Posted tagged ‘Iran and terror’

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.

Iraqi Kurds Unite Ahead of March 21 Confrontation with Iran

March 14, 2017

Iraqi Kurds Unite Ahead of March 21 Confrontation with Iran, Clarion ProjectRyan Mauro, March 14, 2017

(What, if anything, can/will the Trump administration do to help overthrow the Mad Mullahs? Iran seems ripe for regime change, please see, e.g., From Execution to Medieval Torture: “Iran’s Mandela” Ayatollah Boroujerdi, and In Iran, A Nationwide Teachers’ Demonstration.— DM)

Clarion Project’s National Security Analyst Prof. Ryan Mauro & Legal Analyst Jennifer Breedon in Iraq with Hossein Yazdanpanah, the leader of the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK)

Its leader, Mustafa Hijri, said in a speech in Europe in October 2016 that his group was not fighting just for Iranian Kurds, but for the replacement of the current theocratic Iranian regime with a secular democracy for all. He asked the “progressive and democratic forces of the world” to support the PDKI and other Iranians seeking to topple the government.

Kurds are an oppressed minority in Iran, representing about 10 percent of the population (between 8 and 10 million people). According to the U.N., almost half of the political prisoners in Iran are Kurdish and about one-fifth of the executed prisoners last year were Kurdish.

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Mark March 21 on your calendar. Six armed Kurdish parties in Iraq have united ahead of expected protests in Iran on that date. Both the Iranian regime’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and an Iranian Kurdish militia have held military exercises in preparation for expected conflict.

The six groups are preparing for protests in the Kurdish areas of Iran to celebrate the Kurdish New Year, Newroz, on March 21. Holiday events become the scene of political protests, Iranian regime repression and even clashes.

But the Kurdish alliance says this time will be different because they are unified, preparing in advance and agreed to jointly collect and share intelligence in January for a common defense against the Iranian regime.

“There always have been activities in Kurdistan for celebrating Newroz and these activities always are opportunities for people to express their resistance against the fact that they have been denied of their basic rights.

“Using symbols, songs and gatherings, youth in Newroz have always shown their anger and resentment toward the lasting oppression of Kurds in Iran,” explained the U.S. representative of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI).

The PDKI recently held a military exercise near the border with Iran in preparation for a “full guerilla fight,” in the words of one of its officials. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps likewise held a military exercise in the Kurdish-majority province of Kermanshah, where protests and clashes are expected.

PDKI has about 2,000 fighters in the border area between the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region and Iran. It declared the end of a 20-year ceasefire with Iran last year and openly said it was sending its Peshmerga fighters into Iranian Kurdistan, but would not fire the first shot.

The Kurdish Rudaw newspaper describes PDKI as “historically considered the most formidable Kurdish military organization opposing the Islamic Republic in Tehran.”

Clarion Project’s National Security Analyst Prof. Ryan Mauro & Legal Analyst Jennifer Breedon inside the headquarters of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) on a recent trip to Iraq.

Its leader, Mustafa Hijri, said in a speech in Europe in October 2016 that his group was not fighting just for Iranian Kurds, but for the replacement of the current theocratic Iranian regime with a secular democracy for all. He asked the “progressive and democratic forces of the world” to support the PDKI and other Iranians seeking to topple the government.

A Shiite political bloc within the Iraqi parliament called on the Iraqi government to kick out the Kurdish forces that fight the Iranian regime in January. The Kurdish parties attributed the move to Iranian influence, pointing out that it came after two bombings targeted the office of the PDKI in Koye, Iraq in December. Seven people died. The party blamed Iran for the attack.

Prior to the attack on the PDKI, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei accused Saudi Arabia of arming Kurdish opposition forces through its consulate in Iraqi Kurdistan. Khamenei demanded that the Kurdish Regional Government stop all opposition activity and close the Saudi consulate, neither of which happened.

The other Iraqi Kurdish parties in the alliance are the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), Khabat and three groups all bearing the name of Komala.

Another group that is likely to be active in the confrontation with Iran but is not part of the six-party alliance is the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK). I met their leader Hossein Yazdanpanah in January in Iraq at one of his camps near the battlefield with ISIS.

Kurds are an oppressed minority in Iran, representing about 10 percent of the population (between 8 and 10 million people). According to the U.N., almost half of the political prisoners in Iran are Kurdish and about one-fifth of the executed prisoners last year were Kurdish.

There was significant repression last year resulting in bloody clashes between the PDKI and other Kurdish militants on one side and the Iranian regime on the other. It received almost no attention from the West, a rather unsurprising development considering the U.S. turned away from Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution that could have positively changed the world.

If the Iranian Kurdish opposition in Iraq has its way, then the U.S. will have another opportunity to support the Iranian people. In my meetings with Iranian Kurds in Iraq, I was struck by how much hope they invested in the hope that, despite the U.S.’ mistakes and overlooking of their cause, the U.S. would eventually come around and support them—not only because it is in the U.S.” interest, but because America is a good country with good people.

America and the West more broadly should not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Let’s hope that when the Kurds rise up against the Iranian regime on March 21, they will be joined by a chorus of freedom-loving voices eager to see them triumph over Islamist tyranny.

Iran’s latest terrorist plots

March 9, 2017

Iran’s latest terrorist plots, American ThinkerHeshmat Alavi, March 9, 2017

Iran is continuing its blatant belligerence against the international community, especially the Middle East, despite President Donald Trump and his administration threatening to take major action. During the past month alone Iran has test launched a number of ballistic missiles enjoying the capability of delivering a nuclear payload. This includes last weekend’s pair of ballistic missile launches.

Knowing its military capabilities are outdated and limited, Iran is resorting to a range of different terrorist measures in an attempt to maintain the leverage gained through the preposterous concessions they enjoyed during the Obama years.

The most recent scenario involves fast-attack vessels approaching a U.S. Navy surveillance ship in the Strait of Hormuz in a threatening manner described as “unsafe and unprofessional” in a recent statement.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, under major discussion in Washington to be designated as a foreign terrorist organization, has suffered a major blow after the discovery of a terrorist network in Bahrain. This unveils, yet again, further aspects of Iran’s unbridled meddling in the region.

The IRGC Bahrain network consists of 54 members focusing on planning and executing terrorist plots. To date, 25 such individuals have been arrested. These individuals were coordinating with Tehran to assassinate, terrorize, and target Bahrain security forces.

Following their raids, Bahrain authorities announced a significant cache of arms, explosives, and ammunition were also confiscated.

All individuals are reportedly Bahrain natives, further indicating the sophistication of Iran’s blueprints in using locals for such plots. Following their arrest, it was revealed the cells received support from both Iran and Lebanon, procuring arms or coordinates where such logistics were hidden. In the past weeks Bahrain witnessed two bomb blasts killing and injuring civilians, and most specifically, Shiite Muslims. This can be assumed as an attempt to instigate Shiite dissent in the small Gulf island.

It is crystal clear how the IRGC commanded this proxy group, as the individual calling the shots is currently in Iran. Other members of this group are even stationed in Iraq and directly involved in the attacks carried out in Bahrain.

Iran also has intentions to increase its use of suicidal drone boats in Yemen through the Houthi militias. The U.S. Navy command issued a recent warning over this threat against ships in the Red Sea. This warning follows a recent revelation of the Houthis obtaining drone boats in their attack against a Saudi Navy frigate.

Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander of the Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet and head of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, accused Iran of supporting the Houthis in preparing such boats.

This new development can pose a major threat to shipping lines in strategic naval routes, Donegan said in an interview with Defense News, adding that terrorist groups can now obtain such lethal boats.

It is worth noting that the attack on the Saudi frigate Al-Madinah on January 30th was carried out with a remote-controlled drone suicide boat packed with explosives. This was the first such attack resembling actual suicide attacks in the past.

The U.S. has recently issued a warning that the Iran-backed Houthis and forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Salah are placing underwater mines in the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait passage near the entrance of Port Mokha.

The Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, narrowing to 25 kilometers in width at some points, is of grave importance for global shipping lines, providing access to the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, and the Mediterranean Sea. Much of the world’s oil and other goods are transferred through these very strategic waterways.

More than 60 ships containing commercial goods pass through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait each day, carrying around 3.3 million barrels of crude oil. The U.S. Navy’s warning indicates the closing of such a crucial water passage can lead to major financial costs and a significant rise in global oil prices.

Further reports also indicate that Iran is having a tough time digesting a series of defeats suffered by the Houthis in Yemen. In response, Iran is weighing the possibility of dispatching Shiite militias from Iraq to Yemen, according to Khalij Online. As the fighting has decreased in Iraq, Tehran may dispatch units of the 140,000-strong Popular Mobilization Front, consisting of 54 different sectarian militia groups, to Yemen.

In an international scene undergoing drastic changes, all of them threatening Iran’s short and long-term interests, the mullahs in Tehran are desperately searching for a method to both keep a straight face and maintain their previous leverage across the Middle East.

Such developments gain even more importance as we inch closer to Iran’s presidential elections in May, when the regime in its entirety will face a major test.

Iran’s Forces Outnumber Assad’s in Syria

November 24, 2016

Iran’s Forces Outnumber Assad’s in Syria, Gatestone Institute, Majid Rafizadeh, November 24, 2016

Pursuing a sectarian agenda, Iranian leaders have also fueled the conflict by sending religious leaders to Syria to depict the conflict as a religious war.

Iran’s military forces and operations in Syria are significantly more than what has been generally reported so far.

The Syrian war has led to the rise and export of terrorism abroad as well as to one of the worst humanitarian tragedies, in which more than 470,000 people have been killed.

Iran has played a crucial role in maintaining in power President Assad, who has repeatedly used chemical weapons on civilians. Iran has promoted continuing the conflict.

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While, according to reports by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Syrian military has fewer than 50,000 men, Iran has deployed more than 70,000 Iranian and non-Iranian forces in Syria, and pays monthly salaries to over 250,000 militiamen and agents. According to a report entitled, “How Iran Fuels Syria War,” published by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), non-Iranian mercenaries number around 55,000 men; Iraqi militias are around 20,000 men (from 10 groups), Afghan militias are approximately 15,000 to 20,000 men, Lebanese Hezbollah are around 7,000 to 10,000 men, and Pakistani, Palestinian and other militiamen number approximately 5,000 to 7,000.

In addition, the composition of Iranian IRGC forces are around 8,000 to 10,000 men, and 5,000 to 6,000 from the regular Iranian Army.

The major Iranian decision-makers in the Syrian conflict are Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the senior cadre of the Revolutionary Guards. Iran’s so-called moderate leaders — including President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif — are also in favor of Iran’s military, advisory, financial, and intelligence involvement in Syria. Rouhani repeatedly announced his support for Assad and pledged to “stand by [Syria].”

Khamenei insists on using more military power in Syria:

“[I]n December 2015, Khamenei ordered the IRGC to stand fast in the Aleppo region. He reiterated that if they retreated, their fate would be similar to the Iran-Iraq war and the regime would ultimately be defeated in Syria. Thus, in January 2016, the IRGC doubled the number of its forces in Syria to about 60,000 and launched extensive attacks in the region. However, despite tactical advances in some areas, these forces have been unable to even take control of southern Aleppo. IRGC faced a deadlock. In March 2016, Khamenei ordered the regular Army’s 65th Division (special operations) to be deployed around Aleppo, and increased the number of other forces as well. Plans for a major offensive to capture Aleppo were set in motion. During attacks by the IRGC and the Iranian army in April 2016, dozens of the regime’s forces, including IRGC commanders and staff, Iranian army personnel and foreign mercenaries from Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan, were killed. Although the IRGC and the Iranian regime’s regular army forces have failed to change the balance of military power in Syria, Khamenei insists on sending more IRGC and army forces into the Syrian quagmire. Seeing no way forward, and no way back.”

Iran has also played critical role in pushing Russia to intensify its military involvement in Syria by providing air support, so that the IRGC and its allies could help Iran’s military make quick territorial gains.

Iran has spent approximately USD $100 billion on the Syrian war. The sanctions relief given to Iran as a result of the “nuclear agreement” has significantly assisted the Iranian leaders’ ability to continue the war.

Iran also pays salaries to non-Iranian militias to participate in the war: “The Tehran regime spends one billion dollars annually in Syria solely on the salaries of the forces affiliated with the IRGC, including military forces, militias, and Shiite networks.”

Iran, for example, pays nearly USD $1,550 a month to the IRGC’s Iraqi mercenaries who are dispatched to Syria for a month-and-a-half, and approximately USD $100-200 a month to the Syrian militia fighters from the Syrian National Defense.

Pursuing a sectarian agenda, Iranian leaders have also fueled the conflict by sending religious leaders to Syria to depict the conflict as a religious war.

“Iran’s ruling regime has deployed a vast network of its mullahs to Syria, where their warmongering stirs up the fighters. And much like during the Iran/Iraq War, religious zealots are also sent to Syria to fuel the flames of religious fervor among the IRGC’s Basiij fighters and Afghan and Iraqi mercenaries.”

Iran has divided Syria into five divisions and haד over 13 military bases including the “Glass Building” (Maghar Shishe’i), which is the IRGC’s main command center in Syria, located close to the Damascus Airport. The IRGC placed its command center near the airport because,

“the airport would be the last location to fall. IRGC forces airlifted to Syria are dispatched to other areas from this location. One of the commanders stationed at the Glass Building is IRGC Brig. Gen. Seyyed Razi Mousavi, commander of IRGC Quds Force logistics in Syria. Between 500 and 1,000 Revolutionary Guards are stationed there.”

Other Iranian bases are scattered across Syria including in Allepo, Hama, and Latakia.

Since Brig. General Hossein Hamedani was killed in Syria, the current command of Iran’s forces in Syria lies with the Command Council, whose members include: IRGC Brig. Gen. Esmail Qaani (deputy of Qassem Soleimani who is the commander of the Quds Force) and IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Jafaar Assadi (aka Seyyed Ahmad Madani).

The Syrian conflict has become the “root cause” of terrorism, which does not recognize borders and has spread to Europe and America. Since the Syrian war is the epicenter of terrorism, fighting terrorist groups such as ISIS without resolving the Syrian conflict is fruitless.

Terrorist groups such as ISIS are the symptoms, and the Syrian war is the disease. We need to address the disease and the symptoms simultaneously.

The best strategic and tactical approach is to cut off the role of a major player in the conflict: i.e. Iran. Without Iran, Assad would most likely not have survived the beginning phase of the uprising.

Iran kept Assad in power and gave birth to terrorist groups such as ISIS. In other words, Iran and Assad are the fathers of ISIS. Iran and Assad also played the West by claiming that they are fighting terrorism.

Considering the military forces and money invested in Syria, Iran is the single most important player in the Syrian war, and has tremendously increased radicalization of individuals, militarization and terrorism. Iran benefits from the rise of terrorism because it expands its military stranglehold across the region. Iran is top sponsor of terrorism, according to the latest report from U.S. State Department.

Iran will not agree to abandon Assad diplomatically.

In order to resolve this ripe environment of conflict for terrorism in Syria, Iran’s financial and military support to Assad should be strongly countered and cut off.

Which Nation is (Still) the Number One Sponsor of Terrorism?

October 3, 2016

Which Nation is (Still) the Number One Sponsor of Terrorism? Gatestone InstitutePeter Huessy, October 3, 2016

The June State Department report also lists 58 “Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” of which over a dozen are allied with Iran. One Iranian Al Qaeda agent was specifically sanctioned by the US Treasury for distributing cash to the same al-Nusra Front the Iranian Foreign Minister complains is a terrorist organization.

Even more chilling has been Iran’s joint missile and technology cooperation with North Korea, making the potential use of weapons of mass destruction against the US a growing possibility.

On September 14, the Iranian Foreign Minister wrote in the New York Times that, “coordinated action at the United Nations to cut off the funding for ideologies of hate and extremism” is needed along with “a willingness from the international community to investigate the channels that supply the cash and the arms” to terrorists. He concluded with an appeal to “join hands with the rest of the community of nations to eliminate the scourge of terrorism and violence that threatens us all.”

Given that in 2015 alone there were some 11,774 terrorist attacks in 92 countries, killing 28,300 people, one can agree that such action is needed. The irony, of course, is that the US Department of State released its annual report in June on state sponsors of terrorism, and Iran was the gold medalist for the world’s number one terrorist nation — an honor it has held since 1984. Only two other countries were listed as state sponsors of terror: Syria and Sudan.

Having Iran’s Foreign Minister call for an end to terrorism is like having Bonnie and Clyde call for law and order.

The report makes clear, along with other available evidence, that much of the terrorism in the world is Iran’s handiwork — especially the terrorism directed at America.

The report emphasized that Iran “remained the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in 2015, providing a range of support, including financial, training, and equipment, to [terror] groups around the world.” Iran provided arms and cash to terrorist groups and to nearly 30 Shia terrorist militias in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, especially Hezbollah, as well as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Houthi rebels in Yemen, and Shia militias in Bahrain.

On September 13, 2015, the US Central Command officially reported that Iran is specifically responsible for killing at least 500 American soldiers through the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And the current defense minister in Iran, appointed by President Rouhani, orchestrated the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 that killed 241 American soldiers.

Overall, the State Department report lists 13 “terrorist safe havens” around the world where “terrorists are able to organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, transit and operate.” These safe havens include remote areas in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and South America, virtually all of which have seen terrorist related activity by Iran and its IRGC. In just the Americas, this includes, says the Clarion Project, intelligence and terrorist networks in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Columbia, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname.

The State Department report also lists 58 “Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” of which over a dozen are allied with Iran. One Iranian al-Qaeda agent was specifically sanctioned by the US Treasury for distributing cash to the same al-Nusra Front the Iranian Foreign Minister complains is a terrorist organization.

1323-2The current defense minister in Iran, appointed by President Hassan Rouhani (left), orchestrated the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 that killed 241 American soldiers. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (right) complains the al-Nusra Front is a terrorist organization, even as an Iranian al-Qaeda agent was specifically sanctioned by the US Treasury for distributing cash to the organization.

Iran has evidently harbored senior Al Qaeda operatives since 9/11, including facilitating the flow of fighters and funds to al-Qaeda through Iran — a kind of jihadi pipeline. In the mid-1990s, reported the Clarion Project, Iran negotiated an agreement with Osama Bin Laden to allow al-Qaeda terrorists to freely transit Iran.

And, of course, Tehran’s senior leadership financed and facilitated, along with Hezbollah, the training of the 9/11 hijackers that killed nearly three thousand people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. According to a December 2011 decision by Judge George B. Daniels “Iran and Hezbollah materially and directly supported Al Qaeda in the September 11, 2001 attacks.”

But 9/11 was not Iran’s first terror attack against the United States. The Iranian government also financed the attack on the Pan Am flight that blew up over Scotland in December 1988, and was also responsible for the 1996 terror attacks against Americans at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the 1983 bombings of our Marine barracks and embassy in Lebanon.

A number of American courts, upon hearing the evidence of Iranian government support for terrorism, found Iran guilty of terrorist attacks against the United States and its citizens, culminating in at least $56 billion in damages, which included being found guilty complicity in the 9/11 attacks.

Even more chilling has been Iran’s joint missile and technology cooperation with North Korea, making the potential use of weapons of mass destruction against the US a growing possibility.

If any UN action is taken to stop terrorism, it should start with shutting down the number one source of state-sponsored terrorism in the world — the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Obama Turns Blind Eye to Iranian Offenses in UN Speech

September 27, 2016

Obama Turns Blind Eye to Iranian Offenses in UN Speech, Clarion Project, Jennifer Breedon, September 27, 2016

obama-un-address-2016-hpU.S. President Barack Obama addresses the UN General Assembly on Sept. 20, 2016. (Photo: video screenshot)

The Iranian leader rightfully fears a future administration that may not be willing to tolerate a total disregard for international law or human rights, given that even President Obama’s positive nod to Iran at the UN was met with the label of “continued animosity.” 

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In 2015, President Obama stated that Iran’s “support for terrorism” and “its use of proxies to destabilize parts of the Middle East” was problematic, despite the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the nuclear deal) that had been reached by that time that allowed Iran access to millions of previously frozen funds.

Yet, bafflingly, just five minutes after mentioning terror proxies in his 2016 UN address last week, President Obama seemed to turn a blind eye to Iran’s ongoing offenses by saying, “When Iran agrees to accept constraints on its nuclear program, that enhances global security and enhances Iran’s ability to work with other nations.”

Today, Iran is poised to move funds to its global terror proxies more easily due to the infusion of cash created by the unfreezing of their assets.  Even John Kerry admitted in 2015 that some of the money going back to Iran through sanctions relief would undoubtedly go to fund terrorism.

So, we all know it is happening and yet nothing is being done to stop them or to even state this obvious fact aloud before the very body that is designed to protect against such international violations.

The UN Convention that prohibits terrorism financing explicitly outlines the illegality of any government that commits such an offense when it

“directly or indirectly, unlawfully and willfully, provides or collects funds with the intention that they should be used or in the knowledge that they are to be used, in full or in part, in order to carry out . . . act(s) intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act” (Article 2(1)).  

Iran is guilty in spades of all of this.

Additionally, the Iranian government remains the U.S. State Department’s top proxy war and terror sponsor. Previous reports from the U.S. State Department note that Iran remains “unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qaeda (AQ) members [and has] previously allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran.”

The State Department has also highlighted Iran’s provision of “hundreds of millions of dollars in support of H[e]zballah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of its fighters . . . in direct support of the Assad regime in Syria” as well as terrorist groups in Palestine (Hamas), Yemen (Houthis) and “throughout the Middle East.”

President Obama’s appeals to the oppressive government of Iran have clearly fallen on deaf ears.  In a one-on-one with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd merely 24 hours after Obama’s UN speech, Iranian President Rouhani stated, “If the future administration of the United States wishes to continue animosity, it will receive the appropriate response.”

The Iranian leader rightfully fears a future administration that may not be willing to tolerate a total disregard for international law or human rights, given that even President Obama’s positive nod to Iran at the UN was met with the label of “continued animosity.”

No amount of vocal, material or financial appeasement can ease relations with the State Department’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.  Despite repeated efforts by President Obama, it will not get better until the Iranian regime abandons its practice of funding terrorism, inciting proxy wars throughout the Middle East, and oppressing their own people by using their resources to build and test weapons before providing the infrastructure needed to create a stable economy and free society for their people.

While Iranian civilians and citizens were in dire economic straits with very little government reprieve or resource allocation to ease their conditions prior to the Nuclear Deal sanctions relief, the Iranian regime was spending over $6 billion per year to support the Assad regime in Syria in its efforts to ensure a Shiite majority in the region.

The Iranian regime must be held accountable for its non-adherence to international law and its desire to finance terror globally in places like Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria.

It must be held responsible for using funds to bankroll violence and oppression instead of providing basic necessities and freedoms for its own people.  As Obama said at the UN this year, Iran must “listen to voices of young people everywhere who call out for freedom, and dignity, and the opportunity to control their own lives.”

Rouhani made it clear that, despite all of the steps we’ve taken, including acknowledging them positively at the UN General Assembly, nothing the U.S. has done has thawed our relationship with Iran or helped to improve the security of people living in the areas ruled by Iran or its terror proxies.

Our leaders must continue to speak out against Iran’s human rights violations and the financing of terror if we ever hope to see change and remain a positive beacon of democracy and freedom.