Iran: From human rights violations to dangerous meddling

From day one the regime of Iran has been based on the pillars of domestic crackdown, and exporting terrorism and a reactionary, religious mentality.

As we speak, spreading extremism and Islamic fundamentalism remains a cornerstone policy of Iran’s state-run strategy, all hacked into this regime’s constitution.

The real image

Earlier this year Amnesty International’s 94-page report, “Caught in a web of repression: Iran’s human rights defenders under attack,” detailed this regime’s drastic human rights violations, with a specific focus on its extensive overdose of executions.

As witnessed for years running, Iran is the world’s leading executioner per capita, with many hangings continuously and horrendously carried out in public. All the while, secret executions are ongoing in dungeons across the country, including Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison.

This is the real image of Iran, cloaked by the ruling regime and their appeasers in the West for years, who continue to portray Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani as a moderate worth dealing with.

ANALYSIS: Does the Middle East’s stability hinge on Iran’s expulsion?

Rouhani heads a corrupt system responsible for executing around 3,500 people, and counting, from 2013 to this day. 350 such counts have been registered this year alone.

Iran lacks anything even remotely comparable to a justice system and the current Justice Minister, Alireza Avaie, has been on numerous terrorist lists since 2011 for human rights violations.

Avaie is also known to have played a leading role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, consisting of mostly members and supporters of Iran’s main opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

Nursing home

Iran is the godfather of human rights violations and terrorism, known as the main source of systematic human rights violations and expanding conflicts across the region.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and the Quds Force, responsible for the IRGC’s extraterritorial operations, led by Qassem Suleimani, famed for his ruthlessness, are the main parties responsible for Iran’s internal repression, and mainly, aggressively expanding Iran’s influence throughout the Middle East.

For decades the IRGC has been responsible for terrorist attacks in this flashpoint corner of the globe, including the countries of SyriaIraqLebanon and Yemen. In this regard, Tehran’s continuing practice of being the nursing home of proxy extremist groups is no matter of dispute or questioning.

What Iran has maintained a lid on has been its close collaboration with terror elements. For decades, the world has been deceived – conveniently for and by Iran – into believing that significant differences exist between Sunnis and Shiites, and thus cancelling any possibility of Tehran having links with its Sunni rivals.

Tehran has usurped this window of opportunity to portray itself and claim to be a de facto ally of the West in the fight against extremism, especially recently in the form of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Discussions in Washington are ongoing over how the US military, short of a direct conflict, can deter and contain Iran’s meddling in Middle East countries. The Pentagon has refrained from public comments.

One official familiar with the mentality of US Secretary of Defense James Mattis has hinted to the media that Iran is the focus of much attention in the Pentagon recently.

Last week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chaired a meeting between the US, UK, France and Germany to blueprint US-European collaboration aimed at countering Iran through the course of diplomatic and economic practices. Other senior Trump administration officials have also resorted to significant remarks.

“What the Iranians have done across the broader Middle East is fuel and accelerate these cycles of violence so that they can take advantage of these chaotic environments, take advantage of weak states, to make them dependent on them for support,” US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said to a security forum last weekend.

“We have to address what is a growing Iranian capability and an ability to use proxies, militias, terrorist organizations to advance their aim, their hegemonic aims in the region,” McMaster added.

This file photo taken on May 15, 2003 shows Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh (L) welcoming former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami at Sanaa International Airport. (AFP)

 

Game-changing revelations

Newly released documents obtained by US special forces in their raid on the residence of the now dead al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan prove what many scholars have argued for years.

Iran’s regime, known as the beating heart of Islamic fundamentalism, has never considered sectarian differences an obstacle to cooperate with extremists. Tehran seeks to strengthen its resolve in the objective of furthering influence and global support for fundamentalism and terrorism.

These documents prove how the Iranian regime was working closely with al-Qaeda, including bin Laden himself, which could have subsequently led to Tehran’s inevitable cooperation with ISIS.

Iran’s rulers, and their cohorts spread in various countries, seek the same objective of establishing a ruthless caliphate by deploying global jihad. This practice hinges on unbridled brutality, misogyny and immorality to its utmost extent. No limits in barbarity and viciousness is accepted by these parties in their effort to reach their objectives.

Further reports are emerging detailing the growing amount of ties linking the regime in Iran with extremists groups, such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. New evidence confirms how despite the existence of various factions of extremist groups such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda and ISIS, at the end of the day, they all look at Tehran as the main source fueling this infamous mentality.

Flashpoint Yemen

Iran’s support for the Houthis in Yemen has escalated and gained much attention recently. For example, a missile launched by the Houthis on November 4 was strikingly similar to an Iranian-made Qiam-1 short-range ballistic missile, added to its collection by Iran in 2010, and yet never before seen in Yemen’s missile arsenal, according to a confidential report prepared by a UN panel of experts missioned to monitor a 2015 arms embargo imposed on Yemen.

One component — a device, known to be an actuator, used to assist in steering the missile — was found among the debris bearing a metal logo of an Iranian company, Shadi Bagheri Industrial Group, known to be the subject of UN, EU, and US sanctions.

The Houthis “obtained access to missile technology more advanced” than what they had prior to the conflict’s birth in 2015, according to the panel report.

“The design, characteristics and dimensions of the components inspected by the panel are consistent with those reported for the Iranian manufactured Qiam-1 missile,” the text adds.

Serious measures

The dangerous nature of Iran’s regime is obvious to all. Parallel to military and terrorist measures throughout the globe, Tehran targets naïve and vulnerable subjects, using them to relay their reactionary mentality. This includes the various Western parliaments and significant international bodies, including UN and EU institutions. Tehran’s demonization agendas have shown to be predecessors to violent attacks.

Only serious measures against Iran’s regime, and ultimately the collapse of this ruthless entity, will mark the end of Iran’s human rights violations, and meddling and support for terrorism being spread deceivingly under the flag of Islam.

ALSO READ: Who is Qais al-Khazaali, godfather of Iranian-backed Shiite militias?

Iran’s increasing meddling abroad is not a policy signaling this regime’s strength. In fact, facing deep domestic crises, Tehran is attempting to cloak its internal weakness by increasing its influence across the region on the one hand, and resorting to saber-rattling to prevent the international community from adopting a firm policy.

Iran entered negotiations and succumbed to curbing its nuclear program due to fears of uncontrollable uprisings resulting from crippling international sanctions. This is the language Iran understands and more major sanctions are needed against this regime.

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Iran Resorts To Crackdown, Fearing Mass Rallies Marking National Day

October 29th marks “Cyrus Day” in Iran, commemorating Cyrus the Great, probably the most renowned ruler of ancient Persia.

Last year on this day a large gathering of thousands Iranians sent shockwaves to Tehran, proving to the world Iran’s society remains restive and fiercely opposes the ruling regime.

For the past 48 hours social media activists across Iran have used the hashtag #CyrusDay to post their views and inviting people to the gathering.

Fearing similar rallies this year, the Iranian regime resorted to dispatching a large number of security forces and “military maneuvers and widespread repressive measures in various cities of Fars province (southcentral Iran),” according to a statement issued by the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

Units of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and state police have imposed a de facto martial law, closing all roads leading to Pasargad, the site where Cyrus the Great’s tombstone is located.

View image on Twitter

Cyrus the Great is most renowned for being the father the Cyrus Cylinder, known to be the oldest declaration of human rights. The Iranian regime and IRGC remain under heavy criticism for ongoing human rights violations.

Security forces have been seen taking pictures of license plates, reports indicate, and instructing people driving from Shiraz to Tehran or Isfahan to use old routes to distance them from the rally site.

IRGC members have been issuing papers to all vehicles and even pedestrians heading towards Pasargad on foot. These leaflets read:

“An illegal rally in Pasargad on the fake October 29th day was organized by dissident groups. Participation in this pre-planned gathering is in breach of Article 610 of the Islamic Criminal Code and violators will face legal and judicial actions.”

Enter a captionLeaflet issued by Iranian state police banning any gathering on October 29th, 2017.
Despite all the restrictive measures people were seen in large groups, in vehicles and on foot, heading towards Pasargad using various routes and heavy traffic was evident throughout the area.
Various districts in the city of Shiraz were also scenes of large crowds headed to Pasargad. State police went the limits to also prevent gatherings by any group of people, reports show.

The drastic measures resorted to by the Iranian regime is a sign of Tehran’s utter intolerance of any possible repeat of rallies mirroring the 2009 episode that rocked the very pillars of this state. Such repressive measures is tantamount to a U.S. administration supposedly banning any marches commemorating, for example, Veteran’s Day.

Different now, however, is the fact that eight years ago Tehran enjoyed the assurance of former U.S. president Barack Obama’s appeasement policy, allowing the regime to resort to a heavy and brutal crackdown against the masses.

Thousands of people gathering at the Cyprus tombstone in 2016.

The new administration in Washington is a completely different story.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has on three different occasions spoken of the Iranian people craving freedom.

“There are strong feelings and values inside of Iran that we want to promote in terms of one day the Iranian people being able to retake control of their government,” he said during his recent trip to India.

President Donald Trump has twice expressed his solidarity with the Iranian people, describing them as the first victim of the ruling regime’s wrath.

“… we stand in total solidarity with the Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims: its own people. The citizens of Iran have paid a heavy price for the violence and extremism of their leaders. The Iranian people long to — and they just are longing, to reclaim their country’s proud history, its culture, its civilization, its cooperation with its neighbors,” Trump said in his landmark October 13th Iran policy speech.

The Scope And Impact Of Iran’s IRGC Blacklisting

Tehran received a major blow following the blacklisting of Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Treasury Department after President Donald Trump’s October 13th landmark Iran policy speech. This has senior Iranian officials extremely concerned as the regime in its entirety is desperately attempting to cope with the aftermath.

There are those heard struggling to downgrade the impact and save face.

“Sanctions against the IRGC are nothing new… The IRGC is not an economic entity for them to attempt to impact its future through sanctions. The IRGC is a military entity that will negotiate with no one regarding its duties,” said Hessam-edin Ashena, an advisor to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to a state daily.

Understanding the importance of U.S. sanctions, Gholamreza Tajgardoon, chairman of the Budget & Planning Commission in Iran’s parliament resorted to similar remarks.

“Sanctioning the IRGC will have no impact on the country’s economy… U.S. sanctions are an issue of international relations. The IRGC has no role in international economic relations. The IRGC is, however, active in military affairs inside Iran and the region,” he also said to state media.

Despite these remarks, and the fact that the IRGC dominates the Iranian economy, merely two days later on October 17th the Vatan-e Emrooz daily, known to be linked to the faction loyal to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, made a major U-turn in a piece titled “Black hole!”

This article shed light on the “unprecedented economic impact and expenses expected through the mother of all sanctions” – a term used by Iranian experts – on the entire regime apparatus.

This piece very explicitly explains the crippling results of new U.S. sanctions for Tehran. The piece, under the subtitle of “The Impact of Economic Sanctions Against The IRGC” explains:

“Despite its initial goal of numerous security objectives across the Middle East and inside Iran, this section of the mother of all sanctions seeks to dysfunction Iran’s economy, or as U.S. senators have described, shut down and turn off Iran’s economic cycle. Based on the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, first the IRGC and all branches and entities in any way related to the IRGC, alongside all companies cooperating with the IRGC will be designated in the SDN sanctions list.”

Furthermore, individuals and entities cooperating in any way with the IRGC must be designated and included in the SDN sanctions list under Executive Order 13224. The scope of these new sanctions will be extreme and far from any expectation under this executive order.

For example, more than 5,000 private companies are cooperating with the IRGC’s Khatam al-Anbiya construction company. Based on Trump’s new orders, all these companies are on the verge of being designated in the new list of sanctioned companies.

If Iran’s Central Bank or National Bank provides services and facilitations to these companies, and the U.S. State Department identifies this cooperation, these firms will be blacklisted in the SDN list of sanctions by the Treasury Department.

This major economic quagmire before the Iranian regime is the reason this bill is described as the “black hole” of sanctions.

What are we to believe?

On one hand there are claims of the IRGC not being an economic entity for sanctions to impact its future. On the other hand, there are those describing the IRGC blacklisting as a terrorist organization as pinning and shutting down the Iranian regime’s economy.

The simple truth is that the new U.S. sanctions against Iran are unprecedented of such plans imposed on a country. These economic and national security measures seek to patch loopholes in the highly flawed Obama-blueprinted Iran nuclear deal.

Following Trump’s speech, the Senate responded with a draft legislation proposed by Senators Bob Corker and Tom Cotton set to impose tough terms on the Iran nuclear deal. Sanctions lifted under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal would “snap back” if Iran tests ballistic missile enjoying the capability of delivering a warhead, or prevents nuclear inspectors’ access to all sites.

The House of Representatives also adopted four new sets of sanctions. The U.S. government is obliged to sanction individuals and entities facilitating financial resources and recruiting new members for Hezbollah.

Another bill calls on the White House to pressure the United Nations Security Council to level sanctions on Hezbollah for its use of civilians as human shields.

Wednesday’s last legislation focusing on the Iran-backed militia was a resolution calling upon the European Union to designate the Tehran offspring as a terrorist organization.

All three pieces bill, not in violation of the Iran nuclear deal, enjoyed bipartisan support with over 320 votes in favor.

The fourth and final bill, voted in nearly unanimously on Thursday with 423 in favor against two, aimed to sanction Iran in response to further developing its ballistic missile program.

Iran, sensing an end nearing to its days of cheating the nuclear deal with impunity, is showing signs of frustration. The Iranian Foreign Ministry has filed 18 instances claiming the U.S. has violated the deal. Analysts believe this could set the stage for Tehran to abandon ship while blaming Washington for the whole ordeal.

Lifting the entire issue to a whole new level, escalating protests by thousands of ordinary Iranians who have invested their savings into state-owned financial institutions are causing grave concerns for the ruling elite in Tehran.

Raising eyebrows is the fact that such protests are evolving politically in nature and gaining coverage among mainstream media.

Fox News’ Ben Evansky reported:

“According to a report and video from an Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), there were more than 2,000 people protesting outside the country’s parliament, known as the Majlis. The protesters who were accosted by the police shouted slogans against the regime:

“Shame, shame on the police force!”

“Death to the dictator.”

“Death to the demagogue.”

Welcoming these rallies, Iranian opposition NCRI President Maryam Rajavi hailed the brave protests and called on her fellow countrymen to join in solidarity and express their support.

“Institutionalized fraud along with institutionalized murder and belligerence constitute the pillars of the mullahs’ decadent regime… As long as this regime is in power, there will be no end to the astronomical embezzlement, poverty, unemployment and catastrophic economic conditions,” she said.

And once again, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson voiced his government’s support for the will of the Iranian people.

“There are strong feelings and values inside of Iran that we want to promote in terms of one day the Iranian people being able to retake control of their government,” he said during his trip to India.

ANALYSIS: How the tide turned against Iran in Iraqi Kurdistan

Despite all the brouhaha made over Iran’s “lightning” advances in Iraqi Kurdistan, the entire scene change in less than 48 hours.

Tehran desperately needed to respond to US President Donald Trump’s lambasting October 13th speech launching a major policy shift and designating the Iranian regime’s crown jewel, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), as a terrorist organization.

The flag representing the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), brought down by Iran-backed militia forces known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), was raised once again Wednesday night.

Despite the tens of thousands of locals who fled their homes, footage on social media showed armed residents stationed in the streets of Kirkuk, Khaneqein and a number of other cities.

With locals taking matters into their own hands, and international pressure escalating on Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered all armed forces other than local security units to withdraw, forcing the PMF to retreat.

This is literally a slap in the face for Tehran.

Conflicting Reports

Rumors and various reports stream out of Iraqi Kurdistan on a constant basis. Reports indicate forces loyal to the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by KRG President Masoud Barzani arresting a number of ISIS commanders in the town of Hawija.

Further reports claim of these ISIS units coordinating attacks with Iran’s Quds Force and its commander, Qassem Soleimani. In this regard, allegations have been raised accusing the PMF of launching attacks targeting Kurdish areas aimed at releasing these very ISIS commanders.

As always, rumors and allegations are endless. Without a doubt, however, is the fact that the Iran-backed PMF units, considered Tehran’s “national treasure” in Iraq, have been forced to withdraw from Kurdish cities.

Many reports of these units attacking Kurdish homes, plundering people’s property and even setting their residents on fire were posted in the mere 48 hours of their presence in these cities. PMF units are known to have committed similar crimes in Sunni Arab cities following their cleansing of ISIS forces.

The United Nations expressed its worries and Washington called an end to all clashes and disputes.

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran issued a statement strongly condemning the IRGC’s “aggression and occupation,” adding Suleimani had been “plotting for it in Sulaimaniya and Baghdad and other areas of Iraq.”

Iran’s True Colors

The actions of Iran’s IRGC and the Quds Force in Iraqi Kurdistan, parallel to Suleimani’s presence, made Tehran’s deceitful role and intentions crystal clear for all parties.

Various outlets have accused the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), defragmented following the death of former leader and Iraqi president Jalal Talibani, of signing behind-the-curtain deals with Iran.

Suleimani has been in Kurdistan for at least two weeks and there are rumors of Talibani’s family agreeing to stand down in the face of PMF units entering Kirkuk and other Kurdish regions.

Iran, of course, has not remained silent and used its influence in an attempt to save face and make further threats. The Iraqi judiciary issued an arrest warrant for PUK Deputy Director General Kosrat Rasul. In contrast to Iraqi Kurdish politician Barham Salih and members of the Talabani family who expressed their gratitude for Iran’s “support” of the Kurds, Rasul described the events taking place in Kirkuk as an occupation, going on to accuse certain figures of becoming Tehran’s 5th column.

There are now even reports heard of the Iraqi judiciary summoning Barzani himself to a court of law on charges of threatening Iraqi security, illegal oil smuggling, along with other administrative and legal violations.

America Steps In

There is word of senior Trump administration officials contacting al-Abadi, threatening military action if the PMF refuses to withdraw from Kurdish cities. Rumors also indicate Moscow made similar threats, as all parties sense the dangers of a fresh round of military conflict in Iraq playing into the hands of the all but completely annihilated ISIS, and more importantly Tehran.

Fresh in the minds of all parties are scenes of PMF units staging attacks on Sunni communities, committing atrocities against entire towns and villages. Such an outcome would only play into the hands of Iran as the sole benefactor of increasing turmoil in Iraq.

The Big Picture

Without a doubt the expansion of PMF units across Iraq, and as a result the IRGC Quds Force’s influence in this very important stretch of land, has raised eyebrows and concerns in Washington.

The PMF is specifically seeking to occupy certain areas to facilitate the land bridge sought by the Quds Force between Tehran and Damascus, stretching to Lebanon and the shores of the Mediterranean. With such means the Quds Force would enjoy the ease of providing necessary arms and equipment for the Lebanese Hezbollah, and beyond.

As various forces enter and exit the restive cities of northern Iraq, efforts are also underway to launch talks between Baghdad and the KRG capital, Erbil.

Iraqi President Foad Masoum, himself a Kurd, has been travelling between these two cities in attempts to have al-Abadi and Barzani agree to sit for negotiations. Al-Abadi was also recently the guest of Saudi King Salman in a visit to Riyadh that certainly caught the attention of Tehran.

“We are open and we want to move away from the past,” he said in the Saudi capital. “The region cannot tolerate any further divisions. Interference in the internal affairs of other state should stop.”

Looking Forward

Iraq will be holding general elections next year and al-Abadi is currently under pressure from two Shiite fronts.

Tehran-backed elements led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have long been planning their return to power. Supporters of Muqtada Sadr, a Shiite cleric distancing from Iran and establishing closer ties with Saudi Arabia, is seeking to institute his position. It is a very high probability – and a nightmare scenario for Tehran – that Sadr may ally with secular Shiites led by Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi, alongside a number of Sunni groups to establish a coalition government.

The developments in Kurdistan have raised the intensity level in Iraq. Iran understands very well that the fall of the ISIS will allow the US and international community to focus on the main element threatening the entire region.

As explained in a White House press release prior to US President Donald Trump’s landmark October 13th Iran policy speech:

• Over the last decade and a half, United States policy has also consistently prioritized the immediate threat of Sunni extremist organizations over the longer-term threat of Iranian-backed militancy.

• In doing so, the United States has neglected Iran’s steady expansion of proxy forces and terrorist networks aimed at keeping its neighbors weak and unstable in hopes of dominating the greater Middle East. Recently, the Iranian regime has accelerated the seeding of these networks with increasingly destructive weapons as they try to establish a bridge from Iran to Lebanon and Syria.

• The Trump Administration will not repeat these mistakes.

Iran sought to recover following the IRGC’s terrorist designation by the US Treasury Department under Trump’s orders. With its supported units forced to withdraw from Kurdish cities, this crusade has not only backfired, but transformed into yet another slap in the face for Tehran’s rulers.

These major developments have sparked major diplomat efforts, as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has launched a trip to the Middle East, with a first stop in Riyadh and making a call for Iranian “militias” to leave Iraq.

Analysts view this as a Washington push to establish a Saudi-Iraq alliance aimed at countering Iran’s regional belligerence.

Unpacking Trump’s Iran Policy Transition

We have surpassed a roller coaster month of intense developments over the Iran nuclear deal. Discussions in Washington, and talks between Europe and the United States catapulted us all into a simple conclusion:

A major global policy change was in the making. U.S. President Donald J. Trump followed suit and delivered his landmark speech last Friday.

It was the first time in over 30 years that a U.S. president completely devoted a speech to announcing his policy in regards to Iran. Trump delivered America’s new comprehensive strategy vis-à-vis Iran, following months of anticipation and talks.

The issue at hand is not a discussion about personal differences between George W. Bush, Barack Obama or Donald Trump. Policies have reached a dead end and long term interests have left America no choice but to adopt new policies.

What makes this transition even more important is the fact that an intense war on both sides of the Atlantic has been ongoing over this policy transition. This is not limited to the pro-Iran lobby camp. Major interests are at risk here, covering issues far more important than Washington’s Iran policy.

In this 19-minute speech never did Trump deliver a neutral stance regarding Iran. The entire text was focused on placing his crosshairs on the Iranian regime. He began with the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran, continuing with the bombings in Beirut, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Tanzania and Iraq against America and its allies.

The objective was not to deliver new tactics or mere mechanisms on how America will approach Iran. The very foundations of U.S. policy on Iran has undergone major alterations.

One very interesting fact was how Trump focused on using the terms the “Iranian regime” and/or the “Iranian dictatorship”. Even if he preferred not to use the phrase of “Islamic Republic,” Trump had the option of resorting to “Iran.” Yet his decision to rely on the “Iranian regime” can be considered a non-recognition of this regime in its entirety.

President Trump using the terms “dictatorship” and “regime” indicates the ultimate objective of US policy is regime change in Iran, according to Richard Haass, President of the Council of Foreign Relations, as cited by various state websites in Iran.

In the first minute of his speech the U.S. president described Iran as an aggressive, radical and fanatic regime, and he refused to use the term “government.”

Trump’s speech focused on two subjects: the Iran nuclear deal and this regime’s regional belligerence and meddling through the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

Prior to his remarks, Trump was under fierce pressure from Europe to certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear accord, technically known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). America’s European allies even took one step back in asking Trump that in the case of decertifying the JCPOA, at least call on Congress not to re-impose pre-JCPOA sanctions on Iran.

Trump, however, stood against all pressures and his specific orders sent a message to the U.S. Congress and Europe: either fix the JCPOA or else the entire pact will come to an end.

The Europeans, seeking to maintain the JCPOA intact at all costs, found themselves before a fork in the road. The price of safeguarding the JCPOA is to place pressure on Tehran to resolve the existing loopholes.

This will be completely against Tehran’s interests, targeting the “sunset” clauses, Iran’s ballistic missile program and access to military sites for rigorous inspections.

“The notion that [Iran’s] entry into the JCPOA would curtail Iranian adventurism, the terror threat, or their malignant behavior has proven to be fundamentally false,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said at a recent session held by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Another very important aspect of Trump’s speech is recognizing Tehran as a threat, and in other words, America’s enemy number one. This, again, marks a strategic shift and not a mere tactical alteration.

“Over the last decade and a half, United States policy has also consistently prioritized the immediate threat of Sunni extremist organizations over the longer-term threat of Iranian-backed militancy,” a White House press release read prior to Trump’s speech.

This is the epicenter of America’s strategic shift regarding Iran and the Middle East. Following the 9/11 attacks, the flawed U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 played into Iran’s hands. These developments provided the necessary grounds for Tehran to spread its influence in the shadows of Sunni extremists and fundamentalists.

To add insult to injury, the Obama years gave birth to a policy hinging on recognizing a role for Tehran in regional developments. This period witnessed America distancing from its Sunni allies.

“The Trump Administration will not repeat these mistakes,” the press release adds. Once again the Iranian regime has become the main enemy in the region, as we have witnessed in the developments of the past few months following the historic Riyadh conference back in April.

The IRGC also became another major target of Trump’s harsh and unprecedented remarks targeting the Iranian regime’s top authority.

“The Revolutionary Guard is the Iranian Supreme Leader’s corrupt personal terror force and militia… I am authorizing the Treasury Department to further sanction the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its support for terrorism and to apply sanctions to its officials, agents, and affiliates,” he said.

The U.S. Treasury Department followed suit and blacklisted the IRGC as a terrorist entity.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei responded Wednesday to Trump’s remarks by merely saying Tehran would not walk out of the JCPOA, indicating his regime’s desperate dependence to the pact’s reliefs.

This makes it even more interesting how Germany’s Der Tagesspiegel recently wrote, “Iran has [according to German security sources] clearly not given up its long-term goal to become an nuclear power that can mount nuclear weapons on rockets.”

Equally important is how Trump in his remarks specifically separated the Iranian people from the ruling regime, and made his intention crystal clear.

“Iran is under the control of a fanatical regime that seized power in 1979 and forced a proud people to submit to its extremist rule… In this effort, we stand in total solidarity with the Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims: its own people,” he specified.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in an interview with CNN on Sunday raised the stakes further for Tehran.

“… the hope that one day the Iranian people will retake the government of Iran,” he said.

Of course, we can argue that Trump’s speech fell short of shedding important light on Iran’s flagrant human rights violations and the Iranian people’s demand for change.

While this is worthy of a lengthy debate, what is important now is that a major revolution in U.S. policy in the face of the Iranian regime spells disaster for Tehran’s rulers, and opportunity for the Iranian people.

Trump Decertified The Iran Nuclear Deal. Now What?

After describing it as the “worst deal ever” and threatening to scrap the entire accord, U.S. President Donald Trump has decertified the Iran nuclear deal, describing it as against U.S. national security interests, and outlined significant measures targeting the regime in its entirety. Trump took a major step in ordering the Treasury Department to fully sanction Iran’s notorious Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), describing the entity as Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s “corrupt terror personal terror force and militia.”

This is a major U.S. policy shift vis-a-vis Iran dating back to the early 1950s since Eisenhower turned against the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh.

The U.S. Treasury Department followed suit by designating the IRGC “pursuant to the global terrorism Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 and consistent with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.” Such a move against the Guards will have major implications in Iran and the region.

In an expression of his deep disregard of the Iran nuclear deal Trump said, “In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies in regards to Iran, then the agreement will be terminated.”

While always harsh on Trump, the Weekly Standard provided good reasoning for his recent decision.

“It is unassailably obvious that the Iranian regime has not complied with the agreement. The Iranians have not given international inspectors unfettered access to nuclear and military facilities, as the agreement requires. They have attempted to acquire banned nuclear and missile technology. They have exceeded the agreement’s limits on advanced centrifuges and heavy-water production. They continue, moreover, to sponsor terrorism around the world and abet the brutalities of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.”

 The U.S. House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee approved a new law imposing more sanctions on Iran for its Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Program on Thursday. A legislation, set to come under consideration in the House, will require Tehran to accept harsh new conditions on the JCPOA or face a “tidal wave of sanctions.”

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the first to blow the whistle on Iran’s nuclear program back in 2002, welcomed Trump’s decision.

NCRI President Maryam Rajavi said previous “U.S. administrations’ policies of turning a blind eye on flagrant human rights violations in Iran, the regime’s deadly meddling in the region and concessions made to it in the course of the JCPOA have been disastrous, and for which the people of Iran and region have paid heavily,” according to a statement.

This comes after the NCRI’s Wednesday conference releasing a 52-page report titled “Iran’s Nuclear Core: Uninspected Military Sites,” shedding light on the regime continuing its nuclear weapons ambitions through secret military sites. Back in April this coalition also provided extensive information on over forty different missiles sites checkered across the country.

Voices opposing Trump’s decision, however, argued Iran continued to abide by the JCPOA.

“The Trump administration is right that Iranian behavior destabilizes the region, but wrong when it says that such behavior contradicts the ‘spirit’ of the agreement,” former U.S. diplomat Wendy Sherman argued in a recent New York Times piece.

The JCPOA text itself begs to differ.

“The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action states the anticipation of JCPOA participants that ‘full implementation of this JCPOA will positively contribute to regional and international peace and security,’” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. “However, Iran’s other malign activities are serving to undercut whatever ‘positive contributions’ to regional and international peace and security were intended to emerge from the JCPOA.”

One wonders how Sherman would respond to a new intelligence report citing the German intelligence service.

“Iran tried to obtain illicit technology that could be used for military nuclear and ballistic missile programs, raising questions about a possible violation of the 2015 agreement intended to stop Tehran’s drive to become an atomic armed power…”

The Iran nuclear deal is comprised of key botches:

  • The JCPOA fails to confirm Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful, delivers no agreed-upon punishments for Tehran’s violations and actually paves the path to nuclear weapons,
  • provides a very opaque inspections regime, especially on military sites,
  • permanently benefits Iran in return for “sunset” nuclear restrictions,
  • sets no limits on Tehran’s ballistic missile program,
  • and Iran, known as the leading state sponsor of terrorism, is emboldened to expand its influence and escalate its destabilizing activities.

The ball is now in Congress’ court to decide on the future of the accord.

Having passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act in 2015, Congress now has 60 days to launch legislation based on accelerated procedures bearing the potential of snapping back nuclear sanctions on Iran and take even further action against the IRGC.

All states considering establishing economic ties with Iran will also have to think twice. The IRGC has tentacles spread to at least 40% of Iran’s economy through front companies. This includes key oil, gas, telecommunications and construction sectors.

Foreign firms seeking relations with Iranian firms will risk violating US sanctions. BNP Paribas learned this the hard way in 2015 after being slapped a record $8.9 billion fine for violating Iran sanctions.

The Trump administration will most likely seek further non-nuclear sanctions against the Iranian regime. This would need at least 60 votes in the Senate, meaning eight Democrats have to jump aboard.

Considering the existing consensus on Capitol Hill over Tehran’s Middle East meddling especially in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, supporting proxy groups such as the Lebanese Hezbollah and domestic human rights violations, this doesn’t seem an uphill battle.

The measures needed from this day forward are:

  1. Closing JCPOA loopholes and aiming to permanently prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
  2. Bringing a definitive end to Iran’s ballistic missile program, regional aggression and sponsorship of terrorism, and flagrant human rights violations.
  3. Dismantling Iran’s weaponization program through airtight control mechanisms covering all aspects of the regime’s nuclear program.
  4. Gaining true “anytime, anywhere” access to sites, civil and military, and interviewing nuclear scientists and experts. This is needed to clarify outstanding issues in relation to possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson provided the case against the IRGC.

“Iran supports the Assad regime, even as it commits atrocities against its own people, including with chemical weapons. Iran provides arms, financing, and training, and funnels foreign fighters into Syria. It has also sent members of the Iran Revolutionary Guard to take part in direct combat operations.”

Senior Iranian officials even prior to Trump’s speech had resorted to known rhetoric and threats.

“If the news is correct about the stupidity of the American government. . . then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American army to be like Islamic State,” IRGC chief Gen. Mohammed Ali Jafari said.

Former Iranian diplomat Hossein Mousavian wrote Trump’s decision returns “US-Iran relations to a state of overt hostility.” Interesting is that Mousavian has conveniently forgotten how Iran’s IRGC has a history of killing Americans, beginning with the 1983 Beirut bombing that left over 240 US military personnel killed.

The international community has no problems with the Iranian people who are rightfully proud of their thousands of years of heritage. It is the Iranian regime that wrongfully hijacked the 1979 revolution, unjustly claims to represent this nation and continues to create mayhem domestically, across the Middle East and beyond.

Trump’s strategic US policy revision for regime change in Iran is indispensable to ending and rectifying Washington’s disastrous past strategy vis-a-vis the Iranian people.

President Trump underscored, “In this effort we stand in total solidarity with the Iranian regime’s longest suffering victims: Its own people.”

Is Iran’s enhanced ballistic missile capability a calculated move?

As the North Korea nuclear standoff and the future of Iran’s nuclear deal has absorbed an all-too enormous amount of international attention, a more important prism on Iran’s regional hostility must not go neglected.

During the United Nations General Assembly the controversial nuclear pact, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), took center stage once again. All the while Tehran has throughout the years overtly and covertly pursued a massive campaign hinging on meddling and extending its lethal ideology of Islamic fundamentalism across the Middle East.

The rendered atrocities can be witnessed across the region, especially in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. This threatens the very fabric of the Middle East populace and bears the potential of plunging this flashpoint region into an abyss of proxy wars resulting in nothing but infernos of carnage.

Broken promises

As the Obama administration sought to sell the JCPOA to the American people, US allies and the international community, they claimed a different Iran would emerge as a responsible member of the global neighborhood and the Middle East would be the first region to enjoy the boasted outcome. Some even claimed Iran would become this region’s Japan.

“Regrettably, since the agreement was confirmed, we have seen anything but a more peaceful, stable region,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on the sidelines of his UNGA meetings. While Iran has enjoyed a rift between Europe and the US, Berlin made remarks sinking deep into the minds of those sitting on the throne in Tehran.

“The Americans are right: Iran is still not playing a constructive role in the Middle East, be it in Yemen or Lebanon,” said German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel in a statement. The Green Continent has also welcomed the idea of cooperating with Washington with the aim of containing Iran’s Middle East thirst, especially considering growing concerns over Iran’s dangerous role in Damascus, Baghdad, Sanaa and Beirut.

This train of thought also bears backing amongst Middle East states. “Two years have passed since Iran’s nuclear agreement with no sign of change in its hostile behavior; it continues to develop its nuclear program and violates the letter and spirit of that agreement,” UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahayan said during his UN General Assembly speech.

Yemen: The strategic state

Despite being a very poor country, the geostrategic importance of Yemen is undeniable. This is the very reason why al-Qaeda sought to establish a major foothold in Saudi Arabia’s back yard and now Iran vehemently continues its support of the Houthis in destabilizing this country and the vital international waters adjacent to its shores.

Tehran is continuing its efforts of smuggling illicit weapons and technology to prolong the Houthis’ campaign, according to Vice Admiral Kevin M. Donegan, the top US Navy commander in the Middle East. These measures stoke civil strife in Yemen and enable the Houthis to launch more precise and longer ranged missiles into its northern neighbor.

The Houthis are also receiving an “increasingly potent arsenal of anti-ship and ballistic missiles, deadly sea mines and even explosive boats that have attacked allied ships in the Red Sea or Saudi territory across Yemen’s northern border,” reported The New York Times citing Donegan’s remarks.

While there has been significant success in the initiative against Iran’s meddling in Yemen, the continuing crisis resembles the lethal potential of Tehran’s influence across the Middle East and its current focus on strategic junctures, such as this country’s influence over imperative shipping lines.

A ballistic missile is launched and tested in an undisclosed location, Iran, March 9, 2016. (Reuters)

Iran’s growing reach

Further grounds of Iran not changing habits following the JCPOA signing are found in its violation of a related accord, the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, by continuing to test launch a range of ballistic missiles.

As recently as Friday Iran unveiled a new ballistic missile as Rouhani increased his rhetoric against Washington through repeating the claim of this regime only seeking its defensive interests. In an even more provocative measure, the medium-range Khorramshahr missile was successfully test launched on Saturday. As claimed by the semiofficial Tasnim news agency, this new weapon has a range of 2,000 kilometers (nearly 1,250 miles) and enjoys the capability of carrying multiple warheads.

This raised strong responses across the board, including US President Donald Trump questioning the JCPOA altogether and accusing Tehran of colluding with Pyongyang. In line with such concerns, Francealso called on the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to deliver a full report on the recent missile test.

Rouhani’s emphasis on seeking to boost Iran’s ballistic missile capability is a completely calculated move. All the while it needs understanding that such rhetoric from senior Iranian officials are aimed at maintaining a straight face back home, and not appearing to give in to pressures raised by the international community.

Iran is also busy exporting weapons to the Lebanese Hezbollah and a slate of other terrorist and proxy groups. This conglomerate of violations reached the point of Team Obama alumni Samantha Power, former US envoy to the UN, felt obligated to highlight the cases. This is probably Rouhani’s definition of being a “moderate.”

Electing vetted candidates

Of course, this is the same individual who back in May, after reaching a second term through a process dubbed as an “election” carried out amongst vetted candidates said, “We are proud of our armed forces, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the Basij and the security forces.”

The IRGC is the godfather of Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile drive, in charge of quelling all forms of domestic dissent, and exporting the regime’s so-called “Islamic Revolution” abroad. For this very purpose, Iran has for decades fostered the rise of proxy offspring armies including the likes of the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Obama’s JCPOA and windfall of billions also provided Iran the opportunity to continue fueling terrorist groups across the region and even marshalling foot-soldiers from as far as Afghanistan and Pakistan to Syria to help maintain Syrian dictator Bashar Assad remain on his throne.

As a train of thought has remained intact from Obama’s flawed policies, there are voices who have gone as far as describing Iran being a “major diplomatic, military, and economic player throughout the Middle East and even into Central and Southwest Asia.” Unfortunately, this plays into Tehran’s hands and upgrades the dogma practiced vis-à-vis Tehran for the past four decades, rendering nothing but escalating death and destruction.

If Iran enjoys “considerable influence” in countries across the region it is not due to its righteous cause. Tehran, in fact, owes a great deal of gratitude to West for its tireless policy of rapprochement. Iran must be isolated, and this is not tantamount to a call for a new Middle East war. Imagining this regime can be a party to be constructively reckoned with is in fact naïve.

Broken promises

It has become crystal clear that the JCPOA has not lived up to its promises. The Middle East has evolved into a mess due to Iran’s meddling, leading to Europe leaning toward US’ position of pressuring Tehran to bring an end to its regional carnage.

For far too long Iran has taken advantage of its nuclear program and ambitions to advance its Middle East influence. This must come to an end, parallel to increasing international pressures on its nuclear/ballistic missile drive, support for terrorism and human rights violations at home.

For nearly four decades Tehran has utilized the engagement approach by the West based on the mistaken perspective on playing “nice” with Iran to encourage change. This has resulted in a Middle East engulfed in war, death and destruction, cloaked by the international brouhaha Iran has launched through its nuclear program.

All of the Iranian regime’s animosities deserve due attention in parallel fashion. Its regional meddling and support for terrorism should be top priority. One such solution was recently provided by Walid Phares, former Trump foreign policy advisor, for Washington to use the Arab coalition and Iranian opposition as means against Tehran.

Iran: A Testimony Of Change

On Tuesday the world witnessed US President Donald Trump defining his utmost contrasted difference from that of his predecessor. In his landmark first speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Trump sided with the Iranian people in affirming that the people of Iran are not only far separate from the ruling clerics of Tehran, but also are the main victims and threat to this regime’s survival.

Although long overdue, this is a highly welcomed U-turn in US policy vis-à-vis Iran and a very significant strategic decision to stand alongside the Iranian people. Obama missed his opportunity in 2009 when hundreds of thousands of brave Iranians took to the streets and rattled the regime’s very foundations. What followed afterwards has been more than 8 years of human rights violations at home, and a slate of belligerence abroad.

This can deliver a positive message from the US to the Iranian people in the face of the oppression imposed by Tehran’s regime throughout the past four decades.

Iran is ruled by a “corrupt dictatorship” hell-bent on spreading death and destruction across the Middle East, Trump explained. By demanding Iran cease its support for terrorism, he affirmed how his administration continues to weigh its Iran policy, said to be announced at the end of the month, and is extremely concerned over Tehran’s backing of proxy groups in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and across the region.

Trump’s senior diplomat also voiced his strong viewpoints against the Obama-blueprinted Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“We can almost start the countdown as to when they will resume the nuclear weapons capability,” State Secretary Rex Tillerson said, indicating how Iran has sought the ability to obtain a nuclear arsenal.

Tillerson went on to highlight that the JCPOA must undergo significant alterations and enhancements for Washington to remain loyal to the pact. This is viewed as an initial indication of how key “sunset” limitations on Iran’s controversial nuclear program must be extended.

The Iranian opposition welcomed Trump’s speech and underlined the most significant aspect of his words.

“The remarks by President Trump was the first time a US President attested to the need for regime change in Iran by the Iranian people,” said opposition leader Maryam Rajavi.

Rajavi’s supporters and a large gathering of the Iranian Diaspora responded to a call made by the Organization of Iranian American Communities for a New York rally protesting the presence of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the UN General Assembly. The demonstrators made their presence felt, voicing how they do not consider neither Rouhani nor the regime in Tehran as their representatives, and demanding he be expelled from the UN.

Prominent US dignitaries from both sides of the aisle joined the rally and voiced their support for the demonstration’s cause.

Senator Joseph Lieberman, Chairman of the United Against Nuclear Iran, highlighted on the necessity for a collective effort to change the Tehran regime.

While emphasizing Iran’s clerics must not celebrate their 40th anniversary in February and if Rouhani is allowed into the United Nations, Ambassador John Bolton emphasized so should a representative of the Iranian opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

Congressman Eliot Engel, a long-standing supporter of the Iranian people’s struggle, also voiced his backing for the rally’s cause.

“I say to the Iranian regime and the mullahs that the people must have freedom to choose whoever they want for their government, and that would not be the current dictators,” he said.

Former Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi shed light on a perilous humanitarian plight regarding the summer 1988 massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners in Iran, stressing the international community must hold Tehran accountable.

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran Asma Jahangir recently issued an unprecedented report recognizing the atrocious carnage and seeking actions on this highly sensitive subject.

For many years the United Nations General has been condemning Iran’s human rights violations. Considering Jahangir’s significant reporting, efforts should elevate to the level of seeking an international inquiry aimed at bringing the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre to justice.

Tehran, however, wasn’t too pleased of these recent developments, responding angrily in an undiplomatic fashion.

“Trump’s ignorant hate speech belongs in medieval times – not the 21st Century UN – unworthy of a reply,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif through Twitter.

Speaking a day after Trump, Rouhani resorted to merely emphasizing Tehran will not be departing the JCPOA. This proves how the regime is in fact desperately needs the nuclear agreement and will seek to keep it intact. Rouhani knows Tehran will be the main, and maybe sole party to see its interests hampered severely in such a scenario.

Despite previous with his American counterpart, French President Emmanuel Macron shed further concerns over Iran’s growing belligerence across the region and explaining the JCPOA’s limits in this regard. This most definitely will not sit well with Tehran.

The bold tone adopted by the Trump administration will most likely launch a new chorus of Iran apologists threatening how any action against the JCPOA will lead the US into war with Iran.

Such a flawed line of thought would neglect how appeasement vis-à-vis Iran has led to decades of war, destruction and terrorism from the very first days of this regime’s rule.

Washington’s comprehensive Iran policy will shed more light on what the future holds. Certain, however, is the fact that Iran’s “golden era” of the West’s appeasement policy is over and the road ahead looks promising for the Iranian people in realizing their demands for freedom, democracy and human rights for all.