Posted tagged ‘Iranian dissidents’

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.

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

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.

From Execution to Medieval Torture: “Iran’s Mandela”, Ayatollah Boroujerdi

March 13, 2017

From Execution to Medieval Torture: “Iran’s Mandela”, Ayatollah Boroujerdi, Gatestone InstituteMajid Rafizadeh, March 13, 2017

(Since he wants to reform Iranian Islam, would CAIR and other Islamist groups refer to him as “Islamophobic?” — DM)

Ayatollah Boroujerdi has long advocated for the abolishing of “execution, and cruel, inhumane, and degrading punishments; such as torture, stoning and whipping. He rejected anti-Semitism and advocated religious freedom. He established charities and welfare centers to help the poor and assist victims of natural disasters. He condemned personal financial gain from religious activities.

His prison sentence was recently completed. It is critical to point out that Boroujerdi is still nowhere near free.

“He is said to have been beaten, thrown against a wall, and had cold water thrown on him when he was sleeping. He suffers from a heart condition, pulmonary issues, diabetes, severe problems with his eyes including untreated cataracts, and kidney stones. His legs are swollen which makes it very difficult for him to walk. His hands also shake as a result of his Parkinson’s disease. While in detention, he has not been receiving necessary medical treatment…” – Amnesty International.

Ayatollah Seyed Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi is a high-ranking prominent dissident clergyman in Iran. He has strongly called for separation of religion and state, and he condemns Islamic radicalism, fundamentalism, and terrorism. He is opposed to political Islam and the rule of Velayet-e-Faqih (Islamic custodianship over people), the theocratic system that governs Iran. Boroujerdi has many supporters and is known as Iran’s Mandela.

“He has long advocated for the abolishment of execution, and cruel, inhumane, and degrading punishments; such as torture, stoning and whipping. He rejected anti-Semitism and advocated religious freedom. He established charities and welfare centers to help the poor and assist victims of natural disasters. He condemned personal financial gain from religious activities. His call has been welcomed by an increasing number of followers to the point that, until his arrest, his gatherings surpassed the theocracy’s organized ceremonies, by their sheer size and numbers.”

For these humanitarian endeavors, he was sentenced to execution by the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, due to international pressure, in 2006, the Iranian regime changed the judgment to 11 years in Iran’s most notorious prison, Evin.

Ayatollah Seyed Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi, in his prison cell in Iran (undated photo).

He spent 11 years enduring heinous conditions with no medical care or access to a lawyer. There was no fair and due process.

He was convicted of ambiguous charges such as “waging war against God”. As Amnesty International wrote in a report:

“He [Boroujerdi] was arrested at his home in Tehran on October 8, 2006, along with more than 300 of his followers. He and some of his followers were initially sentenced to death after an unfair trial in Branch 3 of the Special Court for the Clergy in June 2007. His sentence was commuted in August 2007 to eleven years in prison. In addition to this, Ayatollah Boroujerdi was defrocked (banned from wearing his clerical robes and thereby from practicing his clerical duties), and his house and all of his belongings were confiscated. He had reportedly been found guilty of at least 30 charges, including “waging war against God” (moharebeh); acts against national security; publicly calling political leadership by the clergy (velayat-e faqih) unlawful.”

He was frequently tortured. Several attempts to kill him in prison led the Human Rights Watch to pressure Iran into conducting an investigation. According to Amnesty International:

“Ayatollah Boroujerdi has reportedly been tortured and otherwise ill-treated on numerous occasions since his arrest. He is said to have been beaten, thrown against a wall, and had cold water thrown on him when he was sleeping. He suffers from a heart condition, pulmonary issues, diabetes, severe problems with his eyes including untreated cataracts, and kidney stones. His legs are swollen which makes it very difficult for him to walk. His hands also shake as a result of his Parkinson’s disease. While in detention, he has not been receiving necessary medical treatment and has lost a considerable amount of weight. He was reportedly attacked and beaten in prison on November 17, 2013, perhaps in retaliation for letters he wrote that have been published on various web sites.”

In a letter to then UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, titled “I Implore You to Sympathize with Our Plight,” Ayatollah Boroujerdi revealed the Iranian regime’s atrocities, oppression, and support of terrorism:

“Greetings to the respected United Nations General Assembly. I am writing you as a political prisoner from the dreaded Evin Prison. I have been imprisoned and tortured for the past eight years for simply speaking out against political Islam and the cruel crimes committed by the government of Iran against its citizens due to implementation of religious laws. I would like to bring to your attention that Iran’s natural resources along with its national wealth are being spent — as a matter of priority — on funding Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and Iraq by the authorities while Iran’s own citizens are enduring widespread poverty, unprecedented unemployment along with high rates of depression and physical ailments. People in Iran have therefore lost hope.”

Boroujerdi’s prison sentence was recently completed, but it is critical to point out that he is still nowhere near free. He is still deprived of basic needs, he is under house arrest with heavy conditions and bail has been imposed on him.

Ayatollah Boroujerdi released a message recently, according to his representative:

“Our teacher of monotheism, Seyed Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi in his new position, just like in the past, demands for fulfillment of the rights of the innocent Iranian nation. The approaches and manners which the opposition groups in exile have adopted with regards to defending the rights of our deprived people have proven to be devoid of faithfulness and sincerity in fulfilling their promises. The shady dealings and political tampering which have become common practices these days have resulted in increased injustice, unfairness, and lack of freedom. This political-ideological prisoner is crying out and protesting against prejudices and against those who by adopting inhumane policies tend to ignore his tireless efforts and self-sacrifices in fighting oppression and tyranny, and those following their own personal interests, factions and cliques in campaign against this regime.”

The International community, the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Iran’s opposition groups need to pressure the Islamic Republic of Iran to release Ayatollah Boroujerdi.

Finally, as Ayatollah Boroujerdi articulately stated:

“It shall be noted by future generations that I have made the world aware of the dire situation in Iran numerous times. Those of you, who are well aware of our desperate plight, hear our cries and remain indifferent shall be remembered for generations to come. I implore you to sympathize with our plight and understand that we are being silenced. We are asking for help once again.”

Tehran Relies on Propaganda to Make up For Misallocation of Funds to Foreign Conflicts

March 10, 2017

Tehran Relies on Propaganda to Make up For Misallocation of Funds to Foreign Conflicts, Iran News Update, March 10, 2017

(Please see also, Time to Call Iran’s Revolutionary Guards What They Are: Terrorists. — DM)

[R]ecently released intelligence strongly suggests that the supreme leader and hardline authorities like the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps bear a great deal of responsibility for the economic struggles of Iranian citizens, as a result of the systematic misappropriation both of budgetary funds and financial resources earned through Iran’s private sector. On Wednesday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran held a panel discussion coinciding with the release of an e-book titled, The Rise of the Revolutionary Guards’ Financial Empire.

In both the discussion and the document, the leading Iranian opposition group explained that a recent push toward widespread privatization of the Iranian economy has actually resulted in the private acquisition of more than half of the country’s gross domestic product by front companies and other affiliates of the IRGC and the supreme leader himself.

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

On Friday, Reuters picked up on reporting in Iranian state media which noted that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had once again voiced criticism of President Hassan Rouhani’s handling of the nation’s economy following the nuclear agreement that went into effect at the beginning of last year. The supreme leader’s remarks appeared to specifically highlight the ongoing struggles of the Iranian people, who are experiencing poverty at a rate of at least nine percent and likely much higher.

“Of course the government has taken remarkable steps but if the resistance economy had been implemented fully and widely, we could witness a tangible difference in people’s lives,” Khamenei was quoted as saying. In previous months, he had already called for the renewal of his own “resistance economy” plan, which involves domestic development aimed at making the nation more capable of weather the storm of international economic sanctions, as distinguished from Rouhani’s plan of reaching out to Western powers in order to alleviate those sanctions.

Khamenei’s recommendations thus serve a dual purpose. In the first place, they further undermine the prospects for further rapprochement between the Islamic Republic and the West. And secondly, they defray blame for economic woes away from the supreme leader’s office and its hardline affiliates, putting it instead onto the Rouhani administration, which faces a contentious reelection bid in May.

But recently released intelligence strongly suggests that the supreme leader and hardline authorities like the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps bear a great deal of responsibility for the economic struggles of Iranian citizens, as a result of the systematic misappropriation both of budgetary funds and financial resources earned through Iran’s private sector. On Wednesday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran held a panel discussion coinciding with the release of an e-book titled, The Rise of the Revolutionary Guards’ Financial Empire.

In both the discussion and the document, the leading Iranian opposition group explained that a recent push toward widespread privatization of the Iranian economy has actually resulted in the private acquisition of more than half of the country’s gross domestic product by front companies and other affiliates of the IRGC and the supreme leader himself.

The Washington Times reported upon some of the findings presented in that document, emphasizing the fact that the regime is using these privately acquired assets to channel billions of dollars into regional terrorism, paramilitary activities, and weapons development. The article notes that the intelligence gathered by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran found that approximately 100 billion dollars was being spent annually just on salaries for militant fighters in the Syrian Civil War.

The Washington Times credits the NCRI with presenting a clear warning to Western businesses and policymakers. And the document itself says, “Foreign investors cannot in practical terms avoid entanglement by affiliation in the Iranian regime’s behavior, including its support for terrorism, continued aggressive policies towards regional countries, manufacture and testing of ballistic missiles, and systematic egregious human rights violations inside Iran.”

To critics of Iran’s clerical regime, this entanglement is worrying in its own right because of Tehran’s traditional behavior. And it is made more worrying by the fact that the above-mentioned ballistic missile program is being used alongside other types of weapons as a tool of explicit anti-Western propaganda.

This fact was highlighted once again on Friday when the Associated Press reported that General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the IRGC’s aerospace division, had boasted of the successful testing of another ballistic missile. The launch was aimed at naval targets and took place amidst three days of large-scale training exercises by the Iranian Navy, which is separate from the naval forces of the IRGC.

The IRGC conducted its own naval operations the previous week, and both demonstrations were accompanied by boastful rhetoric about readiness for war with proclaimed enemies including the United States. In a separate example of the same propaganda trends, Iran also premiered an animated film depicting a military officer modeled after IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani leading a small number of Iranian vessels in destroying a much larger American fleet.

In January, the IRGC conducted the test launch of a nuclear-capable ballistic missile barely a week after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump. Such tests take place in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution calling on Iran to refrain from work on weapons that could carry a nuclear warhead, but a half dozen other such launches had been carried out before Trump was inaugurated but after the conclusion of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany.

The January incident was apparently the immediate impetus for a statement by the Trump administration putting Iran on notice over its provocative behavior. But various observers including US Navy officers have declared that that behavior remains unchanged, and that the IRGC continues to act unprofessionally and confrontationally in the region. Last weekend, for instance, several fast-attack vessels belonging to the IRGC positioned themselves about 600 yards away from a US Navy surveillance ship and three British vessels, compelling them to change course.

The AP reported on Friday that Iranian officials had since made exactly the opposite claim about the incident: that the American and British vessels had changed course specifically to approach the Iranian boats. But considering that this is at odds with the accounts of various other Iranian-initiated close-encounters, it seems to suggest an effort on Tehran’s part to justify its missile tests and defiant rhetoric, by suggesting that the US is the more aggressive party.

Assuming that this particular Iranian claim is indeed a deceptive one, it is certainly not the only one of its kind. The ongoing propaganda campaign also appears to involve an effort to present Iran as being much better positioned than it is for global conflict. This is suggested by the aforementioned film and the statements accompanying military demonstrations and missile tests. But the tendency is perhaps much more clearly on display in allegedly false Iranian claims of advanced weapons development.

The National Interest recently pointed to this phenomenon as it concerns the Qaher F-313 fighter jet, which is supposedly equivalent to an American F-35 stealth fighter, and which Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan claimed was ready for operational testing. In fact, independent analyses of photographs of the craft are broadly in agreement that it is merely a non-functional mockup, and a poorly structured one, at that.

Similar claims have been made about other Iranian weapons and equipment, including drones supposedly cloned from captured American technology. Other military hardware unveiled by the Iranian Army and the Revolutionary Guards has been shown to be little more than outmoded technology affixed with purely cosmetic upgrades. But to the extent that the regime is able to use its tightly controlled state media to present these so-called developments to a domestic audience, it may evoke a more war-ready image of Iran than is defensible in reality.

What’s more, this messaging dovetails with Supreme Leader Khamenei’s statements on the Iranian economy, insofar as it suggests Iran is capable of greater-than-expected domestic military development, while also concealing the fact that much of the country’s military allotment is being spent in foreign territory like Syria and Yemen instead of on advanced domestic development, whether military or civilian.

 

Time to Call Iran’s Revolutionary Guards What They Are: Terrorists

March 10, 2017

Time to Call Iran’s Revolutionary Guards What They Are: Terrorists, American ThinkerReza Shafiee, March 10, 2017

What is missing in all the talks and arguments made in Washington as to what is an effective remedy to counter the mullahs in Iran is the role of Iranian people. Iran is boiling with popular discontent, now. According to Brigadier General Hossein Ashtari, the Iranian regime’s chief of police: “On average 20 to 30 protest gatherings take place around the country by citizens who have lost their life savings to the banks,” These citizens are mainly retired with very limited savings and were scammed out of their lifetime savings by various government-owned financial institutions.  Such protests are but a drop in the ocean when we add the teachers, nurses, factory workers, and an army of college graduates with no prospects of finding decent jobs to the discontent. This amounts to tens of thousands of people, in large numbers of gatherings each year. According to a BBC report, more than 11 million or Iran’s 83 million people are unemployed in the country.

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

Ever since signs emerged that Trump administration is considering a long-overdue classification of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, the ruling mullahs have gone to work. They put into place a well-known strategy of intimidation and deception aboard, coupled with an absolute iron fist at home. They do this because they know the value of controlling a terrorist organization. The problem is in the harm it means for everyone else.

In the past, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, would brandish the former by reminding Western governments that if they chose to cross Tehran then they must be prepared to pay dearly. But that was decades ago. One fact is undisputable now: The Iranian regime has long passed its prime revolutionary and glory days when Khomeini rode in on the tides of millions who were sadly unaware of what was to come. In those days, people tasted a short-lived period of high expectations, at the time wildly called “spring of freedom.”

At the same time, hostage-taking by IRGC’s protégés, such as nascent Lebanese Hezbollah, of foreign nationals, preferably Americans, was routine. The ayatollahs were behind it even though it often took place in Lebanon. After each kidnapping, IRGC’s proteges then engaged hostages’ governments in a lengthy and humiliating process of hostage negotiations and sometimes hostage swaps in the 1980s.

Today the IRGC has made it much more convenient to reach the same ends by taking the hostages among dual citizens who take the risk of traveling to Iran. Case in point was hostages released just after Iranian regime struck the nuclear deal with the U.S. and five other world powers. IRGC’s deputy chief, Brigadier General Hossein Nejat, in a speech in Bushehr (south of Iran), said: “The Iranian-American journalist of the Washington Post, Jason Rezaian, who had formed an espionage network was identified and arrested by the IRGC.”

Hossein Nejat stated: “The former Secretary of State, John Kerry with his intelligence forces urged the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif to release Jason Rezaian. Consequently, the U.S. government in return paid 1 billion and 400 million dollars ransom to Iran for the release of Jason Rezaian.”

Other IRGC officials, on different occasions after the hostages were released, have bragged that the Obama administration released Iranian prisoners in the United States and on top of that paid a hefty sum as ransom money.

In past few weeks, despite attempts by regime officials, such as Zarif, to keep a low profile while anxiously monitoring Donald Trump’s every move, IRGC is actively scheming. It raised the prize on Salman Rushdie’s head, showcased and glorified old terrorists such as Anis-Alnaghash on state-run television and openly threatened the U.S.

CNC News revealed on Feb. 28 that an IRGC strategist, Hassan Abbasi renewed threats that the force has planned to unleash terror cells on U.S. soil. He has elaborated plans to sabotage nuclear plants in the United States among other things. Ironically, at the same time, IRGC has claimed that it is fighting terrorism in neighboring countries.

Javad Zarif has recently said: “the world at large agrees that the IRGC has extended the utmost support for neighboring countries in their fight against terrorism.”

Zarif seemingly refers to IRGC’s destructive and brutal role in Syria and is trying to sell it as constrictive. According to IRGC’s own figures, more than 1,000 members of its rank and file have been killed in cities around the war-torn country.  Many were veteran IRGC officers. The Iranian regime claims that it has only an advisory role in Syria, however it has recruited and dispatched thousands of Afghani and Pakistani nationals to Syrian fronts. Not one has fought ISIS.

On March 2, Brigadier General Ismail Ghaani, who is deputy Quds Force commander, speaking in the northeastern city of Mashhad, told a group from the Fatemiyoun Division, an offshoot of the force fighting in Syria: “Fatemiyoun proved that it is a capable force ready to operate not only in Syria but anywhere else on the planet when Islam requires it.” Fatemiyoun was formed of Afghani recruits, along with its sibling organization Zenabiyoun Division of Pakistanis.

The Iranian regime today makes it no secret that it is heavily involved in Syria and Iraq. It sugarcoats its involvement with the illusion that IRGC and its armed wing, the Quds Force, are fighting ISIS. But it’s not true. After almost six years of involvement in the bloody civil war in Syria, it is out in the open that the regime has no quarrel with ISIS. Former Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview with Fox News: “Assad facilitated the release of 1,500 prisoners, parallel to 1,000 by Maliki in Iraq, leading to the foundation of ISIS.”  Former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, said that Americans knew what Prime Minister Maliki was up to, but chose not to take any action.

It is also a hard fact that Maliki was in every way a puppet of the Iranian regime. He was trained by the IRGC and fought alongside its forces during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.

What is missing in all the talks and arguments made in Washington as to what is an effective remedy to counter the mullahs in Iran is the role of Iranian people. Iran is boiling with popular discontent, now. According to Brigadier General Hossein Ashtari, the Iranian regime’s chief of police: “On average 20 to 30 protest gatherings take place around the country by citizens who have lost their life savings to the banks,” These citizens are mainly retired with very limited savings and were scammed out of their lifetime savings by various government-owned financial institutions.  Such protests are but a drop in the ocean when we add the teachers, nurses, factory workers, and an army of college graduates with no prospects of finding decent jobs to the discontent. This amounts to tens of thousands of people, in large numbers of gatherings each year. According to a BBC report, more than 11 million or Iran’s 83 million people are unemployed in the country.

When it comes to Iran, the decision-makers in Washington have two options: One is to follow the status quo and tolerate a regime which is the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world, a stirrer of sectarian violence in the region, and engaged in two wars in Iraq and Syria. It’s a nation that secretly supplies weapons to Yemen’s Houthis which has also cost American servicemen’s lives. If the Trump administration chooses this option, it will make the same mistakes the Obama administration made.

The other, and better, option is to stand with Iranian people and their resistance, to let them shape their own future. All they asked of U.S. in 2009 was for the U.S. to stand with them. At the time, they chanted: “Obama are you with us or with them.” They clearly hoped the U.S. would not placate mullahs with concessions, nor turn a blind eye to regime’s terrorism.

One such good signal in the right direction would be to designate IRGC as a terrorist organization.  In light of all it has done and its growing strength, in designating the IRGC as a terrorist group, we are doing ourselves a favor.

Reza Shafiee is a member of Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) 

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

February 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In trouble, Iran tries to discredit the MEK – dissidents

February 7, 2017

In trouble, Iran tries to discredit the MEK – dissidents, Iran Focus, February 6, 2017

mek-rally-750

London, 7 Feb – As President Donald Trump’s new US administration steps up pressure on Iran over its belligerent activities, Iranian opponents are arguing that Tehran is now targeting its main organised opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI or MEK), with disinformation in order to discredit its role as a potential alternative to the theocratic regime.

The MEK, established over 51 years ago, as an opposition movement to the Shah’s regime, soon fell out with the clerical government that took over with the 1979 revolution. Since 1981, the MEK has been considered as the ruling theocracy’s main nemesis. The MEK is also the leading force in the main opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

Following the publication of articles by the Iranian ‘lobby’ targeting the MEK with ‘misinformation’, Farzin Hashemi, a Member of the NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote on Monday:

“Over the past week, once again policy on Iran was widely discussed in the media. Simultaneously, in recent weeks there has been more growing call for a new approach toward Iranian opposition, the MEK. The announcement by the US National Security Advisor that ‘Iran is officially on notice’ drew much attention. This position was followed by more Tweets from President Trump and a new round of sanctions, raising the prospect of a change of policy in the US approach towards Iran”.

Hashemi pointed out that both the NCRI and the MEK support sanctions against Iranian officials over their role in ballistic missile proliferation, a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231:

“As far as the Iranian Resistance, and its components including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK/PMOI), is concerned imposing sanctions against a number of individuals and companies affiliated to the clerical regime for their role in missile proliferation is a positive step in confronting the illegitimate and terrorist dictatorship whose record includes 120,000 political executions”.

Last week the Trump administration sanctioned 25 Iranian officials and entities for a recent ballistic missile test launch by Tehran. Hashemi argued, however, that in order to deal with the threats emanating from Tehran – which it described as the Godfather of state-sponsored terrorism – the world community ought to impose comprehensive sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the Ministry of Intelligence, and “other entities involved in suppression of the Iranian people and export of terrorism”.

“The IRGC and its affiliated militias and their commanders must be expelled from the countries of the region, in particular from Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Otherwise, the region would not witness peace and tranquillity”.

“The prospect of a shift of US policy, has already shaken not only the Iranian regime and its lobbies but also apologists and advocates of the old and failed policy of appeasement. In order to maintain the ‘golden era,’ a term used by the mullahs’ officials internally and sometimes publicly to describe the last few years of US policy on Iran, they have resorted to a two-pronged strategy”, Hashemi argued.

Through their “propaganda in the media”, under various covers, they are trying to create an “echo chamber” with which any suggestion of the need for a firm policy on Iran and its rogue behaviour, both at home and abroad, is described as “war mongering”, he said. “They are desperately trying to intimidate those calling for a change of policy to side with the people of Iran, through such false labels”.

“Simultaneously, they are engaged in a massive disinformation campaign to discredit the democratic opposition, the MEK and the coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), led by its President-elect Maryam Rajavi. By spreading fake news about the MEK/PMOI, originated from the Ministry of Intelligence of the mullahs’ regime and the intelligence section of the IRGC, their objective is to convey this false message that there is no viable opposition and the world must accept and deal with the religious dictatorship ruling Iran. Thus, the core of the issue is not their debunked allegations but their hidden agenda to maintain the policy of appeasement”.

“So, the choice is simply to opt between supporting the central banker of international terrorism with the record of having executed 120,000 dissidents for political reasons –ironically, the majority of them members and sympathizers of the PMOI/MEK – or to side with the Iranian people in their quest for a free and democratic Iran in which there would be no more executions, no more gender discrimination, no more supporting terrorist groups and destabilizing the entire region and no more nuclear weapons program”.

Iranian dissidents have also taken to social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, to denounce Tehran’s ‘media propaganda ploy’ against the MEK.

On 9 January this year, 23 US prominent dignitaries, many of them with years of public service, urged the Trump administration “to adopt and pursue an Iran policy that recognizes the interests and inalienable rights of the Iranian people, and not just the clerical regime ruling over them.”

Highlighting the failure of the past policy that the nuclear deal might lead to a change of behavior from Tehran, the signatories stressed that the regime’s aggressive policy is part of their efforts on “preserving the vulnerable system of dictatorship”.

They also called for the voice of the Iranian people to be listened to through the NCRI and the MEK.

The former US officials also spoke out against Iran’s misinformation campaign against the MEK.

Pointing out that some “media and policy community continue to recycle defamatory allegations from decades past,” they wrote “We now know that these designations of the resistance as a terrorist group by Western governments were not made in response to confirmed terrorism; all were diplomatic gestures taken at the request of Tehran. Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security has for many years impaired the exiled opposition by covertly spreading false and distorted claims through third parties in the West. Other governments like Germany and the Netherlands closely monitor Iran’s influence operations on their soil; a thorough counter‐intelligence investigation by the US is clearly needed and long overdue”.

They concluded by recommending to Trump: “With a more enlightened grasp of the Iranian regime’s priorities and vulnerabilities, your Administration will be equipped to exert leverage enabling the US to oppose Tehran’s repression and adventurism while standing for the fundamental values both our peoples share”.

Hashemi added: “While, Tehran’s lobby and advocates of appeasement will desperately continue to allocate all their resource to discredit the resistance, and in particular the MEK (PMOI) and to preserve the failed old policy, their time is over”.

 

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

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

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

MEK’s interpretation of Islam

The theocratic mullah regime in Iran believe interpreting Islam is their exclusive domain. The MEK reject this view and the cleric’s reactionary vision of Islam. The MEK’s comprehensive interpretation of Islam proved to be more persuasive and appealing to the Iranian youth.
MEK’s founders and new members studied the various schools of thought, the Iranian history and those of other countries, enabling them to analyze other philosophies and ideologies with considerable knowledge and to present their own ideology, based on Islam, as the answer to Iran’s problems.

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

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

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

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

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

Release of Political Prisoners on the last days of the Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

MEK’s endeavors to participate in the political process avoiding an unwanted conflict with government repressive forces
The MEK actively participated in the political process, fielding candidates for the parliamentary and presidential elections. The MEK also entered avidly into the national debate on the structure of the new Islamic regime, though was unsuccessful in seeking an elected constituent assembly to draft a constitution.

The MEK similarly made an attempt at political participation when [then] Massoud Rajavi ran for the presidency in January 1980. MEK’s leader was forced to withdraw when Khomeini ruled that only candidates who had supported the constitution in the December referendum – which the MEK had boycotted- were eligible. Rajavi’s withdrawal statement emphasized the MEK’s efforts to conform to election regulations and reiterated the MEK’s intention to advance its political aims within the new legal system”. (Unclassified report on the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran(PMOI/ MEK) by the Department of State to the United States House of Representatives, December 1984.)

However, the MEK soon found itself in a direct struggle against the forces of the regime’s Supreme leader. The MEK’s differences with Khomeini dated back to the 1970s, and stem from its opposition to what is known today as Islamic extremism. Angry at the position taken by the MEK against his regime and worried about the MEK’s growing popularity, Khomeini ordered a brutal crackdown against the MEK and its supporters. Between 1979 and 1981, some 70 MEK members and sympathizers were killed and several thousand more were imprisoned by the Iranian regime.

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

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

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

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

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

MEK Today

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

• Universal suffrage as the sole criterion for legitimacy
• Pluralistic system of governance
• Respect for individual freedoms
• Ban on the death penalty
• Separation of religion and state
• Full gender equality
• Equal participation of women in political leadership. MEK is actually led by its central committee consist of 1000 women.
• Modern judicial system that emphasizes the principle of innocence, a right to a defense, and due process
• Free markets
• Relations with all countries in the world
• Commitment to a non-nuclear Iran

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

Guest Column: Washington Finally Designates Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps

February 4, 2017

Guest Column: Washington Finally Designates Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Raymond Tanter and Edward Stafford, February 3, 2017

1962

The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions Friday on a host of Iranian companies and individuals as terrorists. It is a welcome development, which hopefully sends a signal to Tehran to rein in its global terror support, ballistic missile testing, and oppression of its people.

The action targets people and entities involved in procuring technology and/or materials to support Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well acting for or on behalf of, or providing support to, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Qods Force.

The Iranian entities operate like a network out of Lebanon. It is the base of Hizballah (Party of God), an IRGC proxy, which was designated in 1997, but the IRGC was not designated.

Friday’s sanctions could help liberal democracy grow in Iran by showing Iranians that their leadership would face consequences for violating civil liberties at home and international relations norms abroad.

Per the Iranian Constitution (See Articles 107, 110), Iran is a theocratic dictatorship. Its parliament is under the sway of the Supreme Leader and other ayatollahs who select themselves. There is no such thing as a separation of powers by an independent authority.

Iran’s military is subordinated to the IRGC, which also controls most of the economy. Electoral results that do not satisfy the leadership are ignored and protests of anti-democratic governmental action are ruthlessly and systematically suppressed.

In the aftermath of the 2009 presidential elections, the Greens and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) led protests. There is evidence the NCRI continues to exist despite facing heavy persecution. But the Greens have faded away, with their leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi under house arrest in Tehran, subject to the whims of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

It appears as if Iran’s leaders face few domestic consequences for their illiberal and anti-democratic rule; so, to paraphrase Burke, the fewer consequences from within, the more needed from without.

Candidates for Designation

A 2015 study by Israel’s Meir Amit of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Portrait of Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qods Force, provides ample evidence of the IRGC’s role in fomenting global terrorism.

Starting in 2012, the IRGC recruited several thousand Shi’ite volunteer fighters from among Afghan refugees living in Iran. The IRGC also cultivated terrorist networks in the Golan Heights. These activities morphed into terrorism on Aug. 20, 2015, when local forces, including Hizballah operatives supported and supplied by the IRGC, fired four rockets at Israel from the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights. Two hit Israeli territory in the Upper Galilee and two fell in the Golan.

Last April, Hizballah with the backing of the IRGC, began building new military installations in Syria, according to a report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. These appear to be geared toward a future, conventional war with Israel, but they offered Hizballah a venue from which it can launch strikes against northern Israeli cities.

Deliberately targeting civilians is a textbook example of terrorism. During this same time, the IRGC helped Hizballah operate complex weapons rockets that increased Hizballah’s ability to target Israeli cities.

A study published last fall by Iranian specialist Alireza Jafarzadeh and his colleagues shows how Iran fuels the Syrian civil war by placing the IRGC on the ground and transporting some Afghan refugees living in Iran to fight in Syria. The IRGC combined its troops and those of surrogates on the ground in terrorist assaults on civilians in places like Aleppo, Syria. This combination of forces on land with Syrian airstrikes proved to be a toxic mix of terrorism: “Syria is our 35th province, and is a strategic province for us,” Mehdi Taeb, a former commander of IRGC intelligence said in 2013. Because Taeb retains influence in the IRGC, his statements were and are indicative of the depth of the IRGC commitment to Syrian regime capabilities to conduct terrorism against civilians:

“If the enemy attacks us and seeks to take Syria or Khuzestan [an Iranian province], our priority would be to keep Syria, because if we keep Syria, we can retake Khuzestan. But if we lose Syria, we cannot keep Tehran.”

These three studies show the IRGC meets the legal criteria for an FTO designation. They are: 1) It must be a foreign organization; 2) engage in terrorist activity or terrorism, or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism; and 3) the organization’s terrorist activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of the United States).

To designate an organization or individual, there must be evidence they threaten the United States’ national security, foreign policy, or economy. The studies cited show that the IRGC is a threat to U.S. national security interests.

As evidence of congressional interest in designation, on Friday, MSNBC reported a bipartisan letter to President Trump in favor of sanctions against the IRGC. In addition,The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Terrorist Designation Act” was introduced in the House and Senate in January. These identical bills emphasize that the IRGC meets the criteria for designation as a foreign terrorist organization under U.S. law.

“If a foreign organization looks like a terror group, operates like a terror group, and supports terrorism, then it should be called for what it is–a foreign terrorist organization,” said House co-sponsor Michael McCaul, R-Texas. “As obvious as that seems, for years the IRGC has been allowed to operate clandestinely using front companies and illicit networks to evade formal designation.”

Fellow Texas Republican and Senate co-sponsor Ted Cruz added that, by designating IRGC as a foreign terror organization, the U.S. would be “signaling to financial institutions and companies who facilitate or conduct business with the IRGC that they may be held liable.”

The Way Forward

Regarding the executive branch, President Trump made excellent choices for his national security team—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; Defense Secretary James Mattis; National Security Adviser, Mike Flynn; Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelly; Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats; and Director of Central Intelligence, Mike Pompeo.

These talented officials need not sing from the same songbook, that is, they need not agree. But it is important that their views be taken into account in the interagency process. That said, consider two major benefits of designation their consultation might produce.

First, tagging the IRGC would give succor to democratic forces within Iran by imposing costs on anti-democratic ones, including those who lead the IRGC. The IRGC leader Qasem Soleimani, who goes virtually unchallenged, would be weakened. A weaker Soleimani could give rise to splits within the regime and place Iran on its back foot. Now, Tehran can spend money abroad on Afghan fighters, Hizballah in Lebanon and Syria, Hamas in Gaza, and ignore unmet economic needs of the population.

Second, designating the IRGC sends a strong signal to the Arab Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia: Washington is serious about regime change in Tehran. Prince Turki al Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief, spoke to a group of Iranian dissidents in Paris in July 2016. Although he was not then in the government, Prince Turki remains an influential player in Riyadh.

A crowd of over 100,000 Iranian oppositionists chanted in Farsi that they wanted regime change in Iran. Prince Turki spoke to the dissidents in Arabic, saying he also wanted to see regime change in Tehran. This remark brought the house down.

In a subsequent brief conversation with Tanter, Turki said that designating the IRGC would be a good start toward unraveling of the Iranian regime.

The bottom line is that designation could help bring liberal democracy to Iran by weakening the grip of its key repressive institution—the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its proxies like Hizballah.