U.S. Drastic Measures On Iran Have Just Begun

The new US strategy vis-à-vis Iran began to unravel this week.

Making headlines has been the CIA’s latest trove of nearly half a million documents indicating deep ties between Iran and the al-Qaeda terrorist network. Experts have been busy analyzing the data, especially showing how Iran offered al-Qaeda operatives “everything they needed,” including “money, arms” and “training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, in exchange for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf,” according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracy’s Long War Journal.

On October 31st the U.S. Treasury Department officially implemented the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), described by officials in Iran as the “mother of all sanctions” targeting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

New sanctions are leveled against IRGC commanders and affiliates involved in domestic crackdown, plundering the population’s wealth, exporting the regime’s terrorism, and advancing Tehran’s nuclear proliferation and ballistic missile program.

Also described as a “black hole,” CAATSA will be placing the very pillars of the Iranian regime in its crosshairs. The IRGC’s Khatam al-Anbiya Headquarters, known to pursue massive construction projects, has around 5,000 companies under its umbrella involved in building dams, power plants and refineries. The IRGC in its entirety reportedly controls over 40% of Iran’s economy.

Furthering Tehran’s troubles is a new push by 13 prominent U.S. senators in a letter calling on the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. With Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) leading the initiative, this demands a rigorous new international inspections regime to be imposed on Iran’s nuclear program.

The main objectives include gaining vital access to Iran’s military sites, up to now considered off-limits by Tehran, and escalating transparency into the regime’s uranium enrichment drive.

Iran is suspected of taking advantage of military sites to continue nuclear activities banned under a nuclear agreement considered landmark by some, while highly flawed by others. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have been banned or forced to endure a bureaucracy of 54 days to obtain access to disputed sites.

This, of course, provides Tehran enough time destroy all trace of illicit activities, as seen when the highly controversial Lavizan-Shian site was razed to the ground in late 2003 and early 2004. Iran went the limits to cover up undeclared nuclear activities, according to Western diplomats.

Aerial image of Lavizan-Shian after extensive razing. (Courtesy: getty images)

The new initiative from U.S. senators, highlighting “shortcomings in the inspection and verification regime,” is said to enjoy the Trump administration’s full backing, as the White House seeks to resolve outstanding issues over Iran’s compliance with the deal and patch outstanding loopholes providing the regime dangerous opportunity to obtain nuclear weapons.

Aiming to garner further international support, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin headed to the Middle East, visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Mnuchin focused his efforts on ratcheting up pressure on Iran by placing special focus on terror financing across the region.

Under this escalating pressure, Tehran scrambled a senior military commander to level new threats of launching ballistic missile attacks against U.S. forces stationed across the Middle East. This followed reports of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei “limiting” the range of his forces’ ballistic missiles to nearly 1,300 miles, or 2,000 kilometers.

While this does encompass all regional U.S. bases, we must understand that Tehran’s forces are no match against the U.S. military. And rest assured, this regime enjoys no public support. Considering the weight of Washington’s Iran policy shift, Tehran is desperately resorting to such measures to save face at home and prevent any sign of weakness before an increasingly restive society.

Iran’s growing international isolation today is all due to initial revelations back in August 2002 when the Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) blew the whistle on the Natanz uranium enrichment site and Arak heave water production plant.

Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, Iran. (Courtesy: Cryptome)

Ever since the NCRI has played a leading role in alerting the world of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, especially the clandestine network of military complexes.

Back in July 2003 the NCRI provided information on the secret Kolahdouz military complex located west of Tehran, home to a uranium enrichment testing facility.

At a Washington press conference in June the NCRI provided vital information on dozens of sensitive IRGC missile sites, including twelve previously unknown and one specifically linked to its controversial nuclear program.

The NCRI’s recent 52-page investigative publication, “Iran’s Nuclear Core: Uninspected Military Sites,” came as a bombshell. More than two years into a nuclear deal supposedly aimed to prevent block Tehran’s path to nuclear weapons, this report is a wake-up call showing how Iran’s A-bomb drive is in fact up and running.

Iran’s civilian nuclear program, where regime officials eagerly escort inspectors, is providing the necessary cover for the military branch to pursue their lethal objectives.

For nearly two decades the IRGC unit tasked to advance Iran’s nuclear bomb drive is the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (Sazman-e Pazhouheshhaye Novin-e Defa’i), known by its Persian acronym SPND.

The Center for Research and Expansion of Technologies for Explosion and Impact (Markaz-e Tahghighat va Tose’e Fanavari-e Enfejar va Zarbeh), known by its acronym METFAZ, is focused on research and building the nuclear weapon trigger.

Iran has scattered the facilities involved in this regard throughout several sprawling military houses that include dozens of silos and tunnels. This provides Tehran the ability to relocate necessary centers and projects, making pinpointing more difficult for IAEA inspectors, and thus reducing the exposure possibility.

The NCRI has identified four chief sites mainly pursuing the nuclear weapons drive:

  1. Pazhouheshkadeh, inside the Parchin military complex 30 miles southeast of Tehran, which has recently become the main center for METFAZ’s tests.
  2. The Nouri Industrial site, located at the maximum security Khojir military complex southeast of Tehran and spanning 75 square miles. The Hemmat Missile Industries Group, stationed in Khojir, focuses on nuclear warheads production.
  3. The Hafte Tir site, under the authority of Iran’s Defense Ministry, is located inside a military base found in a mountainous region near the town of Mobarakeh between the major cities of Isfahan and Shiraz. SPND has supervised the construction of underground tunnels at this site.
  4. The Sanjarian site, located on the banks of Jajrood River east of Tehran. Until recently this center was considered the main METFAZ testing facility and a subdivision of SPND.

The very fact that these key nuclear sites have gone uninspected by the IAEA, and how the IRGC is directing this effort, makes the new U.S. senators’ initiative and Treasury Department sanctions all the more essential.

Such measures are recommended to expand to all individuals, entities, institutions and companies affiliated to or involved in deals with the IRGC. Sanctioning each IRGC proxy abroad and all 31 provincial commanders inside Iran will significantly curb the regime’s warmongering and domestic crackdown capability.

Bold measures are needed to bring an end to Iran’s lethal belligerence across the region, implemented through the IRGC. This is key for any hope of terminating Middle East wars and bloodshed.

The U.S. has launched the policy needed to reach these objectives. Needed now is for the European Union to also blacklist the IRGC and end Iran’s use of this rift in international policy to its benefit in supporting terrorism.

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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.

ANALYSIS: Trump’s new policy: Solidarity with Iran’s people

US President Donald Trump decertified the Iran nuclear deal on Friday and referred the case to Congress. It remains to be seen what measures await Tehran, especially considering the highly intensive quarrel that brought us where we are today.

What is certain, however, is that this marks a major US policy shift vis-à-vis Iran, having impact across the flashpoint Middle East.

Ever since the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower back in the 1950s and since the CIA-backed the 1953 coup d’état against the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh, Washington’s policies have either directly or indirectly supported the ruling regimes in Iran and against the Iranian people’s better interests.

Trump, however, has for the second time in less than a month stated his solidarity with the Iranian people. Iran has violated the very spirit of the agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and the entire accord is against US national security interests, according to Trump.

The Arab world reacted positively, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain promptly supporting the US landmark decision.

This is in line with April’s Riyadh conference where Trump called on the Islamic world to recognize the threat of Iran’s meddling in their countries and take the necessary action. Considering the importance of the Middle East for Iran, rest assured Tehran is receiving these messages loud and clear.

President Trump speaks about the Iran nuclear deal on October 13, 2017. (Reuters)

Opposition voice

The Iranian opposition, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), known for its credibility after blowing the whistle on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions back in 2002, also welcomed Trump’s strategic policy shift.

The new US policy condemning flagrant human rights violations in Iran and “to deny the Iranian regime and especially the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) funding for its malign activities,” and opposing “IRGC activities that extort the wealth of the Iranian people,” are very necessary, according to NCRI President Maryam Rajavi.

Trump’s acknowledgment that under Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei the regime “oppresses its people, abuses their rights” and “exports violence, destabilizes its neighbors, and sponsors terrorism abroad,” is a recognition of the Iranian regime’s illegitimacy, she added.

The Trump administration has executed a widespread strategic alteration, ending years of appeasement and rapprochement that provided Tehran with unjustified concessions. This includes the 1997 designation of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) at the Iranian regime’s behest. Following a 15-year legal battle the PMOI successfully obtained a US federal court ruling ordering the Obama administration to end its unjust terrorist designation.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks about the Iran nuclear deal at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, on September 5, 2017. (Reuters)

Undiplomatic, to say the least

Iran’s lobbies and appeasement advocates have gone the limits to restrain the Trump administration from adopting fierce measures against Tehran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s words depicted the devastating blow felt by the regime in its entirety, resorting to completely unorthodox and undiplomatic remarks for a president.

“Trump’s speech consisted of nothing but vulgar language, allegations and bogus remarks,” Rouhani saidin an unorthodox reply. “Trump apparently doesn’t know the JCPOA is not a bilateral document to act however he wishes,” he added. “…the IRGC is not just a military unit, but the Guards are in the hearts of [the Iranian] people,” he also said in a speech at a government cabinet meeting, ending any notion of being a so-call

Enter a capTrump ordered the Treasury Department to designate and fully sanction Iran’s IRGC in its entirety based on Executive Order 13224. (File photo: AP)

Technical Input

Trump ordered the Treasury Department to “fully sanction” the IRGC for its support of terrorism. There can be a debate about the exact meaning of this measure. Does this place the IRGC under sanctions? Is this entity now considered a terrorist organization? What is the meaning of “designating” an entity as a terrorist body?

In the United States there is a law and an executive order covering terrorism. All organizations designated as terrorist organizations are blacklisted as such based on this law and/or executive order.

The legislation was adopted by Congress back in 1996, based on which the State Department, in coordination with the Treasury Department, were provided the authority to designate foreign organizations as terrorist entities, also known as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO).

In 2001 following the 9/11 attacks, former US president George Bush issued Executive Order 13224, providing the State and Treasury departments the necessary authority to accelerate the process of designating, sanctioning and restricting such bodies as “foreign terrorist organization” or a “global terrorist.” The authority provided in a presidential executive order is equal to that of a congressional legislature.

On Friday, Trump ordered the Treasury Department to designate and fully sanction Iran’s IRGC in its entirety based on Executive Order 13224. Generally, these blacklists impose financial restrictions on the designated individuals or entities.

There are slight differences the two State and Treasury blacklists, as the main aspects are very similar, including confiscating all assets of the designated individual or organization, and placing them under the authority of the US judiciary. The State Department’s FTO list also imposes immigration restrictions.

A handout picture provided by the office of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shows him delivering a speech during a conference entitled “Implementation of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) a new chapter in Iran’s economy”, on January 19, 2016, in Tehran. (AFP)

The path forward

The “Corker-Cardin” bill overseeing the JCPOA for Washington provides Congress 60 days to decide the next step following Trump’s announcement on Friday, indicating the Iran nuclear deal is against U.S. national security interests. Trump has called on Congress to intensify this legislation to include certain additional restrictions.

Trump in fact emphasized if existing loopholes in the accord are not resolved, as president he enjoys the authority to single handedly revoke the agreement in its entirety.

This development goes far beyond designating the IRGC and has a more drastic impact than merely decertifying the JCPOA. The Trump administration has announced a completely new policy.

White House fact sheet released prior to Trump’s speech specifically explains how a certain US policy pursued for 15 years vis-à-vis Iran and the Middle East was wrong, and how this administration has decided to no longer repeat those mistakes.

The Iran engagement policy was very effective and acted as a significant pillar in safeguarding and maintaining the Iranian regime in power. That is exactly why from the very day Tehran has sensed a major Washington policy change, all of Iran’s lobbies and advocates are going to the limits to prevent this now realized transition.

Iran had resorted to a variety of threats, even to take military action against US forces in the region, in the case of the IRGC being designated as a terrorist organization.

Now that the entire IRGC is designated as a terrorist organization, we are seeing voices against this development, and Iranian lobbyists attempting to downgrade this turn of events, claiming it is merely sanctions and far different from a terrorist designation.

The truth is that a policy that provided crucial support for Tehran through these years is witnessing major changes. This is rendering enormous concerns in Tehran. What needs comprehending is the scope of Trump’s major policy transition.

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

ANALYSIS: Comprehending Trump’s new Iran policy

There is a new understanding in Washington over how US President Donald Trump, set to deliver his first United Nations General Assembly speech tomorrow, can tackle the Iran challenge.

It would be wrong to view the conglomerate of Iran-created crises through a single periscope focusing exclusively on the nuclear dilemma. Iran’s meddling in states across the Middle East, its support for terrorists groups including the likes of the Lebanese Hezbollah, the continuous pursuit of ballistic missiles and domestic human rights violationsare also serious concerns.

The question is how to adopt a proper Iran policy approach to address all questions with equal importance. The plan has been described as a “21st century financial version of [John F.] Kennedy’s Cuba quarantine,” according to a copy leaked to the media. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, known to early on voice Washington’s possible policy of supporting regime change in Iran, shed light on this subject.

“We must take into account the totality of Iranian threats, not just Iran’s nuclear capabilities,” he said at a recent appearance with his UK counterpart Boris Johnson in London.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will “very shortly” make an announcement on Iran’s nuclear agreement with world powers that President Donald Trump has called a “bad deal.” (AFP)

 

Iran’s major belligerence

For far too long, especially during the Obama administration, all of Iran’s major belligerence went neglected for the sake of garnering the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

A variety of reports indicate Washington’s broad Iran policy is near completion and may go public at the end of this month, delivering answers on how to bring an end to Tehran’s influence in the region.

The policy is set to reach as far as significant restrictions aimed at military activities carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the essential entity of Tehran’s regime that is said to control 40 percent of the country’s economy.

There is also talk of re-imposing sanctions lifted under the JCPOA – which seems unlikely – and a slate of actions involving oil export restrictions that has the potential of seriously depriving Iran’s main economic lifeline.

Trump has put Iran “on notice” over charges that Tehran violated a nuclear deal with the West by test-firing a ballistic missile. (Reuters)

 

A glimpse of the future

The JCPOA-sanctions have been relieved once again and the White House is working to provide as many options possible, considering how the Iran policy is said to be near completion in blueprinting.

“Waiving some of those sanctions should not be seen as an indication of President Trump or his administration’s position on the JCPOA nor does the waiver give the Iranian regime a pass on its broad range of malign behavior,” said US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

Initial steps began late last week when the Treasury Department slapped new sanctions targeting 11 firms and individuals for aiding Iran’s ballistic missile program, facilitating cyberattacks and supporting terrorism. The newcomers to the Iran sanctions list include an IRGC-affiliated engineering company and two airline firms in Ukraine.

OPINION: Qatar’s characteristic obstinacy and Iran’s ‘honor’

“The latest sanctions allow the administration to register its displeasure with Iran for pursuing a ballistic missile program and aiding proxies in the region’s conflicts while allowing the nuclear deal to remain in place in keeping with the strong preference of European allies,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

“The Treasury will continue to take strong actions to counter Iran’s provocations, including support for the IRGC-Qods Force and terrorist extremists, the ongoing campaign of violence in Syria, and cyberattacks meant to destabilize the US financial system,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Just when Iran sought to trumpet how Washington continued to relieve JCPOA sanctions, new restrictions were placed to spoil Tehran’s party.

This picture taken on May 10, 2016 shows, US presidential candidate Donald Trump’s book “Trump 101: The Way To Success” translated to Persian on display during Tehran’s International Book Fair in Iran. (AP)

A message for Tehran

Aiming to rattle Iran to the very foundation, the new US policy will also mentions the possibility of strengthening Washington’s relations with Iran’s pro-democratic groups. This is the message Tehran will most likely be taking in deeply and discussing in length.

Continuing this line of thought, New York is the stage of a large demonstration on Wednesday by the Iranian Diaspora, invited by the Organization of Iranian American Communities, protesting the presence of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the General Assembly.

Also read: European officials urge probe for 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran

At a time when the Tehran regime claims an increase in pressure counters the Iranian people’s interests, such a demonstration against Rouhani proves this regime is no representative of the 80+ million population. Despite billions channeled into the Iranian regime’s bank accounts thanks to the JCPOA, the majority of the Iranian people continue to plunge into deeper poverty.

This is a stark reminder of how former Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a candidate in May’s presidential race, said this is a regime of “four percenters” that control the country’s political and economic cycles.

In July, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran over its missile program. (Shutterstock)

Shivers among the elite

The mere thought of the Trump administration weighing a global sanctions embargo will cause shivers amongst Tehran’s elite.
While there are voices expressing concerns over the possibility of Iran resorting to an upsurge in violence in response to such a policy, the question is what has been Iran’s dogma in the past four decades? Has Tehran been a beacon of peace and stability in Iraq, Syria, Yemen or across the Middle East for that matter?

In fact, the Iranian regime will only cave in under pressure and a determined will witnessed from the international community. One such example was how Iran immediately released the 52 American hostages after learning Ronald Reagan was elected to the US presidency back in 1980, knowing his policies would far contrast those of Jimmy Carter.

ANALYSIS: Unveiling the secrets of Iran’s 1988 massacre

To this end, adopting a firm policy on Iran will actually prevent war. This comes after decades of appeasement has encouraged Iran into further warmongering. As Trump correctly called, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the entire Arab world must patch up their differences and loopholes. Otherwise, Tehran will most certainly take advantage of any such gaps, as seen currently in the Qatar standoff.

The new US policy on Iran, once announced, should be a rally call for a novel resolve to stand against Iran’s slate of bellicosity, and pinpoint all energies on relieving the globe of this sinister evil for good.