Posted tagged ‘Obama and Iran’

Krauthammer’s Take: Obama ‘Caved’ on Inspections, Now Iran Is Developing a Nuclear Weapon

April 22, 2017

Krauthammer’s Take: Obama ‘Caved’ on Inspections, Now Iran Is Developing a Nuclear Weapon, National Review via YouTube, April 21, 2017

(Please see also, Iran violating U.S. deal with secret nukes research, opposition group says.

Iran is cheating on its historical deal with the U.S. by secretly conducting research into nuclear weapons components such as bomb triggers and enriched uranium, the main Iranian opposition group said Friday.

The regime is doing engineering and weaponization testing at a walled military complex south of Tehran, a location which Iran has declared off-limits to inspectors, said the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its main operational arm, the People’s Mujaheddin of Iran (MEK).

— DM)

 

Rex Tillerson’s Tough Talk on Iran

April 20, 2017

Rex Tillerson’s Tough Talk on Iran, Power LinePaul Mirengoff, April 19, 2017

Yesterday, as we noted here, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson informed Congress that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal and that the administration will continue to provide relief from sanctions, as called for by the agreement. He added, however, that “Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods.”

Today, Tillerson (1) elaborated in scathing language on Iran’s role as a leading sponsor of terrorism and on other of its misdeeds, (2) made clear that the nuclear deal is unsatisfactory, and (3) stressed that the U.S. government is engaged in a thorough review of our Iran policy.

Tillerson characterized the Iran deal as “another example of buying off a power who has nuclear ambitions.” Citing the North Korean example, Tillerson complained “we buy them off for a short period of time, and then someone has to deal with it later.” He then added that the administration does not intend to follow this course.

It is rumored that President Trump hit the roof when he saw Tillerson’s letter to Congress (or maybe the way it was reported) and demanded that he issue today’s tough statement. According to this account, the tough statement had been drafted previously, nixed by influential soft-liners in the administration, and revived in light of the Tillerson letter.

Whether or not this is what happened, I think today’s statement was much needed.

But what will come of the policy review promised in Tillerson’s statement? The Obama administration did an effective job of fencing in its successors. I discussed the future of the Iran deal under Trump in this post.

The upshot of two days of Tillerson talk about Iran seems to be that our Iran policy is up-for-grabs, like much else in the policy realm. Sharp disagreement probably exists within the administration about how to proceed and, not unlike other policy disputes, the disagreement occurs in the context of no truly good options.

You can watch Tillerson’s speech, plus a brief Q&A, below. Don’t miss Andrea Mitchell fretting that if the U.S. backs out of the Iran deal, rogue states like North Korea won’t trust us.

 

Iran’s Stage-Managed Elections

April 15, 2017

Iran’s Stage-Managed Elections, American ThinkerReza Shafiee, April 15, 2017

(What can President Trump do to promote regime change in Iran? What can he do to support the resistance, in and outside Iran? What, if anything will he do?– DM)

Iran’s history has shown that people are willing to risk and speak openly when they have outside support and sympathy. The United States’ policies with regard to human rights have an instant effect in hearts and minds of ordinary citizens in Iran. What happened in Iran in 2009 is not a distant memory. The Obama administration’s flawed policy set off a chain reactions in the region which still reverberates in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. By focusing just on getting the nuclear deal done with the mullahs in Tehran, it actually left out other pressing issues such supporting the Iranian people and indirectly preventing the carnage in the neighboring countries. 

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

Every four years, Iranian citizen witness a show called ‘elections.’ These have nothing in common with genuine democratic elections; they’re facades. The upcoming May 19 elections are no exception.

A closer look at the candidates proves that they are no different from one another and all have a clear track record of participation in suppression of Iranian people over the past four decades. They have won the approval to enter the race by the mullahs for just this reason.

The two more serious ones are: Hassan Rouhani, the incumbent president; and Ebrahim Raisi, custodian of Iran’s wealthiest charity, Astan Quds Razavi in Iran’s holiest shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad, northeastern Iran. Having charge of such vast amount of wealth, it’s a given that Raisi enjoys Supreme Leader Khamenei’s full trust. Both candidates are cut from the same cloth and are committed to principle to Supreme Guardianship (Velayat-e faqih), meaning, the rule of the ayatollahs

So who are they? Let’s start with the second one.

Ebrahim Raiai a member of “Death Commission” and close confident of Ali Khamenei

He was a low-level cleric who climbed the ladder in the mullahs’ hierarchy just for his undeniable services to the late Khomeini in slaughtering of 30,000 political prisoners in summer of 1988. (In Iran, we don’t refer to Khomeini as “Ayatollah,” just Khomeini is enough.  The title has been stolen and abused by the ruling mullahs in Iran.) The prisoners were mainly members and sympathizers of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organizations of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

The “Death Commission” was a four-member body with the sole task of carrying out Khomeini’s fatwa against dissidents. In his hand-written decree, Khomeini openly ordered the commission to kill the political prisoners, the majority of whom had been already imprisoned.

Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, Khomeini’s handpicked successor was later sacked over his quarrel with Khomeini for the indiscriminate killings. In a shocking 28-year-old audio file of one the meetings of Death Commission leaked in August by his son Ahmad, Montazeri called the killings a “crime that future generations will certainly not forget” and declared: “It is committed in the name of the Islamic Republic and carried out by you.”

Ahmad Montazeri has regarded Ebrahim Raisi’s standing for presidential elections a ‘joke’ and ‘an insult to Iranian people’. Raisi’s record does not stop at just his role in the massacre of political prisoners in 1988, but what he did overrides any other tasks he has undertaken in Islamic Republic’s killing machine.

Canada’s Parliament adopted the following motion on June 5th, 2013 on the events of 1988 in Iran: “That the House condemn the mass murder of political prisoners in Iran in the summer of 1988 as a crime against humanity, honors the memory of the victims buried in mass graves at Khavaran cemetery and other locations in Iran, and establishes Sept. 1 as a day of solidarity with political prisoners in Iran.”

Now let’s look at the other candidate:

Hassan Rouhani is no saint

Make no mistake about Rouhani being a saint by comparison. He is not far behind Raisi when it comes to cruelty. For starters, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, his justice minister, is none other than another member of the same notorious Death Commission. Last summer when Pour-Mohammadi was pressed to answer for the massacre of 1988, he proudly said: “I carried out God’s will and I have not lost sleep over what I did.”

The rate of executions during Rouhani’s presidency has been unprecedented in past 25 years in Iran, according to Ahmed Shaheed, who was Iran’s last UN Special Rapporteur for human rights. During Rouhani’s tenure, around 3000 executions were carried out.

When asked about hangings during his presidency, Rouhani simply said: “They were carried out according to God’s laws.”

Amnesty International’s report for 2016 indicates that with the exception of China, Iran carried out 55 percent of all executions worldwide.

Rouhani has always said that he has been in a decision making-position throughout the life of the Islamic Republic. He personally was in a commanding position when the 1999 student uprisings were crushed in Iran.

The European Union extended its sanctions on Iranian regime’s offices for participating in suppression of Iranian citizens.

EU documents state that they target persons complicit in “torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, or the indiscriminate, excessive and increasing application of the death penalty, including public executions, stoning, hangings or executions of juvenile offenders.”

As U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley mentioned recently: “Peace and security cannot be achieved in isolation from human rights.” The long-suffering people of Iran, Syria, and Iraq bear witness that “human rights abuses are not the byproduct of conflict; they are the cause of conflict, or they are the fuel that feeds the conflict.”

There’s also a third candidate worth looking at:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is back in the race

The trio of Rouhani, Raisi and Ahmadinejad in Iran’s upcoming elections is more than a mere joke: It has a plain and clear message – that of Khamenei’s extreme weakness in controlling his goons. The humorous Iranian people have already made jokes about the three and this bagatelle called elections. Social media is full of them.

Khamenei ordered Ahmadinejad to stay away from elections. By disobeying his master’s direct order he is demonstrating the Supreme Leader’s unprecedented lack of control over his establishment. Khamenei offered an explicit warning in September that his candidacy would be a “polarizing situation” that would be “harmful to the country.”

That is a reference to the disputed election in 2009 which ignited massive street demonstrations and subsequent arrests of thousands of protesters and the killing of hundreds of others by the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Final thoughts     

Iran’s history has shown that people are willing to risk and speak openly when they have outside support and sympathy. The United States’ policies with regard to human rights have an instant effect in hearts and minds of ordinary citizens in Iran. What happened in Iran in 2009 is not a distant memory. The Obama administration’s flawed policy set off a chain reactions in the region which still reverberates in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. By focusing just on getting the nuclear deal done with the mullahs in Tehran, it actually left out other pressing issues such supporting the Iranian people and indirectly preventing the carnage in the neighboring countries.

The elections in Iran – for parliament or president – have been designed or “engineered,” as the word has been widely used, by the regime’s inner circles, for both internal and external consumption. However after the nuclear deal with the West, it has become a high priority for the regime to show popular support at home and project it as an image to the rest of the world as a regime fully in control and ready to do business. It is no secret that the regime has no popular support in Iran.

Ebrahim Rasis, Hassan Rounhani, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and their likes should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their crimes against humanity. Known human rights criminals such as entire ruling mullah class in Iran should not go unpunished. They should soon see the inside of International Criminal Court.

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

 

Trump Sends a Message to China Through Syria

April 10, 2017

Trump Sends a Message to China Through Syria, Front Page Magazine, Daniel Greenfield, April 10, 2017

On Thursday evening, President Trump met with China’s President Xi and bombed Syria. The decision came as Trump traveled on Air Force One to meet with Xi at Mar-a-Lago. An hour into their dinner, 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched and pounded an airbase in Syria. The message wasn’t just for Assad and Putin. It was for Xi and his North Korean client state. The era of a weak America was over.

Xi had come to America expecting an easy photo op visit. President Trump would urge action on North Korea and Xi would smile coldly and shoot him down. Talk of fairer trade would be similarly dismissed.

And then Xi would go home and laugh that the bold new American leader was another paper tiger.

Except that President Trump had a different plan. Instead of Xi showing how tough he could be, Trump gave him a front row seat to a display of American power. The message was both obvious and subtle.

And President Xi, along with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei, aren’t laughing.

The obvious part was as blatant as a 1,000 pound explosive warhead slamming into concrete and steel, and as obvious as upstaging Xi’s efforts to stonewall Trump while warning that North Korea could be next if the Chinese leader continues to be obstinate.

Trump had warned throughout the campaign that he would not be laying his military plans on the table. “You’re telling the enemy everything you want to do!” he had mocked Clinton.

His address to the nation came an hour after the missiles had struck. The element of surprise had held.

And Xi came away with a very different message. The Obama era was over. The new guy was bold, dangerous and unpredictable. Like many of Trump’s American opponents, Xi understood now that the jovial man sitting next to him could and would violate the rules of the game without prior warning.

China would have to be careful. There was a cowboy in the White House again.

And that was the subtle part. Trump does not care very much about Assad. What he truly cares about is American power. Left-wing critics quickly pounced on Trump’s past opposition to strikes on Syria and his criticisms of Obama for not enforcing his own “red line”.

There is no contradiction.

Trump didn’t believe that strikes on Syria were a good idea. But once we had committed to a red line, then we had to follow through if we were going to be taken seriously.

And so Trump enforced Obama’s red line. Not because of Obama or Syria. But because of America.

“When he didn’t cross that line after making the threat, I think that set us back a long ways, not only in Syria, but in many other parts of the world because it was a blank threat,” President Trump said.

President Trump intends to get things done. And he knows it won’t happen with “blank” threats.

Asked about whether the strikes represented a message to Xi and North Korea, Secretary of State Tillerson replied, “It does demonstrate that President Trump is willing to act when governments and actors cross the line and cross the line on violating commitments they have made.”

“President Trump has made that statement to the world tonight,” he added.

The message is more subtle than a 1,000 pound warhead. But not by that much.

President Trump’s move bewildered leftist critics who had to shift from accusing him of having a secret relationship with Russia to accusing him of ruining our relationship with Russia. It also enraged some supporters who maintained a dogmatic non-interventionist position. But Trump doesn’t make decisions based on ideology. He measures policies against real world objectives, not abstract philosophies.

What he has always wanted to do is solve real problems.

The problem he was solving on Thursday wasn’t Assad. President Trump recognizes that Syria is an unsolvable problem and that little good can come of extended engagement with it. There are no good guys in Syria. Only Sunni and Shiite Jihadis and their victims. Syria is and will always be a dead end.

The problem is that Obama thoroughly wrecked American prestige and power over eight years. And that makes it painfully difficult to get anything done when no one in the world will take us seriously.

President Trump sees North Korea’s nuclear weapons as a major threat. But he also sees the crisis as a way to leverage our military might to achieve better trade deals with both partners and rivals. He is not wedded to a globalist or anti-globalist ideology. Instead he sees every problem as an opportunity.

He is not committed to any international coalition, globalist or anti-globalist, except where it temporarily serves American purposes. That is what being a true nationalist actually means.

That is what makes him so unpredictable and so dangerous.

President Trump made a point in Syria. He timed that point for maximum effect. The point isn’t that Assad is a bad man. Though he is. It’s not that he isn’t a Russian puppet, though only the lunatic left could have believed that. The point is that he is determined that America will be taken seriously.

Cruise missile diplomacy isn’t new. Bill Clinton fired over 500 cruise missiles into Iraq. Not to mention Sudan. Bush fired cruise missiles into Somalia. Obama signed off on firing cruise missiles into Yemen and Syria at terrorist targets. The difference is that Trump isn’t just saving face with cruise missile diplomacy.

President Trump’s real objective isn’t the Middle East. It’s Asia. He doesn’t see Russia as our leading geopolitical foe, but China. Syria was the opening shot in a staring contest with the People’s Republic. The moves in this chess game will sometimes be obvious and sometimes subtle. And Trump is usually at his most subtle when he’s being obvious. That’s what his enemies usually miss.

President Trump’s first step in Syria was to reestablish physical and moral authority on the international stage while the President of China had to sit there and watch. He humiliated Democrats and their media operation at the peak of their Russia frenzy. And he sent the message that America is back.

It’s not a bad return on a $60 million investment. We’ve spent much more in the field with less to show for it.

The Obama era in international affairs ended with whimper and a hollow Nobel Peace Prize as a trophy. The Trump era in international affairs began with 59 cruise missiles and a big bang.

Trump’s Greatest Deal

March 24, 2017

Trump’s Greatest Deal, Front Page MagazineCaroline Glick, March 24, 2017

(Before the Flynn debacle, Trump’s efforts to get Russia to divorce itself from Iran appeared to be proceeding well. Please see, Highly Classified National Security Information Must Not be Leaked. Part b of the article is titled “Flynn telephone conversations.” Part c is titled “General Flynn, Russia and Iran.” Flynn’s departure from the Trump administration and America’s current Russophobia do not augur well for future success in pushing for the divorce. — DM)

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

If Trump can convince Russia to ditch Iran, then he has a chance of dismantling the regime in Tehran and so defusing the Iranian nuclear program and destroying Hezbollah without having to fight a major war.

The payoff to Russia for agreeing to such a deal would be significant. But if Trump were to adopt this policy, the US has a lot of bargaining chips that it can use to convince Putin to walk away from the ayatollahs long enough for the US to defuse the threat they pose to its interests.

The problem with the Russia strategy is that since Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, the Democrats, their allied media outlets and powerful forces in the US intelligence community have been beset by a Russia hysteria unseen since the Red scares in the 1920s and 1950s.

The fact that Obama bent over backward to cater to Putin’s interests for eight years has been pushed down the memory hole.

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

What can be done about Iran? In Israel, a dispute is reportedly raging between the IDF and the Mossad about the greatest threat facing Israel. IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot thinks that Hezbollah is the greatest threat facing Israel. Mossad Director Yossi Cohen thinks Iran’s nuclear program is the greatest danger facing the Jewish state.

While the media highlight the two men’s disagreement, the underlying truth about their concerns has been ignored.

Hezbollah and Iran’s nuclear program are two aspects of the same threat: the regime in Tehran.

Hezbollah is a wholly owned subsidiary of the regime. If the regime disappeared, Hezbollah would fall apart. As for the nuclear installations, in the hands of less fanatical leaders, they would represent a far less acute danger to global security.

So if you undermine the Iranian regime, you defeat Hezbollah and defuse the nuclear threat.

If you fail to deal with the regime in Tehran, both threats will continue to grow no matter what you do, until they become all but insurmountable.

So what can be done about Tehran? With each passing day we discover new ways Iran endangers Israel and the rest of the region.

This week we learned Iran has built underground weapons factories in Lebanon. The facilities are reportedly capable of building missiles, drones, small arms and ammunition. Their underground location protects them from aerial bombardment.

Then there is Hezbollah’s relationship to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).

For more than a decade, the Americans have been selling themselves the implausible claim that the LAF is a responsible fighting force capable and willing to rein in Hezbollah. Never an easy claim – the LAF provided targeting information to Hezbollah missile crews attacking Israel in 2006 – after Hezbollah domesticated the Lebanese government in 2008, the claim became downright silly. And yet, over the past decade, the US has provided the LAF with weapons worth in excess of $1 billion. In 2016 alone the US gave the LAF jets, helicopters, armored personnel carriers and missiles worth more than $220 million.

In recent months, showing that Iran no longer feels the need to hide its control over Lebanon, the LAF has openly stated that it is working hand in glove with Hezbollah.

Last November, Hezbollah showcased US M113 armored personnel carriers with roof-mounted Russian anti-aircraft guns, at a military parade in Syria. The next month the Americans gave the LAF a Hellfire missile-equipped Cessna aircraft with day and night targeting systems.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun is a Hezbollah ally. So is Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf and LAF commander Gen. Joseph Aoun.

Last month President Aoun told Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, that Hezbollah serves “a complementary role to the Lebanese army.”

And yet the Americans insist that it continues to make sense – and to be lawful – to arm the LAF.

You can hardly blame them. Denial is an attractive option, given the alternatives.

For the past eight years, the Obama administration did everything in its power to empower Iran. To make Iran happy, Obama did nothing as hundreds of thousands of Syrians were killed and millions more were forced to flee their homes by Iran and its puppet Bashar Assad.

Obama allowed Iran to take over the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military. He sat back as Iran’s Houthi proxy overthrew the pro-US regime in Yemen.

And of course, the crowning achievement of Obama’s foreign policy was his nuclear deal with the mullahs. Obama’s deal gives Iran an open path to a nuclear arsenal in a bit more than a decade and enriches the regime beyond Ayatollah Khamenei’s wildest dreams.

Obama empowered Iran at the expense of the US’s Sunni allies and Israel, and indeed, at the expense of the US’s own superpower status in the region, to enable the former president to withdraw the US from the Middle East.

Power of course, doesn’t suffer a vacuum, and the one that Obama created was quickly filled.

For decades, Russia has been Iran’s major arms supplier. It has assisted Iran with its nuclear program and with its ballistic missile program. Russia serves as Iran’s loyal protector at the UN Security Council.

But for all the help it provided Tehran through the years, Moscow never presented itself as Iran’s military defender.

That all changed in September 2015. Two months after Obama cut his nuclear deal with the ayatollahs, Russia deployed its forces to Syria on behalf of Iran and its Syrian and Lebanese proxies.

In so doing, Russia became the leading member and the protector of the Iranian axis.

Russia’s deployment of forces had an immediate impact not only on the war in Syria, but on the regional power balance as a whole. With Russia serving as the air force for Iran and its Syrian and Hezbollah proxies, the Assad regime’s chances of survival increased dramatically. So did Iran’s prospects for regional hegemony.

For Obama, this situation was not without its advantages.

In his final year in office, Obama’s greatest concern was ensuring that his nuclear deal with Iran would outlive his presidency. Russia’s deployment in Syria as the protector of Iran and its proxies was a means of achieving this end.

Russia’s alliance with Iran made attacking Iran’s nuclear program or its Hezbollah proxy a much more dangerous prospect than it had been before.

After all, in 2006, Russia supported Iran and Hezbollah in their war against Israel. But Russia’s support for Iran and its Lebanese legion didn’t diminish Israel’s operational freedom. Israel was able to wage war without any fear that its operations would place it in a direct confrontation with the Russian military.

This changed in September 2015.

The first person to grasp the strategic implications of the Russian move was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu recognized that with Russian forces on the ground in Syria, the only way for Israel to take even remedial measures to protect itself from Iran and its proxies was to drive a wedge between President Vladimir Putin and the ayatollahs wide enough to enable Israel to continue its raids against weapons convoys to Hezbollah and other targets without risking a confrontation with Russia. This is the reason that Netanyahu boarded a flight to Moscow to speak to Putin almost immediately after the Russian leader deployed his forces to Syria.

Israel’s ability to continue to strike targets in Syria, whether along the border on the Golan Heights or deep within Syrian territory, is a function of Netanyahu’s success in convincing Putin to limit his commitment to his Iranian allies.

Since President Donald Trump entered the White House, Iran has been his most urgent foreign policy challenge. Unlike Obama, Trump recognizes that Iran’s nuclear program and its threats to US economic and strategic interests in the Persian Gulf and the Levant cannot be wished away.

And so he has decided to deal with Iran.

The question is, what is he supposed to do? Trump has three basic options.

He can cut a deal with Russia. He can act against Iran without cutting a deal with Russia. And he can do nothing, or anemically maintain Obama’s pro-Iran policies.

The first option has the greatest potential strategic payoff. If Trump can convince Russia to ditch Iran, then he has a chance of dismantling the regime in Tehran and so defusing the Iranian nuclear program and destroying Hezbollah without having to fight a major war.

The payoff to Russia for agreeing to such a deal would be significant. But if Trump were to adopt this policy, the US has a lot of bargaining chips that it can use to convince Putin to walk away from the ayatollahs long enough for the US to defuse the threat they pose to its interests.

The problem with the Russia strategy is that since Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, the Democrats, their allied media outlets and powerful forces in the US intelligence community have been beset by a Russia hysteria unseen since the Red scares in the 1920s and 1950s.

The fact that Obama bent over backward to cater to Putin’s interests for eight years has been pushed down the memory hole.

Also ignored is the fact that during her tenure as secretary of state, Clinton approved deals with the Russians that were arguably antithetical to US interests while the Clinton Foundation received millions of dollars in contributions from Russian businessmen and companies closely allied with Putin.

Since November 8, the Democrats and their clapping seals in the media and allies in the US intelligence community have banged the war drums against Russia, accusing Trump and his advisers of serving as Russian patsies at best, and Russian agents at worst.

In this climate, it would be politically costly for Trump to implement a Russian-based strategy for dismantling the Iranian threat.

This brings us to the second option, which is to confront Iran and Russia. Under this option, US action against Iran could easily cause hostilities to break out between the US and Russia. It goes without saying that the political fallout from making a deal with Russia would be nothing compared to the political consequences if Trump were to take the US down a path that led to war with Russia.

Obviously, the economic and human costs of such a confrontation would be prohibitive regardless of the political consequences.

This leaves us with the final option of doing nothing, or anemically continuing to implement Obama’s policies, as the Americans are doing today.

Although tempting, the hard truth is that this is the most dangerous policy of all.

You need only look to North Korea to understand why this is so.

Seemingly on a daily basis, Pyongyang threatens to nuke America. And the US has no good options for dealing with the threat.

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged during his recent trip to Asia, decades of US diplomacy regarding North Korea’s nuclear program did nothing to diminish or delay the threat.

North Korea has been able to develop nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles while threatening the US with destruction because North Korea enjoys the protection of China. If not for the Chinese, the US would long ago have dealt a death blow to the regime.

Israel has moved Russia as far away from Iran as it can on its own. It is enough to stop convoys of North Korean weapons from crossing into Lebanon.

But it isn’t enough to cause serious harm to Tehran or its clients.

The only government that can do that is the American government.

Trump built his career by mastering the art of deal making. And he recognized that Obama’s deal with Iran is not the masterpiece Obama and his allies claim but a catastrophe.

The Iran deal Trump needs to make with the Russians is clear. The only question is whether he is willing to pay the political price it requires.

Iran honestly abiding by nuclear deal or terrified of changing times?

March 7, 2017

Iran honestly abiding by nuclear deal or terrified of changing times? Al Arabiya, Heshmat Alavi, March 7, 2017

(Al Arabiya is “a Saudi-owned pan-Arab[4] television news channel.” — DM)

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano addresses a news conference after a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria March 6, 2017. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

During the Obama years Iran understood very well his administration would take no serious actions against their aggressive nature, as seen in the West’s relative silence in the face of more than a dozen missile test launches.

To this end, Iran’s recent compliance by JCPOA articles should only be perceived as a result of its deep fear in the new US administration’s possible policies.

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

Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently issued his latest report to the agency’s Board of Governors. At a first glance the text leaves you thinking Iran is honoring the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA.

However, considering the rapid pace of international developments, and US President Donald Trump’s harsh remarks against the nuclear deal, we are seeing Iran going the limits to maintain the JCPOA intact. This is a staunchly different approach from the Obama era.

The latest IAEA report contains very important technical aspects, showing how weak Iran has become. Despite all the threats of abandoning the JCPOA ship altogether, Iran’s recent measures proves it needs the JCPOA more than any other party.

By the statistics

On November 8th, 2016 the IAEA verified Iran’s heavy water reserves reached 130.1 metric tons. Iran also informed the IAEA about sending 11 metric tons of heavy water outside of its borders on November 6th and 19th, also verified by the IAEA.

After this transfer Iran has not dared to exceed the 130 metric ton limit, and on February 14th the IAEA verified Iran’s reserves have decreased to 124.2 metric tons, meaning even 6 metric tons less than the JCPOA specified amount.

During the Obama administration Iran had twice exceeded the 130 metric ton limit, and yet rushed to send the excess amount to Oman prior to Donald Trump taking the helm at the White House.

Natanz

Under the JCPOA Iran is permitted to maintain more than 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges in 30 cascades in the Natanz enrichment site. Again, terrified of the incoming Trump administration, reports indicate Iran has significantly lowered the number of such centrifuges.

Iran is continuing to enrich UF6 uranium at Natanz, yet not daring to enrich any uranium above the 3.67 percent standard set for nuclear fuel production. Iran has also not exceeded the 300-kilogram amount of 3.67 percent uranium 235, equal to 202.8 kilograms of uranium.

By February 18th Iran had stored 101.7 kilograms of 3.67 percent uranium, showing the regime has not only abided, but even halved their stocks. This is another sign of Iran’s concerns of the change in guards in Washington.

Ferdow

The controversial Ferdow uranium enrichment, with a capacity of 3,000 centrifuges, currently has 1,044 IR-1 centrifuges, where 1,042 are placed in six cascades, and two such centrifuges are set aside for research purposes.

During the past three months (especially following the November 8th US elections) Iran has suspended all of Ferdow’s uranium enrichment and R & D activities.

Surveillance

All stocked centrifuges, along with their components, are under constant IAEA surveillance. The IAEA enjoys orderly access to related facilities in Natanz, including daily inspections based on IAEA inspectors’ requests.

Iran continues to allow the IAEA use electronic surveillance devices and online seals on its uranium enrichment facilities to provide continuous monitoring. Iran has also agreed to provide for the presence of a larger number IAEA monitors.

Iran has agreed to abide by the Additional Protocol, once considered a red line for the regime, allowing the IAEA monitor a large number of sites and other facilities affiliated to Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran’s enriched uranium in Oman

Another sign of Iran giving in to major setbacks is the regime’s agreement to stock their enriched uranium in Oman, and seek its sale to foreign buyers from there. This also includes stocks of excessive heavy water. And yet, Iran is also concerned about the fate of its money in Oman banks, as expressed by a number of parliament members.

The irony

In the meantime, one cannot say for certain that the mullahs have actually relented their nuclear weapons drive. It is in the mullahs’ nature to continue their pursuit for terrorism, nuclear weapons and domestic crackdown. These are the Iranian regime’s three main pillars.

It is common knowledge that the mullahs enjoy no social base, and this is seen in remarks made by Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency chief saying in most of his interviews how Tehran intends to relaunch the nuclear program once the JCPOA time limit ends.

Despite all this, the mullahs very well understand the language of force. Iran only succumbed to the nuclear talks once international sanctions began crippling their economy.

During the Obama years Iran understood very well his administration would take no serious actions against their aggressive nature, as seen in the West’s relative silence in the face of more than a dozen missile test launches.

To this end, Iran’s recent compliance by JCPOA articles should only be perceived as a result of its deep fear in the new US administration’s possible policies.

Investments

After Obama left office foreign investment in Iran has also witnessed a nosedive, adding to the mullahs’ growing concerns. Tehran curbed a portion of its nuclear program, yet receiving nothing in return and continuously being described as the main state supporter of terrorism, instability and insecurity.

Iran’s unfrozen money has been transferred to Oman, and yet the government says it cannot release the assets to Tehran. Iran has at least $18 billion blocked in China, with no means to gain access to.

British Petroleum also had double thoughts following Trump’s entrance into the White House. This major international oil company has currently taken a major step back from participating in Iran’s oil projects.

Total in France, seeking to develop the major gas fields south of Iran, has also taken similar measures, suspending its activities until the summer of this year to allow Trump to clarify his JCPOA policy.

Foreign banks and companies

Why are French companies unable to invest in Iran? This country’s largest banks are holding back on any cooperation with Tehran, blocking any major investment by large French companies in this country. In addition to Total, Renault, AirBus and others are unable to invest in Iran without the support of major French banks such as Societe Generale.

These banks, however, are very concerned of unilateral punishing measures by the US against foreign entities investing in Iran. For example, the BNP Paribas was slapped with an $8.9 billion fine by Washington for bypassing US sanctions against Iran.

Airline restrictions

Japan’s Mitsubishi ended its negotiations to sell planes to Iran, citing concerns of the new US administration’s possible future sanctions and policies.

Despite Tehran seeking to expand its airlines and reach abroad following the nuclear deal, New Delhi delivered yet another blow by suspending its flights to Iran.

“Air India Express, the low-cost unit of the South Asian nation’s flag carrier, has put on hold a plan to fly to Tehran amid renewed tensions between the US and Iran after President Donald Trump imposed fresh sanctions on the Persian Gulf country,” according to a Bloomberg report.

Money laundry warnings

The Financial Action Task Force, the international body assigned to fight back against money laundering, issued a stark warning to Tehran to live up to its obligations or else face serious actions.

The FATF recently issued a strong reminder saying “in June 2016, the FATF suspended counter-measures for twelve months in order to monitor Iran’s progress in implementing the Action Plan. If the FATF determines that Iran has not demonstrated sufficient progress in implementing the Action Plan at the end of that period, FATF’s call for counter-measures will be re-imposed.”

Conclusion

More than a year after the JCPOA implementation, and with Washington adopting a completely new mentality and overhauling any pro-appeasement policies vis-à-vis Iran, the mullahs in Tehran have realized the global balance of power has shifted completely against their interests.

To this end, their recent measures to curtail their nuclear stocks should not be considered a coming to mind by Tehran. Not at all. The mullahs understand the language of force, just as President Ronald Reagan came to office in 1981 the fledgling mullahs’ regime rushed to release all American hostages after a 444 ordeal.

Now, Tehran is once again comprehending a significant shift in international politics, and it is taking measures accordingly to limit all possible damages. And rest assured they will jump to the occasion if they sense any weakness or hesitation.

As a result, Iran must be held at the ropes and the next necessary step in this regard is the long overdue designation of its Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization. This will begin to limit its ability to wreak havoc across the Middle East and limit its human rights atrocities.

This is in the interest of all nations.
_________________________
Heshmat Alavi is a political and rights activist. His writing focuses on Iran, ranging from human rights violations, social crackdown, the regime’s support for terrorism and meddling in foreign countries, and the controversial nuclear program. He tweets at @HeshmatAlavi & blogs at IranCommentary.

‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed: We Must Form ‘Arab NATO’ To Confront Iran

February 22, 2017

‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed: We Must Form ‘Arab NATO’ To Confront Iran, MEMRI, February 22, 2017

In February 2017, prominent Saudi journalist ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, the former editor of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and former director of Alarabiya TV, published two articles calling to take a firm position vis-à-vis Iran and even form an “Arab NATO” to confront the alliance Iran has formed with Iraq and Syria.

The following are excerpts from the articles, as published in English by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and Alarabiya, respectively:

alrashed‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed (image: alarabiya.net)

In one article,[1] Al-Rashed criticized the claim that U.S. President Donald Trump’s declarations against the Iran agreement strengthen the radicals there. He argued that Iran’s belligerence since the signing of the agreement proves that openness and flexibility towards it, like the policy pursued by Obama, only encourage it to escalate its aggression. He added that the radical camp in Iran has controlled the country since the Islamic Revolution, while the moderate camp is merely a front used to encourage the West to be lenient with Iran. Hence, policy towards Iran should be firm:

“Nothing happened during three decades to prove that there’s real competition between radicals and moderates inside the [Iranian] ruling command. Major events rather confirmed that the authority was in fact under the control of the radicals, while moderates were just front men. President Hassan Rouhani and his FM Zarif both represented the moderates and they succeeded [in] winning over the administration of former president Barack Obama. They also managed to convince the administration that lifting sanctions and encouraging Iran’s openness were [in] the interest of moderate figures, the region and the whole world.

“Once again, evidence suggested this assumption was wrong. [The] Iranian leadership became more aggressive than ever and for the first time since the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the regime dared to expand its military activity outside its borders. It is currently participating in and funding four wars outside of Iran. All of this was possible due to the nuclear deal that paved the way for better relations, trade and activity and kept silent over Iran’s threats to the region.

“Trump’s extremist rhetoric is a natural outcome of the disappointment [that] prevailed [in] Washington due to Iran’s behavior after signing the deal. Things will keep on getting worse unless a strict international position against Iran’s adventures is taken and unless Iran is forced to end the chaos it is funding in the region and the world.

“Those familiar with the Iranian regime’s [actions] cannot believe the excuses being made by Iran’s allies which stipulate that being lenient with Iran [may cause it to have a] positive [attitude to] the rest of the world. The nature of the regime in Tehran is religious with a revolutionary ideology. It has a political agenda that has not changed much since it attacked the American embassy in Tehran and held diplomats hostage [in 1979]. The same logic leads us to conclude that Iran will dominate [by] using power via its proxies and militias across the region and [by] encouraging and supporting the rebellious behavior of certain local parties in neighboring countries.

“Iran has not changed much since it announced it plans to export revolutions to the world. The only change that happened is that its financial and military situations improved a lot thanks to the nuclear deal it signed with the West.”

In another article,[2] Al-Rashed wrote that Iran has exploited the political vacuum that formed in the region in recent years, as well as the Obama administration’s policy, including the nuclear agreement with it, to expand its influence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. In light of this, he advised: “Military cooperation, under any umbrella, is a good idea and a necessary step, especially if expanded beyond [military cooperation]. Establishing an alliance to confront Iran is an essential balance to respond to its military alliance that includes Iraq and Syria.

“Iran also cooperates with Russia and the latter has a military base in Iran. The Russians strongly participate in the war in Syria alongside this Iranian alliance. Tehran has strengthened its alliance by bringing armed militias from Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon and other countries into Syria and they are fighting there under its banner. Iranian forces, in the guise of ‘experts,’ are fighting in Iraq and to some extent manage the conflict there. Therefore, establishing an Arab NATO… remains a natural reaction to Iran’s ‘Warsaw Pact.'”

 

 

[1] For the Arabic version of this article see: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 12, 2017; for the English version see: english.aawsat.com, February 13, 2017. The English text has been lightly edited for clarity.

[2] For the Arabic version of the article see: -Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 20, 2017; for the English version see: alarabiya.net, February 21, 2017. The English text has been lightly edited for clarity.