Archive for the ‘Iran – sanctions’ category

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.”

 

Iranian President: ‘We Need Missiles’ to Confront Trump Admin, Enemies

May 25, 2017

Iranian President: ‘We Need Missiles’ to Confront Trump Admin, Enemies, Washington Free Beacon, May 25, 2017

(Iran’s missiles for peace program. Secretary Tillerson spoke of his hopes for the future conduct of Iran. While laughing, he declined to comment on his expectations.– DM)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in Tehran on May 22, 2017. AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

A bipartisan delegation of nearly 50 senators announced on Thursday that it is moving forward with new legislation to increase economic sanctions on Iran as a result of its missile program, as well as the Islamic Republic’s support for terrorism and illegal weapons trade.

“The U.S. secretary of state’s expectations of the Iranian president indicate the U.S. officials’ non-understanding of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Jazzayeri was quoted as saying in the country’s state-controlled press.

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Recently re-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani lashed out at the Trump administration this week, describing it as ignorant and saying that Iran “needs missiles” to confront the United States and its allies, according to recent remarks certain to rile leaders in Washington, D.C.

Just days after President Donald Trump blasted the Islamic Republic for its illicit ballistic missile program and support of terrorism in the Middle East, Rouhani confirmed that Iran would not cease its missile activity, despite repeated calls by U.S. officials.

“We need missiles and the enemy should know that we make everything we need and we don’t pay an iota of attention to your words,” Rouhani was quoted as saying on Wednesday during a meeting with Iranian cabinet members. “The remarks by the enemies of the Iranian nation against Iran’s missile power are out of ignorance.”

The Iranian leaders remarks support recent comments by senior military leaders in the country, who have repeatedly declared that Iran will “never stop” developing ballistic missiles, a program that has raised concerns with the U.S. intelligence community, which assesses that Iran’s missile program could be used to carry a nuclear weapon.

The remarks came as Iran announced the construction of a third underground ballistic missile production factory, helmed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC.

Iranian General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, and IRGC leader, said the factory is meant to boosts Tehran’s “missile power” and intimidate the United States and “Zionist regime,” or Israel.

“We will increase our missile power. Our enemies, the United States, and the Zionist regime (Israel) are naturally upset and get angry at our missile production, tests and underground missile facilities because they want Iran to be in a weak position,” Hajizadeh announced on Thursday.

The facility was built in the last few years, according to the IRGC. Iranian military leaders also are working on building Iran’s first “ground-to-ground” ballistic missile.

Iran’s repeated test firing of ballistic missiles, as well as its multiple space launches—which are believed to be cover for an intercontinental ballistic missile program—have riled the Trump administration and leaders of both parties on Capitol Hill.

A bipartisan delegation of nearly 50 senators announced on Thursday that it is moving forward with new legislation to increase economic sanctions on Iran as a result of its missile program, as well as the Islamic Republic’s support for terrorism and illegal weapons trade.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), a chief sponsor of the legislation, said that it is part of a larger effort to ensure that “Iran’s leaders understand they do not enjoy blanket impunity as the United States continues to live up to its commitments under the” nuclear agreement.

“Independent of the nuclear portfolio, and as President Rouhani starts his second presidential term, our broader policy towards Iran must be one that holds Tehran accountable for their destabilizing efforts in the region, illegal and dangerous missile technology development, and nefarious activities as the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism,” Menendez said. “As the administration continues to review its Iran policy, Congress must set out clear markers that impose real consequences to Iran’s illicit behavior that runs counter to our national security and that of our allies in the region.”

The legislation would impose mandatory sanctions on all individuals associated with Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well as those who perform transactions with them.

Sanctions also would be applied to those who support Iran’s terror operations, including the IRGC, which is not currently designated as a terror organization by the United States.

The legislation also requires President Trump to block the property of all individuals and entities involved in supplying, selling, and transferring prohibited arms and other weaponry to Iran.

A State Department official, speaking on background, told the Washington Free Beacon that the Trump administration is moving closer to finishing its comprehensive review of the Iran deal and dealing with Iran’s provocative actions in the region.

“As Secretary [Rex] Tillerson said, the Trump administration is currently conducting a comprehensive review of our Iran policy,” the official said. “Once we have finalized our conclusions, we will meet the challenges Iran poses with clarity and conviction.”

One veteran foreign policy adviser who is close to the White House told the Free Beacon that the Trump administration would not stand by as Iranian leaders mock and threaten the United States.

“The Obama administration treated the Iranians with kid gloves because that was to get the nuclear deal,” the source said. “That ended last January but the Iranians are still acting as if they have a friend in the White House. They threaten and mock the United States, our leaders, and our allies, and they expect us to roll with it. This president is not going to roll with it, and neither is Congress.”

Meanwhile, senior Iranian military leaders continue to criticize the Trump administration for its efforts to stop Iran’s missile program.

Iranian Armed Forces Brigadier General Massoud Jazzayeri offered harsh words for Secretary of State Tillerson following his call for Iran to cease its ballistic missile work.

“The U.S. secretary of state’s expectations of the Iranian president indicate the U.S. officials’ non-understanding of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Jazzayeri was quoted as saying in the country’s state-controlled press.

Iran: Destabilizing the Middle East Through Proxy Allies

May 11, 2017

Iran: Destabilizing the Middle East Through Proxy Allies, Clarion ProjectAmir Basiri, May 11, 2017

An Iranian Shiite militia in Iraq (Photo: Reuters)

It is a known fact throughout the region that the Islamic Republic of Iran founded the Lebanese Hezbollah as an offspring to expand its influence in the Middle East and gain a foothold on the shores of the Mediterranean.

U.S. National Security Advisor Lt. General H.R. McMaster recently accused Tehran of imposing the “Hezbollah model” to gain influence over various Middle East states, destabilizing the region through the process.

Such a blueprint includes targeting vulnerable governments across the region through a variety of plots while, at the same time, backing armed militia groups stationed in those countries. Hezbollah has already managed to consolidate its influence over the government of Lebanon after Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, took control over the country’s presidency last year.

It has also become quite obvious that the United States, despite the highly flawed nuclear deal which supposedly aimed to curb Iran’s nuclear program, enjoys the leverage of pressuring Iran through the use of comprehensive sanctions. Tehran will likely not forget this obvious factor and knows the Trump administration can kick-start new sanctions whnever it deems necessary.

The new administration has already slapped the Iranian regime with two series of sanctions in the past three months and more can be expected.

The reference made by Trump’s national security adviser to “militias and other illegal armed groups” backed by Iran refers to the vast variety of Shiite militias in Iraq under the Baghdad-backed umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). These groups have their parallel in Yemen with the Houthis, who are focusing their efforts on ousting the Western-backed government.

British researchers discovered evidence indicating without a doubt how Tehran is deeply involved in keeping a “weapons pipeline” up and running for Houthis.

At the same time, Tehran continues to harass the Saudis from their southern border and threaten international shipping lines passing through the strategic Bab el Mandab waterway connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

This goes in line with a conglomerate of Shiite foot-soldiers Iran has rallied from Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries for the bloodbath raging on in Syria after six long years.

Iran has abetted the barbaric tactics of the Bashar Assad regime in Syria, further demonstrating its ill intentions across the region. The PMU and Hezbollah have boosted Tehran’s efforts and role in keeping Assad in power. They have all been accused of having played atrocious roles in unspeakable war crimes, with the Khan Shaykhoun chemical attack by Assad in Idlib Province of northern Syria acting as yet another stark reminder of this reality.

Iran’s destabilizing role in nations across the Arab and Islamic worlds has been on the rise significantly with news reports seen in recent months.

The Iraqi Parliament legitimized the PMU last November through the adoption of a law aimed at maintaining this entity’s command structure and hierarchy. Iraqi Sunnis, alongside all minorities in the country including Christians, Yazidi and others, are now left extremely concerned, knowing how this measure can actually legalize the brutal retaliation measures conducted by the Shiite militias.

While Iran’s “medddling” has become obvious to the international community, officially Tehran has continued to deny its role of fueling these Middle East conflicts.

In March, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi denied “any intervention in the internal affairs of Arab countries.” The irony lies in the fact that despite such remarks, Alireza Zakani, known to be a close confidante of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, is also known to have boasted in remarks dating back to November 2014 of Iran controlling four Arab capitals following the Houthis’ capture of the Yemeni capital. The list included Baghdad, Beirut and Damascus.

Following eight years of the Obama administration’s disastrous Iran engagement policy, it is high time to make it crystal clear to Iran that such a trend will no longer be tolerated and must come to an end.