ANALYSIS: US sanctions and the end of ‘reform’ in Iran

Al Arabiya

With a new wave of US sanctions just around the corner, the regime ruling Iran is in deep waters as domestic and international pressures escalate. To add insult to injury for the clerics in Tehran, public discontent is increasing and people from all of life across Iran are demanding regime change.

Strikes and protests have continued in relentless waves across the country, especially following the December/January uprising. This movement, enjoying vast support in Iran’s society, is shaking the very pillars of this regime.

Plundering the Iranian people for 39 years and counting, the United States withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is further depriving Tehran of the funds it desperately needs to continue fueling its domestic crackdown machine and belligerence aimed at foreign targets.

The clerical regime has played all its cards and the Iranian people will no longer fall for any further deceptive plots.

Reform: A story of the past

In a frantic attempt, the Iranian regime is busy with a diplomatic campaign seeking the support of other Iran nuclear deal partners – the document formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – being Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and China.

These measures have failed to render any tangible results for the Iranian regime, especially considering the fact that the country’s currency, the rial, has plunged and lost more than 60 percent of its value since April alone. Inflation is skyrocketing and even basic necessities are running scarce, all due to the regime’s mismanagement.

In the West, pundits argue Iranians would “rally around the flag” and provide more power to the regime’s hardliners in the face of US hostility. Following US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iranians are actually understanding how regime leaders are the party to blame. They have also put an end to any “rally” claim raised by foreigners obviously lacking the necessary knowledge to correctly analyze Iran’s current powder keg society.

For many “experts” it will be hard to admit that the on-the-ground reality of Iran’s fast developing political landscape is far too complex to easily evaluate the recitation of events through the canvas of “reformists” against the hardcore “principalists.” The protests and all out uprising since late December 2017 have proven once for all that the so-called reformists in Iran have failed to render any change deemed positive in the past two decades.

A military truck carrying a missile and a picture of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen during a parade marking the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) in Tehran, in this September 22, 2015 file photo. (Reuters)

Iran’s “reformists,” dating back to when the now dead former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjanicame to power in 1989, have been on a specific mission never mentioned or explained clearly in western mainstream media: preserving the Iranian regime in power by promising – and very rarely implementing – minor “reforms.”

The protests since December have caught the Iranian regime, and the world over, by surprise. And the so-called reformists in Iran have received their message: Your time is up. The Iranian people are increasingly realizing that the “reformists” in Iran are no different from the hardliners sitting on the throne and having the last word on all major issues.

The “Reformists, principalists, game over” slogan put an end to the “reform” mirage in Iran. A list of Iranian “reformists” are showing their true colors by not standing alongside the people, losing the nation’s trust as a result. Various remarks include:

• Massoumeh Ebtekar, Iran’s vice president for women’s affairs, accused the protesters of being directed by elements outside of Iran;
• Abbas Abdi, dubbed as a “reformist leader,” described the recent protests as “uncalculated and irrational;”
• the Association of Combatant Clerics, an entity chaired by former Reformist president Mohammad Khatami, who claimed “opportunists and troublemakers have exploited” them.

Furthermore, it’s good to know that Mir Hossein Mousavi, also described as a “reformist leader” in Iran’s political spectrum, was this regime’s prime minister during the 8-year long Iran-Iraq War, continuously promoting the horrific initiative.

Mousavi also recently admitted of his knowledge regarding the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the main Iranian opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

Mir Mahmoud Mousavi, brother to the former prime minister and a former diplomat for this regime, has recently voiced utter disappointment in Iran’s “reformists,” saying they lack the ability to do anything more than what they have shown in the past two decades.

Which in itself has been anything but meaningful.

Evolving landscape

What we are witnessing in the protests spreading across Iran during the past ten months have been a wave launched by the largely poor and rural branches of Iran’s society. Setting aside those ruling the country and enjoying ties to the regime, the economic crisis engulfing Iran is having a deep impact on nearly every household.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, another “reformist,” had promised to realize economic prosperity following the JCPOA. However, more billions were funneled to fuel the clerical regime’s support for Bashar Assad in Syria, Houthi militias in Yemen, the Lebanese Hezbollah, sectarian militias in Iraq, further development of ballistic missiles and … the list goes on.

More reason why over 140 cities erupted in major revolt back in December 2017, far before Trump imposed sanctions. It is quite telling that from that turn of events, the clerical regime’s bubble of enjoying the support of the lower, dispossessed class in Iran, has burst.

All the while, Iran’s middle class – or whatever is left of it as 80 percent of the population lives in poverty – is also seen taking to the streets and expressing their anger very publicly on the fact that this regime has failed to deliver socially and economically.

Stepping up the tempo

Iran’s regime has been known to quell public dissent for forty years. The significant factor in this round of ongoing protests is the organized nature of such movements, seen most recently in the truck drivers’ nationwide strike that has now entered its third week and spreading to over 310 cities.

Time and again senior Iranian regime officials are voicing their utter concerns about the Iranian opposition PMOI/MEK, and specifically their “Resistance Units” network inside the country, playing the decisive role in the ongoing uprising.

The Iranian people have shown in the past 39 and some years, with major episodes in 1999, 2009 and the ongoing uprising, that they will not tolerate this regime. As the regime loses the support of a destructive appeasement policy practiced by the West, especially during the Obama years, it grows gradually weaker in the face of an increasingly restive nation that is demanding and will realize sweeping changes through an all-out revolution in the near future.

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ANALYSIS: How to define Iran’s Hassan Rouhani as a ‘moderate’

Hassan Rouhani reaching a second term in Iran as the regime’s president should not be interpreted as the vote of the people seeking a moderate voice over hardline conservatives. In fact, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sought to repeat the 2009 scenario of engineering the entire election process to have his preferred candidate declared victor, not Rouhani.

And yet as we witnessed in 2013 at the beginning of Rouhani’s first term, and in 1997 and 2005 when Mohammad Khatami was pulled out of Khamenei’s “election” hat, Western mainstream media have rushed to the races to describe Rouhani as a “moderate” in a regime comprised of radicals. Some went as far as claiming 75% of eligible votes taking part, not clear based on what survey as Iran lacks any atmosphere to conduct an unbiased review.

“…About 75 percent of Iranian voters turned out to repudiate an authoritarian populist and re-elect their moderate president, Hassan Rouhani… Having concluded the historic nuclear agreement with world powers in 2015, he now emphasized priorities he’d abandoned in his first term: rights, freedoms and…” said a piece in The New York Times.

It is interesting how one can describe a man as a moderate while he oversaw over 3,000 executions during four years as president. Amnesty International has issued numerous reports expressing concerns in this regard, as explained by The Washington Times.

“Since Mr. Rouhani’s ‘moderate’ presidency, executions in Iran have proliferated, usually at grisly public hangings. There were 360 executions in 2011, according to Amnesty International, and by 2014, the number had soared to 734.

The UN special reporter for human rights put the number of executions in 2015 at 966. Mr. Rouhani’s hangmen rested in 2016, relatively speaking, with only 567 executions. Moderation ends where the noose begins,” the article reads. Of course, these are only official numbers and the regime is known to conduct secret and unreported executions across the country.

And yet Iranian regime apologists are seen falling for remarks made by Rouhani during the election season in Iran.

“He directly challenged the abuses of the judiciary and the political overreach of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, with which he has vied for authority throughout his presidency,” the Times piece adds.

Only days into his second term, however, Rouhani’s defense minister Hossein Dehghan, a senior IRGC commander, shed light on new provocative military projects sought by Tehran, including a satellite altimetry calibration system. Iran has long been accused of seeking to enhance its intercontinental ballistic missiles under the cover of launching space orbit satellite systems. Rouhani’s first four years, especially following the highly flawed nuclear deal signing, was riddled with troubling violations.

“Iran has test-fired nuclear-capable ballistic missiles at least ten times since July 2015, despite a UN Security Council resolution, approved along with the nuclear accord, which explicitly calls on Iran to refrain from such activity,” according to reports.

Iranian officials have recently announced a 145% defense budget increase under Rouhani, parallel to the military undertaking a major effort to restructure its ranks and files with the objective of upgrading it into a “forward moving force,” according to reports from the region.

As Rouhani sets to launch his second tenure, early signs indicate what is to be expected. The semi-official Fars news agency, known for its affiliation to the IRGC, reported Thursday of Iran building a third underground ballistic missile factory.

Evin Rouhani’s rival during the election, Ebrahim Raisi, himself a conservative figure known for his role in the massacre of tens of thousands of political prisoners back in the summer of 1988, revealed how the “moderate” Rouhani also has his hands stained with blood.

As news from inside Iran indicate at least ten individuals were executed in the first week of Rouhani’s second term, this “moderate” is known to be the first Iranian regime figure to call for public executions.

As we are yet again and unfortunately reminded by the wrath of extremism in the recent attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt, across the Middle East, Iran, with Rouhani as president, stepped up its support for terrorism, extremism and proxy groups.

“Let me make it clear. Our money, meals, arms and missiles all come from Iran. We are well-off as long as Iran has money,” said Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nassrallah.

Nasrallah: “Let me make it clear. Our money, meals, arms and missiles all come from Iran. We are well-off as long as Iran has money.”

Of course they acknowledge the flaws of the Iranian regime establishment.

“It’s true that the Iranian system offers limited choice and the president has limited power. The regime has policed its boundaries and eliminated true challenges to the entrenched interests of its security apparatus and clerical elite…This is not representative democracy…”

While The New York Times piece is right in saying Iran has “a civic culture that refuses to surrender its dignity to dictatorship,” it is interesting how it cannot flee the fact that the regime in Iran is a “dictatorship”. So how can a dictatorship have a “moderate” president?

Former MEP Struan Stevenson finalized it best in his recent article:

“The fact that Hassan Rouhani was declared the runaway victor in the presidential election was proclaimed in the West as a triumph for the forces of moderation and reform. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

How Is Iran’s Hassan Rouhani A Moderate?

Following the May 19th presidential “election” in Iran and the incumbent Hassan Rouhani reaching a second term, there was an outpouring of Western mainstream media describing him as a moderate again.

As described by the National Review, Iran’s sham election was nothing but “a ridiculous farce. In reality, an anti-American jihadist beat a slightly-worse anti-American jihadist.”

Rouhani was the first Iranian regime official in the early days after the mullahs’ hijacking of the 1979 revolution who openly called for public executions.

He Is #Rouhani is he a #MODERATE?!!!
watch & share 2 others know him#humanrights #executions #humanity #UK #Terrorism#IranElections2017 pic.twitter.com/R5mjOgwCdB

— Shawn HarrisⓂ️ (@HarrisShawn5) May 23, 2017

During Rouhani’s first tenure (owing it to the ultraconservative Guardian Council, a 12-cleric body appointed directly and indirectly by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, that vets candidates of all elections in Iran), the regime in Iran:

  • sent over 3,000 to the gallows and escalated domestic crackdown,
  • increased its export of terrorism through Shiite proxies across the Middle East,
  • boosted the Levant dictator Bashar Assad in his massacring and displacing millions of innocent Syrians,
  • supported the IRGC in test launching a significant number of ballistic missiles in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and harassing US Navy vessels in international waters,
  • went as far as increasing Tehran’s support for the Afghan Taliban, according to the The Washington Post,
  • and made having dual nationality a threat, as experienced by too many hostages.

And Rouhani has actually become very useful for the ruling hardliners in Iran.

“For hard-liners and their affiliates — including the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Basij, the judiciary and the Intelligence Ministry — Rouhani is more helpful in achieving their major objectives,” as explained Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy and president of the International American Council.

For this regime the selection of Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative cleric renowned for his three decade role in the judiciary and being involved in the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners across Iran, would have raised tensions domestically and with the international community.

Desperate to maintain the nuclear deal intact and to prevent any possible snapback of UN Security Council sanctions, Khamenei and his regime succumbed to blueprint a second term for Rouhani.

In fact, Rouhani allows the entire so-called “hardliners” in this regime, including the IRGC and its extraterritorial Quds Force, to seek their interests, such as expanding their hegemonic reach across the region, especially in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Reports also indicate Iran has unveiled a new underground missile factory, another asset of the IRGC.

In March 2014, Iran unveiled what appeared to be tunnel storage for Qiam ballistic missiles.

Aviation Week

In March 2014, Iran unveiled what appeared to be tunnel storage for Qiam ballistic missiles.

The Iranian regime’s lobbies and apologists in the West dubbed Rouhani as a “moderate” while he was busy negotiating to release billions of frozen assets in order to fuel Iran’s military demands and fund its influence also in Bahrain, the Horn of Africa and elsewhere. The unfortunate attacks targeting innocent civilians in Manchester and Coptic Christians in Egypt should make those dubbing Rouhani as a moderate think twice, considering he is the president of a regime described as the leading state sponsor of terrorism.

Rouhani goes on to depict himself as a “moderate” good cop to seek legitimacy, as the world considers the IRGC as the “hardliner” bad cops. Under whose tenure has the IRGC and Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani expanded their reach to Syria and Yemen?

On the other side of the spectrum, however, is the fierce criticism raised against the election in its entirety, described by Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), as a “sham.”

Tehran will most possibly press the gas pedal in its belligerency during Rouhani’s second term, as seen vividly in his latest remarks pledging Iran will continue its Middle East warmongering, adding their boots are on the ground in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and fought against terrorism in the region.

“Iran has and will support these through its diplomats and military advisors,” he said according to an NCRI statement.

Unfortunately, the West’s decades of appeasement, dating back to the years of Chamberlain and Hitler prior to World War II, has led to the word “moderate” to now include even dictators willing to be just a notch more reasonable than a ruthless entity. In this case, leaving the world to choose between a deceptive-smiling Rouhani and the notorious IRGC.

When Westerners think of “moderates” they begin their comparison process against faces in their own countries. Even “conservatives” in many European countries are against a single execution, but this “moderate” Rouhani in Iran is very much for it. In fact, 2 per day is his report card over the past four years. The regime has already executed ten individuals in the first days of Rouhani’s second tenure, reports indicate.

And the Iranian people inside the country have voiced their opinion about Rouhani being a “moderate”. Defying all odds and accepting the risk of arrest and possible execution even, dissident activists took to the streets in unprecedented numbers in the past months and put up large posters, placards and even graffiti to voice their true vote of “regime change” and describing Rouhani not as a moderate, but as a “demagogue” and “king of executions.”

Rajavi, long presenting a 10-point-plan for a free Iran of tomorrow, delivered her input in this regard:

“In this light, portraying him as a moderate figure bears no color. Those who adhere to this notion must be challenged by asking them to make him unveil the true number of victims of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners and details of their cases, respect human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of political parties, and freedom of political prisoners and pull out from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan.”

While the argument is often made of this and that being beyond the powers of Iran’s president, and former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami referred to the president’s role as that of a tea boy, it begs the question then as to how moderation is to take place.

What Does the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Want Out of Iran’s Upcoming Elections?

Can the faction known as the “principalists” in Iran, loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, engineer the upcoming presidential elections‘ outcome in a manner similar to 2005 and 2009? Back then, this group resorted to fraud and vote-rigging to have their desired candidate selected. Is the Khamenei-allied faction even seeking to engineer the election outcome against the faction currently behind President Hassan Rouhani, who claim to be “reformists” or “moderates”? If the answer is yes, what measures have been taken so far?

The truth is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Khamenei’s inner circle have been planning these measures and plotting their steps for at least several months.

Their plan essentially relies on forcing the election into a second round, similar to the 2009 scenario when Ahmadinejad was selected from the ballot boxes. This time around, the Khamenei faction is seeking to have Ebrahim Raisi, a cleric known for his notorious role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, or Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, selected as president. Ghalibaf is a former IRGC member known to have undergone Airbus pilot training in France.

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To implement this, this faction first held a session with senior IRGC officials, including former IRGC intelligence chief Mehdi Taeb, IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari, IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani and others to establish the Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces, dubbed JAMNA, according to its Farsi abbreviation. Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr is the chair of this new entity.

Zolghadr is known for his role in rigging the 2005 presidential election that led to the selection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency while claiming to enjoy the support of 20 million voters. Zolghadr was then the regime’s chairman of the armed forces Joint Chiefs of Staff and deputy to former IRGC chief Mohsen Rezaie. He was then appointed as deputy interior minister in Ahmadinejad’s cabinet while maintaining his IRGC posts.

“The [2005] presidential election was unprecedented, held under very complicated political circumstances when foreign powers and acquisitive currents inside the country had long planned to direct the election results in their favor and prevent the establishment of a principalist cabinet. Complicated actions were needed and the principalists were fortunately able to gain the majority’s support,” Zolghadr said following Ahmadinejad’s victory.

In January 2013 Ali Saeedi, Khamenei’s envoy in the IRGC, made interesting remarks about the elections. “It is our [IRGC] inherent duty to logically engineer the elections,” he said.

Although Saeedi provided no further explanation about “logically” engineering the vote, his remarks shed further light on their plan and agenda. He referred to individuals, who according to him, attempted to “divide the state between the selected and the elected.” “In fact, those who were selected acted far better than those who were elected,” he stipulated.

This is exactly why in the past few months JAMNA has attempted to reach a consensus over a single candidate through the IRGC’s continued intervention. Numerous sessions were held with Khamenei to have him agree with Raisi taking part in the race and all principalist candidates rallying behind him.

The IRGC continued its engineering through the Guardian Council by disqualifying the vast majority of candidates. A week prior to the Council’s final announcement rumors indicated only six of over 1,600 candidates would be qualified. This made it clear all announcements by the Guardian Council were in fact decided previously by the IRGC.

The combination of the current six candidates in the presidential election is the necessary package for the IRGC to correctly rig the entire vote outcome.

An issue discussed on a daily basis among the IRGC senior command is how to plan their next move, aiming to inflict the utmost damage to the Rouhani faction and yet also prevent any possible ignition of massive protests and/or nationwide uprisings similar to those of 2009.

Following the candidate vetting process leaving only six candidates, this IRGC plan has been pursued on a daily basis in three different fields.

First, they have sought to increase the number of votes and finesse specific rigging methods. Second, they have expanded their propaganda activities in the media. And third, they have taken daily measures and guided the general rigging apparatus, such as attacking Rouhani’s brother Fereidoun Rouhani on his involvement in theft, creating havoc at Rouhani’s campaign events, depicting Raisi as the candidate of all factions.

In all three fields the IRGC apparatus enjoys a daily role, all while this security entity should have nothing to do with the elections.

Of course, Rouhani has nothing to boast about either as he too oversaw more than 3,000 executions during his tenure as president. He is also known to have ordered the horrific 1999 student uprising crackdown, especially during the protests in Tehran. Throughout his political career he has played a role in the regime’s decision-making bodies and is known to be a figure very well acquainted with the regime’s security apparatus. Rouhani was also Rafsanjani’s right-hand-man during the Iran-Iraq War, where the regime dispatched juveniles to the frontlines.

In the end, how far the IRGC’s plans can be implemented in practice is a different story altogether, depending highly on a range of factors. For example, considering the fact that Rouhani’s Interior Ministry is the administrative body running the election, will the IRGC be able to implement its objectives?

Only time will tell.

Iranian Regime’s Concerns Persist Ahead of May Elections

Khamenei focused his speech on two main topics, covering both Iran’s economic crisis and the upcoming presidential elections in May. However, his words on the economy can be evaluated as a prelude to the disputes that will most definitely engulf Iranian politics. The comments Khamenei made on the economy were mainly focused on the failures and embarrassments brought about by the cabinet of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, including increasing unemployment and doubt over statistics published by the government.

Unlike Western democracies, there are no real “political parties” in Iran. Despite all the brouhaha in the media about “moderates” or “reformists” facing off against “hardliners,” they are all part of one system loyal to one leader, and are only considered members of different factions within this one system. Their only difference hovers over how to maintain their dictatorial regime in power.

Khamenei very specifically said the people should not elect a “tired” president and went as far as saying that the president must not be involved in any case of economic corruption.When discussing the elections, Khamenei very vividly referred to Rouhani’s cabinet as an inactive, low energy and a “non-revolutionary” entity. These very same terms were used the day before by various Friday prayer imams and representatives of his faction in the parliament.

Rouhani wasted no time in responding, taking advantage of a speech in the city of Sanandaj, in western Iran, on March 25. In response to Khamenei demanding that the government must present a report card of its accomplishments, Rouhani targeted the judiciary – known to be extremely loyal to Khamenei’s viewpoints – and called for this powerful institution to present its own report.

The question now is what the purpose of Khamenei’s remarks might have been. Does he truly intend to eliminate or disqualify Rouhani from the polls in any way?

Of course, Khamenei would prefer Rouhani to not be his regime’s next president. However, it appears he can no longer disqualify Rouhani through the ultraconservative Guardian Council, a 12-man body selected directly and indirectly by Khamenei, that is in charge of vetting all candidates for all so-called elections in Iran.

Although various members of Khamenei’s faction may seek such a fate for Rouhani, it appears that Khamenei himself knows the consequences of this outcome. A development of this type would significantly tear open the rifts inside the Iranian regime and provide adequate circumstances for Iranian society to explode in uprisings and protests similar to those of 2009.

To this end, Khamenei will go the distance to discredit and destroy Rouhani’s image and as a result decrease his popularity at the polls in a second and engineered round of elections. This would be the easiest of all scenarios for Khamenei, resulting in the elimination of Rouhani “by the books.”

And if forced to accept Rouhani for another term, the least Khamenei expects is to have a completely weakened Rouhani who won’t raise any demands and follows his orders. Khamenei especially needs such conditions after he lost one of his regime’s main pillars, former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Despite their differences, Khamenei knows that the road ahead is far more difficult without him. To this end, he senses a need to continue his attacks against Rouhani to gain a full and complete control over all aspects of his regime.

The irony, however, lies in the fact that Khamenei faces many obstacles in his path to this objective.

First, the probability of a social outburst transforming into nationwide uprisings would be no less than a nightmare for him. If such a threat did not exist, rest assured Khamenei would have disqualified Rouhani through the Guardian Council and rid himself of this problem.

Second, Khamenei also has major reservations about the huge rifts existing within his own faction, vivid through the fact that his camp has not been able to select and support a single candidate for the elections. If Khamenei is unable to convince the hardliners to rally behind one candidate, he can assume the election lost beforehand.

Third, all said and done, who is the one figure Khamenei can select to have his camp rally behind? Does such a person even exist in Iran today who can bring an end to the long-lasting divisions among the so-called hardliners?

This all comes down to the major challenge before the entire Iranian regime: Can these sham elections be held without the population rising up, similar to 2009, in demand of fundamental change? We’ll find out soon enough.

Originally posted in The Diplomat

Time to end the Iran “reformist-moderate” hoax

lopBy Heshmat Alavi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally posted in American Thinker

 

Will Rafsanjani’s death trigger Iran regime upheaval?

Iran Rafsanjani

By Heshmat Alavi

The Iranian regime was dealt a significant blow as former president and senior cleric Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died of a heart attack on Sunday, January 8, at the age of 82.

Known for his influential role in shaping the regime’s politics following the 1979 revolution, Rafsanjani will leave a power vacuum in his wake as he dies less than four months prior to crucial presidential elections.

During the past 38 years Rafsanjani maintained a top role in the regime’s measures of domestic crackdown, export of terrorism and extremism abroad, and pioneering Iran’s effort to obtain nuclear weapons through a clandestine program.

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

Following the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, during which he served as Parliament Speaker and deputy commander of armed forces, Rafsanjani became president from 1989 to 1997. After eight years of the so-called “reformist” Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, Rafsanjani tried to run for office again in 2005, but fell short to firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

More recently Rafsanjani has been known for his fierce rivalry with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and mentoring the so-called “moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rowhani.

There is no doubt Rafsanjani was part and parcel to the religious establishment in Iran, especially considering his close ties to the regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini, who died in 1989. However, the pro-appeasement camp in the West believed him to be a “pragmatic conservative” willing to mend fences with the outside world, especially the US.

The Expediency Council

While Rafsanjani’s power had waned considerably in recent years, his last post was head of the Expediency Council, a body assigned to apparently resolve conflicts between the regime’s parliament (Majlis) and the Guardian Council. The latter is an ultra-conservative entity with close links to Khamenei, known mainly for vetting all candidates based on their loyalty to the establishment before any so-called elections.

Rafsanjani again sought to participate in the 2013 elections as a “reformist” candidate, only to be disqualified by the Guardian Council. Angered at being spurned, Rafsanjani responded by denouncing the measure as ignorant.

In line with his jockeying with the regime’s Supreme Leader, Rafsanjani decided to place his weight behind Rowhani after the latter assumed power as president in 2013.

Parallel to his political endeavors, Rafsanjani also used his position to carve himself and his family an economic empire from the country’s institutions and natural resources in the past decades.

The family empire

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

The report also alludes to the billions cached in Swiss and Luxembourg bank accounts by the Rafsanjanis. Despite portraying himself as an adequate broker to the West, Rafsanjani was on par with his “hardline” counterparts in suppressing dissidents, namely members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main opposition group that first blew the whistle on Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

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

During his tenure as president, Rafsanjani is said to have directed numerous assassinations of dissidents abroad, including renowned human rights advocated Dr. Kazem Rajavi, former Iranian ambassador to Italy Mohammad Hossein Naghdi and Iranian Kurdish leader Abdulrahman Ghassemlou.

Rafsanjani has also been indicted for his role in the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires that left 85 killed and hundreds wounded.

Rafsanjani has through four decades of mullahs’ rule in Iran played the role of the regime’s No. 2 figure and a balancing element, always securing the regime’s higher interests. His death will significantly weaken the mullahs’ regime in its entirety and will trigger major upheavals across the regime’s hierarchy.

If past is any indication, the mullahs will most likely resort to further violence and the export of terrorism and extremism to prevent this newest crisis from spiraling out of control.

Originally posted in Al Arabiya English

Iran: Why the Mullahs Will Not Reform from Within

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Iranian regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini (L) and current supreme leader Ali Khamenei

By Heshmat Alavi

Change in Iran? Do not Hold Your Breath

 

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Hassan Rouhani has brought no change to Iran

 

Originally published in Sooper Articles

Regime in Iran Far From Opening Up

There are views heard about “change in the making” in Iran, with reference to the defeats suffered by “hardliners” at the hands of “reformists” in the recent February elections. Such reasoning considers the nuclear agreement sealed with the West as the driving force behind these turn of events.

Continue reading “Change in Iran? Do not Hold Your Breath”