Posted tagged ‘Iranian Revolutionary Guard’

White House unveils ‘new strategy’ for Iran ahead of nuclear deal announcement

October 13, 2017

White House unveils ‘new strategy’ for Iran ahead of nuclear deal announcement, Washington ExaminerSarah Westwood, October 13, 2017

Trump is expected to apply particular pressure to the IRGC, which has been accused of human rights abuses. The IRGC’s activities, like many other Iranian offenses, did not fall under the provisions laid out by the Obama administration in the nuclear agreement.

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The Trump administration announced a “new strategy” for dealing with Iran that involves cracking down on aggressions that fall outside of the “myopic” nuclear agreement, the White House said Friday ahead of Trump’s announcement of his plan for the deal.

That strategy will focus on Iran’s ballistic missile testing, destabilizing activities throughout the region in countries like Yemen and Syria, and the violence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an arm of the Iranian military, the administration said.

“The Trump administration’s Iran policy will address the totality of these threats from and malign activities by the Government of Iran and will seek to bring about a change in the Iranian’s regime’s behavior,” the White House said Friday.

The plan runs the risk of antagonizing Iran to the point at which it could decide to declare the nuclear agreement has been violated. But Trump said Iran’s destabilizing activities need to be checked.

“It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction,” Trump said in a statement announcing the plan.

Trump is expected to apply particular pressure to the IRGC, which has been accused of human rights abuses. The IRGC’s activities, like many other Iranian offenses, did not fall under the provisions laid out by the Obama administration in the nuclear agreement.

“We will work to deny the Iranian regime — and especially the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — funding for its malign activities, and oppose IRGC activities that extort the wealth of the Iranian people,” the White House said. “We will rally the international community to condemn the IRGC’s gross violations of human rights and its unjust detention of American citizens and other foreigners on specious charges.”

“Most importantly, we will deny the Iranian regime all paths to a nuclear weapon,” it added.

Trump is expected to decline to certify the Iran nuclear deal during a speech on Friday, although he is not expected to scrap the deal altogether.

The president has previously described the agreement as an “embarrassment” to the U.S. and the “worst deal ever negotiated.”

The coming Israel-Iran confrontation

October 12, 2017

The coming Israel-Iran confrontation, Israel Hayom, Elliott Abrams, October 12, 2017

As one Israeli military commentator recently wrote, “If the Israeli diplomatic move fails to bear fruit, we [Israel] are headed toward a conflict with the Iranians.” That conclusion, and the Iranian moves that make it a growing possibility should be on the minds of Trump administration officials as they contemplate a new policy toward Iran’s ceaseless drive for power in the Middle East.

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In the United States, discussions of Iran have for the last few years been mostly about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama. In the Middle East, things are different.

This is because while we have been debating, Iran has been acting. And Israel has been reacting. Israel has struck weapon convoys in Syria a hundred times in the last five years, bombing when it saw an Iranian effort to move advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Last month Israel bombed the so-called Scientific Studies and Researchers Center in Masyaf, a city in central Syria, a military site where chemical weapons and precision bombs were said to be produced.

Now, there are reports that Iran is planning to build a military airfield near Damascus, where the Revolutionary Guards could build up their presence and operate; that Iran and President Bashar Assad’s regime are negotiating giving Iran its own naval pier in the port of Tartus; and that Iran may actually deploy a division of soldiers in Syria.

Such developments would be unacceptable to Israel, and it will convey this message to Russia and to the United States. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is scheduled to visit Israel soon, after which Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will visit Washington. Previous Israeli efforts (during Netanyahu’s four visits to Moscow in the last year) to get Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop Iran have failed, which suggests that Israel will need to do so itself, alone – unless the new Iran policy being debated by the Trump administration leads the United States to seek ways to stop the steady expansion of Iran’s military presence and influence in the Middle East.

That remains to be seen. Rumors suggest that the Trump administration may label the IRGC a terrorist group, which could open the door to using counterterrorism authorities to stop its expansion. Whatever the debate over the JCPOA, there may well be a broader consensus in the administration that Iran’s growing military role in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere in the region must be countered.

Whatever the American conclusion, if Iran does indeed plan to establish a large and permanent military footprint in Syria – complete with permanent naval and air bases and a major ground force – Israel will have fateful decisions to make. Such an Iranian presence in the Mediterranean and on Israel’s border would change the military balance in the region and fundamentally change Israel’s security situation. And under the JCPOA as agreed by Obama, remember, limits on Iran’s nuclear program begin to end in only eight years, Iran may now perfect its intercontinental ballistic missile program, and there are no inspections of military sites where further nuclear weapons research may be underway.

As Senator Tom Cotton said recently, “If Iran doesn’t have a covert nuclear program today, it would be the first time in a generation.” Israel could be a decade away from a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and has bases in Syria – and could logically therefore even place nuclear weapons in Syria, just miles from Israel’s border.

As one Israeli military commentator recently wrote, “If the Israeli diplomatic move fails to bear fruit, we [Israel] are headed toward a conflict with the Iranians.” That conclusion, and the Iranian moves that make it a growing possibility should be on the minds of Trump administration officials as they contemplate a new policy toward Iran’s ceaseless drive for power in the Middle East.

Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This piece is reprinted with permission and can be found on Abrams’ blog “Pressure Points.”

 

Trump Admin Will Not Commit to Designating IRGC as Terror Group

October 11, 2017

Trump Admin Will Not Commit to Designating IRGC as Terror Group, Washington Free Beacon , October 11, 2017

Members of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps / Getty Images

Trump last week signed new sanctions legislation mandating that the United States extend a terror designation to the IRGC, marking the first time in U.S. history a foreign country’s military branch would be hit with such a designation.

However, the State and Treasury Departments would not confirm Wednesday that the administration intends to make good on this law, which was approved by Congress with bipartisan support.

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The Trump administration will not commit to designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, Iran’s elite fighting force, as terrorists, despite a congressional mandate to do so by the end of the month, according to multiple U.S. officials and other administration insiders who told the Washington Free Beacon that holdovers from the Obama administration are working to stymie the effort.

While President Donald Trump is expected to announce this week that he will not certify Iran as in compliance with the landmark nuclear deal, it remains unclear if he will follow through with congressionally approved plans to extend a terror designation to the IRGC, a move that has prompted Iran to threaten greater attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East.

The IRGC is responsible for numerous terror attacks on American troops over the years and has played a key role in interfering with U.S. operations in Syria. A bipartisan consensus in Congress has already backed such a designation, but key Obama-era holdovers and top national security officials who have the president’s ear are urging him to refrain, according to multiple sources who spoke to the Free Beacon.

Top lawmakers and insiders who spoke to the Free Beacon about the growing uncertainty over how best to hold Iran accountable for its terror activities expressed frustration over what they view as the administration’s inability to follow through with its foreign policy promises, particularly as they relate to Iran, which has increasingly targeted U.S. forces with military action.

New reports emerged Wednesday afternoon that Trump’s planned speech on Iran may be scaled back and not take place until Friday, if it does at all.

Trump last week signed new sanctions legislation mandating that the United States extend a terror designation to the IRGC, marking the first time in U.S. history a foreign country’s military branch would be hit with such a designation.

However, the State and Treasury Departments would not confirm Wednesday that the administration intends to make good on this law, which was approved by Congress with bipartisan support.

The administration may be getting cold feet due to the objections of key U.S. officials and those in the Treasury Department who view such a designation as harmful to American companies that have business interests in Iran, where the IRGC controls a majority of the economy, sources said.

“The IRGC is responsible for wreaking havoc throughout the Middle East and, through its Quds Force, for killing hundreds of American troops in Iraq,” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chair of its National Security Subcommittee, told the Free Beacon.

“The IRGC represents a quintessential terrorist group and should be designated as such,” DeSantis said.  “Whereas the Obama administration flew pallets of cash to the IRGC, the Trump administration should act to hold the IRGC accountable.  Designating it as a terrorist group is a good first step.”

Neither the State Department or White House would confirm to the Free Beacon plans to follow through with this designation, prompting speculation that the process may be held up over objections by Obama-era holdovers in the Trump administration who view the move as a shot at dismantling the former president’s nuclear deal.

“Congress didn’t ask the president to designate the full IRGC,” according to one veteran Middle East policy advisor who lobbies Congress on Iran sanctions. “They told the president to do it by veto proof majorities. Obama holdover lawyers and his establishment staffers are telling him he can use loopholes to just go after some entities and circumvent Congress.”

These same voices are continuing to advise Trump against decertifying Iranian compliance with the deal, despite the president’s personal belief that the Islamic Republic has flagrantly violated what he has repeatedly described as a bad deal.

“These are the same people advising him to certify the nuclear deal, which was also rejected by bipartisan majorities in Congress,” the source said. “They’re wrong and if they stay wrong, lawmakers will eventually make it an oversight issue.”

A State Department official declined repeated requests for clarification on what the administration intends to do about the IRGC, but told the Free Beacon officials remain “deeply troubled by Iran’s longstanding provocative activities including its support for terrorism and destabilizing activities in the region.”

“We are committed to holding Iran accountable for its behavior,” the official said. “The United States retains the authority to respond to Iran’s support for terrorism, human rights abuses, and destabilizing activities. The U.S. government constantly reviews information, through an interagency process, to evaluate potential sanctions violators for targeting under existing sanctions authorities.”

A Treasury Department official did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.

Iranian officials vowed last week to strike U.S. forces and bases in the region if the Trump administration moves forward with extending a terror designation to the IRGC.

Rep. Sean Duffy (R., Wis.), a vocal opponent of the Iran deal, told the Free Beacon that Iran would be wise to back down from its threats.

“President Obama’s terrible Iran deal predictably emboldened the Iranian regime to build up their military and antagonize the region,” Duffy said. “Iran may have been able to bully our previous president, but the American people elected President Trump to stand up for the United States on the world stage.”

“The Iranian regime is already on notice for being the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror, and it would be wise for them to back down from their belligerent posture,” Duffy added.

ANALYSIS: Certified or decertified, Iran faces tough road ahead

October 10, 2017

ANALYSIS: Certified or decertified, Iran faces tough road ahead, Al Arabiya, Heshmat Alavi, October 9, 2017

Members of Iranian armed forces march during a parade in Tehran, Iran, September 22, 2017. President.ir/Handout via REUTERS.

The new mentality sought by Washington is to address all of Iran’s belligerence and not allow its nuclear program and the JCPOA devour all of the international community’s attention.

The new US response, including blacklisting Iran’s notorious Revolutionary Guards, to be announced by Trump is said to cover missile tests, support for terrorism and proxy groups checkered across the Middle East, hopefully human rights violations at home, and cyberattacks.

Iran has a history of resorting to such measures, including targeting Saudi oil interests. Raising the stakes for Iran, Trump described a meeting with his top military brass on Thursday evening as “the calm before the storm.” Neither the US President nor the White House provided further details, yet rest assured Tehran received the message.

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All eyes are on US President Donald Trump and his upcoming Iran speech later this week to clarify his decision to certify or decertify Tehran’s compliance with a nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), designed to curb the regime’s controversial atomic drive.

This has Iran’s regime on its toes, as senior elite in Tehran understand fully how the US can lead the international community in adopting strong measures against its broad scope of malign activities. Expected to be addressed is also a wide range of concerns over Iran’s dangerous policies in relation to its ballistic missile advances, meddling in Middle East states and supporting terrorist proxy groups as explained in a new video.

‘Iran’s unacceptable behavior’

Iran’s rogue behavior, currently imposing its influence on four major regional capitals of Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Sanaa, are the result of the Obama administration’s “overly lenient foreign policy, which sought to promote America’s priorities through consensus, rather than through the frank display of power,” as put by a recent The New Yorker piece.

“Lifting the sanctions as required under the terms of the JCPOA has enabled Iran’s unacceptable behavior,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a late September meeting with his P5+1 counterparts and Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The Trump administration is also deeply concerned over Iran’s proxies mining the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait waterway, aiming its indigenous missiles from Yemen towards cities in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, and from southern Lebanon towards Israel. This is Tehran in action with the objective of taking advantage of the destruction left behind by ISIS across the region, especially in Syria and Iraq.

“The Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence, bloodshed and chaos across the Middle East,” Trump told reporters before a Thursday evening meeting with senior military leaders at the White House. “That is why we must put an end to Iran’s continued aggression and nuclear ambitions,” he said. “They have not lived up to the spirit of their agreement.”

Trump has put Iran “on notice” over charges that Tehran violated a nuclear deal with the West by test-firing a ballistic missile. (Reuters)

Joint effort

Parallel to the White House there are voices on Capitol Hill advocating the new approach weighed by the administration.

“The president should decline to certify, not primarily on grounds related to Iran’s technical compliance, but rather based on the long catalog of the regime’s crimes and perfidy against the United States, as well as the deal’s inherent weakness,” Senator Tom Cotton said last week at a speech in the Council on Foreign Relations.

As the Trump administration seeks to place necessary focus on Iran’s illicit Middle East ambitions and actions, talks are also ongoing as we speak over how to amend the JCPOA’s restrictions.

“Sunset clauses,” Iran’s ballistic missile development and testing, and an inspections regime lacking the bite to gain necessary access into the regime’s controversial military sites. Under the current framework Iran can easily conduct nuclear weapons research and development in military sites and claim such locations do not fall under the JCPOA jurisdiction.

While it is expected of Trump to decertify Iran, he most likely will not go the distance to completely pull America out of the nuclear agreement. Obama refused to send the JCPOA to Congress for discussion and approval. Trump, however, seems set to place the decision to impose further sanctions on Iran upon the shoulders of US lawmakers.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks about the Iran nuclear deal at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, on September 5, 2017. (Reuters)

More than ‘one piece’

The new mentality sought by Washington is to address all of Iran’s belligerence and not allow its nuclear program and the JCPOA devour all of the international community’s attention.

The new US response, including blacklisting Iran’s notorious Revolutionary Guards, to be announced by Trump is said to cover missile tests, support for terrorism and proxy groups checkered across the Middle East, hopefully human rights violations at home, and cyberattacks.

Iran has a history of resorting to such measures, including targeting Saudi oil interests. Raising the stakes for Iran, Trump described a meeting with his top military brass on Thursday evening as “the calm before the storm.” Neither the US President nor the White House provided further details, yet rest assured Tehran received the message.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivering a statement on Iran in the Treaty Room of the State Department in Washington, DC, on April 19, 2017. (AFP)

Fear renders contradiction

Sensing an increasingly escalating tone from Washington, Tehran signaled its first sign of fear by expressing readiness to discuss its ballistic missile program, according to Reuters. And yet less than 24 hours later, Iranian officials said no offers were made to negotiate such restrictions.

“Iran regards defensive missile programs as its absolute right and will definitely continue them within the framework of its defensive, conventional and specified plans and strategies,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, according state media.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also felt the need to make remarks to save face before the regime’s already depleting social base. “In the nuclear negotiations and agreement we reached issues and benefits that are not reversible. No one can turn that back, not Mr. Trump or anyone else,” Rouhani said at a recent Tehran University ceremony, according to state media.

Of course, we all remember how prior to the JCPOA signing in 2015 senior Iranian officials went the limits in describing any “retreat” regarding their nuclear program as a “red line.” To make a long story short, Tehran is comprehending how the times are changing at a high velocity, endangering its domestic, regional and international interests. And unlike the Obama years, its actions will not go unanswered.

Senator Cotton made this crystal clear at his speech: “Congress and the President, working together, should lay out how the deal must change and, if it doesn’t, the consequences Iran will face.”

Iranian Revolutionary Guards launch recruitment campaign in preparation for war against Iraqi Kurdistan: official

July 21, 2017

Iranian Revolutionary Guards launch recruitment campaign in preparation for war against Iraqi Kurdistan: official, World Affairs Journal, ARA News, July 20, 2016

(Please see also, Ezra Levant in Iraq: Kurdish Muslims who protect Christians. — DM)

ran’s Revolutionary Guards. File photo

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces in Iran’s Kurdistan and its recruiting forces, known as the Basij, have received orders to launch a recruitment campaign in preparation for a possible war against the Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq in the event of its independence.

On Wednesday, Iranian Kurdish journalist Azad Mustovi quoted an informed source in Kurdistan Iran as saying that in recent days, the headquarters of the Revolutionary Guards and the mobilization forces “have launched a recruitment campaign to send troops to Iraqi Kurdistan if necessary” in preparation for a possible war with the Kurdish Peshmerga of Iraq in the event of the declaration of independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, which is planned for September 25.

According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security concerns, some elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards of Iranian Kurds origins declared their unwillingness to fight against the Kurds of Iraq, but they are ready to fight against ISIS.

Mustovi told Al-Arabiya that: “After the president of the Kurdistan region, Masoud Barzani, announced the organization of an independence referendum from Iraq on September 25th, the Iranian regime has been trying to prevent it at any cost.”

In June, the Iranian government condemned the Kurdish move towards independence in northern Iraq, urging all parties to “respect the Iraqi constitution and maintain unity.”

“This unilateral move by Erbil (capital of Iraqi Kurdistan) is unacceptable,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Bahram Qasimi said.

“The Kurdistan region is a part of Iraq, and it cannot be separated from the country,” Qasimi stressed, calling Kurdistan’s independence referendum “an irresponsible move”.

The President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Masoud Barzani, announced September 25 as a referendum day on Kurdish independence.

Both Iran and Turkey have opposed an independence referendum, however, the Iraqi Kurds say that the regional countries should not interfere in the region’s affairs.

“When we talk about a referendum, we talk about Kurdistan in Iraq only,” KRG’s foreign relations chief Falah Mustafa Bakir said, in a message to the neighbouring countries that have their own Kurdish populations, and fear Kurdish independence will inspire their own Kurds to seek more independence.

Almost all of Iran’s diplomats in Kuwait to be expelled following terror ruling

July 20, 2017

Almost all of Iran’s diplomats in Kuwait to be expelled following terror ruling, DEBKAfile, July 20, 2017

Kuwait has shut down Iran’s cultural and other missions in the country and ordered the expulsion of almost all Iranian diplomats, including the ambassador, after the Kuwaiti supreme court reaffirmed the conviction of the members of a terror cell that spied for Tehran, smuggled explosives and was preparing to carry out terrorist attacks. The members of the cell are said to have acted as operatives for Hizballah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The mastermind of the cell, which was broken up in August 2015, has been sentenced to life in prison. However, Kuwait’s Interior Ministry said Wednesday that 16 out of the 26 cell members are on the run. On Monday, a Kuwaiti newspaper claimed that 14 have fled by boat to Iran.

The Iranian ambassador, Alireza Enayati, was summoned to the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry where he was told that the military and cultural missions had been closed, and that 15 out of the 19 Iranian diplomats in Kuwait are being expelled, according to Iran’s state-run television. Enayati himself was given 48 days to leave the country, Iran’s ISNA news agency said.

Iran Regime President: The Government Builds the Missiles

July 13, 2017

Iran Regime President: The Government Builds the Missiles, Iran News Update, July 13, 2017

Rouhani’s statements defending JCPOA once again exposed more than ever the depth of divisions among the regime’s various bands.

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INU – At a ceremony entitled Healthy Life Festival on 11 July 2017, the Iranian regime’s president Hassan Rouhani said: “…The strategic weapons built by the 11th (i.e. Rouhani’s) government, make up 80% of the total weapons built in the previous governments.”

In his preliminary speech, in an attempted to take missile claims and the claims about military presence in the countries of the region out of the hands of the Khamenei Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and in order to advance his own demands, he made significant confession saying that despite the sanctions, his government has given the Iraqi government and the Syrian regime all the money and weapons they needed.

He also noted the IRGC’s missile attack on Syria and said: “We hear that a missile fired from our land and targeted a center, a terrorist center. It is true that those who fired the missile tried hard and sacrificed but who built the missile? The defense Ministry builds these missiles.”

Rouhani’s statements defending JCPOA once again exposed more than ever the depth of divisions among the regime’s various bands.

While attacking Khamenei’s band in this regard, Rouhani said: “If the foreign minister were supposed to go out of the field with a few cursing and (insulting) slogans, the JCPOA would not be realized. Well, some people insulted the foreign minister, on their site, in their newspaper, on the anniversary of the revolution on February 11, on the streets of Tehran; well, one should not be excluded from the service field for the slogans of a few individuals.”

Rouhani also referred to the rival band as “a minority that monopolized everything” and added: “We should not be afraid of those who unfortunately have the big loudspeakers unjustly at their disposal…”

Qassem Soleimani boasts of Tehran’s expanded footprint throughout Middle East

July 7, 2017

Qassem Soleimani boasts of Tehran’s expanded footprint throughout Middle East, Long War Journal , July 6, 2017

Qassem Soleimani

“The Islamic Republic has been the victor of all events that have happened in the region,” Soleimani claimed.

On domestic politics, Soleimani had strong words for critics of the IRGC, indirectly criticizing President Hassan Rouhani. “In the Islamic Republic, we’re all responsible towards martyrs, society, religion and our country. The biggest betrayal is to cast doubt toward the foundations of this system.” He continued, saying “none today must weaken the corps.” This is likely a reference to Rouhani’s recent criticism of the IRGC during and since the presidential campaign. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report: The Revolutionary Guard’s long shadow over Iran’s presidential election.]

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On July 3, Major General Qassem Soleimani, the chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Qods Force, spoke at an Iran-Iraq war veterans gathering in his home province of Kerman.

Soleimani praised the Islamic Republic’s decades-long effort to take the mantle of the Palestinian cause and boasted that Tehran’s influence in the Middle East has expanded as a result of the Syrian war. He excoriated Saudi Arabia, as well as domestic Iranian critics of the Guard Corps. And the general also lamented the drop in religious observance in Iran.

Soleimani hailed the importance of Qods Day, established by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to call for Israel’s destruction and express support for Palestinians. Tehran-sponsored Qods Day celebrations were held in several countries last month. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report: Qods Day commemorations highlight Tehran’s global reach.]

“One of the important and valuable innovations of Imam Khomeini was making central the system’s policies on the Palestinian issues, and the Imam (may the almighty God be pleased with him) hoisted the flag of mahdavi in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Soleimani said. Mahdism is belief in the Mahdi, or the 12th Shiite Imam, who would rise before judgement day.

Soleimani then chastised “some Arab countries” who are “surrounding” the “oppressed” Palestinians. Tehran has accused Arab states of “selling out” the Palestinian cause, because these same Arab nations have expanded ties with Israel over shared concerns about Iranian power.

“The Islamic Republic’s global defense of the oppressed peoples of Iraq and Syria” has increased Iran’s global popularity, Soleimani claimed. Other evidence suggests the opposite has happened: over the past decade, Tehran’s regional policies have led to sharp drops in Iran’s favorability rating in the Middle East and around the globe.

“The target of the takfiri terrorists was to bring the Islamic Republic to the ground with these conspiracies and to make it kneel in front of this religious sedition,” Soleimani claimed. He elaborated: “Those who were behind this sedition and fanned it also had this imagination. This is while the greatness and strength of the Islamic Republic of Iran after the emergence of DAESH [the Islamic State] and toward the end of DAESH increased tens of times.”

Like other senior Iranian officials, Soleimani has claimed that the Islamic State was a conspiracy weaved by Tehran’s enemies to target the Islamic Republic. Although Iranian-backed forces and the Islamic State fight one anther in Iraq and Syria, Tehran has used the Sunni jihadist group’s rise to justify its involvement abroad and its own jihad to defend Shiite shrines from virulently anti-Shiite extremists.

Soleimani boasted about the Syrian regime’s rising fortunes, though he failed to mention that Russia’s military intervention was essential in turning the tide of war. “One day, Syria faced many problems, and today the Syrian government becomes stronger every day,” he stated. The “global belief today is that the Syrian system is undefeatable.”

Soleimani spoke about the expansion of Tehran’s operations in Syria during the war. “Several years ago in Syria, we didn’t have relations with individuals and movements more than the numbers of fingers, while we have relations with hundreds of thousands today,” he boasted. “While some countries that argued with us, ‘don’t defend Syria’s government,’ [they] are standing next to the Islamic Republic today and have changed their policies.”

The Qods Force chief lauded the rise of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a conglomeration of Iraqi militias dominated by IRGC-backed factions. He omitted the fact that US air support has been crucial in the anti-Islamic State campaign.

“The Iraqi army is moving as a national, powerful Islamic army. This is due to popular forces. Something similar happened in our country,” he said, referring to the formation of the IRGC and the Basij paramilitary. Tehran aspires to consolidate its gains in Iraq through the vehicle of the PMF. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report: Qods Force commander to advance Tehran’s influence as ambassador to Iraq.]

The Iranian general mocked Saudi Arabia: “If there’s a lot of oil in a country…but mad logic rules, terrible events happen, and mad things like war with Yemen happen and these ignorant individuals are incapable of extinguishing this fire.” As the civil war in Yemen enters its third year, Soleimani has overseen increasing Iranian support for Houthi fighters and allied forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Houthi-Saleh alliance seeks to stymie the Saudi and UAE-led coalition.

“The Islamic Republic has been the victor of all events that have happened in the region,” Soleimani claimed.

He also praised the IRGC’s missile strikes on Islamic State positions in Syria last month, saying “this had several good benefits, one that it showed the Islamic Republic has the will to act, and the principle of will was more important than the result.” Israeli sources say Iran’s missile strikes were largely unsuccessful, with only one projectile striking their targets. Soleimani’s statement could be read as an admission that not all the missiles struck their targets. Regardless, he emphasized that the missile strikes highlighted the training of experts in building “precise” missiles.

“I have witnessed many scenes of missile raining down including American missiles,” he explained. He cited a Quranic verse in his praise, arguing “this movement of the corps was truly, ‘It was not you who threw when you threw; God is the One who threw.’”

On domestic politics, Soleimani had strong words for critics of the IRGC, indirectly criticizing President Hassan Rouhani. “In the Islamic Republic, we’re all responsible towards martyrs, society, religion and our country. The biggest betrayal is to cast doubt toward the foundations of this system.” He continued, saying “none today must weaken the corps.” This is likely a reference to Rouhani’s recent criticism of the IRGC during and since the presidential campaign. [See FDD’s Long War Journalreport: The Revolutionary Guard’s long shadow over Iran’s presidential election.]

“Do not compare the corps with me…target me, not the corps,” he said. “Without the corps, there wouldn’t be a country.”

Soleimani acknowledged the drop in religious observation in Iran, though he sought to deflect blame from the regime’s practice of shoving its version of religiosity down people’s throats. “We must not make people pessimistic toward religion and make society fear the devout, because turning people away from religion leads to higher divorce rate, and social corruption grows with reduction in values,” he said.

“How is it that some seek to make society afraid of the religiously devout? This is a wrong strategy and policy.”

A Revolutionary Guard commander once admitted that only five percent of Iran’s mosques are operational during the year.

Amir Toumaj is a Research Analyst at Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Trump Admin Authorizes Strikes on Iranian-Backed Forces

July 5, 2017

Trump Admin Authorizes Strikes on Iranian-Backed Forces, Washington Free Beacon, July 5, 2017

(Please see also, Astana Peace Talks Fail over Syrian Safe Zones. — DM)

Syrian regime and pro-regime forces inspect an area recently recaptured from the Islamic State near Aleppo / Getty Images

U.S. forces have been instructed to take all measures needed to protect American interests in Syria, including military measures, as part of a new strategy that comes after top officials in the Trump administration assessed that Iran is deliberately probing American weaknesses and reactions on the Syrian battlefield, according to senior Trump administration officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

Iran-backed forces, including Hezbollah, have already initiated multiple encounters with the United States by violating agreements worked out between Washington and Moscow aimed at preventing the various factions targeting ISIS inside Syria from coming into conflict. This is part of a campaign that analysts inside and outside the White House believe is aimed at testing the Trump administration’s resolve, sources said.

“That was very clearly a process of the Iranians and Hezbollah and [the] Syrian regime probing and testing our limits, and testing how much we were willing to do,” one senior Trump administration official said. “In every case, it was a matter of them testing and probing, and us responding by defending ourselves.”

These clashes were the result of pro-Syrian regime forces, including Iran and Hezbollah, “violating a de-confliction measure that had been worked out with the Russians,” the official said. “The forces violated the measure.”

The Trump administration has instructed U.S. forces to respond to Iranian attacks with force if necessary.

“What they found out very quickly,” said the official, was “us responding by defending ourselves. What was established was that we’re determined to defend ourselves.”

This new strategy is being implemented at the same time the Trump administration turns its attention to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the Islamic Republic’s paramilitary force that coordinates operations in Syria and other warzones.

Trump administration officials view the IRGC as being part of “every malignant protrusion of the Iranian regime,” according to one administration official, who said the White House is dually focused on choking off this force.

The actions by U.S. forces are part of a broader pushback against Iran, ranging from battlefield responses to diplomatic action, according to a veteran Iran policy analyst who has been briefed by the White House both on parts of the Syria strategy and on parts of an ongoing Iran policy review being conducted by the administration.

The Free Beacon first reported many details of the review several weeks ago, including actions by the Trump administration to potentially block the sale of U.S. commercial aircraft to Tehran.

“For the first time since the U.S. intervened into the Syrian conflict, American forces have been authorized to do take all measures to defend U.S. interests against Iranian provocations and aggression,” said the source. “This is part of a concrete strategy that has already been implemented in part, and is being bolstered every day, but very senior Trump officials. No more of watching U.S. forces get rolled in Syria, and also no more of thanking Iran after they seize our sailors in the Gulf.

One senior Trump administration official familiar with the Iran policy review said the White House is currently “in the thick of it,” evaluating a range of options to confront Iran’s global terror operations.

The review expands far beyond the landmark nuclear deal, according to the administration officials.

“The tack we’ve taken is not to put the [Iran deal] at the center of the policy,” one senior administration official said. “The goals we set out focus on how to neutralize the threat the Iranian regime poses to the US and its allies in the region.”

U.S. official see the nuclear deal as secondary given Iran’s continued terrorist operations and pursuit of illicit arms. This is why the IRGC’s activities have become a source of concern in the White House.

“You find the IRGC in every malignant protrusion of the Iranian regime,” the senior administration official said. “They’re in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon,” and elsewhere.

As the U.S. plots its course with Iran, the Islamic Republic continues to invest in a massive military buildup that many believe has been partially funded by the economic sanctions relief granted under the former Obama administration.

Iranian military officials announced on Monday that the country will soon implement its own version of Russia’s advanced S-300 missile defense system, which Tehran purchased in a controversial arms deal opposed by many Western nations.

“Steady work efforts are being made on Bavar 373 missile system and a number of tests have been carried out on this system, and these tests will continue until the date of delivery,” according to Iranian military officials, who predicted the system would be perfected by March of next year.

IRGC Commanders: Our Main Aim Is Global Islamic Rule

June 19, 2017

IRGC Commanders: Our Main Aim Is Global Islamic Rule, MEMRI, June 19, 2017

(Using the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s military power to advance the Iranian version of the “Religion of Peace” might seem strange to westerners, but earlier Islamic caliphates were established in much the same way. — DM)

In recent statements and speeches, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commanders have emphasized that the Islamic Revolution in Iran is only the first stage on the path to the spread of the rule of Shi’ite Islam in the Middle East and worldwide, and that the mission of advancing the Islamic Revolution to these heights falls to the IRGC commanders.

The commanders reiterated the argument that the U.S., the leader of the “world of arrogance,” opposes Islam, and thus also Iran, which is, they say, the standard-bearer of the Revolution and its global vision. The U.S., they added, is acting to sabotage the plan to institute Islam worldwide, and is doing so by infiltrating the circles of decision-makers in Iran in order to impregnate them with Western cultural values and spark internal disputes among the Muslims. This is aimed at changing the direction of the Revolution and diverting it from its path. However, the robustness of the Revolution remains, they said, thanks to Iranian Supreme Leader ‘Ali Khamenei and the IRGC.

The following are translations of recent statements by senior IRGC commanders  on this matter:

IRGC Commander Ja’fari: “We Are On The Path That Leads To The Rule Of Islam Worldwide”

On March 11, 2017, IRGC commander Ali Ja’fari said of the worldwide Islamic regime: “The history of Iran is replete with agreement on the Rule of the Jurisprudent [velayat ] which has [already] crossed Iran’s borders, and the united Islamic nation is being formed… We are on the path that leads to the rule of Islam worldwide.”[1]

On March 15, 2017, Ja’fari added on the same subject: “The Islamic Revolution is aimed at creating an infrastructure of the religion of God on earth, and it will wait for no man on its path advancement. All [Iranian] officials must adapt to the accelerated progress of the Revolution.

“The Islamic Revolution is now in its third stage – that is, [the stage] of assembling the Islamic government, and with God’s help it will pass this stage successfully despite the ups and downs that constantly occur.

“As IRGC commander, and as one of the commanders during the era of the Sacred Defense [i.e. the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war], I believe that today the young people’s yearning to unconditionally defend the Revolution has expanded greatly relative to the era of the Sacred Defense. Their repeated requests to play a role alongside the defenders of the holy places indicate this.

“The religious seminaries and the IRGC bear the joint mission to advance and deepen the Islamic Revolution. This is God’s promise for the salvation of humanity, and we are charged with it. The senior revolutionary clerics and the IRGC will without a doubt actualize God’s promises, while implementing a comprehensive plan of the Islamic Revolution for shaping the picture of the Islamic world.

“Our internal spiritual and material potential for creating [such a global regime], and the robustness of the [Iranian] regime, which constitutes the main nucleus of this plan, are expanding in might. According to the words of [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini, if the revolution and the regime stop on the path, this will cause damage to Islam.”[2]

On April 30, 2017, at a teachers’ conference, Ja’fari said: “Some [people] have a flawed perception of the Islamic Revolution, for they think that its aim was only to defeat the regime of the Shah and to establish the Islamic regime [in Iran]. [But] if we look at the words of the Imam [Khomeini], we will discover a correspondence between the Islamic Revolution and the spread of the religion of Islam. In order to build the Islamic regime, there is no other path but to advance the Islamic Revolution… As the Imam said: If this Islamic regime is defeated, Islam is defeated.

“The framework of our activity is the Islamic Revolution, and first we must know what its aims are… The external dimension of the Revolution is based on the principle of Islam [as] derived from the lesson of the Ashura. This is in effect the principle of enmity towards evil and enmity towards the arrogance [the West, led by the U.S.]. This is actualized by means of the Islamic awakening against evil, and it is waged in the best possible way thanks to the Leader [Khamenei], who is its standard-bearer.”[3]

Supreme Leader’s Representative In The IRGC Saeedi: “The Islamic Revolution Is The Prelude To Islam Becoming Global”

Similar statements were made on March 15, 2017, by Ali Saeedi, Supreme Leader Khamenei’s representative in the IRGC: “There is no doubt that the Islamic Revolution is a prelude to Islam becoming global. Therefore, the Revolution must be strengthened in the best possible way, in order to create the framework for the revelation of God’s promise.”[4]

Deputy Qods Deputy Force Commander Esmail Qaani: “The Main Aim Is Global Rule”

On March 1, 2017, IRGC Qods Force deputy commander Esmail Qaani said: “Without a doubt, our martyrs and those of the dear ones like you Fatimiyyoun[5] will not settle for less than the global rule of the Imam Mahdi. Our martyrs inaugurated a great path. Syria and Aleppo are the temporary aims, and the main aim is global rule, which I hope is not far off.”[6]

IRGC Navy Commander Fadavi: “Today We Are Fighting Not At Home But Thousands Of Kilometers Beyond [Our] Borders”

IRGC Navy commander Ali Fadavi said on March 3, 2017: “Today, the thinking of the Islamic Revolution has expanded. Today, we are fighting not at home, but thousands of kilometers beyond [our] borders. Although our equipment does not compare to that of the enemy, with the blessing of faith in God and the martyrdom-seeking spirit, the enemies will fear us.”[7]

______________________________

[1] Tasnimnews.com (Iran), March 11, 2017.

[2] Tasnimnews.com (Iran), March 15, 2017.

[3] ISNA (Iran), April 30, 2017.

[4] ISNA (Iran), March 15, 2017.

[5] A pro-Iranian Afghan militia fighting on Iran’s behalf on the Syrian front.

[6] Tasnimnews.com (Iran), March 1, 2017.

[7] ILNA (Iran), March 13, 2017.