Posted tagged ‘Rouhani’

Iran Regime President: The Government Builds the Missiles

July 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 7, 2017

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

Qassem Soleimani

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Revolutionary Guard’s long shadow over Iran’s presidential election

May 19, 2017

The Revolutionary Guard’s long shadow over Iran’s presidential election, Long War Journal, May 19, 2017

Iranians head to the polls today to choose between “bad and worse” in yet another unfair-and-unfree presidential election. The primary challenger, Ebrahim Raisi – who is considered a frontrunner to succeed Khamenei – has received the support of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – the protector of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution who have long cast a dark shadow over the country.

The Guard’s political interference has at times been so blatant that incumbent President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday publicly called on it not to meddle. During the final debate last week, Rouhani criticized the Guards for mobilizing support for Raisi.

Some in the West point to this as proof that Rouhani is the “lesser of two evils,” yet the political effect of this difference is minimal:  Rouhani cannot overcome the Guards and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on matters of foreign and security policy—to the extent that he even has differences with them. Rouhani’s feud with the corps goes back to the Iran-Iraq War and is less politically convulsive than can sometimes appear to outside observers.

Since 1989, the Revolutionary Guards’ intervention in Iranian politics and commerce has expanded dramatically under the watch of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has relied on the corps to consolidate his power.

While Rouhani has installed more intelligence ministry than Guard veterans in his cabinet, the corps overshadows all other security and military institutions.

Khamenei and the Guards exercise formal and informal means to check the elected branches. The corps’ decision-making hierarchy is dominated by a tightly-knit network of Iran-Iraq War (1980 – 1988) veterans loyal to the supreme leader. During the reform era (1997 – 2005), Khamenei and the Guards curtailed the agenda of former President Mohammad Khatami and purged reformists from the parliament.

As a partly conscript military organization, however, the 150,000-strong Guard Corps somewhat mirrors society, though more so the pro-regime base since Iranians who don’t support the regime often prefer to enlist in the regular army.  The Revolutionary Guards purged their ranks after the massive demonstrations following the 2009 presidential election: many officers and the rank-and-file refused to attack protesters.  Senior commanders have become more careful about vetting officers.  Khamenei-picked clerical commissars enforce ideological conformity and the corps’ Counter Intelligence Organization, souped up after 2009, roots out dissent.

Factionalism among the Guards, however, remains. For instance, former senior commander and parliamentarian, Mansour Haghighatpour, told a pro-reform newspaper the Guards foiled his re-election bid in the northwestern district of Ardebil last year because he voted for the 2015 nuclear accord.

The Revolutionary Guard has promoted Raisi before he announced his presidential run. Raisi, who owes his power to the supreme leader, has long been close to Iran’s security services. After Khamenei last year appointed Raisi the trustee of Iran’s wealthiest endowment, the Reza Holy Precinct, top Guard commanders visited him in Mashhad.  Media affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard then began promoting Raisi with the senior title of “Ayatollah.” That indicated Raisi was being groomed for the higher office of supreme leader, which nominally requires the senior clerical rank (the media has now returned to calling Raisi a mid-ranking cleric).

Even before the withdrawal of Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran and a former senior Guard commander, from the presidential campaign, Raisi generated the most buzz in hardline circles. Prominent Guard theoretician Hassan Abbasi even claims there’s a “strange” aura to Raisi’s campaign rallies. Photos of guardsmen in Syria declaring their support for Raisi are now commonplace in Iranian social media.  The corps’ weekly Sobh-e Sadegh’s latest edition all but endorses Raisi without naming him directly.

Some in Khamenei’s close circle successfully pushed Raisi to run for president even though he’d initially refused. Cleric Ali Panahian, head of the pro-Khamenei think tank Ammar Base, told a militant seminary audience in Qom this month that Raisi consented to run with reservations.  Panahian viewed Raisi as “one of the sources of support” for the Islamic Republic regardless of “the result of the election.”  Panahian has dubbed Raisi the “seyyed of the dispossessed” (“seyyed” is an honorific given to descendants of the Prophet Muhammad).

The Guard Corps has also directly mobilized supporters for Raisi’s campaign rallies.  A reporter who attended Raisi’s Tehran campaign rally this week said the vast majority of attendees were members of the Basij – an all-volunteer, paramilitary organization that falls under the corps’ command. Eyewitnesses outside the campaign rally videotaped men on motorcycles and more than a dozen buses – hallmarks of the Guard’s mobilization.

The Revolutionary Guards might try to tip the results in Raisi’s favor. Polls by their media seem to predict a Raisi victory. The Guard Corps has attempted to station forces at Tehran’s ballot stations on election day, drawing a protest of a senior official from the interior ministry, which counts the votes and is under the control of Rouhani.  Iranian parliamentarian Mahmoud Sadeghi this week warned about the spread of undercover security agents in Tehran, some of whom vowed to crush the “green sedition,” referring to the 2009 Green Movement. The Guard may want to rig the results by a few points to avoid the mistake of declaring Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner by a large margin, which instantly led to widespread suspicions of fraud and massive demonstrations.

Rouhani’s supporters may well accuse the corps and the supreme leader of fraud if Raisi wins. Rouhani has been leading the polls and the public expects high turnout of the reformist base, which could only benefit Rouhani. The president has loudly and repeatedly warned against the Guards’ meddling in this election.

For his part, Khamenei has not overtly expressed his preference for president but has criticized Rouhani throughout the campaign, and has vowed to “slap in the face” anyone who “wishes to disrupt security.” He obviously fears a repetition of 2009 that rocked the regime to its core.

Whatever the result of the election, the Guard Corps will remain the most powerful network in the country.   A Raisi presidency would be beholden.  A Rouhani victory, however, cannot roll back the Guards’ influence.  The Islamic Republic’s history leaves no doubt that republican institutions are incapable of overcoming the unelected powers of the supreme leader and his praetorians, who perceive reform as an existential threat.  The prospect for gradual, peaceful reform within the Islamic Republic is bleak.

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

March 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nothing New in Rouhani’s “Charter of Citizens Rights.” Just a Re-Hash of Past Election Statements

December 23, 2016

Nothing New in Rouhani’s “Charter of Citizens Rights.” Just a Re-Hash of Past Election Statements, Iran Focus, December 23, 2016

charter-of-citizens-rights-750

London, 23 Dec – On the very day that the UN General Assembly condemned violations of human rights in Iran, its president, Hassan Rouhani, published a statement, “Charter of Citizens Rights”, which merely repeats the Constitution and laws of the clerical regime, albeit rearranged. It’s shocking that this occurred in the midst of the justice seeking movement for the 1988 Massacre has gained strength both inside and outside Iran.

During 2013 election, Rouhani announced the same statements, and now he’s reusing them for next year’s election. What’s interesting is that he announced the initial report on implementation will be due after the election.

The Charter consists of 120 articles, none of which challenge the absolute authority of the Supreme Leader, or the complete denial of popular sovereignty, the violation of fundamental rights of women is not addressed, nor are other inhumane laws that have been institutionalized in the clerical regime.

The first article states, “The right to life cannot be denied from citizens except in accordance with law”. According to an article published by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) on Wednesday, December 21, “This is nothing but confirmation of 120,000 political executions and mass executions that are happening every day. All these crimes are carried out based on the “law” of Velayat-e-Faqih. Rouhani has previously described all these executions as implementing law and divine command.”

Women’s rights are discussed within the framework of the law — the same law that denies all economic, social and political rights to women. The same law considers women’s rights as being half of men’s, and denies them many careers.

Here is what is said about freedom: “These freedoms are only limited based on necessity and according to the law.” He fails to mention various police organs established according to the law to quell all freedoms, whose wages are paid for by Rouhani’s cabinet and are under the command of his Interior Minister. Mercenaries titled as ‘Hijab (veiling) Police’, ‘Cyber Police’, ‘Mountain Police’, ‘Invisible Police’ and …

Ownership rights are referred to in Article 75, which reads that expropriation is banned, ‘unless it is according to the law’. “Rouhani, fails to explain the fate of the hundreds of billions of dollars stolen by the mullahs’ regime and senior regime officials from the Iranian people over the 38 years of the mullahs’ rule, and what happened to the $95 billion wealth in the ‘The Executive Headquarters of Imam’s Directive,’ practically becoming Khamenei’s personal wealth, all stolen from the Iranian people,” declares the NCRI.

The last part of the Charter speaks to the export of terrorism, calling the killings in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other countries “foreign policy using various wise measures” for “combating violence, extremism and in defense of innocent people’s rights,” emphasizing “allocating adequate resources to equip and strengthen the armed forces” and “allocating enough supplies to strengthen the defense capability.” This is the same policy Khamenei and his inner circle, including Rouhani, have been imposing on the people of Iran and the rest of the region.

Spending The Iranian people are angry of the use of their assets on the wars like those in Syria and Iraq. “Undoubtedly, Rouhani deserves the medal of obscenity. When introducing this document he said, “These citizenship rights tell the world that Islamic Republic of Iran has this capacity; Islamic Revolution has this capacity to make the best use of all new legal characteristics of today’s world in the context of Iranian Islamic culture,” concludes the NCRI.

Iran Seeking ‘Many Billions of Dollars’ in Ransom to Free U.S. Hostages

October 19, 2016

Iran Seeking ‘Many Billions of Dollars’ in Ransom to Free U.S. Hostages, Washington Free Beacon, , October 19, 2016

(Again. — DM)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference on the second anniversary of his election, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 13, 2015. Rouhani said a final nuclear deal is "within reach" as Iran and world powers face a June 30 deadline for an agreement. Rouhani said Iran will allow inspections of its nuclear facilities but vowed that the Islamic republic won't allow its state "secrets" to be jeopardized under the cover of international inspections. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference on the second anniversary of his election, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 13, 2015.  (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran experts who spoke to the Free Beacon said that Iran senses weakness in the United States and is angling to squeeze more money from the administration before it leaves office.

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Iran is seeking “many billions of dollars” in payments from the United States in exchange for the release of several U.S. hostages still being detained in Iran, according to reports by Iran’s state-controlled press that are reigniting debate over the Obama administration’s decision earlier this year to pay Iran $1.7 billion in cash.

Senior Iranian officials, including the country’s president, have been floating the possibility of further payments from the United States for months. Since the White House agreed to pay Tehran $1.7 billion in cash earlier this year as part of a deal bound up in the release of American hostages, Iran has captured several more U.S. citizens.

Future payments to Iran could reach as much as $2 billion, according to sources familiar with the matter, who said that Iran is detaining U.S. citizens in Iran’s notorious Evin prison where inmates are routinely tortured and abused.

Iranian news sources close to the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, which has been handling prisoner swaps with the United States, reported on Tuesday that Iran expects “many billions of dollars to release” those U.S. citizens still being detained.”

“We should wait and see, the U.S. will offer … many billions of dollars to release” American businessman Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer, who was abducted by Iran after the United States paid Iran the $1.7 billion, according to the country’s Mashregh News outlet, which has close ties to the IRGC’s intelligence apparatus.

The Persian language news report was independently translated for the Washington Free Beacon.

Six hostages have been sentenced to 10 years in prison by Iran in the past months, including the Namazis.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told NBC News in late September that his government is in talks with the United States to secure future payouts, a disclosure that may have played a role in the White House’s recent decision to veto legislation to block future ransom payments to Iran.

“We’re currently conducting conversations and various dialogues in order to return this money to Iran,” Rouhani was quoted as saying. “Perhaps these dialogues can be still conducted simultaneously on parallel tracks while we’re conducting those same conversations in order to free the sums of money that are still owed to us.”

One senior congressional adviser familiar with the issue told the Free Beacon that Iranian officials have been pressing for another $2 billion from the United States for months.

“Iranian officials including Foreign Minister [Mohammad Javad] Zarif have been bragging for months that they’re going to force the U.S. to pay them several billion dollars more,” the source said. “Now officials across the spectrum in Iran—from IRGC hardliners to the ostensibly moderate President Rouhani—are talking about those billions, and maybe several more, alongside chatter about the U.S. hostages.”

“Even some family members of the hostages talk that way, which is completely understandable given what they’re going through, but it doesn’t change the fact that the administration is gearing up to give Iran another ransom in the hundreds of millions and maybe again billions,” the source added.

Rumors of future ransom payments to Iran come as Congress continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding the $1.7 billion cash payment, a portion of which was delivered by plane to Iran just hours before it released several U.S. prisoners.

The Free Beacon recently disclosed that details of this payment and other details bound up in the hostage release are being stored in a highly secure location on Capitol Hill, preventing many from accessing the documents, which are not classified but are being treated as such.

The three documents show that the cash payment was directly tied to the prisoner release, adding fuel to claims of a ransom payment, according to sources who have viewed them.

Iran experts who spoke to the Free Beacon said that Iran senses weakness in the United States and is angling to squeeze more money from the administration before it leaves office.

“Paying $1.7 billion to Iran to release the U.S. prisoners has encouraged Iran to arrest more Americans,” said Saeed Ghasseminejad, an associate fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Iran senses weakness in the U.S. leadership as it constantly tests the administration through a chain of provocative actions. To put an end to Iran’s abduction program, the administration should make it clear, by action and not words, that it does not reward Iran for its bad behavior.”

Conceding to Iran’s demands will only bolster the hardline regime, Ghasseminejad said.

“The administration must show strength in response to Iran’s other provocative actions in the region,” he said. “The administration also should warn American citizens and green card holders that Iran is a very dangerous place for them to travel or do business. However, such warning contradicts the administration’s continuous efforts to encourage investors and big banks to do business with Iran. The administration also should impose sanction on the entities and individuals involved in this abduction program.”

In NBC Interview, Hassan Rouhani Can’t Stop Lying

October 2, 2016

In NBC Interview, Hassan Rouhani Can’t Stop Lying, The TowerDavid Gerstman, October 2, 2016

(Rouhani and Hillary would make a good team for Iran. DM)

rouhanilies

The portrait that emerges from Rouhani’s interview is of a man who lies and distorts to defend Iran’s illicit behavior— with its domestic nuclear program and in Syria. Simply put, Rouhani is not a “moderate,” as he is so often described, but an apologist for Iran’s revolutionary regime that operates in defiance of international law and norms.

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In an interview two weeks ago, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani consistently lied and evaded questions put to him by NBC News’s Chuck Todd.

Todd first asked why Iran was claiming that the United States was not living up to the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Rouhani responded that the deal states “that all nations involved in this agreement must free the path, pave the way for resumption of normal activities with the Islamic Republic of Iran, such as banking transactions, insurance transactions, and the likes.” Not only is that not correct, it fits a pattern described earlier this week by analysts from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, in which Iran hopes to gain additional concessions by threatening to walk away from the deal unless the West provides every economic concession that it believes it is owed.

The United States was only required to suspend its nuclear-related sanctions, not sanctions placed on Iran due to its history of terror financing and money laundering. (The United States has seen to it that the global watchdog against money laundering, the Financial Action Task Force, relaxed some restriction on Iran despite Iran’s continued presence at the top of the list of money launderers.)

When asked by Todd whether that was a misinterpretation of the deal’s sanctions-related clauses, Rouhani evaded the question, instead accusing the United States of blocking access to large financial institutions. Then he added that “the other breach of the agreement on the side of the United States, it has been brought into the JCPOA that airplanes intended for civil aviation only must be freely sold to Iran.”

But the airplanes that Iran wants are likely not “intended for civil aviation only.” As Emanuele Ottolenghi of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies has shown, Iran Air, Iran’s national airline, which is seeking to purchase planes from Boeing and Airbus, is using planes to transport arms and troops to Syria to support the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Transporting soldiers and materiel is not “civil aviation.”

Todd later asked Rouhani if the world should be concerned about Iran’s intentions once most nuclear restrictions on Iran are lifted. Rouhani responded that Iran has adopted additional anti-weaponization safeguards as per the JCPOA, and even if these measures weren’t in place, “within the doctrine or within the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran to include the fatwa issued by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran…the building or pursuing or obtaining and using any type of weapons of mass destruction are strictly and unequivocally forbidden by Islamic law.”

The Middle East Media Research Institute has searched for a record of Khamenei’s nuclear fatwa and found no such fatwa. Mehdi Khalaji, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), wrote in a 2011 study (.pdf) “no written texts exist for the Supreme Leader’s fatwas.” But as WINEP research director Patrick Clawson observed in the preface to Khalaji’s analysis, even if Khamanei had issued such a fatwa, “past proclamations about the matter, like all fatwas issued by Shiite clerics, can be revised under new circumstances.”

Furthermore, Rouhani himself said in a 2005 speech (.pdf) that “having [nuclear] fuel cycle capability almost means that the country that possesses this capability is able to produce nuclear weapons, should that country have the political will to do so,” suggesting that he believes the decision to develop nuclear weapons to be a political, not religious, decision.

Todd followed up by asking Rouhani why Iran has deployed a missile defense system at the Fordow nuclear site if its purpose is strictly civilian. Rouhani cited the need for Iranians to “defend ourselves,” but didn’t fully address the question. When Todd persisted, Rouhani stated that “Iran has always maintained her commitment to any agreement it has become a signatory of. You will not find any instances during the past 38 years of the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran in which a bilateral agreement or an international agreement has been signed and Iran has broken its commitment.”

This is blatantly false. Iran, a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty refused to end its uranium enrichment program despite the threat of being sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council. The JCPOA allowed Iran to maintain a portion of its enrichment capacity, which it had maintained despite being repeatedly sanctioned. Being forgiven for the breach of an agreement is not the same thing as having abided by it.

Then Rouhani added, “What we were accused of for years, called ‘possible military dimensions,’ the International Atomic Energy Agency eventually reached the conclusion that that file must be closed for good and announced that the activities of Iran were solely for peaceful purposes.”

This is also false. The IAEA report (.pdf) last December did not find that Iran’s nuclear activities “were solely for peaceful purposes.” Rather, it found that Iran had a military nuclear program until at least 2009, though it found “no credible indications” that its military nuclear program continued after this point. It’s true that the IAEA closed down its investigation of Iran’s past nuclear work, but as the Institute for Science and International Security assessed, “the IAEA’s report can be viewed, at best, as a document that closes the process set forth by terms of the Roadmap” to the nuclear deal, but not as a clean bill of health.

Rouhani’s protestations of abiding by the deal also must be viewed with a certain amount of skepticism based on his own record as Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator more than a decade ago. In 2006, after he left the position, Rouhani boasted in a meeting with Islamic clergy and scholars that he had duped the West. Rouhani claimed that Iran had continued installing equipment for converting yellowcake, one of the ingredients necessary for creating nuclear fuel, even as he told his European counterparts that there was no nuclear work being performed at that time.

“When we were negotiating with the Europeans in Tehran we were still installing some of the equipment at the Isfahan site,” Rouhani told his audience. “There was plenty of work to be done to complete the site and finish the work there. In reality, by creating a tame situation, we could finish Isfahan.”

Similarly, when he was running for president in 2013, Rouhani said in an interview that he used the earlier negotiations to advance Iran’s clandestine, illicit nuclear work, boasting, “We halted the nuclear program? We were the ones to complete it! We completed the technology.”

Todd then asked Rouhani about Iran’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War, starting with a question about the recent Russian bombing of a humanitarian convoy, which killed 20 aid workers and which one United Nations official called a war crime. Instead of condemning the attack, Rouhani pointed to a mistaken American airstrike on a Syrian army position—as if an accidental bombing somehow excuses a deliberate one. Rouhani also claimed that since the Syrian soldiers were fighting ISIS (also known as Daesh), the United States was involved in “a direct defense of the Daesh terrorist group.” The charge is outrageous. Even though Syrian troops have been targeting civilians, the United States said that it was an accident and apologized.

Rouhani went on to state that Israel had also attacked some Syrian positions, though he neglected to mention that it was in response to shells being fired into Israel. He allowed that a ceasefire would be beneficial because “food stuff and medicines can get to those who are in need and have been waiting for those supplies for months.” But he didn’t mention that the party engaging in the sieges is Assad, with Iran’s backing.

In response to Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent call for a halt to all flying above Syria, Rouhani stated that “any proposal can be coordinated in order to avoid the targeting of humanitarian convoys.” But a general from his own country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) boasted last month that Iran provides intelligence on the ground to guide Russia’s bombing campaigns. Given this, and the ensuing possibility that Iranian troops were complicit in the bombing in question, Rouhani’s assurances that convoys can be protected are glib and meaningless.

The portrait that emerges from Rouhani’s interview is of a man who lies and distorts to defend Iran’s illicit behavior— with its domestic nuclear program and in Syria. Simply put, Rouhani is not a “moderate,” as he is so often described, but an apologist for Iran’s revolutionary regime that operates in defiance of international law and norms.