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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The world currently faces two atomic crises in Iran and North Korea, despite long strides in the effort of nuclear non-proliferation. Deep military and nuclear cooperation between the two states makes dealing with these challenges even more difficult. One may have thought lessons would have been learnt from the devastating lessons of appeasement from World War II – yet the approaches adopted vis-à-vis North Korea and Iran in signing nuclear agreements have raised accusations that Neville Chamberlain’s famous policy is still alive and well.
It’s obvious that Iran has learned from North Korea, and vice-versa, in both military and diplomatic spheres: in a recent Raddington Report article we argue that there are few nations that view North Korean missile tests with more interest than Iran. The Islamic Republic yearns to be in the position North Korea finds itself in – to have developed a nuclear arsenal, along with the means of deliver the payload. And North Korea covets to have had the opportunity Iran found: usurping Obama’s desperate need for a legacy-defining foreign policy achievement to garner a slate of concessions.
There is seemingly little appetite for a military confrontation with North Korea or Iran – yet the appeasement of these two rogue regimes have left the international community in more of a quagmire. North Korea is holding South Korea and Japan hostage (along with tens of thousands of stationed US troops) while Iran continues its regional meddling, support for terrorism, ballistic missile advances and human rights violations, all whilst reaching an agreement with the P5+1.
Pyongyang and Tehran have both sought nuclear weapons as insurance for their notorious regimes. Enjoying enticement by US administrations since the 1990s, North Korea has reached its objective, at the expense of it’s starving people – and economy more broadly. Iran, whilst seeking nuclear capability, began feeling the heat of international sanctions and escalating public anger, which forced it to trade a curbing of its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. What goes unnoticed, however, is how agreements signed by the international community with these two regimes provide a green light to the ruling autocrats to pursue the oppression of their own populations.
Iran has continued its practice of abducting American citizens and sentencing them to long prison terms. A situation in which Kim Jung Un was provided more inducements to come to the negotiating table – as in Iran’s case – could possibly result in further abductions, assassinations and more tens of thousands of political prisoners held in facilities so large they are visible in satellite images. Concessions have already provided Iran a green light to expand its domestic crackdown and meddling abroad. The definition of insanity, famously, is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.
Offering a possible insight into the Trump administration’s future approach to Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Nikki Haley delivered a speech recently in the American Enterprise Institute, stating that; “…if the President does not certify Iranian compliance, the Corker-Cardin law also tells us what happens next. What happens next is significantly in Congress’s hands,” she explained, in reference to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.
“Congress could debate whether the nuclear deal is in fact too big to fail. We should welcome a debate over whether the JCPOA is in U.S. national security interests. The previous administration set up the deal in a way that denied us that honest and serious debate,” the US Ambassador to the United Nations continued.
Following Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test, which led to claims that the DPRK has acquired the ability to test a hydrogen bomb, there is belief amongst high circles in Washington that North Korea is supporting Iran in return to the path of obtaining nuclear weapons. While Washington is weighing its options in responding to North Korea’s latest nuclear bomb test, most concerning are obvious shows of allegiance, such as a recent 10-day visit to Tehran by Pyongyang’s parliament speaker Kim Yong Nam.
Thanks to a ‘windfall’ of billions of dollars provided by the Obama-blueprinted nuclear deal, Iran has the hard currency and financial assets North Korea needs. In return, Pyongyang can deliver the nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology Tehran wants to acquire. It has become increasingly obvious these regimes are far from rational actors who can be persuaded into taking action for the better benefit of the international community. North Korea must be made to bow before demands to give up nuclear weapons, whilst Iran must be made to understand that following the path of its East Asian partner is not an option.
The response Tehran receives from the international community, with the US at the helm, is of vital importance. The failure of previous US administrations to take any meaningful action to prevent the growth of such a dangerous nexus leaves us with the circumstances we face today. It is a known fact that many of Tehran’s ballistic missile designs, such as the Hwasong series, are based on Pyongyang prototypes. This is the result of political and military ties leading back to the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. Concerns escalate to a highly lethal level when we realize Iran’s missiles, mirroring those of its North Korean sisters, could enjoy the capability of delivering nuclear payloads. These decades-long close exchanges have now also provided Iran the ability to construct missile production factories in Syria and Libya, some underground.
It is increasingly difficult to deny Tehran’s diplomatic, economic and military ties with Pyongyang. It is even possible the two country’s scientists have been present at each other’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests, one after another. Tehran and Pyongyang must be made to comprehend that a continuation of their provocations cannot not be tolerated – senior Iranian and North Korean leaders, along with the institutions maintaining their rule, should be the target of crippling international sanctions. Kim, Khamenei and their henchmen, must find it far more difficult to plunder their people’s wealth for their own interests, while the two populations suffer in poverty. The international community should also boost campaigns aimed at drying up the two regimes’ supply chains providing the needs for their missile and nuclear drives.
This question is now raised over the meaning of seeking a new nuclear arrangement with North Korea, especially as the JCPOA is currently being usurped by Iran. Surely rapprochement will only encourage Pyongyang to continue its current aggressive nature – and what lessons would Tehran, a regime enjoying a dangerous reach across the Middle East, learn from this? There is no need to explain how Tehran and Pyongyang have most likely followed each other’s negotiations with the international community, the deals sealed to buy time, the successful and unsuccessful lies and deceptions and how to come to each other’s support when needed. Most importantly, however, they have learned how to create rifts amongst Western countries, such as the United States, France and Britain, and to utilise Russian and Chinese postures, to divide in the UN Security Council.
As Haley correctly said, “Enough is enough.” War is neither needed nor welcomed. An international consensus to impose crippling sanctions on the regimes of Iran and North Korea is necessary.
Although watered down to garner the support of Beijing and Moscow, the sanctions adopted unanimously by the United Nations Security Council on Monday against North Korea, capping the regime’s oil imports from China and banning its profitable textile exports, is a step in the right direction. One hopes this is the beginning of a continuing trend to bring an end to Pyongyang’s dangerous bellicosities, and sends a powerful message to Tehran of the international community’s resolve and intolerance for such rogue behavior.
If history is to teach us any lesson, it is that of rapprochement rendering nothing but death and destruction. If we seek an end to the current nuclear standoffs, all parties must further set aside their short term interests and think for the better good of all.
Iran is currently striving to manage a number of increasingly painstaking dilemmas. International spotlight is again on Tehran’s nuclear program, with the United States demanding United Nations inspectors be granted access to its military sites.
Equally troubling is Iran’s collaboration with North Korea to pursue their nuclear ambitions and ballistic missile capabilities. Such dossiers are enough to undermine the spirit of the JCPOA, Tehran now also considers its meddling in the Middle East indispensable in its effort to establish a regional empire reaching the Mediterranean.
As a result, receiving far less attention than it deserves is Iran’s Achilles Heel: human rights violations.
Despite pledges of reforms provided during May’s presidential election season, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has presided over more than 100 executions during the month of July alone. His first tenure, from 2013 to 2017 witnessed over 3,000 being sent to the gallows despite numerous calls for at least a temporary cessation.
In the past month another urgent plight has emerged as dozens of political prisoners in Raja’i Shahr (Gohardasht) prison of Karaj, west of Tehran were suddenly transferred into a section on July 30th and kept under “suffocating” conditions, as described by Amnesty International.
On this day over 50 political prisoners in ward 10 of Raja’i Shahr prison witnessed authorities resort to force in transferring them to the new location. This slate included prisoners of conscience, human rights advocates, trade unionists, journalists, students, peaceful political dissidents, and members of Iran’s persecuted Baha’i community.
Already deprived of any access to clean, drinking water and food, the absence of adequate beds are also robbing these political prisoners of any sleep. Even water purification devices purchased at the prisoners’ own expenses were confiscated by authorities and maintained at their previous location.
The cells’ windows are covered by metal sheets, making even breathing difficult. While inmates held in other parts of the prison have access to in-person family visits and telephone calls, such accommodations are no longer available to these political prisoners.
Such circumstances left, according to the last count, 22 political prisoners no choice but hunger striking to demand authorities to at least respect their elementary human needs. The main “charge” of most of these prisoners is supporting the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
Earlier this month a number of prisoners were punished for practicing their right to a peaceful protest in launching hunger strikes, and thus forced into solitary confinement.
To add insult to injury is how the new section is checkered with closed circuit security cameras and audio surveillance devices. This has taken away any sense of privacy from the prisoners, even in private cells and bathrooms, and mounting to a flagrant rights violation.
Such situations leave no conclusion possible other than the authorities’ intention to completely cut off these political prisoners from the outside world. Officials also seek to restrict, to any extent possible, any information leak regarding their regular ordeals in Raja’i Shahr.
One result has been the prison medical clinic becoming far busier as more political prisoners are transferred due to rapid health deterioration. A number of these cases are in need of dire medical care in outside facilities. The prison warden, however, is refusing the authorization of such hospital transfers.
“The horrendous conditions at Raja’i Shahr prison point to a pattern of cruel and inhumane treatment that has repeatedly characterized Iran’s ruthless attitude to prisoners in its custody,” Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director for Amnesty International, is quoted in the organization’s statement on this subject.
Iranian authorities have human rights commitments they are obligated to live up to. Yet detaining prisoners of conscience by the dozens following completely unfair trials is this regime’s response in honoring these commitments.
There is no doubt that despite all the claims of Rouhani being a “moderate,” the existence of such conditions in a country’s prisons signal an urgent need for drastic alterations.
Yet despite all the odds there is no sign of these political prisoners backing down from their demands as they courageously continue their protest. Other such prisoners in different facilities across the country are launching their own similar hunger strikes in solidarity with the Raja’i Shahr political prisoners.
Furthermore, this case brings to light how these protest acts, such as hunger strikes launched by political prisoners inside the regime’s own jails and rallies witnessed across the country, enjoy important influence. The ruling elite in Tehran continue to seek effective measures to counter such movements.
This also goes to show how the entire society in Iran has reached the limits of its tolerance with this regime, and why those with knowledge of Iran’s society consider it a powder keg or a time bomb.
In line with the ongoing evaluation of Iran’s compliance or non-compliance with a pact aimed at curbing its nuclear ambitions, and as the administration of US President Donald Trump continues to weigh its comprehensive Iran policy, Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations visited Vienna on Wednesday to meet with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials on a fact finding mission to shed more light on this entire dossier.
As past decades have proven, the appeasement policy adopted by the international community vis-à-vis Iran has failed to halt Tehran’s nuclear approach. Iran’s nuclear ambitions continue despite the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Just recently, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said it is not a matter of months or weeks, but a matter of days for Iran’s nuclear program to be back on track. Ali Akbar Salehi, chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization and a vice president of Rouhani, raised the stakes even further by saying Tehran only needs 5 days to return to 20% uranium enrichment.
Haley had talks with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and technical experts monitoring Iran’s nuclear activities governed by the JCPOA.
Following her meeting with Amano, the U.S. United Nations delegation released a statement saying Haley had stressed “concerns about ensuring Iran strictly adheres to its obligations.” One of Haley’s main missions is to ensure Iran abide to those obligations, and to highlight its violations to the international community.
As Haley emphasized the importance of the IAEA having broad access to Iranian facilities, Tehran’s officials, however, responded that the meeting challenged “the independence and credibility” of the inspectors and went as far as describing Haley’s visit to Vienna as the “destructive approach of the US Administration.”
The Trump administration has certified Iran’s technical obedience with the JCPOA, but objected missile test launches and “unprofessional” confrontations provoked by Iranian forces against the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf.
Iran’s support for terrorism and continued meddling, parallel to increasing human rights violations, provide further reason to believe Iran has no intention to salvage the JCPOA spirit.
The Iranian regime understands fully well it will be the single losing party if the reliefs provided by the Obama administration under the JCPOA framework, allowing it to rebound, come to an end. It is only logical that in the highly unlikely scenario of Iran petering out of the JCPOA all parties would prefer to continue their business transactions with America’s $19 trillion economy in comparison to Iran’s $400 billion. This would entail the risk of ruffling US Treasury Department and souring relations with Washington in general.
With this in mind the Trump administration can adopt and navigate the following countering roadmap:
1) Demand Tehran unconditionally open all military and non-military sites to IAEA inspectors “anytime, anywhere” as promised,
2) Come October find Iran in non-compliance with the JCPOA spirit, yet refrain from completely tearing up the text,
3) Begin implementing all articles of the nuclear deal and extend sunset provisions to prevent Iran from taking advantage of any temporary aspects,
4) Immediately impose the recent Iran sanctions bill without any loopholes, especially on the IRGC as the main element behind Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile drives, support for terrorism and Middle East meddling, and gross human rights violations at home.
As US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said back in April, “In deed and in propaganda, Iran foments discord… The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran.”
In the meantime, heated discussions continue on both sides of the Atlantic over Trump’s upcoming decision about the fate of the JCPOA.
Iran’s report card provides a disturbing past of covert measures regarding its highly controversial nuclear program focused on zones described as military sites. This comprises of even universities, including the Imam Hossein University in Tehran, known to be associated directly to the regime’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).
Yet come October, there is virtually no need for President Trump to completely tear up the JCPOA. Despite its flaws, if fully and correctly implemented with no room for loopholes and zero tolerance for bending rules or dodging possibilities, the deal actually does enjoy the capability of restricting Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Washington can lead the global community to rightfully demand Tehran open all its sites, military and non-military, to IAEA inspectors. And as explained recently by The Washington Post Editorial Board, “The principal weakness of the nuclear accord is its temporary nature. Most of its provisions will expire in eight to 13 years, leaving Iran free to stockpile an unlimited quantity of nuclear materials.”
Thus, the challenge before the Trump administration is “how to extend its restrictions into the future.” Congress has taken the lead in this regard through adopting a series of sanctions against Iran, and most specifically blacklisting the IRGC as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity. This delivers a significant blow to Iran’s economy considering the fact that the IRGC has usurped control over 40% of the entire apparatus.
The international community should also not fall for remarks such as those made by Salehi or Rouhani himself. Considering the drastic economic situation Iran was experiencing due to sanctions prior to the nuclear deal, and despite the restrictions imposed, Tehran actually needs the JCPOA to remain intact, far more than European companies or any other correspondent in this regard.
Yet if implemented correctly, Iran can be both restricted and provided only reliefs on conditions of spending the rendered capital to improve the average Iranians’ living standards, and not allocate billions to support terrorism and further pursue nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions.
The pro-Iran deal camp is recently making much noise about how the Trump administration and critics of the pact, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), are making rightful complaints of the text failing to address Iran’s destructive belligerence in the Middle East.
These are valid concerns, considering the fact that even if the deal remains intact come October’s decision by President Donald Trump to find Iran in compliance or not, the mullahs are hell-bent to continue wreaking havoc and expanding influence across the region.
The pro-Iran deal camp claim Washington has no evidence to hold Tehran in violation of the JCPOA terms. Not true.
Tehran has exceeded its heavy water production cap, necessary for a plutonium nuclear bomb,
testing more advanced centrifuges,
illicitly procuring highly sensitive nuclear and ballistic missile technology in Germany, according to Berlin’s intelligence services,
surpassing its uranium enrichment cap, another key non-compliance factor
The pro-JCPOA camp also argues this deal has prevented Iran from becoming the next North Korea. This is partially true and misleads only the uninformed reader. A deal very similar to the JCPOA, led by the Clinton administration, was signed with North Korea and ended up in dismal failure. This left the world with a rogue state now equipped with at least 20 nuclear bombs, intercontinental ballistic missiles and the technology to miniaturize a nuclear warhead in its payload.
While the JCPOA was intended to keep Iran away from nuclear weapons, why shouldn’t Washington lead the West in demanding Iran curb its further belligerence, such as advances in its ballistic missile drive, increasing executions and atrocious human rights violations, and stirring mayhem in the Middle East?
Iran must be held responsible for “its missile launches, support for terrorism, disregard for human rights, and violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said Tuesday.
Speaking of this flashpoint region, legitimate concerns exist over Iran establishing a “Shiite crescent” stretching from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean. Important to note is the fact that JCPOA flaws, and the Obama administration’s desperate nature to sign a deal as a foreign policy legacy, provided Iran a windfall of billions to stoke its support for the Assad regime in Syria.
“Iran has been helpful in Iraq by fighting the Islamic State,” is how The New York Times describes Tehran’s campaign in its western neighbor, failing to even mention how Iran-backed Shiite militias and death squads have launched massacres, killing sprees and forced displacements targeting Iraq’s Sunnis and other minorities. While Iraq was a melting pot of peoples of different backgrounds living intertwined in peace and for centuries, Iran’s fueling of sectarian wars has created a dangerously wide rift of hatred.
Iran’s measures in supporting Yemen’s Houthis in their illegitimate fight against an internationally recognized government, funding of the Lebanese Hezbollah and supporting the Afghan Taliban as an ally against the US add all the more reason for strong action against Tehran.
In parallel fashion, the pro-appeasement camp continues to seek ties between Washington and Tehran, similar to the “working relationship” established between former US top diplomat John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Iran apologists are quick to criticize current US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for refusing to meet Iranians, while easily brushing aside the undeniable truth that Tehran usurped its warmed relations with the Obama administration to concurrently prop up the Assad regime and its massacring of innocent Syrian women and children, especially with chemical weapons.
Another question Iran apologists have allowed Tehran to go by never answering is this: Why do the mullahs continuously insist on such a politically and economically expensive nuclear program while sitting on the world’s second largest natural gas reserve and fourth largest crude oil reserve?
If the mullahs truly sought the better interest of the “Iranian nation,” as they have claimed for the past forty years, why don’t they turn off the lights on their nuclear program and reap in all the incentives and lucrative economic contracts that will most definitely follow?
And why the sudden regime change-phobia on Iran? Yes, many critics correctly point out the fact that regime change policies in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have gone south. Yet why do these critics fail to go the distance and carefully evaluate the main reason behind these failures?
Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya lacked any solution and alternative to replace their ruling states with true democracies. This is not the case with Iran.
The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a coalition of numerous dissident groups and individuals, led by its charismatic President Maryam Rajavi, has a ten-point plan for the future of Iran.
Universal suffrage, pluralism, individual freedoms, abolition of the death penalty, separation of church state, gender equality, rule of law, commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, peaceful coexistence and a non-nuclear Iran all meet the modern democracies in the West.
The NCRI, with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) as its core member, has been gaining serious momentum in the past few months. Senator John McCain, Chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee met with NCRI President Rajavi in April. Last month hundreds of international dignitaries and over 100,000 members of the Iranian Diaspora voiced support for regime change in Iran in a massive Paris rally.
And as the Trump administration is weighing its comprehensive Iran policy, a high-profile delegation of US senators recently visited Maryam Rajavi and PMOI/MEK members in Albania. This visit sends strong signals as Rajavi and the PMOI/MEK are the legitimate flagbearers of regime change in Tehran.
At such a sensitive timing, Tehran is on its last leg and Iran apologists are desperately attempting to provide a crutch. This is a highly mistaken approach.
Washington should lead the West in raising the stakes for Iran. Demands must be placed before the mullahs to end all its menacing activities, parallel to the international recognition of the Iranian opposition NCRI to realize regime change in Tehran.
Discussions over United States foreign policy vis-à-vis Iran are continuing as we speak. The Trump administration and Congress have been busy slapping a variety of sanctions, some unprecedented, on Iran for its conglomerate of belligerence.
Tehran’s pursuit of ballistic missiles, controversial nuclear program, support for proxies across the Middle East and fueling sectarian strife has gained widespread attention across the international community. Gone somewhat unnoticed, unfortunately, is Iran’s atrocious human rights violations record.
The appeasement policy in practiced in the West for more than three decades now has left the Iranian people without any support in the face of ongoing executions, detentions, torture and other abuses at the hands of the ruling mullahs.
While strong measures against Tehran are necessary and in fact long overdue, emphasis should be placed on Tehran’s Chink in the Armor: human rights violations.
Recent actions are raising concerns amongst human rights organizations and activists across the board.
“Iran’s judicial and security bodies have waged a vicious crackdown against human rights defenders since Hassan Rouhani became president in 2013, demonizing and imprisoning activists who dare to stand up for people’s rights,” Amnesty International reported. “…activists have been sentenced to more than 10 years behind bars for simple acts such as being in contact with the UN, EU or human rights organizations including Amnesty…”
Recent reports also indicate a woman being executed on July 26th in the northwestern Iranian city of Urmia, bringing the number of women executed during the tenure of the so-called “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani to 80. To twist the knife, the “reformist” Rouhani is not appointing even one female minister for his cabinet.
Speaking of executions, human rights activists have reported 102 executions in the month of July in Iran, while 120 death row inmates await imminent hanging. The first six months of 2017 in Iran was marked with 239 executions, including seven women and three individuals arrested while under age at the time of their alleged crime.
The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella body consisting of a variety dissident organizations, issued a statement expressing concerns over the lives of 53 political prisoners in Gohardasht Prison, west of Tehran. These inmates have been suspiciously transferred to an unknown location to prevent any contact with the outside world.
These statements make a review of Iran’s human rights report quite necessary.
After the mullahs’ establishment hijacked the 1979 revolution, their true nature was unveiled as their crackdown on any and all dissent escalated.
For nearly 2½ years all protests and demonstrations were quelled. Dissidents, especially members and supporters of the main NCRI partner, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), were detained, tortured and murdered.
The turning point arrived at June 20th, 1981 when regime founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordered the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to open fire on a 500,000-strong march in Tehran.
From that day forward the Iranian regime launched a ruthless campaign aimed at purging all opposition forces. Tens of thousands were arrested and tortured, parallel to mass executions in prisons across the country.
A sound file of the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, then Khomeini’s successor, was unveiled last September, shedding light on current senior Iranian officials’ involvement in those executions. This sent shockwaves across Iran and accelerated efforts launched earlier by the Iranian opposition both inside the country and abroad to shed light on this atrocity and demand accountability.
In the 1990s Iran witnessed a series of assassinations dubbed the “chain murders” led by the notorious Ministry of Intelligence. Dozens of intellectuals and dissidents, including three Christian priests, were assassinated in brutal manner.
In 1999, current President Hassan Rouhani, then Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, placed orders for the IRGC and paramilitary Bassij forces to viciously crackdown nationwide student uprisings.
Such atrocities were witnessed yet again in 2009 when the Iranian people took to the streets protesting controversial presidential results engineered by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to have Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reach a second term.
Following Ahmadinejad to the presidency, the smiling Rouhani – naively described by the West’s pro-engagement camp as a moderate – registered a tally of over 3,000 executions during his first term.
And by taking advantage of the 2017 presidential election season to accuse the mullahs’ establishment of hinging their rule on executions and detentions, the months of 2017 and after his re-selection to a second term have been tainted with further human rights violations, as explained above.
While the US administration is raising the heat on Iran, the European Union continues to seek short-term economic gains at the expense of legitimizing the Iranian regime. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is to visit Iran for Rouhani’s upcoming inauguration, raising anger amongst the Iranian people. Tehran will usurp such a visit to legitimize its cruelties against the Iranian population and ramp up executions.
Iran must understand the appeasement policy has come to an end and its measures will not go unpunished. The new sanctions adopted by the US targeting the IRGC, itself heavily involved in human rights violations, are welcome and should be fully implemented.
What the international community must realize is how the human rights dossier is the soft spot for Iran’s mullahs. Tehran must be pressured correctly to both hold the mullahs accountable for their crimes against humanity, and support the Iranian people in their struggle.
Two months have passed since the May presidential “elections” in Iran that saw the incumbent Hassan Rouhani reach a second term. The pro-Iran appeasement camp in the West went the distance to raise hopes over the hoax of Rouhani rendering major reforms.
These voices somehow described Rouhani as a “reformist” and completely neglected the over 3,000 executions during his first term as president. Reports from across the country are turning out to be very disturbing, signaling more troubling times to come in reference to human rights violations.
As fellow Forbes contributor Ellen R. Wald reported, “On July 16, news came out that an American graduate student at Princeton University named Xiyue Wang had been sentenced to 10 years in an Iranian prison for ‘espionage.’”
This is Iran again resorting to old tactics of taking Westerners as hostage, mainly dual citizens, to be used as bargaining chips in advancing objectives and politics in negotiations with interlocutors.
Another practice the regime in Tehran will continue is sending scores to the gallows. The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran issued a report recently indicating 57 individuals have been executed across Iran in the beginning of July alone.
Reports from inside Iran also indicate nearly 120 inmates held in a prison west of Tehran are on the verge of execution. These hangings are planned for the next few weeks, their families say citing authorities, and the sentences of at least 13 individuals are to be implemented soon.
These alarming reports have all arrived only after a recent tour launched by the mullahs for dozens of foreign ambassadors to visit the notorious Evin Prison located in the hilltops of northern Tehran.
But of course, no human rights organization or international prison expert were invited, only selected areas of the prison were shown, and merely hand-picked images were provided to the media to depict a highly peaceful environment and go against any claims of rights violations.
This PR show in Evin, with its history of atrocities, was coupled with Iranian state media outlets pumping reports claiming the jail being upgraded to state-of-the-art conditions.
Iranian authorities went the distance to showcase specific facilities provided only to rich inmates behind bars for financial crimes. These areas included a gym, an in-house beauty salon, a library and also a restaurant.
What needs clarification to the outside world is the fact that Evin, along with many other prisons, has a dark history of widespread executions, tortures, and inhumane and unbearable conditions, to say the least. The regime in Iran, with a track record of 63 UN condemnations of human rights violations, is hardly in any position to claim of providing inmates with adequate conditions.
If Iran truly intends to be transparent, why not begin permitting all international human rights organizations unlimited access to any and all areas of each and every single prison across the country?
Following this orchestrated tour, Human Rights Watch made a call to Tehran seeking access for rights groups to these prisons. HRW is among many similar entities seeking access to Evin as the facility has been closed to human rights investigators representing independent international and national organizations.
While there is no expectation for Iran to begin allowing any honest visits, two female political prisoners wrote an open letter explaining the atrocities they endured in Evin.
Political prisoners Golrokh Iraee and Atena Daemi described ”solitary cells with no windows, ventilation and lavatory,” “dungeons and dark interrogation rooms,” and “cells known as graves” in Evin.
Why did this international delegation not visit the women’s ward of Evin where female political prisoners like themselves are held, they asked. Their letter goes on to explain how ward 4 of this prison was renovated by the inmates transferred to solitary confinement on the very day of the ambassadors’ visit.
Mrs. Maryam Akbari Monfared, another political prisoner whose three brothers and sister were executed during the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners across Iran, also wrote an extensive open letter as she spends her eighth year behind bars in Evin. Having experienced a variety of Iran’s jails for decades, Monfared wrote, “I’ve witnessed with my own eyes the devaluation of human and humanity” and experienced atrocities also in Shahre-Ray and Gohardasht prisons.
“Prison food was so little that hungry inmates were forced to collect the residue of other food trays as well as the food which was left on the ground,” she explains.
“I saw an eleven-year-old girl who was sent into exile from a children correction center to Gohardasht prison so as to be punished… Women and girls who had repeatedly felt the hanging rope around their necks, being on death row for years… Dear ambassadors, who were surprised by what you saw! What you saw was a made-up face of this religious regime’s prisons… I saw inmates on death row in Share-Ray prison, desperately begging their families to talk their judges into implementing their death sentence sooner, as they didn’t wish to stay alive in prison…”
What needs reminding here is the fact this is a regime founded by the ultraconservative Ruhollah Khomeini who, as the first supreme leader of Iran, authorized the amputation of hands and feet as punishment for thieves.
All this is more reason for the international community, and especially the Trump administration, to turn up the heat on Iran. The regime in Tehran is resorting to all measures possible to deceive Washington and other parties to delay the blacklisting of the Revolutionary Guards as a major party involved in the mullahs’ crimes against humanity, terrorism and international belligerence.
In 2009 former US president Barack Obama betrayed universal humane values and chose to side with the mullahs’ regime. And Tehran responded by continuously taking Americans hostage and now putting a show for the Europeans and others.
Taking strong action against Tehran, similar to the recent sanctions slapped against 18 entities involved with Iran’s support for terrorism and ballistic missile program, will finally signal to the Iranian people that the world has now decided to stand by their side.
July 14th marks two years of a controversial nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), brokered between the international community, represented by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States – and Germany, with Iran.
Where are we now? Has Iran changed for the better? Or has Tehran taken advantage of the Obama administration’s concessions to further advance their domestic crackdown, foreign meddling and nuclear/ballistic missile programs?
We are now at a crucial juncture. The Trump administration is currently weighing all options, including regime change, in their evaluation of a comprehensive Iran policy. As wars in various countries and appeasement with Iran have all proved disastrous, regime change by supporting the Iranian people and their organized opposition is the best viable option.
The pro-deal camp described Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a “reformist” and decided to neglect the massive wave of executions launched during his first tenure. The Iran nuclear deal gave a green light to Tehran, leading to over 3,000 executions during Rouhani’s first term as president.
Despite all the naive expectations in Rouhani’s second term, there are reports of increasing executions. This month alone 57 prisoners have been sent to the gallows.
The regime in Iran is fearing a repeat of widespread protests mirroring those seen rocking its very pillars back in 2009. In response, Iranian regime security forces are seen raiding homes of a long slate of political and human rights activists in Iran, most specifically those supporting the main opposition group, People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
This YouTube video shows a brave Iranian activists declaring “My Vote is Regime Change” on May 19th when the regime held its elections.
Rest assured Iran will ramp up its domestic crackdown as rifts in its senior hierarchy continue to deepen. To add insult to Iran’s injury, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson mentioned his support for regime change through backing domestic opposition at a June 14th congressional hearing.
Looking abroad, Iran took advantage of the nuclear deal to first convince Russia to launch its Syria campaign in September 2015 and provide the air support needed to help prop up the Bashar Assad dictatorship. Prolonged death and destruction resulted as Syria is bearing nearly half a million dead and over 12 million internally and externally displaced.
Iraq has also seen the wrath of Iran’s foreign intervention. Under the pretext of the fight against ISIS and the US-led coalition providing air coverage, Tehran’s proxies are literally changing the social fabric of Iraq’s Sunni provinces.
ISIS may have been defeated in Iraq, but the battle to establish stability and true Iraqi sovereignty has only just begun. Iran’s influence runs deep in this country despite the US spending $3 trillion of its resources, and thanks to Obama’s premature troop departure handing over Baghdad to Tehran in a silver plate.
Yemen and Iran’s support for the Houthi proxies is no better story. As Obama focused solely on preserving his legacy-defining nuclear deal with Iran, the mullahs continued to support the Houthis financially, logistically and with crucial arms supplies. The country will not see peace unless a strong will is adopted to end Tehran’s deadly involvement.
Iran’s mullahs have also been fast advancing their ballistic missile program, all in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. Knowing the Obama administration would fail in taking any punishing actions, Tehran carried out numerous test launches after the Iran nuclear deal signing and continued to do so after Obama left office.
The Trump administration has slapped three rounds of sanctions against Iran. In one instance Tehran cancelled plans for one missile test launch. The mullahs need these test launches to maintain face and curb many internal issues amongst its already dwindling social base.
Moreover, Tehran’s ballistic missiles have become a leverage to threaten the Middle East. As North Korea continues its ballistic missile advances, a possible trade between Pyongyang and Tehran could be devastating for future regional stability and possibly even world peace.
“And it’s clear that the regime’s behavior is only getting worse. Their continued violations of the agreement; their work with North Korea on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles only continues to grow… North Korea is already perilously close to the point where they can miniaturize a nuclear weapon, put it on an intercontinental ballistic missile and hit targets in the United States. And the day after North Korea has that capability, the regime in Tehran will have it as well simply by signing a check,” said John Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN at a recent Iranian opposition rally in Paris.
Reports also indicate Iran is continuing to focus activities with the objective of obtaining nuclear weapons.
In a recent publication the state of Hamburg in Germany reports “there is no evidence of a complete about-face in Iran’s atomic polices in 2016” [after the Islamic Republic signed the JCPOA deal with Western powers in 2015, aimed at restricting Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief]. Iran sought missile carrier technology necessary for its rocket program.”
For the road ahead, the Trump administration should adopt a firm policy of first inflicting the true nature of strict measures implemented in the JCPOA, especially the tough inspections of all facilities and holding Tehran in violation without any reservation.
GOP Senators have made a call on President Trump to find Iran in non-compliance with the nuclear accord. Tehran has enjoyed far too much time to cheat its way around the deal and Washington should bring an end to this.
Targeting the core entity responsible for these measures is key. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is involved in domestic crackdown, foreign meddling and the mullahs’ nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. To this end, designating this entity as a foreign terrorist organization is long overdue.
Finally, the Trump administration should lead the international community to first bring an end to the highly flawed appeasement policy with Iran. This will lead to the world standing alongside the Iranian people and their organized opposition movement, symbolized in the National Council of Resistance of Iran, in bringing about true change in order to establish freedom, democracy and a non-nuclear Iran peacefully coexisting with all its neighboring countries.
The new administration in Washington has chosen to stand alongside its Arab allies to voice a clear message. This is how this message reads: The regime in Iran is domestically repressive and resorts to flagrant human rights violations, and expansionist outside of its borders, wreaking havoc across the Middle East and beyond.
To take the next needed step, an all-out strategy is necessary to rein in Tehran and confront its belligerence inside the country and beyond.
Far too long the international community has failed to recognize the fact that the regime in Iran is controlled by aggressive fanatics that will literally stop at nothing to seek their interests, while knowing their internal status is extremely fragile.
While it is high time for the United States to lead the West and Saudi Arabia to lead the Arab world in this initiative, there is no need to launch yet another devastating war in the Middle East. The past 16 years have taught us many important lessons:
– The war in Afghanistan toppled the rule of Taliban and the al-Qaeda safe haven, and yet the lack of a legitimate post-war strategy allowed Iran take complete advantage of this void.
– The invasion of Iraq was unnecessary and again played into the hands of Tehran’s regime, providing it the opportunity to spread its devious mentality of fundamentalism, sectarian extremism and terrorism.
– The Arab Spring has reiterated to us that without an alternative opposition, no regime change will render any positive outcome. The current state of Libya is an unfortunate reminder.
– Most important of all, the international community is coming to understand that a policy of engagement and appeasement vis-à-vis the regime in Iran will only further fuel instability. Take the cases of Syria and Yemen, for example, where Iran has allocated enormous manpower and financial/logistical resources to create the mayhem it thrives on.
On a broader scale where Iran’s counterparts were the P5+1, thanks again to Obama’s highly flawed approach, the regime has been able to cheat around the nuclear accord. Tehran has staged over a dozen ballistic missile tests despite being strictly forbidden by UN Security Council sanctions.
New reports from German intelligence indicates further illicit measures by Iran’s operatives painting a very disturbing image. “Iran is targeting German companies in its bid to advance its missile program, in possible violation of an international agreement, and at least on occasion with the aid of a Chinese company,” Fox News reported citing a damning 181-page German intelligence agency report.
Tehran is actively seeking to obtain “products and scientific know-how for the field of developing weapons of mass destruction as well as missile technology,” according to the report, adding the mullahs are using various fronts to target German companies.
Further disturbing revelations regarding the Obama administration’s poorly crafted nuclear deal with Iran found little or no decrease has been witnessed in Iran’s effort to obtain the technology needed for missiles capable of delivering nuclear warhead as payloads, according to Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).
To add insult to injury, with North Korea successfully test-launching its first intercontinental ballistic missile and on the path to its sixth nuclear detonation, there are increasing voices of concern over the possibility of Pyongyang selling more of its ballistic missiles, the technology or maybe even a nuclear warhead to Tehran.
With a windfall of billions of dollars flowing into Iran after the nuclear deal and oil sanctions lifted, Iran has both the money and oil that North Korea craves.
Washington and Riyadh should begin pushing back at Tehran by targeting this regime’s financial assets to begin with. Considering the fact that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, known as the regime’s praetorians, control around 40 percent of the country’s economy, it is vital to designate this entity as a foreign terrorist organization.
If not, its support for the Lebanese Hezbollah, Shiite proxies in Syria, sectarian groups in Iraq and the Houthis of Yemen, to name a few, will continue. And peace will forever elude the Middle East.
The international community should finally begin pressuring the ruling mullahs by standing alongside the Iranian people and their struggle for freedom and democracy. The recent presidential “election” and protests before and after have proven the rift between Iran’s population and the regime is elevating dangerously against the regime’s interests.
The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran, led by its President Maryam Rajavi, has presented a 10-point plan able to facilitate the changes needed for the better good of the Iranian people, and nations across the Middle East.
The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), being the main NCRI member, enjoys a vast network of supporters inside Iran and has blown the whistle on Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
It is time for the mullahs in Tehran to understand pressures will rise from the international community unless they succumb to the demands of the Iranian people for the future they deserve, being the democracy and freedom they have been wrongly robbed of for the past four decades.