Posted tagged ‘Iran and terror’

The Axis of Moderation vs. the Axis of Resistance in the Middle East

December 1, 2017

The Axis of Moderation vs. the Axis of Resistance in the Middle East, Gatestone InstituteNajat AlSaied, December 1, 2017

(Please see also, Saudis Fed Up: “Palestinians Milking Us for Decades.” — DM)

“We are just returning to the Islam we are used to… The moderate Islam”. — Saudi Crown Prince, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on October 26, 2017.

Saudi Arabia’s complaints against Iran’s interference and spreading extremism cannot sound credible if extremism is being practiced inside Saudi Arabia.

There urgently needs to be a unified American position to confront the Axis of Resistance. Iran continues to be the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, empowering these armed militias and extremist groups — the basis of terrorism both in the region and across the world. It makes death threats, cooperates with a nuclearized North Korea, and all the while races toward nuclear weapons capability itself.

The dispute between the Arab states, often known as the Axis of Moderation, and the officially designated terrorist regime in Iran often known as the Axis of Resistance, is no longer just a political disagreement but a threat to the national security of Arab countries.

While the Arab states seem pro-statehood and work with other states, Iran and the Axis of resistance seems not to. Even though Iran calls itself Republic, it has a militia mentality and rarely deals with states. In general, rather than dealing with governments, it instead establishes militias, as it has in Lebanon and Yemen. Even in Iraq, where the government is considered its ally, Iran has established more than 15 militias. Qatar, by supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as Syria under the Assad regime, seem to have the same mentality as Iran. If you trace the Axis of Resistance, all of them appear to have adopted the concept of supporting militias and extremist groups under the slogan of “resistance.”

The Iranian regime’s long history has now culminated in Saudi Arabia being targeted by Iranian missiles located in Yemen. They are coordinated in Lebanon by the Hezbollah militia, who train the Houthis in Yemen. It is important to understand that these violations and proxy wars carried out by the Iranian regime not only threaten the Arab Gulf states but also pose a threat to a regional and international security.

The Axis of Resistance is led by Iran, and includes Syria, Qatar, Hezbollah, Hamas, Arab Shiites loyal to Wilayat al-Faqih (“The Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist”) in Iran and Arab nationalists. Its slogans consist of fighting imperialism, empowering the (supposedly) vulnerable — mainly Muslim Shiites — and furthering “Arab nationalism,” which usually manifests itself in support for Palestinians against Israelis.

The expansionist objectives of the Axis of Resistance — in its drive to build a “Shiite Crescent” from Iran to the Mediterranean, are clear, compared to the objectives of the Axis of Moderation, which have not announced any specific aims, except to denounce Iran’s interference in the Arab countries’ affairs.

The Axis of Moderation comprises Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Arab Gulf countries, except for Qatar. The great mistake that the Axis of Moderation has made in confronting the Iranian regime — to try to curb its export of the its “Revolution” — has been to fall into the trap of propagating sectarianism. While Iran portrayed itself as the defender of all the Shiites in the world, Saudi Arabia, as a result, acted as the defender of all the Sunnis in the Muslim world — accordingly, sectarianism was propagated. This polarization, however, has only furthered the interests of the Iranian regime, whose chief objective seems to be to continue igniting this division in an apparent policy of divide and conquer. Instead of the members of the Axis of Moderation confronting Iran politically or militarily, they challenged it on religious and sectarian grounds, such as publishing countless books against Shiites that describe them as the enemies of Islam and labelling all Shiites as subordinate to Iran, as if all Shiites were Iran’s puppets, which not all of them are.

U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump join King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, and the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in the inaugural opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, May 21, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

This divisiveness has brought extremism and terrorism to the region, and has only harmed everyone.

Now the Axis of Moderation has become shrewder in its confrontation with the Iran and has employed a greater number of experts in Iranian affairs. The Axis of Moderation, especially Saudi Arabia, has realized that it cannot face down the threat of Iran without radical internal reforms. Saudi Arabia’s complaints against Iran’s interference and spreading extremism cannot sound credible if extremism is being practiced inside Saudi Arabia. These internal reforms, and liberalizing the society, are important internally: they will boost the economy by creating an attractive investment environment, especially for foreign investors. As importantly, reforms will stop any adversary from saying that Saudi Arabia is a state supporter of terrorism or a land that exports terrorists.

The most obvious changes are Saudi Arabia’s internal reforms that cover “social openness” in the form of concerts and festivals, coordinated by an entertainment body, and the country’s attempts to undermine clerical control, both by arresting extremists and establishing a committee at the Islamic University in Medina to codify the interpretation of Quranic verses that call for extremism, especially against other religions.

Saudi Arabia has also clamped down on corruption by arresting suspected businessmen, princes and former ministers. The kingdom has also raised the status of women by giving them more of their human rights, such as the recent lifting of the ban on women driving. In another important change, Saudi Arabia will also allow women to be clerics to confront all the patriarchal interpretations of verses in Quran related to women. Eventually, that could mean that lifting the ban requiring male guardians for women might also coming soon. The Saudi crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has also said that he will allow women to take sports classes in school, attend sporting event for women and to permit music. His wish, he has said, is to “restore Islam.”

The most important matter of all was pointed out by the Saudi Crown Prince, at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on October 26, 2017: “We are just returning to the Islam we are used to… The moderate Islam.” He also said, “We will not continue to be in the post-1979 era.”

This is essentially a confession that the approach that Saudi Arabia followed after 1979 to try to oppose the Khomeini Revolution was not helpful, and that now it is time for real reform to face both internal and external challenges.

What Saudi Arabia is doing will eventually contribute towards clarifying the aims of the Axis of Moderation, which will be to support countries whose primary objectives are development, modernity and stability. The most important goal is to stamp out terrorism by supporting a “moderate” Islam or, more specifically, supporting the approach that Saudi Arabia took before 1979. This approach was echoed by the UAE ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, who said that the moderate countries boycotting Qatar are heading towards secularism — in contrast to Qatar’s support for Islamist militias such as Hezbollah, and radical groups in the Axis of Resistance, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

What has complicated the situation has been an exploitation of the conflict in the United States between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party over how to fight terrorism by countries in the Axis of Resistance such as Qatar.

The double face of Qatar is revealed in many ways. Al Jazeera in English, for instance — as mentioned the article, “Al Jazeera: Non-Arabs Should Not Be Fooled” — is totally different from Al Jazeera in Arabic.

Ahmed Mansour, for example, one of Al Jazeera’s anchors, tweeted about Hurricane “Irma” in Florida by citing a Koranic verse to say that what is happening in America is God’s curse: “Twenty million Americans fled out of fear from Hurricane Irma,” he wrote; then he cited a verse from Quran saying,

“And He shows you His signs. So which of the signs of Allah do you deny?” (40:81, Sahih International)

After his tweet in Arabic was read by American journalists, he apologized in a very sweet tweet in English.

Qatar also pretends to the US that it is supportive of its values, but in fact has close ties with all the enemies of the US. Sultan Saad Al-Muraikhi, Qatar’s permanent envoy to the Arab League, for example, has called Iran, which the US has officially designated as a terrorist state, an “honorable state”. Qatar also disagrees with designating Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations and calls them, instead, “resistance movements” against Israel.

Qatar has, moreover, used that dispute for its own ends by way of an alliance with the Democratic Party’s allies and supporters.

Many Qatari writers and Qatar’s supporters, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, have written articles against the Trump administration, as opposed to the previous administration which clearly had a soft spot for the Muslim Brotherhood. From the beginning, the administration of US President Barack Obama overruled Egypt’s President, Hosni Mubarak, by insisting that the Muslim Brotherhood attend Obamas speech in Cairo, thereby setting the stage for the fall of Mubarak; and also strongly supported the subsequent regime then Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood). Obama also openly counted the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, among his “best friends.”

These opinion-makers in the US, evidently nostalgic for the previous administration, and known, especially during the Iran Deal, as not exactly alignedwith the Axis of Moderation, seem to have been exploiting the rift between the Democrats and Republicans, apparently hoping for the impeachment of Donald Trump. As a Saudi academic and researcher, Ahmad Al-faraj, wrote in his article, “Qatar: The dream of isolating Trump!,” they possibly think that a Democrat President, like Obama, would again support them.

While Qatar makes itself out to be tolerant and a supporter of democratic Americans and Westerners, anyone who watches Al Jazeera in Arabic will find nothing other than pure hatred of Western values and enormous support for armed militias such as Hezbollah and terrorist groups such as Hamas.

There urgently needs, therefore, to be a unified American position to confront the Axis of Resistance. Iran continues to be the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, empowering these armed militias and extremist groups — the basis of terrorism both in the region and across the world. It makes death threatscooperates with a nuclearized North Korea, and all the while races toward nuclear weapons capability itself. The United States would also do well to advocate a unified European position, and draw support from across the political spectrum. Unfortunately, European governments, for their own economic interests, have turned a blind eye to all the terrorism, extremism and sectarianism that Iran is fomenting. European countries should be warned that if they continue to put these economic interests ahead of global security, not only will the decision undermine the already-fragile national security of their own countries but also those of the region.

It is in the interest of the United States and world peace to support the pillars of an Axis of Moderation that would:

  • Eliminate political Islam because it exploits religion for radical political goals in both the Sunni and Shiite sects. The Shiite version of political Islam failed in Iraq and the Sunni version of the Muslim Brotherhood failed in Egypt and Tunisia. In both versions of political Islam, violence and terrorism are exacerbated.
  • Undermine Iran’s influence among armed militias in the region such as the militia Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthi in Yemen and the sectarian militias in Iraq. These should be classified as terrorist organizations. Hamas in the Gaza Strip has already been classified as such by the United States on October 31, 2001. Any country that supports Hamas or defends it, even in its media, should be classified as terrorist too.
  • Prevent the existence of armed militias operating as a state within a state; they are the beginning of the collapse of states and therefore a serious threat to peace and stability.
  • Consolidate the principles of secularism in internal and external dealings. Incitement to sectarian and racial hatred must be prevented as well as the use of Quranic verses to spread violence and extremism. To keep Iraq out of Iran’s control, non-sectarian neighborly relations need to be maintained.
  • Instill the principles of tolerance and respect for all religions and sects and guarantee the free practice of religions and the protection of minorities.

Moderate countries will not promote the rhetoric of a fight with Israel, as does the Axis of Resistance, led by Iran; instead, the Axis of Moderation is now committed to the principles of peace, which are based on the common interests of states to ensure the security and prosperity of all citizens.

The region and the world as a whole have suffered from the actions of the Iranian regime and its allies. There should be no justification for the existence of militias and extremist groups under the banner of resistance or similar pretexts. The international community needs to be firm in challenging states that allow or support such groups and should stress that states can only protect themselves with armies and armed forces, not with militias. A unified American and European position needs to help the Axis of Moderation to prevent countries in turmoil from becoming cantons of militias and extremist groups. That seems a more constructive way to fight terrorism and build global stability.

Najat AlSaied is a Saudi American academic and the author of “Screens of Influence: Arab Satellite Television & Social Development”. She is an Assistant Professor at Zayed University in the College of Communication and Media Sciences in Dubai-UAE.

This article was first published in Arabic at Al Hurra.

World’s Rallying Cry: “Free Iran”

July 4, 2017

World’s Rallying Cry: “Free Iran”, Gatestone InstituteMajid Rafizadeh, July 4, 2017

(When will Iran have her own Independence Day? — DM)

“The ruling regime is in disarray and paralyzed as never before. Iranian society is simmering with discontent and the international community is finally getting closer to the reality that appeasing the ruling theocracy is misguided…. Our people want a constitution based on freedom, democracy, and equality…. The sun of change is shining on Iran.”

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“[W]e have a president of the United States who is completely and totally opposed to the regime in Tehran… he completely opposes the Iran nuclear deal signed by his predecessor.” — Ambassador John R. Bolton.

“The fact is that the Tehran regime is the central problem in the Middle East. There’s no fundamental difference between the Ayatollah Khamenei and President Rouhani — they’re two sides of the same coin. I remember when Rouhani was the regime’s chief nuclear negotiator — you couldn’t trust him then; you can’t trust him today. And it’s clear that the regime’s behavior is only getting worse… the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran.” — Ambassador John R. Bolton.

Any fundamental change in Iran’s theocratic establishment will reverberate across the region. Many terrorist groups will lose their major financial and weapons support. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad will lose his hold on power, which he has wielded for far too long. Iran’s major player, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which constantly damages the US and its allies’ national interests and incites anti-Semitism, will disappear; Hezbollah will lose its funding; “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” will fade away.

Tens of thousands of people came together in Paris on July 1 from all different corners of the world, to unite against the unspeakable atrocities committed by the Islamist state of Iran. It was the largest gathering of Iranians abroad of its kind.

The conference, organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), was spurred by the desire to speak up for human rights, peace, women’s rights, freedom, democracy, and to demand victory over terrorism. Its focus was to generate awareness of the plight of Iran’s innocent and vulnerable citizens, against whom the Iranian government has been wreaking havoc — with no consequences — for decades.

Leaders, journalists, prominent figures from around the world, and scholars joined the rallying cry of “Free Iran”. The array of speakers included several prominent Americans, including former US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; former Attorney General Michael Mukasey; former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge; former FBI Director Louis Freeh, and Congressmen Ted Poe, Robert Pittenger and Tom Garret.

(Image source: Maryam Rajavi video screenshot)

During the eight years of Obama’s appeasement policies towards the Islamist regime of Iran, the mullahs became significantly empowered and emboldened. Iran’s opposition hopes that the appeasement of the theocratic regime in Tehran has come to an end. Ambassador Bolton pointed out:

“[W]e come at a time of really extraordinary events in the United States that the distinguish today from the circumstances one year ago. Contrary to what virtually every political commentator said, contrary to what almost every public opinion poll said, contrary to what many people said around the world, Barack Obama’s first Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not the president of the United States.

“So for the first time in at least eight years that I’ve been coming to this event, I can say that we have a president of the United States who is completely and totally opposed to the regime in Tehran… he completely opposes the Iran nuclear deal signed by his predecessor.”

The Iranian regime is still the world leading funder of international terrorism, including the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996, the bombings of a U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon in 1983, attacks on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

It does not matter who the regime’s president is; the core imperialist foreign policy of the Iranian regime is the same as it has been for almost four decades. With the passage of time, particularly since the nuclear agreement gave them an even stronger sense of power, Iran’s regime has become more daring and destructive, leaving multitudes of human rights violations in its wake. As Bolton stated:

“The fact is that the Tehran regime is the central problem in the Middle East. There’s no fundamental difference between the Ayatollah Khamenei and President Rouhani — they’re two sides of the same coin. I remember when Rouhani was the regime’s chief nuclear negotiator — you couldn’t trust him then; you can’t trust him today. And it’s clear that the regime’s behavior is only getting worse: Their continued violations of the agreement, their work with North Korea on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, only continues to grow.

“And let’s be clear: Even if somebody were to say to you that the regime is in full compliance with the nuclear deal, it doesn’t make any difference. North Korea is already perilously close to the point where they can miniaturize a nuclear weapon, put it on an intercontinental ballistic missile, and hit targets in the United States. And the day after North Korea has that capability, the regime in Tehran will have it as well, simply by signing a check…. that’s why Donald Trump’s views on North Korea are so similar to his views on the regime in Tehran.”

Since 1979, the mullahs and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have significantly expanded their terrorist network to Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon. Iran’s main objective is to impose its Islamist laws and radical ideology on other nations, dominate them, and create an Islamic Caliphate. If the Iranian regime is allowed to continue, especially when it completes its nuclear weapons capability and delivery systems with North Korea’s help, its activities do not look as they will benefit global “health.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich praised the Iranian opposition as a just and pure movement for standing against the Iranian regime: “I am very impressed by the dedication of your movement”. He added, “I come today to bring a very simple message: Iran must be free”. He also praised the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI): “She is persistent in difficult times. She is a great leader. I thank each of you on her behalf to help her make her a truly historic figure.”

It is time for the powers of the world and the Iranian opposition to join hands to counter the Iranian regime. As Ambassador Bolton made clear:

“…we must avoid allowing the regime in Tehran to achieve its long-sought objective of an arc of control from Iran, through the Baghdad government in Iraq, the Assad regime in Syria, and the Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon — an arc of control, which if it’s allowed to form, will simply be the foundation for the next grave conflict in the Middle East.

“The regime in Tehran is not merely a nuclear-weapons threat; it’s not merely a terrorist threat; it is a conventional threat to everybody in the region who simply seeks to live in peace and security.

“The regime has failed internationally. It has failed domestically, in economics and politics — indeed its time of weakening is only accelerating, and that’s why the changed circumstances in the United States, I think, throughout Europe and here today, are so important.

“There is a viable opposition to the rule of the ayatollahs, and that opposition is centered in this room today.”

Maryam Rajavi struck a hopeful note for democratic change by saying, as the crowd cheered:

“The ruling regime is in disarray and paralyzed as never before. Iranian society is simmering with discontent and the international community is finally getting closer to the reality that appeasing the ruling theocracy is misguided…. Our people want a constitution based on freedom, democracy, and equality…. The sun of change is shining on Iran.”

Rajavi added that the international community must

“recognize the resistance of the Iranian people to overthrow the mullahs’ religious dictatorship and designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization and evict it from the entire region.”

Any fundamental change in Iran’s theocratic establishment will reverberate across the region. Many terrorist groups will lose their major financial and weapons support. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad will lose his hold on power, which he has wielded for far too long. The major player, Iran’s IRGC, which constantly damages the US and its allies’ national interests and incites anti-Semitism, will disappear; Hezbollah will lose its funding. “Death to America” and Death to Israel” will fade away. The list goes on, and leads to the eventual improvement of all human life, as these atrocities have bled their way into every country.

A united coalition can be a robust force against the ruling mullahs. But it can only be as strong as its members, and their dedication finally to achieve peace in a region that has seen far too much torture and bloodshed. It is the time for the international community and world leaders to join the Iranian opposition, more effectively to counter the Iranian regime.

As Bolton stated:

“The outcome of the president’s policy review should be to determine that the Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution will not last until its 40th birthday…. the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran. The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change, and therefore the only solution is to change the regime itself.”

With combined, global pressure, this long overdue change can finally become a reality.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He is a Harvard-educated and world-renowned Iranian-American political scientist, business advisor, and author of “Peaceful Reformation in Iran’s Islam“. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu.

Bi-Partisan Support for Bill to ‘Hold Iran Accountable’

June 16, 2017

Bi-Partisan Support for Bill to ‘Hold Iran Accountable’, Iran News Update, June 16, 2017

“It’s worth noting that the JCPOA is not unlike the Paris climate accord.

“I don’t think many people in our country or many people in this body realize that it is a non-binding political agreement that was entered into by one man using presidential executive authority and can easily be undone by one man using presidential executive authority.

“In fact, in many ways, it is easier than the Paris accord considering the president doesn’t have to take an action to exit this agreement.

All he has to do is decline to waive sanctions. I think that has been missed.

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Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), spoke before the Senate on Wednesday, in a bill he authored, the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017. The legislation, has 60 bipartisan cosponsors, and is expected to pass the Senate this week. It will expand sanctions against Iranian for ballistic missile development, support for terrorism, transfer of conventional weapons to or from Iran, and human rights violations.

Senator Corker’s speech is reproduced as follows:

“Mr. President,

I rise today to speak about the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017, which passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month by a vote of 18 to 3.

“I’d like to thank the members of our committee and the co-authors of this bill for working in a constructive, bipartisan fashion to craft this legislation.

“I think it is a good example of how the Senate can still work together to tackle complex and difficult issues.

“I was in the SCIF recently – a place where senators go to read classified information – reviewing intelligence, and it truly is astounding what Iran continues to do around the world.

“For a people that are capable of so much, their foreign policy is shockingly counter to their own interest.

“We see destabilizing act after destabilizing act – from missile launches, to arms transfers, to terrorist training, to illicit financial activities, to targeting Navy ships and detaining American citizens – the list goes on and on.

“And it’s past time for us to take steps to protect the interests of the United States and our allies.

“This bill is the first time Congress has come together since the JCPOA – the Iran nuclear deal – to do just that.

“For far too long, the agreement – which I strongly opposed, as did our ranking member and presiding officer – has dictated U.S. policy throughout the Middle East.

“It’s worth noting that the JCPOA is not unlike the Paris climate accord.

“I don’t think many people in our country or many people in this body realize that it is a non-binding political agreement that was entered into by one man using presidential executive authority and can easily be undone by one man using presidential executive authority.

“In fact, in many ways, it is easier than the Paris accord considering the president doesn’t have to take an action to exit this agreement.

“I don’t think most Americans understand that. He doesn’t have to take action to exit the agreement. All he has to do is decline to waive sanctions. I think that has been missed.

“But no matter what the president decides, this bill makes it clear that the Congress intends to remain involved and will hold Iran accountable for their non-nuclear destabilizing activities.

“What the nuclear agreement failed to do was allow us to push back against terrorism, human rights issues, violations of U.N. security council resolutions relative to ballistic missile testing, and to push back against conventional arms purchases, which they are not supposed to be involved in.

“As many of us predicted at the time, Iran’s rogue behavior has only escalated since implementation of the agreement, and this bipartisan bill will give the administration tools for holding Tehran accountable.

“Let me say this. I don’t think there’s anybody in this chamber who doesn’t believe that the Trump administration – I know there’s been a lot of disagreements recently about foreign policy issues in the administration – but I don’t there’s anybody here that believes they are not going to do everything they can to push back against these destabilizing activities.

“And what we’ll be doing today and tomorrow with passage of this legislation is standing hand-in-hand with them as they do that.

“It also sends an important signal that the U.S. will no longer look the other way in the face of continued Iranian aggression.

“I want to recognize the important work of my colleagues in making this legislation possible.

“Senator Menendez has been a champion for holding Iran accountable, in this bill but also in decades of work on this issue. He truly is an asset to the Senate, and I thank him for his commitment to many issues, but especially this one.

“Senators Cotton, Rubio, and Cruz all played an important role in drafting this legislation as well.

“But finally, let me say this. This would not have been possible without the support and tireless effort of the ranking member, Senator Cardin, and his great staff. It has truly been a pleasure for me to work with him on the Russia bill that we will be voting on today at 2:00 p.m. but also on this legislation.

“We come from two very different places, representing two very different states, and yet are joined by the fact that we care deeply about making sure that the foreign policy of this country is in the national interest of our citizens and that we as a Congress and as a United States Senate are doing everything we can to drive positive foreign policy.

“I want to thank him for that and tell him I am really proud of the strong bipartisan momentum behind this legislation, which his leadership has helped make happen, and I look forward to passage of this bill.”

Tillerson and Saudi Foreign Minister hold briefing

May 20, 2017

Tillerson and Saudi Foreign Minister hold briefing, PBS via YouTube, May 20, 2017

 

How to Secure and Stabilize the Middle East

May 14, 2017

How to Secure and Stabilize the Middle East, Clarion ProjectShahriar Kia, May 14, 2017

An Iranian protester during the Green Revolution (Photo: Reuters)

The opinions below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Clarion Project.

In contrast to other countries that lack a opposition that can be trusted, Iran enjoys an internationally-recognized alternative based on democratic values acknowledged across the globe.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its pivotal member, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), is the largest and most organized opposition in the face of the Iranian regime. The NCRI enjoys widespread support inside Iran and throughout the world, with the ability to organize an uprising against the regime in Tehran. Senior Iranian regime officials have acknowledged the time and again that the main threat compromising Iran’s entire regime apparatus is none other than the PMOI/MEK. To this end, they have focused their entire efforts on physically obliterating this Iranian opposition group.

In 2009, when the Iranian people took to the streets and demanded fundamental change, their efforts went unsupported due to Obama’s appeasement policy that sought to sign the nuclear deal with Tehran at all costs. This was an opportunity that enjoyed the potential of significantly decreasing existing Middle East crises. Today, the regime in Tehran is facing crises far more dangerous than 2009.

The correct Iran policy is supporting regime change by the Iranian people and their organized and legitimate resistance. By adopting such a stance, the international community can begin to confront Iran’s notorious influence in the region and its nuclear ambitions in order to spread security in a non-nuclear Middle East free of terrorism.

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced at a press conference on April 19 that the White House is evaluating its policy on Iran. This policy overview will not merely cover the Iran nuclear deal, but will be a comprehensive look at all Iran-related issues.

At a press conference, Tillerson formalized Iran’s provocative and destructive measures in different fields.

“Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and is responsible for intensifying multiple conflicts and undermining U.S. interests in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon, and continuing to support attacks against Israel … An unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea, and take the world along with it … Iran’s provocative actions threaten the United States, the region, and the world …” he said.

“Iran continues to have one of the world’s worst human rights records,” Tillerson added.

Defense Secretary James Mattis adopted a similar approach on April 22 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, saying, “But we’re talking about the Mideast at an inflection point. And I would just point out right now that among the many challenges the Mideast faces, I think Iran is actually foremost … The Iranian regime, in my mind, is the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.”

Iran’s meddling has neutralized all efforts to resolve the region’s crises, said Bahrain Interior Minister Rashed bin Abdullah at a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) session, adding the region faces threats that demand cooperation to confront. He emphasized the need for unity in Gulf positions regarding strategic matters.

What is the right Iran policy?

Supporters of the Iran appeasement approach believe the correct policy is to engage the mullahs’ regime and continue dialogue. They justify this approach for two reasons: first, to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions and second, to attempt to establish change from within by supporting so-called “moderates” inside the regime apparatus.

This is the policy pursued during the Obama years without any political or strategic reservation, and also that of previous administrations throughout the past few decades.

However, rapprochement with Tehran not only failed to contain the mullahs’ ambitions and terrorism; in fact, it further encouraged the regime and plunged the entire Middle East into insecurity and instability.

The Wall Street Journal wrote in a recent piece, “President Donald Trump’s hard-line view on Iran was at odds with State Department diplomats.”

Yet, the solution placed forward by Obama and the State Department’s experienced diplomats resulted in Iran escalating its flagrant human rights violations and expanding its devious influence throughout the Middle East.

Others believe the right Iran policy is a military solution and the U.S. must launch airstrikes targeting Iran’s nuclear sites. Although this can deliver significant blows to Iran’s ambitions and disrupt the mullahs’ efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, the consequences on regional security and stability are controversial, placing the U.S. and its allies in yet another Middle East war.

What is the durable solution? Can we avoid war while bringing an end to the spread of extremism and terrorism across the globe?

Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in today’s world. Since the appeasement policy adopted by previous U.S. administrations has been fruitless in containing Iran and actually led to the current dangerous circumstances, the only viable long-term solution is to adopt a firm policy that hinges on regime change.

In contrast to other countries that lack a opposition that can be trusted, Iran enjoys an internationally-recognized alternative based on democratic values acknowledged across the globe.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its pivotal member, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), is the largest and most organized opposition in the face of the Iranian regime. The NCRI enjoys widespread support inside Iran and throughout the world, with the ability to organize an uprising against the regime in Tehran. Senior Iranian regime officials have acknowledged the time and again that the main threat compromising Iran’s entire regime apparatus is none other than the PMOI/MEK. To this end, they have focused their entire efforts on physically obliterating this Iranian opposition group.

Following a visit paid by Senator John McCain to Albania and his meeting with Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, an analysis posted on April 27 in Iran Dideban, a state-sponsored outlet, made vivid the regime’s concern that the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) failed to quell and destroy the PMOI/MEK.

“The IRGC’s involvement in Syria led to serious neglect. This inattention has surfaced, resulting in this group [MEK] gaining a more open hand to play a role in on-the-ground developments … It is worth noting this group has significant experience in organizing campaigns and can pose a potential security threat for the country. The use of social domestic networks inside the country and influencing grayscale correspondents are among the efforts of this group. This has launched a wave of disappointment among forces loyal to the establishment and state.”

In 2009, when the Iranian people took to the streets and demanded fundamental change, their efforts went unsupported due to Obama’s appeasement policy that sought to sign the nuclear deal with Tehran at all costs. This was an opportunity that enjoyed the potential of significantly decreasing existing Middle East crises. Today, the regime in Tehran is facing crises far more dangerous than 2009.

The correct Iran policy is supporting regime change by the Iranian people and their organized and legitimate resistance. By adopting such a stance, the international community can begin to confront Iran’s notorious influence in the region and its nuclear ambitions in order to spread security in a non-nuclear Middle East free of terrorism.

Iran’s Foiled Bahrain Plot

March 31, 2017

Iran’s Foiled Bahrain Plot, American ThinkerAmir Basiri, March 31, 2017

Members of an Iran-backed terrorist cell were arrested by Bahrain authorities over the weekend, all being accused of planning assassinations aimed at targeting senior government officials. There are reasons to believe this cell is responsible for a February bus bombing that left several policemen wounded.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) provided military training for six of the arrested suspects, while the Iraqi Hizb’allah terrorist organization — funded by Iran — trained five other members, according to the BNA, Bahrain’s state news agency. Three other cell members received their training inside Bahrain.

This occurred parallel to a call made by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan suggesting the Trump administration to issue further sanctions on Iran and most specifically target the IRGC, describing the entity as “Iran’s army of terror.”

The speaker went to make a very specific call that will raise the stakes with Iran and place the IRGC where it belongs.

“I think we should designate them as a terrorist organization,” he added.

 The Tunisian Foreign Ministry has also voiced its concerns and strongly condemned all measures causing insecurity and instability in Bahrain, and making it clear its government stands beside Manama.

According to a Bahrain Interior Ministry statement, two exiled Bahrain nationals currently living in Iran were coordinating the terrorist cell’s activities. Mortada Majid al-Sanadi is one such individual, who also happens to be designated as global terrorist by the U.S. State Department.

A similar IRGC and Lebanese Hizb’allah plot aimed at launching terrorist attacks across Bahrain was foiled by the country’s authorities.

Bahrain had in the past also arrested 47 individuals, all accused of having links to “terrorist elements in Iran,” who in November 2015 blueprinted plans to carry out imminent attacks throughout the country. Bahrain recalled its ambassador from Iran a month later in response to a raid targeting a bomb-making workshop discovered in Bahrain. A significant number of individuals were also arrested due to suspected ties with the IRGC.

Through the course of Sunday’s arrests, Bahrain security forces also seized a large quantity of explosives manufactured domestically, alongside communications equipment and different weapons, all from the homes of the detained suspects. Iranian sponsored proxies, not enjoying a remarkable report card, are now further accused of providing support to local Bahraini cells in building bombs.

Lebanese Hizb’allah leader Hassan Nasaralah has reportedly provided the main suspect in Sunday’s arrests, known as Ali Ahmed Fakhwari, a whopping $20,000 to provide necessary funding to wreak havoc through terrorist attacks across Bahrain, according to the wired BNA report.

Bahrain had earlier this month also announced the discovery of a 54-man group of individuals suspected of being involved in attacks targeting security forces. Such plots included planning a prison break in January and obtaining automatic weapons.

Iran has a history of plotting and conducting terrorist and sectarian attacks across the globe recently, mostly through a network of proxies including the likes of the Lebanese Hizb’allah, the IRGC Quds Force, Shiite extremists in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, and Shiite foot-soldiers dispatched from Pakistan and Afghanistan toSyria. Iran’s terror plots and attacks have targeted various countries including Cyprus, Egypt, Georgia, India, Thailand, and others. Hizb’allah was specifically accused of being behind a July 2012 bus bombing in Bulgaria, that resulted in five Israeli tourists and the driver being killed.

U.S. authorities were also able to foil an Iranian plot aimed at assassinating the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. in Washington back in October 2011, while Iran was also pursuing plans to bomb the Israeli and Saudi embassies in the U.S. capital.

Former UN ambassador John Bolton recently put it best emphasizing how Iran is the world’s main state sponsor of terrorism. As the war against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) ends in victory against the group, the regime in Iran should be next on the list, as Tehran arms and finances Sunni and Shiite terrorists under the banner of Islam, he said. The mullahs are truly the epicenter of a global terrorist network, Bolton added.

Recent developments emphasize how the spotlight needs to be shone on Iran and its dangerous meddling in the region, described by the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) as far more dangerous than the mullahs’ nuclear program.

As Speaker Paul Ryan explained, the NCRI in a recent statement also emphasized on the necessity to campaign “all assets to place the IRGC and all affiliated proxy groups in terrorist lists of the United Nations, United States and European Union; referring Iran’s Middle East crimes dossier to the UN Security Council; adopting binding resolutions to expel the IRGC and proxy groups from the region; and ending all political and economic relations with Tehran are amongst such measures.”

With crucial presidential elections just around the corner for Iran, rest assured the regime will resort to more such warmongering across the region in attempts to place a lid and cloak all domestic crises that bear the potential of inflating into 2009-like uprisings.

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.