Posted tagged ‘Iranian dissidents’

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

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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

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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.

US Lawmakers Promise Iranian Opposition that there will be Tougher Laws on Iran

January 28, 2017

US Lawmakers Promise Iranian Opposition that there will be Tougher Laws on Iran, Iran News Update, January 28, 2017

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A bipartisan group of US lawmakers have promised the Iranian Opposition that they will press for tougher sanctions on the Iranian Regime. The House members made this pledge to the Organization of Iranian-American Communities (OIAC) on Tuesday. 

The OIAC is allied with the Iranian dissident group Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK)  and advocates for a “democratic, secular and non-nuclear government”, and overthrowing the  “religious dictatorship” in Iran.

Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called for an expansion of the sanctions against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which were not removed during the nuclear deal.

She said: “It is time that we put the tools that we have created to use, broadening our sanctions so that they include IRGC-controlled businesses and subsidiaries. We must target the (Iranian) regime at every turn, not only enforcing the sanctions that have been too long neglected, but expanding their scope whenever and wherever possible.”

The lawmakers also want to stop IRGC-affiliated companies from buying US-made passenger planes, which would likely be used to ship weapons, troops and even money to terrorist cells.

Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman co-sponsored a bill to require the Trump administration to report any signs of Iran using US-made aircraft for “illicit military or other activities” which would violate the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal.

He said: “We need an ironclad system that makes sure (any newly-acquired planes with American technology) are not used for military or terrorist purposes (by Iran).”

During his campaign, Trump promised to renegotiate the Iranian Nuclear Deal- unlike his Republican opponents, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who promised to “rip up” the deal, on their first day in office- but has not made steps towards it yet.

Sherman also wanted to prevent US banks from loaning Iran any money to pay for new planes.

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher called for increased political pressure against the Iranian despots, especially to protect the human rights of the people living there.

He said: “One strategy is to help pro-democracy movements who would replace the mullahs. I’m willing to help the Azeris, Baluch and Kurds, who are not part of the Persian majority, to create a situation where you have autonomous regions similar to the states of the United States so that those people’s rights will feel secure as well.”

Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel explained that he wanted to help the Iranian dissidents who were previously exiled to Camp Liberty in Iraq, but have since been safely relocated to Albania.

He noted that they still have not received the money from the sale of their property in Iraq; an estimated $50 million left at Camp Liberty and $500 million at Camp Ashraf. This money is needed to help them make a new life, without handouts.

He said: “As all of their expenses in Albania are paid by MEK, they need their money to be returned as soon as possible. So, I urge Iraq, which the United States has helped for so many years, to honour its commitment to return the money to MEK.”

After Trump Inauguration, Netanyahu Wastes No Time Putting Iran Back on Agenda

January 21, 2017

After Trump Inauguration, Netanyahu Wastes No Time Putting Iran Back on Agenda, Jerusalem PostHerb Keinon, January 21, 2017

bibiandtrumpDonald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu meet at the Trump tower. (photo credit:KOBI GIDON / GPO)

“This ruthless regime continues to deny you your freedom,” Netanyahu said in the English video, accompanied by Farsi subtitles.  “It prevents thousands of candidates from competing in elections, it steals money from your poor to fund a mass murderer like [Syrian President Bashar] Assad. By calling daily for Israel’s destruction, the regime hopes to instill hostility between us. This is wrong. We are your friend, not your enemy.”

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Just 24 hours after US President Donald Trump spoke in his inaugural address about the need to eradicate radical Islamic terrorism, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put a brief video clip on social media aimed at placing the Iranian threat squarely back on the international agenda.

“I plan to speak soon with President Trump about how to counter the threat of the Iranian regime, which calls for Israel’s destruction,” Netanyahu said in the two-and-a-half minute video addressed directly to the Iranian people.

“This ruthless regime continues to deny you your freedom,” Netanyahu said in the English video, accompanied by Farsi subtitles.  “It prevents thousands of candidates from competing in elections, it steals money from your poor to fund a mass murderer like [Syrian President Bashar] Assad. By calling daily for Israel’s destruction, the regime hopes to instill hostility between us. This is wrong. We are your friend, not your enemy.”

This was the first video of this sort Netanyahu has put out in months, after putting out several in the spring and summer that addressed issues such as Palestinian incitement and the settlements. It is also the first time in a while that he has exclusively addressed the Iranian issue, other than in a  couple of sentences in public appearances here and there.

The release of the video now, just 24-hours after Trump took over from Barack Obama, is an obvious effort to get the world’s leaders – first and foremost Trump – to one again focus on the Iranian regime.

Trump has come out squarely against the Iranian nuclear deal.  The sense among sources close to Netanyahu is that when dealing with the new administration, Netanyahu will not only have a more receptive ear regarding the dangers that the Iranians pose, but also find an administration more willing to shine the light on Iran’s part in the spread of radical Islamic terrorism, and more vigilant in ensuring that Tehran lives up to its commitments under the nuclear deal.

“We’ve always distinguished between the Iranian people and the Iranian regime,” Netanyahu said in the video.

“The regime is cruel, the people are not; the regime is aggressive, the people are warm. I yearn for the day when Israelis and Iranians can once against visit each other freely – in Tehran and Isfahan, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv,” he said. “The fanatics must not win, their cruelty must not conquer our compassion. Our two peoples can work together for a more peaceful and hopeful future for both of us. We must defeat terror and tyranny, and we must ensure that freedom and friendship win the day.”

Netanyahu referenced the Iranian student protests of 2009, which some say was a golden opportunity for change in Iran which was squandered by a lack of unequivocal moral and material support by Obama in the early days of his presidency.

“I will never forget the images of brave young students , hungry for change, gunned down in the streets of Tehran in 2009,” Netanyahu said. “And I will never forget beautiful Neda Soltan – gasping for her last breath on that sidewalk.”

This was a reference to Iranian student Neda Agha-Soltan, whose shooting-death during the protests was caught on video and went viral.

“You have a proud history, you have a rich culture,” Netanyahu said. “Tragically, you are shackled by a technocratic tyranny. In a free Iran you will once again be able to flourish without limit , but today a cruel regime is trying to keep you down.”

While Netanyahu said he will speak to Trump about Iran soon, no announcement has yet been made about when their first meeting will be held, though there have been recent reports it could be as early as the first week in February. Government officials said that the issue will be determined in the coming days.

Netanyahu congratulated Trump on his inauguration in a tweet Friday afternoon: “Congratulations to my friend President Trump,” he wrote. “I look forward to working closely with you to make the alliance between Israel and America stronger than ever. Shabbat Shalom.”

Senior National Security Experts Calling for Working with the Iranian Opposition Applauded by Iranian Americans

January 18, 2017

Senior National Security Experts Calling for Working with the Iranian Opposition Applauded by Iranian Americans, Iran News Update, January 18, 2017

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This bi-partisan urge to the incoming Trump administration “to establish a dialogue with Iran’s exiled resistance, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI),” who have called for free elections to establish a secular, democratic, non-nuclear republic in Iran, as well as to end to Tehran’s “religious dictatorship.”

Successive US administrations, offering concessions in a futile attempt to moderate the behavior of the totalitarian regime, have failed, and ignored 80 million freedom loving people in Iran.

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In an article published in the PR Newswire, a Cision Company on Jan. 16, 2017, the Organization of Iranian American Communities-US (OIACUS), the largest, most active and enduring grass root organization of Iranian-Americans in the United States welcomes the letter initiated by nearly two dozen bi-partisan former senior U.S. government officials who have urged President-elect Donald Trump to work with the Iranian opposition, as an integral part of a new policy on Iran.

Signed by 23 former top officeholders during the past five administrations the letter to the president-elect states, “To restore American influence and credibility in the world, the United States needs a revised policy based on universally shared norms and principles reflecting the ideals of peace and justice. A policy highlighting, and demanding an end to, Iran’s domestic human rights violations and malevolent regional actions will attract broad support and generate needed leverage against Iran’s threatening behavior.”

This bi-partisan urge to the incoming Trump administration “to establish a dialogue with Iran’s exiled resistance, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI),” who have called for free elections to establish a secular, democratic, non-nuclear republic in Iran, as well as to end to Tehran’s “religious dictatorship.”

Successive US administrations, offering concessions in a futile attempt to moderate the behavior of the totalitarian regime, have failed, and ignored 80 million freedom loving people in Iran.

The OIAC calls on the new administration to reach out to the Iranian people and their well-organized opposition movement, saying that foreign military intervention is not the answer, and that the United States should recognize the aspirations of Iranian people for a free and democratic future as the only effective and viable policy.

Our members have a range of political and party affiliations. However the members are unified in the belief that democracy and human rights in Iran are imperative to the national security of America, peace in the Middle East, and beyond. “In this honorable endeavor, we shall welcome your engagement and decisive decision-making.”

At a January 24th Congressional briefing, Iranian Americans will also join their representatives to present their policy recommendations on Iran with their representatives in Washington, DC.

Domestic Protests and Trump Inauguration Both Threaten Iran’s Relations with Russia

January 14, 2017

Domestic Protests and Trump Inauguration Both Threaten Iran’s Relations with Russia, Iran News Update, January 13, 2017

(Fascinating article. Please see also, Mystery blasts in Damascus: Syria accuses Israel. “The Russians have taken charge of the Syrian war and no longer bother to consult with the Syrian president or Iran on its conduct.” — DM)

deadmullah

With the US and Russia strongly at odds, it was understood that Moscow would defend its Iranian partners in disputes over the nuclear deal. But if the US and Russia begin to reconcile and engage in greater political coordination under the Trump administration, this situation could be threatened, especially at a time when Iran’s partnership with Russia is also being openly challenged at home.

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On Wednesday, Voice of America News published an article detailing some of the protests that were seen in Iran on the occasion of the state-organized funeral of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Various slogans were heard to be shouted as part of those protests, and Iranian state media muted the television broadcast of the funeral as a result. These included calls for the release of political prisoners including the Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. But the funeral also served as an outlet for critical sentiments about the Iranian regime’s relationship with Russia and the associated interventions in the Syrian Civil War.

VOA News noted that demonstrators could be heard shouting “Death to Russia” and “the Russian embassy is a den of spies,” in mimicry of slogans that have been used against the United States by supporters of the Islamic theocracy. The report suggested that these demonstrations reflected both a change in the Iranian government’s view of Russia and widespread popular anxiety about that change. That anxiety in turn adds to questions about the durability of the Iran-Russia alliance, which some analysts have characterized not as an alliance but as a tenuous “partnership of convenience.”

Although Iran and Russia have both been backing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad virtually since the outset of the civil war aimed at ousting his government, it has frequently been suggested that the two countries’ interests in the region could begin to diverge in a way that threatened their cooperation. Russia’s partnership with Iran was already threatened by its friendly relations with Iran’s bitter enemy, Israel. And as the Syrian Civil War has dragged on, that threat has apparently intensified with Iran providing anti-Israeli Shiite paramilitary Hezbollah a permanent base in Syria.

Leaving aside the different perceptions of this situation by Tehran and Moscow, it has also been suggested that the latter could be more willing to accept a future for Syria in which Assad is not a long-term player. This difference is arguably reflected in the different degrees of hostility with which the two countries pursue moderate Syrian rebels. Although both have been accused of focusing their efforts on those moderate rebels instead of militant groups like ISIL, Russia guaranteed safe passage to the rebels and to civilians in rebel-controlled territory following the recent conquest of Aleppo. Iran, on the other hand, stopped fleeing Syrians at its own checkpoints and demanded concessions from the rebels to secure their release.

If such differences do reflect broader tensions in the Iran-Russia partnership, it is possible that these could be exploited by other interested parties, particularly incoming US President Donald Trump. Since winning election in November, Trump has continued to advocate for improved relations with Russia, while also maintaining a hard line on such issues as the Iran nuclear agreement.

His prospective Cabinet appointees have largely maintained this same line. The Weekly Standardreports that Trump’s choice for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has called for a thorough review of the nuclear agreement, in the interest of strengthening its enforcement mechanisms and making sure that Tehran is held accountable to its provisions to a greater extent than it was under the Obama administration. Meanwhile, UPI reports that Trump’s Secretary of Defense pick, James Mattis, underscored the importance of such a review when he referred to Iran as the worst destabilizing force in the Middle East.

Speaking more concretely during his Senate confirmation hearing, Mattis described Iran’s “malign influence” as having grown as a result of recent policies, and suggested that it would be the responsibility of the incoming presidential administration to see that the United States counters that influence, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. And of course this objective, if adopted by the administration itself, will have serious bearing on its strategy with regard to Syria, where improved relations with Russia could also play a part.

Although Mattis also expressed an interest in taking a fairly hard line on Russia, his comments to this effect are at odds with those of the president elect and in any event, they would have to be reconciled with the desire to undermine the power of a Middle Eastern government that could be significantly constrained by Russia.

The Voice of America article indicated that some Iranian officials are noticeably worried about the effects that improved relations between Moscow and Washington could have on Iran’s plans for its Russian partnership. These effects would probably not be limited to the Syrian Civil War but would also include changes in the ways in which the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is understood and enforced.

Earlier this week, the seven parties that had negotiated that agreement met in Geneva, for the last time before US President Barack Obama leaves office and Donald Trump is sworn in. There was some danger of Iran using this meeting to initiate conflict-resolution mechanisms built into the agreement, following comments by the Iranian Foreign Ministry promising “retaliation” and demanding “compensation” from the US for its reauthorization of the Iran Sanctions Act.

The provisions of that act remain suspended under the JCPOA, but US congressmen almost universally considered it important to keep the law in effect for the next ten years, so as to retain a credible threat of the “snap back” of economic sanctions in the event that Iran is caught cheating on the deal. The Iranians, on the other hand, had insisted that any additional sanctions activity – even unenforced activity – would be regarded as a violation of the spirit of the deal.

However, Reuters reported on Wednesday that Tehran had effectively backed down from its previous threats in the context of the meeting. This apparent change in tone may support a conclusion put forward in a previous Iran News Update article, which suggested that Iran was beginning to reorient its strategies regarding the JCPOA, so as to account for the change in prospective responses under the Trump administration as compared to the Obama administration.

Trump’s own threats to tear up or undermine the nuclear deal are one aspect of this, and they may necessitate that Tehran act differently in order to preserve that deal. Previously, the Iranians themselves had suggested a willingness to tear up the agreement, but some analysts took this to be a ploy to gain further concessions at a time when the Obama White House was paranoid about losing its foreign policy legacy. Some also viewed that ploy as successful, considering that Iran made several perceived violations, including two instances of exceeding heavy water limits, but faced no serious consequences under the deal.

But in times to come, the Iranian regime may have to treat more lightly if it wishes to preserve the agreement, which provided Iran with tens of billions of dollars in unfrozen assets, plus unspecified benefits from sanctions relief and new international business. The changing circumstances reflect not only the loss of a conciliatory opponent in the Obama administration, but also the prospective loss of a strong international backer in the Russian government.

With the US and Russia strongly at odds, it was understood that Moscow would defend its Iranian partners in disputes over the nuclear deal. But if the US and Russia begin to reconcile and engage in greater political coordination under the Trump administration, this situation could be threatened, especially at a time when Iran’s partnership with Russia is also being openly challenged at home.

Obama’s Enabling of Palestinian Terror

January 11, 2017

Obama’s Enabling of Palestinian Terror, Front Page MagazineJoseph Puder, January 11, 2017

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When we consider last month’s United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSC) 2334 that passed with deliberate U.S. abstention and later, justified in a speech by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, it makes the adage below come to mind. The Midrash (commentary on part of the Hebrew Scriptures) tells us, “He who becomes compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate.”  Maimonides wrote in The Guide of the Perplexed that “the wicked and calculating person who killed intentionally and was sentenced to death – if he seeks sanctuary among us, we must not provide him with asylum, and not have mercy upon him, because compassion toward the wicked is cruelty to all beings.

In supporting the Palestinian regime that seeks the destruction of the Jewish State as its ultimate goal, the Obama administration is being compassionate toward the wrong party.  The Obama administration is knowingly and deliberately supporting the creation of another unstable Arab authoritarian regime that has failed its people.  Mahmoud Abbas, like Arafat before him, albeit more subtle, seeks the same goal: undermining the Jewish state, and replacing it with an undemocratic Palestinian state.  Abbas wouldn’t return to the negotiating table unless he is heavily bribed, and like Arafat, at the crucial moment when all reasonable concessions had been made, he walked out.

At their September 16, 2008 meeting in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert agreed to forgo sovereignty over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest site, and proposed that in the framework of the peace agreement, the area containing the religious sites in Jerusalem would be managed by a special committee consisting of representatives from five nations: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestinians, the U.S. and Israel.  The advisors and Fatah officials heard that Olmert laid out for Abbas not only the details of the agreement but also a large map upon which he outlined the borders of the future Palestinian state.  Abbas, like Arafat in July, 2000, walked out.

Considering Palestinian terrorism incited by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority against Jewish civilians and soldiers alike, it becomes clear that the Obama administration has shown compassion toward Palestinian aspirations and contempt for Jews aspiring to settle in their ancestral regions of Judea and Samaria.  The Administration would be quite content on a “judenrein” West Bank.   In fact, the U.S. and its European allies support the PA with huge grants, portions of which goes to pay salaries to Palestinian terrorists with blood on their hands and their families.  They have likewise funded Palestinian-Arab construction projects, built illegally throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The Obama administration has also shown compassion for the Iranian regime by ending the economic sanctions against the radical Islamic Iranian regime, which hangs gays and lesbians as well as juveniles.  Amnesty International reported on January 26, 2016, that “Iran remains the leading executioner of juvenile offenders.”  The New York Post reported on August 3, 2016 that “The Obama administration quietly shipped $400 million stacked on wooden pallets in an unmarked plane to Iran in January – just as Tehran was releasing four Americans who had been detained there.”  This was done to appease the Islamic Republic, which is the leading state sponsor of terror around the world, and that has taken Americans in Iran as hostages.

U.S. Mideast mediator Dennis Ross pointed out that the Obama administration was so enamored with the so-called “moderate” Iranian President Rouhani, that it “showed readiness to accept an industrial-scale Iranian nuclear program and not to roll it back.”  The Obama administration was willing to bend its principles in order to foster a relationship and perhaps an alliance of sorts (against the Islamic State in Iraq) with the Ayatollahs regime that promised “to wipe Israel off the map.”

In the summer of 2009, the Iranian people voted for freedom and against the choices of the theocratic regime that oppressed them. They demonstrated in the millions with signs that read “Obama, are you with them or with us.”  Obama did not respond. He proved to have little compassion for the oppressed.

In Syria, the Shiite-Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their supported Iraqi-Shiite militias, as well as the Lebanese-Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah, are murdering hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrian Sunni Muslims, Christians, and others civilians with impunity.  They are bolstering the dictatorship of the Alawi (offshoot of Shiite Islam) minority ruler Bashar Assad.  The Russians have also joined in the killing of Syrian civilians in the name of combatting so-called “terrorists.”

The Palestinians of Hamas and the PA raise their children on hate and expound on the destruction of the Jewish state in schools, mosques, in the media, and in their policy directives.  The Palestinian intolerance towards Jews and Christians is deeply embedded, but due to political correctness, it has never been sufficiently reported in the western media, or by western governments.  Under the Palestinian regime, Christian Arabs have been victims of frequent human rights abuse by Muslims. There are many examples of intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of churches and other Christian institutions, denial of employment, economic boycotts, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual harassment, and extortion. Palestinian Authority (PA) officials are directly responsible for many of the human rights violations. Muslims who have converted to Christianity are in the greatest danger. They are often left defenseless against cruelty by Muslim fundamentalists. Some have been murdered.

There is a clear dichotomy in determining who the compassionate side is, and who is the cruel. It comes together perfectly clear in the Syrian civil war arena.  Thousands of Palestinians are fighting on behalf of the Syrian dictator, and help in slaughtering the Syrian people who are fighting for their freedom.  The Palestinian radical group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) led by Ahmed Jibril, provided the Assad war machine with intelligence and ground support, when he laid siege to the Palestinian populated Yarmouk refugee camp.  The PFLP-GC, once a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) joined the Assad troops in killing fellow Palestinians.

Conversely, Israel has opened its hospital gates to wounded Syrians, both civilians and soldiers.  Prime Minister Netanyahu announced last month “We are prepared to take in wounded women and children, and also men if they are not combatants. Bring them to Israel, we will take care of them in our hospitals as we have done with thousands of Syrian civilians. We are looking into ways of doing this. It is being explored as we speak.”  Netanyahu added, “The suffering is great, and the one initiative we took is to help – as I said – thousands of Syrians who are sometimes mutilated beyond belief. We help them. I offered to do more today. I don’t know if we can resolve [the crisis in] Syria, but we can help mitigate some of the suffering. That is the best that Israel can do.”

Being compassionate toward the Palestinian’s aspirations to destroy the Jewish state in stages by forming a terrorist supporting state, the Obama administration is being cruel toward the Jewish state, which seeks to defend its people from the ongoing Palestinian terror.