Archive for the ‘Iranian nukes’ category

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh: Why the Islamist State of Iran is So Dangerous

March 22, 2017

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh: Why the Islamist State of Iran is So Dangerous, Clarion ProjectElliot Friedland, March 22, 2017

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh. (Photo: Supplied)

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a world-renowned Iranian-American political scientist,  businessman and author. He is a leading expert on Iran, Middle East, US foreign policy, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East and North Africa. Harvard-educated, Rafizadeh serves on the board on Harvard International Review. Born in Iran, Dr. Rafizadeh lived most of his life in Iran and Syria.

He can be reached on Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh or by email at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu

He graciously agreed to speak with Clarion Project Dialogue Coordinator Elliot Friedland about Iran and why he feels so strongly about the threat posed by the regime. The views expressed below are those of Dr. Rafizadeh’s and not necessarily those of Clarion Project.

1. Clarion Project: What do you think is so dangerous about the regime of Iran?

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh: There are so many reasons why the Islamist state of Iran is extremely dangerous. They could fill an entire book.

Briefly speaking, I believe there are four major reasons, or what I will call, five concentric forces of extremism and fundamentalism:

First of all, from my perspective, the Iranian regime is far more dangerous than terrorist groups such as the Islamic State or Al Qaeda. On a daily basis, Iran tortures and executes people on a much larger scale than terrorist organizations such as ISIS. It is the top state sponsor of terrorism in the world. It supports militarily and financially hundreds of militia and terrorist groups all around the world. It regularly gives birth to terrorist groups. Only one country, the Islamist state of Iran single-handedly assists almost one quarter of world-designated terrorist groups. The Iranian regime contributes in terrorist attacks around the world. This means that the Iranian regime is responsible for blood spilled across many nations, for the slaughter of countless victims of terrorism. Iran has placed spies, lobbyists and agents across the globe, even in the U.S.

The Iranian regime is more dangerous than ISIS and Al Qaeda combined because the Islamist state of Iran operates under the “legitimacy” of the state system. Unlike ISIS or Al Qaeda, the Iranian regime has easily gotten away with its brutal actions for almost four decades because it is a “government” and supported by the United Nations when it comes to sovereignty. Since the ruling clerics rule a country, no one questions their actions.

Unlike terrorists groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, the Iranian regime has powerful ballistic missiles which can hit any country in the region; it has military institutions, it hires hundreds of thousands of militiamen, it freely controls the wealth of a large nation and wields all of the influence that comes with it. Instead of solely focusing on ISIS, the international community should also address the Iranian regime.

A military parade in Iran. (Photo: Getty Images)

 

Secondly, the Iranian regime is a radical theocracy. This means that its core pillars are anchored in radical Islamism and extreme interpretations of the religion of Islam. The Iranian regime imposes strict Shia sharia laws to suppress and control its population and export its ideology beyond its borders.  For nearly four decades, the ruling political establishment has exploited Islam and used their fundamentalist version of Islam in order to advance its parochial, religious, ideological, revolutionary and political interests. From the Iranian regime’s perspective, it is mandatory to commit any act of terrorism necessary to advance these religious and political goals.

Third, the Iranian regime ranks at the very top when it comes to human rights abuses according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. This regime brutally cracks down on religious and ethnic minorities. It crushes all kinds of freedoms on a daily basis, engages in torture, and executes children.

Fourth, the Iranian regime’s objective is to spread its Shia radical Islamism across the globe. The Islamist state of Iran’s constitution clearly states that it is the mission of the Islamic state to export its ideology, religion and revolutionary principles beyond its borders. The functions of Iran’s Quds Force, proxies, lobbyists and agents among others, are to accomplish this goal. The constitution mandates an “Imam” or “Velyat-e Faqih” to rule people; which is another form of authoritarian theocracy. The regime believes that the world will be ruled under the power of the Islamic state of Iran and its Shia sharia law. It will do anything to achieve this religious and political objective.

Fifth, the Iranian regime aims at directly damaging the US and Israel’s national security interests in addition to any other country that opposes its authoritarian views. The regime has killed Americans and Westerners and it continues to fund efforts to harm the lives of American and Israeli people, as well as millions of other people.

 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif laughs during the nuclear negotiations. (Photo: Reuters)

 

2. Clarion: The Iranian people are a lot more liberal than the regime. How can outside powers such as the United States reach out to and empower the people without emboldening the regime?

Rafizadeh: First of all, the U.S. government and other powers need to cooperate with those voices which oppose the theocratic and Islamist state of Iran. Powerful countries should stand on the right side of history.  There are many human rights groups and civil societies inside and outside of Iran that aim to democratize Iran and eliminate its violence. The U.S. specifically can help these people and unite the groups they form. It is in the long-term interest of any influential country that makes the effort to unify those that oppose the Islamic state and the human rights activists that struggle against it. Providing support to  opposition groups is an effective tool that will empower the Iranian people without emboldening the government. Seeing these groups strengthen and grow in numbers would frighten Iran’s government and weaken its grasp on the country as a whole.

Secondly, the U.S. and other powerful countries should cease all diplomatic, political, or economic ties with the Islamist state of Iran. They need to put pressure on the regime to respect human rights and to moderate its militaristic and ideological foreign policy. Four decades of diplomacy has not changed the violent behavior of the Islamist state of Iran.

A building in Tehran emblazoned with anti-American graffiti. (Photo: ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

3. Clarion: Now that the Iran Deal has gone through and will be upheld, what is the next step for those worried about the regime’s nuclear ambitions?

Rafizadeh: I strongly believe, and we should all be aware, that the Iranian regime will use every opportunity to acquire nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are the Iranian regime’s golden shield which can guarantee its rule for eternity and will ensure the achievement of its radical goals.

The nuclear deal is very dangerous. When it expires, it will allow Iran to legally become a nuclear state. It is already providing Iran with billions of dollars every year, wealth that is used for extremism, terrorism, damaging U.S. national interests, and killing Westerners and Americans.

The nuclear activities of the Iranian regime should be monitored by independent groups meticulously. History has shown us, that the International Atomic Energy Agency or the UN will not detect Iran’s undercover nuclear operations. They have failed to do so several times.  All violations should be brought to the attention of the public. In addition, sanctions (particularly the UN Security Council’s sanctions) should be re-imposed on the Iranian regime. The Iranian regime should be punished for its ballistic activities and violations of UN resolutions. Without consequences, they have no motivation to limit their activities or progress toward becoming a nuclear state.

Then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tours the nuclear facility at Natanz. (Photo: Reuters)

4. Clarion: Should international activists who want to see the Iranian situation improve be using a policy of detente and engagement or isolation, boycotts and shaming?

Rafizadeh: The only policy that has resulted in success against the Iranian Regime was the application of pressure and boycotts. For example, in several cases, when there has been an international outcry and when the media paid attention to a victim of torture or execution in Iran, the Iranian regime has been forced to change its sentence. The economic boycotts successfully forced the Iranian regime to the negotiating table.

For the Islamic state of Iran, engagement and concessions signal weakness, not diplomacy. Negotiations only embolden and empower the regime. Applying pressure is the most effective, and likely only way, to create change within the regime.

A woman protests against nuclear weapons for Iran at a rally in Times Square. (Photo: KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images

5.  Clarion: What is the most important thing people who want to eliminate extremism and see positive relations between Muslims and non Muslims should be doing?

Rafizadeh: The most important thing is to do what you [Clarion] are doing: to give a voice to those Muslims who strongly oppose radical Islam and attempt to create reforms from within Islam. Those silent moderate Muslims need to speak up, and need to be supported when they do. If we stay silent, radical Islam will continue winning and expanding. It is our job to strongly stand against radical Islam even if that endangers our life. People should know that there are truly some Muslims who want to forge genuine reformation in Islam and help eliminate radical Islam.

Many Muslims, including myself and my family, who have endured oppression under radical Islam in Muslim nations, would like to eliminate radical Islam, promote a peaceful moderate form of Islam and lead a reformation.

Finally, I describe in detail other important topics in this article “As a Muslim, I am shocked by Leftists and Liberals” as well as in my books.

I grew up between two authoritarian governments, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria, under the leadership of people such as Assad, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. My youth was influenced by two major denominations of Islam in the Muslim world; the Shia and Sunni. I also studied Shia and Sunni Islam academically, and at one point I was a very devout Muslim. My parents, who still live in Iran and Syria, come from two different ethnic Muslim groups; Arab and Persian.

Unfortunately, in the West and particularly in the US I have witnessed that there are some groups, who have access to megaphones, including liberals, democrats, leftists and Western Muslim scholars (who have never experienced radical Islam first hand and have never lived under states ruled by sharia law) spread apologetic views toward radical Islam. They also criticize those Muslims who attempt to promote social justice and peace within Islam.

If liberals, leftists and many Western Muslim scholars truly stand for values which they call for, such as peace and social justice, they should be aware that their actions are actually contributing to the expansion of radical Islam, and they are hurting us and our efforts to lead reformation in Islam and weaken radical Islam.

Iranian Dissidents Demand Investigation Into Islamic Regime’s Secret U.S. Lobbying Network

February 20, 2017

Iranian Dissidents Demand Investigation Into Islamic Regime’s Secret U.S. Lobbying Network, Washington Free Beacon, , February 20, 2017

An Iranian flag flies in front of the building where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, July 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

An Iranian flag flies in front of the building where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, July 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

A group of nearly 100 prominent Iranian dissidents is demanding that Congress launch investigations into clandestine efforts by the Islamic Republic to influence U.S. policy using a network of lobbyists and propaganda pieces placed in Voice of America’s Persian service, according to a letter sent to leading lawmakers and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The group of dissidents, composed of prominent Iranian voices that oppose the hardline regime in Tehran, says that Congress is not doing enough to expose the Iranian regime’s lobbying efforts in D.C. and propaganda network, which is said to include some at VOA Persia.

Iranian-American groups claiming to represent American interests are said to be carrying water for the Islamic regime inside the White House and on Capitol Hill, according to these dissident voices.

The letter cites VOA’s Persian service as a source of pro-Iran corruption. The Free Beacon has reported multiple times on claims that VOA has been infiltrated by Iran regime loyalists who seek to spin coverage in a favorable way for Tehran. In one instance, an Iranian dissident was barred from appearing on VOA Persia for voicing critical opinions about the regime.

The letter comes at a time when the Trump administration is seeking a tougher approach on Iran for its repeated violations of international accords governing the nuclear deal. The dissidents maintain that U.S. officials have been too soft on the regime and ignored its surreptitious efforts to make American diplomacy more generous to Tehran.

“We write to request a congressional hearing on the efforts of Tehran’s theocratic regime to influence U.S. policy and public diplomacy toward Iran,” the dissidents write to Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), the heads of Congress’ foreign affair committees, according to copies of the letter obtained by the Free Beacon.

“We ask that you launch an investigation into any and all lobbying activities of Iranian-American groups, which ostensibly promote the interests of our community but whose real goal is to undermine long-term U.S. national security interests in Iran and its neighborhood,” the dissidents write.

Organizations such as the National Iranian American Council, or NIAC, which played a key role in championing the Iran nuclear agreement and worked closely with the Obama administration, have long operated under a cloud of suspicion. Dissident voices maintain that NIAC in particular serves as a mouthpiece for Iran’s regime in the United States.

The group of dissidents—which includes foreign policy experts, university professors, interfaith leaders, prominent real estate developers, and human rights activists, among others—also requested that Congress shine a light on VOA Persia’s activities.

“We also ask that you launch an inquiry into the Voice of America’s Persian service, whose bloated budget is the largest of all language services under the VOA,” they write.

“There have been numerous instances of editorials by the VOA’s Persian service that have been lenient or favorable to Iran’s clerical despots. We consider this to be totally unacceptable and demoralizing for pro-democracy Iranians who watch these broadcasts.”

Such hearings would compliment past efforts by Congress to investigate corruption at VOA, including what many describe as its pro-Tehran bent.

Peter Kohanloo, a chief architect of the letter and president of the Iranian American Majority, told the Free Beacon that the missive represents an unprecedented effort by Iranian dissidents to expose the Iranian regime’s “influence-peddling agenda.”

“Never before have so many Iranian dissidents of different political persuasions and backgrounds come together to speak with one unified voice,” Kohanloo told the Free Beacon. “This historic letter is a clear and unmistakable message to Tehran that we will no longer tolerate their influence-peddling agenda, which divides our community and demoralizes pro-democracy activists in Iran.”

The group of dissidents informed lawmakers that they are all willing to testify publicly at congressional hearings on both of these matters.

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.

*********************************

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.