Archive for the ‘Iran – sanctions’ category

We’re turning a blind eye to Iran’s genocidal liars

April 18, 2017

We’re turning a blind eye to Iran’s genocidal liars, The Australian, Michael Oren, April 19, 2017

(Please see also, What North Korea Should Teach Us about Iran. DM)

In responding forcibly to North Korean and Syrian outrages, President Trump has taken a major step towards restoring America’s deterrence power. His determination to redress the flaws in the JCPOA and to stand up to Iran will greatly accelerate that process. The US, Israel and the world will all be safer.

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The US has signed agreements with three rogue regimes strictly limiting their unconventional military capacities. Two of those regimes — Syria and North Korea — brazenly violated the agreements, provoking game-changing responses from Donald Trump. But the third agreement — with Iran — is so inherently flawed that Tehran doesn’t even have to break it. Honouring it will be enough to endanger millions of lives.

The framework agreements with North Korea and Syria, concluded respectively in 1994 and 2013, were similar in many ways. Both recognised that the regimes already possessed weapons of mass destruction or at least the means to produce them. Both ­assumed that the regimes would surrender their arsenals under an international treaty and open their facilities to inspectors. And both believed these repressive states, if properly engaged, could be brought into the community of nations.

All those assumptions were wrong. After withdrawing from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, Pyongyang tested five atomic weapons and developed ­intercontinental missiles capable of carrying them. Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, less than a year after signing the framework, reverted to gassing his own people. Bolstered by the inaction of the US and backed by other powers, North Korea and Syria broke their commitments with impunity.

Or so it seemed. By ordering a Tomahawk missile attack on a Syrian air base, and a US Navy strike force to patrol near North Korea’s coast, the Trump administration has upheld the frame­­works and placed their violators on notice. This reassertion of power is welcomed by all of ­America’s allies, Israel among them. But for us the most dangerous agreement of all is the one that may never need military enforcement. For us, the existential threat looms in a decade, when the agreement with Iran expires.

Like the frameworks with North Korea and Syria, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action of 2015 assumed that Iran would fulfil its obligations and open its facilities to inspectors. The JCPOA assumed that Iran would moderate its behaviour and join the international community. Yet unlike its North Korean and Syrian allies, Iran was the largest state sponsor of terror and openly vowed to destroy another state: Israel. Unlike them, Iran systematically lied about its unconventional weapons program for 30 years. And unlike Damascus and Pyongyang, which are permanently barred from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, Tehran can look forward to building them swiftly and legitimately in the late 2020s, once the JCPOA expires.

This, for Israel and our neighbouring Sunni states, is the appalling flaw of the JCPOA. The regime most committed to our destruction has been granted a free pass to develop military nuclear capabilities. Iran could follow the Syrian and North Korean examples and cheat. Or, while enjoying hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, it can adhere to the agreement and deactivate parts of its nuclear facilities rather than dismantle them. It can develop new technologies for producing atomic bombs while testing intercontinental ballistic missiles. It can continue massacring Syrians, Iraqis and Yemenis, and bankrolling Hamas and Hezbollah. The JCPOA enables Iran to do all that merely by complying.

A nuclear-armed Iran would be as dangerous as “50 North Koreas”, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN in 2013, and Iran is certainly many times more dangerous than Syria. Yet Iran alone has been granted immunity for butchering civilians and threatening genocide. Iran alone has been guaranteed a ­future nuclear capability. And the Iranian regime — which brutally crushed a popular uprising in 2009 — has amassed a million-man force to suppress any future opposition. Rather than moderating, the present regime promises to be more radical yet in another 10 years.

How can the US and its allies pre-empt catastrophe? Many steps are possible, but they begin with penalising Iran for the conventions it already violates, such as UN restrictions on missile development. The remaining American sanctions on Iran must stay staunchly in place and congress must pass further punitive legislation. Above all, a strong link must be established between the JCPOA and Iran’s support for terror, its pledges to annihilate ­Israel and overthrow pro-American Arab governments, and its complicity in massacres. As long as the ayatollahs oppress their own population and export their ­tyranny abroad, no restrictions on their nuclear program can ever be allowed to expire.

In responding forcibly to North Korean and Syrian outrages, President Trump has taken a major step towards restoring America’s deterrence power. His determination to redress the flaws in the JCPOA and to stand up to Iran will greatly accelerate that process. The US, Israel and the world will all be safer.

Michael Oren is Israel’s deputy minister for diplomacy, a member of the Knesset and a former ambassador to Washington.

Trump Administration Sanctions Iran Prison Torture Industry

April 13, 2017

Trump Administration Sanctions Iran Prison Torture Industry, Washington Free Beacon, April 13, 2017

An Iranian inmate peers from behind a wall as a guard walks by at the female section of the infamous Evin jail, north of Tehran, 13 June 2006. (AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

The Trump administration is leveling new economic sanctions against senior Iranian officials and its prison system for widespread human rights abuses, including the systematic torture of those being held in these facilities, according to White House officials familiar with the matter.

The latest sanctions target the Tehran Prisons Organization and Sohrab Suleimani, a senior official in the prison system and the brother of Qassem Soleimani, a senior Iranian military figure responsible for operating Iran’s rogue activities in Syria and elsewhere.

Sohrab Soleimani is responsible for overseeing Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, which is known for torturous interrogations, forced interrogations, and widespread mistreatment of inmates.

The latest sanctions are certain to rankle Tehran, already the subject of a range of new sanctions under the Trump administration, which is currently conducting a widespread review of all matters related to the landmark nuclear agreement.

A senior official on the White House National Security Council told the Washington Free Beacon that the Soleimani family has a history of fomenting violence and unrest both inside and outside Iran.

“It’s no coincidence that Sohrab Suleimani is the brother of the notorious Qassem Soleimani, the head of the IRGC’s Quds Forces, who has been responsible for so much of the violent disruption Iran has been spreading through the region,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak on record.

Iranian human rights abuses have only grown under the leadership of so-called reformist President Hassan Rouhani, the official said. This includes the detention of U.S. citizens

“There has been a disturbing and significant increase in the number of detentions and executions of Iranian citizens under President Rouhani, and the infamous Evin Prison under Sohrab Suleimani’s control has been a key facility in this program of domestic repression,” the official said.

The Trump administration is holding meetings with the family members of American citizens still being detained in Iran and believed to be subjected to torture.

“In addition, we have been deeply concerned by the treatment of American citizens in this prison, and in others throughout Iran,” the official said. “Just today, senior officials in the Trump administration met with members of the Namazi family representing Siamak Namazi and Baquer Namazi who have been unjustly detained in Iran since October, 2015 and February, 2016, respectively.”

“Today’s designations highlight our continued support for the Iranian people and demonstrate our commitment to hold the Government of Iran responsible for its continued repression of its own citizens,” John E. Smith, director of the Treasury Department’s Official of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement. “We will continue to identify, call out, and sanction those who are responsible for serious human rights abuses in Iran.”

The sanctions do not conflict with U.S. obligations under the nuclear agreement and are not being leveled as part of that agreement, according to U.S. officials.

The sanctions were formulated following a series of investigations by the U.S. government into Iran’s systematic breach of human rights.

“These designations are in response to what we see as pattern of human rights abuses by the Government of Iran and reflect the United States’ deep concern regarding the human rights situation in Iran,” the State Department explained in a background document provided to reporters.

“We continue to see Government of Iran officials engage in repressive behavior against its own citizens, including through their mistreatment and abuse of prisoners,” the document states. “This is especially evident at Evin Prison, which is where numerous prisoners of conscience are held. We have documented these and many other human rights abuses perpetrated by the government of Iran in our annual State Department authored Human Rights, Religious Freedom, and Trafficking in persons reports.”

Soleimani’s role in Iran’s prison system makes him one of the foremost human rights abusers worldwide.

Soleimani oversaw an April 2014 incident at the Evin Prison in which dozens of security guards and prison officials beat a number of political prisoners. The attack is believed to have lasted several hours and impacted more than 30 prisoners. Many of these prisoners were later denied medical treatment.

Evin Prison is home to large number of Iranian political dissidents and other government opponents, who are routinely shut down and arrested by the Iranian regime for political activities targeting those in power.

Mission accomplished in Syria

April 12, 2017

Mission accomplished in Syria, Israel Hayom, Clifford D. May. April 12, 2017

(Accomplished or just begun? — DM)

Congress should send Trump the legislation it is now considering, seeking to impose new sanctions on Iran in reprisal for its continuing support of terrorists, its missile tests and its maintenance of more than 35,000 troops in Syria, including its own, those of its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, and Shiite fighters recruited from Iraq and Afghanistan. Suspending Iran’s deal with Boeing/Airbus would be useful, too. Only the willfully credulous believe that Iran’s theocrats won’t use such aircraft for illicit military purposes.

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If you’re still unsure about whether U.S. President Donald Trump did the right thing when he launched 59 cruise missiles at Syria’s Shayrat Air Base last week, consider the alternative.

He knew that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad had yet again used chemical weapons to murder Syrian civilians, women and children prominent among them. He knew that Iran and Russia had enabled this atrocity, as they have many others. He knew he had two choices.

He could shrug, instruct his U.N. ambassador to deliver a tearful speech calling on the “international community” to do something, and then go play a round of golf. Or he could demonstrate that the United States still has the power and the grit to stand up to tyrants and terrorists, thereby beginning to re-establish America’s deterrent capability.

In other words, this was what Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz would call a no-brainer. (Well, loosely translated.) A mission was accomplished. Do harder missions lie ahead? Yes, of course. But I suspect Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster have made that abundantly clear to the new president.

We now know for certain that Russia failed to live up to its 2013 commitment to ensure that Assad surrendered all his illegal chemical weapons under the deal it brokered. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acerbically questioned whether that was the result of complicity or incompetence or whether Russia allowed itself to be duped by Assad.

The strike ordered by President Trump was not “unbelievably small” — then-Secretary of State John Kerry’s description of the punishment then-President Barack Obama decided not to impose in response to Assad’s earlier use of chemical weapons. It was big enough to make clear that American diplomats are again carrying big sticks. (For Obama to insist that diplomacy and force are alternatives was patently absurd.)

Conveniently, Trump was dining with Chinese President Xi Jinping when the strikes occurred. It’s fair to speculate that Xi is today thinking harder about American requests to rein in Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator whose drive to acquire nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the American mainland has become what Tillerson called an “imminent” threat.

Having passed his first major national security test, Trump is now obliged to demonstrate firmness and consistency. What plans might the Pentagon have on the shelf to respond to further provocations? The next round of Tomahawk missiles could permanently ground Assad’s air force. That would make it easier to then establish no-fly zones. If such measures do not alter the calculations of Assad and his Iranian and Russian patrons, consideration could be given to leveling his defense, intelligence and command-and-control centers as well.

Another idea under discussion: setting up safe havens, or, to use a better term, “self-protection zones,” for those fleeing the Syrian regime and various jihadist forces, Sunni and Shiite alike. Israel and Jordan could help the inhabitants of such areas adjacent to their borders defend themselves. The Saudis, Emiratis and Bahrainis could contribute to the cost. Might this lead to the partition of Syria? Most likely, but it’s difficult to imagine a “political solution” that would not include such readjustments.

All this, while useful and perhaps even necessary, should be seen as insufficient. Syria is a major humanitarian catastrophe but only one piece in a much larger geopolitical puzzle. Sooner rather than later, the Trump administration needs to develop what Obama refused to contemplate: a comprehensive and coherent strategy to counter the belligerent, imperialist and supremacist forces that have emerged from the Middle East and are now spreading like weeds around the world.

The Islamic State group will of course need to be driven off the lands on which it has attempted to establish a caliphate. After that, its terrorists will have to be hunted, along with those of al-Qaida, wherever they hide (e.g., Egypt where, over the weekend, they bombed two Coptic Christian churches).

But — and this is crucial — accomplishing these missions must not serve to further empower Iran’s jihadist rulers, who dream of establishing an expanding imamate, the Shiite version of a caliphate.

Most immediately, Congress should send Trump the legislation it is now considering, seeking to impose new sanctions on Iran in reprisal for its continuing support of terrorists, its missile tests and its maintenance of more than 35,000 troops in Syria, including its own, those of its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, and Shiite fighters recruited from Iraq and Afghanistan. Suspending Iran’s deal with Boeing/Airbus would be useful, too. Only the willfully credulous believe that Iran’s theocrats won’t use such aircraft for illicit military purposes.

That the United States cannot solve all the world’s problems was one of Trump’s campaign themes. But the implication is not necessarily, as some of his supporters hoped, that he would turn a blind eye to all atrocities and threats not already within America’s borders.

In the last century, most Americans recognized, in some cases with enormous reluctance, that there was no good alternative to doing whatever was necessary to rout the Nazis and communists, enemies whose goal was to kill off the democratic experiment.

In this century, jihadists and Islamists harbor the same ambition. We can attempt to appease them. We can try to make ourselves inoffensive to them. We can keep our hand extended, hoping that in time they will unclench their fists. Or we can decide instead to plan for a long war that will end with the defeat of these latest enemies of America and the rest of the civilized world. If Trump has grasped that within his first 100 days, he’s not off to such a bad start.

Iran Faces Stricter Sanctions in Bipartisan House, Senate Bills

March 25, 2017

Iran Faces Stricter Sanctions in Bipartisan House, Senate Bills, Washington Free Beacon, March 25, 2017

Getty Images

Menendez told Reuters the bipartisan group “assiduously worked” to ensure the bill does not violate the Iranian nuclear pact enacted last year. The bill only applies to Iran’s non-nuclear activities.

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Legislation introduced Thursday in the House and Senate by a bipartisan group of lawmakers would hit Iran with tougher sanctions for the ongoing development of its ballistic missile program.

While Washington focused on the health care saga in the House, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), quietly introduced a new bill that would impose mandatory sanctions on individuals involved with Iran’s ballistic missile program.

The legislation would expand terrorism-related sanctions to include the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Tehran’s elite military force. The bill would codify sanctions announced by the Treasury Department last month that applied to anyone tied to Iran’s support for terrorism.

The bill has support from more than a dozen senators, including Democratic co-sponsors Ben Cardin (Md.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Bob Casey (Pa.), and Chris Coons (Del.). Republican backers include Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), James Risch (Idaho), and Dan Sullivan (Alaska).

Menendez told Reuters the bipartisan group “assiduously worked” to ensure the bill does not violate the Iranian nuclear pact enacted last year. The bill only applies to Iran’s non-nuclear activities.

The bill is expected to pass through the Senate given its broad support.

The chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce (R., Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), introduced a similar bill late Thursday in the lower chamber.

Like the Senate version, the House legislation would target individuals and entities involved in Iran’s ballistic missile development, including foreign companies and banks.

A staffer with the House Foreign Affairs Committee told the Washington Free Beacon on Friday that the legislation’s strong bipartisan support would likely propel it to the House floor. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) are both cosponsoring the bill.

The staffer, who asked not to be named, said the bill was introduced in response to a recent committee hearing that detailed Tehran’s ongoing development of missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

“Under the cover of a deeply-flawed nuclear deal, Iran has accelerated its ballistic missile development,” Royce said in a statement Thursday. “These tests—carried out in defiance of the U.N. Security Council—are aimed at perfecting the delivery system for a nuclear warhead.”

Both bills were introduced ahead of the annual conference in D.C. by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which begins Sunday. Iran has not commented on the bills, but has said in the past that any U.S. sanctions are a violation of the nuclear agreement.

The White House said in February it was “putting Iran on notice” before unveiling sanctions against 25 entities and individuals in Iran who have ties to terrorist groups, including Hezbollah. The sanctions were in response to a Jan. 29 missile test by Iran. Tehran immediately threatened retaliation.

Time for Trump to Release Full Details of the Iran Nuclear Deal

February 4, 2017

Time for Trump to Release Full Details of the Iran Nuclear Deal, PJ MediaRoger L Simon, February 3, 2017

iranianmissileA ballistic missile is launched and tested in an undisclosed location, Iran, March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mahmood Hosseini/TIMA

Does anyone know what’s really in the Iran nuclear deal with all its unpublished side agreements and secret verbal pledges?

Certainly not the American public, on whose behalf it was putatively negotiated. And probably not most, if not all, members of Congress who were bypassed in its negotiation and “signing” in a manner that doesn’t seem remotely constitutional.

Despite the yeoman efforts of Jay Solomon, Omri Ceren and others, the full extent of the deal is still a mystery. We don’t know in anywhere near full detail what Obama and Kerry, with the aid and comfort of wannabe fiction writer Ben Rhodes, hath wrought, though we do—pace Solomon, Ceren, etc.—have some sense that where compromises were made they almost universally favored Iran. Obama, for reasons again mysterious, seemed desperate to get a deal.

We also know that Iran has already broken at least one U.N. resolution:

The Khorramshahr medium-range ballistic missile flew 600 miles before exploding, in a failed test of a reentry vehicle, officials said. Iran defense minister Brigadier Gen. Hossein Dehqan said in September that Iran would start production of the missile.

U.N. resolution 2231 — put in place days after the Iran nuclear deal was signed — calls on the Islamic Republic not to conduct such tests. However, this is at least Iran’s second such test since July. The resolution bars Iran from conducting ballistic missile tests for eight years and went into effect July 20, 2015

Some Iranian officials claim that Obama & Co. gave them verbal permission during the negotiations to test missiles up to 2000 kilometers, enough to reach Israel, but not Europe. That’s nauseating, if true. Again, we don’t know, although we do know the Iranians insist they will continue with their tests.

Trump, however, has responded properly and forcefully by imposing new sanctions on 13 Iranian people and a dozen of their companies. He made his views evident to all in, unsurprisingly, a tweet: “Iran is playing with fire – they don’t appreciate how ‘kind’ President Obama was to them. Not me!” Via his national security adviser General Flynn, he further made clear that “nothing’s off the table.”

But most importantly, are the Iranians also breaking the original nuclear deal? Well, we don’t know because, as noted, we don’t know what it is. Not only that, as many have reported and PJM’s Michael Ledeen predicted quite some time ago, neither side has actually signed the deal in the first place. So it may not even exist. It’s a tree growing unseen in the wilderness or, perhaps more accurately, one of those Hollywood-style “verbal agreements”—enforceable only when opportune. It’s maximum plausible deniability all around.

That means nothing really happened. In the end, Iran can do anything it wants, or can get away with, in the nuclear realm just as it obviously believes it can do anything it wants in the missile launching realm.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but what reason could there be, at this point, not to release the so-called terms of this so-called deal—other than the embarrassment of the officials involved? America has a right to know what has been done in its behalf. Instead of BS transparency, we need real transparency. So do the citizens of many others countries that are in the crosshairs of the newly-enriched (by us) Iran with its expansionist goals that have been brutally apparent since this imaginary signing in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and who knows where else.

The time is long since past for the complete details of this quondam deal to be released. I suspect they would be more than a little disturbing. Do it, Mr. President.

Guest Column: Washington Finally Designates Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps

February 4, 2017

Guest Column: Washington Finally Designates Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Raymond Tanter and Edward Stafford, February 3, 2017

1962

The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions Friday on a host of Iranian companies and individuals as terrorists. It is a welcome development, which hopefully sends a signal to Tehran to rein in its global terror support, ballistic missile testing, and oppression of its people.

The action targets people and entities involved in procuring technology and/or materials to support Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well acting for or on behalf of, or providing support to, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Qods Force.

The Iranian entities operate like a network out of Lebanon. It is the base of Hizballah (Party of God), an IRGC proxy, which was designated in 1997, but the IRGC was not designated.

Friday’s sanctions could help liberal democracy grow in Iran by showing Iranians that their leadership would face consequences for violating civil liberties at home and international relations norms abroad.

Per the Iranian Constitution (See Articles 107, 110), Iran is a theocratic dictatorship. Its parliament is under the sway of the Supreme Leader and other ayatollahs who select themselves. There is no such thing as a separation of powers by an independent authority.

Iran’s military is subordinated to the IRGC, which also controls most of the economy. Electoral results that do not satisfy the leadership are ignored and protests of anti-democratic governmental action are ruthlessly and systematically suppressed.

In the aftermath of the 2009 presidential elections, the Greens and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) led protests. There is evidence the NCRI continues to exist despite facing heavy persecution. But the Greens have faded away, with their leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi under house arrest in Tehran, subject to the whims of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

It appears as if Iran’s leaders face few domestic consequences for their illiberal and anti-democratic rule; so, to paraphrase Burke, the fewer consequences from within, the more needed from without.

Candidates for Designation

A 2015 study by Israel’s Meir Amit of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Portrait of Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qods Force, provides ample evidence of the IRGC’s role in fomenting global terrorism.

Starting in 2012, the IRGC recruited several thousand Shi’ite volunteer fighters from among Afghan refugees living in Iran. The IRGC also cultivated terrorist networks in the Golan Heights. These activities morphed into terrorism on Aug. 20, 2015, when local forces, including Hizballah operatives supported and supplied by the IRGC, fired four rockets at Israel from the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights. Two hit Israeli territory in the Upper Galilee and two fell in the Golan.

Last April, Hizballah with the backing of the IRGC, began building new military installations in Syria, according to a report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. These appear to be geared toward a future, conventional war with Israel, but they offered Hizballah a venue from which it can launch strikes against northern Israeli cities.

Deliberately targeting civilians is a textbook example of terrorism. During this same time, the IRGC helped Hizballah operate complex weapons rockets that increased Hizballah’s ability to target Israeli cities.

A study published last fall by Iranian specialist Alireza Jafarzadeh and his colleagues shows how Iran fuels the Syrian civil war by placing the IRGC on the ground and transporting some Afghan refugees living in Iran to fight in Syria. The IRGC combined its troops and those of surrogates on the ground in terrorist assaults on civilians in places like Aleppo, Syria. This combination of forces on land with Syrian airstrikes proved to be a toxic mix of terrorism: “Syria is our 35th province, and is a strategic province for us,” Mehdi Taeb, a former commander of IRGC intelligence said in 2013. Because Taeb retains influence in the IRGC, his statements were and are indicative of the depth of the IRGC commitment to Syrian regime capabilities to conduct terrorism against civilians:

“If the enemy attacks us and seeks to take Syria or Khuzestan [an Iranian province], our priority would be to keep Syria, because if we keep Syria, we can retake Khuzestan. But if we lose Syria, we cannot keep Tehran.”

These three studies show the IRGC meets the legal criteria for an FTO designation. They are: 1) It must be a foreign organization; 2) engage in terrorist activity or terrorism, or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism; and 3) the organization’s terrorist activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of the United States).

To designate an organization or individual, there must be evidence they threaten the United States’ national security, foreign policy, or economy. The studies cited show that the IRGC is a threat to U.S. national security interests.

As evidence of congressional interest in designation, on Friday, MSNBC reported a bipartisan letter to President Trump in favor of sanctions against the IRGC. In addition,The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Terrorist Designation Act” was introduced in the House and Senate in January. These identical bills emphasize that the IRGC meets the criteria for designation as a foreign terrorist organization under U.S. law.

“If a foreign organization looks like a terror group, operates like a terror group, and supports terrorism, then it should be called for what it is–a foreign terrorist organization,” said House co-sponsor Michael McCaul, R-Texas. “As obvious as that seems, for years the IRGC has been allowed to operate clandestinely using front companies and illicit networks to evade formal designation.”

Fellow Texas Republican and Senate co-sponsor Ted Cruz added that, by designating IRGC as a foreign terror organization, the U.S. would be “signaling to financial institutions and companies who facilitate or conduct business with the IRGC that they may be held liable.”

The Way Forward

Regarding the executive branch, President Trump made excellent choices for his national security team—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; Defense Secretary James Mattis; National Security Adviser, Mike Flynn; Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelly; Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats; and Director of Central Intelligence, Mike Pompeo.

These talented officials need not sing from the same songbook, that is, they need not agree. But it is important that their views be taken into account in the interagency process. That said, consider two major benefits of designation their consultation might produce.

First, tagging the IRGC would give succor to democratic forces within Iran by imposing costs on anti-democratic ones, including those who lead the IRGC. The IRGC leader Qasem Soleimani, who goes virtually unchallenged, would be weakened. A weaker Soleimani could give rise to splits within the regime and place Iran on its back foot. Now, Tehran can spend money abroad on Afghan fighters, Hizballah in Lebanon and Syria, Hamas in Gaza, and ignore unmet economic needs of the population.

Second, designating the IRGC sends a strong signal to the Arab Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia: Washington is serious about regime change in Tehran. Prince Turki al Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief, spoke to a group of Iranian dissidents in Paris in July 2016. Although he was not then in the government, Prince Turki remains an influential player in Riyadh.

A crowd of over 100,000 Iranian oppositionists chanted in Farsi that they wanted regime change in Iran. Prince Turki spoke to the dissidents in Arabic, saying he also wanted to see regime change in Tehran. This remark brought the house down.

In a subsequent brief conversation with Tanter, Turki said that designating the IRGC would be a good start toward unraveling of the Iranian regime.

The bottom line is that designation could help bring liberal democracy to Iran by weakening the grip of its key repressive institution—the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its proxies like Hizballah.

Trump slaps sanctions on Iran over missile test

February 3, 2017

Trump slaps sanctions on Iran over missile test, Washington Times, Dave Boyer, February 3, 2017

rockettheboatIn this Dec. 29, 2016, photo, released by the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), a long-range S-200 missile is fired in a military drill in the port city of Bushehr, on the northern coast of Persian Gulf, Iran.

The Trump administration hit Iran with new sanctions Friday, one day after President Trump said he had put Tehran “on notice” for testing a missile.

The Treasury Department announced sanctions against 13 individuals and 12 entities.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan said the “swift and decisive response proves that our new administration is serious about holding the Iranian regime accountable for its illicit behavior.”

Iran’s latest ballistic missile test was a flagrant violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “I applaud President Trump for imposing new sanctions to crack down on Tehran’s dangerous ballistic missile program and support for terrorism across the globe.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, California Republican, said Iran’s action poses “a direct threat to the United States and our allies.”

“I’m glad the administration is taking long-overdue steps to hold the regime accountable,” Mr. Royce said. “I look forward to working with the administration to build on these designations, push back against Iran’s destructive policies, and promote stability in the Middle East.”

Some of those on the sanctions list are based in the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and China. The penalties were imposed under existing authority that had been issued by then-President Barack Obama. A bipartisan group of senators had urged Mr. Trump in a letter Thursday to take action against Iran.

“Iranian leaders must feel sufficient pressure to cease deeply destabilizing activities, from sponsoring terrorist groups to continued testing of ballistic missiles,” the lawmakers wrote. “Full enforcement of existing sanctions and the imposition of additional sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program are necessary.”

Iran tested a missile Sunday. On Wednesday, White House national security adviser Mike Flynn said the Trump administration was putting Iran “on notice,” calling the missile test “provocative.”

The missile launch was followed by Iran-backed Houthi militants’ deadly attack this week on a Saudi naval vessel in the Red Sea.

Mr. Trump told reporters Thursday that he wasn’t ruling out the prospect of military action against Tehran.

“Nothing’s off the table,” the president said.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Twitter that the Iranian government was “unmoved” by Mr. Trump’s warnings.

“We’ll never initiate war,” Mr. Zarif said. “We will never use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defense. Let us see if any of those who complain can make the same statement.”

Ali Akbar Velayati, a top aide to Iran leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Thursday that Iran will continue to test ballistic missiles and “not ask any country for permission in defending itself.”

“This is not the first time that an inexperienced person has threatened Iran,” he said. “Iran is the strongest power in the region and has a lot of political, economic and military power. America should be careful about making empty threats to Iran.”

Mr. Trump said Friday that Iran is “playing with fire.”

“They don’t appreciate how ‘kind’ President Obama was to them,” he said on Twitter. “Not me!”

Mr. Obama signed an agreement with other world powers in 2015 to lift economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on Tehran’s nuclear program and regular international inspections.

Mr. Trump has called it a bad deal and says he wants to renegotiate parts of it.