Donald Trump’s Possible Iran-To-Do List

One year into the highly boasted Iran nuclear deal, the work of the Obama administration dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the world witnessed how Iran returned the favor. Tehran continued to cause havoc across Syria with a conglomerate of Shiite militias rampaging and massacring innocent civilians. Iran also launched provocative war drills further destabilizing the flashpoint Persian Gulf region. We were also witness to how Qassem Suleimani, the notorious commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, was paraded in Falluja, Mosul and Aleppo. All in all, Tehran has taken advantage of Obama’s craftsmanship to accelerate its aggression across the region. As a result, President Donald Trump has before him a slate of available to-do measures against Iran.

Washington, under Obama, remained unfortunately mute in response to Tehran threatening America’s Middle East allies through known saber-rattling tactics. The Obama White House continuously ignored Iran’s threats and only responded with non-nuclear sanctions, aimed mainly at maintaining face amongst his critics.

To this end, Obama’s foreign policy in 2016 specifically paved the path for Iran to embark on a more emboldened journey throughout the Middle East.

The JCPOA shortcomings have been discussed to a full extent, as we have witnessed Iran’s nuclear drive only delayed, especially since Tehran has twice exceeded its heavy water production limit. In the process the West ear Deal, has lost significant leverage over Iran.

President Trump has the opportunity to adopt a policy aimed at isolating Iran by making Iranian intransigence come at a high cost for the regime. The Trump administration can take on issues that have always been vital with Iran, and far beyond the JCPOA’s reach. This most specifically involves a strong approach vis-à-vis Iran fueling Middle East crises through the spread of its Islamic fundamentalism mentality.

Through the course of JCPOA talks, Iran used the opportunity to dispatch tens of thousands of Shiite proxy militias from Afghanistan, Pakistan, its own forces and … to Syria to shore up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. This sparked eleven Arab states to take unprecedented measures voiced in a recent letter accusing Tehran of supporting Middle East terrorism and demanding a halt in Iran meddling in their internal affairs. Even the U.S. State Department could not neglect this troubling reality and once again designated Iran as the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism.

Needed now is a comprehensive drive to pressure Iran. The tools and assets available before President Trump are plenty and the first step in the right path would be to correctly and strongly enforce existing sanctions. A policy which, unfortunately, the Obama administration simply refused to abide by.

Senior Iranian officials, including Suleimani, are under a United Nations travel ban that the previous administration failed to enforce. This goes alongside Iran feeling no fear of any accountability as it launched numerous ballistic missile tests and streamlined frequent arms shipments to Yemen, neglecting the U.N. embargo in this very regard. The JCPOA was enshrined by U.N. Resolution 2231, and yet such measures by Iran have gone without any international response, thanks to the Obama administration’s continued silence. Here is another platform where the Trump administration can make it crystal clear for Tehran that the tides have changed and the mullahs’ can no longer count on Obama’s golden era.

Iran has also enjoyed the benefits of a major windfall resulting from the JCPOA, and President Trump can bring this to an end. Licenses for Airbus and Boeing deals can be revoked by the U.S. Treasury Department and conditioned on the mullahs halting their use of various Iranian airlines to transfer personal and arms to Assad and the Lebanese Hezbollah. And Iraq should be pressured by the U.S. to restrict its airspace to Iranian planes flying for such dangerous intents.

While the Obama administration drastically failed to live up to its Syria red line, the new administration in Washington has before it a chance to draw clear lines in the sand.

  1. Assad and Iran’s militias must be ordered to end all hostilities and attacks, especially against civilians that have resulted in uncountable cases of massacres.

  2. Iran must pull out all Shiite militias from Syria and dismantle the Popular Mobilization Units, acting as the Iraq IRGC parallel to the Iraqi classic army.

  3. Iran’s human rights violations must be curbed, especially the horrific practice of executions, including women and juveniles, public floggings and limb amputations. All this has continued under the so-called “moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

  4. Despite its flaws, the JCPOA regulations must be abided by Iran and enforced meaningfully by the international community, bringing an end to all existing loopholes.

This would resemble the right start for the Trump administration to springboard into reining in Iran’s regime. And yet, the Trump administration has potential to further broaden its agenda and bring an end to all of the mullahs’ unacceptable practices. A recent letter, signed by a rare bi-partisan slate of former senior U.S. government officials, and hand-delivered to President Trump encourages Washington to work with the Iranian opposition represented by the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

Iran’s regime has left no choice but for the U.S. and the international community to start a new campaign of pressuring all its assets to make Tehran understand the costs of continuing such behavior. Rest assured that after four decades of failed appeasement, the only option available is a comprehensive agenda of tough policies to confront the mullahs.

Originally published in The Daily Caller

IRAN SHIITE MILITIAS ENDANGERING FUTURE OF IRAQ

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By Heshmat Alavi

The regime continues on its path of death and destruction.

Conditions allowing the PMU’s presence and its foreign connections have raised major concerns across the board. Human rights violations and crimes by this group against dissidents in areas retaken from Daesh are amongst the many other reasons intensifying anxieties about the very nature of this alliance. The PMU is also accused of launching revenge attacks and atrocities against displaced Sunnis fleeing these areas.

A strange and disturbing irony lies in the fact that the arms provided by a broad spectrum of the international community are being used for ill purposes.

“Paramilitary militias nominally operating as part of the Iraqi armed forces in the fight against the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) are using arms from Iraqi military stockpiles, provided by the USA, Europe, Russia and Iran, to commit war crimes, revenge attacks and other atrocities,” Amnesty International reported.

The PMU “have used those arms to facilitate the enforced disappearance and abduction of thousands of mainly Sunni men and boys, torture and extrajudicial executions as well as wanton destruction of property,” the alarming statement adds.

The report highlights “four main militias that Amnesty International has documented committing serious human rights violations: Munathamat Badr (Badr Brigades or Badr Organization), Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), Kata’ib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades) and the Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades).”

Other international human rights organizations have time and again exposed the sectarian crimes committed by PMU ranks and files.

“Human Rights Watch and the UN have previously blamed the pro-government militias for perpetrating atrocities against civilians,” Alaraby reported.

“Members of Shia militias, who the Iraqi government has included among its state forces, abducted and killed scores of Sunni residents in a central Iraq town and demolished Sunni homes,” HRW warned back in January 2016.

While such warnings fell to deaf ears, HRW demanded from Baghdad to “prevent militias with records of serious abuses from taking part in planned military operations for the city of Mosul.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein cited strong evidence that Kata’ib Hezbollah perpetrated atrocities against a Sunni community.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubair has gone as far as describing this group as extremely sectarian and run by Iranian military officers. Topping this list of commanders is none other than Revolutionary Guards Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani.

The Iraqi Parliament in late 2016 adopted a bill recognizing the PMU as an official security entity, throwing “a wrench into efforts to adopt a national settlement proposal — basically a grand plan to abolish sectarian and ethnic quotas,” as described in Al-Monitor.

This law is in fact in violation of the Iraqi Constitution Article 9 banning the establishment of any militia group not falling under the command and control of the armed forces. The PMU is a force parallel to the Iraqi military – much like Iran’s IRGC alongside its classic army – and not part of its structure and framework. Their very existence is in violation of the Iraqi Constitution and as a result lacks any legality.

It is an undeniable fact that the PMU pursues the fundamental interests of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, receiving their orders directly from Tehran. The Iranian opposition, itself the target of the Iranian regime’s attacks, has time and again warned of Tehran’s increasing meddling in Iraq.

“Commander of Iraq’s al-Hashd al-Shaabi militant group affiliated to the Iranian regime, referring to the possibility that these mobilization forces are present in Syria to help Assad regime for more killings and massacre of Syrian people, claimed that Hashd al-Shaabi could help Syria to get rid of terrorism,” according to a report posted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group of Iranian dissident organizations including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and others.

With a sectarian structure, the PMU first poses a major threat for Iraq and its sovereignty, and will move on to spread their disease across the Middle East. If the international community seeks to calm and resolve crises plaguing the Middle East, one very necessary step is to bring an end to Iran’s meddling across the region.

As NCRI President Maryam Rajavi explained, “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.”

Originally published in FrontPage Magazine

What is Iran’s ‘national treasure’ in Iraq?

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Popular Mobilization Units, or Hashid al-Shaabi, in Iraq

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently described Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), a conglomerate of extremist Shiite militia groups, as the country’s “national treasure.”

This entire entity is believed to be comprised of mercenaries with bloody pasts of atrocious crimes, especially targeting the Sunni communities of Iraq and Syria.

“Iraq’s Shiite militias are becoming as great a danger as Daesh (ISIS/ISIL),” Phillip Smyth had said in his in-depth Foreign Policy piece back in 2014. Continue reading “What is Iran’s ‘national treasure’ in Iraq?”