Understanding the US policy on Iran in light of Pompeo speech

Dedicating his first foreign policy speech to the grave subject of Iran, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined the Trump administration’s new strategy vis-à-vis Iran on Monday, coming shortly after President Trump announced the US would withdraw from the Obama-era nuclear deal.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., Secretary Pompeo vividly explained how the US administrations is standing alongside the Iranian people and their aspirations for freedom and democracy, especially the ongoing protests across the country.

The new strategy encompasses “a new security architecture” extending beyond Tehran’s nuclear program to also include its missile technology, support for terrorism and actions in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, amongst other countries.

A long slate of conditions were set forth by America’s top diplomat, demanding the Iranian regime to fall in line regarding concerns shared by the international community:

– The regime must come clean of all previous nuclear activities and disclose full account of the military dimensions of its nuclear program. It must also abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions in perpetuity.

– The regime must stop uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing. It must also close its heavy water reactor at Arak.

– The Iranian regime must provide the IAEA full access to all its sites throughout the country.

– Tehran must stop its ballistic missile development and the launching of ballistic missiles.

– The release of all foreign citizens held hostage by the regime.

– The Iranian regime must end its support for terrorist groups in the Middle East.

– Respect for the sovereignty of Iraq and the disbanding of its proxy militia in the country.

– End of support for the Houthi militias.

– The regime must withdraw all forces under its command from Syria.

– End of support for Taliban and other terrorists in the region. The regime must also cease providing shelter to the leaders of al-Qaeda.

– The regime must end the IRGC Quds forces support for terrorism across the globe.

– The regime must end its threatening behavior against its neighbors.

Mike Pompeo and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir during a press conference in Riyadh on April 29, 2018. (AP)

 

As Pompeo explained himself, this list is actually quite longer and the Iranian regime has only itself to blame. The way measures are forecasting, Tehran will never again enjoy a carte blanche to terrorize the Middle East.

Pompeo’s comments come as the as Iran is scrambling diplomats across the globe after Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal, in an effort to somehow preserve what they can of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), how the deal is formally known.

All the while, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has described the JCPOA as a “dying patient,” adding there is no guarantee if Europe can actually stand in the face of US sanctions.

Zarif has specifically added European support isn’t enough to safeguard the Iran nuclear deal. This notion was given a very strong shock as Pompeo said in his speech, “We will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime.”

As actions begin to bite and an increasing number of foreign companies are abandoning their endeavors inside Iran, Tehran is comprehending how this is just the beginning of a very strong sanctions tsunami, described as Pompeo of eventually becoming the strongest sanctions in history.

The sting of sanctions will be painful if the regime doesn’t change its course, Pompeo added. With an already ailing economy and its currency, the rial, nosediving, the Iranian regime will be in an uphill battle to prevent its economy from a highly possible episode of complete collapse.

Arguably the strongest aspect of Pompeo’s speech came in his emphasis on Washington’s stance alongside the Iranian people, underscoring how the US administration intends to advocate tirelessly for the Iranian people.

America’s top diplomat referred how the protests of the past show the Iranian people are deeply frustrated with the regime. Workers and others across the society aren’t getting paid. Strikes and protest rallies are a daily scene. Unemployment is skyrocketing, with the youth being at least 25 percent.

At a short Q&A after his speech, Secretary Pompeo was asked to deliver a possible timeline on how Washington intends to fulfill these measures against the Iranian regime.

“At the end of the day the Iranian people will decide the timeline,” Pompeo said interestingly. As far as Tehran is concerned, reactions to Pompeo’s speech are very telling.

The Youth Journalists Club, known for its affiliation to the faction close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, described Pompeo’s remarks as “baseless.”

The semi-official Tasnim news agency, however, associated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, went as far as using this title for its post-Pompeo speech take:

“The US Secretary of State and his regime change speech.”

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ANALYSIS: Spotlight on Iran’s media apparatus

Media discussions continue over the nuclear deal with Iran and the need to curb Tehran’s ballistic missile program.

There’s also discussion relating to the degree with which the regime, through its militias and proxies, meddles in the affairs of other countries in the region, such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon.

There is, however, another highly dangerous reality, spreading from Tehran throughout the region and beyond, in the shape of the regime’s growing media empire.

The powerful threat posed by this network is must be understood. It is high time to put a spotlight on this growing phenomenon by focusing on containing and ultimately ending it.

The use of media and publications is a very important element of the regime’s ‘export of revolution,’ together with actual military operations, the establishment of religious footholds by founding centers and institutions and, as seen in Lebanon, appealing to the people by building free clinics, distributing food and other such charitable measures.

The United States has recently threatened to issue sanctions against Iran’s state TV and radio broadcasting empire, but, undeterred, Iran has announced its intentions to launch new French and Russian language networks, as well as targeting West Africa.

In a recent interview with Voice of America Farsi TV, Mr. Hassan Dai, a researcher into Iran’s international affairs, sheds light on Tehran’s vast media/publications grid.

A few numbers

There is no exact figure for how many TV networks Iran has launched to support its objectives abroad, but there are at least 55 stations known to broadcast programs in a variety of languages, mainly focusing on the Middle East.

Over 200 radio stations are aligning with hundreds of websites and printed newspapers.

The Iranian regime also fully understands and embraces the power of social media, using this platform to great effect in spreading the word about its television productions.

The Islamic TV/Radio Union

Founded ten years ago, Iran’s Islamic TV/Radio Union holds annual meetings and official numbers claim this Tehran-based union enjoys a membership of 236 organizations from 36 countries.

Former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki described the objective of this union as providing “honest support for armed groups in the field.”

This union is known as an umbrella entity for all Tehran-influenced regional and international media outlets. The main member of this union is the Iranian regime’s state provider, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) operating inside the country with branches in Lebanon and Iraq.

In 2002, the Arabic language “Al-Alam TV” launched to cover the entire Middle East.

Iranian and foreign staff members of “Press TV” news channel work at the newsroom in Tehran, 20 June 2007. (AFP)

A few years later, the English language “Press TV” began broadcasting with branches in London and Lebanon. Due to sanctions, this network was later cut-off from Europe’s cable TV network.

“HispanTV” in Spanish provides similar broadcasts in Spanish for Latin America and parts of Europe.

“Al-Kowthar” airs religious programs in different languages while Sahar TV has recently expanded its activities in Azeri, Bosnian, French, Turkish and other languages.

Middle East focus

In addition to the IRIB, Iran is placing significant focus on supporting its Middle East militias.

No other country has such a high number of militia groups, each equipped with their own media outlet. IRIB chief Ali Asgari’s October visit to Lebanon provided a glimpse into the depth of Tehran’s established network.

According to Dai, using such media outlets, Iran continues its gain of significant experience in disseminating lies and spreading propaganda over many years.

Journalists work 07 December 2004 at the Al-Manar television station, the mouthpiece of the Lebanese Shiite Muslim fundamentalist Hezbollah. (AFP)

The Lebanese Hezbollah has through the years carried out a two-pronged campaign comprising military operations and media activities, especially using satellite TV networks. “Al-Manar TV” launched in 2000, developing into the new “Al-Mayadeen” network in 2012. With numerous Arab language TV networks stationed on its soil, Lebanon is of great importance for Iran.

Iraq is also home to many Iran-backed militia groups, each now enjoying a separate media platform. While distinct in name, their activities are well coordinated.

The main media stations and militia groups are:

  • “Al-Qadir,” associated to the Badr Organization led by Hadi al-Ameri, airs in Baghdad, Karbala and Basra;
  • “Al-Ettejah,” associated to the Katayeb al-Hezbollah led by senior Revolutionary Guards Quds Force member Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes;
  • “Al-Ahd TV,” associated to Asaeb al-Haq led by Qeis al-Khazali, whose men have vowed to fight U.S. Marines in Iraq;
  • “Al-Forat,” associated to Ammar Hakim, former leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a group known for its close ties to Tehran;
  • “Al-Nojaba,” associated to the Harekat al-Nojaba group that is witnessing a recent rise.

The Dawa Party has three different TV networks.

  • “Afaq,” associated to former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.
  • “Al-Baladi,” associated to Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jafari.
  • “Al-Mesar,” associated to the party itself.

Moving on to Yemen, a country now witnessing a proxy war launched by Iran against Saudi Arabia. While its role continues unconfronted, Tehran has provided the Yemen Ansarollah, aka the Houthis, the “al-Masireh TV” and “al-Saha” networks. These establishments, based in Beirut, enjoy Lebanese Hezbollah support.

Despite the fact that al-Masireh’s satellite provider ended its services, this TV station continues to air its programs.

In Palestine the two networks of Palestine “al-Yawm” and “al-Quds” are fully controlled and funded by Iran. They are in close relations with Islamic Jihad and the Quds Force Saberin unit, known for its extraterritorial special operations. “Al-Aqsa,” however, is associated to Hamas and cannot completely be described as under Tehran’s control, while they specifically oppose peace efforts with Israel.

Main target for expanding activity

Following the transfer of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) from Iraq to Albania, Tehran has been redoubling its efforts to establish a wide variety of outlets in this country and across the Balkans.

The PMOI/MEK have been a target of Iran’s demonizing campaign for decades and Tehran understands it needs to invest even further in this regard to delegitimize this opposition coalition that significantly threatens its entire establishment.

This urgency is increasing daily as protests continue across the country following a recent uproar from the whole spectrum of Iran’s society, incited, according to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, by the PMOI/MEK.

Measures taken by the Iranian regime against the PMOI/MEK in Albania include paying various Albanian TV networks to air anti-PMOI/MEK propaganda during the past few months. A new website called “Iran-Freedom-Albania” presents such posts in Farsi, English and Albanian.

In addition, the Habilian website, known for its links to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence, and Pars Today are now presenting Albanian language segments to their platform to target the PMOI/MEK.

This vast onslaught of media propaganda goes alongside Iran’s cyber campaign, used as domestic surveillance to hunt down protesters and gain knowledge about foreign-based activists.

Iran’s media campaign against its dissidents and opposition aims to help quell the current uprising. Be in no doubt that discovering the PMOI social network inside Iran and their supporter cells across the country are a major priority for Tehran.

The costs

First, taking into consideration the lack of transparency that Iran’s regime is known for, we should most certainly refrain from relying on official statistics. At least 30 percent of Iran’s entire economy is completely behind the curtains, controlled by the IRGC and other Khamenei-supervised institutions. There is no information on how the revenue of this large segment of Iran’s economy is allocated.

The same goes for Iran’s foreign belligerence. There is no mentioning of the budgets allocated for Syria, said to be $10 to $15 billion a year. This includes the money Iran provides to launch a new satellite TV network in this ravaged country.

There are no official statistics for these measures. Estimates indicate the Hezbollah-affiliated “al-Manar” TV station demands an annual budget of $20 million. As a result, aside from networks managed by the IRIB, Iran’s foreign-based media cost the regime around $150 million a year.

Blanket sanctions

Iran is certainly feeling the international pressure to significantly curb its ballistic missile program and meddling across the Middle East. As we trust this article shows, concentrated measures are also necessary to closing the curtain on its destructive media empire.

With reports of a controversial secret deal between the Obama administration and Tehran preventing new sanctions against Iran’s IRIB, Washington should lead an effort to impose blanket sanctions on this regime’s method used to spread its malign ideology and belligerence.

The time to act is now.

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.

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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.

Human Rights: Iran’s Ultimate Vulnerability

Developments in the Middle East have placed the spotlight once again on Iran and its hegemonic temptations. This goes parallel to calls from parties such as France and Germany, whom Iran previously counted on in the face of U.S. pressures, demanding Tehran reel in its ballistic missile program and support for proxy groups across the region.

While all such measures are necessary and deserve escalation, Tehran’s human rights violations demand even more attention. This is the one issue that both shivers fear in the ruling regime and provides direct support for the Iranian people in their struggle for freedom, democracy and all the other values embraced by today’s 21st century world.

As the world marks International Human Rights Day on December 10th, we are also well into the first year of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s second term.

Dubbed as a “moderate” figure in Iran’s politics, with many arguing otherwise, the scene witnessed in Iran during his tenure has been far from it. Over 3,500 executions are merely the first stain of an atrocious report card of human rights violations.

new report by Iran Human Rights Monitoring reviewing the plight of human rights in Iran during the course of 2017 sheds light on a reality the regime strives to cloak from the world.

Mrs. Asma Jahangir, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, in a semi-annual report referred to the absence of an independent judiciary in Iran. Improving the country’s human rights situation hinges on reforming the judiciary, she added.

Amnesty International in its 2016-2017 report indicated how, aside from China, Iran is host to 55 percent of all the world’s executions.

In June Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei used the term “fire at will” in a speech, leading to an increase in repressive measures and flagrant human rights violations.

This includes a 22 percent increase in the number of arrests, 25 percent increase in women executions, the execution of four juveniles, and a surge in inhumane and humiliating punishments, according to the Iran-HRM report.

Iran has witnessed 520 executions from the beginning of 2017 to the end of November, while only 91 such cases have been reported by the regime’s official news agencies. 28 of these were public hangings and five cases involved political prisoners.

The systematic murder of porters by state security forces in Iran’s border regions, counting to 84 such cases so far in 2017, raised a stir in social networks and even international media outlets.

Bent under the weight of their loads — smuggled cigarettes, alcohol, gasoline, and even home appliances — the mules are a common sight in Iran’s western border regions.

The report also sheds light on the atrocious conditions in Iran’s prisons, as severe crackdown measures have rendered jails packed with inmates. This has led to poor hygiene conditions, low quality food and many other dilemmas for the prisoners.

Iran’s jails are also home to at least 640 political prisoners, an issue Tehran refuses to recognize or provide any information about. These individuals are constantly tortured and placed under inhumane pressures, as more than 56 are victim to mental and psychological tortures.

One such hideous practice has been chaining inmates to a courtyard pole, seen carried out in Ardebil Prison, northwest Iran, according to the report.

Iran is also known to resort to inhumane measures resembling the Middle Ages. Five limb amputations, 32 lashings and more than 105 humiliating public parading of prisoners have been registered from January to November 2017.

Ruled by a regime founded on pillars of crackdown, Iran has long been criticized for its lack of press freedoms; more than 30 journalists and 18 bloggers are currently behind bars across the country. At least five journalists are banned from any such activities and dozens of others are serving heavy sentences.

In its April statement Reporters Without Borders ranked Iran as 165th among 180 countries on its index of press freedoms, adding the country ruled by Tehran’s regime is considered one of the world’s largest prisons for journalists.

After imposing censorship for decades and keeping the Iranian people cut off from the outside world, the regime ruling Iran understands the power of the internet and social media, in particular.

Women-in-an-internet-cafe-in-Iran.-specials.dw_.com_
Women in an internet cafe in Iran. (specials.dw.com)

While Iran cannot afford to completely cut off the internet, the mere fact that nearly 40 million Iranians are online daily is literally a time bomb for Tehran. The regime has gone the limits to ban and filter numerous websites and platforms, especially Telegram, considered to be very popular in Iran due to the privacy and security provides to its users.

Iranian officials have publicly announced the filtering of around 16,000 to 20,000 Telegram channels, went as far as blocking any live video streaming on Instagram and filtered Twitter.

Religious and ethnic minorities in Iran, specifically Christians and Baha’is, are experiencing similar restrictions, parallel to not being recognized by Iran’s ruling extremists and systematically placed under pressure from state officials and authorities. The UN Special Rapporteur in her report referred to the harassment of religious and ethnic minorities, specifically holding the IRGC responsible for arresting minority members.

For the first time the UN Special Rapporteur’s report refers to the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, consisting mostly of members and supporters of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

A panel of prominent American politicians participated in a recent discussion in Washington, DC, unveiling a new book published by the U.S. Representative Office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the main coalition consisting of the PMOI and other Iranian dissident groups.

U.S. President Donald Trump has twice expressed the American people’s solidarity with their Iranian brethren, signaling a stark contrast in policy with his predecessor who failed to stand alongside the Iranian people during their 2009 uprising.

Sanctions and a variety of restricting measures targeting Tehran’s nuclear drive, ballistic missile program, and support for terrorism and proxy groups are very necessary, and should increase. Parallel to such actions, measures targeting Iran’s senior officials and the entities behind human rights violations must be placed on agenda by the international community.