ANALYSIS: The meaning of new US sanctions for Iran

Al Arabiya

Despite weeklong claims of US President Donald Trump caving in to pressure, Washington has unleashed the full measure of US sanctions against Iran’s regime. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed reporters Friday that, come 12 a.m. ET Monday, all sanctions will return to pre-2015 Iran nuclear deal levers.

This is “aimed at depriving the regime of the revenues that it uses to spread death and destruction around the world,” Pompeo explained. “Our ultimate aim is to compel Iran to permanently abandon its well-documented outlaw activities and behave as a normal country.”

While a long shot, this policy has potential of reining in Iran’s regime, especially coupled with a highly explosive population and a society described as a powder keg.

Sweeping measures

Since pulling out of the nuclear deal back in May, the US administration has specifically voiced intentions to sanction the regime until Tehran ends its malign activities.

“The Treasury Department will add more than 700 names to our list of blocked entities,” said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, alongside Pompeo during Friday’s conference call with reporters. “This includes hundreds of targets previously granted sanctions relief under the JCPOA, as well as more than 300 new designations. This is substantially more than we ever have previously done.”

On the highly controversial issue of oil sanctions waivers, the Trump administration has intentions to grant temporary exemptions to eight “jurisdictions,” which Pompeo says will receive six-month waivers from US penalties on the condition that they significantly “wind down” oil imports from Iran.

What specifically is going into effect?

As a result of the 2015 nuclear deal, the Obama administration lifted a slate of sanctions severely curbing the Iranian regime’s economy. The move, considered a major step in appeasing the regime, provided Iran access to crucial markets in Europe and Asia, and the regime gained access to $150 billion in previously frozen oversees assets.

When Trump’s administration recalled the first major round of sanctions in May, Tehran was slapped with barriers regarding on Iranian metals, alongside its automotive and airline industries. In this round of crippling sanctions, the regime’s oil and banking sectors will receive major blows – exactly the areas Trump wants targeted.

Crosshairs are on major oil exporters, shipping companies and major Iranian banks — including the country’s Central Bank and other financial institutions, according to the White House. The administration will also “target those who attempt to violate or circumvent [the sanctions].”

“One hundred percent of the revenue that Iran receives from the sale of crude oil will be held in foreign accounts and can be used by Iran only for humanitarian trade or bilateral trade in non-sanctioned goods and services,” Pompeo explained Friday, adding insult to injury for Tehran.

The additional penalties are blueprinted to “cut off revenues the regime uses to bankroll terrorist groups, foment global instability, fund nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and enrich its leaders.”

The White House, however, has plans permitting the sales of humanitarian goods —including food, medicine and raw agriculture products — to Iran.

Why waivers for certain countries?

Washington’s ultimate goal is to have all trading partners zero oil purchases from Iran. Of course, this objective needs time and two of the eight “jurisdictions” receiving exemptions have reportedly agreed to seek other sources “within weeks” and the remaining six have been provided a maximum six-month period to do the same.

These jurisdictions “have demonstrated significant reductions in their crude oil and cooperation on many other fronts, and have made important moves toward getting to zero crude oil importation,” Pompeo said Friday.

While refusing to identify the eight jurisdictions, Pompeo did clarify that the full European Union would not be one of them. The list will release Monday when sanctions are re-implemented, Pompeo added.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, present details of the new sanctions on Iran. (AP)

 

The main objective

The US administration is seeking to keep the Iranian regime from getting cash. This “maximum-pressure” campaign intends to guarantee Tehran does not have the funds to support terror groups checkered across the Middle East, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, Yemen’s Houthis, Shiite militias in Iraq and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

The White House says the sanctions buildup has already deprived Iran of some $2 billion over the past several months, plunging the regime’s economy into a crisis. And despite claims by a slate of Iranian regime apologists and lobbyists in the West, Washington’s actions “are targeted at the regime, not the people of Iran,” as Pompeo explained.

Iran’s reactions

On Friday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry sought to save face after the sanctions onslaught. “America will not be able to carry out any measure against our great and brave nation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said to state media. “We have the knowledge and the capability to manage the country’s economic affairs.”

On the same day, Alam Alhoda, Friday prayer imam and the representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Mashhad, resorted to blatant threats of terror attacks across the Gulf region.

“If we reach a point that our oil is not exported, the Strait of Hormuz will be mined. Saudi oil tankers will be seized and regional countries will be leveled with Iranian missiles,” he said.

Furthermore, in a sign of Iran’s regime becoming extremely concerned about the upcoming sanctions, Tabatabaie-Nezhad, the Friday prayer imam of Isfahan said, “The US will be implementing the second round of sanctions on November 4th. This is the work of the Mojahedin!” referring to the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

And in what is considered a significant turn of events, Iran’s Guardian Council – comprised of six clerics directly appointed by Khamenei and six others appointed indirectly – vetoed the Financial Actions Task Force CFT (countering the financing of terrorism) convention on Sunday.

The FATF CFT adoption was the main condition raised by the EU, Russia, China & India for maintaining financial relations with Tehran. The future of these ties have become all the more controversial.

Final thoughts

The new US sanctions will make it far more difficult for Iran to obtain money at such desperate times. Despite the European Union’s initial disapproval of Washington’s new measures, a newly foiled terrorist plot by the Iranian regime in Denmark has made matters all the more difficult.

Danish officials are seeking EU action after arresting a Norwegian of Iranian descent on charges of actions aimed at assassinating an Iranian dissident on their soil. European leaders are opening the door to sanctions against the Iranian regime in response to terror plots in Albania, France and now Denmark.

Despite the need to calm relations with the West, Tehran’s regime understands desperate times call for desperate measures. This is especially true when new US sanctions are destined to suffocate the regime’s economy.

Advertisements

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

Al Arabiya

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

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

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

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

Reform: A story of the past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which in itself has been anything but meaningful.

Evolving landscape

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

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

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

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

Stepping up the tempo

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

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

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

Why is Iran’s currency nosediving?

From late July of last year Iran’s currency, the rial, has lost 40 percent of its value against the United States dollar. This is considered a national catastrophe by many analysts.

What is the reason and roots of this significant crisis?

We are hearing a variety of answers these days, including:

  • Unknown fate of the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)
  • S. President Donald Trump appointing former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton as his new National Security Advisor after sacking General H.R. McMaster
  • Deliberate increasing of the U.S. dollar value by the government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to provide for a portion of the regime’s budget deficit
  • Banks going bankrupt as people are losing their trust

All these are correct. A closer look, however, leads us to this conclusion that these developments have formulated during the past two years. All the while, the rial’s nosedive began immediately after the mullahs’ regime took the reigns of power in 1979.

1980 – U.S. dollar = 100 rials

1986 – U.S. dollar = 610 rials

1995 – U.S. dollar = 2630 rials

November 2011 – U.S. dollar = 10,600 rials

February 2012 – U.S. dollar = 26,050 rials

Conclusion: The events of the past two years cannot be the root cause of the rial’s nosedive.

Iran’s corrupt infrastructure and economic foundations are the main origin of this epidemy. A country’s economic structure is based on a specific infrastructure.

For example:

Germany – Heavy industry

Turkey – Tourism and industry (in 2005 Turkey was listed as among the world’s 20 industrial countries)

Japan – Electronics and auto manufacturing

South Korea – Auto manufacturing and …

What is the Iranian regime’s economy founded upon?

Industry? Tourism? Auto manufacturing? Agriculture? …

None of the above. The Iranian regime’s economic foundation is extremely corrupt, heavily based on massive smuggling and large-scale imports. This is blocking “all paths for any efforts to heal Iran’s economy,” according to Radio France Internationale.

One side-effect of an ill-founded economic infrastructure resembles in the price of a country’s currency against the U.S. dollar. For the past 39 years of the mullahs’ rule in Iran, we are continuously witnessing the rial nosediving, people losing their purchasing power, increasing poverty and …

Of course, political developments, such as the unknown future of the JCPOA and … will render spontaneous falls in the rial’s value. However, we must keep in mind the root reason, being Iran’s deeply corrupt economic structure (or lack thereof).

The Iranian regime, in nature, belongs to a time-period dating back to the Middle Ages, leaving it without any capacity to generate necessary changes.

Iran: From human rights violations to dangerous meddling

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

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

The real image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nursing home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Game-changing revelations

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

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

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

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

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

Flashpoint Yemen

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

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

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

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

Serious measures

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

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

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

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

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

Human Rights: Iran’s Ultimate Vulnerability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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