Archive for the ‘Iranian nukes’ category

Iranian Regime gets desperate; holds 300 exhibitions against MEK

February 13, 2017

Iranian Regime gets desperate; holds 300 exhibitions against MEK, Iran Focus, February 13, 2017

(Will President Trump work with the MEK for regime change in Iran? Should he? — DM)

mek-750

London, 13 Feb – The Iranian Regime held 300 exhibitions against the resistance group, MEK, in an increasingly desperate attempt to smear the Iranian Opposition.

This is believed to be in response to a report by the Regime’s Ministry of Intelligence which detailed the power of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK) and the progress they have made.

The report noted that young people are far more likely to side with the Resistance and that the Iranian Resistance is highly respected both at home and abroad.

Hashemi Nejad the director general of the state-funded foundation, Habilian, said: “We have held 300 exhibitions against MEK in Iran up to now. These days, MEK is getting recognised as a leading institute in Human Rights, our duty is to discuss Human Rights issues against MEK since Iranian youths are the target of MEK.”

The report noted that the MEK favoured regime change and the removal of the Iranian mullahs, but the MEK have never made a secret of that.

It also highlighted that the MEK had assisted the West by revealing Iran’s secret nuclear missiles programme.

They noted that in order to stop the youth from joining the MEK, the Regime would have to present a totally warped view of the Resistance Forces, which is what they have attempted to do with the exhibitions.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) noted in their recap of the report, that it was weird to hear the Regime admit that they had been trounced by the Resistance in terms of support from the Iranian people.

They wrote: “The truth is that after the regime was unable to destroy the MEK by inhumane siege and missile attacks and Mojahedin were able to maintain the integrity of their organisation and transfer themselves to a safe place, the regime is frightened now. That is why the mullahs regularly yowl and whimper about the danger of Mojahedin.”

They continued: “This fear and sense of danger is particularly due to the fact that the power and cohesion of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran has coincided on the one hand with the weakness and ultimate decay of the Velayat-e faqih regime and the crises engulfing the regime, and on the other hand by the fact that Iran’s society is on the verge of explosion and ready for uprising and revolution and is only waiting for a spark.”

More about the People’s Mojahdin Organization of Iran (PMOI/ MEK)

The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (Also known as MEK, or Mujahedin-e-Khalq / Mujahedeen-e-Khalq), was founded on September 6, 1965, by Mohammad Hanifnejad, Saeed Mohsen, and Ali-Asghar Badizadgan. All engineers, they had earlier been members of the Freedom Movement (also known as the Liberation Movement), created by Medhi Bazargan in May 1961.1

The MEK’s quest culminated in a true interpretation of Islam, which is inherently tolerant and democratic, and fully compatible with the values of modern-day civilization. It took six years for the MEK to formulate its view of Islam and develop a strategy to replace Iran’s dictatorial monarchy with a democratic government.

MEK’s interpretation of Islam

The theocratic mullah regime in Iran believe interpreting Islam is their exclusive domain. The MEK reject this view and the cleric’s reactionary vision of Islam. The MEK’s comprehensive interpretation of Islam proved to be more persuasive and appealing to the Iranian youth.

MEK’s founders and new members studied the various schools of thought, the Iranian history and those of other countries, enabling them to analyze other philosophies and ideologies with considerable knowledge and to present their own ideology, based on Islam, as the answer to Iran’s problems.

MEK’s leadership’s arrest during the 70s.

The Shah’s notorious secret police, SAVAK, arrested all MEK leaders and most of its member’s in1971. On May 1972, the founders of the MEK, Mohammad Hanifnejad , Saeed Mohsen and Ali Asghar Badizadegan, along with two members of the MEK leadership, Mahmoud Askarizadeh and Rasoul Meshkinfam, were put before death squads and were executed after long months of imprisonment and torture. They were the true vanguards, who stood against the dictatorial regime of Shah. However, they are also recognized for their opposition to what is today known as Islamic fundamentalism.

The death sentence of Massoud Rajavi, a member of MEK’s central committee, was commuted to life imprisonment as a result of an international campaign by his Geneva based brother, Dr. Kazem Rajavi (assassinated in April 1990 in Geneva by mullahs’ agents) and the personal intervention of the French President Georges Pompidou and Francois Mitterrand. He was the only survivor of the MEK original leadership.

Massoud Rajavi’s critical role in characterizing religious extremism

From 1975 to 1979, while incarcerated in different prisons, Massoud Rajavi led the MEK’s struggle while constantly under torture for his leading position.

Massoud Rajavi stressed the need to continue the struggle against the shah’s dictatorship. At the same time, he characterized religious fanaticism as the primary internal threat to the popular opposition, and warned against the emergence and growth of religious fanaticism and autocracy. He also played a crucial role when some splinter used the vacuum in the MEK leadership who were all executed or imprisoned at the time, to claim a change of ideology and policy. Massoud Rajavi as the MEK leader condemn these individual’s misuse of MEK’s name while continuing to stress the struggle against dictatorship. His efforts while still in prison forced these individuals to no longer operating under the name of MEK and adopting a different name for their group. These positions remained the MEK’s manifesto until the overthrow of the shah’s regime.

Release of Political Prisoners on the last days of the Shah

A month before the 1979 revolution in Iran, the Shah was forced to flee Iran, never to return. All democratic opposition leaders had by then either been executed by the Shah’s SAVAK or imprisoned, and could exert little influence on the trend of events. Khomeini and his network of mullahs across the country, who had by and large been spared the wrath of SAVAK, were the only force that remained unharmed and could take advantage of the political vacuum. In France, Khomeini received maximum exposure to the world media. With the aid of his clerical followers, he hijacked a revolution that began with calls for democracy and freedom and diverted it towards his fundamentalist goals. Through an exceptional combination of historical events, Shiite clerics assumed power in Iran.

Khomeini’s gradual crackdown on MEK in fear of their popular support

In internal discourses, Rajavi the remaining leader of the MEK, argued that Khomeini represented the reactionary sector of society and preached religious fascism. Later, in the early days after the 1979 revolution, the mullahs, specifically Rafsanjani, pointed to these statements in inciting the hezbollahi club-wielders to attack the MEK.

Following the revolution, the MEK became Iran’s largest organized political party. It had hundreds of thousands of members who operated from MEK offices all over the country. MEK publication, ‘Mojahed’ was circulated in 500,000 copies.

Khomeini set up an Assembly of Experts comprised of sixty of his closest mullahs and loyalists to ratify the principle of velayat-e faqih (absolute supremacy of clerical rule) as a pillar of the Constitution. The MEK launched a nationwide campaign in opposition to this move, which enjoyed enormous popular support. Subsequently, the MEK refused to approve the new constitution based on the concept of velayat-e faqih, while stressing its observance of the law of the country to deny the mullahs any excuse for further suppression of MEK supporters who were regularly targeted by the regime’s official and unofficial thugs.

Khomeini sanctioned the occupation of the United States embassy in 1979 in order to create an anti-American frenzy, which facilitated the holding of a referendum to approve his Constitution, which the MEK rejected.

MEK’s endeavors to participate in the political process avoiding an unwanted conflict with government repressive forces

The MEK actively participated in the political process, fielding candidates for the parliamentary and presidential elections. The MEK also entered avidly into the national debate on the structure of the new Islamic regime, though was unsuccessful in seeking an elected constituent assembly to draft a constitution.

The MEK similarly made an attempt at political participation when [then] Massoud Rajavi ran for the presidency in January 1980. MEK’s leader was forced to withdraw when Khomeini ruled that only candidates who had supported the constitution in the December referendum – which the MEK had boycotted- were eligible. Rajavi’s withdrawal statement emphasized the MEK’s efforts to conform to election regulations and reiterated the MEK’s intention to advance its political aims within the new legal system”. (Unclassified report on the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran(PMOI/ MEK) by the Department of State to the United States House of Representatives, December 1984.)
However, the MEK soon found itself in a direct struggle against the forces of the regime’s Supreme leader. The MEK’s differences with Khomeini dated back to the 1970s, and stem from its opposition to what is known today as Islamic extremism. Angry at the position taken by the MEK against his regime and worried about the MEK’s growing popularity, Khomeini ordered a brutal crackdown against the MEK and its supporters. Between 1979 and 1981, some 70 MEK members and sympathizers were killed and several thousand more were imprisoned by the Iranian regime.

June 20, 1981- Khomeini’s order to open fire on peaceful demonstration of half-a-million supporters of MEK

The turning point came on 20th June 1981, when the MEK called a demonstration to protest at the regime’s crackdown, and to call for political freedom which half-a-million supporters participated at. Khomeini ordered the Revolutionary Guards to open fire on the swelling crowd, fearing that without absolute repression the democratic opposition (MEK) would force him to engage in serious reforms – an anathema as far as he was concerned; he ordered the mass and summary executions of those arrested.

Since then, MEK activists have been the prime victims of human rights violations in Iran. Over 120,000 of its members and supporters have been executed by the Iranian regime, 30,000 of which, were executed in a few months in the summer of 1988, on a direct fatwa by Khomeini, which stated any prisoners who remain loyal to the MEK must be executed.

Having been denied its fundamental rights and having come under extensive attack at the time that millions of its members, supporters and sympathizers had no protection against the brutal onslaught of the Iranian regime, the MEK had no choice but to resist against the mullahs’ reign of terror.

“Towards the end of 1981, many of the members of the MEK and supporters went into exile. Their principal refuge was in France. But in 1986, after negotiations between the French and the Iranian authorities, the French government effectively treated them as undesirable aliens, and the leadership of the MEK with several thousand followers relocated to Iraq.” (Judgment of the Proscribed Organizations Appeal Commission, November 30, 2007.)

MEK Today

The MEK today is the oldest and largest anti-fundamentalist Muslim group in the Middle East. It has been active for more than a half century, battling two dictatorships and a wide range of issues. The MEK supports:

• Universal suffrage as the sole criterion for legitimacy

• Pluralistic system of governance

• Respect for individual freedoms

• Ban on the death penalty

• Separation of religion and state

• Full gender equality

• Equal participation of women in political leadership. MEK is actually led by its central committee consist of 1000 women.

• Modern judicial system that emphasizes the principle of innocence, a right to a defense, and due process

• Free markets

• Relations with all countries in the world

• Commitment to a non-nuclear Iran

The MEK remains a strong and cohesive organization, with a broad reach both worldwide and deep within Iran. MEK is the leading voice for democracy in Iran, supported by its interpretation of Islam that discredits the fundamentalist mullahs’ regime.

Thank Obama for Iranian Missile Tests

January 31, 2017

Thank Obama for Iranian Missile Tests, PJ MediaAndrew C. McCarthy, January 31, 2017

notamissile(Amir Kholousi, ISNA via AP)

There is great shrieking from the “international community” over Iran’s ballistic missile test over the weekend, the latest of what the Wall Street Journal reports is nearly a dozen such tests since President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — went into effect last year. The United Nations Security Council, which endorsed the deal even though no party has actually signed it, is set to hold an “emergency meeting” today to discuss the matter.

What is there to discuss?

French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said it best in complaining that such tests are “contrary to the spirit” of the JCPOA.

When they talk about a violation of the “spirit” of a pact, you can be certain that there has been no violation of the letter of a pact — i.e., the thing that is required for there to be a real, actionable violation.

The provocative missile tests further elucidate the obvious: Iran’s nuclear program is about developing nuclear weapons — which Iran will be able to do consistent with the terms of the JCPOA. But regardless of the crying and gnashing of teeth at the emergency meeting, the tests do not violate the JCPOA.

For that, we can thank Barack Obama.

Prior to the JCPOA, Iran’s ballistic missile activities were barred by a series of UN resolutions backed by American and international sanctions. But sensing Obama’s desperation to complete the JCPOA at any cost, and by indulging any fiction, Iran threatened to walk away from the table unless the restraints on missiles were eliminated.

Obama quietly accommodated the mullahs — despite having repeatedly told the American people that the negotiations were confined to nuclear activities, and that his administration would hold a hard line on Iranian missile development and terror promotion.

There was nothing in the JCPOA about ballistic missiles. When Obama brought the deal to the Security Council, however, he used its endorsement vehicle — Resolution 2231 — to undermine the missile sanctions. The pertinent paragraph is buried deep in the resolution (Annex B, Paragraph 3 — scroll all the way down to page 99 of 104). It states (italics is mine):

Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology, until the date eight years after the JCPOA Adoption Day[.] …

Notice three things:

  1. The words “Iran is called upon” not to undertake ballistic missile activity. That is not the same as being forbidden to do so. Because of the way the JCPOA was codified in the resolution – for what the parties will call international law purposes — the former proscription against ballistic missile activity has been watered down to a mere encouragement of Iran not to engage in such activity. In UN-speak, a country’s ignoring what the Security Council “calls upon” it to do does not even rise to the level of a tsk-tsk letter from the principal. It is just a suggestion along the lines of “Pretty please don’t fire missiles after we’ve told everyone how moderate you are.”
  2. Then there is the fiction: the paragraph refers to “missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” Bear in mind the fraud on which the JCPOA is based: Iran has no intention of manufacturing or otherwise acquiring nuclear weapons. Therefore, so the story goes, Iran would not build missiles “designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” We, like the Obama administration, are supposed to ignore what Iran’s missiles are technologically capable of doing and trust the stated intentions of the world’s chief sponsor of jihadist terror.
  3. The resolution not only abandons the prohibition against missile activity; even the insipid suggestion that Iran not engage in such activity is only operative for eight years. After that, they can do what they want … just as, after no more than 15 years, they are free to develop nuclear weapons free and clear.

How could Obama have agreed to such disastrous terms (in addition to giving the mullah’s over $100 billion in sanctions relief — including ransom cash)? The Obama administration illusion was that Iran was in the process of a powerful, inevitable reform movement that would, in the course of eight to 15 years, transmogrify it into a normal, reasonable, moderate nation-state. According to this thinking, by the time the JCPOA ran its course, Iran would be so benign it would probably not want nuclear missiles; and even if it did, that would be no problem because, by then, its regime would have evolved into a stable pillar of the international community.

Of course, we now know this was a consciously false narrative that Obama peddled to sell the Iran deal to the public — orchestrated by deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, with the help of an echo chamber media.

Iran ratcheted up missile development almost immediately after the JCPOA went into effect. The missiles test-fired last March were inscribed “Israel must be wiped out.” In Tehran, that’s known as “the spirit” of the agreement.

Re-isolate Iran now

January 27, 2017

Re-isolate Iran now, Israel Hayom, David M. Weinberg, January 27, 2017

In fact, the U.S. and Israel should reach an accord on a basket of responses to Iranian violations and aggressions, including the placement of a military option against Iran’s nuclear program back on the table.

Trump and Netanyahu must together promulgate an approach for combating the malign influence and hegemonic ambitions of Iran.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that one of the top items on his agenda for consultation with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington next month is countering Iranian aggression. With good reason. The net result of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has been to foster Iran’s rise to regional hegemon.

While the JCPOA suspended a part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program for a few years, the ayatollahs see it as providing time to advance their centrifuge capability and regional sway.

In a Hoover Institution paper published this month, Professor Russell Berman and Ambassador Charles Hill call Iran a “de facto Islamic caliphate,” and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps an “Iranian expeditionary force for invading strategic Arab spaces.”

They call former President Barack Obama’s declared goal — of finding and bolstering so-called moderates in Tehran via the JCPOA — an “illusion.” Iran is not a polity of moderates and hard-liners, they write. It is a revolutionary theocracy masquerading as a legitimate state actor. So the first thing Trump must do is recognize the consistently hostile character of the regime.

Alas, Obama was obsessed from the advent of his presidency with making nice to Iran, and was willing to subordinate much of American foreign policy in service of that goal. He sent many secret letters to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that recognized the prerogatives of the Islamic republic and foreswore regime change. He cut funding to anti-regime groups and abandoned Iranian moderates during the early days of the Green Revolution in 2009, after the regime fixed an election. He effectively conceded Syria as within Iran’s sphere of influence.

In his penetrating book, “The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles, and the Secret Deals That Reshaped the Middle East,” Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon exposes the money trail that accompanied this strategic sellout to Iran. In exchange for talking, Obama gave the Iranians hundreds of millions of dollars monthly, stabilizing their economy. And in the end, Obama offered Iran a deal that legalized full-blown uranium, plutonium, and ballistic missile work on a timeline, and did not force the country to disclose its previous nuclear cheating. The deal also released roughly a hundred billion dollars to Iran; had American officials traveling to drum up business for Iran; and removed restrictions on a range of Iranian terrorists.

Along the way, the administration abandoned the powerful sanctions leverage it had over Iran. Solomon chronicles the ramp-up of severe banking sanctions on Iran that were having a disastrous impact on the Iranian economy. “Iran’s economy was at risk of disintegrating, the result of one of the most audacious campaigns in the history of statecraft. The country was months away from running short on hard currency. The budget had a $200 billion black hole. And the U.S. Treasury Department had made sure Iran had no way to recover. Iranian ships and airplanes were not welcome beyond Iran’s borders, and oil revenue was frozen in overseas accounts.”

And then, behold, Obama backed off. Administration officials all of a sudden claimed that tightening the noose on the Iranian economy would cause the sanctions policy to collapse! And Secretary of State John Kerry was sent to cut a sweet deal with Iran; a deal that squandered — and then reversed — a decade’s worth of effort to constrain Iran.

Now Trump must act to constrain Iran all over again.

Over the past year, Iran has intensified a pattern of aggression and increased its footprint across the region. Iranian advisers with Shiite militias from as far away as Afghanistan have flooded Syria, giving Tehran a military arc of influence stretching to the Mediterranean.

Khamenei says that Iran’s massive military presence (alongside Hezbollah) in Syria is a supreme security interest for the regime — a front line against Israel — and that Iran has no plans to leave.

This has grave implications for Israel. Netanyahu must demand of Trump (and Putin) to include the removal of all foreign forces, especially Iran, in any future agreement regarding Syria. This will be very difficult — especially since Russia has just signed a long-term agreement to greatly enlarge its military presence in Syria, including the port in Tartus and air base in Latakia.

Iran, too, is aggressively expanding its naval presence in the Red Sea region and eastern Mediterranean. Since 2011, it has been sending warships through the Suez Canal, and has used maritime routes to send arms shipments to Hizballah and Hamas. (Israel has intercepted five of these armament ships.) And in the Strait of Hormuz, IRGC speedboats have repeatedly engaged in provocative encounters with American warships, including the conduct of surprise live rocket fire exercises in proximity to U.S. Navy vessels.

Then there is Iranian terrorism. IRGC agents have been caught planning attacks on Israeli, American, British and Saudi targets in Kenya. Over the past five years, Iranian agents were exposed while planning to attack Israeli diplomats in Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, India, Nigeria, Thailand and Turkey. Hezbollah operatives supported by Iran carried out the bus bombing of Israeli tourists at the Burgas airport.

Also: The detailing of Iranian terrorism in Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia could fill this entire newspaper.

Then there is Iran’s ballistic missile program. In December, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz sent a seven-page letter to three senior officials of the Obama administration, detailing his well-founded concerns that North Korea and Iran might be working together on developing nuclear missiles. (Not surprisingly, the Obama officials never answered.)

Cruz’s basic question was: Why does Iran, having promised not to make nuclear weapons, continue to pour resources into developing long-range ballistic missiles, including numerous missile tests this past year? If not for nuclear weapons, then for what?

The intrepid analyst Claudia Rosett continually has raised the suspicion that North Korea’s nuclear program is secretly doubling as a nuclear backshop for Iran. It’s very possible that the $1.7 billion in air-freighted cash that Obama granted Iran is being used to finance nuclear weapons and missile research in North Korea. It’s even possible that Iran may be bold enough to buy warheads from North Korea.

Only Washington can stop this, by re-isolating and pressuring Iran. Netanyahu should travel to Trump with a comprehensive plan to influence U.S. policy toward Iran, as well as plans for joint action against Tehran.

This should include an end to the secrecy surrounding many sections of the JCPOA. All side agreements should be disclosed relating to Iranian technology acquisitions, raw material quantities, uranium and plutonium enrichment levels, sanctions relief and financial transfers. Loopholes and exceptions made surreptitiously by Obama should be closed.

Penalties should be set firmly in place for Iran’s prohibited missile programs. (Such penalties do not exist in the JCPOA or in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231.)

U.S. and Israeli resources should be pooled, in a renewed and formal U.S.-Israel agreement, to uncover and eliminate any undisclosed sites within Iran connected to nuclear weapons technology; to counter Iranian terror threats across the region; and to subvert any Iranian bases in Syria and Lebanon.

In fact, the U.S. and Israel should reach an accord on a basket of responses to Iranian violations and aggressions, including the placement of a military option against Iran’s nuclear program back on the table.

Trump and Netanyahu must together promulgate an approach for combating the malign influence and hegemonic ambitions of Iran.

Iran: How Will Rafsanjani’s Death Affect Regime?

January 11, 2017

Iran: How Will Rafsanjani’s Death Affect Regime? Iran News Update, January 10, 2017

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In his January 10 article for Al-Arabiya,, Heshmat Alavi, political and rights activist who focuses on Iran, writes about the effect of senior cleric Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s death by heart attack on Sunday, January 8, at the age of 82.

As Rafsanjani was known for his influential role in shaping the regime’s politics following the 1979 revolution, the Iranian regime was dealt a significant blow, and a power vacuum is created, less than four months prior to crucial presidential elections.

Rafsanjani’s role for the past 38 years helped maintain the regime’s measures of domestic crackdown, export of terrorism and extremism abroad, and their effort to obtain nuclear weapons, according to Alavi. 

“The death of Rafsanjani, one of the pillars of the religious fascism ruling Iran and its balance factor collapsed, and the regime in its entirety is closer now to its overthrow,” said Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

After Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, Rafsanjani served as president from 1989 to 1997. He ran again for office again in 2005, but lost the election to firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In recent years, Rafsanjani has been mentoring the so-called “moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, and was known for his fierce rivalry with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Although known for his close ties to the regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini, who died in 1989, the West believed him to be a “pragmatic conservative” willing to mend fences with the outside world, especially the US.

Rafsanjani’s last post was head of the Expediency Council, a body assigned to resolve conflicts between the regime’s parliament (Majlis) and the Guardian Council, which has close links to Khamenei, and vets all candidates based on their loyalty to the establishment before any so-called elections. Rafsanjani himself was disqualified by the Guardian Council when he sought to participate in the 2013 elections as a “reformist” candidate.

Instead, Rafsanjani placed his power behind Rowhani after the latter assumed power as president in 2013.  Rafsanjani used this position to “carve himself and his family an economic empire from the country’s institutions and natural resources in the past decades,” writes Alavi.

“One brother headed the country’s largest copper mine; another took control of the state-owned TV network; a brother-in-law became governor of Kerman province, while a cousin runs an outfit that dominates Iran’s $400 million pistachio export business; a nephew and one of Rafsanjani’s sons took key positions in the Ministry of Oil; another son heads the Tehran Metro construction project (an estimated $700 million spent so far),” states a 2003 Forbes analysis, which also alludes to the billions cached in Swiss and Luxembourg bank accounts by the Rafsanjanis.

While the West was convinced that Rafsanjani was more moderate than his “hardline” counterparts, he went along with them in suppressing dissidents, namely members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main opposition group that first blew the whistle on Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

“Four rulings are a must for the [PMOI]: 1- Be killed. 2- Be hanged. 3- Arms and legs be amputated. 4- Be separated from society,” Rafsanjani said back in 1981. He also played a presiding role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners.

During his presidency, Rafsanjani allegedly directed numerous assassinations of dissidents abroad, including renowned human rights advocated Dr. Kazem Rajavi, former Iranian ambassador to Italy Mohammad Hossein Naghdi and Iranian Kurdish leader Abdulrahman Ghassemlou.  He was also indicted for his role in the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires that left 85 killed and hundreds wounded.

Alavi writes, “Rafsanjani has through four decades of mullahs’ rule in Iran played the role of the regime’s No. 2 figure and a balancing element, always securing the regime’s higher interests. His death will significantly weaken the mullahs’ regime in its entirety and will trigger major upheavals across the regime’s hierarchy.”  He concludes by saying, “If past is any indication, the mullahs will most likely resort to further violence and the export of terrorism and extremism to prevent this newest crisis from spiraling out of control.”

The NCRI referred to Rafsanjani as “one of the two pillars and ‘key to the equilibrium’ of the Iranian regime,” adding that, “during his long career he was associated with some of the regime’s most egregious actions, including mass-casualty terror attacks and the assassinations of exiled dissidents.”

Rafsanjani is considered as one of its founding fathers of the Iranian regime, who played an outsized political role in the life of the Islamic republic, not only by serving as President after serving as Speaker of Parliament and Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces, but also heading two of the regime’s most important institutions, the Assembly of Experts, an 88-member body of top clerics which nominates the Supreme Leader; and the Expediency Council, a body that advises the Supreme Leader.

“Rafsanjani, who had always been the regime’s number two, acted as its balancing factor and played a decisive role in its preservation. Now, the regime will lose its internal and external equilibrium,” opposition leader Maryam Rajavi said in a statement that also referred to the “approaching overthrow” of the clerical regime.

On January 9 the NCRI published a list, outlining some of his outrageous conduct:

• Rafsanjani called for the extermination of members of Iran’s main opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK). On October 3, 1981, the state-run Ettela’at daily wrote, “Referring to the grouplets’ operations, Hashemi Rafsanjani, Speaker of the Islamic Parliament and Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leader, said in his sermon, ‘Divine law defines four sentences for them which must be carried out: 1 – kill them, 2 – hang them, 3 – cut off their arms and legs, 4 – banish them…‘Had we caught and executed 200 of them right after the Revolution, they would not have multiplied so much. If we don’t deal decisively with [Mojahedin] armed grouplet and agents of America and the Soviet Union today, in three years we will have to execute thousands of them instead of one thousand now…”

• According to Hossein-Ali Montazeri, Khomeini’s former heir, Khomeini sought counsel on his decisions from just two individuals: Rafsanjani and current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, including his decision to issue a fatwa ordering the massacre of at least 30,000 political prisoners at the end of the Iran-Iraq war in the summer of 1988.

During Rafsanjani’s tenure as President and as head of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), a body that oversees and authorizes the regime’s terrorist operations, the assassination of Iranian dissidents abroad and the regime’s terror attacks skyrocketed. The terror targets were not only Iranians.

• Rafsanjani’s remarks on May 5, 1989 as carried by Iran’s official state news agency IRNA , and were reported by The Associated Press:: “If in retaliation for every Palestinian martyred in Palestine, they will kill and execute, not inside Palestine, five Americans or Britons or Frenchmen, the Israelis could not continue to do these wrongs… It is not hard to kill Americans or Frenchmen. It is a bit difficult to Kill [Israelis]. But there are so many [Americans and Frenchmen] everywhere in the world.”

• Argentinian investigators implicated Rafsanjani in 2006, in one of the deadliest instances of Iranian terrorism abroad – a suicide truck bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed in 1994.  The investigators accused Iran of instructing Hezbollah to carry out the bombing. They issued arrest warrants for Rafsanjani, seven other senior Iranians, and a Lebanese national, Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah terrorist chief.

Interpol, at Argentina’s request, issued red notices – the organization’s equivalent of arrest warrants – for five of the Iranians and Mughniyah.

• The FBI established undeniable evidence that Tehran had masterminded the deaths of 19 American servicemen, in the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia on June 25, 1996.

According to the NCRI, these are some of the most significant killings of prominent dissidents abroad during Rafsanjani’s tenure:

• In 1992, four Iranian Kurdish dissidents in a Berlin restaurant called Mykonos were assassinated. A German court ruled in 1996 that the Iranian regime under Rafsanjani was directly responsible for the killings, which the U.S. State Department said provided further proof that Iran was a terrorist state.

• Maryam Rajavi’s brother-in-law, Kazem Rajavi of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) – Iran’s most renowned human rights advocate and a former Iranian ambassador to the U.N. was shot dead near Geneva in 1990. Swiss investigators accused the Iranian regime of responsibility and authorities issued an arrest warrant for Rafsanjani’s intelligence minister, Ali Fallahian.

• Mohammad Hossein Naghdi, the NCRI representative in Rome, was shot dead on a street in the Italian capital in March 1993.

• Zahra Rajabi, the NCRI’s representative on refugee issues, was shot dead with an NCRI colleague in an Istanbul apartment in February 1996.

Rafsanjani was the one who pushed the Iranian clandestine nuclear weapons program forward as a guarantor of the regime’s survival. He cooperated with countries like North Korea to achieve these objectives.

Rafsanjani acknowledged that during his time as parliamentary speaker and President, both he and Khamenei sought ways to obtain a nuclear bomb in an interview published by the regime’s official state news agency IRNA on October 27, 2015. “Our basic doctrine was always a peaceful nuclear application, but it never left our mind that if one day we should be threatened and it was imperative, we should be able to go down the other path,” Rafsanjani said.  He added he had travelled to Pakistan to try to meet Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, who later helped North Korea to develop a bomb. Fortunately, the meeting never occurred.

The Madness of King Barry (or not)

January 10, 2017

The Madness of King Barry (or not), Power Line, Scott Johnson, January 9, 2017 

If one hypothesized that President Obama’s object in entering into the JCPOA was to block Iran from acquiring a nuclear arsenal, one might conclude that the man is madder than King George III in the Regency Crisis. Indeed, so it seems, more evidence emerges every day to support the hypothesis. You begin to think you might be on to something.

In the alternative, one might hypothesize that President Obama seeks to facilitate and finance Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear arsenal, and to protect its program from disruption until such team as Iran seeks to go for it forthrightly. In this case, although one shrinks from the conclusion, Obama’s actions appear rationally calculated to achieve their objective.

Today’s news brings us additional evidence in the form of the AP exclusive reporting that Iran is to obtain a massive batch of natural uranium from Russia with the blessing of President Obama. The AP reports:

Two senior diplomats said the transfer recently agreed by the U.S. and five other world powers that negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran foresees delivery of 116 metric tons (nearly 130 tons) of natural uranium. U.N. Security Council approval is needed but a formality, considering five of those powers are permanent Security Council members, they said.

The AP helpfully explains:

Uranium can be enriched to levels ranging from reactor fuel or medical and research purposes to the core of an atomic bomb. Iran says it has no interest in such weapons and its activities are being closely monitored under the nuclear pact to make sure they remain peaceful.

Tehran already got a similar amount of natural uranium in 2015 as part of negotiations leading up to the nuclear deal, in a swap for enriched uranium it sent to Russia. But the new shipment will be the first such consignment since the deal came into force a year ago.

The AP adds this for those of us trying to sort out the madness or not of King Barry:

The natural uranium agreement comes at a sensitive time. With the incoming U.S. administration and many U.S. lawmakers already skeptical of how effective the nuclear deal is in keeping Iran’s nuclear program peaceful over the long term, they might view it as further evidence that Tehran is being given too many concessions.

The diplomats said any natural uranium transferred to Iran after the deal came into effect would be under strict surveillance by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency for 25 years after implementation of the deal.

Let me add: “…for 25 years after implementation of the deal or until such time as Iran chooses to pull the plug on the phony baloney JCPOA.”

Back to the diplomats speaking to the AP:

They said Tehran has not said what it would do with the uranium but could choose to store it or turn it into low-enriched uranium and then export it for use as reactor fuel.

Despite present restrictions on its enrichment program, the amount of natural uranium is significant should Iran decide to keep it in storage, considering its potential uses once some limits on Tehran’s nuclear activities start to expire in less than a decade.

Here the AP goes outside Obama’s circle of love for informed comment:

David Albright, whose Institute of Science and International Security often briefs U.S. lawmakers on Iran’s nuclear program, says the shipment could be enriched to enough weapons-grade uranium for more than 10 simple nuclear bombs, “depending on the efficiency of the enrichment process and the design of the nuclear weapon.”

Omri Ceren adds these comments by email (footnotes omitted):

The 2015 nuclear deal obligated Iran to keep no more than 130 metric tonnes of heavy water, a material used in the production of weapons-grade plutonium.

But the Iranians have continued to produce heavy water, and they exceeded the cap in February and November. The violations functionally blackmailing the Obama administration: either someone would purchase the excess heavy water, allowing Iran to literally profit from violating the deal, or the Iranians would go into formal noncompliance, endangering the deal.

After the Iranians violated the deal in February the Obama administration purchased the excess heavy water for $8.6 million. After they violated the deal in November State Department spokesperson Toner refused to call the overproduction a violation — “I’m not going to use the V word necessarily in this case” — and the Iranians eventually found someone else to purchase the excess.

The Associated Press just revealed that in addition to getting millions of dollars, the Iranians are also getting 116 metric tons of uranium in exchange for their heavy water. That’s enough for more than 10 nuclear bombs. The Obama administration has approved those terms [reported in the AP story]…

There are no diplomatic or technical reasons Iran needs to sell excess heavy water to avoid violating the deal: the Iranians could 1st, stop producing heavy water or 2nd, dump the excess in a river, since it’s just water. Obama officials have separately suggested that Iranian over-production is a win-win because there are shortages in the global market, but: there are no shortages, even if there were the Iranians are substandard suppliers, and using the Iranians may create actual shortages by kneecapping the existing legitimate suppliers.

We report, you decide.

In its Last Days, Obama Administration Clings to Hope of a Positive Role for Iran

January 8, 2017

In its Last Days, Obama Administration Clings to Hope of a Positive Role for Iran, Iran News Update, January 7, 2017

(Iran News Update 

Iran News Update (INU) features news, analysis, and commentary on events inside Iran and the Iranian Diaspora around the world.  News and information is provided in cooperation with the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the parliament in exile of the Iranian Resistance, and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

— DM)

hstaee-750

Kerry’s remarks seem to imply that the Obama administration’s early claims about Iranian moderation will continue to be repeated until it departs the office. But the incoming administration cannot be expected to pick up that thread. And articles like the above-mentioned Fox News editorial indicate that on such issues as Iran’s coordination with America’s enemies, Donald Trump and his advisors will recognize the continuance of Tehran’s worst behaviors.

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On Friday, Fox News published an editorial on the topic of recent nuclear threats from North Korea. As well as being a longstanding thorn in the side of the United States, the Korean dictatorship’s obsession with nuclear weapons development has also variously exposed the cooperation between Iran and other enemies of Western democracies.

This cooperation was highlighted in the Fox News article, with specific reference to a number of instances of Iran helping North Korea with its nuclear program. In the view of the author and other critics of recent US foreign policy, this assistance has effectively been further enabled by a conciliatory approach to dealing with the Iranian nuclear program. As well as failing to address this alleged cooperation while negotiating the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, the Obama administration has also taken very little punitive action against Iran following its post-agreement ballistic missile tests, which were conducted in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions on the matter.

This has arguably given North Korea the impression that the United States is presently either unwilling or unable to react to such tests, of which the Fox News article says the east Asian dictatorship conducted 20 in the past year alone. But to whatever extent Obama-era permissiveness encouraged these activities, that permissiveness is all but certain to end when Donald Trump assumes the presidency on January 20. And the Fox News article concludes with recommendations as to what Trump can do to prevent North Korea’s nuclear development and missile testing.

Those recommendations include bolstering US defensive capabilities along the West Coast, and also constraining “enablers” of North Korean development, chiefly the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, the appropriate means for such constraint remain a serious topic of dispute. On the campaign trail, Trump frequently accused the Obama administration of handing the Iranians a nuclear agreement that brought little benefit to the West. He also threatened to tear it up – a measure that theoretically would have taken the world community back to the drawing board and allowed it to pursue a more comprehensive suite of Iranian concessions.

But subsequent to his election, Trump has taken a different tack, promoting renegotiation of the existing deal instead of its cancellation. Even some Republicans who opposed the deal or viewed it as seriously flawed have taken a similar view. As an example, The Guardian featured an article on Friday that detailed the input offered to Trump by Bob Corker, the Republican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has been insistent that tearing up the nuclear deal would create more problems than it would solve, and that the best way forward is to enforce its existing provisions much more strictly than the Obama administration has done.

Iran has at various times been caught in the midst of small violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, including two instances of exceeding the deal’s defined limits on Iranian stockpiles of heavy water, a nuclear byproduct. The absence of consequences for these violations has gone a long way toward promoting the perception of the outgoing administration’s permissiveness. And there has been a great deal of associated speculation and analysis of the reasons for this. The most natural explanations deal with the administration’s fear of endangering Iranian participation in the agreement. But the situation may also be more complex than this and include worries about antagonizing Iran at a time when its participation in regional conflicts is occasionally viewed as a positive thing.

Real Clear Politics points out that this perspective was explicitly expressed by Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “Together, Iran and Russia had to prop [Assad] up, and save him from the possibility that the extremists might take over the country,” Kerry said, apparently deviating from previous US positions calling for Assad’s ouster and promoting the possibility of a victory by moderate rebel groups led by the Free Syrian Army.

Iran and Russia have widely been credited with not only preventing Assad’s fall to these groups, but also with damaging them so severely as to push the Syrian Civil War toward a situation in which the only choices for the country’s future are the established Assad dictatorship and the militant rebels affiliated with ISIL and the Al Nusra Front. Meanwhile, Iran has done its best to advance the notion that its own interests in the region are adverse to Islamic extremism. But Tehran’s pro-democratic opposition the National Council of Resistance of Iran has often referred to the Islamic Republic as the “prototype” for Islamic extremism throughout the world.

On Friday, The Iran Project pointed to recent statements by Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, claiming that Iran has always been committed to a political solution in Syria. If taken at face value, those comments can be expected to encourage Kerry’s notion that under current circumstances, a victory for Iran in Syria is a defeat for Islamic terrorism. But the trouble with this claim is that it can only be reasonably defended if one takes “Islamic terrorism” to refer only to “Sunni terrorism.”

As a major part of Iran’s strategy not only in Syria but also in Iraq and Yemen, it has directed recruitment and deployment of multitudes of Shiite militant groups to those battlefields. Previous reports have confirmed that many of these groups swear allegiance to the Islamic Republic over and above the governments of the countries in which they are operating. In this way, Iran is evidently extending its Hezbollah model of foreign influence into other part of the region. And in Syria, it is a well-known fact that Iran is actually utilizing the Lebanese paramilitary group to strengthen its operations and build a large-scale network that spans several nearby countries.

On Thursday, Xinhua News Agency pointed out that the Iranian leadership had fervently disputed rumors that Hezbollah would be withdrawing from the Syrian Civil War. It is not clear what the ultimate source of those rumors was. But they are possibly rooted in Turkey’s demands for such a withdrawal as part of a political solution to the crisis, or else in the outgoing US administration’s optimism about Iranian “moderation” and willingness to cooperate over important foreign affairs. But although Boroujerdi’s comments about a desire for a political solution promote this perception, they are belied by the Iranian leadership’s clear unwillingness to withdraw its militant proxies, even as they continue to violate ceasefire agreements negotiated by Turkey, Russia, and others.

Nevertheless, Kerry’s remarks seem to imply that the Obama administration’s early claims about Iranian moderation will continue to be repeated until it departs the office. But the incoming administration cannot be expected to pick up that thread. And articles like the above-mentioned Fox News editorial indicate that on such issues as Iran’s coordination with America’s enemies, Donald Trump and his advisors will recognize the continuance of Tehran’s worst behaviors.

Iran’s New Indigenous Air Defence System

January 3, 2017

Iran’s New Indigenous Air Defence System, Gatestone InstituteDebalina Ghoshal, January 3, 2016

Clearly, if Iran continues to develop long range launch capabilities, it could choose destabilize the entire Middle East region, and directly threaten Israel and Europe.

The rapid development of an advanced system such as the Bavar-3 demonstrates that the Iranians are capable of developing not only defensive but also offensive weapons systems, even as Iran remains prohibited under the present UNSC Resolution 2231 (2015) from developing surface-to-surface nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

If Iran continues to develop offensive nuclear and long-range ballistic missile capabilities, the international community may be in for an unpleasant surprise — awakening to find a nuclear-armed Iran protected by sophisticated, hardened air defences. By then, the balance of power in the Middle East will be altered irreversibly.

While Western governments and NATO continue to congratulate themselves on the Iranian nuclear deal, in Tehran it is business as usual as the regime continues to plan for war.

In August 2016, on Iran’s National Defense Industry Day, the mullahs unveiled a sophisticated, domestically-built air-defence system — a surface-to-air long range missile system called the Bavar-373 [“Belief”]. Iran’s system was commissioned in 2010, when UN sanctions suspended a deal for Iran to purchase additional S-300 air defence systems from Russia.

As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani bragged with complete accuracy, “The Islamic Republic is one of the eight countries in the world who have mastered the technology to build these engines.” Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan claimed that Iran would begin mass production by the end of 2016. As the Bavar-373 is made entirely from domestic components, it can be manufactured and deployed even in the face of future sanctions.

2179Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (right) poses with the Bavar-373 air-defense system, August 21, 2016. (Image source: Fars News/Wikimedia Commons)

Bavar-373 is a marked upgrade from previous Iranian air defence capabilities. It is reportedly mounted on a Zafar 8×8 special wheeled chassis, designed to operate both on and off roads, with an operational range of 800km. The system uses Sayyed-3 category canister-launched missiles along with target acquisition radar, target engagement radar, and phased-array radar. The Sayyed-3 missiles hit mid-altitude targets with greater destructive power and increased range and speed than previous generations of Iranian missiles.

The Iranians claim, probably accurately, that the Bavar will be capable of downing bombers and other combat aircraft including helicopters and drones. Many reports confirm that the Bavar is superior to the Russian S-300, as it has greater mobility, better targeting capability, and faster launch preparation.

The Bavar is just one of Iran’s moves to develop military self-sufficiency in order to circumvent future sanctions. While still purchasing some components from Russia, Iran is clearly planning to go it alone in the future — especially with ballistic and cruise missile technology. The rapid development of an advanced system such as the Bavar-3 demonstrates that the Iranians are capable of developing not only defensive but also offensive weapons systems, even as Iran remains prohibited under the present UNSC Resolution 2231 (2015) from developing surface-to-surface nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. Clearly, if Iran continues to develop long range launch capabilities it could choose to destabilize the entire Middle East region and directly threaten Israel and Europe.

Iran’s intentions appear ominous. Tehran continues to deploy defensive systems at nuclear and military sites throughout the country, apparently concerned about a potential Israeli strike. Even more worrisome, the Bavar system could make any attack by Israel or NATO extremely difficult and costly.

If Iran continues to develop offensive nuclear and long-range ballistic missile capabilities, the international community may be in for an unpleasant surprise — awakening to find a nuclear-armed Iran protected by sophisticated, hardened air defences. By then, the balance of power in the Middle East will be altered irreversibly.