Archive for the ‘Iran and President Trump’ category

Exclusive: India’s HPCL cancels Iran oil shipment after insurer excludes coverage: sources

July 27, 2018

By Nidhi Verma Jul 26, 2018 Reuters

Source Link:
Exclusive: India’s HPCL cancels Iran oil shipment after insurer excludes coverage: sources

{Creating instability has its price. Too much risk and the insurance companies back out. Combine this with sanctions and you effectively have an oil blockade imposed on Iran. – LS}

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s Hindustan Petroleum Corp (HPCL) canceled the purchase of an Iranian oil cargo earlier this month after its insurance company refused to provide coverage for the crude because of U.S. sanctions, three sources with knowledge of the matter said.

HPCL, India’s third-biggest state-owned refiner, renewed its installation insurance, which protects against any accidents at its refinery or storage sites, in early July. However, the new policy would not protect against any incidents involving Iranian oil processed or stored at its refineries, the sources said.

The refiner had planned to load 1 million barrels of Iranian crude onto the Suezmax tanker Ankaleshwar in early July but canceled the purchase after it was unable to sell it on to another buyer, said the sources who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

India is the second-biggest buyer of Iranian crude after China and without insurance coverage to protect their plants, the country’s refineries may have to cut off their imports earlier than anticipated.

The United States said in May it plans to re-impose some sanctions against Iran starting in August, with full sanctions in place by November, after withdrawing from a 2015 accord with Iran limiting its nuclear program.

“HPCL faced problems in lifting cargo from Iran because its annual insurance policy was renewed in July after the U.S. pulled out of the nuclear deal in May,” said one of the sources, adding the company will not be able to lift any Iranian oil.

HPCL’s Iranian imports account for only 20,000 barrels per day (bpd) of its full demand of 316,000 bpd but other Indian refiners that take larger volumes are likely to face the same problem if their annual policy is up for renewal before November.

HPCL did not respond to requests from Reuters for a comment.

Companies have until Nov. 4 to fully wind down activities with Iran or risk exclusion from the U.S. financial system. However, banks, shipping firms and insurance companies are already cutting ties with Iran and without financing or insurance coverage refiners will have to halt their purchases.

Iran had hoped to sell more than 500,000 bpd of oil to India during the current fiscal year that started in April, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said in February.

However, the insurance issues may mean a reduction in imports even as India is intent on continuing dealings with Iran.

HPCL did not respond to requests from Reuters for a comment.

Companies have until Nov. 4 to fully wind down activities with Iran or risk exclusion from the U.S. financial system. However, banks, shipping firms and insurance companies are already cutting ties with Iran and without financing or insurance coverage refiners will have to halt their purchases.

Iran had hoped to sell more than 500,000 bpd of oil to India during the current fiscal year that started in April, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said in February.

However, the insurance issues may mean a reduction in imports even as India is intent on continuing dealings with Iran.

“The problem in procuring Iranian barrels appears to be happening much before the Nov. 4 deadline,” said Senthil Kumaran, a senior analyst at consultants FGE. “Most of the reinsurance market is based in the U.S. so without the blessing of the U.S., Iranian oil buyers will find it almost impossible to take and process Iranian cargoes.”

{This bears repeating….“Most of the reinsurance market is based in the U.S. so without the blessing of the U.S., Iranian oil buyers will find it almost impossible to take and process Iranian cargoes.”…and that, my friends, is why Iran is so damned pissed. Enjoy. – LS}

Indian insurers rely on state-run General Insurance Corp for reinsurance, which depends on western re-insurers to hedge its risk. General Insurance did not reply to a request for comment.

Commander says Iran’s people will punch U.S. Secretary of State in the mouth

May 22, 2018

Source Link: Commander says Iran’s people will punch U.S. Secretary of State in the mouth

Reuter’s Staff May 22, 2018

{Take your best shot, Bubba. – LS}

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A senior Iranian military commander poured scorn on U.S. threats to tighten sanctions on Tuesday, saying the Islamic Republic’s people would respond by punching U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the mouth.

Pompeo said on Monday Washington would impose new penalties if Tehran did not make sweeping changes, including dropping its nuclear program and pulling out of the Syrian civil war.

Two weeks after President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, his administration has threatened to impose “the strongest sanctions in history,” setting Washington and Tehran further on a course of confrontation.

“The people of Iran should stand united in the face of this and they will deliver a strong punch to the mouth of the American Secretary of State and anyone who backs them,” Ismail Kowsari, the deputy commander of the Sarollah Revolutionary Guards base in Tehran said, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency.

Limiting Iran’s missile capabilities was one of Pompeo’s main demands.

“Who are you and America to tell us to limit the range of ballistic missiles?” Kowsari said, according to ILNA. “History has shown that with the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, America is the top criminal with regard to missiles,” he added.

Qassem Soleimani, the head of the branch of the Revolutionary Guards that carries out operations outside Iran’s borders, was singled out by Pompeo as a top troublemaker in the Middle East.

Kowsari said that the Iranian people back Soleimani.

“Soleimani is not a single person. The great people of Iran support him,” Kowsari said.

Separately, Iran’s government spokesman said that the plan outlined by Pompeo would exacerbate the public’s hostility to the United States.

“Do the Americans think that the silk glove that they’ve taken out and the iron hand that they’ve extended to the people, a hand that’s backed by Israel and the [Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization], will make Iranian people think that America wants democracy?” Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said on Tuesday, according to state media.

The Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) is an exiled Iranian armed opposition group which has called for the overthrow of the Iranian government for decades.

John Bolton, the U.S. national security advisor, has been a supporter of the MKO, which the Iranian government sees as a terrorist group.

 

How to Get Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal

August 28, 2017

How to Get Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, National Review, John R. Bolton, August 28, 2017

(A very dispiriting article appeared at MEMRI today. It notes that

Within three months, the U.S.’s position in the Middle East has changed from one of might and deterrence against Iran to one of weakness, retreat, and being deterred by Iran. This situation, of course, in no way reflects the real balance of power between the U.S. and Iran, neither generally nor regionally. It is an image created jointly by President Trump’s policies and Iran’s offensive approach.

. . . .

It is the approach of the Trump administration – which has agreed to Iran’s regional expansion, under the cover of the war on ISIS – that has prompted this huge shift in the attitude of Iran, which also is relying on Russian backing.

It appears that some in the National Security Council and elsewhere in the Trump administration have intentionally deprived President Trump of information he needs in order to deal resolutely with Iran and Iran scam. –DM)

Although candidate Donald Trump repeatedly criticized Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement, his administration has twice decided to remain in the deal. It so certified to Congress, most recently in July, as required by law. Before the second certification, Trump asked repeatedly for alternatives to acquiescing yet again in a policy he clearly abhorred. But no such options were forthcoming, despite “a sharp series of exchanges” between the president and his advisers, as the New York Times and similar press reports characterized it. 

Many outside the administration wondered how this was possible: Was Trump in control, or were his advisers? Defining a compelling rationale to exit Obama’s failed nuclear deal and elaborating a game plan to do so are quite easy. In fact, Steve Bannon asked me in late July to draw up just such a game plan for the president — the option he didn’t have — which I did.

Here it is. It is only five pages long, but like instant coffee, it can be readily expanded to a comprehensive, hundred-page playbook if the administration were to decide to leave the Iran agreement. There is no need to wait for the next certification deadline in October. Trump can and should free America from this execrable deal at the earliest opportunity.

I offer the Iran nonpaper now as a public service, since staff changes at the White House have made presenting it to President Trump impossible. Although he was once kind enough to tell me “come in and see me any time,” those days are now over.

If the president is never to see this option, so be it. But let it never be said that the option didn’t exist.

I. Background:

The Trump Administration is required to certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is complying with the July 2015 nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — JCPOA), and that this agreement is in the national-security interest of the United States.1 While a comprehensive Iranian policy review is currently underway, America’s Iran policy should not be frozen. The JCPOA is a threat to U.S. national-security interests, growing more serious by the day. If the President decides to abrogate the JCPOA, a comprehensive plan must be developed and executed to build domestic and international support for the new policy. Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, the President must certify every 90 days that:

(i) Iran is transparently, verifiably, and fully implementing the agreement, including all related technical or additional agreements;

(ii)  Iran has not committed a material breach with respect to the agreement or, if Iran has committed a material breach, Iran has cured the material breach;

(iii)  Iran has not taken any action, including covert activities, that could significantly advance its nuclear weapons program; and

(iv)  Suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the agreement is – (I)  appropriate and proportionate to the specific and verifiable measures taken by Iran with respect to terminating its illicit nuclear program; and (II) vital to the national-security interests of the United States.

(I)  appropriate and proportionate to the specific and verifiable measures taken by Iran with respect to terminating its illicit nuclear program; and

(II) vital to the national-security interests of the United States.

U.S. leadership here is critical, especially through a diplomatic and public education effort to explain a decision not to certify and to abrogate the JCPOA. Like any global campaign, it must be persuasive, thorough, and accurate. Opponents, particularly those who participated in drafting and implementing the JCPOA, will argue strongly against such a decision, contending that it is reckless, ill-advised, and will have negative economic and security consequences.

Accordingly, we must explain the grave threat to the U.S. and our allies, particularly Israel. The JCPOA’s vague and ambiguous wording; its manifest imbalance in Iran’s direction; Iran’s significant violations; and its continued, indeed, increasingly, unacceptable conduct at the strategic level internationally demonstrate convincingly that the JCPOA is not in the national-security interests of the United States. We can bolster the case for abrogation by providing new, declassified information on Iran’s unacceptable behavior around the world.

But as with prior Presidential decisions, such as withdrawing from the 1972 ABM Treaty, a new “reality” will be created. We will need to assure the international community that the U.S. decision will in fact enhance international peace and security, unlike the JCPOA, the provisions of which shield Iran’s ongoing efforts to develop deliverable nuclear weapons. The Administration should announce that it is abrogating the JCPOA due to significant Iranian violations, Iran’s unacceptable international conduct more broadly, and because the JCPOA threatens American national-security interests.

The Administration’s explanation in a “white paper” should stress the many dangerous concessions made to reach this deal, such as allowing Iran to continue to enrich uranium; allowing Iran to operate a heavy-water reactor; and allowing Iran to operate and develop advanced centrifuges while the JCPOA is in effect. Utterly inadequate verification and enforcement mechanisms and Iran’s refusal to allow inspections of military sites also provide important reasons for the Administration’s decision.

Even the previous Administration knew the JCPOA was so disadvantageous to the United States that it feared to submit the agreement for Senate ratification. Moreover, key American allies in the Middle East directly affected by this agreement, especially Israel and the Gulf states, did not have their legitimate interests adequately taken into account. The explanation must also demonstrate the linkage between Iran and North Korea. We must also highlight Iran’s unacceptable behavior, such as its role as the world’s central banker for international terrorism, including its directions and control over Hezbollah and its actions in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The reasons Ronald Reagan named Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1984 remain fully applicable today.

We must also highlight Iran’s unacceptable behavior, such as its role as the world’s central banker for international terrorism, including its directions and control over Hezbollah and its actions in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The reasons Ronald Reagan named Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1984 remain fully applicable today.

II. Campaign Plan Components

There are four basic elements to the development and implementation of the campaign plan to decertify and abrogate the Iran nuclear deal: 1.     Early, quiet consultations with key players such as the U.K., France, Germany, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, to tell them we are going to abrogate the deal based on outright violations and other unacceptable Iranian

1.     Early, quiet consultations with key players such as the U.K., France, Germany, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, to tell them we are going to abrogate the deal based on outright violations and other unacceptable Iranian behavior, and seek their input. 2.     Prepare the documented strategic case for withdrawal through a detailed white paper (including declassified intelligence as appropriate) explaining why the deal is harmful to U.S. national interests, how Iran has violated it, and why Iran’s behavior more broadly has only worsened since the deal was agreed. 3.     A greatly expanded diplomatic campaign should immediately follow the announcement, especially in Europe and the Middle East, and we should ensure

2.     Prepare the documented strategic case for withdrawal through a detailed white paper (including declassified intelligence as appropriate) explaining why the deal is harmful to U.S. national interests, how Iran has violated it, and why Iran’s behavior more broadly has only worsened since the deal was agreed. 3.     A greatly expanded diplomatic campaign should immediately follow the announcement, especially in Europe and the Middle East, and we should ensure

3.     A greatly expanded diplomatic campaign should immediately follow the announcement, especially in Europe and the Middle East, and we should ensure continued emphasis on the Iran threat as a top diplomatic and strategic priority.

4.     Develop and execute Congressional and public diplomacy efforts to build domestic and foreign support.

III. Execution Concepts and Tactics

1.     Early, quiet consultations with key players It is critical that a worldwide effort be initiated to inform our allies, partners, and others about Iran’s unacceptable behavior. While this effort could well leak to the press, it is nonetheless critical that we inform and consult with our allies and partners at the earliest possible moment, and, where appropriate, build into our effort their concerns and suggestions. This quiet effort will articulate the nature and details of the violations and the type of relationship the U.S. foresees in the future, thereby laying the foundation for imposing new sanctions barring the transfer of nuclear and missile technology or dual use technology to Iran. With Israel and selected others, we will discuss military options. With others in the Gulf region, we can also discuss means to address their concerns from Iran’s menacing behavior. The advance consultations could begin with private calls by the President, followed by more extensive discussions in capitals by senior Administration envoys. Promptly elaborating a comprehensive tactical diplomatic plan should be a high priority.

2.     Prepare the documented strategic case The White House, coordinating all other relevant Federal agencies, must forcefully articulate the strong case regarding U.S. national-security interests. The effort should produce a “white paper” that will be the starting point for the diplomatic and domestic discussion of the Administration decision to abrogate the JCPOA, and why Iran must be denied access to nuclear technology indefinitely. The white paper should be an unclassified, written statement of the Administration’s case, prepared faultlessly, with scrupulous attention to accuracy and candor. It should not be limited to the inadequacies of the JCPOA as written, or Iran’s violations, but cover the entire range of Iran’s continuing unacceptable international behavior.

Although the white paper will not be issued until the announcement of the decision to abrogate the JCPOA, initiating work on drafting the document is the highest priority, and its completion will dictate the timing of the abrogation announcement.

A thorough review and declassification strategy, including both U.S. and foreign intelligence in our possession should be initiated to ensure that the public has as much information as possible about Iranian behavior that is currently classified, consistent with protecting intelligence sources and methods. We should be prepared to “name names” and expose the underbelly of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard business activities and how they are central to the efforts that undermine American and allied national interests. In particular, we should consider declassifying information related to activities such as the Iran-North Korea partnership, and how they undermine fundamental interests of our allies and partners.

3.      Greatly expanded diplomatic campaign post-announcement

The Administration, through the NSC process, should develop a tactical plan that uses all available diplomatic tools to build support for our decision, including what actions we recommend other countries to take. But America must provide the leadership. It will take substantial time and effort and will require a “full court press” by U.S. embassies worldwide and officials in Washington to drive the process forward. We should ensure that U.S. officials fully understand the decision, and its finality, to help ensure the most positive impact with their interlocutors.

Our embassies worldwide should demarche their host governments with talking points (tailored as may be necessary) and data to explain and justify abrogating JCPOA. We will need parallel efforts at the United Nations and other appropriate multilateral organizations. Our embassies should not limit themselves to delivering the demarche, however, but should undertake extensive public diplomacy as well.

After explaining and justifying the decision to abrogate the deal, the next objective should be to recreate a new counter-proliferation coalition to replace the one squandered by the previous Administration, including our European allies, Israel, and the Gulf states. In that regard, we should solicit suggestions for imposing new sanctions on Iran and other measures in response to its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs, sponsorship of terrorism, and generally belligerent behavior, including its meddling in Iraq and Syria.

Russia and China obviously warrant careful attention in the post-announcement campaign. They could be informed just prior to the public announcement as a courtesy, but should not be part of the pre-announcement diplomatic effort described above. We should welcome their full engagement to eliminate these threats, but we will move ahead with or without them.

Iran is not likely to seek further negotiations once the JCPOA is abrogated, but the Administration may wish to consider rhetorically leaving that possibility open in order to demonstrate Iran’s actual underlying intention to develop deliverable nuclear weapons, an intention that has never flagged.

In preparation for the diplomatic campaign, the NSC interagency process should review U.S. foreign-assistance programs as they might assist our efforts. The DNI should prepare a comprehensive, worldwide list of companies and activities that aid Iran’s terrorist activities.

4.      Develop and execute Congressional and public diplomacy efforts

The Administration should have a Capitol Hill plan to inform members of Congress already concerned about Iran, and develop momentum for imposing broad sanctions against Iran, far more comprehensive than the pinprick sanctions favored under prior Administrations. Strong congressional support will be critical. We should be prepared to link Iranian behavior around the world, including its relationship with North Korea, and its terrorist activities. And we should demonstrate the linkage between Iranian behavior and missile proliferation as part of the overall effort that justifies a national-security determination that U.S. interests would not be furthered with the JCPOA.

Unilateral U.S. sanctions should be imposed outside the framework of Security Council Resolution 2231 so that Iran’s defenders cannot water them down; multilateral sanctions from others who support us can follow quickly.

The Administration should also encourage discussions in Congress and in public debate for further steps that might be taken to go beyond the abrogation decision. These further steps, advanced for discussion purposes and to stimulate debate, should collectively demonstrate our resolve to limit Iran’s malicious activities and global adventurism. Some would relate directly to Iran; others would protect our allies and partners more broadly from the nuclear proliferation and terrorist threats, such as providing F-35s to Israel or THAAD resources to Japan. Other actions could include:

End all landing and docking rights for all Iranian aircraft and ships at key allied ports;

End all visas for Iranians, including so called “scholarly,” student, sports, or other exchanges;

Demand payment with a set deadline on outstanding U.S. federal-court judgments against Iran for terrorism, including 9/11;

Announce U.S. support for the democratic Iranian opposition;

Expedite delivery of bunker-buster bombs;

Announce U.S. support for Kurdish national aspirations, including Kurds in Iran, Iraq, and Syria;

Provide assistance to Balochis, Khuzestan Arabs, Kurds, and others — also to internal resistance among labor unions, students, and women’s groups; Actively organize opposition to Iranian political objectives in the U.N.

IV. Conclusion

This effort should be the Administration’s highest diplomatic priority, commanding all necessary time, attention, and resources. We can no longer wait to eliminate the threat posed by Iran. The Administration’s justification of its decision will demonstrate to the world that we understand the threat to our civilization; we must act and encourage others to meet their responsibilities as well.

___________________________

1 Although this paper will refer to “the JCPOA,” the abrogation decision should also encompass the July 14, 2015, statement by the Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany, attached as Annex B to Security Council Resolution 2231. The JCPOA is attached as Annex A to Resolution 2231.

Reading Iran’s Reaction To US Missile Strikes In Syria

April 14, 2017

Reading Iran’s Reaction To US Missile Strikes In Syria, Long War Journal, April 14, 2017

Seyyed Hossein Taghavi-Hosseini, the spokesperson for the Iranian parliament’s hawkish National Security and Foreign Policy Committee exclaimed: “The truth is that the Americans and some regional countries which are supporters of terrorism and terrorist groups were defeated in the Syrian arena… [therefore] the Americans entered so as to revive the terrorists and develop a support umbrella for them.” Taghavi-Hosseini’s comments are designed to alter international public opinion. Should Taghavi-Hosseini’s erroneous narrative go unchecked, Iran, along with its Russian partners, could more aggressively look to offer themselves as guarantors of the regional order.

***************************

On the evening of Thursday April 6, Washington time, President Donald Trump ordered the US military to respond to the Assad regime’s recent use of chemical weapons which had “choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children.” In so doing, the US launched 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles at the Shayrat Airfield in Homs belonging to the Syrian government.  The strikes, according to a Pentagon press statement, were delivered from two US destroyers stationed in the Eastern Mediterranean. According to a more recent Department of Defense evaluation, “20 percent of Syria’s operational aircraft” were wrecked by strike.

To date, international reactions have been somewhat predictable. US partners and allies in the Middle East, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, endorsed the kinetic action. Conversely, government officials from the Syrian Arab Republic and Islamic Republic of Iran admonished the move. Such censures nonetheless provide insight into Iran’s framing of the war in Syria, as well as the methods of argumentation Iran has long used to support the Assad regime. As always, vitriolic anti-Americanism featured prominently in Tehran’s diplomatic response.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, called the strike a “strategic mistake.” He also ominously warned that the US was about “to repeat their past mistakes” in the region. “Former American officials created DAESH or helped it, and current American officials are in a state of strengthening DAESH or groups like it,” he alleged.

The conspiracy theory that the US has had a hand in the creation of the Islamic State is as old as the group itself, and is a narrative both favored and promoted by regime elites in Tehran. Over time it has even made itself manifest in elements of the Iranian population. On April 8, part of the headline above the fold on the front cover of the hardline Kayhan newspaper – whose editor-in-chief is a close Khamenei confidant – read: “America formally stood beside DAESH.”

Several other Iranian officials also framed American involvement in the region as a boost to such groups. Seyyed Hossein Taghavi-Hosseini, the spokesperson for the Iranian parliament’s hawkish National Security and Foreign Policy Committee exclaimed: “The truth is that the Americans and some regional countries which are supporters of terrorism and terrorist groups were defeated in the Syrian arena… [therefore] the Americans entered so as to revive the terrorists and develop a support umbrella for them.” Taghavi-Hosseini’s comments are designed to alter international public opinion. Should Taghavi-Hosseini’s erroneous narrative go unchecked, Iran, along with its Russian partners, could more aggressively look to offer themselves as guarantors of the regional order.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the Chairman of the same parliamentary committee, cited themes about perceived US desperation in his post-strike commentary. He told members of the Iranian press that, “The recent American action in Syria is indicative of the defeat of the statesmen and government of this arrogant country in the region and in the world.” Despite the obvious imbalance in capability, Iranian officials have often sought to position themselves as more adept than the US in the region, whom they accuse of being in retreat and decline. While Iran’s military assistance has been critical in the form of money, men, and munitions to the Assad regime, Iran lacks the conventional military power to project force in the region, and has therefore had to rely on tried and true asymmetric methods. For conventional force projection, Iran has turned to another state: the Russian Federation.

In a telephone call with Iran’s closest state partners, Syria and Russia, the latter of whom has provided air power and advanced Surface-to-Air Missiles to the beleaguered Assad regime, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani similarly took to condemning the strike. Rouhani reportedly told Russian President Vladimir Putin that “We condemn America’s missile attack on Syria and believe it to be a case of gross violation of the sovereignty of an independent country which makes it necessary for this unilateral action to be investigated and condemned by the United Nations Security Council.”

The citing of the Assad regime as “independent” is in line with the Islamic Republic’s anti-Western and anti-imperialist governing ideologies. But it also draws from the lexicon of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad himself. At least twice in 2016 (once in July and once in October), the Iranian press reported comments by Assad attempting to frame his regime’s actions as measures needed to keep Syria independent because the West “cannot tolerate” or “does not accept” a sovereign Syrian state. The irony being that the longer the Assad regime lives on, the more reliant it will be on foreign patrons like Moscow and Tehran should they decide to reconquer lost territory or merely govern and hold the territory it presently controls.

Similarly, Tehran has long insisted on the “territorial integrity” of Syria, as well as that of Iraq, where it is using the campaign against the Islamic State to cement its presence through armed networks. These armed networks are seldom mentioned by Iranian diplomats.

Formally, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif and its Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghassemi also critiqued the strike. Zarif took to one of Iran’s new favorite mediums – Twitter – to berate the US for “impetuous unilateralism based on self-serving allegations.” Zarif bandwagoned on the argument made by Kayhan about the US and Salafist-terrorist groups. He purported that “Not even two decades have passed since the events of the 11th of September and America’s armed forces now fight beside al-Qaeda and DAESH in Yemen and Syria in a [unified] front.” This gross mischaracterization of recent US actions in the Middle East notwithstanding, Zarif also drew on Iran’s harrowing experiences during the Iran-Iraq War to bolster an argument against chemical weapons and WMD-use more generally.

In so doing, Zarif failed to mention that one of the strategic drivers of Tehran’s nuclear weapons program was its own eight-year conflict with Iraq. The same logic also helped guide Iran to develop and retaliate against Iraq’s chemical attacks by weaponizing pathogens of its own.

While Iranian military and religious elites also commented on the strike along themes already noted in this article, Iran’s regional proxies also weighed-in on the matter. Lebanese Hezbollah issued a press release calling the move a transgression of “Syrian sovereignty” that was ultimately in the “service of the Zionist entity.” Another militia, the Iran-linked Nujaba movement of Iraq noted via its spokesman that, “This missile attack does not change the rules of the Syrian conflict.” The spokesperson for Nujaba echoed themes about how American military action in Syria was merely a “tool… used to save terrorist groups.”

Conversely, Muqatada al-Sadr, the infamous Iraqi Shiite cleric who led the Mahdi Army (which despite being “disbanded” has been partially reconstituted into the “Peace Brigades” and is believed to be active in Syria) did not tow Tehran’s line on the strike and Assad’s future. According to reporting by Reuters, the cleric said, “it would be fair for President Bashar al-Assad to offer his resignation and step down in love for Syria, to spare it the woes of war and terrorism …and take a historic, heroic decision before it is too late.”

Despite the marked difference in tone by the leader of a prominent Shiite militia, Iranian officials have not seen the strike as inhibiting their support for Assad. While Iranian capabilities (presently comprised of ground assets often delivered by plane) do not appear to be impaired by the strike, there has been no overt escalation by Tehran at the time of this writing in the Syrian theater. Tehran also lacks the capability to respond on the same scope and scale as 59 cruise missile strikes against US assets without launching a major war. Rather, Iran appears to have fallen back on gloating, intimidation, and misinformation tactics that so often characterize Persian-language reporting. Nonetheless, Iranian officials would be wise to not write off the strike. US military power was just demonstrated on a key Iranian partner with exceeding ease. At a minimum, that should remind both Damascus and Tehran to be cognizant of escalation dynamics as the Syrian conflict drags on.

Yet, whatever the proximate cause for varying levels of Iranian activity in Syria, the root cause for the country’s continued involvement there remains the survival of the Islamic Revolution and its rejectionist message. To export this revolution and keep conflict away from Iranian territory, Tehran has continuously and successfully relied on a diverse array of non-state actors, terrorists, and armed religious networks across jurisdictions of weak central authority. But the Assad regime (both in its present incarnation under Bashar and previously under his deceased father, Hafez), has long represented the enduring value of a pro-Iranian state on Israel’s doorstep. Put differently, Tehran’s relationship with Damascus has permitted the Islamic Republic to inject hard- and soft-power into the Levantine theater for over three decades.

Time will tell if Iran will ultimately read the strike as a show of American resolve or indecision. But until then, sentiments such as those from 2013 by Hojjat al-Eslam Mehdi Taeb, the leader of the Ammar Base – an organization tasked with fighting the “soft war” – appear to be guiding Iran’s approach to the country: “Syria… is a strategic province for Iran… If we lose Syria, we will be unable to keep Tehran.”

Iran’s Mullahs: Dead Syrian Children are Fakes!

April 9, 2017

Iran’s Mullahs: Dead Syrian Children are Fakes! Power LineJohn Hinderaker, April 8, 2017

(Are they auditioning for positions as CNN and MSNBC writers? Why did they neglect to mention that the “White Helmets” are “vile Zionists?”– DM)

Do you think President Trump has gotten the mullahs’ attention? Do you think they realize they aren’t dealing with a willing dupe like Barack Obama? That is how it looks to me.

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How nervous are Iran’s rulers, sponsors of the Assad regime, about President Trump’s missile strike on Syria? This nervous: Iran’s semi-official FARS news service headlines, “Swedish Medical Associations [sic] Says White Helmets Murdered Kids for Fake Gas Attack Videos.”

President Trump is now threatening to take America into a war against Syria, Iran and even Russia, a war he says is justified by “evidence” he has received from the Syrian White Helmets.

Ridiculous. President Trump has made no such threat.

We will prove beyond any doubt that this is a “Deep State” organization, a melding of CIA, al Qaeda and Britain’s intelligence services. We now have “slam dunk” proof that Trump and the “fake news” MSM are and always have been in lockstep, playing us all.

Heh. Who knew the “deep state” includes al Qaeda? The Iranians are hysterical.

Google itself is involved, at war with this group and others, censoring them from their search engines. The information here will be new to Americans.

Huh? This is never explained.

The White Helmets, supposedly an independent NGO, receives up to $100m from the CIA and UK Foreign Office, “dark project” funding. Murdering children is their stock and trade as we will prove. Sharing headquarters with Turkish Intelligence in Gaziantep, Turkey, this organization is far more “death squad” than civil defense. …

The Iranians’ theory is that those dead children in widely-seen photos and videos had been alive, and weren’t gassed by Assad’s forces, but were murdered for political reasons:

Swedish Doctors For Human Rights (swedhr.org) analysed videos, the rescue after an alleged attack by Syrian government forces. The doctors found that the videos were counterfeit, where even Arabic stage directions were overheard, and that the alleged “Rescue” in actuality is a murder. On first analysis, it looked as though the doctors working on the child assumed he was already dead.

More:

However, after broader investigation, our team ascertained that the boy was unconscious from an overdose of opiates. The video shows the child receiving injections in his chest, perhaps in the area of the heart and was eventually killed while a clearly fake adrenaline injection was administered.

This was a murder.

There is much more, but you get the drift. After eight years of treating Barack Obama like…I can’t say it, this is a family site…the mullahs are hysterical over President Trump’s assertion of American interests and values. FARS News, the regime’s more or less official news outlet, talks of little else. Here are FARS’s current headlines:

* ‘Emergency’ Protests across US Demand ‘Hands off Syria’

* Swedish Medical Associations Says White Helmets Murdered Kids for Fake Gas Attack Videos

* Syrian Army Chief Visits Airbase Hit by US Missiles before Resumption of Operation

* Anti-War Group Protests against US Strike in Syria

* Russia: US Fails to Prove Existence of Chemical Weapons at Syrian Airfield

* Top Iranian, Russian Security Officials Discuss US Missile Strike on Syria

* Hezbollah Condemns US Blatant, Foolish Attack on Syria

* Russian Ground Force to Take Part in Anti-Terrorism Operation in Syria’s Hama

* Blustering Toward Armageddon: How Trump Is Upsetting China While Antagonizing Russia

* Top Iranian, Russian Security Officials Discuss US Missile Strike on Syria

* Arab Analyst: US Attack against Syria Not to Topple Assad

* Syrian Fighter Jets Restart Combat Flights over Terrorists’ Centers from Shayrat Airbase in Homs

Do you think President Trump has gotten the mullahs’ attention? Do you think they realize they aren’t dealing with a willing dupe like Barack Obama? That is how it looks to me.

KLEIN – Iran Is the Wild Card Following U.S. Air Strikes In Syria

April 7, 2017

KLEIN – Iran Is the Wild Card Following U.S. Air Strikes In Syria, BreitbartAaron Klein, April 7, 2017

U.S. Navy/via AP

President Vladimir Putin cannot risk a military confrontation with Trump and Russia is already signaling willingness to abandon Assad to come to a larger regional accommodation.

Still, there is the possibility that Russia may quietly support action by others, especially agents of a very nervous Iranian regime that has been preparing proxies for years who can heat up Israel’s northern border and beyond.  Both Moscow and Tehran have reason for wanting Trump to pay a price for acting in their Syrian playground.  The question is whether they will dare to respond, even tacitly.

The next few days and weeks will be critical in determining Iran and Russia’s resolve in the face of an awakened America that has returned from its eight-year slumber.

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TEL AVIV – Following the U.S. launch of Tomahawk missiles targeting a strategic Syrian airfield on Thursday night, Iran must be monitored carefully for the possibility that it may use its proxies for retaliation, especially against Israel’s northern border.

Following eight years of inaction on Syria under the Obama administration, President Donald Trump demonstrated last night that he is willing to hold Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to account, this time by striking the Shayrat Airfield near the Syrian city of Homs that was believed to have been utilized to carry out a chemical weapons attack that killed scores of civilians.

The U.S. airstrikes signaled to Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers that Trump will act in Syria and the administration strongly supports the removal of the Syrian president – an important strategic ally of Moscow and Tehran. The U.S. military move demonstrates to Israel and the Sunni Arab bloc cast aside by Obama’s nuclear deal with the mullahs that American leadership has officially returned to the region.

Assad himself is unlikely to retaliate since the last thing he wants amidst a years-long insurgency attempting to topple his regime is to go to war with Trump or expand the battlefield to U.S. ally Israel.

Trump’s bold authority in Syria directly threatens Russian interests since it was Moscow that largely filled the security vacuum in that country when Obama repeatedly failed to take any meaningful action against Assad. However, Russia’s direct response will most likely be confined to vocal protestation, such as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling the U.S. strikes “aggression against a sovereign nation” carried out on a “made-up pretext.”

President Vladimir Putin cannot risk a military confrontation with Trump and Russia is already signaling willingness to abandon Assad to come to a larger regional accommodation.

Still, there is the possibility that Russia may quietly support action by others, especially agents of a very nervous Iranian regime that has been preparing proxies for years who can heat up Israel’s northern border and beyond.  Both Moscow and Tehran have reason for wanting Trump to pay a price for acting in their Syrian playground.  The question is whether they will dare to respond, even tacitly.

And that brings us to Iran.  Trump’s embrace of America’s traditional Sunni Arab partners at the expense of Tehran and his strong positions against the disastrous international nuclear agreement have been deeply concerning to the expansionist, terrorist-supporting Twelvers in Tehran.  And while the removal of Assad from power would be a blow to Russia, depending on the ultimate outcome such a move could be disastrous for Iran’s position in Syria.  Iranian Revolutionary Guard units have been fighting the anti-Assad insurgents alongside the Syrian military and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia.  Syria represents a key pawn in Iran’s geopolitical chessboard that stretches across the vital region.

In recent weeks, there have been strong indications that Iran has been seeking to arm its Hezbollah proxy with even more advanced weapons that can target the Jewish state. Last month, Israel took the unusual step of striking a Hezbollah weapons convoy near the city of Palmyra that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said was transporting advanced weapons to the Iran-backed militia.

Israeli leaders and Hezbollah terrorists have in recent weeks ratcheted up war rhetoric, with Israeli officials warning that Hezbollah, which can only act at the direction of Iran, has been preparing for conflict.

Last Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot warned the IDF would not hold back from striking Lebanese state institutions in a future conflict with Hezbollah. “The recent declarations from Beirut make it clear that in a future war, the targets will be clear: Lebanon and the organizations operating under its authority and its approval,” Eisenkot stated.

Hezbollah is not Iran’s only option. Breitbart Jerusalem has been reporting on the formation of a “Golan Liberation Brigade,” which was announced last month by the secretary-general of the Iraqi Harakat al Nujaba Shiite militia and is reportedly being trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.  The so-called militia is another Iranian front that could be used to target Israel’s Golan Heights at the behest of Tehran.

The next few days and weeks will be critical in determining Iran and Russia’s resolve in the face of an awakened America that has returned from its eight-year slumber.

Iran: A “Paper Tiger”

April 1, 2017

Iran: A “Paper Tiger,” Iran Focus, March 31, 2017

(What would Russia do? Please see also, Iran’s Elections: A Breaking Crisis? — DM)

London, 31 Mar – While Iran calls for the destruction of Israel, according to some experts, an American or Israeli attack against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear and military sites would be fairly easy to execute. This is because, although Iran points to technological advancement in their military, it is actually has overextended itself in Syria.

A report published in March by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), noted Iran has backed off their provocations against U.S. Navy vessels, and has even ceased their threats to sink these ships in the Persian Gulf. The report continued, “The slogan ‘death to America’ has disappeared almost entirely from the official discourse of regime spokesmen, including Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself, as have public burnings of the American flag.”

Fars News Agency reported on March 26, that deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, warned the U.S. to be more careful about its warship movements in the Persian Gulf, which is a softer warning than we’ve heard in the past from Iranian leaders.

President and founder of MEMRI, Yigal Carmon, has stated that Iran’s claims of domestic development of military technologies are “complete nonsense,” but said that the country’s acquisition of North Korean missiles is concerning. Carmon said further, that Iran imports North Korean missiles and renames them to give the impression that they were domestically developed.

He explained that Iranian media publishes stories every few weeks about success of their military programs. One such story in January 2013, announced that Iran’s Space Agency had sent a monkey into space, yet pictures of the monkey before and after the “mission” failed to match up. “Iran does not create any quality military equipment, they only are able to buy from abroad. What do they invent to counter U.S. ships? All they are able to come up with is suicide speed boats,” he said.

Iran has also “displayed what they claimed to be domestically built submarines, but when we saw the picture that they put out, we saw that the size would be good for the Baltimore aquarium,” said Carmon.

The ballistics test Iran conducted in January failed. Carmon believes that Iran poses no real challenge to the U.S. “If the U.S. or Israel attack Iran’s nuclear sites and military targets, it will be a done deal,” he said.

A comparison of American and Iranian financial resources may bolster this argument. Fox News columnist Jonathan Adelman, an international studies professor at the University of Denver, wrote in February, “Look at the figures. The American GDP of over $18 trillion is more than 40 times the GDP of Iran ($450 billion)…. Given all this, the fear of Iran getting nuclear weapons still remains real. But, even more real is the notion that the biggest power in the world, plus three significant regional powers (Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia), could handle Iran if they would put their minds to it.”

Iran sank $6 billion annually of its resources into the Syrian Civil War, according to Bloomberg News.

Dr. Harold Rhode, a distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, and a former U.S. Defense Department official, has stated that while America is strong both militarily and internally, Iran and North Korea “appear strong, but are weak and rotten inside.” Rhode said that while Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, it is destroying its country by inaction on domestic problems such as its water crisis. London-based NGO Small Media published a study in March 2016, saying that Iran “faces an unprecedented crisis of water resources that threatens to render vast swathes of the country near-uninhabitable within the coming decades.”

A dangerous opium drug problem is also facing Iran. Rhode speculated that Iranian authorities could crack down on drugs, but ignore it instead, in order “to keep the people preoccupied so they don’t concern themselves with overthrowing the government.”

Rhode believes the American or Israeli approach should be one of strength, but said, “Do we need to have a massive invasion [of Iran]? No. We must show that this regime cannot do what is necessary to keep themselves in power.”

There are alternatives to “actual physical attacks,” such as electronic warfare, when it comes to confronting Iran, according to MEMRI’s Carmon.

Rhode said other options should be considered before putting troops on the ground, including bringing about regime change. “We live in very stable societies, we expect changes to come slowly, but that is not how it works in totalitarian societies like Iran. The moment the people see the regime has lost its ability and willingness to keep itself in power, the regime will topple very quickly, as happened to the shah in 1979. The shah was not willing to do what was necessary to put down the rioting,” he said, and called Iran a “potentially a paper tiger” adding that it is “our job to encourage regime change—and we can.”