The Green Movement Obama Abandoned (Ezekiel 17)

Image result for green movement iranWill Iran’s Green Movement resurface?

My first active experience with Twitter was in 2009. I logged on to the site to find out how to engage with it, and my first search was “Iran’s election.” I had heard about young men and women demonstrating vigorously against the ruling regime. I was impressed by the name of the Green Revolution that erupted against the results of the presidential elections in favor of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Twitter was a place of expression, mobilization and debate, and conveyed what was happening in Iran to the outside world. We saw slogans of “Death to the dictator,” and followed how young men and women were beaten. How can we forget the photo of the young protester Nada, who lay dying in the street after being shot by police, and who became a symbol of the Green Movement? Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali

Khamenei did not forget the 2009 experience, in which Twitter was a sensitive mediator. Under Ahmadinejad’s second problematic presidency, the Internet was controlled to isolate Iranians from themselves and from the world. We are days away from Iranian presidential elections, the second since 2009. The mullahs have done everything in their power in recent years to avoid a new Green Revolution, namely via extensive control over the Internet and a lot of public activity.

The mullahs have done everything in their power in recent years to avoid a new Green Revolution, namely via extensive control over the Internet and a lot of public activity.

Diana Moukalled

Iran’s social networking sites have evolved into an election tool. They were an important factor in Hassan Rouhani’s presidential victory in 2013, as his opponents failed to properly utilize them. Iranians are now active in the elections via the unbanned sites Instagram and Telegram. Whereas the state-run radio and television broadcaster IRIB is biased toward certain candidates, Rouhani’s supporters have turned to these sites to strike a balance. Since the 1979 revolution, all Iranian presidents have managed to get a second term. But the situation seems complicated this year, with strong conservative candidates against Rouhani, namely cleric Ibrahim Rabi who is close to Khamenei, and Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf.
Four years ago, Rouhani said he would work to lift the Internet ban, and Iranians had the right to easily obtain information from around the world. But he cannot make this decision alone; it is up to Khamenei. It may be said, and rightfully, that Khamenei’s ability to control the internal situation and prevent protests is strong, but there are those who are minimizing the extent of popular resentment amid the resurgence of many figures who were active in the 2009 Green Movement.

• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. She can be reached on Twitter @dianamoukalled.

Tillerson Threatens To Go After Iran

Image result for iran nuclear

Tillerson slams Iran nuclear deal as ‘failed approach,’ vows ‘comprehensive review’

Published April 19, 2017

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ratcheted up criticism Wednesday of the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran, publicly confirming the Trump administration is conducting a “comprehensive review” and declaring they have “no intention of passing the buck.”

In some of his toughest language yet, Tillerson said at a brief press conference that the Iran deal “fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran,” and only delays it becoming a nuclear state.

He faulted the agreement for “buying off” a foreign power with nuclear ambitions, saying: “We just don’t see that that’s a prudent way to be dealing with Iran.”

The statement comes after he said in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis, that the administration has undertaken a full review of the agreement to evaluate whether continued sanctions relief is in the best interest of the U.S.

In the same notification, the administration said Iran is complying with the landmark nuclear deal negotiated by former President Obama, and the U.S. has extended sanctions relief to Tehran in exchange for curbs on its atomic program.

But Tillerson noted in his letter, and repeated during his appearance Wednesday, that Iran continues to foment violence around the world.

“Iran spends its treasure and time disrupting peace,” he said Wednesday. “Iran’s nuclear ambitions are a grave risk to international peace and security.”

While not saying definitively whether the administration is inclined to uphold or scrap the deal, Tillerson said they will meet the challenge of Iran with “clarity and conviction” once the review is done.

“The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran,” he said, claiming the deal represents the “failed approach” of the past.

Tillerson also likened Iran’s behavior to that of North Korea. He said an unchecked Iran could pursue the same path as Pyongyang “and take the world along with it.”

As a candidate in the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump was an outspoken critic of the deal but had offered conflicting opinions on whether he would try to scrap it, modify it or keep it in place with more strenuous enforcement. Tuesday’s determination suggested that while Trump agreed with findings by the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Iran is keeping to its end of the bargain, he is looking for another way to ratchet up pressure on Tehran.

The nuclear deal was sealed in Vienna in July 2015 after 18 months of negotiations led by former Secretary of State John Kerry and diplomats from the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France and Russia — and Germany. Under its terms, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program, long suspected of being aimed at developing atomic weapons, in return for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Trump Reviews Iran Deal

The Trump administration is reviewing the Obama-era nuclear weapons agreement with Iran to determine whether they will stop the deal’s suspension of U.S. sanctions, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said today.

Tillerson said administration officials would review the deal despite also announcing that Iran is complying with the terms of the 2015 agreement reached under President Obama.

“Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods,” Tillerson wrote in a Tuesday night letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The terms of the nuclear agreement require the State Department to update Congress on Iran’s compliance every 90 days. Tillerson’s letter noted that Iran is meeting the deal’s requirements.

Tillerson wrote that Trump has directed an inter-agency review of the Iran deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, to “evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran … is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

What’s the Iran deal again?

In 2015, the United States and five other nations — the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany — lifted crippling economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran drastically limiting its nuclear activities.

Around $100 million worth of Iranian oil money and other assets were frozen prior to the agreement. In order to unfreeze that money, Iran agreed to several terms, including:

  • Dropping nearly 75 percent of its uranium centrifuges — equipment used to produce nuclear fuel for power plants or weapons.
  • Reducing its uranium stockpile by 98 percent for 15 years and keeping its level of uranium enrichment low enough to only fuel nuclear power plants, not weapons.
  • Redesigning its existing heavy-water reactor so it can’t make weapons-grade plutonium and pledging not to build more reactors for 15 years.
  • Complying with regular monitoring from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the international watchdog for nuclear power.
  • Allowing IAEA inspectors access to any site within 24 days of an inspection request.

These sanctions don’t eliminate Iran’s access to nuclear energy, but it does significantly reduce the country’s “breakout time” — the time needed to build a nuclear weapon. According to the Brookings Institution, the deal increased Iran’s breakout time to at least one year.

What does the Trump administration think about it?

Trump has been a vocal critic of the Iran nuclear deal for years, calling it a “disaster” throughout his presidential campaign in 2015 and 2016.

Since he has come into office, he has continued to blast the deal.

In July last year, Trump told CNN that the Iranians “are laughing at the stupidity of the deal we’re making on nuclear. We should double up and triple up the sanctions and have them come to us. They are making an amazing deal.”

Trump’s Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis, has also criticized the deal and Iran’s actions in the Middle East. At a press conference this morning, speaking on Iran’s support of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, Mattis said “everywhere you look, if there’s trouble in the region you find Iran.”

What comes next?

At today’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump may believe that Iran is cheating on the deal.

“That’s why he’s asking for this review,” Spicer said. “If he didn’t, if he thought everything was fine, he would have allowed this to move forward. I think he’s doing the prudent thing by asking for a review of the current deal and what’s happening.”

Spicer said the administration will be conducting the review over the next 90 days, and will have more to report at the end of that period.

At a press conference this afternoon, Tillerson suggested that the current nuclear agreement “fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran and only delays their goal of becoming a nuclear state.”

“An unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea and take the world along with it,” Tillerson said. He went on to say that the Iran deal “is another example of buying off a power who has nuclear ambitions, we buy them off for a short period of time and then someone has to deal with it later. We just don’t see that that’s a credible way to be dealing with Iran.”

Earlier this week, a senior White House official told Foreign Policy that the Trump administration is considering taking a harder stance on the deal — implementing the agreements in an “incredibly strict” way — or expanding sanctions against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is an Iranian military branch intended to protect the country’s Islamic system.

There is some speculation that the Trump administration may expand sanctions in response to Iran’s ballistic missile testing and it’s funding for terrorist acts. The administration already implemented new sanctions on Iran in early February for testing a missile.

Additional sanctions wouldn’t necessarily violate the terms of the Iran deal, but it is possible that they could push Iran to drop out of the agreement and begin to develop nuclear weapons.

Spicer said sanctions have been “an effective tool,” but added that the administration recognized the possible consequences of increasing sanctions.

“Obviously we’re well aware of any potential negative impacts that an action could have,” Spicer said. “So regardless of whether it’s an economic, political or military action, you always weigh all those kind of options.”

Preparing For War With Iran

america-vs-iranNew Iran Sanctions Bills Could Kill the Nuclear Deal, Pave the Way to War

by Tyler Cullis

Congress is in an apparent race with the Trump administration to see who can pose the greater threat to the sustainability of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)–the nuclear accord between the United States, other major world powers, and Iran.

Last week, Congress introduced separate House and Senate bills that would impose new sanctions on Iran. The most imminent danger to the JCPOA is the Senate bill–the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 (S.722), co-sponsored by Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The proposed Senate legislation would risk upending the U.S.’s obligations under the JCPOA and undoing the long-term restrictions the JCPOA imposed on Iran’s nuclear program, all the while setting the stage for renewed conflict between the two countries.

Several provisions of the Senate bill are troubling. Contrary to the bill’s sponsors, the proposed legislation is not consistent with the JCPOA – containing provisions that would place the U.S. in clear violation of its JCPOA commitments. Just as troubling, the bill would mandate the President to utilize existing sanctions authorities targeting Iran with greater force, all the while providing new sanctions authorities to the President to target the Islamic Republic – an effective green light to the hardline aspirations of the Trump administration. Finally, the bill would take the unprecedented step of designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – a branch of Iran’s armed forces – a terrorist group. Absent significant revisions to the bill, the Senate legislation will not only undermine the fundamentals of the nuclear accord, perhaps fatally. It could also quickly engulf the United States in a military conflict with Iran.

Challenge to the JCPOA

On Transition Day, which is either 8 years from Adoption Day or upon a finding from the IAEA that Iran’s nuclear program is being used for exclusively peaceful purposes, whichever is earlier, the United States is required to remove certain Iranian parties from its sanctions lists. Most, if not all, of these entities were designated for involvement in Iran’s nuclear program, but some were also involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program. To the extent that their designation was related to ballistic missiles, this bill would prohibit the President from de-listing those parties on Transition Day, unless the President can provide certification that they have not engaged in activities for which they have been designated in the three-month period preceding their de-listing. If the President cannot provide such certification, then the President would be prohibited from de-listing those parties, placing the U.S. in clear violation of its JCPOA obligations.

Most troubling, this provision–if enacted–will likely provoke an Iranian response. Iran has been careful to reciprocate each U.S. action with its own reaction (see e.g., Iran’s imposition of sanctions on U.S. companies following the U.S. Treasury’s recent announcement of new sanctions designations.) In this case, any reciprocal measure will likely involve Iran’s promised reneging of its own JCPOA commitments. In doing so, both the U.S. and Iran risk undermining the confidence that has so far sustained the JCPOA and prevented either side from terminating the agreement.

Green Light to Trump?

The bill would also mandate the President to impose sanctions on activities related to Iran’s ballistic missile program in a manner that could lead to the re-imposition of sanctions lifted under the JCPOA. Section 4 of the bill requires the President to impose blocking sanctions on persons that engage in activities that have materially contributed or pose a risk of materially contributing to the activities of the Government of Iran with respect to its ballistic missile program, as well as persons who knowingly provide financial, material, technological, or other support for, or goods or services in support of, a person so sanctioned. For example, this provision would mandate the President to impose sanctions on Iranian banks that provide financial services – including, as a benign example, payment of employee salaries at designated Iranian government entities – in ways that would violate the JCPOA. Under the JCPOA, the United States is prohibited from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions lifted under the nuclear accord, including the de-listings of certain Iranian entities (e.g., most of Iran’s financial institutions). In mandating the President to broadly impose sanctions on Iranian parties even tangentially related to Iran’s ballistic missile program, this bill risks placing Washington in violation of its JCPOA commitments.

Perhaps more importantly, this provision would also effectively provide a green light to the Trump administration to take a much harder line against Iran for its non-nuclear activities. Some in Congress might think that is a good thing, but the context is everything. First, this puts the JCPOA itself at risk, as the U.S. has certain affirmative obligations under the nuclear accord to prevent interference with Iran’s realizing the full benefits of the sanctions-lifting and refrain from adopting policies or taking actions intended to make the normalization of trade and economic relations between Iran and the rest of the world more difficult. Imposing broad new sanctions on Iran would clearly contradict these basic principles of the agreement. Second, it was not more than a few months ago when the Trump administration put Iran “on notice,” a forewarning of the ambitions of some in the administration to set the stage for a possible military showdown between the two countries. In urging the President to more broadly sanction Iran, Congress risks empowering these more extreme hardline elements in the White House. So far, President Trump has mimicked the prior administration in his use of the sanctions tool; bipartisan support for cracking down on Iran via this legislation could quickly turn the tide and give his administration the confidence to pursue a more aggressive stance toward Iran that could well trigger a military conflict.

Designating IRGC a Terrorist Group

The bill would also designate the IRGC a terrorist group. The bill’s proponents have been willfully obtuse as to the effect of this particular provision (§ 8 of the bill), but it is nonetheless true.

Specifically, the bill would require the President to impose the sanctions identified in Executive Order 13224 on the IRGC and its officials, agents, and affiliates. EO 13224 is the foundational order to the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 594, and persons designated pursuant to the Order are routinely known as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs). Organizational SDGTs are U.S.-designated “terrorist groups.” The bill’s proponents have variously argued that (1) Congress is not mandating the President to designate the IRGC an SDGT, but instead only to impose the sanctions outlined in EO 13224 to the IRGC; or (2) that the SDGT designation cleverly avoids designating the IRGC a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). This is, at the same time, deliberately misleading and beside the point. First, in order to implement this provision, the President will designate the IRGC pursuant to EO 13224 – i.e., as an SDGT. Congress will not be able to wash its hands of this command; it has directed the President. Second, whether to designate the IRGC an FTO or an SDGT is beside the point: considering current sanctions on the IRGC, there are few actual sanctions consequences as a result of either designation. The concerns with designating the IRGC a terrorist group are “extra-legal.”

What are those concerns? Designating the IRGC a terrorist group has zero sanctions consequences, but important real-life ramifications. Currently, the IRGC is designated under no less than three separate U.S. sanctions programs and is subject to robust secondary sanctions. Designating the IRGC an SDGT will thus only duplicate existing sanctions, adding nothing. However, as the U.S. defense establishment has long warned, there could be important consequences to labeling the IRGC a terrorist group, including, but not limited to, possible retaliation against U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq, who are vulnerable to Iran-backed militias. If such a scenario came to pass, the potential for open hostilities between the U.S. and Iran would have been effectively triggered by the (legally inconsequential) designation of the IRGC as a terrorist group.

Passage of the Senate bill would thus render the U.S. non-compliant with its JCPOA obligations, while also providing an effective stamp of approval to President Trump to utilize his sanctions authorities to target Iran in ways that could fatally undermine the JCPOA and pave the path towards war. Important revisions will need to be made in the weeks ahead if Congress intends to avoid responsibility for unraveling the Iran nuclear accord.

Trump Puts Pressure On The Iranian Horn

Trump administration pledges ‘great strictness’ on Iran nuclear deal

A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture with foreign ministers and representatives of the U.S., Iran, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and the European Union during the Iran nuclear talks at the Vienna International Center in… REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration pledged on Tuesday to show “great strictness” over restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities imposed by a deal with major powers, but gave little indication of what that might mean for the agreement.

The 2015 deal between Iran and six major powers restricts Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Trump has called the agreement “the worst deal ever negotiated”. His administration is now carrying out a review of the accord which could take months, but it has said little about where it stands on specific issues.

The Trump administration also gave few clues about any potential policy shift on Tuesday in a statement to a quarterly meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s Board of Governors.

“The United States will approach questions of JCPOA interpretation, implementation, and enforcement with great strictness indeed,” the statement to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) 35-nation board said, citing the deal’s full name: the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

But the U.S. statement, the first to the Board of Governors since Trump took office in January, also repeated language used by the administration of former U.S. president Barack Obama, for whom the deal was a legacy achievement.

“Iran must strictly and fully adhere to all commitments and technical measures for their duration,” it said – wording identical to that used in the U.S. statement to the previous Board of Governors meeting in November.

The IAEA, which polices the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities under the deal, last month produced a quarterly report saying that Iran’s stock of enriched uranium had halved after coming close to a limit imposed by the agreement.

That report was the first to specify how much enriched uranium Iran has, thanks to a series of agreements between Tehran and major powers clarifying items that would not count toward the stock.

Some major powers had criticized previous reports for not being specific enough on items such as the size of the enriched uranium stock, and the U.S. statement called for future reports to be as detailed.

“We welcome inclusion of the additional level of detail, and expect it will continue in the future,” it said.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Gareth Jones)

The New Iran Deal

america-vs-iranBeyond the nuclear deal


Hussain H Zaidi

March 5, 2017     

While running for the office of the US president, Donald Trump had put down the July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, as “the worst deal in history”. Trump’s presence in the White House casts a pall over the fate of the agreement. He has already branded Iran as “the world’s number one terrorist state” and his administration has put the country ‘on notice’ over its missile programme.

Let’s also not forget that on some other issues, such as opting out of the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Treaty and going tough on immigration, the maverick US leader has turned out to be as good as his word.

Not so fast, some analysts would hasten to caution. It is one thing, they point out, to decry an international agreement and another to walk out of it unilaterally, especially when it has some other signatories as well (in this case China, Russia, France, the UK and Germany). By all accounts, the Trump administration would keep a strict watch on Iran’s nuclear activities and slap new sanctions on the country – as it did on January 29 – if the latter is suspected of derogating from its commitments. But it would not denounce the agreement altogether.

The JCPA represents a trade-off: Iran will curb its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting or softening of international sanctions that had crippled its economy. The agreement embodies a comprehensive set of measures designed to ensure transparency and verification in its execution. Most of the sanctions have already gone as Iran has complied with the provisions of the agreement to the satisfaction of the multilateral nuclear watchdog.

Some sanctions, though, are still in force. The US citizens, natural as well as legal, are still forbidden to do business with Iranian companies; thus effectively preventing Iranian banks and other financial institutions from doing business with their counterparts in other countries. These restrictions constitute the foremost obstacle to Iran’s foreign trade. The notable exclusion from the US sanctions is the aviation sector, which paved the way for the recent $17 billion deal between the US giant, Boeing, and Iran Air for the sale of civil aircraft.

If the JCPA falls apart, Iran will feel free to resume its nuclear ambitions. It can also quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which recognises only five de jure nuclear powers. The only other way for Washington to ensure that Tehran does not go nuclear is to attack and occupy Iran. Despite all his rant and rave, Trump is wise enough not to risk plunging his country into another war in the restive Middle East. So the JCPA represents the only credible way of ensuring a check on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Notwithstanding the importance of the JCPA, Iran’s capability as well as its willingness to go nuclear has never been the key issue in Tehran-Washington relations. While the JCPA was being negotiated, a lot more was on the table besides the question whether Iran’s nuclear programme was peaceful or clandestine. Iran is not the only country suspected of making nuclear weapons and even if its nuclear programme is peaceful, the danger the weapons of mass destruction pose to the world will not ratchet down significantly. Both India and Pakistan declared themselves nuclear powers in 1998. But in both cases, the nuclear programme never gave rise to that much opposition.

Therefore, in order to foretell the future of the JCPA, one needs to go beyond the nuclear question to look at the whole gamut of Tehran-Washington relations.

The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran dealt a double blow to American interests in the region. One, it marked the end of a strategic ally; and two, it signalled the collapse of the US-sponsored regional security system that had Iran as one of its linchpins. On its part, the new Iranian regime saw in the US a powerful threat to its existence – the ousted Shah being a strong American ally – and declared the US, ‘the Great Satan’. Those fears were confirmed when Washington fully supported Iraq’s invasion of Iran in 1980.

Meanwhile, Washington became increasingly wary of Tehran, accusing it of seeking to export the Islamic revolution to the pro-American Middle Eastern monarchies, supporting Muslim resistance movements in the region, seeking to eliminate Israel and developing nuclear weapons. If for Iran, the US was the ‘Great Satan’, for Washington, Tehran was a ‘rogue state’ and part of the ‘axis of evil’.

The question before the Americans was how to deal with Iran: through direct military action or through sanctions. As a matter of principle, the US usually resorts to military action against a ‘rogue’ state when the purpose is regime change – as done in Iraq or contemplated in Syria – but Iran was not yet ripe for such change as revolutionary ideals, despite all the criticism, remained a potent force for an ethnically homogeneous nation.

Not only did the US place Iran under severe economic and military sanctions, it also prevailed upon its allies, particularly those in Western Europe, to get tough on Tehran. Washington was also instrumental in getting the UN Security Council to impose the curbs on Tehran designed to stop it from enriching uranium. The economic sanctions, which mainly targeted the oil industry, the mainstay of the Iranian economy, and the banks, finally worked and forced Tehran to come to the negotiating table over its nuclear programme.

Ironically, at the same time, by pulling down Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, the US helped to rack up Iran’s influence in the region. With Hussein at the helm, Iraq, a Shia majority state, was Iran’s arch enemy and arguably the strongest check on its regional ambitions. Now Iraq is an Iranian ally and probably the only country where Tehran and Washington have made a common cause against an enemy (Daesh).

The election of a moderate Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president in 2013 raised the hope that Tehran and the West could do business. The landslide victory of Rouhani also signalled that a clergy-dominated, aggressive Iranian establishment was prepared, albeit reluctantly, for a significant shift in the country’s foreign policy.

This paved the way for the July 2015 pact between Iran and the P-6.

The agreement reflected the West’s belief that increased engagement with Iran, in addition to taming its nuclear ambitions, would also contribute to the opening up of the country’s economy and social milieu ushering in greater respect for human rights and freedom of expression. Iran is also potentially a big market for Western capital, goods and services: both Boeing and Air Bus have subsequently closed massive deals to export aircraft to Iran.

As the West saw it, in the long-run Iran’s reintegration into the international economy and comity of nations would create stakes strong enough to hold its regional ambitions in check.

As long as Washington adheres to this premise, the nuclear deal will not unravel; notwithstanding Iran’s support to the Assad regime in Syria, and the apprehension of Tehran’s Gulf neighbours and Israel that a rejuvenated Iran may be a more serious ‘threat’ to their stability and interests.

The writer is a freelance countributor.

Unfortunately Trump Is Not Bluffing

Iran believes Trump is bluffing

When President Donald Trump assumed office, Iranian leaders were cautious about issuing critical announcements against the new American administration or the US. Even Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is known for his inflammatory speeches against the US or the “Great Satan,” did not mention the new administration for a few weeks after Trump’s inauguration.

President Trump’s statements through his campaign, with regard to countering Iran’s ideological and hegemonic ambitions, made the Iranian leaders wary. Iranian leaders began their work to feel out the new administration, to see whether Trump was serious in his promises to hold Iran accountable and to ally with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

But soon, Iranian leaders made a tactical shift to view the US intentions to counter Iran as trivial and unreal. Based on the latest developments from Iran’s state-owned newspapers and Iranian leaders’ speeches and announcements, the Islamic Republic is increasingly becoming confident that the Trump administration is not serious about countering Iran. Several Iranian officials, including Ali Akbar Velayati, who is a close adviser to Khamenei, have stated that the Trump administration is bluffing with regard to its Iran policy.

Iran has transformed this belief into action. It tested a medium-range ballistic missile, and confirmed that it has conducted missile and radar tests. Following that, the Islamic Republic held a military exercise that took place in the Semnan Province. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) made it clear that these actions are to project Iran’s military power as well as to respond to and dismiss President Trump’s words. Soon after, Iran began a naval drill near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

A message to the Trump administration

Iranian leaders across the political spectrum believe that it is a tactically and strategically intelligent move to conduct such military operations since the Trump administration is not serious about countering Tehran. Since Tehran does not observe any tangible pressure, Iranian leaders also find it necessary to send a message to the Trump administration and regional powers that Tehran will not alter the core pillars of its foreign and regional policy.

As part of its pursuit of regional hegemonic ambitions, the Islamic Republic is showcasing its military and hard power in an attempt to assert regional preeminence and superiority. Iran’s military believes that its showcasing of military and hard power is working; as a result it is also attempting to push the US and its allies into pursuing appeasement policies with Tehran.

These messages have also been echoed by top IRGC leaders. Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari stated previously: “US officials know that threats against Iran are not only useless, but also harmful… The greatest achievement of the Islamic Revolution is (the US) confession of the splendor and greatness of the revolution.”

Tehran is confident the US is not serious in its threats — and if this is not addressed it will become increasingly difficult to counter Iran’s hegemonic ambitions.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

The IRGC deputy commander, Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, shrugged off the previous statements by the Trump administration: “America’s power is declining as a result of its wrong and interventionist policies. Its threats have continued, though, and its economic war against Iran will not end,” he is reported as saying. “As (America’s) political and geopolitical power has declined, its breathing space — especially at strategic points in the Muslim world — has tightened.”

Esmail Kowsari, another leading IRGC officer and former MP, also said: “Based on their consultations with their advisers, American presidents utter slogans but do not have the ability to attack Iran militarily… If Americans had the ability to attack Iran militarily, they would not delay a moment to do so.”

The moderates hold similar views to the hard-liners when it comes to disregarding the US warnings. President Rouhani stated: “(Trump) is new to politics. He has been in a different world. It’s a totally new environment to him… It will take him a long time and will cost the United States a lot, until he learns what is happening in the world.”

For Iranian leaders to take the US seriously or to recalculate their military adventurism, several developments need to occur. Iran views geopolitical, diplomatic, economic and military pressures as signs of determination and seriousness. In addition, Tehran takes broad sanctions, which mainly affect its export of oil and the IRGC’s trades, seriously. These can be carried out by an alliance between regional powers, which are concerned about Iran’s destabilizing behavior, and President Trump.

If the Trump administration and regional powers do not adequately and proportionately respond to Iran’s military adventurism, Tehran will further view this as sign of weakness. Subsequently, Iran will continue to escalate its military adventurism and expansionism to further tip the regional balance of power in its favor.

The later that Iran’s military adventurism is countered by the Trump administration and regional powers, the harder it will be to counter Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions — and the harder it will be to make Tehran take the US or regional powers seriously.

• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. He can be reached on Twitter @Dr_Rafizadeh.

Khamenei Denies Israel’s Existence 

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calls Israel a ‘fake’ nation, ‘dirty chapter’


Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Israel was created by bringing Jews from other parts of the world to the Mideast region to settle in the land of the Palestinians to replace its “true entity.”

Iran’s supreme leader used the podium of a pro-Palestinian gathering in Tehran to lash out at Israel, calling the Jewish state a “fake” nation in a “dirty chapter” of history.

The remarks by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday (Wednesday NZ Time) were some of his most vitriolic against Israel, Iran’s archenemy. Every four years since the early 1990s, Tehran has hosted a similar conference in support of the Palestinian cause, assembling foreign guests and those who oppose Israel.

Speaking to the gathering, Khamenei said Israel was created by bringing Jews from other parts of the world to the Mideast region to settle in the land of the Palestinians to replace its “true entity.”

The creation of Israel is “one of the dirty chapters of history that will be closed, with the grace of God,” he added. Khamenei’s speech lasted 33 minutes.

The supreme leader, who has final say on all state matters in Iran, also urged all Muslims to support the Palestinians and “resistance” movements – a reference to anti-Israeli militant groups such as Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon’s Shite Hezbollah militants. Iran has always been their staunch ally.

The “resistance movements should have all necessary instruments,” Khamenei added and praised those who are part of it in allegedly succeeding in “preventing the domination of the Zionist regime in the entire region.”

But he did not appear to endorse an all-our war on Israel, saying instead that it’s a “cancerous tumour” that requires a “step by step” treatment. In 2015, Khamenei predicted that Israel would not exist after 25 years.

Some 80 delegations, mainly from Islamic countries as well as pro-Palestinian activists, attended the two-day meeting. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and several government officials also attended the conference.

The venue was decorated with a large map of Israel and the Palestinian territories covered in the colours of the Palestinian flag.

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which ousted the pro-western Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and brought the Islamists to power, Iran has not recognised Israel and has supported anti-Israeli groups.

Israel, which seas a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat, has opposed the 2015 landmark deal between Iran and world powers that capped Iran’s nuclear activities in return for lifting sanctions.


Muslim Unity Against Israel

Khamenei calls Muslim states to unite on Palestine pivot

Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 21

By Fatih Karimov – Trend:

Despite differences among Islamic countries, Palestine issue can and should be a pivot of unity for all Islamic countries, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.

Khamenei made the remarks while addressing the 6th International Conference in Support of the Palestinian uprising, opened in Tehran Feb. 21, the state-run IRINN TV reported.

Around 700 foreign guests and representatives of pro-Palestinian organizations took part in the event.

Khamenei said that the various crises in several Islamic countries in the region has led to less support of Palestine.

Khamenei further claimed that those who established Israel are behind the destabilizing of the region. He also said that the global atmosphere is moving toward countering actions by Israeli government.

Khamenei further said that Iran supports every group in Palestine that is steadfast against the “enemy.”

“The depth of our relationship with groups involved in the Islamic Resistance is only dependent on the level of their commitment to the principle of the resistance,” Khamenei added.

Iran Unafraid of Babylon the Great (Ezekiel 17)

Top Iranian general: World knows US can’t threaten Iran

Times of Israel

Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour, the commander of the ground forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (Wikimedia Commons, Hossein Zohrevand, CC BY 4.0)

A leading general in Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards lashed out at the US on Saturday, warning that it would be unable to make good on what he said were American threats against the Islamic republic.

“The US statesmen should be very wise and avoid threatening Iran, because the entire world has admitted this fact that the Americans cannot do such a thing,” said Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour, the chief of the IRGC’s ground forces, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

“Hence, they are unlikely to do such a move because it is unwise,” he added.

The IRGC’s deputy commander for political affairs, Rasul Sanayee Rad, made similar comments on Iranian state TV on Friday, declaring that, “today we are enjoying deterrence, meaning that we have dissuaded the enemy from attack.”

The comments are not unusual for Iranian military chiefs, who routinely deride the US’s military capabilities, but were made in this case in apparent response to a number of hawkish statements recently made by American officials towards Iran, including remarks by US President Donald Trump.

Following an Iranian test of a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead in January, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on a number of entities involved in Iran’s missile program, with the president warning Iran that it had been “put on notice” and vowing that “nothing is off the table” in terms of a military response to perceived Iranian provocations.

Although the missile test did not violate the 2015 nuclear accord, the US government said such tests are forbidden under a separate UN resolution forbidding Iran from developing nuclear-capable missiles.

Pakpour also said Saturday that the Revolutionary Guards would conduct military drills next week, despite warnings from the US and the sanctions over the previous missile test.

“The maneuvers called ‘Grand Prophet 11’ will start Monday and last three days,” Pakpour told a news conference. He said rockets would be used without specifying which kind.

There has been an increase in tensions between Iran and the US since Trump’s inauguration in January, with the president repeating his criticism of the 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers under former president Barack Obama.

During the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to rip up what he termed the “disastrous” nuclear accord with Iran. Since becoming president, he has seemingly walked back his pledge to dismantle the agreement, although he has continued to call it “one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen.”

US Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday continued with the administration’s hard line against Iran, telling an international security conference in Munich that Tehran was “the leading state sponsor of terrorism.” He also accused the Iranian regime of working to destabilize the entire Middle East, in part due to the terms of the nuclear deal.

“Thanks to the end of nuclear-related sanctions under the [deal], Iran now has additional resources to devote to these efforts,” Pence said.

“Let me be clear again: Under President Trump the United States will remain fully committed to ensuring that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon capable of threatening our countries, our allies in the region, especially Israel,” Pence said.

Earlier this week, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the US of seeking to ratchet up tensions with Iran over its nuclear program in order to distract from what he called the “war of economy” against the Islamic Republic.

“The US wants to divert the Iranian officials’ attention from the real battlefield, that is the war of economy, by repeating the trick of military threat and war; officials should keep vigilant,” Khamenei said Wednesday, according to Fars.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.