Archive for the ‘Iran – sanctions’ category

Can Trump Lead the Way to Regime Change in Iran?

July 19, 2017

Can Trump Lead the Way to Regime Change in Iran? Gatestone InstituteHassan Mahmoudi, July 19, 2017

(Vocal support for regime change would be good. Declaring that Iran has violated the JCOPA, now that Iran has received all of the financial benefits from America that it will get, would be merely a symbolic gesture. — DM)

What is needed now is a push for regime change, a watering of the seeds of popular resistance that are again budding — after Obama abandoned the Iranian people in 2009, when they took to the streets to protest the stranglehold of the ayatollahs.

American leadership expert John C. Maxwell defines a leader as “one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” During his two terms in the highest office in the world, former U.S. President Barack Obama failed at all three, with disastrous consequences.

There is no realm in which Obama’s lack of leadership was more glaring than that of foreign policy, particularly in relation to the Middle East. His combination of action and inaction — pushing through the nuclear deal with Iran at all costs, while simultaneously adopting a stance of “patience” with and indifference to Tehran’s sponsorship of global terrorism and foothold in Syria — served no purpose other than to destabilize the region and weaken America’s position.

While hotly pursuing the nuclear accord — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed between Iran and U.S.-led world powers in July 2015 — Obama enabled the regime in Tehran to assist Syrian President Bashar Assad in starving and slaughtering his people (with chemical weapons, among others) into submission. Meanwhile, thanks to Obama’s passivity, and the $1.7 billion his administration transferred to Tehran upon the inking of the JCPOA, the Islamic Republic was able to dispatch its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to recruit and train Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and Syria, as well as militias in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan.

Today, two years after the signing of the JCPOA, and six months into the presidency of Donald Trump, there is a growing rift between America and Europe over implementation of the deal, which officially went into effect in January 2016. Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has been wavering on whether to remain committed to the deal, which his administration and members of Congress claim has been violated repeatedly by Iran. The U.S. also has maintained certain sanctions, over Iran’s ballistic-missile tests, human-rights abuses and sponsorship of global terrorism.

European countries, however, have taken a very different approach, pointing to International Atomic Energy Organization reports confirming Iran’s compliance, and rushing to do business in and with Tehran.

At a ceremony on July 14, 2017 to mark the anniversary of the deal, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called the JCPOA a “success for multilateral diplomacy that has proven to work and deliver,” adding, “This deal belongs to the international community, having been endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, that expects all sides to keep the commitments they took two years ago”

Meanwhile, when reports emerged about Trump being “likely” to confirm on July 17 that Iran has been complying with the deal — and because the law requires that both the president and secretary of state re-certify the deal every three months — four Republican senators sent a letterto Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, with a copy to Trump, urging him not to do so.

The letter reads, in part:

“…In April, you certified Iran’s compliance for the first 90-day period of the Trump administration. That certification was understandable, given the need to grant time for the interagency review of the JCPOA that you described in the certification letter you sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“But now … U.S. interests would be best served by a sober accounting of Iran’s JCPOA violations … of regional aggression, sponsor international terrorism, develop ballistic missile technology, and oppress the Iranian people. Iran’s aggression directly targets the United States…a continuation of current policy would be tantamount to rewarding Iran’s belligerence… German intelligence agencies in 2015 and 2016 reported that Iran continued illicit attempts to procure nuclear and missile technology outside of JCPOA-approved channels.

“… Perhaps most concerning is Iran’s refusal to grant international inspectors access to nuclear-research and military facilities. International Atomic Energy Agency (“IAEA”) inspectors are entitled to visit any location in Iran to verify compliance with the JCPOA’s ban on nuclear weapons development. However, Iran’s refusal to grant inspectors physical access and other forms of access makes it possible-if not highly probable, given Iran’s history of duplicity-that it is concealing additional violations of the JCPOA.

“…it is highly questionable whether the United States can under current arrangements ever gain high confidence that Iran’s nuclear-weapons development has indeed ceased. …”

The senators are correct. Iran never had, nor has to this day, any intention of forfeiting its bid for regional and global hegemony.

Nevertheless, Trump decided, after all, to re-certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA. Ahead of his doing so, however, the administration issued a series of reassurances — in the form of talking points — that the Treasury Department would impose sanctions on Iranian government entities and individuals, to punish the regime for its nefarious activities. According to BuzzFeed, these include ballistic-missile development, support for terrorism and the Assad regime, cyber-attacks against U.S. targets, the unjust arrest and imprisonment of American citizens and others.

A few months into the current administration in Washington, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps strategist Hassan Abbasi boasted that Iran would lead “global guerilla organizations” against American military and vulnerable targets:

“If only 11 people carried out 9/11, do you realize that the possibility exists for us to do what we want? We don’t need nuclear weapons. … It won’t even be an Iranian-only guerrilla movement, but from all Islamic countries. You can deport all the Muslims, but we are involving and working on Mexicans as well, and Argentinians too. We will organize anyone who has problems with the United States.”

It was Obama’s refusal to recognize, let alone acknowledge, this Iranian ambition that led to his utter appeasement of Tehran and subsequent signing of the JCPOA. It is up to Trump to do more than merely keep the nuclear accord at bay by leaving certain sanctions in place — or even canceling it.

Hassan Abbasi, a strategist for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, recently boasted that Iran would lead “global guerilla organizations” against American targets: “If only 11 people carried out 9/11, do you realize that the possibility exists for us to do what we want? We don’t need nuclear weapons…” (Tasnim News Agency/Wikimedia Commons)

What is needed now is a push for regime change, a watering of the seeds of popular resistance that are again budding — after Obama abandoned the Iranian people in 2009, when they took to the streets to protest the stranglehold of the ayatollahs.

At the annual “Free Iran” rally, held in Paris on July 1, 2017, an estimated 100,000 Iranian dissidents and hundreds of politicians and other world dignitaries gathered to call for a renewed effort to topple the regime in Tehran. Members of the U.S. delegation to the event — among them former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman and former U.S. Army Chief of Staff and Commander of the Multi-National Forces in Iraq General George Casey — issued a joint statement saying, in part:

“We believe that change is within reach, not only because the regime is becoming engulfed in crisis, but also because there is a large and growing movement organizing for positive change. A viable organization capable of ending the nightmare of religious dictatorship by establishing freedom and democracy, tolerance, and gender equality has steadily gained visibility, popular support and international recognition.”

Let us hope that Trump takes heed and turns out to be the leader who “knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate, specializing in political and economic issues relating to Iran and the Middle East. @hassan_mahmou1

Iran may withdraw from N-deal for “US violations

July 18, 2017

Iran may withdraw from N-deal for “US violations, DEBKAfile, July 18, 2017

(Why not? Iran has already received all of the substantial U.S. financial benefits of the Iran Scam. Withdrawal would allow Iran to pursue its nuclear objectives without the minor conveniences of trying to hide them. Please see also, Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program: On Course, Underground, Uninspected. — DM)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif told a National Interest interview Tuesday: “If it comes to a major [US] violation, or what in the terms of the nuclear deal is called significant nonperformance, then Iran has other options available, including withdrawing from the deal.” This was his rejoinder to the Trump administration’s statement in certifying that Iran was in compliance of the nuclear deal while “in default of its spirit.”

 

Trump Admin to Hit Iran With New Sanctions as Tehran Threatens Attacks on U.S. Bases

July 17, 2017

Trump Admin to Hit Iran With New Sanctions as Tehran Threatens Attacks on U.S. Bases, Washington Free Beacon, July 17, 2017

(Please see also, Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program: On Course, Underground, Uninspected. — DM)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani / Getty Images

The Trump administration is expected to ratchet up pressure on Iran with a slew of new sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic’s illicit ballistic missile program and regional support for terrorism as the landmark Iranian nuclear deal hits its two-year anniversary, according to senior U.S. officials who deemed Iran in violation of the agreement’s “spirit.”

News of the new sanctions comes on the same day that Iranian military leaders threatened attacks on U.S. forces and bases in the Middle East should America move forward with new sanctions, particularly ones targeting the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, or IRGC.

The new sanctions are part of a larger White House effort to counter Iran’s massive military buildup and rogue militant activities across the Middle East, specifically in Syria, where Iranian-backed forces have launched a series of direct attacks on American forces in recent weeks.

U.S. official dubbed Iran “the most dangerous threat to U.S. interests” and promised a series of new efforts both militarily and policy oriented to combat the Islamic Republic’s illicit activities.

The new sanctions are being leveled outside the purview of the nuclear deal, meaning that they are all non-nuclear related and do not violate conditions of the deal barring the United States from engaging in such activity.

The Trump administration is continuing to perform a full-scale review of its Iran policy, including the nuclear deal. The review is set to be completed in about a month’s time, according to the administration.

The White House must make a decision by Tuesday on whether it will recertify that Iran is in compliance with the deal. The administration is likely to again certify Iran as in compliance of the agreement, despite mounting evidence this not the case. Deliberations in the White House had not concluded as of late Monday morning, but officials signaled they were leaning towards certifying Iran as not in technical violation.

U.S. officials were hesitant to deem Iran in direct violation of the deal, but said Tehran “is in default on the spirit of that agreements,” according to senior administration officials who spoke on background.

“Years of concessions … have resulted in the unintended effect of empowering Iran across the region,” one senior administration official said about the package of new sanctions on multiple Iranian individuals and entities tied to the country’s ballistic missile program and proliferation efforts.

“What we’re saying is Iran is in default of the spirit of the JCPOA,” or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran deal’s official title. “We need to ensure more aggressively they are in compliance with the letter of the JCPOA.”

U.S. officials said that Iran has obfuscated key details of its nuclear program, and continues to engage in activities that could be in violation of the agreement.

“Iran has been less than forthcoming, walking up to the edge of violating the JCPOA,” one senior U.S. official said. “That behavior has to stop.”

Officials also criticized key flaws in the deal that allow Iran to engage in critical nuclear work within the next decade.

The United States plans to “ramp up our efforts to verify reports” of Iran’s alleged violations, officials said.

As part of the effort to combat Iran’s activities, the Trump administration is expected to announce an additional package of sanctions that includes 16 Iranian entities and individuals found to be supporting Tehran’s illicit and criminal activities in the region. This includes seven entities and five individuals found to be supporting the Iranian military and criminal organizations.

Sanctions also have been leveled on three networks designated as supporting Iran’s military procurement and another two organizations supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program.

As news of the expected new package of sanctions came, Iranian military leaders issued new threats warning of attacks on U.S. regional bases should the Trump administration move forward with plans to sanction the IRGC and designate it as a terror group.

“Putting the IRGC in one single class with the terrorist groups and imposing similar sanctions against the IRGC poses a major risk to the U.S., its bases and forces deployed in the region,” Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, warned on Monday during remarks before IRGC commanders.

Baqeri also lashed out at sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, stating, “the Islamic Republic of Iran’s missile power is defensive and is never negotiable at any level.”

Nikki Haley’s Comments on Iran Highlight Russian-Related Complications

June 29, 2017

Nikki Haley’s Comments on Iran Highlight Russian-Related Complications, Iran News Update, Edward Carney, June 29, 2017

On Tuesday, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations delivered testimony to the House panel on foreign operations, a subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee in the US House of Representatives. In that testimony, Haley addressed multiple issues relating to the Islamic Republic of Iran, thereby reasserting the Trump administration’s assertive policies toward the Iranian regime. By most accounts those policies are still emerging, but they have already come to include purposive outreach to other adversaries of the Islamic Republic and a program of expanded sanctions on matters such as Iran’s ballistic missile program.

However, those efforts to confront and contain the Islamic Republic are arguably complicated by other aspects of the Trump administration’s policy commitments, including a focus on domestic issues and an effort to improve relations between the US and Russia, which boasts close relations with Iran in the areas of trade and military cooperation, especially as it relates to the Syrian Civil War.

While the US supports moderate rebel groups fighting against the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, the Iranians and Russians have been credited with turning the war in favor of Assad. Various Shiite militias are currently operating as proxies for Iran in that war, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is increasingly playing a direct role in the conflict. Meanwhile, Russia has been providing air support for pro-Assad ground operations since 2015.

Western commentators, including officials in the Trump administration, have variously accused Russia and Iran of ignoring or actively facilitating human rights abuses by the Assad regime, including an April chemical weapons attack that killed at least 80 people in a rebel-controlled civilian area.

As the Associated Press points out, Ambassador Haley’s comments to the House panel came shortly after the White House had issued a warning to Syria regarding alleged preparations for another such chemical attack. The article specified that Pentagon officials had confirmed the intelligence underlying that warning, involving particular movements at the same Syrian air base that had been used as the staging area for the previous chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said of Assad that “he and his military will pay a heavy price” if they follow through with apparent plans for another “mass murder attack using chemical weapons.” But the AP quoted Haley as saying that the administration’s remarks were not intended only for Assad, but also for Russia and Iran. Both of the Syrian allies joined in denying Assad’s responsibility for the attacks, with some officials insisting that the chemical weapons had originated in a rebel warehouse at the site of a conventional military airstrike.

The dispute over this issue and the subsequent US cruise missile strike on Shayrat air base can be seen as early examples of the escalation between Iranian allies and adversaries which is still going on to this day. In fact, Haley’s effort to fold Russia and Iran into a warning directed more explicitly against Syria is reminiscent of an incident earlier in June wherein a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said that a ballistic missile strike on eastern Syria had been intended largely as a warning to the US and Saudi Arabia.

Those two traditional adversaries of the Islamic Republic have been expanding relations under the Trump administration, sometimes with explicit reference to shared anxieties over expanding Iranian influence and meddling in the broader Middle East. President Trump’s visit to Riyadh in May for an Arab-US summit coincided with the signing of trade agreements that included 110 billion dollars in arms sales to the Arab Kingdom.

But at the same time that the White House is openly siding with Saudi Arabia and its regional allies against the Iranian regime, it does not appear to be giving up on the prospect of improved relations with Russia. In fact, the Western strategy for a political solution to the Syrian Civil War seems to presently involve the expectation that Russia can be encouraged to rein in the Islamic Republic and prevent it from further sabotaging ceasefire agreements.

Recent developments have cast doubt upon the practicality of this strategy however. As the US has taken a more direct role in defending rebel groups, even resorting to the shoot-down of at least two military controlled drones and a Syrian warplane, Russia has responded by threatening to target US aircraft and to halt the use of a hotline intended to prevent mid-air collisions between the multiple powers operating in the skies over Syria.

Haley’s comments on Tuesday were indicative of a roughly matching increase in American criticism of Russia. And this criticism was not limited to the issue of chemical weapons. Haley also explained that Russia’s position on the UN Security Council allowed it to stymie US efforts to sanctions Iran and hold it to account for ongoing misbehavior in matters including the development of the Iranian nuclear program.

“[The Iranians are] going to continue their nuclear capabilities and we just gave them a lot of money to do it with,” Haley said, referring to the 2015 nuclear agreement that President Trump has described as “the worst deal ever negotiated.” She went on to highlight concerns about Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, suggesting that nuclear weapons could find their way into the hands of terrorist groups at some point in the future, and that Russia would effectively prevent the US and its allies from doing anything to stop this.

“Yes, we would love to sanction Iran; and, yes we will continue to be loud about it; and, yes, Russia will veto it,” Haley said, according to the Washington Examiner.

But this is not to say that the Trump administration has positively brought an end to its strategy of attempting to improve relations with Russia. In fact, various reports suggest that this endeavor is even standing in the way of congressional legislation aimed at increasing national-level sanctions on both Iran and Russia. The Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act passed the Senate two weeks ago by a margin of 98 to 2, but it was subsequently stalled in the House on procedural grounds, leading Democrats to argue that the House Republican leadership was trying to protect the president’s Russian agenda.

The prospects for resolution appeared to grow dimmer on Tuesday when the Washington Post reported that energy lobbyists were urging lawmakers to reevaluate the bill on the grounds that its restrictions on doing business with Russian companies could have a punishing effect on American firms and foreign firms doing business in the US. These objections could bolster the prospects of the House leadership sending the bill to various committees for review and markup – a process that could delay a final vote by months.

As it concerns Iran, the bill would include sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile activities and also extend all terrorism-related sanctions to the Revolutionary Guard Corps, for which Trump has urged designation as a foreign terrorist organization. This position has not changed, and it seems that neither has the Trump administration’s hardline approach to Iran policy. Some have suggested that the emerging policy is pointing in the direction of regime change, though this has not become a declared position as yet.

The Washington Examiner pointed out that one member of the House panel on foreign operations, Republican Representative Hal Rogers, had directly raised the prospect of regime change on Tuesday, asking Nikki Haley whether it is an option. The ambassador’s only response was “I don’t know.”

This coming Saturday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran will hold its annual Free Iran rally, which will include explicit calls for regime change driven by a domestic opposition movement within the Islamic Republic. The event is expected to be attended by tens of thousands of Iranian expatriates, plus hundreds of policymakers and experts from the US, Europe, and throughout the world. Notably, these dignitaries will include figures with close ties to the Trump administration, such as John Bolton, who served the second Bush administration in the position now occupied by Haley.

Bi-Partisan Support for Bill to ‘Hold Iran Accountable’

June 16, 2017

Bi-Partisan Support for Bill to ‘Hold Iran Accountable’, Iran News Update, June 16, 2017

“It’s worth noting that the JCPOA is not unlike the Paris climate accord.

“I don’t think many people in our country or many people in this body realize that it is a non-binding political agreement that was entered into by one man using presidential executive authority and can easily be undone by one man using presidential executive authority.

“In fact, in many ways, it is easier than the Paris accord considering the president doesn’t have to take an action to exit this agreement.

All he has to do is decline to waive sanctions. I think that has been missed.

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Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), spoke before the Senate on Wednesday, in a bill he authored, the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017. The legislation, has 60 bipartisan cosponsors, and is expected to pass the Senate this week. It will expand sanctions against Iranian for ballistic missile development, support for terrorism, transfer of conventional weapons to or from Iran, and human rights violations.

Senator Corker’s speech is reproduced as follows:

“Mr. President,

I rise today to speak about the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017, which passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month by a vote of 18 to 3.

“I’d like to thank the members of our committee and the co-authors of this bill for working in a constructive, bipartisan fashion to craft this legislation.

“I think it is a good example of how the Senate can still work together to tackle complex and difficult issues.

“I was in the SCIF recently – a place where senators go to read classified information – reviewing intelligence, and it truly is astounding what Iran continues to do around the world.

“For a people that are capable of so much, their foreign policy is shockingly counter to their own interest.

“We see destabilizing act after destabilizing act – from missile launches, to arms transfers, to terrorist training, to illicit financial activities, to targeting Navy ships and detaining American citizens – the list goes on and on.

“And it’s past time for us to take steps to protect the interests of the United States and our allies.

“This bill is the first time Congress has come together since the JCPOA – the Iran nuclear deal – to do just that.

“For far too long, the agreement – which I strongly opposed, as did our ranking member and presiding officer – has dictated U.S. policy throughout the Middle East.

“It’s worth noting that the JCPOA is not unlike the Paris climate accord.

“I don’t think many people in our country or many people in this body realize that it is a non-binding political agreement that was entered into by one man using presidential executive authority and can easily be undone by one man using presidential executive authority.

“In fact, in many ways, it is easier than the Paris accord considering the president doesn’t have to take an action to exit this agreement.

“I don’t think most Americans understand that. He doesn’t have to take action to exit the agreement. All he has to do is decline to waive sanctions. I think that has been missed.

“But no matter what the president decides, this bill makes it clear that the Congress intends to remain involved and will hold Iran accountable for their non-nuclear destabilizing activities.

“What the nuclear agreement failed to do was allow us to push back against terrorism, human rights issues, violations of U.N. security council resolutions relative to ballistic missile testing, and to push back against conventional arms purchases, which they are not supposed to be involved in.

“As many of us predicted at the time, Iran’s rogue behavior has only escalated since implementation of the agreement, and this bipartisan bill will give the administration tools for holding Tehran accountable.

“Let me say this. I don’t think there’s anybody in this chamber who doesn’t believe that the Trump administration – I know there’s been a lot of disagreements recently about foreign policy issues in the administration – but I don’t there’s anybody here that believes they are not going to do everything they can to push back against these destabilizing activities.

“And what we’ll be doing today and tomorrow with passage of this legislation is standing hand-in-hand with them as they do that.

“It also sends an important signal that the U.S. will no longer look the other way in the face of continued Iranian aggression.

“I want to recognize the important work of my colleagues in making this legislation possible.

“Senator Menendez has been a champion for holding Iran accountable, in this bill but also in decades of work on this issue. He truly is an asset to the Senate, and I thank him for his commitment to many issues, but especially this one.

“Senators Cotton, Rubio, and Cruz all played an important role in drafting this legislation as well.

“But finally, let me say this. This would not have been possible without the support and tireless effort of the ranking member, Senator Cardin, and his great staff. It has truly been a pleasure for me to work with him on the Russia bill that we will be voting on today at 2:00 p.m. but also on this legislation.

“We come from two very different places, representing two very different states, and yet are joined by the fact that we care deeply about making sure that the foreign policy of this country is in the national interest of our citizens and that we as a Congress and as a United States Senate are doing everything we can to drive positive foreign policy.

“I want to thank him for that and tell him I am really proud of the strong bipartisan momentum behind this legislation, which his leadership has helped make happen, and I look forward to passage of this bill.”

Congress Seeks Embargo on Iran Airline Linked to Terrorism as Tehran Targets U.S. Forces

June 15, 2017

Congress Seeks Embargo on Iran Airline Linked to Terrorism as Tehran Targets U.S. Forces, Washington Free Beacon, June 15, 2017

An airplane of Mahan Air sits at the tarmac / Getty Images

The legislation would grant the Department of Homeland Security increased power to boost security at U.S. airports that host flights arriving from countries where Mahan operates. It also instructs the Trump administration to prepare reports outlining every airport where a Mahan-operated flight has landed.

At this point, the deal between Boeing and Iran remains on track, though that could change if the Trump administration decides to block licenses that would permit the U.S. company to engage in business with Tehran.

Iran has already threatened to take action against the United States if Congress approves the new package of sanctions. This includes leveling its own sanctions on American entities.

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Congress is seeking new authorities that would enable it to expose and crack down on an Iranian state-controlled commercial airline known for transporting weapons and terrorist fighters to hotspots such as Syria, where Iranian-backed forces have begun launching direct attacks on U.S. forces in the country, according to new legislation obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Congressional efforts to expose Iran’s illicit terror networks more forcefully come as U.S. and European air carriers such as Boeing and AirBus move forward with multi-billion dollar deals to provide the Islamic Republic with a fleet of new airplanes, which lawmakers suspect Iran will use to amplify its terror operations.

The new sanction legislation targets Iran’s Mahan Airlines, which operates commercial flights across the globe while transporting militants and weapons to fighters in Syria, Yemen, and other regional hotspots.

Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) is spearheading an amendment to a larger Iran sanctions bill that would increase security at U.S. airports and help expose Mahan’s use of commercial flights to ferry weapons abroad, according to a copy of the measure obtained by the Free Beacon.

The legislation would grant the Department of Homeland Security increased power to boost security at U.S. airports that host flights arriving from countries where Mahan operates. It also instructs the Trump administration to prepare reports outlining every airport where a Mahan-operated flight has landed.

Mahan’s “very presence is a security risk to Americans flying in and out of airports where a Mahan aircraft may land,” Cornyn said earlier this week on the Senate floor.

The amendment, if passed, could complicate efforts by Boeing and others to move forward with multi-billion dollar deals with Iran, a portion of which would likely benefit Mahan.

The State and Homeland Security departments declined to comment on the new sanctions when asked by the Free Beacon, citing a policy of not discussing pending legislation.

The renewed focus on Mahan and Iran’s use of commercial airlines to support terror activities comes as the Islamic Republic amps up operations in Syria directly targeting U.S. forces, a new front that has cast a spotlight on the growing proxy war between Iran and the United States in the region.

An Iranian drone recently attacked U.S. forces in Syria, and Hezbollah—an Iranian-backed terror organization—also has taken steps to counter American forces in the region.

A crackdown on Mahan could indicate that Congress is more seriously eyeing ways to thwart Iran’s mainly unchecked terror pipeline in the region.

Iranian officials have separately expressed anger over Congress’s efforts to impose new sanctions, threatening to walk away from the landmark nuclear deal if the United States does not uphold its end of the bargain.

At this point, the deal between Boeing and Iran remains on track, though that could change if the Trump administration decides to block licenses that would permit the U.S. company to engage in business with Tehran.

Iran has already threatened to take action against the United States if Congress approves the new package of sanctions. This includes leveling its own sanctions on American entities.

“Today, 23 American people and firms are in the list of our sanctions as a reciprocal move and we will take such measures in the future too,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was quoted as saying this week in comments that also took aim at Trump.

Iranian officials have also accused the United States under Trump of breaching its end of the nuclear deal, though officials did not outline what the specific violations are.

“Implementation of the nuclear deal undertakings by the U.S. has not been acceptable to Iran so far and the U.S. should comply with its undertakings,” Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Organization, or IAEA, said this week during a meeting with the group in Vienna.

Iran and Middle East Instability

June 3, 2017

Iran and Middle East Instability, American ThinkerShahriar Kia, June 3, 2017

During President Donald Trump’s trip to the region and beyond Iran was strongly condemned by the American leader and senior Saudi officials for its support for terrorism, destructive role across the Middle East, and meddling in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Tehran is most specifically concerned with world leaders denouncing Iran’s human rights violations and acknowledging how the Iranian people are the main victims of the mullahs’ atrocities.

The Arabs, as the flagbearers of implementing U.S. sanctions, have launched the domino of freezing Iran’s money abroad. Iranian bank accounts in countries such as Turkey, Oman, and the UAE, especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, are being blocked one after another. This can be considered the prelude to comprehensive sanctions on Iran’s banking network.

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The end result of Iran’s presidential election has created further rifts and launched a more intense power struggle amongst the regime’s senior ranks. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, fearing a repeat of the 2009 scenario of nationwide uprisings, failed to “engineer” the election results with the aim of unifying his regime apparatus. Khamenei sought to prepare conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi as his heir by first placing him in the presidency, similar to the process he himself went through.

The elections, however, failed to provide such a finale and in fact prompted all candidates to unveil corruption in the most senior ranks. This has prompted the general public to increase their demands. Protests and demonstrations are witnessed these days in more than 30 cities and towns across Iran, with sporadic reports of clashes, following the bankruptcy of two state-run financial firms, Caspian and Arman.

Iran is also facing major foreign dilemmas, with a new international coalition shaping and targeting Tehran’s interests. The Arab-Islamic-American alliance, with the presence of 55 States, and Iran’s absence, delivered a major blow to the mullahs’ objectives in the Middle East.

On the other hand, Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), transferring all its members from Iraq to a number of European countries, has become ever more powerful. Through a vast network of supporters inside Iran, the PMOI/MEK was able to significantly influence the recent elections and place the regime in a quagmire like never before.

A major rally is scheduled for July 1st by supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the political umbrella group of Iranian dissidents, including the PMOI/MEK. Policymakers and influential figures from across the globe will be gathering to provide a concrete plan to evict the mullahs’ presence from the region, how to establish freedom and democracy in Iran, and thus result in peace and stability in the Middle East. Last year more than 100,000 people took part in this convention.

During President Donald Trump’s trip to the region and beyond Iran was strongly condemned by the American leader and senior Saudi officials for its support for terrorism, destructive role across the Middle East, and meddling in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Tehran is most specifically concerned with world leaders denouncing Iran’s human rights violations and acknowledging how the Iranian people are the main victims of the mullahs’ atrocities.

Despite the heavy blows and new sanctions against Tehran, Khamenei has chosen to remain completely silent. This is in complete contrast to the Obama era, where the mullahs’ leader resorted to harsh outbursts in response to even the slightest hint of threats by U.S. officials.

To this end, adopting a strong approach against Tehran has proven to be correct, parallel to the weakness seen in Tehran following the presidential election.

To add insult to injury for Iran, the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on dozens of Iran’s companies, sending a highly important message.

Sanctions have now expanded from ballistic missiles and reached the human rights perspective, and specifically targeting the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) with the objective of designating this entity as a foreign terrorist organization

The IRGC-affiliated Fars news agency described a new U.S. Senate bill as an “effort to bring Europe aboard in nuclear sanctions.”

“Foreign investment in Iran during the past four years has halved during the past four years, lowering from $4.6 billion to $2.05 billion,” according to Naseem Online citing a UN report.

The Arabs, as the flagbearers of implementing U.S. sanctions, have launched the domino of freezing Iran’s money abroad. Iranian bank accounts in countries such as Turkey, Oman, and the UAE, especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, are being blocked one after another. This can be considered the prelude to comprehensive sanctions on Iran’s banking network.

Is Rouhani able, or even willing?

Rouhani is neither willing nor able to carry out any measures outside of Khamenei’s framework. The entire apparatus and power structure is controlled by the Supreme Leader. As long as Iran remains under the mullahs’ regime structure, one should set aside all expectations of change emanating from within Iran. A look at Mohammad Khatami’s tenure is president from 1997 to 2005, andRouhani’s first term, are undeniable proof to this reality.

“They want to change our behavior, but changing it means changing our regime,”Khamenei said recently, signaling his red line.

Rouhani defending Iran’s missiles

The regime’s president recently said that Tehran would continue its ballistic missile program.

“… US officials should know whenever we need to technically test a missile, we will do so and will not wait for their permission,” he said in a news conference.
The Iranian regime reported recently the construction of a third underground ballistic missile production factory and will keep developing its missile program.

This came in the same week when Trump in his foreign visit described Iran as a supporter of militia groups and a threat to all Middle East countries.

Rouhani is an “utterly ruthless operator,” who had presided since 2013 over a collapsing economy and what Amnesty International called “a staggering execution spree,” murdering and imprisoning so many dissidents that Iran has per capita the highest execution rate in the world, according to Christopher Booker in a recent Telegraph article.

Obama’s departure ended the period of appeasement and golden opportunities for Tehran’s mullahs. The road ahead promises to be very difficult, to say the least.

The past four decades have proven that only regime change will bring about what the Iranian people desire and deserve. This is something that is supported by the NCRI and Rajavi’s ten-point plan, calling for a free and democratic Iran where equal opportunities are provided to all citizens regardless of gender, ethnicity, and religion. During the short campaigning season, Iranians manifested their support for Rajavi’s plan by putting up posters reading “Maryam Rajavi is our president.”