Archive for the ‘Iranian economy’ category

New Report Shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Profiting from Iran Deal

October 5, 2016

New Report Shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Profiting from Iran Deal, Counter Jihad, October 5, 2016

iranian-nuclear-weapon

A new report from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies showcases the ways in which Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has benefited from the so-called nuclear deal.  This deal, which Congress never voted to approve nor reject, and which the Iranian government fundamentally altered rather than accepting, has nevertheless led to a vast transfer of wealth to Iran.  Much of that wealth has fallen right in the hands of the IRGC, which oversees Iran’s terrorist and military nuclear programs.

Here at CounterJihad, we have covered the problems withIran’s nuclear deal somewhat extensively.  The Foundation for Defense of Democracies report’s conclusions will thus be of little surprise to our regular readers.  However, it does include additional detail on the degree to which Iran’s corporate and business ventures are secretly dominated by IRGC elites.  As the report says:

[IRGC abuses] did not stop France’s mobile phone giant, Orange, from beginning talks with Iran’s largest mobile phone operator, Mobile Telecommunication Company of Iran (MCI), over acquiring a stake in the Iranian company. The IRGC controls MCI through a 50-percent-plus-one stake in its parent company, the Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI).  In short, whether its internal security, foreign adventures, or large corporate ventures, the IRGC plays an outsized role in Iran’s internal power structure. Established in 1979 to consolidate the Islamic revolution and fight its enemies, the IRGC has evolved over the years into a full-fledged conventional army, conducting and directing terrorist activity abroad. The Guard has also become a political power broker, an economic conglomerate, and an agency in charge of nuclear and ballistic-missile proliferation….  IRGC revenues from economic activities yield the necessary resources and political leverage to place its members in positions of power. Conversely, the Guard’s political power serves the economic enterprises it owns, and both its political and economic weight in turn advance its military projects.

The IRGC’s corporate activity offers revenue to the organization in the same way that its control of narcotics within Iran does.  However, whereas the narcotics are often passed on to Hezbollah to be turned into heroin, corporate profits can be rolled over into apparently legitimate enterprises that have useful military applications.  That allows Iran a backdoor to internationally-developed advanced weaponry and so-called “dual use” technologies.  These are technologies that have both a legitimate purpose, but also an application to Iran’s nuclear program.

Their space program is an excellent example of the way in which a legitimate purpose can mask development of nuclear weapons:  the same technologies involved in building space rockets that can deploy satellites in particular orbits can also be used to develop ballistic missiles that will deliver nuclear warheads to particular cities.  The New York Times reported in September that the biggest engine in North Korea’s nuclear missile program seems to have been developed in partnership with Iran.  Iran’s version is “nuclear-capable,” but the North Korean version makes no pretense about its intentions.

The potential links to Iran complicate the issue. Iran has ignored a United Nations Security Council resolution, passed in conjunction with last year’s agreement freezing its nuclear program, to refrain from tests of nuclear-capable missiles for eight years.  The Obama administration has not sought sanctions, knowing they would be vetoed by Russia and China, nor has it said much in public about the details of the cooperation on the new rocket engine.

Nor are they likely to do so, given how much of the administration’s prestige is tied up with the so-called nuclear deal.  It is worth noting, however, that the effect of the deal has been to embolden Iran — and North Korea, and Russia, and America’s enemies in general.

Khamenei on WWII: Iran Must Not Go the Way of Germany and Japan Khamenei on WWII: Iran Must Not Go the Way of Germany and Japan

September 29, 2016

Khamenei on WWII: Iran Must Not Go the Way of Germany and Japan  Khamenei on WWII: Iran Must Not Go the Way of Germany and Japan, Israel National News, Col (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman, September 29, 2016

Speaking on September 18, 2016 before commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the Supreme Leader of Iran launched into a bitter polemic against Rafsanjani’s call to invest more in the economy and less in military build-up. (Ref. MEMRI translation and analytical observations.) The IRGC, Khameini declared, is the key to the success of the revolutionary project. Deterrence can only be achieved if fear of Iran’s raw power is instilled in the hearts of her enemies. Neither the JCPOA (the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 powers) in itself, nor a shift in strategy to more civilian pursuits, can protect Iran. The revolution must be translated into military might.

At this point in the speech, Khameini offered a fascinating point of reference. Look, he suggested, at Germany and Japan at the end of World War II: forced into submission, humiliated, and required to disarm. He made no effort to hide his sympathy. As far as Khameini is concerned, the bad guys won and the good guys lost in 1945, and the time has come to overthrow the entire post-war dispensation.

Speaking on September 18, 2016 before commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the Supreme Leader of Iran launched into a bitter polemic against Rafsanjani’s call to invest more in the economy and less in military build-up. (Ref. MEMRI translation and analytical observations.) The IRGC, Khameini declared, is the key to the success of the revolutionary project. Deterrence can only be achieved if fear of Iran’s raw power is instilled in the hearts of her enemies. Neither the JCPOA (the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 powers) in itself, nor a shift in strategy to more civilian pursuits, can protect Iran. The revolution must be translated into military might.

At this point in the speech, Khameini offered a fascinating point of reference. Look, he suggested, at Germany and Japan at the end of World War II: forced into submission, humiliated, and required to disarm. He made no effort to hide his sympathy. As far as Khameini is concerned, the bad guys won and the good guys lost in 1945, and the time has come to overthrow the entire post-war dispensation.

This position is, after all, in line with Iran’s denial of the Holocaust (recall the caricature competition designed to denigrate and diminish it) and exterminatory stand towards Israel. It is not the personal quirk of Ahmadinejad, who was, in fact, just told by the Leader that he will not be allowed to run for president again this time. It is the position of Khamenei himself and of Khomeini before him: “Khatt al-Imam,” the line of the Imam, the ultimate imperative of the revolutionary regime.

According to this line, Iran has a religious (or, rather, ideological) imperative to reject all Western mores. For this to be possible, the Revolution, even more than the State as such, must position itself as a strong military power in regional and global affairs. The alternative is unthinkable. The “values” the West and the US seek to impose include utterly base and noxious notions like homosexuality (with which Iran’s present leaders are apparently obsessed). Military weakness would lead to moral weakness, a “cultural invasion,” and the loss of all that Khameini and Khomeini have sought to establish.

Khameini told his audience that there are misguided souls in Iran who seek to negotiate with the US even as the Americans themselves seek a dialog with Iran on regional affairs (e.g., on Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen). He rejects this quest not only as poisonous for Iran, but as evidence that America is now a spent force.

With that American weakness in mind, the Iranian leadership is now openly calling for the total destruction of Wahhabism (read: the Saudi state). It makes this call while complaining, as did Foreign Minister Zarif in an op-ed at The New York Times, that “big money is being used to whitewash terrorism.” This claim is, of course, extremely rich to anyone with even a smattering of knowledge about Iran’s behavior in recent years.

Iranian arrogance is thus on the rise in the post-deal era, and with it Iran’s hope of steadily undoing Israel and undermining regional and global stability until the true Imam or Mehdi appears on earth. Meanwhile, as Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubayr wrote in response to Zarif, it is Iran that remains at the top of the terror lists. It is Iran’s ally in Syria, with the help of Iran’s proxies in Lebanon, who is now engaging in unprecedented acts of carnage in Aleppo.

The Leader’s extolling of military might is thus frightening to all in the region, even as Tehran tries to present itself as the voice of reason in the struggle against the Islamic State (Iran was quick to denounce the assassination in Amman this week of a Christian journalist who “insulted” the IS radicals).

There could be an opportunity here. Neither candidate for the US presidency seems to have bought into the strange notion, implicit (and at times explicit) in the positions taken by Obama and his inner circle, that Iran can serve as a useful counterweight to other forces in the region. Nor have they bought (yet) into the delusion that Iran’s revolutionary impulse can be assumed to be benign. The US is thus still able to think of Iran as an enemy, which it is.

If so, the domestic tension and turmoil over the unfulfilled promise of economic relief, and over Khamenei’s demand for more and more sacrifices by the people (a “resistance economy,” as he calls it) can provide fertile ground for destabilization of the Iranian regime. Such an opportunity was lost in 2009. It need not be lost again.

Iran Sanctions Have Ended – and the Mass Executions Have Restarted

September 22, 2016

Iran Sanctions Have Ended – and the Mass Executions Have Restarted, American ThinkerMansour Kashfi, September 22, 2016

The crippling global sanctions on Iran cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars and decimated the economy. Inflation rose to over 40 percent and unemployment levels reached 33 percent. Consequently, the majority of citizens experienced an astronomical cost of living and lack of government services. Therefore, news of negotiations and lifting of sanctions was very well received by Iranians and generated optimism for a life of less hardship after sanctions.

However, since the agreement ending sanctions was signed between the Islamic Republic (IR) and the international powers last January, nothing has improved regarding the everyday life of the Iranian people. Not even one of the critical civil issues that was promised by the so-called “moderate”, “pragmatic” president, Hassan Rouhani, to be addressed after sanctions ended, has been opened for discussion by the IR officials.

Regardless of the rather rapid increase in Iranian crude oil and petrochemical sales and the release of billions of dollars of frozen money by a number of international oil companies and foreign governments, the nation-wide tax in all categories remarkably increased, and a limited welfare to needy senior citizens has been discontinued.

Despite the rosy promises of the IR’s authorities, especially Hassan Rouhani, to bring justice for all and raise the standards of living of the people, amazingly nothing has been done to improve Iranians’ living conditions, and no social freedom and justice is on the horizon. On the contrary, tougher repression and mass executions are the only gift by the IR to the Iranian people after sanctions ended.

Release of Assets

US officials claimed that IR had more than $100 billion of frozen assets abroad during the sanctions era, the equivalent of 28 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, which has been returning to the IR after sanctions ended. A good portion of this money was balance payments of crude oil sold by IR to its customers during the sanction years, including Royal Dutch Shell, Italy’s Saras, Greece’s Hellenic, Emirates National Oil Company, the Indian Reliance and Essar oil refiner, the Netherlands and Japan. All unfrozen money has been transferring to IR’s Central Bank by way of the SWIFT global transactions network. President Hassan Rouhani announced last March that the government of IR has access to all unfrozen assets.

Further, according to the International Energy Agency, IR is currently exporting about 2.14 million barrels of crude and over 200,000 barrels of gas condensates daily. The IR’s oil ministry reported the oil revenues from 2016 until mid-July were about $20 billion.

During negotiations with the IR last year the Obama administration agreed to pay $400 million plus interest of $1.3 billion to settle a failed arms sale to Iran that was initiated during the monarchical government before 1979. The first payment equivalent of $400 million in cash in the form of Swiss francs and euros was airlifted from Geneva, Switzerland to Tehran on January 17, and in return four Iranian-American hostages in IR’s jail were released. Further, officials of the State and Treasury departments confirmed on September 6 that two remaining installments of the $1.3 billion were sent to Tehran in the same manner through Geneva on January 22 and February 5.

With all this windfall money nothing tangible in terms of infrastructure renovations, civil reform and the rise of standard of living has taken place in the country. On the contrary, poverty has increased, over one-third of Iranians presently live under the poverty line, and thousands of citizens escape the country everyday to find a safer place to live. Worst of all, in testimonies of various human rights advocates and organizations, the ignoring of human rights by the IR is always an ever-growing issue in Iran, particularly after the ending of sanctions.

Human Rights Issues

The level of repression inside Iran has increased since Hassan Rouhani took office as president in 2013. Since then, the number of executions has grown rapidly. In 2014, the number of death sentences in Iran reached the largest number of executions in the world except for China. In 2015, according to Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, the number exceeded 1,000.

The U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee passed a resolution last November that expressed its deepest concern about human rights violations by the Islamic regime. Amnesty International has also called on regime authorities to stop the hanging, particularly of juvenile offenders who are convicted on dubious evidence.  Amnesty International time and again has published reports on physical and psychological torture in Iran, saying that the number of torture and ill-treatment cases is increasing in Iran, making it clear that these violations of human rights not only continue in this time of a moderate President, but are noticeably becoming widespread and in most places systematic.

In January of 2016, finally the expected moment of change arrived, and sanctions were lifted. But immediately, political pressure and religious discrimination began increasing daily. The penalty for apostasy is still death. Any female regardless of age that does not wear veils is arrested and faces harsh punishments. Cultural dissidents, artists, and homosexuals on most occasions would receive capital punishment. Mass executions for political prisoners which were common practice for over a decade after the so-called revolution have now restarted primarily for non-Shi’a citizens.

There was a hanging of 20 innocent Sunni-Kurdish citizens in Karaj, a suburb of Tehran on August 3, 2016, the execution of an Iranian nuclear scientist on August 7, the hanging of 5 minority citizens in the western province of Azerbaijan on August 14, and another hanging of 3 minority citizens accused of exploding the oil pipeline in the southwest province of Khuzestan on August 16. Although U.N. Representative Ahmed Shaheed firmly requested the IR stop the systematic executions, 12 more allegedly accused of possession of illegal drugs were hanged in Karaj prison on August 27. There were a total of 41 executions officially of innocent citizens just in one month. In addition many young male and female citizens disappear every day, and their decomposed bodies are occasionally found in the remote parts of their hometowns. These systematic executions reveal that the nature of the Islamic regime has not changed at all, sanctions or no sanctions. IR claims they were executed for “purported terrorism and related activities” as reported by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Ed Royce, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced on September 6 a bill to censure President Obama for his rewarding a terrorist government for its hostage taking as IR presently still has three Iranian-Americans in prison.

It is inhuman for these executions to take place after an unfair trial, absent of any attorneys on behalf of defendants, and obviously based entirely on coerced confessions. In most cases such executions take place without any trial at all, and the Islamic regime has never allowed Ahmed Shaheed to visit Iran to make a precise assessment on human rights violations.

Iran as a member of the United Nations and other international human rights communities has systematically violated nearly every provision of these institutions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. IR’s officials have openly opted to ridicule the concept of universal human rights, and they brand the principle of human rights as a tool of the “Great Satan” and Western imperialism.

Where does the money go?

Evidently, the released money after sanctions ended was not intended for citizens’ welfare and the improvement of the living conditions in Iran. The IR officials have been apathetic since the welfare and health of the Iranian people is of the lowest priority in their eyes, considering the huge expense of their active terrorist groups in the Middle East. The money has already reached the IR’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for their efforts to export the Islamic revolution to neighboring countries and carry on the IR’s hostile engagements in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, arming and financially supporting terrorist groups around the world including Hamas in Gaza, Hezb’llah in Lebanon, Shi’a groups in Bahrain, Houthis in Yemen, and the drug traffickers in South America. The IRGC is the most powerful extralegal organization and richest entity in Iran. The associated IRGC units own over one-third of the listed companies of the Tehran Stock Exchange. Further, according to Bloomberg, the IR Supreme Leader Mullah Khamenei is the owner of an economic empire of about $95 billion.

Now we know where the money goes.

Iran: The Return of Ahmadinejad and Co.

September 5, 2016

Iran: The Return of Ahmadinejad & Co., Gatestone InstituteMajid Rafizadeh, September 5, 2016

♦ Iran’s Supreme Leader and the senior cadre of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have been vocally critical of the nuclear deal. They fear further diplomatic and political rapprochement between the US and Iran, now that they have already achieved their objectives of the lifting of the four major rounds of the UN Security Council’s sanctions.

♦ After the nuclear deal was implemented, polls showed that 63% of Iranians expected to see improvements in the economy and living standards within a year. But currently, in a new poll, 74% of Iranians said there had been no economic improvements in the past year.

Iran’s former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying he wants to “redefine revolutionary ideals” set up by the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, appears to be launching a campaign to run in the upcoming Iranian presidential elections, in February, 2017.

Ahmadinejad was well-known for his incendiary and provocative speeches, which included denying the Holocaust. At the end of his presidential term, from 2005 to 2013, his approval rating was extremely low, and he managed to drive away most constituents across political spectrum, including the topmost hardline leaders. He also became the first Iranian president since 1979 to be summoned by the parliament (Majlis) to answer questions regarding his activities and policies.

After all of this, the common conception among politicians, scholars and policy analysts was that Ahmadinejad would never return to politics. It seemed that his retirement plan focused on founding a university and teaching, but his plan to open a university failed.

Despite his low popularity among people, however, the “principalists” (ultra-conservatives) were still on his side, due to his fierce anti-US, anti-Western and anti-Israel policies and rhetoric, as well as the fact that he remains a major figure in the coalition of several conservative groups, the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran.

After Ahmadinejad’s presidency, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appointed him to the Expediency Council, Iran’s highest political arbitration body, which arbitrates between the Guardian Council (the supervisory body over the parliament and elections) and the Islamic Consultative Assembly (parliament). The Expediency Council is predominantly made up of Iran’s hardline clerics, and functions as an advisory institution to the Supreme Leader.

Although it seems that Ahmadinejad did not have any intention of returning after being out of the international spotlight for two years, other factors show that he never really left. Domestically, Ahmadinejad remained politically active, trying to unify and lead the hardliners. Since he left office, he has continued holding meetings with former ministers in Tehran.

In the last few months, however, Ahmadinejad’s desire to launch his campaign more forcefully and determinedly has become clearer as, once again, he began attracting the international spotlight, such as when he wrote an open letter to US President Barack Obama, demanding the transfer of $2 billion to Iran.

To capitalize on the popular vote and the presidential elections of 2017, Ahmadinejad has been focusing on attracting constituents from around Iran by traveling to smaller cities and towns, giving lectures and speeches; supporters of Ahmadinejad have called for his return.

During his presidency, people enjoyed subsidies on items including petrol, natural gas and electricity, and his government distributed monthly cash handouts of about $17 to every person. These, as well as criticism of corruption, injustice, and capitalism, were appealing to the rural population and the less affluent.

Ahmadinejad has also been vehemently criticizing Hassan Rouhani, the current Iranian president, as incompetent, and questioning his economic and foreign policies, and pointing out that, “There will be bumps and satanic obstacles in our path… One should not forget that the US is our enemy.”

The latest poll by the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland revealed that “Ahmadinejad now represents the single largest threat to Rouhani’s re-election, and trails the once-popular incumbent by only eight points. Suddenly, the ex-president seems once again to be a real political contender.”

1839Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (left) can indeed be a viable contender against incumbent President Hassan Rouhani (right) in Iran’s 2017 presidential election, and is more likely the choice of the Supreme Leader and hardliners.

This is a ripe environment for him for several reasons.

First of all, the nuclear deal has become a popular issue among the hardliners. The Supreme Leader and senior cadre of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have been vocally critical of the nuclear deal. They fear further diplomatic and political rapprochement between the US and Iran, now that they have already achieved their objectives of the lifting of the four major rounds of the United Nations Security Council’s sanctions.

Ayatollah Khamenei warned against any relations with the US, and he also questioned the economic benefits of the nuclear agreement: “Weren’t the oppressive sanctions lifted so that the people would feel a change in their lives? Has there been a tangible effect on the people’s lives in the past six months?”

Second, the popularity of the nuclear deal has been on a decline among the population as well. After the nuclear deal was implemented, polls showed that 63% of Iranians expected to see improvements in the economy and living standards within a year. But currently, in a new poll, 74%of Iranians said there had been no economic improvements in the past year.

Ahmadinejad can indeed be a viable contender against Hassan Rouhani, and is more likely the choice of the Supreme Leader and the IRGC leaders, and the candidate favored by the hardliners and principalists.

Iranian Dissidents Visit Israel, View Iran after the Nuclear Deal

August 21, 2016

Iranian Dissidents Visit Israel, View Iran after the Nuclear Deal, Jerusalem Center via YouTube, August 21, 2016

 

Khamenei and IRGC’s Increasing Popularity

August 17, 2016

Khamenei and IRGC’s Increasing Popularity, Gatestone Institute, Majid Rafizadeh, August 17, 2016

♦ The same state-run media that shapes the Iranians’ views of the West also pushes them to favor hardline candidates.

♦ The new poll shows that Ayatollah Khamenei, his media outlets, and the Revolutionary Guards generals appear to be preparing the platform for a hardline President who will pull out of the nuclear agreement. The new poll also shows that so far their campaign has been successful.

The number of hardliners in Iran is on the rise, according to the latest poll. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, appears to be preparing the social base so that a hardline president would replace President Hassan Rouhani after the sanctions are lifted by foreign powers. Khamenei seems to be achieving this by using Iranian media to slander the West and improve the image of hardline politicians. Iran’s former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appears to be getting ready to take Rouhani’s place, and is reportedly preparing his hardline platform to run in Iran’s 2017 presidential elections.

Rouhani’s popularity and standing are evidently not what they used to be. This seems to have come about largely because of changes in the economy. The overwhelming majority of Iranians believed in Rouhani’s economic promises when they elected him; after the nuclear deal was settled, 63% of Iranians believed that they would witness improvements in the economy and living standards within a year. However, a new report shows that 74% of Iranians said that there have been no economic improvements in the last year.

1545Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (left) appears to be preparing the social base so that a hardline president would replace President Hassan Rouhani (right).

A number of factors have slowed economic growth, including the high unemployment level, the state-owned and state-led economy, financial corruption at high levels, lack of an open market and business opportunities for the public, the increasing gap between the rich and poor, and the accumulation of wealth among the gilded circle in power and other major players — such as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the connected elite business class — who hold control over major socio-political and economic sectors of Iran.

The Iranian government has also not done all that it could to help improve conditions. For example, after the flimsy and incomplete nuclear agreement, the Obama Administration immediately began transferring billions of dollars to Iran’s Central Bank. One of the payments included $1.7 billion transferred in January 2016. Of this sum, $1.4 billion came from American taxpayers. Iran immediately increased its military budget by $1.5 billion from $15.6 billion to $17.1 billion, rather than investing it for creating jobs.

Khamenei has already begun his campaign of blaming the West for Iranian economic problems. He fails to acknowledge the true reason that Iranians are not benefiting from the lifting of sanctions. Instead, as is his method of operation, he blames the West so that he himself is never blamed or held accountable in the eyes of the public. He stated recently “Weren’t the supposed sanctions lifted to change the life of the people? Is any tangible effect seen in people’s life after six months?” Although Iran’s oil exports have reached pre-sanctions levels, and although Iran is freely doing business on the state level, Mr. Khamenei claimed in a speech that, “the U.S. Treasury… acts in such a way that big corporations, big institutions and big banks do not dare to come and deal with Iran.”

An official from the State Department said that Iran should not blame the US for companies not doing business with Iran. Most likely, large corporations are just not yet prepared to make deals with Iran.

Khamenei’s rhetoric has a significant impact on public opinion in Iran. According to a poll, 75% of Iranians believe that the U.S. is to blame for Iran’s stagnant economy. They believe that the U.S. has been creating obstacles to Iranian business with Western companies, and to Iran’s ability to fully rejoin the global financial system.

It is true that since the nuclear deal, Iran’s unemployment rate has increased from roughly 10.8% to 12%. During the course of Rouhani’s presidency, the unemployment rate has increased by two percent. The government has also cut subsidies.

It is possible that Iran’s problems trading with American corporations and rebuilding its economy are due to other Iranian leaders’ rhetoric, the Iranian state-owned media narratives, and lack of clear understanding of the terms of the nuclear agreement among the general public. Approximately 65% of the population still watch only Iran’s domestic news channels to gain information about the latest news in comparison to the 25.4% who use internet, and 18.2% who watch satellite television. Notably, the states viewed most unfavorably by the Iranian public are the Islamic State (97.6% very unfavorable), Saudi Arabia (81.3% very unfavorable), and the United States. The overwhelming majority of Iranians, roughly 80%, believe that it is very important that their country should continue developing its nuclear program.

The same state-run media that shapes the Iranians’ views of the West also pushes them to favor hardline candidates. The new poll reveals that former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s popularity is increasing. Ahmadinejad previously mentioned that he was retiring from politics, but the latest signs indicate that he is repositioning himself to lead the Islamic Republic again. During his presidency, people enjoyed subsidies on petrol, gas and electricity, and his government paid monthly cash handouts of approximately $17 to everyone. In the next presidential race, the poll shows that Ahmadinejad now trails Rouhani by only 8 percentage points compared to 27 points in May 2015.

Finally, another intriguing finding is that the person who has the highest level of respect, “very favorable,” among Iranians is General Qassem Soleimani, the head of IRGC-Qods Force (the external operations wing of the IRGC, which operates in foreign countries). His popularity has increased in the last year. This could be because he is portrayed by the Iranian media as the savior of the Shia in Iraq and Syria, a patriot, and the protector of Iranians from the Islamic State and other types of Sunni extremism. In general, the favorability of the high-profile, hardline and conservative politicians such as Muhammad Bagher Ghalibaf and Ali Larijani appears to have increased. These could threaten Rouhani’s reelection.

Khamenei, his media outlets, and the IRGC generals appear to be preparing the platform for a hardline President who will pull out of the nuclear agreement. The new poll also shows that so far, their campaign has been successful.

Obama Admin Advising Global Banks On Ways To Give Iran Money

April 6, 2016

Obama Admin Advising Global Banks On Ways To Give Iran Money, Washington Free Beacon, April 6, 2016