ANALYSIS: Iranian concerns heightened after US midterm elections

Al Arabiya

With the dust settling after the US midterm elections, a look at the impact of this important development for the Iranian regime is called for. It has become a known fact that Tehran’s mullahs seek to wait out the presidency of Donald Trump in hopes of him not being re-elected come November 2020.

In line with this train of thought, the Iranian regime was closely following the US midterm elections, rooting for the Democrats to take over all of Congress. This rooting was seen specifically in Tehran’s lobby efforts in support for Democrat candidates.

Not see in the media was the reaction from Iran as reality continues to sink in for the regime and the road ahead looks even more troubling, in their own words.

“Maximum pressure”

Different approaches with similar objectives is how the “Youth Journalists Club,” an outlet known to be linked to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Basij paramilitary entity, analyzes the remarks and actions seen from US Democrats, especially in pursuit of America’s foreign policy.

“Trump, through imposing his ‘maximum pressure’ policy… is eventually seeking regime change in Iran… and the Democrats have never denied their dreams of regime change in Iran,” a YJC piece reads.

“If senior Trump administration officials, such as National Security Advisor John Bolton, have a history of taking part in meetings held by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader and the individual most likely to become the new House Speaker, has no better track record.”

Hatred & enmity

Kayhan Daily, and especially the editorial written by Hossein Shariatmadari, are considered the mouthpiece of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

“If the Europeans and Americans, Democrats and Republicans agree on one subject, it is their enmity against [Iran’s regime],” the November 9 editorial reads. “The evidence of this claim is in the actions of European countries and these two American parties in at least the past five years… Did [US Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo not recently say we have a large coalition supporting us in our sanctions? European countries and some Middle East countries are supporting the sanctions. Even the three European countries remaining loyal to the [2015 Iran nuclear deal] are supporting the sanctions.”

“Some parties are happy about the Democrats taking control over the House of Representatives. Does this not mean we have no capability to run the country and are placing all our eggs in a basket several thousands of kilometers away?” he added in mockery.

“History shows the Democrats have no lesser hatred for us than the Republicans, and they have actually provided twice the support for sanctions against [Iran’s regime].”

US sanctions

Following last Monday’s formal announcement of the second wave of US sanctions, it was expected for the Iranian regime to claim they will overcome such measures – all intended to save face. There are certain remarks that stand out and provide an image into a grim future for Tehran’s rulers.

“When they sanction the banking system, it impacts everything,” Iranian regime President Hassan Rouhani said in his remarks on Saturday. “They have targeted the banking system, oil exports, meaning they are targeting the entire country’s revenue… They have prepared a long list of banks, adding to that their branches, along with a flight company…”

Other officials are taking the entire issue one step further and pinpointing the regime’s main source of concerns in such circumstances.

“This year and the next, [Iran’s] currency will sink in value to such an extent that people will pour into the streets due to extremely dire living conditions… clashes will begin! Who is behind all this! The PMOI/MEK… and in the middle of all this mayhem, it just needs two people to chant one or two slogans,” said Hassan Abbasi, known as a theoretician close to the IRGC and Khamenei.

On the ground

It goes without saying these sanctions are the harshest imposed on the Iranian regime in history, with John Bolton making it crystal clear more such embargoes are in the making against Tehran.

It is becoming obvious that as Tehran’s international crises and isolation grow, this phenomenon is fueling the main faceoff on the ground that will define the future: the ongoing forty-year struggle between the Iranian people and an oppressive regime known for its crackdown and human rights violations.

As the regime weakens, Iran’s powder keg society will advance day by day. The days of those sitting on the throne in Tehran are numbered.

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Warmongering Iran and its mounting regional and international isolation

Al Arabiya

The international and regional isolation against Iran is once again becoming a concern for the regime.

Global condemnations over a recent attack on Iraq-based Kurdish dissident groups and the executions of three Kurdish political prisoners resulted in a variety of rebukes concerning Tehran’s warmongering policies in the Middle East and their terrorism in the West.

As a result, the clerical regime is becoming weaker on the international stage like never before. Important now is how to evolve and raise the level to benefit the Iranian people.

Regional troubles

Last Monday, US Vice President Mike Pence condemned Iran’s missile attack in Iraqi Kurdistan. One day later, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert added to this condemnation by describing the Iranian regime as a disrupting element in the region and a bad actor across the globe.

On that note, Iran’s malign influence in Syria came under fire in the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday as members warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib, the last area where Syrian opposition forces and millions of displaced civilians are located.

France, the Netherlands, Kuwait and Turkey called for a complete halt to military attacks by the Iran-backed Bashar Assad regime and Russia. US Ambassador Nikki Haley upped the tone against Russia, Iran and Assad, accusing these parties of not showing any interesting in reaching a political solution. Iran’s role in Assad’s bloody attacks will not go unnoticed, she warned.

Europe threatened

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) shed new light on the regime’s terror apparatus. At a press conference held in London on Wednesday, the NCRI provided new details over Tehran’s terrorist activities in the Green Continent, calling on European countries to close the Iranian regime’s embassies, as they are being used by Tehran as nests for their spies, and expel Iranian regime operatives from their soil.

Members of the British Houses of Lords and Commons took part in this press conference, emphasizing on the necessity to have Iran’s Vienna-based diplomat and other elements, arrested for their role in plotting to bomb the June 30th Iranian opposition convention in Paris, face justice. One MP presented a plan to the British Parliament condemning Iran’s terrorist activities in Europe.

Arab action

The Arab League also pitched in by condemning the Iranian regime’s meddling in regional countries. The 150th Arab League session ended this week with the Foreign Ministers Committee issuing a statement expressing grave concerns over Tehran’s provoking religions sectarianism in the Middle East.

The statement also condemned the Iranian regime’s support for Yemen’s Houthi militias and their launching of ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia.

Interesting are the incoherent remarks heard form Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi, denying Tehran’s meddling and claiming this regime has “constantly called for a neighborly policy based on trust!”

Unprecedented tone

After enjoying eight years of unbridled appeasement from the United States under the Obama administration, eyebrows began raising in Tehran again after Washington held this regime responsible for any attack by its proxies in Iraq against U.S. interests.

The Trump White House issued a statement warning it will “respond swiftly and decisively” to any such attacks that render injury to Americans or damage to US facilities. The statement by the White House press secretary raised bold accusations against Iran of not preventing recent attacks targeting the US Consulate in Basra and the American Embassy compound in Baghdad.

A view of the Arab League headquarters during a meeting in Cairo on November 19, 2017. (AFP)

 

“Iran did not act to stop these attacks by its proxies in Iraq, which it has supported with funding, training, and weapons,” the statement reads.

“The United States will hold the regime in Tehran accountable for any attack that results in injury to our personnel or damage to United States Government facilities. America will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of American lives,” the statement adds.

On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian went a step further by emphasizing on Iraq’s sovereignty, and expressing grave concerns about Tehran’s missile program development and the transfer of these weapons across the region.

To add insult to injury and despite the Iranian regime’s claims of being able to confront US sanctions, the regime’s OPEC envoy is heard complaining over how Saudi Arabia and Russia are increasing their oil production.

This will eventually balance the oil market and make up for the loss of Iranian oil following the November 4 sanctions Washington has in schedule for Tehran. More insulting is how Russia is treating the Iranian regime even after Tehran’s rulers literally sold-out the Caspian Sea to Moscow.

Final thoughts

The status quo is quite telling about the Iranian regime’s isolation and impasse in the Middle East, and across the globe. This, coupled with nationwide protests and a social unrest inside Iran, provides a very expressive canvas of Tehran’s current balance of power.

Recent remarks by Hossein Alaei, former Revolutionary Guards chief of staff, refers to the Iranian regime’s challenging times.
“Today’s political and economic circumstances in Iran are inappropriate… the people are angry and the state must make important decisions,” he explained.

It goes without saying that the Iranian regime’s domestic crises, facing a powder keg society seeking to bring an end to the clerics’ rule, are of the utmost priority for those on the throne in Tehran.

As a result, regional and global isolation should evolve into the international community as a whole standing shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom and democracy.

ANALYSIS: The reasoning behind Iran’s recent nuclear, military measures

Al Arabiya

The Iranian regime has recently moved up its fall military exercises, due to the re-imposition of US sanctions as they say, and test fired a short-range ballistic missile. This launching comes after a pause of more than a year.

On Monday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei placed what may be a nail in the coffin for any possible negotiations between his regime and the Trump administration.

Parallel to this, while making much lesser noise in the media, is the second return of ten batches of 20 percent enriched uranium that Iran sent to Russia under the 2015 nuclear accord. Iran claims this highly sensitive nuclear material is needed to fuel Tehran’s Research Reactor and threatens to restart the 20 percent uranium enrichment cycle if the deal goes south.

All the while, Iran’s ultraconservative Guardian Council, answering only to Khamenei, has signed measures to bring the regime a step closer to international anti-money-laundering standards. What is the reasoning behind these two threats and one concession?

Missile and military threats

Having the final call on all on all state matters in Iran, especially national security and foreign policy, Khamenei silenced any talk for negotiations with the U.S. From his remarks it is obvious that the Iranian regime is hoping to somehow live through US President Donald Trump’s first term and hope for him to not be reelected.

Back home, with a recent short-range ballistic missile test launch Iran is obviously sending a message to Washington regarding the sanctions. Iran test-fired a missile immediately after Trump came into office. This prompted the famous “on notice” remarks from former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the Trump administration slapping sanctions against the Iranian regime, signaling the new White House would not tolerate such behavior.

Tehran is returning to such practices as US sanctions bear down hard, parallel to protests across the country gaining momentum. Even weekend football matches are turning into scenes where people are chanting “Death to the dictator” in reference to Khamenei, as seen vividly in Ahvaz and Tehran in the past few days.

US sanctions re-installed last week are taking Iran out of the US dollar market, shutting down their access to gold and other precious metals such as aluminum, steel and graphite, automobiles and etc.

Extreme sanctions against the Iranian regime’s energy and banking sectors are set to return in November, with the high potential of an already severely struggling economy completely crumbling. As we speak the country’s currency, the rial, is becoming valueless and all businesses are turning to the black market.

Feeling cornered, will the Iranian regime live up to its threat of blocking the Strait of Hormuz where nearly one-third of the world’s seaborne oil trade passes through? After its first 18 months the Trump administration has shown it will consider such measures as an act of war.

“If the block the Strait of Hormuz we would literally take out all their military on the Strait of Hormuz,” said Ret. Gen. Jack Keane to Fox News recently.

Rest assured the Iranian regime does not wish to instigate a conflict with the US For nearly 40 years now Iran has constantly used proxy forces to attack the US and its regional allies, specifically avoiding direct confrontation through their military.

Interesting reminders

Iran, under growing threats, is known to resort to face-saving measures. As international pressures escalate and facing a restless nation, the Iranian regime desperately needs to maintain a strong posture.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the regime’s Atomic Energy organization, reported recently the returning of a second batch of 20 percent enriched uranium sent to Russia under the 2015 nuclear accord inked by the Obama administration and nixed by Trump back in May as promised during his presidential campaign.

“If the nuclear deal remains alive, the other sides should sell us the fuel and if the nuclear deal dies, then we would feel unimpeded to produce the 20% fuel ourselves,” Kamalvandi threatened, according to the semi-official Fars news agency, known to be associated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

He continued his threatening remarks of Iran being entitled to resume production of 20 percent enriched uranium in 2030. Furthermore, Iran has reopened a nuclear plant recently after remaining idle for nine years.

What shouldn’t go missing is the Iranian regime’s necessity to make such threats being very telling in and of itself. These are signs of a regime in crisis mode and needing to maintain a poker face, knowing their hand has nothing to offer while rivals are breathing down their neck with a full house.

Facing reality

It is, however, crystal clear for the Iranian regime that such a trend of ongoing threats cannot continue. Long gone are the Obama years when Tehran open-handedly imposed its will and continued to wreak havoc across the Middle East while advancing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, all aligned with a ruthlessly repressive domestic crackdown machine.

For example, Iran is now heavily investing on deepening an Atlantic rift between the US and Europe. And with the European Union demanding Iran comply with anti-money-laundering standards specified by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a senior body linked directly to Khamenei is approving measures to place the regime more in line with the globally recognized norms.

Iran is now in desperate need of foreign investments as US sanctions begin to such dry the regime’s access to the global financial market. The FATF, considered the world’s financial-crime watchdog, had in June provided the Iranian regime until October to impose reforms or face drastic consequences.

The main definition of FATF restrictions for the Iranian regime is defined into the hampering of Tehran’s financial support for terror groups, including the Lebanese Hezbollah and others. This has the potential of severely crippling the regime’s influence throughout the Middle East.

Back in June Khamenei called for domestic laws to tackle money laundering inside the country, in an attempt to safeguard the flow of financial support to its proxies abroad. Recent development go to show how dire circumstances are leaving Khamenei no choice but succumbing to such humiliating terms. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

We are only one week into the return of US sanctions and protests across Iran have been gaining continuous momentum ever since the Dec/Jan uprising. Tehran on Saturday and Sunday witnessed the shoe market going on strike as store-owners were protesting high prices and the scarcity of raw material.

The impact of new sanctions will continue to sink in deep, weakening the regime in the face of expanding protests. Prior to November the Iranian regime will be on its knees.

Iran after the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki

Al Arabiya

The Middle East situation on the ground is significantly different in comparison to a short while ago. There were times when Iran sought to become the leading hegemon in the region.

With Tehran’s honeymoon coming to an end after eight years of Obama at the helm in Washington, the regime is finding itself severely marginalized. There are also analysts saying the days of Iran’s clerics in power are numbered, especially with protests spreading throughout the country.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki to discuss a variety of issues, including trade, military, missiles, nuclear weapons and China.

Another topic highly anticipated by many is the Middle East and especially Iran’s destructive role in the Middle East. Trump has been crucial on Tehran, pulling out of a flawed nuclear pact and having a series of new sanctions return against the regime that is already rendering a long list of international companies heading out of Iran. The Helsinki Summit was only promising to add to the regime’s miseries.

President Trump speaks about Iran and the Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington on October 13, 2017. (Reuters)

 

Decision makers

The highly debated Helsinki summit will most likely kick-start a process completely in contrast to the Iranian regime’s interests, especially in Syria. Trump and Putin are expressing hopes their military forces in Syria will enjoy good cooperation. This means no word of Iran on future decisions for whatever is left of this war-devastated land.

When Trump resorts to terms such as the plague of Islamic terrorism, rest assured the Iranian regime is getting the message. Tehran has been the main beneficiary of extremists from all colors wreaking havoc across the Middle East; from Pakistan and Afghanistan all the way to the shores of the Mediterranean. Anyone ever ask how Iran has remained so secure while sitting in the middle of all this mayhem?

Trump continued on the necessity to place Iran’s regime under pressure to prevent its ambitions and activities focusing on supporting violence across the region, adding the US will not allow Tehran take advantage of the international coalition’s successful war against ISIS in Syria.

With all of Iran’s hopes lying on Putin, the Russian president praised his talks with Trump and emphasized conditions are ripe for effective cooperation in Syria. Again, no mentioning of a role for Iran. While Russia’s role in Syria is a very controversial topic, especially with the Russian air force launching massive bombing raids on civilians, Putin’s words mean trouble from Tehran’s perspective.

“We will be cooperating with the US on the war against terrorism and establishing peace,” Putin said. Iran thrives on chaos and any talk of fighting terrorism and establishing peace are a nightmare for this regime, to say the least.

Harsh times

Iran’s plights were already piling prior to Helsinki, with the US imposing sanctions one after another. Tehran is known to be spending huge budgets on Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and extremists in Palestine. And with heavy sanctions set to kick in on August 6th and November 4th, what Iran needs the most now is foreign investment.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had dispatched his senior advisor, former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, to Moscow. Considering today’s circumstances and Iran’s regime feeling the heat from Washington, the message delivered by Velayati was obviously a mayday call asking Putin to refrain from sealing a deal with Trump.

A major embarrassment came after Velayati claimed Moscow is ready to invest a whopping $50 billion in Iran. Putin had other thoughts, however, as Kremlin’s spokesman highlighted he cannot confirm such a claim and that Russia is willing to evaluate the possibility of providing Russian goods in return for Iranian oil.

Iranian MP Hedyatollah Khademi said sarcastically in response, “We thank Russia for providing us goods in return for oil so at least we won’t die of hunger!”

Iran’s regime is fighting for survival, knowing Washington will be demanding their proxies throughout the region to place down their arms, pack their bags and go home. (AP)

 

The first of many

With Tehran losing its grip on Yemen as the Houthis suffer defeats on the ground, Iran’s rulers consider any step back from Syria as the beginning of the end to all their devious regional ambitions of reaching “Quds through Karbala.”

This was a motto Iranian regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini resorted to in justifying the devastating Iran-Iraq War back in the 1980s. Those days are over. Iran’s regime is fighting for its very survival, knowing Washington will be demanding their proxies throughout the region to place down their arms, pack their bags and go home.

The Helsinki Summit also proves that Moscow is no longer interested in anything Tehran can offer. Putin seeks to preserve his own future interests in the Middle East and as sanctions against Iran increase, Tehran’s rulers will lack the money to maintain Kremlin’s political and military support.

As a nail in the coffin for Iran’s regime, Trump said US and Russian national security council representatives will be hammering out the details of Monday’s initial agreements. This means National Security Advisor John Bolton representing Washington’s interests. He’s certainly one American figure the Iranian regime is familiar with.

After seven years of pouring billions into Syria, Helsinki has left Khamenei watching in agony as world powers decide Iran’s future in the region. Add to this escalating protests and strikes across Iran, you have the exact ingredients needed for a recipe for disaster. From Tehran’s viewpoint, of course.

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.

ANALYSIS: After Trump nuclear deal exit, different perspective on Iran sanctions

Al Arabiya

Following the United States’ decision to exit the Iran nuclear deal, we are witnessing the beginning of a significant series of measures against Tehran. Cascading sanctions are in the making and continuing economic relations with Iran would be tantamount to shooting yourself in the foot.

Iran’s economy is on the ropes and Washington knows quite well how to make the ruling clerics understand how their four decades of belligerence will no longer go tolerated. Interesting is how the new US sanctions are targeting the regime, its entities and senior officials, going the Iran apologists camp arguing such measures will hurt the Iranian people.

And these sanctions against Iran’s regime will continue, especially since Tehran believes any back-stepping will lead to devastating defeats in the very near future for its entire apparatus.

Quick glance

The US Treasury Department explains how all pre-JCPOA sanctions will return in two 90 and 180 day phases, while no new contracts will be permitted with Iran. The regime’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its extraterritorial unit, the Quds Force, are in the center of Washington’s crosshairs.

The very significant nature of these sanctions lies in the fact that Washington’s latest endeavor targets Iran’s financial sources, being the root of its domestic crackdown and foreign meddling.

Trump has tweeted how Iran’s military budget has interestingly skyrocketed by 40 percent following the JCPOA, while the accord claimed to seek peace and security across the region. There has been cooperation with the US to sanction an Iran-linked currency exchange network involved in transferring millions of dollars for the IRGC Quds Force.

Such entities, linked directly or indirectly to the IRGC, result in the utmost concerns for Washington as they facilitate the Iranian regime’s measures causing havoc across the Middle East. The US is now also calling on Qatar to end its support for Iran-associated militia groups.

The fact that Middle East countries are supporting Washington’s sanctions against Iran is quite imperative to counter Tehran’s measures to establish and take advantage of financial institutions for its malign activities across the region.

Europe

The Green Continent is not happy about US President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Iran accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Yet it doesn’t need rocket science to understand Europe would never make the strategic mistake of standing alongside the Iranian regime in the face of crippling US sanctions.

The Europeans will eventually find a method to work with their American allies, and rest assured Iran’s regime will be the party suffering from Europe distancing from its market. While there are tariff issues ongoing between Washington & Brussels, facts and numbers speak for themselves:

– US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell emphasizes, “Trump has said US sanctions will include important sections of Iran’s economy. German firms should lower their activities in Iran as soon as possible.”
– Italy’s Eni energy company announced it has no plans for new investments in Iran and from 2019 onward the firm will begin purchasing oil from other countries.
– Back in 2007, European Union/United States relations rendered $1.045 trillion in trade, while the EU’s trade with Iran reached a maximum of $15 billion. It’s not hard to do the math.

An Iranian holding US 100-dollar bills in a shopping center in Tehran on April 10, 2018. (AFP)

Iran’s view

Ahmad Khatami, this week’s Friday prayer imam in Tehran, made it clear how the Iranian regime has no hope in Europe.

“To say America no, the European Union yes goes against edification. We have to understand that the European Union has a bad track record on promises. They are no better than the US Plans were made for the EU to invest in Iran. Did they? They also cancelled a signed contract to sell us airplanes. The JCPOA didn’t save the country. In fact, sanctions upon sanctions are now imposed on us,” he said.

It is worth noting that Ahmad Khatami has very close relations to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Furthermore, the Tehran Friday prayer tribune has become a stage where Khamenei sends his representative to express his views about weekly developments. As a result, knowing Khamenei has the last word on all state matters, recent events are depicting a very dangerous slope for the Iranian regime’s future.

The next move

Knowing this enormous amount of international pressure cannot go unanswered, Iran first responded by launching around 20 rockets from IRGC-associated bases in Syria into the Golan Heights. This sparked a massive retaliation by the Israelis against a variety of IRGC targets throughout Syria, to which Tehran has remained silent on.

Tehran is now threatening to relaunch its nuclear fuel enrichment cycle and escalate military confrontation, all claims worth following to understand Iran’s future options in these troubling times. What goes less discussed are the Iranian regime’s domestic troubles. Protests by people from all walks of life continue to increase and the country’s currency, the rial, is nosediving.

On Saturday, the air travel currency cap was decreased from €10,000 to €5,000, and €2,000 for ground/sea travel.

All said and done, we will see in the coming weeks if Tehran exits the JCPOA and be bold enough to restart high level uranium enrichment. Trump has warned such steps by Iran would lead to “very severe consequences,” and history shows between bad and worse the Iranian regime will ultimately choose the bad option.

Options before Tehran trace a very gloomy future. This will play into the Iranian people’s interests in their struggle against the clerical regime’s four decades of oppression and devastation.

How Will Iran Respond To The Syria Attacks?

Forbes

We can consider the April 14th airstrikes against the Syrian regime’s chemical infrastructure as a point of no return in regards to this country’s future developments. For many years Bashar Assad and Iran were able to take the utmost advantage of the Obama administration’s policy of appeasement, and thus pave the path for Russia’s entrance into the Middle East. The main victims have been directly the peoples of Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other regional states.

Iran seeks to respond to these attacks, both to lift the spirits of its military and security forces across the country, and in regards to the regional balance of power. Facing increasing anti-government protests and its consequences, however, Tehran lacks the capacity to take on measures outside of its borders .

Considered Assad’s main sponsor after spending dozens of billions of dollars in Syria, Iran had prior to these attacks threatened repeatedly that such a US-led initiative will not go unanswered.

Tehran, however, has yet to take any action after the early morning April 14th airstrikes, while further reports in Middle East outlets indicate other bases associated to the Assad regime and Iran-backed militias in Syria are being targeted.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei unprecedentedly described the leaders of the United States, France and the United Kingdom as “criminals,” going against all diplomatic norms. Can such remarks be considered a green light for terrorist attacks by Iran and/or its affiliates?

The semi-official Tasnim news agency, associated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force, claims the Asaeb al-Haq, a 40,000- strong militia group affiliated to Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) with long-term relations with Iran, has several units currently besieging U.S. forces stationed in the Al Zahra airbase located northwest of Baghdad.

Tehran’s rulers are comprehending clearly how Obama’s appeasement policy, in the face of this regime’s crimes inside the country and those of its affiliated militias abroad, has ended. Ever since the Trump administration has entered the White House, we have witnessed firm actions against Iran’s belligerence, rendering significant results.

For some time, we are no longer hearing reports of IRGC boats harassing US warships in international waters of the Persian Gulf. It has been months since Tehran last test-launched a ballistic missile. Instead they are using Yemen’s Houthis to launch Iranian missiles into Saudi Arabia to both cover any tracks and save face to some extent.

In the nationwide uprisings of the past months that rocked the very pillars of Tehran’s entire apparatus, the Iranian people are extensively protesting the regime’s Middle East meddling. This, parallel to the recent currency nosedive crisis, is preventing the Iranian regime from executing widespread military initiatives in the region.

Trump’s firm policy has also forced North Korea to agree into significantly curbing its nuclear weapons program and ballistic missiles. Russia, able to voice demands in the past few years due to Obama’s weakness and gaining a significant Middle East foothold through its Syria campaign, refused to respond to the US-led airstrikes against Assad’s forces.

Iran took advantage of the highly flawed appeasement policy by staging military attacks seeking physically elimination, and also demonizing its opposition, being the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and specifically the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main member of this political coalition that is considered the alternative to the Iranian regime.

In Iraq PMOI/MEK members were target to numerous ground and rocket attacks by Iran-associated militias. Tehran resorted to such methods to  balance in the face of regional defeats, including a lethal September 2013 raid into the PMOI/MEK’s main base in Iraq as Tehran’s nuclear negotiators began secret negotiations to curb their nuclear program.

Following the transfer of all PMOI/MEK members to Albanian in the Balkans, Tehran’s ability to carry out military attacks against them is limited. Iran, however, has launched an active propaganda machine and extensively expanded its embassy mission in Albania.

The PMOI/MEK in Albania have hosted senior American dignitaries such as Trump’s new National Security Advisor John Bolton, Trump’s cybersecurity advisor Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator John McCain and senior delegations from Congress all on separate occasions. Tehran’s lobbyists, especially those in the U.S., label such developments as the U.S.’ leniency towards war against Iran. This is Tehran’s effort to distract attention from the main issue at hand, being the existence of a popular resistance movement and an Iranian democratic alternative representing the Iranian people’s true will of regime change.

In response to senior U.S. figures supporting the PMOI/MEK and the policy of regime change in Iran, Tehran is focusing its main demonizing measures against this organization to both distort Albanian sympathy regarding the PMOI/MEK’s presence in Albania on one hand, and claim the Iranian regime has no alternative.

“Considering their own experience with dictatorship and oppression, Albanians understand the PMOI/MEK’s pain and suffering,” said former Albanian MP Namik Kopliku. “We are proud to provide a safe haven to the PMOI/MEK who seek freedom for Iran. On the other hand, we are witnessing a long slate of measures by Iran’s lobbyists in Albanian media attempting to spread lies and tarnish the PMOI/MEK’s image amongst our people.”

As a result, this possibility exists of Iran responding to setbacks in Syria by launching a new media campaign against PMOI/MEK members in Albania through its ties to western media outlets, attempting to delegitimize this alternative and portray the Iran dossier as a decision merely between war and appeasement.

If Washington intends to materialize its firm Middle East policy into meaningful results it must place its crosshairs on Iran . This is not a call for a new and unnecessary war in the Middle East. In fact, this is a call to support the Iranian people and their organized resistance movement in the ongoing anti-government protest, coupled with imposing crippling sanctions against the IRGC and Iran’s Central Bank. US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin recently signaled the possible return of “very strong” sanctions against Iran.

These coordinated measures will significantly weaken Tehran inside the country and abroad, and facilitate true change by the Iranian people and their rooted opposition.

ANALYSIS: Are Syria strikes a wake-up call for Iran?

Al Arabiya

Despite many speculations, the anticipated US-led airstrike inflicted severe blows to Syria’s Bashar Assad regime. While many chemical facilities became targets to provide some cover for civilians from horrendous attacks in the future, the main message was sent to Iran.

A rain of missiles and warplanes attacking Assad’s military and chemical sites made the Syrian dictator understand the golden years of Obama’s presidency has ended completely for him, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei & Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Iran, considering Syria its own backyard, is now facing major decisions about its future in the Middle East and back home. After the West has raised demands for Tehran to significantly curb its ballistic missile program & regional meddling, this attack, only a month prior to US President Donald Trump’s May 12th deadline, will certainly demand a heavy price from Tehran.

Specifics

US warships and B1 stealth bombers, French Navy vessels, Rafael and Mirage warplanes, and British Tornado fighter jets were the western alliances’ arsenal against Assad’s military. Tomahawk cruise missiles levelled the Mezze military airbase southwest of Damascus. Iran-made Zolfaqar & Qiam missiles, along with their launchers, were reportedly destroyed.

The Jibil Qasioun base, north of Damascus, is destroyed, reports add. This was the Syrian army’s intercepting facility, modernized by Iran, and used as a base by the Lebanese Hezbollah.

The Chemical Research Center near Damascus & the Barzeh military-research base were both targeted by US missiles, leaving at least 5 Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force members killed, reports indicate.

Even though 90 percent of Iran’s IRGC Quds Force units evacuated all bases prior to the attack, sources in Syria say at least 15 IRGC Quds Force advisors were killed in these attacks. Their bodies are reportedly missing.

40 Lebanese Hezbollah members & 35 Syrian military personnel were also killed. Sources indicate these attacks have inflicted billions of dollars in damages to missile & arms depots in Homs, and military facilities in Hama, Mezze & Jibil Qasioun.

Despite claims made by Iran & Syria-associated media, all missiles inflicted severe damages on their targets, to say the least. In a desperate measure, Iran and Syrian state TV stations aired archived footage of Saudi air defense units intercepting Houthi missiles, claiming to be Assad’s forces taking action.

The Pentagon literally ridiculed such claims, saying Syria’s air defense units fired around 40 SAM missiles that were mostly ineffective after mainly fired after the airstrike, most likely placing civilians in danger.

‘Locked and loaded’

With France and the United Kingdom directly taking part in these attacks, it is now clear that the U.S. and Europe will join forces against Iran’s interests at times of sensitive geopolitical matters.

Russia chose to remain completely inactive and Iran, despite its previous threats of wiping Israel off the map in response to an attack on Syria, literally sees its forces on the run.

Claims of Assad’s units downing missiles are highly questionable, especially since the French and British warplanes would have been far easier targets. To add insult to injury for Tehran, further reports indicate further attacks targeting Iran-backed units on Saturday night and early Sunday morning local time.

Trump has warned that the US is ready to strike again if the Syrian regime resorts to further chemical attacks. America is ready to maintain pressure on Bashar Assad until he ends the process of killing his own people, he added.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley used very blunt language in saying her country is ‘locked and loaded’ to strike again in response to any new chemical attack, sending a very significant message to Damascus, Moscow and most importantly, Tehran.

Against principle?

Trump came under criticism over his remarks of seeking to pull out of Syria and leaving for others to finalize the remaining necessities. Criticism continued after he tweeted saying the missiles “will be coming,” apparently going against his principle and giving away the element of surprise.

However, the element of surprise is useful in mostly single-stage attacks, such as the April 2017 US missile strike on the Al Shayeerat air base following Assad’s chemical attack against Khan Sheikhoun.

Although that sent a political message to Assad and his sponsors, it did not prevent the regime from resorting to further chemical attacks. The early morning April 14th airstrike enjoyed the support of France and the UK, and a conglomerate of weaponry.

Parallel to the political message, Assad’s chemical arsenal is now crippled at least for years to come, according to the Pentagon.

Broader perspective

There are signs that the military presence of Iran’s IRGC and other militias in the region will become the next of focus of US policy in the region. It is clear Iran will continue its blueprint of using militias in Iraq, Syria and even Persian Gulf states, such as Bahrain, to advance its objectives across the region.

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran issued a statement following the attackcalling for the eviction of Iran’s “Revolutionary Guards and mercenaries from Syria, Yemen, Iraq and other countries of the region. The mullahs’ regime is the main source of survival of Bashar al-Assad and the main source of terrorism and extremism and warfare in the Middle East and the vast sections of the world.”

If Washington is serious about establishing meaningful peace and security across the region, placing Iran’s Middle East meddling in its crosshairs is a must. Crippling sanctions against Iran’s IRGC and the regime’s Central Bank will deliver the necessary punch.

Such a policy can go alongside pressures on the Iran nuclear deal prior to Trump’s deadline and the US Treasury Department vowing to add “very strong,” new “primary and secondary sanctions” against the regime.

Washington is taking steps to corner Tehran. A comprehensive strategy is necessary to resolve the nuclear deal mess, completely end Iran’s destructive influence throughout the Middle East, impose meaningful sanctions targeting Tehran’s financial network and most importantly, supporting the ongoing Iranian protests as this nation vividly abhors their unjust rulers and demands regime change.

Iran reacting to John Bolton’s appointment as US National Security Advisor

Bolton’s selection is tantamount to increasing pressure on Iran

Naghavi Hosseini, spokesman of the Iranian parliament’s Security & Foreign Policy Commission said:

“The selection of John Bolton as the U.S. National Security Advisor is aimed at increasing pressures & aggressive policies against Iran in the coming days.

“Bolton is one of the planners of toppling the Islamic Republic Of Iran.

“Down this path Bolton is supporting the [Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK)].

“We are also witnessing the coming of a new U.S. Secretary of State and a new sanctions bill against Iran in the U.S. Congress.

“This trend signals the fact that the Americans… intend to continue their aggressive and enmity policy against Iran.”

JamNews website:

“Firebrand PMOI/MEK supporter becomes the new U.S. National Security Advisor.”

“Bolton has time and again… sought regime change in Iran and is known for his strong positions against the Islamic republic.

“The National Security Advisor is an important post in the White House and plays a significant role in policy-making & administration decisions in regards to U.S. foreign policy and military strategy.

“Donald Trump and H.R. McMaster were talking about his resignation for some time. They pushed this development forward to have the new team in place sooner.

“[Bolton], now in the main decision-making entity defining U.S. strategy, publicly supports regime change in Iran.

“Supporters of aggressive action against Iran’s regime admire Bolton for his frankness.

“Bolton also has good relations with the [PMOI/MEK], meeting with Maryam Rajavi and delivering a number of speeches in their events.”

Guardian Council spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodaie says:

“The news is short yet very meaningful. John Bolton, an [Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK)] supporter, obtains the highest political post in Trump’s administration.”

Rouydad 24 website:

“Supporter of war against [Iranian regime] becomes US National Security Advisor!”

“Bolton is among the most explicit opponents of the nuclear agreement (JCPOA).”

“Bolton is among the main [PMOI/MEK] supporters and has supported regime change in Iran in his speeches at their rallies.”

Tabnak website (affiliated to former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezaie):

“With new changes in the White House, one must say the neocons have gained the main role in Trump’s foreign policies against Iran.”

“The nuclear deal and political regime change in Iran is the epicenter of this defiance.”

“Considering the new circumstances, we must say political regime change is once again in the Trump administration’s agenda.”

“[The new White House apparatus] considers Iran the main issue in the Middle East and Tehran the main threat against US interests.”

“They are attempting to portray [the Iranian regime] as tantamount to ISIS.”

Youth Journalists Club:

“As the new White House National Security Advisor, John Bolton will be playing an important role in Trump’s security decisions.”

“Bolton has repeatedly adopted aggressive positions against [the Iranian regime].”

“He is a staunch supporter of exiting the JCPOA.”

Bazar Ariya website:

“Leaving the Iran nuclear deal was the pivotal point of John Bolton’s first TV interview.”

“Trump’s new National Security Advisor reiterated he is participating in this program to talk about US’ possible JCPOA exit.”

“John Bolton is known for his strong stance against the [Iranian regime].”

“(US Secretary of State-nominee Mike) Pompeo also holds strong opinions against the nuclear pact.”

What Comes After French FM’s Iran Visit

Monday’s Tehran visit by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is startling a wide variety of responses, especially from inside Iran.

Kayhan daily, known as the mouthpiece of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, ran a piece titled “French Foreign Minister heading to Tehran with a JCPOA-2 hat,” using the acronym for the Iran nuclear deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, while describing Paris’ efforts to impose further setbacks upon Iran’s regime.

The semi-official Ruydad 24 website in Iran writes, “The JCPOA, ballistic missile program and Iran’s role in the region are of the most important challenges before Iran, Europe, the United States and Middle East countries.”

This is what concerns Tehran the most, being crystal clear the Europeans would never side with Iran over the U.S.

Seeking to raise the stakes prior Le Drian’s visit, Tehran on Monday announced it enjoys the capability of producing higher enriched uranium within two days if Washington’s abandons ship on the 2015 nuclear deal between.

“If America pulls out of the deal … Iran could resume its 20 percent uranium enrichment in less than 48 hours,” Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi told al-Alam TV.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said Le Drian will be merely involved in discussions and there are no negotiations involved. France’s official position says otherwise.

“Iran’s ballistic missile program, with a range of a few thousand kilometers, is definitely non-consistent with United Nations Security Council resolutions and goes beyond Iran’s need to defend its borders,” Le Drian said in an interview with the French daily Le Journal du Dimanche.

“If this dilemma is not resolved directly, Iran will be facing the threat of new sanctions,” he added.

France is leading Europe in talks with Iran and it is very likely Le Drian discussed with Iran’s officials the conditions raised by U.S. President Donald Trump.

“The U.S. has asked France to lay Trump’s conditions before Iran. European countries have confirmed these conditions,” according to the semi-officials Fars news agency, said to be linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

In his meeting with Le Drian, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s remarks vividly displayed Tehran’s deep concerns about the JCPOA’s future.

“The JCPOA is a litmus test for all parties and its dismantling will bring disappointment for everyone,” Rouhani said.

We must also take into consideration the timing of Le Drian’s visit, coming prior to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, in which Iran was the main issue of talks.

Two weeks later Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman to Washington where Iran’s regional meddling will most likely be discussed. Tehran’s role in Syria has raised major concerns.

“…if we don’t push Iran out and come up with an agreement in Geneva that gives Syria back to the Syrians. This war never ends. So, Mr. President it’s just not about defeating ISIL. If you leave Syria in the hands of Russia and the Iranians this war never ends,” said Senator Lindsey Graham in a recent interview.

Finally, Trump will be hosting his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, as the leader of Europe in regards to the JCPOA.

As a result, the objective of Le Drian’s visit to Iran can be described as placing Trump’s significant pressures and imposing his conditions. Tehran will most definitely be concerned, knowing all meetings will evolve in Trump’s talks with Macron in Washington. Two weeks later Trump will announce his decision on the JCPOA.

This leaves Tehran before a particular dilemma. Succumbing to the new conditions set to preserve the JCPOA will deliver a strategic setback, being, to say the least, significantly curbing its ballistic missile program and Middle East influence. Iran considers these two pillars its pride and regional strategy depth.

Choosing to reject Washington’s conditions, however, will most certainly lead to the return of crippling sanctions for Tehran.

Add to this dilemma the ongoing protest staged by Iranians across the country. This goes alongside calls for further nationwide protests next Tuesday, marking the country’s annual “Fire Festivities” held on the last Tuesday night of the Iranian calendar before inviting in the new year.

Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) has issued a call for a nationwide uprising to mark this celebration. Senior Iranian officials have acknowledged how the PMOI/MEK organized the recent flare of protests across the country.

Tehran’s troubles are only beginning.