewing sanction waivers granted by the Obama administration. He, however, misses the entire point of the Trump administration’s review, aimed at finally tying together all of Iran’s actions in areas such as human rights, support for terrorism, and active military campaigns against its neighbors.

This was the crucial missing link in the Obama administration’s approach to Iran, willing to excuse Iran on a number of issues and delink the regime from the agreement.

Support the Assad regime as it drops chemical weapons on civilians? Not a problem.

Busy executing thousands of Iranian citizens and political dissidents? Go for it.

Allowing the beating and mistreatment of Iranian women for violations of moral codes and denying them education and job opportunities? Okay by us.

The effort to appease the regime only enabled and emboldened the mullahs, and now the Trump administration has to do the heavy lifting and hard work the Obama administration couldn’t and wouldn’t do, which is why this review will be so critical.

In a slap at the Obama administration that negotiated alongside the P5+1 for the deal, Tillerson said, “The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran.”

Congress has introduced bills extending U.S. sanctions against Iran related to its alleged support of terrorism, human rights violations and missile tests. Lawmakers have put the legislation on pause, however, because of the impact the bills could have in Iran’s presidential election scheduled for next month.

  •   Should the U.S. confront Iran directly by using military force against proxies such as the Lebanese Hizb’allah and Afghan mercenaries in Syria?
  •   Should Washington re-impose a broad swath of sanctions on Iran and target the commercial enterprises of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)?
  •   Should the Trump administration affirmatively embrace and recognize Iranian dissident groups, such as the National Council of Resistance of Iran, and focus efforts on their inclusion back into Iran?

All these questions and more will have to be part of the White House review.

The administration is inclined to adopt a “more rigorous application of the tools at its disposal,” a senior White House official told Foreign Policy, referring to sanctions policy. Among the options under consideration: broadening U.S. sanctions to include much larger chunks of the Iranian economy linked to the IRGC.

In his remarks, Tillerson focused not only on the nuclear deal, but also on what he called Iran’s “alarming and ongoing provocations that export terror and violence.”

He specifically cited Iran’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Houthi rebels in Yemen, as well as hostility to Israel, the harassment of U.S. naval vessels plying the Persian Gulf and cyberattacks targeting the United States and its Gulf allies.

“Iran spends its treasure and time disrupting peace,” he said.

Time is of the essence considering the upcoming April 25th meeting between Iran and the P5+1 in Vienna for a quarterly review of the accord.

But President Trump doesn’t have to tear up the deal to tighten the screws on Iran. The agreement, which is not a treaty, provides broad leeway to signatory governments in interpreting its terms, and the Trump White House is mulling taking a much more forceful stance on enforcing the deal to the letter.

There are already signs that the Trump administration is using existing legal authorities in a more forceful manner than its predecessor. Last Thursday, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Sohrab Soleimani, the brother of IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani, for his role in abuses in Iran’s prisons. And in February, the Treasury Department also blacklisted eight IRGC-linked organizations, including an official based in Lebanon.

At the end of the review, the question of whether or not to keep the nuclear agreement may not exactly be centered on the agreement itself, but rather on whether or not the cost of keeping the pact intact in place is too high compared to the cost of not containing Iran as it expands into Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen, along with new threats to Bahrain and other Gulf states.

Iran Irony: IRGC And State Firms Are Benefiting From JCPOA

Those who raised the Iran deal flag, mainly in the United States and Europe, claimed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) would boost trade and encourage foreign investment, enhancing Iran’s private sector and eventually downgrading the regime’s tight grip on the economy.

This was back in 2015 when the P5+1 agreed to lift sanctions in return for having Iran’s nuclear program curbed. Now in early 2017, however, signs indicate the main winners in Iran are none other than state-owned companies. This means Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the terrorist-supporting Revolutionary Guards are enjoying JCPOA benefits.

At least 90 of the nearly 110 agreements, totaling nearly $80 billion, involve such state-controlled companies. This includes the National Iranian Oil Company, parallel to others run by regime pension funds and massive conglomerates of semi-public nature.

Despite a long slate of harsh remarks made by Iran’s hardliners against the JCPOA, a recent Reuters study shows those businesses answering directly to Khamenei are benefiting most from the JCPOA.

 

Many deals, spanning the energy, infrastructure, pharmaceuticals and other sectors, remain in the preliminary stage. Iran’s foreign partners mainly include France, Germany, Italy, Russia and South Korea.

Iran’s “Setad Ejraiye Farman-e Hazrat-e Emam,” also known as the Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam and best known as Khamenei’s personal empire, has been the main benefactor of the highly flawed nuclear pact. This entity has stakes in and control over nearly all of Iran’s economy and benefits significantly through the JCPOA.

A 2013 Reuters probe shed light on Setad’s $95 billion empire, established through illegally seizing thousands of properties owned by business people, Iranians living abroad and religious minorities.

“A major network of front companies controlled by Iran’s leadership” is how the U.S. Treasury Department described Setad as it sanctioned the massive entity. Through the JCPOA, however, this conglomerate has enjoyed doing business with foreign companies.

One of the three such deals signed with foreign companies involves a $10 billion oil refinery construction plan. While Khamenei may not personally own these companies, his shadow—described as supervision—is essentially routing all invested finances.

In the past 18 months Khamenei-controlled companies, including the IRGC conglomerate, have sealed deals with foreign companies valued at over $11 billion.

It is a known fact that Tehran maintains a heavy hand over the economy, providing circumstances allowing state-controlled firms to acquire most business deals made possible after sanctions were lifted. The private sector makes up a mere 20% of Iran’s economy, according to official estimates.

To this end, private companies have received a dismal 17 deals, including a hotel management contract sealed most probably because of the French partner’s chief executive being the brother of Eshaq Jahangiri, Iran’s vice president.

The first slate of investments inked for Iran is most likely to strengthen state power, meaning Khamenei, counter to any hopes raised prematurely by JCPOA supporters. The supreme leader enjoys vast control, especially in the IRGC, through which he pursues his Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Lebanon policies.

Conglomerates, or foundations, whose chiefs are appointed directly by Khamenei, were the recipients of five of the 90 deals. Several of these entities enjoy widespread business transactions and not being obligated to pay full taxes. This includes Astan Qods Razavi, a vast religious institution controlling at least 36 subsidiary companies and entities.

One such firm is the Razavi Oil & Gas Development Company that sealed a preliminary agreement with Italy’s Saipem, also an oil and gas company.

The IRGC, known for its domestic crackdown and dispatching tens of thousands of Shiite militia members and arms throughout the region, is also considered a major destination point of JCPOA benefits.

The IRGC controls or has large stakes in four of the 90 deals sealed with the Iranian regime. And of course, Khamenei enjoys full hegemony over the IRGC. Despite remaining U.S. sanctions banning any “significant” business transactions with the IRGC, many of its front companies are free of any blacklisting.

Three of the four mentioned deals are signed with companies with strong ties to the IRGC and yet are not sanctioned. And to add insult to injury, the fourth company is on sanctions and yet enjoys involvement in a foreign deal through indirect routes.

Loopholes remain in the sanction regime imposed against Iran, all resulting from an appeasement/engagement approach adopted by former president Barack Obama. This is a gap in need of closing at a policy level.

“Despite a decline in sanctions… the Iranian economy is suffering from recession. The Iranian economy is under the control of the regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei and the IRGC. They are the only one who will benefit from trade with Iran and not the Iranian people,” said Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi in a conference. Rajavi is president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group of Iranian dissident entities, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

Debate over the JCPOA’s future remains a major issue. If kept intact despite all its flaws, the U.S. should fully implement all articles and have each and every loophole sealed. This initiative can be coupled with further sanctions punishing Iran’s lethal meddling across the Middle East, pursuing a dangerous ballistic missile program and atrocious human rights violations.

Originally published in Forbes

Why the US Should Target Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

The possibility of the Trump White House blacklisting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) is causing enormous tension in Tehran, as the regime understands the political, economic — and, perhaps most importantly — geopolitical consequences of such a move.

An Iranian opposition group has scheduled a Tuesday press conference to provide new information about the IRGC Quds Force “command headquarters for terrorist training of foreign mercenaries and a number of overt and covert training centers” across Iran, according to the online statement.

The IRGC was established supposedly to safeguard the “Islamic Revolution.” The FTO designation of this enormously important Tehran entity would further toughen US President Donald Trump’s push on Iran.

The IRGC is in full control of the mullahs’ cherished ballistic missile program, used especially to lift morale within the regime’s dwindling and highly fragile social base.

Washington has considered Tehran a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984, as the regime has continuously armed, trained and financed a conglomerate of terrorist groups in the Middle East — mainly Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen.

Designating the IRGC, an official armed force, rather than another militia group, would be unprecedented. It would send a signal to Iran that the new US administration is targeting the very core of its apparatus — one that also enjoys significant leverage over its economy.

The IRGC is the leading force behind Iran’s nuclear programballistic missile driveinvolvement in Syria and other states and atrocious domestic human rights violations. The FTO designation would ban any economic transactions and relations with IRGC-affiliated companies, thereby significantly curbing its access to the revenue needed to pursue all the above-mentioned ambitions.

There are already signs of increasing concerns in this regard having a considerable effect.

The France-based international oil and gas French company Total has hinged its plans for a $2 billion project in Iran in the summer on US sanctions waivers, which now seem unlikely, to say the least, with the Trump administration imposing a major policy overhaul.

Companies across the world are already described as wary about doing business with Iran. The FTO designation would bring an end to all the leeway provided for foreign businesses to enjoy working with entities that may be connected with the IRGC.

And while some argue that an FTO designation for the IRGC would result in Iran’s abandoning ship on the nuclear deal reached with the P5+1 in July 2015, they are absolutely wrong. Tehran needs the accord more than any other party, as crippling international sanctions were taking their toll on its economy. And rest assured that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei would never have blessed such a pact were better options available.

The Iranian opposition has a history of shedding important light on the IRGC’s destructive roles, and calling for necessary action in this regard.

Iran’s “nuclear and missile program is against the Iranian people’s interest and must be stopped,” Maryam Rajavi, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRIsaid recently.

The NCRI has welcomed the Trump administration’s recent round of sanctions against Tehran and earlier proposed measures aimed at “banning all deals and trade with IRGC-affiliated companies.”

The Trump administration is now facing a very important opportunity to deliver the message that the mullahs deserve to hear. In so doing, it will be on the right side of history where supporting the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom and democracy through peaceful regime change is concerned.

Originally published in Algemeiner

Trump Must Pressure Iran

Iran was involved in a long slate of aggressive measures up to the very doorsteps of President Donald Trump taking the helm in Washington. This concerning pattern of escalating extremism ironically increased following the Iran nuclear deal sealed between the P5+1 and Tehran, despite many in the West arguing such an accord would rein in the mullahs. And now, a new U.S. president has rightfully pinpointed “radical Islamic terrorists,” of which the root lies in Iran.

Further to the mullahs’ advantage was the Obama administration’s reluctance to adopt any serious stance against Iran running its Shiite extremist rampage across the region. Obama’s White House only imposed sanctions considered anything but harsh.

This paved the path for Iran to unleash its Shiite puppets and proxies throughout the region, cementing sectarian strife and as a result pushing more Sunni youth to join ISIS and other radicals.

Obama’s nuclear deal, with all its flaws made evidently clear, only placed speed bumps in Iran’s quest for the bomb. This came at the heavy price of America losing the trust of its regional allies, disheartening them also in their efforts against Iran-supported terrorism in their backyards.

President Donald Trump has rightfully pinpointed the root of all crises in the Middle East.

“We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth,” he said.

This is exactly where the Trump administration has an extraordinary opportunity to begin launching a widespread strategy vis-à-vis Tehran, targeting specifically the disease Iran is spreading: meddling across the region and fueling sectarian emotions.

While the international community was focused sealing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran used the opportunity to storm Syria and Iraq with Shiite militias dispatched from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and its own paramilitary forces, all commanded by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

While Obama continuously boasted the JCPOA campaign, Iran’s Middle East interference reached a point where 11 Arab states unprecedentedly voiced their rage by accusing Iran of supporting terrorism and completely disrupting the sheer Middle East fabric.

Iran’s atrocities had reached the point that even Secretary John Kerry’s State Department cited Tehran’s scope of “activities to destabilize the region” in designating Iran as the world’s state sponsor of terrorism.

President Trump and his team can easily take action by simply covering the numerous loopholes left by the Obama administration. U.N. travel bans on senior Iranian figures, including IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani. This individual is known to travel across the Middle East and literally wreak havoc by commanding Iran’s Shiite militias.

Iran has also taken advantage of Obama’s negligence — aiming to safeguard his previous Iran-JCPOA legacy — to pursue its ballistic missile ambitions and carry out major test launches. This has been in violation of U.N. Resolution 2231, and President Trump can easily begin holding Tehran accountable.

Iran came to the nuclear negotiations following continuous revelations made by Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance (NCRI) and under pressure from international sanctions. This policy has worked once and it can work again. President Trump and his team should care less about Iran’s remarks or reactions in threatening to “burn” the JCPOA.

Iran’s financial pipeline, established through a windfall of billions provided to Iran under the nuclear pact, should come to an end, and licenses revoked for Airbus and Boeing deals. Iran’s airlines are known to provide manpower and weapons to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and Lebanese Hizb’allah.

These efforts only promote further killings and, as previously explained, instigate a Shiite-Sunni conflict across the Middle East. Iran is profiting from the existence of ISIS, using this phenomenon as a pretext to justify its presence in Iraq and Syria.

President Trump can also team up with Congress under a new bipartisan effort aiming to curb Iran’s destabilizing role in the region. A strong foundation can be found in the Preventing Destabilization of Iraq and Syria Act of 2016 aiming to mandate new sanctions against foreign states and terrorist organizations.

This initiative must include Iran, as the mullahs are known to “threaten the peace or stability of Iraq or Syria,” as the bill explains. U.S. allies can benefit extremely, especially the Gulf Sunnis that Obama sidelined in the past eight years.

“The regime in Tehran is the source of crisis in the region and killings in Syria; it has played the greatest role in the expansion and continuation of ISIS. Peace and tranquility in the region can only be achieved by evicting this regime from the region,” said NCRI President Maryam Rajavi.

The NCRI is an umbrella dissident group including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

And yet the nail in the coffin for the mullahs would be for the Trump administration to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people in their struggle to establish freedom and democracy. Nearly two dozen former senior U.S. government officials provided such a game-plan to President in a hand-delivered letter encouraging his administration to work with the NCRI.

Such initiatives send clear messages to Tehran about the unacceptable nature of its current involvement in the flashpoint Middle East. As President Trump takes actions to diminish Iran’s role across the region, especially from backing Assad, sectarian friction will diminish and all efforts can focus on ISIS.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/01/trump_must_pressure_iran.html#ixzz4XbuXARGf
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Why is Iran, with the 2nd largest reserves, importing natural gas?

By Heshmat Alavi

The sheer fact that Iran, sitting on the world’s 2nd largest natural gas reserves, second only to Russia, is forced to import up to 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year from Turkmenistan, its northern neighbor, sheds interesting light on the regime’s true economic status. This comes at a time when many European countries have weighed increasing economic relations with Iran.

Recent reports indicate Turkmenistan brought its gas exports to Iran to a halt amidst rising tension and row over debt payments Ashgabat has been demanding from Tehran. Iran has violated previous payment terms, forcing Turkmenistan to make such a decision. Talks on the matter showed no positive forecast and Iran continues to owe at least $1.8 billion for purchasing Turkmen gas supplied back in 2007 and 2008. Tehran claims the amount ranges between $600 million to $1.5 billion.

Iranian state media reported Tehran reaching a five year deal and coming to terms to discuss the debt through the course of coming months. Their counterparts in Ashgabat have yet to confirm, however.

The main issue at hand is why is Iran, with such enormous natural gas reserves, even importing such gas from another country? If Iran is producing 700 million cubic meters of gas each day, is it not actually embarrassing to import natural gas for domestic consumption? What happened to the economic boom promised following the highly fanned, yet flawed, nuclear deal sealed between the P5+1 and Iran?

Freezing winter cold conditions years before led to reports of “severe shortages across 20 Iranian province, forcing the country to raise gas imports from it northeastern neighbor…” But why? Why wasn’t, and still isn’t, Iran’s natural gas infrastructure able to provide necessary service for all households?

With such an abundant God-given supply in reserves Iran should be providing state-sponsored gas service, parallel to exporting natural gas abroad. However, lack of funds have maintained Iran’s domestic gas distribution network unable to link its southern gas-rich regions to the country’s north.

If Tehran actually sought to resolve this dilemma, the billions in assets unfrozen following the boasted Iran nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, could have easily provided for this and other much needed domestic needs to actually benefit the Iranian people.

Unfortunately, Iran is known to waste billions in pursuing its warmongering policies across the Middle East, from its involvement in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad relies on billions of dollars and tens of thousands of Revolutionary Guards and Shiite proxy foot-soldiers to remain in power, while massacring more and more innocent Syrians.

Shiite militias in Iraq enjoy vast support from Iran in their so-called fight against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL), while launching horrific cleansing campaigns against the Sunni minority population. Shiite Houthisand the Lebanese Hezbollah also continue to receive large supplies of arms and financial support from Tehran, further destabilizing the entire Middle East.

This spike in sectarian warfare has in fact increased Daesh’s recruitment efficiency, as it continues to wreak havoc with attacks in various European cities and beyond.

Such measures, alongside political reservations over future U.S.-Iran relations under a new administration after January 20th, are reasons why many firms remain highly suspicious of investing in Iran.

UK-oil giant British Petroleum “has opted out of the first wave of agreements to develop oil and gas reserves in Iran after the lifting of international sanctions,” the Financial Times reported. This is despite the fact that BP enjoys “corporate roots in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company responsible for the first Iranian oil discovery in 1908,” and yet “is taking a more cautious approach ahead of a Donald Trump presidency which threatens renewed diplomatic tensions with Tehran.”

Unfortunately, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry predicted himself, the money released following sanctions reliefs is being allocated to Iran-backed terrorist groups and other malevolent objectives. To this end, it is quite obvious why the Iranian people will continue to suffer and never actually enjoy any benefit from the nuclear pact windfall of released billions.

The higher interest of the Iranian people lies in preventing the regime from continuing its meddling across the Middle East.

“The regime in Tehran is the source of crisis in the region and killings in Syria; it has played the greatest role in the expansion and continuation of ISIS. Peace and tranquility in the region can only be achieved by evicting this regime from the region,” said Maryam Rajavi, President of the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran.

The international community, and very specifically the European Union, should also end its appeasement policy that has provided billions in cash and gold to Iran. Such money cannot be traced and Iran easily allocates these funds for evil purposes. Any and all assets unfrozen for Iran must be guaranteed to directly benefit the Iranian people.

Originally published in Vocal Europe