The Obama Deal is Tenuous

US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley testifies at the Capitol, May 25, 2022. (Screengrab)

US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley testifies at the Capitol, May 25, 2022. (Screengrab)

Biden administration will submit any new Iran deal to Congress for review: Malley

The US special envoy for Iran said he was “not particularly optimistic, to put it mildly,” about reaching an agreement.

Joseph Haboush, Al Arabiya English

Published: 25 May ,2022: 05:04 PM GSTUpdated: 25 May ,2022: 10:35 PM GST

US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley said on Wednesday that the Biden administration would submit any potential nuclear deal to Congress for review.

Testifying in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), Malley continued a previous trend of blaming the Trump administration for Iran inching closer to being able to acquire a nuclear weapon.

“The alternative theory JCPOA critics advanced was given a chance. It failed, and emphatically so,” he said, using the acronym for the 2015 nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration.

Malley was pressed by both Republicans and Democrats during the hearing, where the Biden administration was heavily criticized for its approach and adamance on reaching a deal with Iran.

He still said he believed that reaching a deal with Iran was in the best interest of the US but noted that there was a possibility of no agreement being reached. “We do not have a deal with Iran and prospects for reaching one are, at best, tenuous,” he said.

For almost a year, Biden administration officials have been saying that Iran is “weeks away” from being able to get a nuclear weapon. Asked about these statements, Malley said: “At this point, it is our technical expert assessment that the non-proliferation benefits of the deal are worth the sanctions relief we would provide.”

Doubling down on his skepticism of a deal being reached, Malley said there remained a “huge question.” He said he was “not particularly optimistic, to put it mildly.”

Malley also hit back at reports, suggesting Moscow was given the lead role in the talks. Iran has refused to engage in direct dialogue with US officials in Vienna, where officials had been meeting to revive the deal. “I think there’s been a lot written about Russia‘s role, which is pure fantasy. Russia has not played a central role in these negotiations; I think our European allies would take offense at hearing that,” according to Malley.

The White House is Worried About the Iranian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 26, 2022. (AP)

White House worried Iran could develop nuclear weapon in weeks

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 26, 2022. (AP)

WASHINGTON: The White House is worried Iran could develop a nuclear weapon in weeks, press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday, after Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted earlier in the day the country has accelerated its nuclear program.
“Yes it definitely worries us,” Psaki said, adding the time needed for Iran to produce a nuclear weapon is down from about a year.
Earlier, Blinken said the US still believes a return to a nuclear deal is the best path with Iran, amid a prolonged standoff in talks.
Facing criticism of the deal during an appearance before Congress, Blinken called the 2015 agreement imperfect but better than the alternatives.
“We continue to believe that getting back into compliance with the agreement would be the best way to address the nuclear challenge posed by Iran and to make sure that an Iran that is already acting with incredible aggression doesn’t have a nuclear weapon,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“We’ve tested the other proposition, which was pulling out of the agreement, trying to exert more pressure,” he said.
The result, he said, is that the “breakout time” for Iran to develop a nuclear bomb if it so chooses is “down to a matter of weeks” after the deal pushed it beyond a year.
Former president Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement reached under his predecessor Barack Obama and instead imposed sweeping sanctions, including trying to stop other nations from buying Iranian oil.
President Joe Biden’s administration has been engaged in more than a year of indirect talks in Vienna on reviving the agreement, which had promised Iran a relief from sanctions in return for major restrictions on its nuclear work.
Both US and Iranian officials say that most points have been settled. Disputes appear to include Iran’s demand that Biden undo Trump’s designation of the clerical state’s powerful Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.
(With Reuters and AFP)

The Biden team is misleading the public — and themselves — about the Obama deal

The Biden team is misleading the public — and themselves — about the Iran deal

05/20/22 02:30 PM ET

Iran’s nuclear program is again set to take center stage when the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors meets on June 6. Tehran continues to flagrantly violate its nuclear non-proliferation obligations, extending well beyond the 2015 nuclear deal.

Nevertheless, senior Biden administration officials continue to lobby for an agreement that was always doomed to fail. Their claims of the deal’s supposed benefits have been almost entirely belied by the stark reality of Iran’s actions since the adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) almost seven years ago.

The deal was built on the premise that Iran would accept a détente with the United States — or  at the very least, was prepared to moderate its violent, destabilizing behavior, in exchange for economic (and nuclear) incentives. It took almost no time for Iran to prove that this premise was not just false but fantastical.

The years immediately following the conclusion of the JCPOA were marked by a surge in Iran’s aggression across the Middle East, a more than 30 percent jump in Iran’s “defense” budget and increased funding for terrorist groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Calls for “death to America” echoed in state-dominated mosques across the Islamic Republic.

Even as a narrow nuclear arms control agreement, the deal’s terms were always too weak, too limited, and too temporary to be effective at anything other than kicking the can down the road a bit. The deal is so bad that from the start, its proponents have relied on misdirection, overstatement and even outright lies to make their case. 

Iran’s proven ability to violate the deal’s terms rapidly, once it chose to do so, exposed their insufficiency. It is undeniable that the regime deceived, stonewalled and harassed inspectors, despite promises of “unprecedented inspections.” A “one-year break-out time” was calculated using dubious accounting of Iran’s illegally-built uranium enrichment centrifuges. And the agreement’s restrictions on the nuclear program proved to be easily and quickly reversible, debunking the assertions that the JCPOA blocked all of Iran’s paths to a nuclear weapon.

With the original deal thoroughly discredited, Biden administration spokespeople have resorted to a new generation of falsehoods to sell a “return” to the JCPOA. Three stand out.

In his Senate confirmation hearing, now-Secretary of State Antony Blinken explained that then-President-elect Biden sought to return to the deal “as a platform … to seek a longer and stronger agreement.” Other Biden appointees echoed the argument, which at the time appeared to be a novel admission of the JCPOA’s weaknesses.

A return to the JCPOA would necessarily entail the lifting of many of the sanctions that the U.S. put in place after withdrawing from the deal in 2018. Neither Blinken nor any of his colleagues has explained why Iran would agree to negotiate a follow-on agreement that would impose tougher and longer-lasting restrictions, especially after the removal of the most significant sources of pressure on the regime. Their silence is unsurprising. After a year of serial capitulation to Iranian demands at the negotiating table, and Iran’s repeated, explicit rejection of the “longer and stronger” idea, the expression seems to have been dropped from the administration’s lexicon.

The second is Blinken’s claim that the United States seeks “a return to full implementation” of the JCPOA. Blinken knows full well that it is physically and temporally impossible to do so. Iran’s work on advanced centrifuges, high levels of uranium enrichment and uranium metallurgy — in violation of the original deal’s terms — has equipped the regime with irrevocable experience and knowledge needed to develop nuclear weapons.

Nor does the United States really seem to be demanding a return to full implementation. In a renewed deal, Iran reportedly would be allowed to store, rather than destroy, the centrifuges it has built in numbers and capabilities beyond those specified in the JCPOA. Blinken is undoubtedly aware that he cannot deliver the fabled one-year break-out time. Despite knowing these things, he continues to tout returning to “full implementation” or “full compliance.”

The third falsehood is an old deception wrapped in a new layer of untruth. In 2015, President Obama, then-Vice President Joe Biden and others insisted that the JCPOA was limited to nuclear matters and would not affect the maintenance or imposition of American sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorism, human rights violations, arms trafficking or other illicit activities. In practice, the U.S. subordinated all other policy concerns to the nuclear deal, including coming to terms with Iran’s complicity in the atrocities of the Syrian civil war and reportedly putting the brakes on a worldwide, multi-agency investigation of Iran’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah.

Iran has now demanded that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be removed from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations as a condition for re-upping the JCPOA. Biden, according to his own promises, should have dismissed this out of hand as irrelevant to the nuclear question and contrary to the JCPOA’s terms. Instead, his administration’s various spokespeople have floated a series of trial balloons that include acceding to the Iranian demand, but keeping other sanctions in place, or designating only individual IRGC members or specific IRGC components such as the Quds Force.

That the IRGC killed over 600 American soldiers in Iraq and is today plotting to assassinate former high-ranking American officials should have made Biden’s decision even easier. But for the White House, the IRGC question is a useful distraction from the real issue: The JCPOA never did and never will solve the Iranian nuclear problem. This is the heart of the matter and will remain so, whatever Biden decides about the IRGC.

The day is rapidly approaching when the president will have to contend with the most dangerous lie of them all: The JCPOA forces its supporters to pretend that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful when clearly it is not. With or without the JCPOA, Biden must formulate a genuine solution to the Iranian nuclear threat. If he fails, either Iran will acquire nuclear weapons or rival powers will try to use force to prevent that outcome, potentially sparking a broader regional war. To avoid these grave outcomes, Biden and his team must stop lying about the JCPOA — not just to Congress, the press and the public, but to themselves.

Jonathan Schachter is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Obama shouldn’t blow his Iran protest ‘do-over’

Biden shouldn’t blow his Iran protest ‘do-over’

by Michael Rubin

 | May 18, 2022 06:00 AM

In 2009, Iran erupted. Iranian elections have never been free in the Western sense: The clerical regime carefully vets who can run and often eliminates more than 98% of the candidates before the first vote is cast. Still, Iranians were outraged when the regime blatantly changed vote tallies to ensure Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s corrupt, Holocaust-denying president, got a second term. Protests erupted in every province, every major city, and most large towns. Iranians not only denounced Ahmadinejad, but they also condemned Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and called for an end to the Islamic Republic.

As the protests stretched from days to weeks, Iranians grew frustrated with then-President Barack Obama’s muted response, often chanting, “Obama, Obama, you are either with us or against us.” Only subsequently did it emerge that Obama sought to downplay any support for the protesters because he did not want to endanger his secret outreach to Khamenei. This led to a series of negotiations and hostage ransom that replenished Iran’s treasury and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Today, President Joe Biden has a rare opportunity for a do-over. Anger is boiling in Iran at increasing bread prices. The Russia-Ukraine war has disrupted much of Iran’s wheat imports, which had reached record levels even before the war. Much of the shortfall in domestic grain production, meanwhile, is due to regime corruption. The river ran dry in Isfahan last year, for example, not because of climate change but rather because the regime dispensed no-bid contracts to Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-owned companies to build unnecessary dams solely for the profit of the military.

During Nowruz celebrations for the Persian New Year, many Iranian city dwellers left home because raising prices and food scarcity — chicken is also in especially short supply — meant they could no longer offer the traditional hospitality that marks the holiday. Rumors, meanwhile, circulate on Iranian social media that the Iranian government is about to implement bread rationing. The government, for its part, rails against the bakery profiteers and promises subsidies to the poorest.

Bread riots have long been a third rail in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East. Wheat shortages due to heavy snow forced the regime to deploy security forces across several northern provinces in 2008, while slashing subsidies led to deadly riots in Egypt in 1977 and again 40 years later. Many Iranians do not understand why they lack wheat when Khorasan, Iran’s northeastern province, has traditionally been a breadbasket for the region.

There has always been a socialist component to the Islamic Revolution. Revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini and those surrounding him melded Islamism with various Marxist influences. The regime promotes a command economy while often rooting its decisions in an amorphous concept of social justice. Today, however, Iranian leaders have difficulty distracting the public with the rhetoric of class warfare when poor Iranians see the leadership rather than the disappearing middle class as the source of the problem.

Iran is a tinderbox, and rising bread prices and shortages could be the spark that sets off the conflagration.

As Iranians protest the regime that has failed to keep its promises and transformed Iran into an international pariah, the question for Biden is whether he will repeat Obama’s mistake and turn his back on the Iranian people in order to grease a process with the regime they hate. Alternately, he can stand aside and declare that the Iranian people have the same right to freedom and liberty as the Ukrainian and American peoples do.

Should Iranians control their own destiny, the nuclear impasse will fade away — first because it is the ideology of the regime that threatens and second because, economically and from an energy standpoint, there is no logical reason for Iran to invest in nuclear energy.

Let us hope that, as Iran erupts, Biden is farsighted enough to see the big picture and not repeat Obama’s mistakes.

Michael Rubin (@mrubin1971) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential. He is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Trump Administration Provokes the Iranian Horn

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gives an address. (Photo credit: ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Pompeo’s Visit With Iranian Resistance Will Rattle Regime

 By Ken Blackwell | May 17, 2022 | 10:45am EDT

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gives an address. (Photo credit: ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s presence at the headquarters of the largest Iranian opposition movement Monday marked a significant moment in U.S.-Iran policy. Its impact on the strategic U.S. outlook toward Iran may be indirect or momentarily hazy, but its historic connotation will be neither short-lived nor inconsequential. It has the potential to persuade a shift in focus to an American policy orientation that has been dangerously discounted for far too long.

In November 2019, Iran was shocked by the most unprecedented nationwide protests in its history. In January 2020, the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, delivered a major public speech, in which he blamed the main opposition Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) for organizing the protests. This is a critical point that Western policymakers ignore.

Incidentally, several days before the uprising, former U.S. national security advisor to President Obama, General James Jones, had paid a visit to Ashraf-3, the MEK’s home in Albania. Khamenei publicly pointed to that visit in his speech, saying, “Several days before the riots, in a small and sinister European country [Albania], an American [General Jones] joined some Iranians [MEK] and planned the crisis.”

Khamenei remains deathly afraid of the MEK. Ironically, however, his ministry of intelligence has painted the movement in its official propaganda as a marginalized “cult” that does not enjoy public backing. Some American journalists uncritically relay the same narrative.

On Monday, the most senior American official to date, a Secretary of State in the previous administration, visited Ashraf-3 and met with Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in which the MEK is the main component.

The visit is meaningful for several reasons. Every time the movement attracts growing international recognition, the regime reacts with a mix of fury and fear. Over the past two decades, the MEK and the NCRI have been recognized by international luminaries, lawmakers, human rights defenders, policy experts, top officials, and thousands of parliamentarians on both sides of the Atlantic for their genuine struggle for democracy and freedom in Iran.

Horrified, the regime tried to bomb the NCRI’s international gathering in Paris in June 2018. Recently, a Belgian court found an Iranian regime diplomat and three accomplices guilty of conspiring to bomb the Free Iran rally in 2018.

For the past few years, the regime has become even more sensitive to the MEK as an existential threat and the only alternative to its decaying rule. First, the MEK’s Resistance Units have expanded the scope and depth of their activities, leading anti-regime activities in hundreds of cities and organizing nationwide protests. Second, the MEK has led an elaborate international movement to bring the major culprits of the regime to account for their crimes against humanity and genocide in 1988.

In that year, at least 30,000 political prisoners, 90% of whom were MEK members and supporters, were brutally massacred for their political and religious beliefs on the orders of former Supreme Leader and regime founder Khomeini. Their bodies were dumped in secret mass graves located across the country. Amnesty International has called it a crime against humanity while United Nations officials and rapporteurs have demanded an independent international inquiry into the killings. Notably, the regime’s current president, Ebrahim Raisi, was involved as a key executioner.

Dozens of MEK witnesses have testified in Sweden against a former Iranian regime official involved in the 1988 massacre. A ruling is expected this year, which will have a lasting consequence for the regime internationally and domestically.

In these circumstances, Pompeo’s visit lends further credence to the argument that the Iranian opposition led by the MEK is gaining ground while the regime is clearly on the brink. It points to the MEK’s startling staying power against all odds. It shows that the organization is here to stay, and that major policy experts consider it as a serious alternative to the regime. A former U.S. Secretary of State does not play dice on such a critical issue that generates the regime’s permanent wrath. This is especially noteworthy as U.S. authorities are actively protecting Pompeo after receiving credible threats by the regime against his life.

Pompeo’s visit to Ashraf-3 also serves as a guideline for the most pragmatic and appropriate policy toward Iran. This policy should reject appeasing the regime while siding with the Iranian people. The Ukrainian example should serve as a model. Appeasing dictators produces potent dangers to international peace and security. A resilient people and opposition have a chance against dictators. Ukraine has shown that regardless of size, a determined opposition can be a serious and formidable opponent against some of the world’s largest powers.

The MEK’s message and history gives a similar flavor. The Iranian people have a chance to win against the ruling theocracy. The Iranian people have not resigned to a future dominated by dictatorship. They want freedom and democracy and they are paying the requisite price for it. Pompeo’s visit shows that the international community should support the MEK in its plight. The policy orientation is as clear as it is noble: Instead of appeasing the regime, stand with the Iranian people and their organized opposition in their quest for a free, secular, democratic, and non-nuclear Iran.

Ken Blackwell was the former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

A nuclear Iran will create a Middle East nightmare: Revelation 16

Getty ImagesIf Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries will do everything possible not to be left behind.

A nuclear Iran could create a Middle East nightmare

BY FRANK SOBCHAK, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR – 05/11/22 1:30 PM ET
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY CONTRIBUTORS ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEW OF THE HILL

Much ink has been spilled over how much of a threat a nuclear Iran would pose to Israel and her allies. Most scholars and practitioners agree that allowing an aggressive, expansionist regime that has described Israel as a “one-bomb country” to acquire the most terrifying weapon ever invented would be reckless and suicidal. However, recent efforts to rekindle the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have led to a string of pundits and politicians describing how to live with a nuclear-armed Iran.

Before accepting such a fatalistic position, it is important to review all the potential repercussions of such a tectonic change. One rarely explored impact is the potential for further proliferation within the Middle East. If Iran crosses the nuclear threshold — which White House officials worry could happen in weeks — Saudi Arabia will do everything possible not to be left behind.

In the intelligence world, assessing a threat is often based on two elements: capability and intent. Saudi Arabia’s nuclear program has both. In terms of capabilities, Saudi Arabia began building a 30-kilowatt research reactor in 2018, a curious decision given that producing energy through nuclear reactors is exponentially more expensive than burning fossil fuels, of which they have an abundance. More telling is that the Saudis have not agreed to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the world’s nuclear safety and proliferation watchdog. Saudi Arabia has approximately 90,000 tons of unmined uranium, likely enough fuel for that reactor as well as a weapons program, especially if reports are correct that China helped construct a facility to process the raw ore.

Even if Saudi Arabia decides not to obtain the materials necessary for a weapons program, such as centrifuges or plutonium reprocessing facilities, there is credible evidence that they have an agreement with Pakistan to provide nuclear weapons in the event of a crisis such as Iran becoming a nuclear power. Saudi Arabia is long believed to have financed Pakistan’s weapons program, which is assessed to have approximately 160 warheads. Several U.S. and NATO officials indicated that a small subset of those weapons is earmarked for such a crisis. Amos Yadlin, the former head of Israeli Military Intelligence, observed that if Iran acquired a nuclear weapon, “The Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb; they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.” Those warheads could be fitted to an arsenal of intermediate-range ballistic missiles that originally were provided by China but now are produced domestically.

In terms of indicators, there is extremely strong evidence that the kingdom has every intent to join the “smallest club on earth,” as the group of states possessing nuclear weapons has been described. One needs only to explore the official statements of its leaders to understand how clearly they have communicated their objectives. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MbS, bluntly noted in 2018, “Without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” 

Such overt displays of Saudi nuclear intent are not new. As Prince Turki al-Faisal, who served as chief of intelligence and ambassador to the U.S., told a conference in 2011, “We must, as a duty to our country and people, look into all options we are given, including obtaining these weapons ourselves.” Further communicating Saudi Arabia’s stance is what it has not said: It has refused to sign nonproliferation agreements and has not agreed to bans on enriching uranium or reprocessing spent fuel — the two ways to produce weapons-grade material.

The kingdom’s intent to acquire nuclear weapons is driven, in part, by the fact that Saudi Arabia and Iran have engaged in a series of proxy wars since Iran’s 1979 revolution. While a component of the conflict is sectarian, dating to the Sunni-Shi’a schism, the core of the struggle is for dominance and power in the Middle East. Saudi support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War, combined with Iranian expansionism as part of its plan for a “Shi’a crescent,” has led to conflict between surrogates in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. The conflict has escalated so much that even Saudi Arabia itself is not off-limits to attacks.

In some ways, the two states parallel the nuclear pathways of similar arch-rivals Pakistan and India. Each views the other as an existential threat and if one stands poised to acquire nuclear weapons, the other will seek the same to maintain the balance of power.

Recent changes in the kingdom’s geostrategic position increase the odds of proliferation. In the past, Saudi Arabia benefitted from a warm relationship with the United States. Like Japan and South Korea, having America as a powerful friend ensured that other regional powers could not become existential threats. But that calculus has changed. Following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia became an international pariah. President Biden publicly threatened to make the Kingdom “pay the price” and described its government as having “little social redeeming value.” Saudi Arabia is somewhat on its own now, and with the possibility of its nemesis acquiring nuclear weapons, it faces little choice but to do the same. The painful lesson of Ukraine and Libya — which gave up their nuclear weapons — is that the survival of states that don’t have nuclear weapons is at the whim of states that do.When will ‘economic growth’ account for environmental costs?America’s sorely needed internet declaration is far from redundant

If a Saudi acquisition of the bomb is not enough to generate concern, it should be noted that they are not the only country that stands on the precipice of proliferation. There are indications that Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are considering developing similar programs with the hope of establishing a deterrence as well as earning the prestige that accompanies possessing a weapon that is “the destroyer of worlds.”

Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon would not be the end; it would be just the beginning. Any thinking about how the world could live with it should include the almost certain impact of further proliferation in an unstable region that is rife with systems of government that could change violently overnight. We must consider such future nightmares while we debate what must be done now with Iran.  

Frank Sobchak, a retired U.S. Army colonel, is a publishing contributor at The MirYam Institute. During his 26-year Army career, he served in various Special Forces assignments including leading teams and companies in 5th Special Forces Group. He has taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Tufts University, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Follow him on Twitter @AbuJeshua.TAGS IRAN NUCLEAR AGREEMENT MIDDLE EAST NUCLEAR WARHEADS SAUDI ARABIA

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The Great Islamic Awakening: Revelation 16

By Sondoss Al Asaad

Martyr Qassem Soleimani and his role in Islamic awakening toward the Palestinian cause

May 10, 2022 – 9:0

 “We don’t sleep for one night unless we think of eliminating our enemies.  We will continue our endeavors for the victory of the Palestinian resistance day and night, for its victory, until the earth, sky, and sea become hell for the Zionists,” stresses Martyr Hajj Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who believed in the cause of Al-Quds, sacrificed on its fronts, paid the tax of perseverance in its path, and suffered from the scourge of the siege and international brutal sanctions for its sake.

Indeed, over the last four decades, Iran is still steadfast in its advocacy for Palestine as recommended by Imam Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, and Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who always recommends defending Palestine as a legitimate and divine duty.

On International Quds Day, the Palestinians affirm that Hajj Qassem Soleimani was a pioneering devotee of Palestine, in word, deed, and sacrifices, dedicating his entire life for the sake of Palestine until its resistance has become strong and capable. Martyr Soleimani was a loyal and humble soldier, who loved Palestine, and his greatest concern was to support its steadfastness for his certainty that the Palestinians would preserve the cause and preserve their Arab and Islamic identity in the face of the Zionist colonial identity.

Staunch supporter of Palestinian harmony

Hajj Qassem was keen to receive the various Palestinian factions in Tehran, Beirut, and Damascus, regardless of their political identity and organizational affiliation as he had a remarkable role in connecting them with the Arab and Islamic depth. He remained confident that all good is in the cohesion of all parties to the axis of resistance. Further, he personally bore criticisms that accused him of overconfidence, to the extent that Sayyed Khamenei appreciated his sincere efforts, his patience, and certainty as he was able to heal the rift and unite the ranks of the Palestinian resistance.

Hajj Qassem proved that Iran does not differentiate in its support for the resistance between Sunnis and Shiites. He prioritized the Palestinian resistance to many other Shiite forces in Lebanon or Iraq and spared no efforts to extinguish the fire of sectarianism because he knew that the enemy was the one who ignites its flames to disperse the Muslims. In a speech in 2017, he says, “We do not help Palestine for the sake of the Shiites; we do not work at all with anyone because of being Shiite. 99% of the Palestinian people are Sunnis and we defend them.”

Martyr Qassem Soleimani realized the strength of the patient Palestinian people, so he did not fail them nor did he hesitate to meet their needs with salaries and aid. Plus, he has always personally received the wounded in Iranian hospitals, contributed to their treatment, and followed up on their medical conditions.

As for the Palestinian detainees, they were at the forefront of his priorities, and he received their messages, listened to their complaints, and worked with the Palestinian resistance forces to liberate them, improve their living conditions, and expedite their release in conjunction with the resistance forces to exchange.

Relentless support for the resistance

Hajj Qassem provided the Palestinian resistance with Iranian missiles, as well as the technology of their manufacture and development so that it would be able to be self-reliant, manufacture the missiles it needs on its own, and benefit from the raw materials available to it for the next war, which the Steel Dome cannot deter despite all its anti-war systems.

In addition to the missiles that played a major role in changing deterrence equations, Hajj Qassem Soleimani had a major role in the offensive tunnels weapon, as the Palestinian resistance, through the network of infrastructure tunnels that it established under the Gaza Strip, reached the enemy’s settlements to carry out advanced operations.

Despite this, Martyr Soleimani did not leave the Palestinians alone. In this regard, Ziyad Al-Nakhala, Secretary-General of the Islamic Jihad Movement, confirms that Hajj Qassem Soleimani personally took part in the Gaza wars and spent hours with the resistance fighters. He adds that he would “wake up with us for the dawn prayer and pray behind the Sunni Imam. His behavior seemed to us very natural as one’s own faith does not contradict their righteous struggle for Islam.”

Hajj Qassem Soleimani believed that unity among Muslims was the only way to confront the enemies of the Islamic nation. Hence, he took a practical step toward strengthening unity among the Muslim ummah and drawing their attention to the first issue of the Islamic world, which is Palestine, despite the United States’ arrogant measures against him. Thus, he has honorably and deservedly earnt the name ‘Martyr of Al-Aqsa’.

Last shot to revive Iran-Obama deal

Last shot to revive Iran deal

Last shot to revive Iran deal

Ahmed Mustafa, Tuesday 10 May 2022

European efforts to save the Vienna talks towards an Iran nuclear deal are being called “the last bullet”, writes Ahmed Mustafa. It will either be deadly or blank

Iran s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, right, welcomes the IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi for their meeting in Tehran (photos: AFP)

The European Union coordinator of negotiations to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Enrique Mora, visited Tehran this week with proposals to break the deadlock. Talks had stalled in mid-March after high hopes that a draft agreement would be signed.

The deal, made in 2015 between Iran and world powers, was to stop Iran developing its nuclear capabilities in return for easing Western and international sanctions on Tehran. In 2018, US president Donald Trump withdrew from the deal and imposed even more sanctions. Last year the Biden administration started negotiations to rejoin the deal now that Iran had already stepped up its uranium enrichment, coming closer to weapons-grade stock.

EU signatories to JCPOA – the UK, France and Germany – are the main negotiators with Iran in Vienna as there have been no direct talks between the Iranian and American delegations. The remaining parties – Russia and China – are expected to help, but they are generally considered supporters of Iran.

The eighth round of the Vienna talks was set be the last and some sources have mentioned a 27-page draft document covering all outstanding issues. But Russia demanded a waiver against any provisions that might curtail its relations with Iran under JCPOA. Though the Russian demand was later loosened, the Iranians raised an issue the Americans say was not part of the negotiations. Tehran insists that Washington should lift the terror designations on Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). The paramilitary organisation is a powerful arm of the ruling regime with vast business interests, and is the main force behind Iran’s proxy groups in neighbouring countries from Iraq and Lebanon to Yemen.

Even though the White House is keen on reviving the Iran deal, it finds the issue of the IRGC a thorny one. The Israelis and US allies in the Gulf are more than concerned. The Congress last week passed a non-binding measure stating that any nuclear agreement with Tehran should also address Iran’s support for terrorism in the region, and that the US should not lift sanctions on the IRGC. Despite the fact that President Biden does not need Congress approval to sign a return to the JCPOA, the bipartisan measure endorsed by a super-majority of senators is a signal to the White House for the upcoming mid-term elections. The ruling Democratic Party could lose any majority in Congress, both in the House and Senate.

That is why State Department Spokesman Ned Price said last week that the US is preparing equally for both a scenario where there is a mutual return to compliance with Iran on a nuclear deal, and one in which there is not an agreement. “Because a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA is very much an uncertain proposition, we are now preparing equally for either scenario,” Price said. The Europeans are now taking the lead in trying to find a compromise, to prevent Vienna talks from faltering.

The war in Ukraine is a new concern pushing the EU to act, but it has also hardened the Iranian position, as Tehran tried to capitalise on the global energy crisis that the war aggravated. “The Iranians became emboldened by the war, the American need for more oil and the European need for more natural gas, as the US and the EU try to scale down their dependence on Russian energy supplies,” a veteran Western diplomat told Al-Ahram Weekly. Tehran thinks that the Europeans are between a rock and hard place. But that might be a delusion, as the diplomat notes: “Europe has other options to procure energy, replacing Russian imports. Anyone thinking that Brussels (EU) might pressure the Americans, especially for the sake of Iran’s interests, is probably dreaming.”

In an interview with the Financial Times this week, EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell talked about a “middle way” to end the stalemate. He suggested that “the terror designation on the IRGC could be generally lifted, with specific parts of the organisation still on the list”, as the FT reported. That “specific part” of the Corps is the Al-Quds Brigade. But the problem is that the vast business and financial interests of the IRGC are inseparable from the brigade.

Hardliners in Iran see the situation now, especially with the war in Ukraine, as an opportunity to “demand the maximum”, as some analysts say. An Iranian lawmaker has called on the authorities to tell the people that the Vienna talks to restore the 2015 nuclear deal will yield no results, according to a report on Iran International. Mahmoud Ahmadi-Bighash, who is a member of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said this week that “there is no news about the revival of JCPOA because it has reached a dead-end. Our differences with the United States and the Europeans are fundamental,” he noted, saying that “the Americans believe that we should give up our principles while we want them to give up their arrogant and bullying behaviour.”

But it is not true that the Vienna talks are dead, even if they have reached an impasse. “The efforts to revive the deal are not dead. These are just more of the same blockages that periodically appear but things continue to move forward, in fits and starts. Qatar’s emir is also visiting Tehran this week on his way to Europe to try to get the nuclear deal moving again. But we’re in a situation now, in light of the economic problems created by the Ukraine war, where the White House has more interest in making this happen sooner than Iran. So Iran will play it tough,” as Oxford University historian and political analyst Andrew Hammond told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Whether the Europeans manage to get Iran back to sign the prepared draft, tweaking the IRGC issue, is still in doubt. Iranians might be bargaining hard, but the harder they go the more likely the whole process to snap.

The Obama-Iran Deal is Dying

US State Department Spokesman Ned Price. FILE PHOTO

US State Department Spokesman Ned Price

Amid Freeze In Nuclear Talks, US Calls Iran ‘Sponsor Of Terrorism’

8 hours ago3 minutes

Author: Maryam Sinaee

Washington signaled on Monday that it is not willing to remove terrorism-related sanctions demanded by Iran as a pre-condition to reach a new nuclear deal.

At his press briefing Monday, the US State Department Spokesman Ned Price reiterated that the administration of President Joe Biden did not want to “negotiate in public” but also said that Tehran needs to address the concerns of Washington if it wants sanctions-lifting that goes beyond the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“If they want to negotiate issues that fall outside the purview of the JCPOA, then we’ll do that, but they will need to negotiate those issues in good faith with reciprocity,” Price said.

Apparently the two most important demands, unrelated to the JCPOA, that Iran has put on the table, and wants to be met as “signs of goodwill” before a deal is signed, are removing the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) from a US terror list and the release of Iranian funds frozen under US sanctions in other countries, such as South Korea and Iraq.

The IRGC, however, was sanctioned in 2019 by the Trump administration as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and Washington has signaled that if Tehran wants to have this and related sanctions removed, it should provide guarantees that its regional behavior will change.

Moreover, Iranian officials have also threatened revenge against former US officials for the targeted killing of IRGC Qods (Quds) Force commander Qasem Soleimani in 2020, a factor that has made it more difficult to discuss the removal of IRGC terrorist designation.

The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh on Monday indicated that Tehran was not going to offer any guarantees not to take revenge on American officials. “Bringing these individuals to justice is a fundamental principle in Iran’s foreign policy,” he said in his weekly press briefing.

Price on Monday called the Islamic Republic the “world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism”. “We will use every appropriate tool to confront the IRGC’s destabilizing role in the region including working closely with our partners in Israel,” he said. This was perhaps a signal that the Biden administration does not intend to remove IRGC sanctions.

Another thorny issue has been Tehran’s insistence to have its frozen funds in third countries released, something that could be linked with freedom for several US citizens held in Iran on trumped-up political charges.

Tehran’s foreign ministry spokesman said Monday that arrangements over repatriating Iran’s funds were “none of Washington’s business.” Iranian officials have claimed in recent days that they will repatriate the funds independently of the nuclear talks, but they did not explain how if US banking sanction are not lifted.

Washington wants the releasee of its citizens currently detained in Iran as a sign of goodwill from Tehran. Beyond the nuclear deal itself, Price said Monday, Washington is focused on the release of its citizens.

Tehran has always insisted that the issue of detained foreign nationals and dual citizens is independent from the nuclear talks but is prepared to release the detainees “on humanitarian grounds”.

Troops Injured in Rocket Attack by Iranian Horn

US Syria
US military vehicles in Syria (photo from archive)

Troops Injured in Rocket Attack on US Base in Syria

 6 hours ago  April 8, 2022

Four US troops were injured on Thursday after rockets hit a base housing American forces in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ez-zur.

The American troops are being treated for minor injuries and evaluated for traumatic brain injury after a Thursday indirect fire attack on the Green Village base in eastern Syria, according to a release from Operative Inherent Resolve.

The rockets struck two support buildings at the Green Village base, which is run by the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-allied, Kurdish-led militant group.

“At this time, four US service members are being evaluated for minor injuries and possible traumatic brain injuries,” the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement.

The base was previously attacked in January, with eight rockets landing inside the perimeter.

The issue of traumatic brain injuries in US Central Command has gained more and more attention in the past two years, following Iran’s missile attack on Iraq’s al-Asad Air Base in Jan. 2020. Pentagon officials initially reported no casualties, but subsequent screenings in the following weeks found that more than 100 troops had suffered TBIs, Military Times reported.

When asked about the attack during a press conference, then-President Donald Trump downplayed the seriousness of head injuries.

“I heard that they had headaches, and a couple of other things,” he said at the time, later offering amputations as an example of a more concerning injury. “But I would say, and I can report, that it is not very serious.”

The reporting and tracking of those injuries came under the scrutiny of the Defense Department’s inspector general in July 2020, when the office launched a project to evaluate how doctors diagnosed, treated and reported TBIs up the chain of command.

Based on the as-yet-unreleased results of the first project, a DoD IG spokeswoman told Military Times in October, the IG launched a second evaluation to dig deeper.

The attack come amid growing anti-US sentiments over Washington’s military and political adventurism in the region and coincided with the second martyrdom anniversary of Iran’s top anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Suleimani in a US drone strike in Iraq.

General Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and his Iraqi comrade Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), were martyred along with their companions in the drone strike, authorized by former president Donald Trump, near Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020.

Both commanders were highly revered across the Middle East because of their key role in defeating the Daesh (ISIS) terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

Five days after the assassination, in a military operation codenamed Operation Martyr Suleimani, the IRGC launched a volley of ballistic missiles at the Ain al-Asad airbase.

Iran said the missile strike was only a “first slap” in its process of taking “hard revenge” and that it would not rest until the US military leaves the Middle East in disgrace.

Source: Agencies (edited by Al-Manar English Website)