Archive for the ‘Iranian protests’ category

Iran: US sanctions against Ayatollah Larijani crossed red lines

January 13, 2018

Iran: US sanctions against Ayatollah Larijani crossed red lines, DEBKAfile, January 13, 2018

The Iranian Foreign Ministry warned Saturday that Tehran’s response to the Trump administration’s “hostile and illegal act” against chief justice Ayatollah Sadiq Larijani would be “severe.” Its sanctions list “has gone way beyond internationally accepted behavior and red lines,” the ministry said. “All consequences of this hostile act will be the responsibility of the United States.”

DEBKAfile: The sanctions list targeted Larijani – not only because he is one of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s closest associates, but as a deterrent. The chief justice is responsible for determining the fate of the nearly 4,000 demonstrators detained in the anti-government protests in the new year, amid reports of abuses and even deaths. It is hoped in Washington that Larijani will consider the tough penalties he faces if he hands out harsh punishments to the protesters.

Trump keeps Iran nuclear program, waives sanctions – for the last time

January 12, 2018

Trump keeps Iran nuclear program, waives sanctions – for the last time, DEBKAfile, January 12, 2018

Among the other entities blacklisted for sanctions are the Revolutionary Guards Corps cyber unit for repressing social media networks to suppress protest.

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US President Donald Trump Friday extended the waivers on Iran nuclear sanctions and kept alive the 2015 deal, but stressed this was for the last time – unless US and Europe can reach agreement on Iranian enrichment and ballistic missile development.  The US gave Europe 120 days to agree to overhaul the deal before the next deadline in May, or else the US would pull out. The US also imposed sanctions on 14 Iranian non-nuclear entities, including the powerful head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, for human rights abuses against anti-government protesters. Among the other entities blacklisted for sanctions are the Revolutionary Guards Corps cyber unit for repressing social media networks to suppress protest.

The Trump administration also wants the “follow-on” deal to eliminate the “sunset clauses” of the current nuclear agreement, under which Iran is allowed to resume enrichment when the deal expires, and expanded inspections that could trigger re-imposed sanctions if Iran failed to comply.

What we Have Learned From the Iran Protests

January 12, 2018

What we Have Learned From the Iran Protests, Iran News Update, January 11, 2018

INU – The Iran protests loom ever more important with U.S. President Trump’s upcoming on Friday regarding the Iran nuclear deal.

Although Iran’s state media claims the protests have come to an end, still, cities and towns continue to express their discontent. The struggle remains, between the Iranian people and this regime — already weakened by domestic unrest, internal rifts, and international pressures.

An important issue that sets this apart from the previous nationwide protests in 2009 and 1999 is the reference made by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to the party behind these rallies. While Tehran pointing fingers at Washington, London, Israel and the Saudis is not new, Khamenei made a statement in which he pointed to the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The significance of this is that it may be an indication of the regime’s real concerns.

According to Reuters, “As well as Washington and London, Khamenei blamed the violence on Israel, exiled dissident group People’s Mujahedin of Iran and ‘a wealthy government’ in the Gulf, a probable reference to Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia.”

In his article for Forbes, Heshmat Alavi writes, “This recent wave of protests is setting the grounds with new sets of rules and understandings.” Displayed below, are what Alavi indicates as these new rules and understandings:

1) The Iranian people no longer fear in expressing their true feelings, seen in the nationwide slogan of “Death to Khamenei.” Such a brave measure in the past would bear the potential of earning you a heavy prison term, if not a death sentence.

Once the Islamic Republic’s greatest taboo, chanting “Death to Khamenei” is now the norm in #Iran.Southern schoolkids chant against regime’s Supreme Leader. Doesn’t take a genius to work out Khamenei’s approval rating among parents in the city – via #MEK activists. #IranProtests — M. Hanif Jazayeri (@HanifJazayeri) 2:58 PM – Jan 8, 2018

2) Unlike previous uprisings, these demonstrations are mushrooming across the country, reaching over 130 cities and towns, according to activists. Places less heard of before, such as Izeh, Dorud, Shahin Shahr and etc. are now seen leading the growing wave of protests. Brave demonstrators are threatening the regime’s very pillars to an extent that security forces have opened fire and killed dozens of protesters, arresting thousands, according to reports.

3) From the second day of this uprising protesters have shown their overcoming of prior fears through responding to the security forces’ attacks and quelling. State vehicles, motorcycles, makeshift police stations and other facilities are being set ablaze by protesters in response to the regime’s unbridled crackdown.

Iran’s cyber war over 48 million smartphone users was sparked by protest demos

January 8, 2018

Iran’s cyber war over 48 million smartphone users was sparked by protest demos. DEBKAfile, January 8, 2018

Tehran’s Internet shutdown, its doomsday weapon for breaking up the new year’s anti-government protests, was routed with astonishing speed.

The successful cyber campaign, waged against Iran by certain Western and Arab intelligence agencies led by the US, during the week-long protest rallies across Iran, is gradually breaking surface. Two new comments shed light on this contest and the future direction of Iran’s protest movement after it petered out last Thursday.

Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo corrected Fox Sunday interviewer Chris Wallace on Jan. 7, who noted that the wave of demonstrations was over. Pompeo put in firmly: “They are not behind us” – meaning that, according to his information, more are on the way.

And in Tehran, new Iranian laws have cut English classes out of the primary school curriculum after supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ruled that learning English at an early age paves the way for the West’s “cultural invasion.” The Shiite theocracy is clearly engaged in another desperate bid to segregate the population from external influences. Khamenei hopes to achieve this by depriving the next generation of the essential key for accessing the world web – the English language.

But when every second Iranian holds a smartphone complete with apps in his pocket, totally shutting down social media communications proved beyond the powers of the regime’s cyber experts last week. They tried and failed to block Iran’s most popular Telegram app, which has 40 million users, in order to disrupt communications among the protest rallies.

Before the eruption of this upheaval, Western intelligence agencies had ranked Iran as the sixth cyber power in the world after the US, Britain, China, Russia and Israel. But when Western and Arab agencies operating behind the anti-government movement acted to reverse the government shutdown and restore the networks, they were amazed to find how easy it was. The US State Department played its part by encouraging virtual private networks to help users gain access to blocked websites. In no time, the cyber weapon had slipped out the grasp of the ayatollahs’ regime.

DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources were not surprised to learn that Tehran was sending out feelers to Moscow and Beijing appealing for expert assistance to combat Western raids on its communications networks. This has put Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping in an awkward position. Neither is inclined at this moment to run slam up against President Donald Trump on Iran, certainly not in the field of cyber warfare. For Russia, which is already entangled in siding with Iran’s military positions in Syria, the cyber issue is an ultra-sensitive subject for his overt and covert relations with Washington. The Chinese president is in the same boat as Putin.

The Ayatollah Empire Is Rotting Away

January 7, 2018

The Ayatollah Empire Is Rotting Away, TabletEdward N. Luttwak, January 7, 2018

 

There is no need to laboriously negotiate a new set of sanctions against Iran—strict, swift, and public enforcement of the restrictions that are already on the books is enough. Every time a South Korean regime-related deal is detected, the offenders need a quick reminder they will be excluded from the United States if they persist. In this, as in everything else, it is just a matter of getting serious in our focus on Iran.

Obama was serious in his courtship of the ayatollahs’ regime. Trump should do the same to bring the regime to an end, faster

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Ronald Reagan, who outraged the Washington elite and frightened European leaders by flatly refusing coexistence with the Soviet Union, lived to see its sudden decline and fall. There is a fair chance that Donald Trump, who contradicts Barack Obama and Europe’s leaders by refusing coexistence with Iran’s ayatollah empire, will also have the satisfaction of seeing the dissolution of a regime that Obama among many others preferred to accommodate.

Whether or not this past weekend’s mass demonstrations in Iran will spread, whether a second revolution is imminent or not, the numbers for the ayatollah empire just don’t add up. A breakdown is materially inevitable.

With some 80 million people, and with oil accounting for 80 percent of its exports, Iran would need to export some 25 million barrels a day to make a go of it, but it can barely export 2.5 million. That would be luxuriously ample for the likes of Abu Dhabi with fewer than 800,000 citizens, but it is a miserable pittance for Iran, with a population more than 100 times as large.

Iran cannot even match the $6,000 income per capita of Botswana. That most fashionable of safari destinations is a fine and well-governed country to be sure, and far from poor by African standards—but then its citizens are not required to pay for extensive nuclear installations, which are very costly to maintain even in their current semi-frozen state, or for the manufacture of a very broad range of weapons—from small arms to ballistic missiles—for which much expensive tooling is imported daily from the likes of our own dear ally South Korea. Neither is Botswana mounting large-scale military expeditions in support of a foreign dictator at war with 80 percent of his own population or providing generous funding for the world’s largest terrorist organization, Hezbollah, whose cocaine-smuggling networks and local extortion rackets cannot possibly cover tens of thousands of salaries. The ayatollah empire is doing all those things, which means that average Iranians are actually much poorer than their Botswanian counterparts.

You would never know it looking at photographs of Tehran, one more bombastic capital city fattened on intercepted oil revenues and graft, but Iran is dirt poor. I recently saw Iran’s general poverty at first-hand driving through one of Iran’s supposedly more prosperous rural districts. In an improvised small market next to a truck stop, several grown men were selling livestock side by side, namely ducks. Each had a stock of three or four ducks, which looked like their total inventory for the day.

That is what happens in an economy whose gross domestic product computes at under $6,000 per capita: very low productivity, very low incomes. The 500,000 or so Iranians employed in the country’s supposedly modern automobile industry are not productive enough to make exportable cars: Pistachio nuts are the country’s leading export, after oil and petroleum products.

The pistachios bring us directly to Iran’s second problem after not-enough-oil, namely too much thieving by the powerful, including pistachio-orchard-grabbing Akbar Hashemi “Rafsanjani,” former president and a top regime figure for decades.

Akbar Hashemi was not being immodest when he claimed the name of his native Rafsanjan province for himself. He became the owner of much of it as huge tracts of pistachio-growing orchards came into his possession.

His son Mehdi Hashemi is very prominent among the aghazadeh (“noble born”), the sons and daughters of the rulers. He preferred industrial wealth to pistachios, and his name kept coming up in other people’s corruption trials (one in France), until he finally had his own trial, for a mere $100 million or so. But the Rafsanjani clan as a whole took a couple of billion dollars at least.

The Supreme Leader Khamenei himself is not known to have personally stolen anything—he has his official palaces, after all. But his second son, Mojtaba, may have taken as much as $2 billion from the till, while his third son, Massoud, is making do with a mere 400- or 500-hundred million. His youngest son, Maitham, is not living in poverty either, with a couple of hundred million. The ayatollah’s two daughters, Bushra and Huda, each received de-facto dowries in the $100 million range.

This shows that the regime is headed by devoted family men who lovingly look after their many children, for whom only the best will do. It also cuts into the theoretical $6,000 income per Iranian head, because some “heads” are taking a thousand times as much and more.

That is one motive for today’s riots—bitter anger provoked by the regime’s impoverishing and very visible corruption, which extends far, far beyond the children of the top rulers: thousands of clerics are very affluent, starting with their flapping Loro Piana “Tasmania” robes—that’s 3,000 euros of fancy cloth right there.

Much of the economy is owned by bonyads, Islamic foundations that pay modest pensions to war widows and such, and very large amounts to those who run them, mostly clerics and their kin. The largest, the Mostazafan Bonyad, with more than 200,000 employees in some 350 separate companies in everything from farming to tourism, is a very generous employer for its crowds of clerical managers.

That is why the crowds have been shouting insults at the clerics—not all are corrupt, but high-living clerics are common enough to take a big bite out of that theoretical $6,000 per capita.

But the largest cause of popular anger is undoubtedly the pasdaran, a.k.a the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), an altogether more costly lot than the several hundred aghazadeh or tens of thousands of high-living clerics. The IRGC’s tab starts with the trillion dollars or more that the pasdaran-provoked nuclear sanctions cost before the Obama team agreed to lift them and continues with the billions that Iran still loses annually because of the ballistic-missile sanctions that Trump will never lift. Then there are the variable costs of the pasdaran’s imperial adventures, as well as the fixed cost of pasdaran military industries that spend plenty on common weapons as well as on “stealth” fighters and supposedly advanced submarines that exist only in the fantasies of regime propagandists. Pasdaran militarism and imperial adventures are unaffordable luxuries that the demonstrators very clearly want to do without—hence their shouts of “no-Gaza, no-Syria.”

Whatever happens next—and at least this time the White House will not be complicit if it ends in brutal repression—the ayatollah empire cannot last. Even despite Obama’s generous courtship gifts, the Iranian regime cannot just keep going, any more than the USSR could keep going by living off its oil.

So what can be done to accelerate the collapse? Broad economic sanctions are out of the question because they would allow the rulers to blame the Americans for the hardships inflicted by their own imperial adventures. But there is plenty of room for targeted measures against regime figures and their associates—the State Department list of sanctioned individuals is far from long enough, with many more names deserving of the honor. (Iran is not North Korea; it is not hard to find names and assets and to make them public.)

Above all, very much more could be done to impede the pasdaran and their military industries. Many European and Japanese big-name companies are staying away from Iran because the missile and terrorism sanctions persist—and to avoid displeasing the United States. They should. But the South Koreans whom we defend with our own troops totally ignore U.S. interests in regard to Iran and have therefore emerged as the lead suppliers of machinery and tooling for the pasdaran weapon factories. Nor do they hesitate to sell equipment that can be adapted to military use in a minute or less, as in the case of the airfield instrument landing system and portable ILS/VOR signal analyzer that the Korea Airports Corp. has just agreed to supply to Iran’s Tolid Malzomat Bargh.

There is no need to laboriously negotiate a new set of sanctions against Iran—strict, swift, and public enforcement of the restrictions that are already on the books is enough. Every time a South Korean regime-related deal is detected, the offenders need a quick reminder they will be excluded from the United States if they persist. In this, as in everything else, it is just a matter of getting serious in our focus on Iran.

Obama was serious in his courtship of the ayatollahs’ regime. Trump should do the same to bring the regime to an end, faster.

Iranian Resistance Sends a Message to the UN Security Council

January 5, 2018

Iranian Resistance Sends a Message to the UN Security Council, Iran News Update, January 5, 2018

(Please see also, Russia: US demand for UN meeting on Iran is ‘destructive’.  The Iranian Resistance movement does not have a chance at the UN. — DM)
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INU – On January 5, 2018, the Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran issued an important statement regarding the today’s UN Security Council session on the current uprising against the Iranian regime, the following is the full text of the statement:

Security Council upbraids Iran regime for mass murder and arrest of protesters

  • Legitimate right of people to overthrow religious fascism and establishment of democracy must be recognized

The Iranian Resistance asks today’s UN Security Council to defend the legitimate and natural right of the Iranian people to overthrow the religious fascism ruling Iran and to achieve the freedom they have been uprising for, and to strongly condemn and hold accountable the mullahs’ regime for killing defenseless and unarmed demonstrators; measures that are a clear indication of a crime against humanity, and confronting them is  the responsibility of the United Nations Security Council.

According to reliable reports obtained by the Iranian Resistance, at least 50 demonstrators have been martyred by the direct fire of the Revolutionary Guards since the beginning of the uprising (during eight days) and more than 3,000 have been arrested. Children and teenagers as young as 12 or 13 years old are among the martyrs. The actual number of martyrs and arrestees is much more; a reality that the Iranian regime is trying hard to hide.

The clerical regime has blocked social networks in Iran since the first days of the uprising and cut off the Internet or has boosted severe restrictions on it. The IRGC commander, major general Jaafary, and the Minister of Communications, Azari Jahromi, and many other officials in the clerical regime officially acknowledged cutting off internet communications and announced that they would continue it until the unrest ends.

Welcoming the convening of today’s UN Security Council on Iran’s uprising, the Iranian Resistance emphasizes the need for the following actions to be taken by the UN Security Council:

  1. Recognizing the legitimate right of the people of Iran to overthrow the ruling religious fascism and establish freedom and sovereignty of the people.
  2. Strongly condemning and holding accountable the Iranian regime for massacre and mass arrests of defenseless and unarmed protesters.
  3. Sanctioning the regime for the systematic violations of human rights, including the 1988 massacre and the killings during current uprising.
  4. Condemning cutting off the Internet and social networks, and ensuring the free access of the public to the Internet.
  5. Enforcing binding decisions for the release of thousands of arrested demonstrators and for establishing a monitoring system; and warning the Iranian regime that more serious actions will be taken should such trend continues.

Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran

January 5, 2018

Russia: US demand for UN meeting on Iran is ‘destructive’

January 5, 2018

Russia: US demand for UN meeting on Iran is ‘destructive’, Israel National News, Chana Roberts, January 5, 2018

(Russia will, of course, veto anything that might otherwise pass and, if passed, Iran would ignore it. — DM)

Nikki HaleyReuters

The United Nations Security Council on Friday afternoon will hold an emergency meeting to discuss the recent protests in Iran.

The uprising, the largest since a series of mass protests in 2009, began in the city of Mashhad, when demonstrators denounced Iranian President Rouhani over the failure to reduce the country’s high unemployment rates.

Efforts to contain the protests have led to the deaths of at least 21 people.

However, Russia considers the US-initiated meeting to be “harmful and destructive,” RIA reported.

“We see no role for the United Nations Security Council in this issue,” the news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying Thursday.

“Iran’s domestic affairs have nothing to do with the United Nations Security Council’s role.”

On Thursday, Iran accused the US of “meddling” in its affairs.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that “the international community has a role to play” in the drama in Iran.

“The freedoms that are enshrined in the United Nations’ charter are under attack in Iran,” she explained. “Dozens have already been killed. Hundreds have been arrested.

“The UN must speak out… We must not be silent. The people of Iran are crying out for freedom. All freedom-loving people must stand with their cause. The international community made the mistake of failing ot do that in 2009. We must not make that mistake again.”