The Iranian Shia Empire (Daniel 8)

Iran is building an Empire-How Dangerous? (part 1)

Josef Olmert
PM Netanyahu of Israel is intensifying his campaign of threats against the Iranian’s increasing role in Syria, and after his last failed meeting with Vladimir Putin in Moscow, the rhetoric assumes a sense of urgency. Some Netanyahu watchers will dismiss this campaign as a diversionary tactic at a time of huge domestic political pressure in Israel, due to the criminal investigations that he and his family are embroiled in. Some will refer to the deja vu element, as a lot of the rhetoric now sounding so similar to the one used in 2012-15 in an effort to prevent the Iran nuclear deal, which lead to a huge volume of hot air but no action. Some will take it at face value and start the count down to another Middle East war. This time between Israel and Iran , to be fought in Lebanon and Syria, possibly elsewhere, maybe in Israel and Iran themselves. No kidding so far as Israel is concerned, and Iran is taken to be now the enemy. In this first of two pieces, I will analyze the realistic state of affairs with regard to Iran, basically reality versus impressions, perhaps myths.. The second piece will deal directly with the Syrian-Lebanese situation and the Israeli response.
Iran is now involved either directly or indirectly, in actual fighting and in subversive activities in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, making use primarily of the Shi’ite population in these countries, or religious sects close to the Shi’a , such as the Alawites in Syria. Here is a point of strength for Iran-This is the only Shi’ite state in the Middle East, while the Sunni world is split, with various claimants to power and dominance such as Saudi Arabia, and recently also Turkey under President Erdohan. Here is also a point of weakness, as the near total reliance on Shi’ites emphasizes the sectarian nature of the Iranian regime. Speaking about an Islamic revival, meaning a Shi’ite revival. Shi’ite revival in the 21st Century is an historic aberration, as it will the first after many centuries of Sunni domination of the world of Islam in the Middle East. Shi’ism flourished in the region in the 10-11 th Centuries, when even Egypt under the Fatimids was Shi’ite, but then it is the exception, and Sunni Muslims cannot and will not accept a Shi’ite revival now . Yes, this is to emphasize both history and sectarianism, and most Westerners, especially in the Liberal/Left Wing do not like these reminders and terminology, but in the Middle East this is the political discourse and this is what matters . The Iranian regime refers to Israel as the enemy, predicting its annihilation, claiming its collapse within the next 25 years, and here again there is a point of strength and one of weakness. There are still many in the Middle East, surely among the Palestinians, who view Israel as the ultimate ,inevitable nemesis. There are however many Arabs, in the Gulf and elsewhere who view Shi’ite Iran as the bigger problem. and behind close doors, sometimes even in public, view Israel as the solution to the Iran problem. This is a new emerging phenomenon, not one which is irreversible, but one with a potential to move from talked-about to an actual alliance of interests. Then the Iranians have oil, a lot of it, but much to their chagrin, their oil is enough to give a Per Capita income of few thousand dollars only, and Iran is still a poor country, and it is becoming poorer as it invests so much in its expansionist plans. Saudi Arabia can still afford its own military build up and the gigantic arms orders from the US, but Iran cannot. Iran is also stretching its influence in a wide range of areas which are different from each other, and using the Shi’ite card will not prove enough of a unifying force for too many years to come. It is also an ethnic/national problem for the Iranians, as they are extending their influence in Arab territories. An interesting situation is developing in Iraq, one which may signal a future and significant resistance to their plans.The blistering Shi’ite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr, an hitherto Iranian ally is starting to play his own game. Yes, he wants a Shi’ite Iraq, but should it be Iranian-dominated? He just completed a visit in Saudi Arabia after which the Saudis asked the Iraqi -Shi’ite government to establish a Consulate in the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf. Somewhat surprising and even strange development. Stay tuned to the fall out, but may be an indication of more to come which will not please the Iranians. Ethnic problems can still plague Iran itself, where the Iranian-Farsi population is a little more than half of the entire population. It is ‘’only ‘’ 90% Shi’ite, with 5-6 million Sunni Kurds, 2-3 Million Sunni Baluchis and others, but with a quarter of the population who are Azeris and Shi’ites. When sectarianism and ethnic divisions exist among their neighbors, the Ayatollahs in Tehran need to keep a very watchful eye over their own house. So, Iran is looking as a key player these days, with a growing and seeming unstoppable influence, but in this case , what catches the eye may be the wrong impression. The modern history of the Middle East provides us with examples of an attempt by one actor to become a regional dominant power. Nasser of Egypt comes to mind, and he was a Sunni Arab, representing the force of Arab nationalism. It failed miserably, and the failure started with the Iraqi revolution of 1958 becoming hostile to Nasser, Syria breaking away from the United Arab Republic in 1961 and the Egyptian intervention in the Yemeni civil war. Iran is heavily invested in all these countries right now. The shape of things to come? Time will tell, but coming back to where we started-PM Netanyahu seems to be impatient, and he does not favor waiting for history to repeat itself.

Iranian Hegemony and the Hamas


Iran’s Zarif hosts Hamas officials
By TAMAR PILEGGI
August 7, 2017, 2:20 pm 1
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met on Monday with a delegation of officials from the Palestinian terror group Hamas, which has been struggling with the continued erosion of its foreign backing.
During the meeting, Zarif reiterated Tehran’s support for the Palestinians as “principled and unchangeable,” according to reports in Iranian state media.
The delegation of diaspora-based members of Hamas’s politburo was visiting Iran to attend the swearing-in ceremony of President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday.
Iran was once Hamas’s key political and financial backer, but ties began to unravel in 2012, largely due to differences over the civil war in Syria.
In May, Iran agreed in principle to renew its funding for Hamas, and senior Palestinian officials were said to be traveling to Tehran to repair relations.
Last week, Palestinian Authority officials claimed Iran provided aid to Palestinian protesters demonstrating against Israeli security measures at the Temple Mount last month. The aid reportedly included boxes of food and drink, which came with a flyer attached depicting the Dome of the Rock and a quote attributed to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reading, “With the help of God, Palestine will be freed. Jerusalem is ours.”
A PA intelligence official told an Israeli newspaper at the time it was clear the Iranian regime was behind the aid packages, and estimated the initiative cost several million shekels. The move angered the PA leadership, with the unnamed official telling the Israel Hayom daily it was a mistake to allow Iran to reach into the West Bank with its “tentacles.”
Monday’s meeting in Tehran comes as Qatar, one of the other few foreign backers of Hamas, continues to face massive pressure from its Gulf neighbors to cut ties with the terrorist group. If it does, the result could be disastrous for the Gaza Strip, a territory Hamas has ruled for a decade.
توزیع شیرینی و بسته های غذایی مردم ایران بین جوانان مقاوم فلسطینی در مقابل #مسجد_الاقصی
همراه با جمله رهبری:#فلسطین_سوف_تحریر#القدس_لنا pic.twitter.com/s5UcfRUcxt
— امیر طاها صالحی (@Taha_salehi20) July 29, 2017
Qatar has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in roads, housing and a major hospital in the tiny enclave. Its infrastructure projects are one of the few job-creators in a beleaguered economy.
Gaza already suffers from an Israeli-Egyptian blockade — imposed to prevent the group from importing weaponry — economic misery and chronic electricity shortages. For Hamas, Qatar’s money pumping into the economy is a vital lifeline bolstering its rule.
Closer ties between Hamas and Iran are hardly likely to mollify the Gulf states and Egypt. One of the main factors driving the crisis is Qatar’s close ties to Tehran and fears of expanding Iranian influence further destabilizing the region.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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.

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 Steps Up Hegemony In Middle East (Daniel 8:4)

Bahrain’s rulers have long sought confirmation from Washington that their country faces a terrorist threat sponsored by Iran. In March, the US finally validated them by sanctioning two Bahraini individuals as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. One of those sanctioned individuals evidently resides in Qom, the ideological center of Iran’s revolutionary regime.
The US designation comes amid increasing evidence showing that Tehran’s regional terrorist network is targeting the island kingdom, which hosts America’s most important naval base in the Middle East.
The State Department announced the sanctions on Mar. 17, describing the two individuals as linked to the Ashtar Brigades, a Bahraini group that it said has carried out terrorist acts targeting Bahraini, Saudi, and Emirati security officials. As such, the sanctions were also an important signal of support to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, whose leaders visited Washington just three days before the State Department’s announcement.
The designations are even more important given a Washington Post report last month that Western intelligence agencies believe Iran has attempted to smuggle into Bahrain enough C-4 explosives to sink a warship, as well as equipment to manufacture explosively formed penetrators  that can tear through tank armor.
Mortada al-Sanadi’s Radical Politics
The State Department was relatively terse in its description of the two newly designated terrorists, merely calling the more prominent one “an affiliate” of the Brigades, which it said receives money and other support from the government of Iran.
However, by validating Manama’s argument that this individual, Mortada al-Sanadi, is linked to the Brigades and confirming the group’s Iranian sponsorship, the US significantly bolstered Bahrain’s narrative about Sanadi, the Brigades, and the broader terrorist threat it faces.
Sanadi is spokesperson and a central committee member of the Islamic Loyalty Movement (ILM), a radical Bahraini political faction. The Movement is virulently anti-American, with its recent messages on social media calling the US “the mother of terrorism,” setting fire to images of President Donald Trump and the American flag, and displaying a cartoon of crosshairs targeting the Capitol Building. (The image can be seen above.)
In 2016, Bahrain’s government accused Sanadi and the ILM of having links to the Bahraini terrorist cell called the Basta Group, which ILM denied. According to Bahraini authorities, Basta also had ties to the Ashtar Brigades and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Bahrain’s government alleged that Basta’s leadership constituted the ILM’s armed wing, with terror capabilities under Sanadi’s command.
By accusing a leader of the ILM of links to terrorism, the recent US action seems to confirm that some of Bahrain’s more radical political opposition is also complicit in acts of violence against the state.
Disrupted Terrorist Plots
If Bahrain’s claims about Sanadi’s activities are correct – which the new US action appears to at least partly corroborate – then he is a key leader in the country’s terrorist insurgency.
Ten days after the US sanctioned Sanadi, Bahraini authorities accused the cleric of co-directing a terrorist cell linked to a February bus bombing that injured five police officers. That bombing came shortly after Sanadi’s announced that his movement was “beginning a new stage” by “seizing the public square and grasping the trigger.”
Manama alleged that the cell’s fourteen members plotted political assassinations and traveled to Iran nearly 70 times in three months. Six cell members are accused of receiving IRGC training in Iran, and five others are accused of being trained in Iraq by the US-designated, Iranian-proxy terrorist group Kata’ib Hizballah. According to Reuters, the Brigades announced an alliance with Kata’ib Hizballah earlier this year.
Previously, Bahraini authorities have accused Sanadi of playing a prominent role in terrorist plots in 2015. One was a July 2015 bombing that killed two policemen and injured six others. Bahrain’s Interior Ministry identified him as one of the plotters, calling him a religious leader for several Bahraini terrorist groups, and asserted that he receives monthly payments from the IRGC. Weeks earlier, Manama described Sanadi as one of the IRGC’s coordinators for a plot to smuggle explosives from Iraq into Bahrain, and from there into Saudi Arabia.
Tehran’s Ideological and Military Fingerprints
The ideology of Sanadi’s Islamic Loyalty Movement reflects Iran’s efforts to export its revolution. For example, Sanadi told a pro-Hizballah Lebanese newspaper in 2014 that the ILM’s ideology is modeled after that of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and first supreme leader of the Islamic Republic. The ILM website features 30 statements from Khomeini’s successor Ali Khamenei that are described as “golden commandments for a jihadist administration.” The group also promotes a book by Lebanese Hizballah’s deputy leader, which teaches its approach to military jihad and vilayat-e faqih, the Iranian regime’s draconian system of clerical rule.
In speeches delivered in Qom in 2015 and 2016, Sanadi himself embraced vilayat-e faqih and recognized Khamenei as amir al mu’minin, or leader of the faithful. He also authored an anti-American article on Khamenei’s official website in December 2016. Other than a brief appearance in the Iraqi city of Karbala in late 2013, virtually all of Sanadi’s public appearances for propaganda purposes seem to have been made from Qom, including as recently as March of this year.
Last year, Sanadi gave a lecture on Bahrain to the Masoumieh Religious Seminary, a top institution for training clerics to serve in Iran’s military and security services, including the IRGC. According to Reuters, Sanadi was even allowed in September 2016 to deliver a Friday sermon at the most prestigious mosque in Qom. His activities in Qom highlight the overlap between Iran’s extremist ideology and his Bahrain-oriented activism.
Iran has been known to host other IRGC-backed violent extremists in Qom, including Abu Dura, an Iraqi national designated by the US Treasury who was known as “the Shiite Zarqawi,” a reference to former al-Qaeda in Iraq chief Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Laith Khazali, an Iraqi who was imprisoned on charges of leading an operation that killed five American soldiers in the Iraqi city of Karbala, reportedly was hosted in Qom immediately upon his release in 2009. Another suspected leader in the 2007 Karbala attack, Azhar al-Dulaimi, purportedly received his training beforehand from Lebanese Hezbollah under IRGC supervision near Qom.
Militarily, the Ashtar Brigades appear linked not just to the IRGC but also other IRGC terrorist proxies throughout the region.
Manama claims Sanadi co-directed Bahraini terror cells in 2015 and 2017 with Qassim Abdullah Ali, who it said is based in Iran and Iraq, where he allegedly coordinates the training of Bahraini terrorists by Kata’ib Hizballah. Manama also asserts that leaders of the Ashtar-linked Basta Group received $20,000 from Lebanese Hizballah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah to support the ILM and launch attacks in Bahrain.
Bahrain’s broader landscape
As these allegations suggest, Sanadi is not the only Bahraini individual Manama accuses of playing a top role in the Ashtar Brigades, and the group is not the only Bahraini extremist group aligned with Iran.
For example, the State Department indicated in its 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism that Manama intercepted a speedboat with arms and explosives linked to Iran and thought to be bound for the 14 February Youth Coalition, a radical Shiite opposition faction that has praised Khamenei.
Other Bahraini groups such as the Saraya al-Karar and the Revolutionary Struggle Organization have used imagery based on the IRGC logo of a hand reaching up to grasp a Kalashnikov rifle, according to Caleb Weiss. Weiss adds that another Bahraini terrorist group, Saraya al-Mokhtar, has demonstrated support for numerous IRGC proxies inside Iraq.
When the State Department sanctioned Sanadi, it took care to discourage Manama from perceiving its action as carte blanche for a domestic crackdown on the country’s Shiites, who form the majority of the population but are marginalized by its Sunni monarchy. Indeed, the announcement urged Bahrain’s government “to clearly differentiate its response to violent militia groups from its engagement with peaceful political opposition.”
This is particularly relevant given that the head of Bahrain’s main opposition party, al-Wefaq, is serving a four-year prison sentence for acts the US describes as “peaceful expression.” However, the State Department could undermine its own message if it moves ahead with its plan to drop human rights conditions from a proposed $2.8-billion sale of US fighter jets to Bahrain.
Bahrain’s regime has yet to address its serious domestic challenge from nonviolent Shiite opposition groups and a disaffected Shiite-majority public. But it also faces a genuine security threat from violent extremists. Washington’s recent counterterrorism sanctions against Sanadi and its confirmation of Tehran’s support for the Ashtar Brigades confirms one of the pivotal pieces in the Bahraini government’s narrative about Iran’s role sponsoring terrorism inside the kingdom. But if Bahrain’s rulers don’t find a constructive outlet for legitimate Shiite dissent, then they risk driving more of the opposition into Iran’s arms.

David Andrew Weinberg is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He specializes on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Amir Toumaj is a Research Analyst at Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Completing The Shia Horn (Daniel 8)

Image result for shia crescent 
Iranian militia leader talks of full Middle East dominance

JEDDAH: A notorious sectarian leader in Iraq has claimed that the Shiite project of encircling and dominating the Middle Eastern states is on track.
Delivering a speech in Arabic, at a graduation ceremony of Shiite clerics in Iraq on Thursday, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq militia commander Qais Al-Khazali said: “The reappearance of Imam Mahdi will mark the completion of the Shiite project. Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and the Houthis are working hard to make the ground fertile for Imam Mahdi.
Al-Khazali was referring to the Shiite belief that Imam Mahdi — the 12th and last Shiite imam who disappeared in the 9th century — will one day appear in order to bring justice to earth.
Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, which Al-Khazali leads, is one of the most violent Shiite militias in Iraq. It is aided and abetted by Iran. Al-Khazali reportedly said: “We’ll continue to work toward our project of a Shiite full moon, not a Shiite crescent as our enemies say.”
The phrase “Shiite crescent” was first coined by King Abdallah of Jordan 10 years ago. At that time, he meant Iranian control over Lebanon via Hezbollah, Syria via the Bashar Assad regime, and Iraq through the new Iran-allied government in Baghdad. Al-Khazali is now talking of a “Shiite full moon.”
“They (Iran and its allied militias) are looking for complete regional dominance,” said political analyst and former US diplomat Ali Khedery.
Talking to Arab News on Thursday, Khedery explained the background of Al-Khazali and the implications of his statement.
“Al-Khazali is the commander of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq. It used to be part of Muqtada Al-Sadr’s Jaish Al-Mahdi but then splintered off. It was specially cultivated by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ special forces unit, the Al-Quds Force.
“Asaib Ahl Al-Haq is one of the most violent Shiite militias that has operated in Iraq alongside, for example, Kata’ib Hezbollah and the Badr Corps, and they report directly to Al-Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani,” said Khedery.
According to Khedery, Al-Khazali was responsible for the kidnapping and then the killing of five American soldiers from a joint Iraqi-American Operations Center in 2007 in Karbala.
“As a result of that kidnapping and murder operation, US forces arrested him and held him for several years in a facility called Camp Cropper — the same high-value detainee facility where the Americans held Saddam Hussein. Al-Khazali was later released at Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s personal request,” Khedery told Arab News.
He said during the Iraq war, the Asaib Ahl Al-Haq militia was responsible for killing and wounding hundreds, if not thousands, of US soldiers and then also kidnapping or killing probably thousands of Iraqis.
“After the rise of Daesh, it became very active again and is now part of Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) to which the Iraqi government pays billions of dollars annually. It is now a virtual extension of the Iraqi Army,” he said.
Khedery said he would advise the international community against doubting the words and statements of these militia leaders.
“I take Iranian generals or the supreme leader or the militia commanders at their word because they have always — almost always — followed through on their threats. So, for example, when the Iranian supreme leader promises to wipe out Israel or when the Iranian defense minister threatens Saudi Arabia, or when Qassem Soleimani promises to change the regime in Bahrain or when Al-Khazali, in this case, promises to complete the Shiite crescent and make it a moon, I take them at their word,” said Khedery. “They are intent on exporting (former Iranian leader Ruhollah) Khomeini’s revolution across the Middle East.”
Since King Abdallah’s coinage of the phrase “Shiite crescent” 10 years ago, “the Iranians have unfortunately consolidated their grip over Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and the Iranian forces (have) further expanded into Pakistan and Afghanistan. Now they take Pakistani and Afghan recruits and send them to wage Khomeinist jihad in places like Iraq and Syria,” said Khedery. “They want to keep going with the export of the Khomeinist revolution. So their next targets are Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and then probably eventually Qatar and the UAE. And obviously, the Iranian-allied Houthis have taken control of Sanaa.”
Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh echoed Khedery’s words and said Asaib Ahl Al-Haq was an Iranian-backed Shiite militia, which has reportedly received significant financial, military and political support from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“Al-Khazali’s statement highlights three critical issues,” Rafizadeh told Arab News. “First of all, Iran and its proxies’ political agenda is anchored in sectarianism: Shiite versus Sunni. Second, although Iran views itself as leader of all Muslims, Tehran has been working effortlessly to export its particular version of Shiite ideology and revolutionary ideals. Third, Iran is determined to export its Shiite ideology through any possible means, including supporting many militias and designated terrorist groups.

Iran And The Shia Horn (Daniel 8:4)

Image result for SHIA CRESCENT

Tehran Backs Syria, Iraq to Ensure Regional Stability

The foreign policy advisor to the Leader of Islamic Revolution said Iran’s efforts to defend regional countries, including Syria and Iraq, are in line with the policy of promoting regional stability.

Ali Akbar Velayati was also quoted as saying by ISNA on Saturday in a meeting with German State Secretary Markus Ederer that if terrorism succeeds, “another Libya could take shape”.
“The Islamic Republic has always resisted [destabilizing forces] in the region and such moves [to support regional states] have obviously been made for the sake of peace and stability in the international arena and fighting terrorism,” he said.
He said regional states and the wider international community should not allow terrorists present in Syria and Iraq to repeat what they did to Libya.
Libya has been in complete chaos since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi by western-backed forces, with two rival administrations and armed groups fighting for control of the country.
Velayati referred to Iran’s role in protecting the Middle East from the extremism and stressed that any country that attaches importance to global peace should follow the same path.
“We consider defending Syria and Iraq and their leadership as defending ourselves since preventing their disintegration is the key to maintaining regional stability,” he said.
The senior official explained that the Islamic Republic’s military advisory support to Iraq and Syria in their campaign against terrorism has been offered at the request of the two countries’ governments.
Iraq and Syria have been facing the growing threat of terrorism, mainly posed by the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group that made swift advances in much of northern and western Iraq in mid-2014, after capturing large swaths of northern Syria.  Backed by their allies, the two Arab countries have in recent months made significant gains in the fight against terror and violence.
Velayati called Germany a major player in the global arena, especially in Europe, and said, “We hold great respect for Germany’s position in  the European Union and this can have a great impact on [Iran-Germany] bilateral ties.”
Ederer pointed to longstanding relations between the two states, which could help deepen ties. He also voiced Berlin’s positive stance on Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers and looked forward to improvement of the country’s relations with the global community.
Germany was among the major powers that helped conclude the nuclear accord with Iran, which led to sanctions relief in exchange for Tehran scaling down its nuclear activities.

The Iranian Horn Will Defend The Shia Crescent (Daniel 8:3)

News ID: 3955982 – Tue 18 April 2017 – 10:43
TEHRAN, Apr. 18 (MNA) – Hassan Rouhani said Iran’s defensive Army is not a threat to region and is ready to defend the whole critical and pivotal region of the Middle East.

Speaking at the massive military parade on Tuesday morning to mark Iran’s Army Day, President Rouhani said “I would like to extend my warm congratulations on the National Army Day to all staff, commanders, their respected families as well as the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei.”
“Army Day marks a reminder for sacrifice of brave Iranians during eight years of Imposed War against Iraq as well as protecting the country’s borderlands for almost 30 years after the war,” he continued.
“Virtuousness and grandeur have always been attributed to the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran both in the regions and in the world. Some armies in the world are associated with interference in internal affairs of other countries, genocide, protecting terrorists, coup, disrespect for view of people and the law while the Iranian Army is reminiscent of order, discipline, faith and holy defense of territories within the framework of law and national interests,” Rouhani said.
“The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran requires the Army to protect the country’s independence and territorial integrity as well as to maintain the Islamic Revolution,” he underscored.
Rouhani highlighted that capabilities of Iranian armed forces are now incomparable to the time of Imposed War since eye-catching achievements have been made in the meantime; “Iran’s defense industry and armed forces are becoming more powerful on a daily basis.”
The Iranian President rejoiced to note that one major objective of his government had been strengthening the country’s defense capabilities as evidenced by the 45% rise in the budget for defense sector despite tough economic conditions.
He recalled that the amount of progress in the past three and a half years were equal to the 10-year period before that saying “Iran’s armed forces are more prepared than any other time though they would never pose threat to others.”
Hassan Rouhani emphasized that the Army mainly seeks to prevent tensions and conflicts while at the same time maintains vigilance against conspiracies and boosts its deterrent power.
The senior official reassured neighboring countries that Iranian armed forces were ready to defend the whole critical and pivotal region of the Middle East; “other states can be confident that Iran’s Army holds defensive rather than offensive power.”
“Nevertheless, we have shown how vigorously will the Army defend people and the country in the face of aggression by invaders.”
Later at his speech, Iran’s President enumerated unique characteristics of the country’s Armed Forces including faith and divine inspiration since Army personnel are devoted and has always had sacrifice.
“Another distinguished feature of Iranian armed forces is their close relations with the nation which is a mutual relation indeed,” he stressed.
Rouhani said enjoying a Commander in Chief was another distinguished aspect of the Armed Forces, a leadership which stems from Islamic jurisprudence and moderation and possesses a legal and religious position.
He recalled the remarks made by Imam Khomeini and the Leader Ayatollah Khamenei who urge the armed forces to keep away from political games as a means of gaining more power and enjoying support of the nation.
Rouhani expressed hope that, by implementing religious orders of the Leader, unity will increase in Armed Forces in order to give sense of safety and calmness to the people.
HA/3955828

The Iranian vs American Horn (Daniel)

  • “The Persian Gulf is the Iranian nation’s home and the Persian Gulf and a large section of the Sea of Oman belong to this powerful nation. Therefore, we should be present in the region, hold war games and display our power.” – Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
  • In addition, Khamenei is sending a message to the Iranian people that the current process of implementing the nuclear agreement, lifting sanctions, and partial economic liberalization does not mean that Iran is going to liberalize its politics and allow freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and more political participation.
Some politicians and policy analysts argue that Iran’s sanctions relief and the continuing implementation of its nuclear program would push Iran towards moderation in dealing with the United States and Israel, as well as scaling down Iran’s expansionist and hegemonic ambitions. The realities on the ground suggest otherwise.

As Tehran’s revenues are rising, anti-American and anti-Semitic rhetoric by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are escalating.

The Iranian regime continues to view the U.S. and Israel as their top geopolitical, strategic and ideological enemies. According to Iran’s Mehr News Agency, on May 1, Khamenei welcomed the Secretary General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Abdullah Shalah, and his accompanying delegation in Tehran:

“Ayatollah Khamenei reaffirmed that with this perspective in regional issues, Iran sees the United States as the main enemy with the Zionist regime standing behind it. He pointed to extensive, unprecedented sanctions of the U.S. and its followers against the Islamic establishment in recent years and dubbed the objective of them as discouraging Iran from continuing its path; ‘but they failed to achieve their goals and will fail in future as well.’ “

Khamenei is sending a strong signal to Washington that Iran’s reintegration in the global financial system does not mean that the Iranian regime will change its hostility towards the U.S. and Israel.
In addition, Khamenei is sending a message to the Iranian people that the current process of implementing the nuclear agreement, lifting sanctions, and partial economic liberalization does not mean that Iran is going to liberalize its politics and allow freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and more political participation.

Khamenei is also making it clear that Iran is not going to fundamentally change its foreign policy objectives in the region.

Regarding Iran’s role in the Gulf, Iran’s Supreme Leader pointed out on May 2 that

The Persian Gulf is the Iranian nation’s home and the Persian Gulf and a large section of the Sea of Oman belong to this powerful nation. Therefore, we should be present in the region, hold war games and display our power.”

When it comes to Syria, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has become more emboldened and empowered in supporting the Syrian regime financially, militarily, and in intelligence and advisory capacities. Even during the current peace talks, Iran is ramping up its presence in Syria to increase Bashar Assad’s leverage in the negotiations.

In Iraq, Iran’s sectarian agenda and support for Shiite militias continues to cause political instability. This week, hundreds of followers of the Iraqi Shia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, stormed into the Iraqi parliament building, demanding its speaker halt the session. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned that these protests could lead to the Iraqi state’s failure. After the protests, al-Sadr — who spent several years studying in Qom (Iran’s center of Islamic studies) — travelled to Iran.

Currently, some of the powerful Iraqi Shiite militias with which Iran has close connections, and in which it is investing its resources, are: Sadr’s Promised Day Brigade, the successor to the Mahdi Army; the Badr Organization, Asa’ib Ahl al Haqq (League of the Righteous) and Kata’ib Hezbollah (Battalions of Hezbollah).

In Yemen and Bahrain, Iran’s support for the Houthi rebels and Shiite groups continues to fuel the sectarian conflicts there.

Khamenei has also unleashed a series of anti-U.S. and anti-Israel tweets, including:

“Lebanon’s Hezbollah is strong enough not to be hurt by some pressures; today, no doubt Zionist regime is scared of Hezbollah more than past.” (1 May 2016)

“Shia-Sunni clash is colonialist, US plot. Top issue is to realize 2 sides of the extensive war & one’s stance to avoid being against Islam.” (1 May 2016)

Iran’s foreign policy is anchored in three areas: ideological principles (anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism), national interests (mainly economic gains), and nationalism.

Although Khamenei needed to emphasize Iran’s national and economic interests, there is no evidence that he is giving up on the revolutionary ideological norms. Khamenei is relying on the so-called moderates — President Hassan Rouhani and his U.S.-educated foreign minister, Javad Zarif — to continue the process of implementing the nuclear deal in order to benefit Iran economically and ensure the regime’s hold on power.

Nevertheless, at the end of day, the key decision makers in Iran’s political establishments are Khamenei and the senior cadre of the IRGC, who prioritize Iran’s ideological and revolutionary principles. It is from them that Khamenei draws his legitimacy.

As long as the Supreme Leader is alive, one should not expect that Iran’s reintegration into the global economy to move the country to the moderate end of the spectrum, or that its anti-American, anti-Semitic sentiments and fundamentals of Tehran’s foreign policies will change.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and Harvard University scholar, is president of the International American Council.

Iran and the Shia Sickle (Daniel 8)


Khamenei vows full support for Hezbollah

By ARIEL BEN SOLOMON
Wed, 20 Apr 2016, 05:33 PM

Rouhani warns world powers against lagging in implementing nuclear deal.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated the Shi’ite country’s full support for its ally Hezbollah, as the Lebanese organization came under harsh attack by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states for its involvement in Syria’s civil war.

“Hezbollah and its faithful youth are shining like the sun and are a source of honor for the Muslim world,” he told members of the Iranian Students’ Islamic Association in Tehran on Wednesday, Fars News Agency reported.

Khamenei’s comments came after Riyadh and its allies harshly criticized Iran and Hezbollah for their interference in the internal affairs of states in the region in the final statement at the 13th summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation last week.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have cracked down on Hezbollah, and have deported residents suspected of supporting the group.

Iran’s supreme leader also said that Iranian youth are being targeted in a “soft war” of the “imperialist front” led by the US and “Zionist regime” which includes the political, economic, and cultural fields, Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported.

“A reason why they would confront us in our attempt to achieve peaceful nuclear technology is this feature of the imperialist front; should Iran concede some ground, they will advance any further deny us further progress in biotechnology, nanotechnology and other strategic technologies,” he added.
President Hassan Rouhani warned world powers that Tehran would seriously respond if they lag in implementing the nuclear deal.

“We should monitor and verify the other side’s performance,” Rouhani at a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday, according to Mehr. “If we see any lagging and shortages from the other side, we should certainly show serious reaction,” he added.