Preparing for War with Iran (Daniel)

Image result for iran deal
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton has a plan to pull out of the Iran deal. It’s bad.
Updated by Zeeshan Aleem@ZeeshanAleemzeeshan.aleem@vox.com Aug 29, 2017, 2:40pm EDT
Former US Ambassador to the United Nations and uber-hawk John Bolton says that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon asked him to draw up a plan for how to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal in July. But after the White House ejected Bannon in August, Bolton lost access to the administration and his plan never made it to Trump’s desk.
Now he’s decided to publish his plan publicly, and it’s … not very good.
The five-page memo is basically a strategic public relations campaign to convince the world that the US has a case for pulling out of the deal. That case hinges on one central claim: that Iran is clearly violating the deal and has thus rendered it a meaningless agreement.
But experts say that this claim isn’t grounded in evidence, and that Iran is meeting international standards in complying with the deal’s requirements for inspections and monitoring.
Bolton’s argument, they say, simply assumes that Iran has nefarious intentions to build nuclear weapons despite the absence of any proof. And some analysts warn that his argument suffers from the same kind of war-hungry reasoning that led the US to invade Iraq on questionable evidence in 2003.
“There’s a lot of talk of Iran’s noncompliance with the deal, but there isn’t a lot of evidence of Iran’s noncompliance,” Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told me. “That’s sort of how Iraq happened, where the Bush administration said, ‘Let’s go find the evidence of weapons of mass destruction,’ rather than asking, ‘Does Iraq have weapons of mass destruction or not?’”
There’s no compelling evidence that Iran is violating the deal
In 2015, the Obama administration and its allies struck the nuclear deal with Iran, which called for lifting punishing Western economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear program.
The accord helped cool rising tensions between the US and Iran, which could possibly have led to yet another US military intervention in the Middle East. Tehran has already received tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for shipping out a large chunk of its enriched uranium and taking thousands of centrifuges offline.
In his memo, Bolton asserts that Iran’s “outright violations” of the terms of the deal give the US license to scrap the deal and reimpose crippling economic sanctions on the country unilaterally.
But experts say there is no evidence of Iran refusing to comply with the deal in substantial ways.
“Washington’s partners in the deal and the European Union have all clearly stated that Iran is complying with the deal, and more importantly, the US intelligence community is pointing to Iran’s compliance with the agreement,” Kelsey Davenport, the director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, told me.
“Based on the evidence that’s been presented to the intelligence community, it appears that Iran is in compliance with the rules that were laid out in the JCPOA,” Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress in July.
In the runup to the invasion of Iraq, Bolton served as the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security in the Bush administration. Both Davenport and Lewis point out that he was a key player in pushing for the war based on cherry-picked intelligence suggesting that Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
“Bolton was pretty central to that and he’s replicating that experience,” Lewis said.
In addition to his concerns about compliance, Bolton also points out that Iran’s international behavior is strategically at odds with the US’s. Iran backs militant groups like Hezbollah and others that threaten US allies in the Middle East.
But that conduct is not prohibited by the agreement, and it’s unclear how pulling out of the Iran deal would allow the US to rein in Tehran.
Davenport points out that there are “clear signals that Washington’s partners are not interested in going along with Trump’s plan to exit the deal.”
Why does that matter? If the US is the only one one to scrap the deal and decides to reimpose sanctions, then its penalties won’t have much bite. It was the combined force of the international community’s isolation of Iran that suffocated its economy and made it inclined to curb its program and negotiate for relief.
Parties to the deal, like France and China, have already begun to do business with Iran again. They’re not eager to reverse that without good cause.
So if the US pulls out of the Iran deal when Iran is in fact complying with it, the other parties to the deal have little reason to join the US in dropping it as well and restarting sanctions. Iran would then be in a better position to pursue nuclear weapons than it was before the deal was struck.

We Have Already Committed Political Suicide

https://i2.wp.com/i2.cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/161206095438-01-hassan-rouhani-donald-trump-split-exlarge-169.jpgIran nuclear deal: Rouhani warns US against ‘political suicide’
Media captionMr Rouhani said Iran would “respond to violations”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned US President Donald Trump he risks political suicide if he scraps the nuclear deal with Tehran.
At his swearing-in ceremony, Mr Rouhani said Iran would continue to abide by the terms of the deal as long as the other signatories do the same.
The White House says Iran is complying with the deal but Mr Trump says Iran is violating its spirit.
Last month the US state department announced new sanctions on the country.
The US says the sanctions relate to Iran’s missile programme and alleged support for terror groups but Tehran says they violate the nuclear deal.
Mr Rouhani – being sworn in for a second term after winning presidential elections in May – said he had nothing to do with “newcomers to the world of politics” and urged “old-timers” to see the nuclear deal as an example of how to manage international relations.
“Those who want to tear apart the JCPOA [nuclear deal] should know that they would also be tearing apart their political life,” he said in a ceremony broadcast live on state TV.
He accused the US of a “lack of commitment” to the deal and said it was an “unreliable partner”.
Meanwhile Iranian officials have been urging Europe not to side with the Trump administration.
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Mr Trump was “trying to destroy the nuclear accord at Iran’s expense” and said “Europe should be conscious of this”, private Tasnim news agency said.
Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, asked Europe to “take a more independent policy towards Iran”, state media reported.
Mr Rouhani won 57% of the vote in May’s election after promising to create jobs and build bridges with the outside world.

Ron Paul Is Correct: War With Iran

“President Trump seems to be impatiently racing toward at least one disastrous war. Maybe two. The big question is who will be first? North Korea or Iran?” wrote the 81-year-old former congressman in his weekly column published on the site of his Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.
“With continuing pressure from both Democrats and Republicans over the unproven ‘Russiagate’ allegations, it increasingly looks like he will seek relief by starting a ‘nice little war.’ If he does so, however, his presidency will likely be over and he may end up blundering into a much bigger war in the process,” states Paul, who contested the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and 2012.
The new White House administration has attempted to exert unprecedented pressure on Pyongyang amid a series of missiles test carried out on the orders of Kim Jong-un over the past year.

Paul believes that Trump is looking to play a proactive role in any standoff with the Kim regime, saying, that displays, such as the recent US B-1 bomber flight over the Korean peninsula, sends “a clear message that he is ready to attack.”
Paul further criticizes the scaling up of US naval forces in the Persian Gulf in recent months, which led to clashes between Iranian and American vessels.
“Imagine if the US Navy had encountered Iranian warships in the Gulf of Mexico firing machine guns at them when they approached the Iranians,” writes Paul, who has consistently advocated a policy of non-interventionism.
He also notes that Iran is complying with the terms of the Obama-era nuclear agreement, apparently to Trump’s dismay.
And although Paul did not endorse any of the 2016 candidates, his son Rand Paul, who ran for the nomination, did, with Trump emerging as the most popular major-party politician among libertarian voters, with many of his policies superficially echoing Paul’s own stance.
“Although Trump’s bombastic rhetoric on Iran and North Korea has been pretty consistent, the American people voted Trump because he was seen as the less likely of the two candidates to get the US into a major war,” writes Paul.
“A recent study by Boston University and the University of Minnesota concluded that Trump won the most votes in parts of the country with the highest military casualties… These are the Americans living in the swing states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan that surprised the pundits by voting for Trump over Hillary.”
With the US establishment distracted, Paul advocates for his supporters to “make their voices heard” and drag attention back to the international arena, to stop Trump “blustering us into one or two wars that will make Iraq and Afghanistan look like cakewalks by comparison.”

The US Will Soon War With Iran (Daniel 7-8)

President Donald Trump speaking at CPAC, Maryland, February 24, 2017. (Gage Skidmore, CC 2.0)The mask is off: Trump is seeking war with Iran

+972 Blog
By Trita Parsi

President Donald Trump speaking at CPAC, Maryland, February 24, 2017. (Gage Skidmore, CC 2.0)

Something extraordinary has happened in Washington. President Donald Trump has made it clear, in no uncertain terms and with no effort to disguise his duplicity, that he will claim that Tehran is cheating on the nuclear deal by October — the facts be damned. In short, the fix is in. Trump will refuse to accept that Iran is in compliance and thereby set the stage for a military confrontation. His advisors have even been kind enough to explain how they will go about this. Rarely has a sinister plan to destroy an arms control agreement and pave the way for war been so openly telegraphed.
The unmasking of Trump’s plans to sabotage the nuclear deal began two weeks ago when he reluctantly had to certify that Iran indeed was in compliance. Both the US intelligence as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency had confirmed Tehran’s fair play. But Trump threw a tantrum in the Oval Office and berated his national security team for not having found a way to claim Iran was cheating. According to Foreign Policy, the adults in the room—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster — eventually calmed Trump down but only on the condition that they double down on finding a way for the president to blow up the deal by October.
Prior to the revelation of Trump’s Iran certification meltdown, most analysts and diplomats believed that Trump’s rhetoric on Iran was just that — empty talk. His bark was worse than his bite, as demonstrated when he certified Iran’s compliance back in April and when he renewed sanctions waivers in May. The distance between his rhetoric and actual policy was tangible. Rhetorically, Trump officials described Iran as the root of all problems in the Middle East and as the greatest state sponsor of terror. Trump even suggested he might quit the deal.
In action, however, President Trump continued to waive sanctions and admitted that Iran was adhering to the deal. As a result, many concluded that Trump would continue to fulfill the obligations of the deal while sticking to his harsh rhetoric in order to appease domestic opponents of the nuclear deal — as well as Trump’s allies in Saudi Arabia and Israel.
But now, assessments are changing. The tangible danger of Trump’s malice on the Iran deal — as well as the danger of the advice of the “adults in the room”  —became further clarified this week as tidbits of the reality TV star’s plans began to leak.

How to Wreck a Deal

An IAEA expert demonstrating how the safeguards Next Generation Surveillance System (NGSS) works, March 20, 2015. (Photo: Dean Calma / IAEA)An IAEA expert demonstrating how the safeguards Next Generation Surveillance System (NGSS) works, March 20, 2015. (Photo: Dean Calma / IAEA)

Recognizing that refusing to certify Iran would isolate the United States, Trump’s advisors gave him another plan. Use the spot-inspections mechanism of the nuclear deal, they suggested, to demand access to a whole set of military sites in Iran. Once Iran balks — which it will since the mechanism is only supposed to be used if tangible evidence exists that those sites are being used for illicit nuclear activities — Trump can claim that Iran is in violation, blowing up the nuclear deal while shifting the blame to Tehran.
Thus, the advice of the adults in the room — those who we are supposed to restrain Trump — was not to keep the highly successful nuclear deal that has taken both an Iranian bomb and war with Iran off the table. Rather, they recommended killing it in a manner that would conceal Trump’s malice and shift the cost to Iran.
According to The New York Times, the groundwork for this strategy has already been laid. Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Corker (R-TN) calls this strategy “radical enforcement” of the deal. “If they don’t let us in,” Corker told The Washington Post, “boom.” Then he added: “You want the breakup of this deal to be about Iran. You don’t want it to be about the U.S., because we want our allies with us.”
This is a charade, a rerun of the machinations that resulted in the Iraq war. It doesn’t matter what Iran does or doesn’t do. If it were up to Trump, he’d never have accepted that Iran was in compliance in the first place. He admitted as much to the Wall Street Journal. “If it was up to me, I would have had them [the Iranians] non-compliant 180 days ago.”
Sounding supremely confident of the “radical implementation” strategy, Trump added that “I think they’ll be noncompliant [in October].” In so doing, he further confirmed doubts that the process is about determining whether Iran is in compliance or not. The administration is committed to finding a way to claim Iran has violated the accord, regardless of the facts—just as George W. Bush did with Iraq.
Potential for Backfire
But Trump’s confidence may be misplaced on two levels. First, abusing the inspection mechanisms of the deal may prove harder than Trump has been led to believe. The inspections are the cornerstone of the deal, and Iran’s ability to cheat on the deal is essentially non-existent as long as the integrity and efficiency of the inspections remain in tact. But if Trump begins to abuse the mechanism to fabricate a conflict, he will end up undermining the inspections regime and actually enhance the ability of those in Iran who would like to pursue a covert nuclear program. Precisely because of the commitment of Europe and others to non-proliferation, they are likely to resist Trump’s efforts to tinker with the inspections.
Second, by revealing his hand, Trump has displayed his duplicity for all to see. That includes the American public, whose anti-war sentiments remain strong and are a key reason they supported the nuclear deal in the first place.
The American public knows the Iraq playbook quite well. Trump’s own supporters remain enraged by the disastrous war with Iraq. They know how they got played. It’s difficult to imagine why they would allow themselves to get played again by a president who has left little doubt about his intent to deceive.
Trita Parsi is the president of the National Iranian American Council and author of Losing an Enemy – Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy. This article was first published in LobeLog.

The U.S. is absolutely on the road to war with Iran


Is the U.S. on the road to war with Iran?
Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Is the U.S. on the road to war with Iran?
There are two kinds of people: those with, and without, grace. President Trump can decide on which side he falls, although Mrs. Abe the Japanese Prime Minister’s wife has clearly made up her mind. Anyone who can read a whole speech in English knows enough to say, ‘Excuse me, I do not speak English well’. So, to not respond at all to the U.S. president sitting beside her, who turns to converse, conveys a distinct meaning.
There was a time when countries prided themselves on their civility and their citizenry for their courtesy. Now the byword is the put down; rudeness, crudeness and vulgarity rule the day — not to forget the jingoism, demagoguery and xenophobia that can win elections. If such was the state of a democracy, its founders, were they alive, would weep.
In the past week, U.S. presidential ire has been directed at Iran. Shortly after the administration’s annual declaration to Congress certifying Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, it slapped additional economic sanctions the following Tuesday (July 18). Three days later, Trump added threats of ‘new and serious consequences’ unless detained U.S. citizens are returned. Robert Levinson, a former law enforcement officer disappeared ten years ago in Iran. In addition, Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-born U.S. citizen, as well as a father and son Iranian-Americans, Baquer and Siamak Namazi — the elder a former provincial governor in Iran — have been sentenced to 10 years jail for spying. For perspective, it is worth noting that 5 million tourists visit Iran annually contributing $2 billion in revenue, and the country is trying to expand its tourism industry.
The nuclear agreement itself is difficult for the U.S. to abrogate unilaterally as it involves the five permanent veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. Yet Trump appears to have swallowed the Netanyahu line on the deal. Add that to Trump’s new found chumminess with the Saudis and their deep Wahhabi antagonism towards Shia Iran and we could be on the edge of another cataclysm in the Middle East, this time enveloping the whole region.
If we recall the history of the deal, the Obama regime first had to give up their zero-enrichment requirement before the Iranians would even agree to talk. They got low enrichment.
While sanctions had hurt Iran, it refused to buckle under the pressure; in fact it added centrifuges and speeded up enrichment. Had the Obama administration continued on this course, they would have had a nuclear Iran or war.
There are those in Washington who still believe sanctions and pressure would bring Iran to its knees. They have forgotten the Iranian response to Iraq and the Iran-Iraq war when Iran stood up to a better-armed Iraq despite enormous casualties.
If Trump keeps up the pressure imposing further sanctions, how soon before the extremists in Iran secure an upper hand and the deal falls apart? Could an unwinnable war (Iraq and Afghanistan are living examples) and/or a nuclear Iran be the consequence?
Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King’s College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for Antiwar.com, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.

The Shia Crescent Forms (Daniel 8:8)

shiacrescentBaghdad and Tehran sign a deal to boost military cooperation

Mina Aldroubi
Iraq and Iran signed an agreement on Sunday to boost military cooperation days after the US imposed new sanctions against Tehran for its “malign” activity in the region.
The agreement to help “combat terrorism” was signed a day after the Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi said Shiite militias backed by Iran would remain an integral part of the state.
Iranian military advisers have played a key role in the campaign to drive ISIL from territory seized by the extremist group in 2014 and the militias, known as Hashed Al Shaabi, have also fought against the extremists along with Iraq’s regular military and police.
But the militias have been accused of abuses against Sunni populations in areas recaptured by government forces and there are fears over their future role in the country.
The agreement between Iran and Iraq, which extends “cooperation and exchanging experiences in fighting terrorism” was signed in Tehran by the Iranian defence minister Hossein Dehghan and his Iraqi counterpart, Erfan Al Hiyali.
The agreement also covered border security, logistics and training, the Iranian official news agency IRNA reported.
Since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, Iran’s influence in the country has increased, empowering Shiite leaders and leaving Sunni populations neglected and resentful of the central government, which contributed to the rise of ISIL.
With the extremists defeated in Mosul, the last major city under its control, many Sunnis are fearful of a sectarian backlash as the country tries to rebuild.
The role of the Hashed Al Shaabi in Iraq has been an issue of widespread contention and will be a key issue in elections next year.
The government passed a bill in November that made the Hashed a legitimate entity of Iraq’s security forces and on Saturday Mr Al Abadi declared after meeting militias commanders that “the forces are an essential and neutral security entity and will remain within the structure of the Iraqi state”.
While maintaining that “the state is the main leader” of the security structure in the country, he said the Hashed “is a neutral security establishment, and it is here to stay”.
“It is our duty to protect it, because we are one,” Mr Al Abadi added.
The announcement is the clearest sign of support from the prime minister for the Hashed’s continued role in Iraq after ISIL’s defeat. While his predecessor, Nouri Al Malaki, was widely condemned for his sectarian policies, Mr Al Abadi has been more conciliatory.
He has condemned sectarian violence carried out by the militias and tried to build ties with Sunni countries in the region. Last month, he travelled to Jeddah and met King Salman after the Saudi foreign minister visited Baghdad in February.
But the Hashed endorsement will raise concerns among Sunni leaders in Iraq.
Sarah Allawi, advisor to Iraqi vice president Ayad Allawi, said: “We thank the security forces for their efforts in liberating Mosul from ISIL – however we now are entering a new phase rebuilding Iraq post ISIL, which is aiming to achieve national reconciliation between political forces.”
The Hashed are an amalgamation of various subgroups with allegiances to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iraq’s top Shiite clerics Ali Al Sistani and Muqtada Al Sadr, according to a report on the militias by the Carnegie Middle East Center.
“Some subgroups have assumed political roles and will seek to leverage their roles in combatting ISIL to win votes in Iraq’s 2018 elections,” said the report.
For militia members, the legitimacy of their struggle against ISIL is a direct result of a fatwa issued by Ali Al Sistani in response to the fall of Mosul in 2014 in which he called the fight a “sacred defence”.
“As of November 2016 and the passing of the Hashed Al Shaabi law, the Hashed has become a formally institutionalised part of Iraq’s security apparatus tied to the office of the commander-in-chief,” said Fanar Haddad, senior research fellow in the National University of Singapore.
“However, unlike other security units, disbanding the Hashed would not be a straightforward administrative procedure given their immense popularity and legitimacy amongst many Iraqis and given the Hashed’s powerful backers in Iraq and Iran”.
The Hashed’s role in defeating ISIL has also given them support from other sections of Iraq and not just Shiites.
“The fact is that the Hashed will be a permanent feature of Iraq’s social, political and military landscapes for the foreseeable future,” Mr Haddad added.

Iran’s Commitment to Mohammadism (Daniel 8:4)

https://consortiumnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/1-Iran-Missile-Syria-e1497943298259.jpgKhamenei: Iranian missile strikes on Syrian province ‘act of worship’
In a meeting with Revolutionary Guards commanders, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei likened the Iranian missile attack launched from the Islamic republic against ISIS sites in the Syrian province of Deir el-Zour to an “act of worship” during the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims, Iranian news agencies reported on Thursday.

Iran’s news agency ISNA said that the meeting between Khamenei and the leaders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) took place two weeks ago, a few hours after the missile strikes were launched the provinces of Kurdistan and Kermanshah.
What you have done is wonderful, may God accept your good deeds, this is what it means to worship in the month of Ramadan,” he said.
June 24 was the last day for the month of Ramadan in 2017.
Khamenei also called for expanding the missile industry, when he said: “Do everything you can to develop the missiles, notice how your enemy fears it. Be aware of the importance of what you are doing in this area.”
Iran’s missile activities have sparked widespread debate in the West, particularly in the United States, where US government institutions, including Congress have imposed sanctions against Tehran’s missile activities.
According to the Persian-speaking war reports, which track Iran’s military intervention in Iraq and Syria, IRGC’s claims were similar to the Russian statements that bombed civilian targets under the pretext of targeting ISIS headquarters.
A spokesman for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Brigadier General Ramadan Sharif, told the Iranian agency Tasnim that the strikes were coordinated with Damascus, adding that the missiles crossed the Iraqi airspace.
Meanwhile, observers believe that Iranian authorities sought to conceal this meeting to make sure that the missiles had hit the right targets. Some reports said four out of the six missiles launched fell in Iraq on its way to Syria.
Press reports had previously confirmed that Iran’s rocket attacks on Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria have hit civilian targets, contradicting IRGC’s claims.
Iranian media had published a clip claimed it showed the launch of the Zulfiqar missiles on ISIS targets, but maps, photographs and video clips broadcasted by Iranian agencies showed no actual sites of the militant group.
(The article was originally published at the Arabic language website for Al Arabiya News Channel)

Babylon vs Babylon the Great


Iran versus the United States – Raddington Report
BY MAJID RAFIZADEH
It’s war by any other means. The Iranian regime is heightening its efforts to damage US national interests and scuttle Washington’s foreign policy objectives by ramping up its interventions in the Middle East.
The regime’s concerted efforts are being directed by its Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, his Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its many tentacles. Among the actors in this play are the Navy, the Aerospace Force, ground forces, the Ministry of Intelligence, and the elite Qods force, which is led by General Qassem Soleimani and operates outside Iran’s borders to export the regime’s revolutionary ideals
Lately, Iran’s state-owned media outlets, long since the mouthpieces of Khamenei and the IRGC, have been extensively covering the increasing capabilities, power, and influence of Iran’s armed forces in the region. Iran’s leaders enjoy boasting about the leverage that the regime revels in defying the US in various fields.
The regime is accomplishing these objectives by steadfastly extending the core pillar of its foreign policy. In practice, this means the regime is working hard to widen its connections to militia and terrorist groups through different means, including political and military interventions in countries throughout the Middle East, including as Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon — not countries known for their stability at present.
Over in Iraq, Iranian leaders are delegating a more expansive role to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a network of Tehran-backed Shi’ite paramilitary groups, which are estimated to have roughly more than 60,000 fighters. With Tehran’s bank balances back in the black thanks to the nuclear agreement, the IRGC provides vital military, financial and advisory assistance to the PMF. The IRGC and Iran’s news outlets do not hide the presence of Iran’s ground forces in Iraq. The IRGC appointed one of its generals, Iraj Masjedi, to be the new ambassador to Iraq.
During the latest visit of the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Tehran, Khamenei emphasized the expanding role of PMF and how the presence of Shi’ite paramilitary groups on the ground are becoming political realities in Baghdad. One approach is linked to intensifying interference in the upcoming Iraqi elections. Iran’s sophisticated interventions has prompted the Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi to point out that “Iran has been interfering even in the decision [making process] of the Iraqi people…We don’t want an election based on sectarianism, we want an inclusive political process … we [hoped] that the Iraqis would choose themselves without any involvement by any foreign power.”
Khamenei warned Haider al-Abadi not to interfere with Iranian foreign policy goals. He made it clear that the objective of expanding the role of Iraqi militia groups is to spread anti-American sentiments and disrupt US regional objectives, telling the Iraqi leader that “We should remain vigilant of the Americans and not trust them.”
In Syria, IRGC has launched ballistic missiles, kicking off fresh phase of military interventions — this is Iran’s first deployment of such weaponry abroad in nearly three decades. It speaks to a transformation in how Iran’s armed forces will escalate its engagement in the region. But it also highlights the fact that Iran is buttressing Assad’s military. The IRGC generals made it evident that the attacks were “a message” and a “warning” not only to ISIS but also to the US and its regional allies.
For Iran, this is just the beginning. As former IRGC Guard chief Gen. Mohsen Rezai warned, darkly, “The bigger slap is yet to come.”
Iran has been busy in Yemen, as well. The Iranian regime is not only stepping up its support for the Tehran-backed Houthis, but is also deploying other proxies, including Hezbollah, in the war-torn state, in an attempt to further damage the country’s infrastructure and spoil US initiatives in Yemen. Although Iranian leaders deny playing any role in Yemen, the IRGC forces and its proxies are present in Yemen fighting alongside Houthi forces. Iran’s rising shipments of arms to Yemen, however, is impossible to deny. Several countries including the US have intercepted Iran’s attempt to deliver weapons to the Houthis. Most recently, the Saudi navy captured three members of the IRGC from a boat approaching Saudi Arabia’s offshore Marjan oilfield. The Saudi information ministry stated: “This was one of three vessels which were intercepted by Saudi forces. It was captured with the three men on board, the other two escaped.”
Hezbollah currently enjoys a presence in “every third or fourth house” in southern Lebanon, according to the IDF Chief of Staff, a clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 — and Iran does not show any signs of wishing to give up on their Lebanese proxy. Hezbollah affects Lebanon decision-making to serve Khamenei’s interest, not that of the Lebanese people. The growing financial and military assistance has also made Hezbollah “more militarily powerful than most North Atlantic Treaty Organization members” according to a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.
Iran’s support for terrorist groups across the spectrum, which are sworn to disrupt US foreign policy and damage Washington’s interests, is a core pillar of Tehran’s foreign policy. The 2016 statement by Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper remains very much accurate: “Iran — the foremost state sponsor of terrorism — continues to exert its influence in regional crises in the Middle East through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — Qods Force (IRGC-QF), its terrorist partner Lebanese Hezbollah, and proxy groups.”
There exists a rare opportunity that the US should seize. After eight years of Obama’s administration trying to appease the Iranian regime and after eight years of neglecting the security concerns of other regional governments, the Gulf states and other regional powers long to counter Iran’s support for terrorist groups, increasing use of brute force and regional military adventurism. The Trump administration can capitalize on regional powers’ political and military weight in holding back Iran. Isolating and sanctioning Tehran via establishing a powerful and united front is critical at this moment.
The Iranian regime is rapidly using its militia and terrorist groups to shape political realities across the Middle East. It is penetrating the political, military and security infrastructures of several Middle Eastern nations. The aim is to advance the regime’s Islamist revolutionary ideals, hegemonic ambitions, and to damage US national interests. A swift and proportionate response to the Iranian regime, which is an integration of political pressure and military force, ought to be a top priority.

Iran’s Straight Faced Lies


Iran denies Trump’s claims it sponsors terrorism
By TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF
May 30, 2017
Iran on Monday dismissed US President Donald Trump’s allegations that it is a major sponsor of terrorism as “incorrect and irrelevant.”
Trump, during his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, accused Tehran of spearheading global terror. Along with Saudi King Salman he called for the Islamic Republic to be shunned.
“From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region,” Trump said.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi dismissed the accusations during a press briefing.
“These improper, incorrect and irrelevant positions of certain countries are nothing new and they try to project the blame on others and such remarks are unbelievable and unacceptable,” he said.
According to the Fars news agency, Qassemi also questioned how Tehran could be a sponsor of terror when it had just recently proven to the world its democratic bona fides with its presidential elections.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed Saturday that Saudi Arabia’s monarchy faces “certain downfall” for aligning itself with the US and that its regime could be toppled sooner rather than later.
“They will be gone, they can be toppled and can perish [or be destroyed]… there is no doubt about it… it is certain that it will happen,” Khamnei said during a religious gathering in comments translated from Persian.
In further scathing remarks against Riyadh, Khamenei said the Muslim world has been placed in “grave danger” by “a group of worthless, inept and villainous people [who] are ruling over a community of the Muslim nation, namely the Saudi government.”
Khamenei also said that Saudi Arabia is a “cow being milked” by the United States, a week after the kingdom signed an $110 billion weapons deal with Trump during his visit last Saturday. Private sector and other agreements with the US totaled some $350 billion.
Majority Shiite Iran and predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia support opposite sites in the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East.
AP contributed to this report.

Iran Abandons Last Signs of Democracy

2583After Reelection, Iran’s President Rouhani Abandons Promise to Free Green Movement Leaders

Asked what he would do to free opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hosseini Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard, who have been detained for more than six years for leading the peaceful, mass protests against the disputed result of the 2009 presidential election, Rouhani suggested that a solution depended on cooperation from other branches of state.
“The country is ruled by laws and we should all submit to them,” he said on May 22. “The executive, legislative and judicial branches have their own responsibilities. We are moving forward on the basis of the Constitution.”
“I am responsible for the rights of every citizen, even Iranians living abroad,” added Rouhani. “Wherever I see the rights of Iranians being violated, I will take action within my powers. In cases related to the judiciary, I will respond by direct communication or in joint meetings. The next government plans to implement the Charter on Citizens’ Rights. In this respect, the rights of all people are important to me.”
Rouhani made no reference to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, whose adamant opposition to freeing the three has kept them detained in legal limbo.
At a presidential campaign rally at Sharif University in Tehran on May 13, 2013, Rouhani said he hoped he could free the three within the first year of his presidency: “We can provide conditions such that over the next year, individuals who were imprisoned or put under house arrest for the 2009 events are released.”
Chants for freedom for Mousavi and Karroubi were a fixture amongst Rouhani supporters throughout the election campaign, and celebrations of his victory.
Amid Rouhani’s virtual silence on the issue during his first term, other politicians raised it a number of times, including conservative Deputy Parliament Speaker Ali Motahari, who has repeatedly spoken of the need for a solution.
In an interview on May 8, 2017, Motahari repeated his suggestion that the issue could be resolved through negotiation.
“Some steps have been taken towards resolving the house arrests and we have to listen to the reasoning by the opposing side,” he said. “We have to move towards improving the conditions in the country and prevent issues before they turn into a crisis.”
Motahari has previously explained that Khamenei is the driving factor behind the continuing house arrests.
“One of the obstacles against their freedom has been the insistence by some officials that if they do not apologize and repent, it will damage the state and the supreme leader,” said Motahari. “It isn’t wrong to have an opinion about the 2009 incidents different than those of people in power…keeping [Mousavi, Rahnavard and Karroubi] under house arrest for six years is neither compatible with the law nor with religious teachings.”
At the May 22 press conference, the newly reelected president was also asked about his policies on protecting the rights of the artistic community, particularly those in the music and film industries.
“One of the outcomes of this year’s elections was that everyone was at peace with music,” responded Rouhani. “However, we are not too fond of cheap music. Some say that’s fine as well, but in any case, I am certain our new government will give more support to the cultural community.”
“The situation did improve for music and cinema in our previous four years, but we will make greater efforts in the next four,” he added.
Since 2013, when Rouhani was voted into office promising a more open society, numerous state-sanctioned musicians, including popular artists Alireza Ghorbani and Sirvan Khosravi, saw their concerts canceled at the last moment.
Religious conservatives have justified their attacks on musicians by quoting vague statements and decrees by senior religious leaders. Khamenei has himself often warned about the alleged dangers of music, saying it will “lead people away from the path of God.”
Rouhani also said his government would adopt proposals based on educational guidelines provided by the UN 2030 Agenda—vehemently opposed by conservatives—that do not violate Islamic principles.
“The ministers of foreign affairs, science and education wrote to the supreme leader explaining to His Excellency at length that the Islamic Republic of Iran has reserved the right to ignore parts of agenda 2030 that do not conform with our culture and national values,” Rouhani said.
On the issue of women in the workforce, Rouhani said his government would do more to increase women’s employment prospects.
“It’s wrong to think that men have a higher status or that they are more capable than women,” he said.
At the same time, Rouhani echoed Khamenei’s sexist views by claiming certain jobs are more suitable for men than women: “Of course men are better at some professions and women are better at others. (God) has given both their own special qualities.”
“But women are not lower than men and keeping them inside the house does not make sense from social or legal standpoints,” he added.