Posted tagged ‘Khamenei’

Iran: How Will Rafsanjani’s Death Affect Regime?

January 11, 2017

Iran: How Will Rafsanjani’s Death Affect Regime? Iran News Update, January 10, 2017

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In his January 10 article for Al-Arabiya,, Heshmat Alavi, political and rights activist who focuses on Iran, writes about the effect of senior cleric Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s death by heart attack on Sunday, January 8, at the age of 82.

As Rafsanjani was known for his influential role in shaping the regime’s politics following the 1979 revolution, the Iranian regime was dealt a significant blow, and a power vacuum is created, less than four months prior to crucial presidential elections.

Rafsanjani’s role for the past 38 years helped maintain the regime’s measures of domestic crackdown, export of terrorism and extremism abroad, and their effort to obtain nuclear weapons, according to Alavi. 

“The death of Rafsanjani, one of the pillars of the religious fascism ruling Iran and its balance factor collapsed, and the regime in its entirety is closer now to its overthrow,” said Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

After Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, Rafsanjani served as president from 1989 to 1997. He ran again for office again in 2005, but lost the election to firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In recent years, Rafsanjani has been mentoring the so-called “moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, and was known for his fierce rivalry with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Although known for his close ties to the regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini, who died in 1989, the West believed him to be a “pragmatic conservative” willing to mend fences with the outside world, especially the US.

Rafsanjani’s last post was head of the Expediency Council, a body assigned to resolve conflicts between the regime’s parliament (Majlis) and the Guardian Council, which has close links to Khamenei, and vets all candidates based on their loyalty to the establishment before any so-called elections. Rafsanjani himself was disqualified by the Guardian Council when he sought to participate in the 2013 elections as a “reformist” candidate.

Instead, Rafsanjani placed his power behind Rowhani after the latter assumed power as president in 2013.  Rafsanjani used this position to “carve himself and his family an economic empire from the country’s institutions and natural resources in the past decades,” writes Alavi.

“One brother headed the country’s largest copper mine; another took control of the state-owned TV network; a brother-in-law became governor of Kerman province, while a cousin runs an outfit that dominates Iran’s $400 million pistachio export business; a nephew and one of Rafsanjani’s sons took key positions in the Ministry of Oil; another son heads the Tehran Metro construction project (an estimated $700 million spent so far),” states a 2003 Forbes analysis, which also alludes to the billions cached in Swiss and Luxembourg bank accounts by the Rafsanjanis.

While the West was convinced that Rafsanjani was more moderate than his “hardline” counterparts, he went along with them in suppressing dissidents, namely members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main opposition group that first blew the whistle on Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

“Four rulings are a must for the [PMOI]: 1- Be killed. 2- Be hanged. 3- Arms and legs be amputated. 4- Be separated from society,” Rafsanjani said back in 1981. He also played a presiding role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners.

During his presidency, Rafsanjani allegedly directed numerous assassinations of dissidents abroad, including renowned human rights advocated Dr. Kazem Rajavi, former Iranian ambassador to Italy Mohammad Hossein Naghdi and Iranian Kurdish leader Abdulrahman Ghassemlou.  He was also indicted for his role in the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires that left 85 killed and hundreds wounded.

Alavi writes, “Rafsanjani has through four decades of mullahs’ rule in Iran played the role of the regime’s No. 2 figure and a balancing element, always securing the regime’s higher interests. His death will significantly weaken the mullahs’ regime in its entirety and will trigger major upheavals across the regime’s hierarchy.”  He concludes by saying, “If past is any indication, the mullahs will most likely resort to further violence and the export of terrorism and extremism to prevent this newest crisis from spiraling out of control.”

The NCRI referred to Rafsanjani as “one of the two pillars and ‘key to the equilibrium’ of the Iranian regime,” adding that, “during his long career he was associated with some of the regime’s most egregious actions, including mass-casualty terror attacks and the assassinations of exiled dissidents.”

Rafsanjani is considered as one of its founding fathers of the Iranian regime, who played an outsized political role in the life of the Islamic republic, not only by serving as President after serving as Speaker of Parliament and Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces, but also heading two of the regime’s most important institutions, the Assembly of Experts, an 88-member body of top clerics which nominates the Supreme Leader; and the Expediency Council, a body that advises the Supreme Leader.

“Rafsanjani, who had always been the regime’s number two, acted as its balancing factor and played a decisive role in its preservation. Now, the regime will lose its internal and external equilibrium,” opposition leader Maryam Rajavi said in a statement that also referred to the “approaching overthrow” of the clerical regime.

On January 9 the NCRI published a list, outlining some of his outrageous conduct:

• Rafsanjani called for the extermination of members of Iran’s main opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK). On October 3, 1981, the state-run Ettela’at daily wrote, “Referring to the grouplets’ operations, Hashemi Rafsanjani, Speaker of the Islamic Parliament and Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leader, said in his sermon, ‘Divine law defines four sentences for them which must be carried out: 1 – kill them, 2 – hang them, 3 – cut off their arms and legs, 4 – banish them…‘Had we caught and executed 200 of them right after the Revolution, they would not have multiplied so much. If we don’t deal decisively with [Mojahedin] armed grouplet and agents of America and the Soviet Union today, in three years we will have to execute thousands of them instead of one thousand now…”

• According to Hossein-Ali Montazeri, Khomeini’s former heir, Khomeini sought counsel on his decisions from just two individuals: Rafsanjani and current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, including his decision to issue a fatwa ordering the massacre of at least 30,000 political prisoners at the end of the Iran-Iraq war in the summer of 1988.

During Rafsanjani’s tenure as President and as head of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), a body that oversees and authorizes the regime’s terrorist operations, the assassination of Iranian dissidents abroad and the regime’s terror attacks skyrocketed. The terror targets were not only Iranians.

• Rafsanjani’s remarks on May 5, 1989 as carried by Iran’s official state news agency IRNA , and were reported by The Associated Press:: “If in retaliation for every Palestinian martyred in Palestine, they will kill and execute, not inside Palestine, five Americans or Britons or Frenchmen, the Israelis could not continue to do these wrongs… It is not hard to kill Americans or Frenchmen. It is a bit difficult to Kill [Israelis]. But there are so many [Americans and Frenchmen] everywhere in the world.”

• Argentinian investigators implicated Rafsanjani in 2006, in one of the deadliest instances of Iranian terrorism abroad – a suicide truck bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed in 1994.  The investigators accused Iran of instructing Hezbollah to carry out the bombing. They issued arrest warrants for Rafsanjani, seven other senior Iranians, and a Lebanese national, Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah terrorist chief.

Interpol, at Argentina’s request, issued red notices – the organization’s equivalent of arrest warrants – for five of the Iranians and Mughniyah.

• The FBI established undeniable evidence that Tehran had masterminded the deaths of 19 American servicemen, in the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia on June 25, 1996.

According to the NCRI, these are some of the most significant killings of prominent dissidents abroad during Rafsanjani’s tenure:

• In 1992, four Iranian Kurdish dissidents in a Berlin restaurant called Mykonos were assassinated. A German court ruled in 1996 that the Iranian regime under Rafsanjani was directly responsible for the killings, which the U.S. State Department said provided further proof that Iran was a terrorist state.

• Maryam Rajavi’s brother-in-law, Kazem Rajavi of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) – Iran’s most renowned human rights advocate and a former Iranian ambassador to the U.N. was shot dead near Geneva in 1990. Swiss investigators accused the Iranian regime of responsibility and authorities issued an arrest warrant for Rafsanjani’s intelligence minister, Ali Fallahian.

• Mohammad Hossein Naghdi, the NCRI representative in Rome, was shot dead on a street in the Italian capital in March 1993.

• Zahra Rajabi, the NCRI’s representative on refugee issues, was shot dead with an NCRI colleague in an Istanbul apartment in February 1996.

Rafsanjani was the one who pushed the Iranian clandestine nuclear weapons program forward as a guarantor of the regime’s survival. He cooperated with countries like North Korea to achieve these objectives.

Rafsanjani acknowledged that during his time as parliamentary speaker and President, both he and Khamenei sought ways to obtain a nuclear bomb in an interview published by the regime’s official state news agency IRNA on October 27, 2015. “Our basic doctrine was always a peaceful nuclear application, but it never left our mind that if one day we should be threatened and it was imperative, we should be able to go down the other path,” Rafsanjani said.  He added he had travelled to Pakistan to try to meet Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, who later helped North Korea to develop a bomb. Fortunately, the meeting never occurred.

Iran’s Qur’an Reciter – And Child Rapist

December 5, 2016

Iran’s Qur’an Reciter – And Child Rapist, Front Page MagazineDr. Majid Rafizadeh, December 5, 2016

tousu

The Supreme Leader of Iran has called the child rapist a “model to be followed.”

It is crucial to point out that this is not a rare case. There are tens of thousands of religious Islamic figures, from every village and city of Iran, who use their Islamic authority to rape, abuse, and molest children, girls and women. Raping children, boys and little girls is not considered an important issue for the Islamic judiciary of Iran. In addition, if such rapes are conducted by a religious figure, he can be confident that there would be no legal case against him. In fact, the victims who speak up are the ones who would be charged for endangering Iran’s Islamic establishment.

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Iran’s best-known Quran reciter, Saeed Tousi, has been molesting and raping children as young as 9 years old, for years.

Tousi is very close to the political and religious establishment of the Islamic Republic.  He is a personal friend to, and Quran reciter for, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is a member of the Supreme Council of the Quran, and has been given many awards by Ayatollah Khamenei.

The Supreme Council of the Quran was founded 26 years ago and it is operated under the supervision of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

The Supreme Leader of Iran has called the child rapist a “model to be followed.”

According to the Economist:

For years, the victims say, he touched boys memorizing holy texts at the Supreme Koran Council in Tehran. On trips abroad, the Koranic reciter would allegedly lure Islam’s equivalent of choirboys, some as young as 12, to his hotel room.

The Iran Wire wrote:

According to the victims’ accounts, Saeed Tousi took advantage of young students he was supposed to be offering support to, discussing private sexual matters with them before raping them, often in public bathhouses or hotel rooms. Victims filed their original complaints against Tousi in 2011, but Ali Moghadam [who is the president of the Supreme Council of the Quran] interfered in the judicial process, thereby protecting Tousi and saving him from the consequences of his actions.”It adds: “Tousi’s alleged victims say that when they accompanied Tousi on trips, he showed them pornographic videos and magazines and tried to arouse them by talking about sex.

The victims finally talked to Voice of America’s Persian-language TV network, after losing hope on bringing Tousi to justice. The chief justice, Sadegh Larijani, immediately warned that anyone who talks to a foreign news outlet “in opposition to the values of the Islamic Republic” would be guilty and could be encountering charges for “abetting and giving assistance to a crime.”

BBC Persian conducted an interview with the victims as well, which “was viewed an unprecedented 400,000 times on its Telegram channel.” According to the BBC: “One of the accusers described to the BBC an assault which he said took place in a public bath house when he was 12 years old.”

The victim, who was 12 years old at the time, recounted:

I was so shocked I couldn’t understand what was going on….I was so afraid to say anything because of the shame it would bring upon my name, but then I found out that there were so many other cases among his students. So I broke my silence.

People reacted fiercely. “Another shameful page in the history of the Islamic republic,” wrote Meysam. “People are being abused under the banner of religion… and no-one is going to be held accountable.”

“If the victims had been girls, [the authorities] would’ve accused them of being dressed inappropriately and provocatively. And they would argue that the assault was understandable” wrote Somayeh, according to BBC.

Efforts to bring the child rapist to justice have been fruitless. A spokesman for the judiciary, Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, argued that there was “insufficient evidence” to look into Tousi’s case.

The intriguing issue is that Tousi has confessed to his crimes:

In 2012, Tousi signed a letter in the presence of Ali Moghadam stating that he repented for his actions. He promised there would be no further instances of sexual harassment. In most courts of law, such a letter would serve as evidence of guilt and wrongdoing. But not only did the letter protect Tousi from any punishment, it did not appear to signal the stopping point for Tousi’s abuse. According to plaintiffs in the case against the Koranic expert, the rapes and abuse continued, and students were left vulnerable to his predatory actions.

Instead of investigating the case, the Islamic judiciary is now accusing his victims of being anti-establishment and foreign conspirators for speaking with foreign media outlets. The religious authorities would have preferred that the children remained silent.

The famous Quran reciter is not only currently walking free, but is also being continuously invited by government officials to recite the Quran at major official ceremonies. He is totally protected by the religious establishment.

It is crucial to point out that this is not a rare case. There are tens of thousands of religious Islamic figures, from every village and city of Iran, who use their Islamic authority to rape, abuse, and molest children, girls and women. Raping children, boys and little girls is not considered an important issue for the Islamic judiciary of Iran. In addition, if such rapes are conducted by a religious figure, he can be confident that there would be no legal case against him. In fact, the victims who speak up are the ones who would be charged for endangering Iran’s Islamic establishment.

Iran Threatens to Walk Away From Nuke Deal, Retaliate Against U.S. for New Sanctions

December 2, 2016

Iran Threatens to Walk Away From Nuke Deal, Retaliate Against U.S. for New Sanctions, Washington Free Beacon, December 2, 2016

(The threat is to boycott consumer goods, which commercial aircraft are not. Please see also, Iranian Cleric Urges Retaliation for US Breaches of Nuclear Deal. — DM)

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reads a note during his speech in a public gathering at his residence in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. Iran's supreme leader said Wednesday the United States cannot be trusted to lift sanctions in a future nuclear deal and that Tehran should instead develop an "economy of resistance." A portrait of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini hangs in background. (AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)

Iran is threatening to walk away from the nuclear deal with the United States and pursue forms of retaliation, including a national boycott of American goods, as a result of Congress’s overwhelming vote on Thursday to level new sanctions against Iran for another 10 years, according to multiple comments by senior Iranian officials.

Following the Senate’s 99-0 vote to renew economic sanctions on Tehran, senior Iranian officials said the United States is in violation of last summer’s nuclear deal and that Iran is prepared to retaliate, which could include abandoning the agreement.

The comments come as the Obama administration scrambles to preserve the deal in its final months in office, ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, who has been assembling a cabinet filled with fierce opponents of the accord.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t see any necessity to reveal this issue [its reactions] but we have made necessary predictions before, meaning that we are well prepared to show reaction,” Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, was quoted as saying on Friday in the country’s state-controlled press.

The new sanctions, Salahi said, “explicitly violate the nuclear deal.”

Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani hotly criticized the United States during Iran’s weekly national Friday prayer service, urging the country’s leaders to retaliate against America.

“Nothing but hostility is expected from the U.S., but as said before, now it’s time for retaliation,” the cleric was quoted as saying.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered similar remarks last month, as the Obama administration was working behind-the-scenes to prevent Congress from pursuing the new sanctions.

“If this extension is implemented and comes into force, it will certainly be a violation of the nuclear deal and they should know that the Islamic Republic of Iran will certainly show reaction,” Khamenei said at the time.

Iran’s Parliament is now taking steps to counter the sanctions by enacting its own national boycott of U.S. goods.

The “double-urgency plan” would ban all U.S. consumer goods from Iran.

“Given the U.S. hostile measure, meaning extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) for another 10 years, a double-urgency plan to ban purchase of the U.S.-made consumer goods has been prepared in the parliament,” Mohammad Reza Tabesh, a senior Iranian parliament member, was quoted as telling Iran’s state-controlled press on Friday.

The plan is expected to overwhelmingly pass Iran’s Parliament.

Iran’s military is also taking increasingly hostile steps on the heels of the sanctions vote.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp’s naval faction is increasing patrols outside of Iranian waters in a bid to stop any vessels from coming near the Islamic Republic.

“The Iranian Navy, along with the IRGC Navy, are monitoring all moves by the regional and trans-regional states in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, the Sea of Oman, and the Northern parts of the Indian Ocean, and do not allow any vessel to approach the Islamic Republic of Iran’s borders or inflict damage on our interests and resources,” Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, the commander of Iran’s Navy, said during a Friday speech.

The comments come as Iran makes provocative maneuvers against U.S. forces in the region. Late last month, Iranian vessels pointed an anti-aircraft weapon at U.S. helicopters that were flying nearby in a move the Pentagon described as highly provocative and dangerous.

Iran’s Forces Outnumber Assad’s in Syria

November 24, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Khamenei insists on using more military power in Syria:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran will not agree to abandon Assad diplomatically.

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

Iranian Official: ‘If America Wants To Try Its Luck Against Us, [It Should Know That] We Are Completely Capable Of Mobilizing 9 Million Fighters… In Under 10 Days’; ‘We Have Warehouses Full [Of Missiles]… That Can Hit Tel Aviv’

October 3, 2016

Iranian Official: ‘If America Wants To Try Its Luck Against Us, [It Should Know That] We Are Completely Capable Of Mobilizing 9 Million Fighters… In Under 10 Days’; ‘We Have Warehouses Full [Of Missiles]… That Can Hit Tel Aviv’ MEMRI, October 2, 2016

In a September 25, 2016 speech to a Tehran political circle, Mohsen Rafighdoost, who was minister of the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and who heads the Noor Foundation,[1] said that the secret of the victory of Iran’s Islamic Revolution was Iranians’ total obedience to the leader. He said that today the IRGC ground forces are “five times better” than the U.S. Army, and that the Iranian regime is capable of deploying nine million troops against it in less than 10 days.

Rafighdoost added that Iran’s missiles in Tehran and the northwest of the country can reach Tel Aviv, and expressed his yearning for Israel to launch a missile at Iran so that Iran could “flatten Tel Aviv.” He also said that Islamic Revolution founder Ayatollah Khomeini established Hizbullah in Lebanon to promote the Islamization of other countries,[2] and that today, in the era of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the organization has become “a supreme force in the region.”

30165Mohsen Rafighdoost. Source: Wilayah.info, January 27, 2014.

Following are his September 25 statements:

“The IRGC’s Ground Forces Are Perhaps Five Times Better Than The American Army”

“The factor that led to our victory in the [Iran-Iraq] War is [the same] factor that led to our victory in the [Islamic] Revolution. The Imam [Khomeini], in France, would order a parade [to be held in Iran], and the people would hold a parade, even in remote villages.

“During the eight years of the imposed war, not only was not one inch of Iranian land surrendered to the enemy, but we also acquired deterrent capability. I believe that as long as the Islamic Revolution stands against the Western and Eastern camps, we will be under military sanctions. We must never think that the world will provide us with military aid. Thanks to the war and its martyrs, Iran currently has deterrent capability. After a while, the Imam [Khomeini] replaced the call of ‘war, war to victory’ with ‘war, war until the fitna is removed.’ At the time, we understood this call as meaning that ‘we must be so strong that the enemy will not even think of a military strike against Iran.’

“Today, Iran has deterrent capability. In recent years, the enemies have spoken of the option [of a military strike against Iran] as being on the table, but that was a lie. [Our] air force and navy are good, but it is [our] ground forces that finish the war. The IRGC’s ground forces are perhaps five times better than the American army.

“Despite all the enemy media and cultural propaganda against us, if America wants to try its luck against us, [it should know that] we are completely capable of mobilizing nine million fighters [against it]… on the [battle]front in under 10 days.”

“If Only A Single [Israeli] Shell Would Strike Anywhere In This Country – So That We Can Flatten Tel Aviv”

“We have warehouses full [of missiles] in Tehran, Zanjan [in northwest Iran] and Oshnavieh [in Western Azerbaijan Province in northwest Iran] that can strike Tel Aviv. If only a single [Israeli] shell would strike anywhere in this country, so that we can flatten Tel Aviv.”

In Khamenei’s Era, Hizbullah “Has Become A Supreme Force In The Region”

“In accordance with his secondary plan, the Imam [Khomeini] created Hizbullah in Lebanon. This plan was [aimed at] Islamizing other countries. Today, in the era of the Leader [Khamenei, Hizbullah] has become a supreme force in the region.

“Despite all the criminal [plots], Iranian security forces grow stronger every day. Some of the statements being put out there are made out of lack of awareness, and anyone who makes them is ignorant.[3]

“The secret to victory lies in wise and complete obedience to the leader [Khamenei]. During the time of the Imam [Khomeini], we obeyed him, and today we obey the leader [Khamenei].”[4]

 

Endnotes:

 

[1] Since 1999, Mohsen Rafighdoost has been director of the Noor Foundation, which reportedly owns significant real estate and has revenues of over $200 million from importing pharmaceuticals, sugar and construction materials.

[2] During the 1980s, Rafighdhoost was involved in the creation of Hizbullah in Lebanon and likely had knowledge of its terror activities in Beirut.

[3] A reference to Hashemi Rafsanjani’s August 20, 2016 call for investing in Iran’s economy instead of in its the military, as Japan and Germany did post-World War II. MEMRI is soon publishing a report on Rafsanjani’s statements and reactions to them.

[4] Khabaronline.ir, September 25, 2016.

In Contrast To Rohani Allegations In UNGA, Senior Iranian Officials Confirm U.S. Has Met Its Obligations Under JCPOA

September 24, 2016

In Contrast To Rohani Allegations In UNGA, Senior Iranian Officials Confirm U.S. Has Met Its Obligations Under JCPOA, MEMRI,  Y. Carmon and A. Savyon* September 23, 2016

Introduction

In his September 22, 2016 speech at the UN General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rohani accused that the U.S. is not meeting its obligations towards Iran under the JCPOA. He said: “The lack of compliance with the deal on the part of the United States in the past several months represents a flawed approach that should be rectified forthwith… Any failure on the part of the United States in implementing it (the deal) would constitute an international wrongful act and would be objected to by the international community.”[1] 

30061Rohani at the UNGA (Image: Farsnews.com, September 22, 2016)

Rohani’s statements, which are part of an Iranian attempt in recent weeks to create a false impression that the U.S. has not met its obligations towards Iran, are in stark contradiction to statements made by senior members of the Iranian negotiation team who explicitly admitted that the U.S. has in fact met its obligations under the JCPOA (see below).

This Iranian measure is a response to the refusal of Western banks to conduct transactions with Iran in dollars, despite the lifting of the nuclear sanctions in January 2016, because the initial sanctions imposed on Iran by Congress for human rights violations and for terrorism are still in force. As will be recalled, Iran refuses to negotiate with the West on issues of terrorism, on the grounds that these issues are internal sovereign matters.

Below is a MEMRI report on this issue published on August 15, 2016.

As the first year of the JCPOA is marked, and in light of Western banks’ rejection of Iranian transactions in dollars, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his supporters in the West have launched a campaign to pressure the U.S. to lift the initial sanctions imposed on Iran by Congress for human rights violations and for terrorism. Their aim is to have these sanctions lifted without negotiations and without giving anything in return.

As will be recalled, Iran from the outset restricted the framework of the negotiations to the nuclear issue, and refused to allow them to include other issues such as human rights, terrorism, or missiles, which it considers internal sovereign matters. Therefore, the initial American sanctions concerning these areas remain in force.

A demand for lifting of all the sanctions, including the initial ones, was made by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the months after the JCPOA was achieved in July 2015.[2] Perhaps Tehran thought that with the lifting of the nuclear sanctions, the entire sanctions regime would collapse, including those concerning human rights, terrorism, and missiles. But this did not happen. The U.S. Treasury Department is following the letter and the spirit of U.S. law, and is warning banks worldwide that the initial sanctions remain in force.[3]

In light of this situation, Iran and the supporters of its regime in the West are now working to create a false impression that the U.S. has not met its obligations towards Iran. They claim that, in order to fulfill its commitments towards Iran in the JCPOA, the U.S. is obligated to revoke or circumvent the initial sanctions imposed on Iran by Congress, which currently prevent banks from dealing freely with Iran.  For example, Tyler Cullis, member of the Iranian lobby in the U.S., the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), stated in a recent policy paper that “the United States is committed to ensuring that neither U.S. law nor policy is standing in the way of non-U.S. banks resuming correspondent banking relations with their Iranian counterparts… If U.S. laws or policies are interfering with Iran realizing the full benefit of the lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial institutions, then the U.S. is required to take steps to ensure that those laws or policies no longer are running such interference. To do so could require additional changes to U.S. laws or policies governing the issue.”[4]

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and negotiating team member Majid Takhtravanchi also demanded that the U.S. take explicit steps to remove any obstacles currently preventing banks from dealing with Iran. He said on June 27, 2016,: “Two [contradictory] messages are coming out of Washington: The State Department says that there is no problem carrying out banking and financial transactions with Iran, while the OFAC says the opposite… We want the OFAC… to guarantee that there is no problem for the banks that are cooperating with Iran…”[5]

It should be mentioned that the Iranian implication that the U.S. has not met its obligations towards Iran stands in contradiction to explicit statements made recently by Iranian officials, mainly negotiation team members from Iran’s pragmatic camp, who confirmed that the U.S. had upheld its part of the JCPOA. Deputy Foreign Minister and senior negotiating team member ‘Abbas Araghchi said on a television special marking the first anniversary of the JCPOA: “Both sides have met their obligations under the JCPOA… In order to benefit from the JCPOA… we must carry out several steps because there are restrictions that are not connected to the JCPOA… The other side has implemented its obligations, and if it had not, that would have been a violation of the JCPOA, and we would have handled it in the Joint Committee…

“The JCPOA was meant to remove the obstacles of the sanctions from Iran’s economic path. [Indeed], these obstacles have been removed, but there are other obstacles, such as the initial sanctions by America, FATF [Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering], and laws connected to money-laundering, which require time [to take care of].

“From the outset, [the other side] was not meant to lift the sanctions that are not connected to the nuclear issue; that is written even in the [2013] Geneva Joint Plan of Action [about the lifting of] ‘sanctions related to the nuclear [issue], because we were negotiating about the nuclear issue [alone]…

“The sanctions on the dollar and the use of the financial apparatus of America belong to the initial sanctions imposed long ago because of issues that are not nuclear-related… We raised the matter in the negotiations, but the Americans did not agree to lift these sanctions… and demanded additional concessions [from us] in matters that were part of our red lines…

“The Americans are serious about maintaining their initial sanctions; this is the essence of America. Iran is Iran and America is America, and as long as we do not negotiate on bilateral relations [with the U.S.], these sanctions will remain in force. The American Treasury Department tells [the banks worldwide] that these sanctions are in force, and has warned them not to get in trouble because of them. These sanctions are not related to the JCPOA.”[6]

Deputy Foreign Minister and negotiating team member Hamid Ba’idinejad said at a press conference marking the first anniversary of the JCPOA: “Up to this very moment, the members of the [Iranian] negotiating team believe that the JCPOA has not been violated [by the U.S.], and still believe that it is possible to solve the problems [concerning transactions in dollars] with discussions, recommendations, and talks… From the outset, the task set out [for the Iranian negotiating team] was to resolve the nuclear issue [alone]. So far, the Islamic Republic has made no decision to negotiate with America on [the other] issues in dispute…

“Our regime never expected us to achieve the lifting of the sanctions for human rights [in the framework] of the nuclear talks.”[7]

Expediency Council head Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said: “America is telling [the banks worldwide] that it has not lifted the [initial] sanctions because this problem is related to human rights, terrorism, Palestine, and Lebanon. These [issues] too we could have solved.”[8]

However, after Khamenei warned, on August 1, 2016, that the U.S. had violated its commitments, the negotiating team heads fell into line with him, and began to state that the U.S. had indeed violated its obligations and to demand further changes in U.S. policies and laws.

A U.S. capitulation to these Iranian demands would be a blow to the authority of Congress, which imposed the initial sanctions, and to the separation of powers in the U.S. Moreover, it would constitute U.S. support for Iran’s ideological camp – Khamenei, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Basij, and the ayatollahs connected to them – and not to the pragmatic camp, and would also stand in contradiction to President Obama’s commitment that the JCPOA deals only with the nuclear issue.

 

* Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI; A. Savyon is the director of MEMRI’s Iran Media Project

 

Endnotes:

 

[1] Farsnews.com, September 22, 2016.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6151, Khamenei Declares That He Will Not Honor The Agreement If Sanctions Are Merely Suspended And Not Lifted, September 4, 2015.

[3] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1249, Post-JCPOA, The IRGC Is The Factor Stopping Iran From Integration Into The Western Economy, May 20, 2016.

[4] Niacouncil.org, August 2016.

[5] Tabnak (Iran), July 27, 2016.

[6] Fars (Iran), July 11, 2016.

[7] Fars (Iran), July 13, 2016.

[8] Fars (Iran), August 10, 2016.

Iran: The Return of Ahmadinejad and Co.

September 5, 2016

Iran: The Return of Ahmadinejad & Co., Gatestone InstituteMajid Rafizadeh, September 5, 2016

♦ Iran’s Supreme Leader and the senior cadre of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have been vocally critical of the nuclear deal. They fear further diplomatic and political rapprochement between the US and Iran, now that they have already achieved their objectives of the lifting of the four major rounds of the UN Security Council’s sanctions.

♦ After the nuclear deal was implemented, polls showed that 63% of Iranians expected to see improvements in the economy and living standards within a year. But currently, in a new poll, 74% of Iranians said there had been no economic improvements in the past year.

Iran’s former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying he wants to “redefine revolutionary ideals” set up by the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, appears to be launching a campaign to run in the upcoming Iranian presidential elections, in February, 2017.

Ahmadinejad was well-known for his incendiary and provocative speeches, which included denying the Holocaust. At the end of his presidential term, from 2005 to 2013, his approval rating was extremely low, and he managed to drive away most constituents across political spectrum, including the topmost hardline leaders. He also became the first Iranian president since 1979 to be summoned by the parliament (Majlis) to answer questions regarding his activities and policies.

After all of this, the common conception among politicians, scholars and policy analysts was that Ahmadinejad would never return to politics. It seemed that his retirement plan focused on founding a university and teaching, but his plan to open a university failed.

Despite his low popularity among people, however, the “principalists” (ultra-conservatives) were still on his side, due to his fierce anti-US, anti-Western and anti-Israel policies and rhetoric, as well as the fact that he remains a major figure in the coalition of several conservative groups, the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran.

After Ahmadinejad’s presidency, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appointed him to the Expediency Council, Iran’s highest political arbitration body, which arbitrates between the Guardian Council (the supervisory body over the parliament and elections) and the Islamic Consultative Assembly (parliament). The Expediency Council is predominantly made up of Iran’s hardline clerics, and functions as an advisory institution to the Supreme Leader.

Although it seems that Ahmadinejad did not have any intention of returning after being out of the international spotlight for two years, other factors show that he never really left. Domestically, Ahmadinejad remained politically active, trying to unify and lead the hardliners. Since he left office, he has continued holding meetings with former ministers in Tehran.

In the last few months, however, Ahmadinejad’s desire to launch his campaign more forcefully and determinedly has become clearer as, once again, he began attracting the international spotlight, such as when he wrote an open letter to US President Barack Obama, demanding the transfer of $2 billion to Iran.

To capitalize on the popular vote and the presidential elections of 2017, Ahmadinejad has been focusing on attracting constituents from around Iran by traveling to smaller cities and towns, giving lectures and speeches; supporters of Ahmadinejad have called for his return.

During his presidency, people enjoyed subsidies on items including petrol, natural gas and electricity, and his government distributed monthly cash handouts of about $17 to every person. These, as well as criticism of corruption, injustice, and capitalism, were appealing to the rural population and the less affluent.

Ahmadinejad has also been vehemently criticizing Hassan Rouhani, the current Iranian president, as incompetent, and questioning his economic and foreign policies, and pointing out that, “There will be bumps and satanic obstacles in our path… One should not forget that the US is our enemy.”

The latest poll by the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland revealed that “Ahmadinejad now represents the single largest threat to Rouhani’s re-election, and trails the once-popular incumbent by only eight points. Suddenly, the ex-president seems once again to be a real political contender.”

1839Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (left) can indeed be a viable contender against incumbent President Hassan Rouhani (right) in Iran’s 2017 presidential election, and is more likely the choice of the Supreme Leader and hardliners.

This is a ripe environment for him for several reasons.

First of all, the nuclear deal has become a popular issue among the hardliners. The Supreme Leader and senior cadre of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have been vocally critical of the nuclear deal. They fear further diplomatic and political rapprochement between the US and Iran, now that they have already achieved their objectives of the lifting of the four major rounds of the United Nations Security Council’s sanctions.

Ayatollah Khamenei warned against any relations with the US, and he also questioned the economic benefits of the nuclear agreement: “Weren’t the oppressive sanctions lifted so that the people would feel a change in their lives? Has there been a tangible effect on the people’s lives in the past six months?”

Second, the popularity of the nuclear deal has been on a decline among the population as well. After the nuclear deal was implemented, polls showed that 63% of Iranians expected to see improvements in the economy and living standards within a year. But currently, in a new poll, 74%of Iranians said there had been no economic improvements in the past year.

Ahmadinejad can indeed be a viable contender against Hassan Rouhani, and is more likely the choice of the Supreme Leader and the IRGC leaders, and the candidate favored by the hardliners and principalists.