BAGHDAD: The anti-Iranian Iraqi Shiite cleric, Muqtada Al-Sadr, has called on all Iraqis to take to the streets in massive demonstrations across the country on Friday to show their rejection to be involved in the US-Iran conflict, and he threatened to consider whoever involves Iraq with war as “an enemy,” a statement said.
The tension between the US and Iran is at its peak, especially after the US withdrew from the nuclear deal, imposing economic sanctions on Iran and threatening military attacks if Iran attacks US interests in the Middle East.
Iraq has been a battleground for the great powers in the region, especially America and Iran, since 2003. Iraqi leaders believe that the country will be the first confrontation zone between the two countries in the event of a war, especially since Iran has great influence in Iraq and controls armed factions that could target US interests at any time.
Sadr, who has millions of followers and controls one of the largest Shiite factions, has publicly distanced himself and his fighters from the Iranians for years. It has criticized them on several occasions for “their blatant interference in Iraqi affairs and their quest to control the country using their armed arms.”
Despite Sadr’s hostile attitude toward Iran, he still considers the US as his first “enemy” in Iraq, and has blamed them for the killing of thousands of his followers in the years since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
He has expressed his attitude toward the Americans in his speeches and directives to his followers.
“I am not backing the war between Iran and the US and I am not (supporting any situation) that involves Iraq in this war and makes it a battlefield,” Sadr said.
“We need a serious pause to keep Iraq away from this fierce war that will burn everything.”
Iran has formed, trained and equipped dozens of Shiite, Sunni, Christian and Yazidi factions over the past years.
All American interests are located within the range of these factions’ rockets.
Restraining and controlling these factions is one of the biggest challenges facing Iraqi leaders.
A rocket fired by unknown gunmen on Sunday targeting the Green Zone, the most fortified area in Baghdad that hosts most of the governmental buildings and embassies, including the US embassy, has embarrassed the Iraqi government and intensified fears that Iraqi factions
could spark a war between Iran and the US.
Sadr called on Iraqis to take part in mass demonstrations on Friday evening in all provinces — except the holy city of Najaf.
“We need to raise the Iraqi people’s voice condemning the war … it would be the end of Iraq if this war broke out,” Sadr said.
“Any party that involves Iraq in the war and makes it a battleground (for Iran and the US) will be an enemy of the Iraqi people,” the Iraqi leader said.
President Barack Obama withdrew American combat forces from Iraq in 2011, and by 2014, they would be deployed to assist the Iraqi forces in their fight against the Islamic State in northern and western Iraq.
Iranian-supported militias were allies with the U.S.-backed Iraqi troops, and President Trump’s decision to deploy a U.S. naval carrier group and bomber planes to the Persian Gulf – because of what seems an unsubstantiated Iranian threat – has the potential to be a real game-changer in this region. Iraq is caught between Iran and the U.S. in a potential power play. This recent escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf is transpiring in the aftermath of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Agreement.
Leaked evidence include photos of Iranian Revolutionary Guards uploading missiles, presumably to attack American and Allied shipping that passes through the Straits of Hormuz. It is no secret much of the world’s oil supplies pass through this waterway that is only 24 miles wide, and the U.S. has been down this road before regarding tensions in the Persian Gulf that threaten crude oil on the global market. In the 1980s, despite the fact that the Reagan administration knew Iraq was using chemical weapons against Iran in the Iran-Iraq War, the much larger concern was protecting Iraqi oil from attacks by Iran. Iran had felt the brunt of the American alignment with Saddam Hussein during that conflict, as Iranian patrol boats had been attacked, and Iranian oil platforms were being destroyed by U.S. forces. A U.S. warship in 1988 shot down an Iranian Airbus, killing nearly 300 civilians.
Many Iranians have a deep-seated hatred of Americans, and it goes far beyond U.S. military intervention in the Iran-Iraq War, backing out of a nuclear deal, or the deployment of U.S. forces to a region with a history of U.S. involvement. The 1953 coup that brought about the overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh helped to sow the seeds of resentment toward the American government when President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the green light for CIA covert action that resulted in propping the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as the legitimate ruler.
Once the Shah was in power, Pahlavi set out on a bold infrastructure improvement plan, and while this included transportation and irrigation systems and health care, many Iranians resented the Western influence. They saw the regime was based on U.S. power and greed, as well as what some viewed as a regime antithetical to Islam. Many Iranians rejected the authoritarian rule, and dissent was suppressed by the Savak, the secret police force. By the early 1970s, as oil revenues were increasing in Iran, many were enraged at the income disparity tied to oil wealth. Discontent among the Shiite clergy, lower classes, and students would lead to a revolution, and by January 1979, the Shah fled Iran.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton has said, „The U.S. is not seeking war with the Iranian regime.“ Yet Bolton has spoke of a U.S. military response in the event of an attack by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, regular Iranian forces, and proxy groups to include Iran’s renowned proxy, Hezbollah. While the U.S. military might eclipse Iran in numbers and overall military infrastructure, Iran does not require a mammoth navy to impede shipping through the Straits of Hormuz, which could paralyze the supply of oil on a global level, and ravage economies.
Brent Been is a Tahlequah educator who is currently teaching at Alice Robertson Junior High in Muskogee.
(NEWSER) – Plans to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East to counter threats from Iran were unveiled at what appears to have been an exceptionally leaky meeting of national security aides last week, reports the New York Times, which cites more than half a dozen sources. The sources say Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented updated military plans that had been ordered by a group of administration hardliners led by national security adviser John Bolton. The 120,000 figure was the upper limit in a range of options in case Iran attacks US forces or steps up its nuclear plans, none of which included an actual invasion of Iran, the sources say.
Insiders say White House aides are divided over how to respond to intelligence reports that Iran’s proxy forces may be preparing to attack US forces in the region. The Times notes that it’s unclear whether the options were presented to President Trump, nor whether he would be willing to deploy such a large number of troops to the Middle East. Trump said Monday that Iran could face a „bad problem“ after reports that oil tankers were sabotaged in the Persian Gulf, USA Today reports. „They’re not going to be happy,“ he said. When asked what he meant by a „bad problem,“ Trump replied: „You can figure it out yourself.“ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has discussed tensions with Iran with several European and Middle Eastern leaders over the last week and will meet Vladimir Putin in Russia on Tuesday, the Guardian reports. (Last month, Trump labeled Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.)
National security hawk John Bolton may finally have his opening to overthrow the Ayatollah.
As the Pentagon explores the possibility of deploying 120,000 troops to Iran, with President Donald Trump threatening the mullahs’ regime over Twitter, Bolton has a unique opportunity to imprint his own vision on the region. Neither Bolton, nor any Trump official, however, has discussed what an alternative to Ali Khamenei’s regime would look like—leaving a giant question mark over whether a president who campaigned on a non-interventionist platform intends to wage his own variant of the Iraq War.
Who Does Bolton Want to Replace the Mullahs?
Over the past decade, Bolton has endorsed regime change in Tehran at the hands of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK).
Founded in 1965 as an opposition movement to the Pahlavi monarchy comprised mostly of younger members of Iran’s traditional middle-class intelligentsia, the group worked alongside Iran’s former Supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini to overthrow the Shah, who the United States supported and later provided asylum to after his overthrow. The MEK’s intellectual foundation is rooted in a secular interpretation of Islam mixed with Marxism, and many of the movement’s founding members were opposed to United States interventionism—Massoud Rajavi, whose wife Maryam Rajavi now leads the MEK, once called U.S. imperialism the “main threat” facing the people of Iran. The group, both in its founding and up to the present day, advocates for violence—a summit hosted last fall featured blown up poster-boards emblazoned with the words “Death to Khamenei.”
After the group fell out of favor with Khomeini’s clerical leadership, MEK members organized demonstrations against the Islamic Republic. At the height of the group’s power, particularly in June 1981, the MEK could assemble crowds of tens of thousands of protestors, even 500,000, according to Iranian historian Ervand Abrahamian. As Khomeini executed and imprisoned MEK activists, the group’s leaders fled to Paris and installed the NCRI—an international lobbying organization which has courted support from Western powers—though the group was later expelled from France after the French government attempted unsuccessfully to curry favor with Tehran.
“The policy of the NCRI, since its inception in 1981, has been this regime needs to change,” Ali Safavi, a member of the NCRI’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told Observer. “The West has always weighed in and said its time this imbalance is rectified. The international community stands with the people of Iran and the Iranian resistance for the legitimate and rightful demands to have this regime replaced.”
Following exile from Iran and Paris, the MEK relocated to Iraq and provided Saddam Hussein’s regime support against Iran. By MEK’s own estimate, it killed over 50,000 Iranian troops—a decision seen as a betrayal by many Iranians, which Tehran continues to weaponize as a narrative against the group.
MEK’s relationship with the U.S. government is complicated, mostly due to a string of bombings which resulted in the death of six Americans during the 1970s. The State Department in 1992 described the MEK as inciting a “swath of terror” in its designation of the group as a terrorist organization, prompting the NCRI to mount a lobbying campaign—according to the organization, the bombings were the work of a breakaway Marxist faction, though some State Department directors refute this narrative and note a line of succession between the attacks and current MEK leadership. In 2005, a Human Rights Watch report found the MEK allegedly committed “physical and psychological abuses” to its members.
Only in 2012 did the State Department delist the MEK as a terrorist group, faced with the increasing likelihood that the Iraqi government would slaughter them in the absence of U.S. leadership in the region.
“I supported the delisting for the simple reason that it was a humanitarian necessity. It was humanitarian to prevent them from getting slaughtered, and not because they had become a peaceful group or the United States believed they were completely without a nefarious design. Would the MEK have been delisted absent the situation in Iraq? I don’t [think] there’s any question they would not have been,” Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s counterterrorism director at the time who worked on the delisting effort, told Observer. “They have often mischaracterized the delisting to show that it was all a big mistake and that Washington came to its senses and saw them as staunch supporters of a free Iran.”
“I think Daniel Benjamin has a lot to answer for because the delay to delist the MEK gave [former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki] free reign to slaughter the MEK. From 2009 until the MEK was delisted, 140 MEK members were killed in Iraq,” countered Safavi.
Currently the MEK is headquartered in Albania, where it has been dogged by allegations of mistreating its members. According to the MEK’s vision, the Islamic Republic will inevitably collapse under mass unpopularity, prompting MEK members and the NCRI to establish the Democratic Republic of Iran.
It’s “the NCRI that would establish an interim government, and they have a plan with regard to timelines for a general election,” former President Barack Obama’s national security advisor General James Jones, who now speaks at the NCRI’s events, told Observer in a statement.
Trump Administration’s Ties to MEK
Many lawmakers and policy architects have promoted MEK’s interests in Washington.
Democratic Representatives Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) pushed heavily for the State Department to delist the group, the latter calling the decision “very important for the American people.”
But MEK’s biggest supporters are tasked with making foreign policy in the White House. Bolton has spoken at MEK events, touting regime change for over a decade, and as recently as 2017 promised the mullahs’ regime would collapse “before 2019.”
“There is a viable opposition to the rule of the ayatollahs,” Bolton told an MEK gathering in Paris at the time. “And that opposition is centered in this room today.”
The national security hawk’s actions over the past year indicate he is looking for a fight with Tehran. Last week, Bolton ordered the Pentagon to draw up military preparations for the possible deployment of 120,000 to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or ramp up production on its nuclear weapons, according to a New York Timesreport. A video uploaded to the White House’s Twitter page in February featured Bolton accusing Tehran of “terrorizing [its] own people.”
“You could really say that since the Islamic Revolution this is certainly the hot watermark of MEK’s influence,” Benjamin told Observer. “My guess is that they’re feeling pretty good about all the investments they’ve made to build their influence in Washington. Bolton has continued to make video messages that echo what he was saying before to MEK groups.”
Another member of President Donald Trump’s inner-circle who has spoken at MEK events at home and abroad includes Rudy Giuliani—who last fall told Iranian dissidents in Times Square that regime change is “going to happen.” When asked by Observer about the group’s controversial history said to include violence against Americans, he echoed the group’s narrative that an unaffiliated group of Marxist dissidents were behind the attacks.
“What you’re referring to happened over 30 years ago,” Giuliani told Observer during a press conference after his speech. “It happened during the overthrow of the Shah. It was a group of people that were not connected to the MEK. This particular organization has been extraordinarily friendly to the United States, embraced by the United States military.”
A spokesperson for Bolton at the National Security Council did not return Observer’s request for comment on whether he saw the NCRI’s vision as a suitable replacement for Tehran’s regime.
Recent NCRI Lobbying Campaign
As the Trump administration escalates its rhetoric toward Iran and hints at possible military action in the region, the NCRI has seized on the conversation surrounding regime change to promote itself as an alternative to the Ayatollah.
“Decades of human rights abuses and domestic suppression need to be dealt with now,” reads a blog post uploaded to the organization’s website last week. “The regime is in the most vulnerable place it has ever been and this is when it could potentially be dangerous so the policy of exerting the maximum pressure should go on and the international community should more than ever listen to the only viable alternative which is the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) with its president elect Maryam Rajavi.”
Earlier in May, a former NCRI lobbyist launched an advertising campaign on Facebook to promote a Washington Timesarticle about an NCRI event, which quoted the organization’s deputy director of U.S. operations, according to The Daily Beast.
The organization has been careful not to advocate explicitly for a U.S. military invasion and has walked a fine line in promoting regime change, while recognizing Trump’s aversion to interventionism. Representatives for the NCRI also reject the narrative that the U.S. is aggravating Iran and point to the regime’s sponsorship of state terrorism throughout Europe. One policy they are in favor of is a continued push of the White House’s maximum pressure campaign.
“The regime is having a lot of problems domestically. It is also isolated regionally and internationally,” Safavi told Observer. “The maximum pressure policy hasn’t yet run its complete course. There are other areas where the regime should be sanctioned, in particular the petrochemical and gas industry. Another step that we see is necessary is to designate the Ministry of Intelligence as a voluntary terrorist organization because it qualifies as such.”
“I’d be surprised if they want to oppose Trump in any vocal way,” added Benjamin. “That would only diminish their fanning.”
What Will Happen If the MEK Rises to Power?
The NCRI’s ten-point plan for Iran outlines a future free of nuclear weapons, Sharia law and the death penalty. The organization promotes universal suffrage, an independent judiciary and free market economics. Gen. Jones has praised the points as “Jeffersonian principles.”
Although the NCRI and MEK anticipate droves of Iranian activists flooding Tehran to support them should Khamenei’s regime fall—all cheering “Iran is Ravaji, Ravaji is Iran”—the group’s possible ascendance to power is likely to be met with fierce resistance from many Iranians who still see the group as traitorous given its support for Saddam Hussein.
“Any effort by the MEK to reinsert itself back into politics in Tehran would be met with a pretty violent reaction,” continued Benjamin. “We’re talking about an extremely marginal group with no support in Iran. It has some support in the diaspora, and there have been plenty of lawmakers who have carried their banner for them, but in terms of pushing for a regime change policy, we haven’t been this close since the invasion of Iraq… Absent an occupation, there is little chance of the government falling. Unless the U.S. manages a regime change, the MEK doesn’t have many prospects in Iran, and if there were regime change, the U.S. would have to put the MEK in the driver’s seat to have any role.”
With Bolton and Giuliani promoting the MEK, and other hardliners like State Secretary Mike Pompeo endorsing regime change, the group is the closest its ever been to claiming Tehran from the mullahs.
“They’ve got their man in the White House pushing dangerously hard against the opposition of his boss,” said Benjamin. “Their cult-like behavior, the abusive treatment of their members, their absolute refusal to acknowledge their past, all of those things cast a big shadow on the group.”
IRAN stoked the flames of conflict with the US after its supreme leader promised children they would “witness the demise” of Washington and Israel.
His comments come as the US bolsters its forces in the region.
US President Donald Trump vowed to increase its presence with around 120,000 troops to be stationed in the Middle East.
Trump has warned Iran on numerous occasions that conflict would “officially end” the country.
The growing tension between the US and Iran aroused after Trump opted to try and cut Iran’s oil exports to zero and beef up its forces in the Middle East.
He decided to increase the military after he claimed Iran had made “threats” to the US.
However, the US has not publicly shown any evidence of what the specific intelligence on the Iranian threat is.
The US military carried out exercises in the Arabian Sea to show Washington’s strength in the region.
The military did that in the face of an Iranian army which is one of the most powerful in the world.
Iran boasts one of the most powerful militaries in the world – and the second-strongest in the Middle East – according to shock analysis by warfare experts.
Global Fire Power (GFP) reviewed Iran’s military strength this year and ranked it 14 out of the 137 nations analysed so far.
GFP said Iran’s potential manpower totalled almost 48 million people, with a total of almost 40 million fit for service.
The total military personnel is believed to amount to an estimated 873,000 people, with 523,000 of them active and the rest believed to be reserve personnel.
Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei Hints At Enriching Uranium Beyond 20%, Adds: America Will Back Down, No War Is Expected
On May 15, 2019, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said in an iftar meeting with senior members of Iran’s regime that America was much stronger in 1979 than it is today and that President Jimmy Carter was much smarter than President Trump. He explained that Iran’s accurate missiles have a range of up to 2,000 kilometers and that they can strike within six meters of their target. He added that enriching uranium past 20% would be much easier than enriching below 20%. Khamenei said that America will definitely „face defeat“ in its confrontation with Iran and that negotiations with the Americans are „poison“ because the Americans are trying to deprive Iran of its „points of strength.“ The Iranian leader added that Iran does not want war and that a war is unlikely to break out. Khamenei’s speech aired on Channel 1 TV (Iran).
Iranian Missiles „Are Launched To A Distance Of 1,500 Or 2,000 Kilometers, And They Strike Within Five Or Six Meters Of The Target“
Ali Khamenei: „America in 1979, the year of our great Islamic Revolution… [It] was immeasurably stronger than it is now. Jimmy Carter, America’s president at the time, was wiser than that guy who is ruling now, and he was also more powerful. [Trump] has less power from the financial and political perspectives, and he also has less brains.
„The matter of military production – about which the enemy is very sensitive – is a very important thing. The accurate missiles, whether they are ballistic missiles or cruise missiles… They are accurate. They are launched to a distance of 1,500 or 2,000 kilometers, and they strike within five or six meters of the target. This is very important. The uproar that you see they are causing is because of this advancement. Who made all these? Our youth.
„The hardest part in the enrichment process is getting to 20%. After that, moving on to more advanced stages is not that difficult. It is much easier. „[They] succeeded in getting past this hard part. Who? Our youth.
„There is no doubt that America’s animosity, which started at the beginning of the Revolution, has today taken a more apparent form. Take note – we must not think that America’s animosity increased today. It simply became apparent. This animosity existed even before, but they had not spoken so openly before. They are openly expressing their animosity, saying that they want to do this and that. They are making threats… He who makes loud threats – it should be known that his strength and ability is not like his loud voice.
„[Trump] says that every Friday in Tehran, there are marches against the regime. That President… First of all, they take place on Saturday, not Friday. Second, these [marches] aren’t in Tehran – they are in Paris.“
„They Are Saying: ‚If You Build Accurate Missiles With Such A Range… Decrease The Range So That It Cannot Reach Our American Bases, So That If One Day We Strike You, You Will Not Be Able To Strike Back“
„A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture states that 41 million Americans suffer from hunger and food insecurity. This is America’s situation.
„They have a center called the Center for Critical National Statistics in America [sic]. This center says that 40% of births in America are illegitimate [out of wedlock].
„With regard to its policy of confronting the Islamic Republic, I must tell you that America will definitely face defeat, and the confrontation will end in our favor.
„[Negotiations with the U.S.] are poison, and negotiations with the current administration is doubly poisonous. The meaning of negotiations is a deal – you give something and you get something. What [America] wants to take from this deal are precisely the Islamic Republic’s points of strength. They are taking the negotiations in that direction. They are not saying: ‚Let’s have negotiations about the weather, about natural resources, or about the environment.‘ They are saying: ‚Let’s have negotiations regarding your defensive weapons – why do you have defensive weapons?‘ Defensive weapons are necessary for a country, and that’s what they want to negotiate about. What does that mean? They are saying: ‚If you build accurate missiles with such a range – decrease it. Decrease the range so that it cannot reach our American bases, so that if one day we strike you, you will not be able to strike back.‘ This is what the negotiations are about. Do you accept this? Obviously not. And if you do not accept this, then this will continue to be the situation – a situation of conflict and uproar. No straight-thinking Iranian who loves his country – we’re not discussing religion, revolution, or things like that – would negotiate with the other side about his points of strength, which the other side wants to deprive him. We need these things. Our strategic depth in the region is very important.“
„No War Is Supposed To Break Out, And No War Will Break Out, God Willing, We Do Not Want War – As For Them, A War Wouldn’t Be Worth It, And They Know It“
„Thank God, our strategic depth in the region is very good. This bothers them. They say: ‚Let’s talk about the regional issues‘ – which means to lose our strategic depth.
Audience: „Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar! Khamenei is the Leader! Death to those who oppose the Rule of the Jurisprudent! Death to America! Death to England! Death to the hypocrites and the infidels! Death to Israel!“
Ali Khamenei: „In this confrontation, [America] will be forced to back down. Regarding resistance, it’s not a military conflict that is in question. Some in the press and in the virtual space talk about war. This is nonsense. No war is supposed to break out, and no war will break out, God willing. We do not want war. As for them, a war wouldn’t be worth it, and they know it.“
Brewing tensions in the Persian Gulf should be a cause for alarm in Pakistan. The US deployment of an aircraft-carrier and bombers, alleged proxy attacks, Saudi Arabia’s calls for surgical strikes against Iran, and Iranian threats about resuming its nuclear programme are setting the stage for conflict.
But US and Iranian officials are simultaneously softening their stances, calling for talks and downplaying prospects of direct conflict.
Tweeting on Friday, US President Donald Trump summed up the situation quite well: “With all the Fake and Made Up News out there, Iran can have no idea what is actually going on!”And neither can anyone else. What is clear, however, is that the Trump administration’s ham-fisted efforts to install a better nuclear deal with Iran will increase the precariousness of regional dynamics, with uncertain outcomes, and implications for Pakistan’s stability.
Pakistan has already stated that it will not take sides in the current confrontation, and called for US restraint.
These are the right noises to make. The need for Pakistan to remain neutral in any stand-off between the US and Saudi Arabia on one side and Iran on the other is clear.
The Pakistani Parliament’s decision in 2015 not to send troops to support the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen set an excellent precedent for this neutrality. However, that position could be tested under the latest circumstances. Following the Yemen snub to the kingdom, Pakistan showered Saudi Arabia with assurances that it would defend Saudi Arabia’s interests.
Recent developments, such as the Houthi drone strikes against Saudi oil infrastructure, for which Riyadh has blamed Tehran, could lead to renewed pressure on Pakistan to provide support to the kingdom.
Given Saudi Arabia’s recent largesse towards Pakistan — last year’s $6 billion emergency loan, promises of up to $20bn in investments, and even offers of LNG — Riyadh may be tempted to test the strength of Islamabad’s allegiance and, given its indebtedness, our government would struggle to push back.
Some analysts have argued that given Saudi Arabia’s growing engagement with India, it can hardly object to Pakistan balancing ties and continuing to engage with Iran. But we should have no delusions that this is an equal partnership. Riyadh would expect to count on Pakistan if the regional situation deteriorated significantly; for example, if it came to direct conflict, or if the resumption of Iran’s nuclear weapons programme sparked an arms race in which Saudi Arabia would rely on Pakistani cooperation.
The timing of the US-Iran flare-up could not be worse in terms of Pakistan-Iran relations, following Imran Khan’s overdue and productive trip to Iran — including his symbolically important visit to Mashhad — last month. Given recent, audacious attacks by Baloch militant groups within Pakistan, the need to secure Iranian cooperation to stamp out militant sanctuaries across the western border is essential. Indeed, the key outcome from Khan’s visit was the rapid reaction force to combat militancy along the border, which must be sustained.
The reasons for Pakistan to maintain good ties with Iran persist: the 950-kilometre border; the need for counterterrorism cooperation and a coordinated approach towards ending the Afghan conflict; to prevent entanglement in a Middle Eastern arms race; and most importantly, to stave off threats of renewed proxy sectarian conflict within Pakistan.
The recent tensions are another reminder that Pakistan must entrench its ties with Iran, so that each regional conflagration does not throw bilateral ties into question.
Beyond counterterrorism cooperation, there are many ways for Pakistan to do this. One is to build awareness among the public that the Pakistan-Iran relationship is a long, substantive one.
How many know that Iran was the first nation to recognise Pakistan?
Pakistan should also develop strategies to increase bilateral trade to the agreed target of $5bn. Plans to improve connectivity between Gwadar and Chabahar ports, and between the two countries more generally, should be fast-tracked. Pakistan should also import electricity from Iran and initiate diplomatic efforts to increase the feasibility of completing the Iran-Pakistan pipeline.
Arts and culture remain underdeveloped areas for bilateral engagement. The recent revival of Pakistani cinema has led our artists to turn to Bollywood for inspiration, lessons, and new opportunities. But budding Pakistani filmmakers could learn as much from the cinematic genius of Iranians.
A diplomatic balancing act as complex as the one Pakistan must pull off between Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US will no doubt require the deployment of both hard and soft power. Let’s hope Pakistan’s foreign ministry is up to the task.
The Newest on traits within the Persian Gulf assert and in other locations within the Mideast amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran (all cases local):
Two influential Shiite figures in Iraq are warning from pulling their nation correct into a battle between the US and Iran, announcing it will most likely maybe well flip Iraq correct into a battlefield and inflict vital ruin.
Their feedback came few hours after a rocket was fired into the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified Inexperienced Zone, landing decrease than a mile from the sprawling U.S. Embassy. No injuries were reported.
Iraq’s populist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr acknowledged in a press open on Monday that any political birthday party that would earn Iraq in a U.S.-Iran battle “would be the enemy of the Iraqi people.”
Qais al-Khazali, the chief of an Iranian-backed team of workers, acknowledged he is in opposition to operations that “give pretexts for battle.”
As U.S.-Iran tensions escalate, there’ve been considerations that Baghdad would possibly perhaps maybe well once more glean caught within the center.
A Saudi-owned satellite tv for pc news channel says Yemen’s Houthi rebels receive fired two missiles into the dominion that later were intercepted.
Al-Arabiya reported on Monday that the two missiles were intercepted over the city of Taif and the Crimson Sea port city of Jiddah.
The channel cited witnesses for the sure wager. The Saudi executive has but to acknowledge the missile fire, which assorted Saudi media also reported.
The Houthis made no legitimate claims to the missile fire.
Between the two cities is Mecca, residence to the cube-formed Kaaba that Muslims pray toward 5 cases a day. Many non secular pilgrims are now within the city amid the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims swiftly from morning time to dusk.
President Donald Trump has warned Iran not to threaten the U.S. again or it will most likely maybe well face its “legitimate quit,” almost as we reveal after a rocket landed shut to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in a single day.
The tweet comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran, the culmination of Trump’s resolution a year ago to pull The US out of Tehran’s nuclear tackle world powers.
Trump’s tweeted early Monday: “If Iran desires to fight, that would be the legitimate quit of Iran. Undoubtedly not threaten the US again!”
Trump didn’t account for, nor did the White Home. Nonetheless, the tweet came after a rocket landed decrease than a mile from the sprawling U.S. Embassy in Baghdad within the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified Inexperienced Zone Sunday evening.
No team of workers straight away claimed responsibility for the rocket open.
The Middle East is in the grip of high and escalating tensions, with observers expecting a fierce war to break out in the not-too-distant future, particularly given the increasing US military buildup in the Arabian Gulf region. Initially, most observers expect a small-scale strike against Iran’s proxy militias in Iraq or against the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)
Recent days have seen angry statements from various senior Iranian regime officials. On Thursday, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, wrote on Twitter: “Increasing US military presence would lead the region to suicide (self-destruction). Thousands of non-Iranian fighters who have lost at least one member of their family by American weapons will welcome the United States and its allies.”
Despite such angry statements, Iranian officials still refuse to tone down their rhetoric, continuing instead to issue fiery statements and to make major threats against the US, Israel and the Arabian Gulf nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In recent remarks on Saudi Arabia, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said: “The Western nations are providing nuclear capabilities to this state, and have announced they will build a nuclear reactor and a center for producing missiles there. There is no problem as Saudi Arabia is a dependent state, and it belongs to the West. If they do this I won’t be annoyed because I know that they will be captured by the mujahideen soon.” It is clear that Khamenei was using the word “mujahideen” to refer to the militias loyal to the clerical regime in Tehran.
The threats that are heard now were first uttered by President Hassan Rouhani during a trip to Switzerland several months ago. His comments were welcomed by Khamenei and the commanders of the IRGC at the time, with various senior regime officials making a number of similar statements since.
As inferred by Khamenei, the Iranian regime continues to pursue its policy of hiding behind its proxy terrorist militias that are spread across the region, all of which implement the directives of the IRGC. Through this strategy, Iran avoids taking direct responsibility for the militias’ crimes, the most recent of which was the Houthis’ drone attack on Saudi oil facilities last week. The aim was to hike oil prices by disrupting supplies to the global market. This was a clear message from the clerical regime that, if Iran is prevented from exporting its oil, other regional countries will face the same problem.
The Iranian regime’s refusal to acknowledge its responsibility for these militias, along with the international community’s inaction toward their operations and inability to take the appropriate and necessary steps to curb their attacks, means Tehran will continue using the same strategy, which has a severely damaging effect on international safety and security. If the international community continues to turn a blind eye to these violations, it will inevitably lead the Middle East down a path toward dangerous options, which could lead to widespread destruction in the entire region, including in Iran. While the region’s countries are still honoring their commitments under global treaties and covenants, as well as pursuing policies of good neighborliness, the international community ignores Iran’s destabilizing actions and refuses to confront the regime.
The question that arises is whether the international community will perform its moral, security and military duty before it is too late? We hope so. The Iranian regime’s strategy of depending on militias requires a global response that is clear and direct, as well as focused on the proxy militias being an integral part of its apparatus and not separate from it. They are established, funded, armed and trained specifically to help Tehran implement its subversive agenda in the region. If the international community does not perform its duty and no global response is forthcoming, regional states could adopt more strident options based on reciprocity in order to force Iran’s leaders to reconsider their calculations. There is no doubt that this will be the first and least risky step, since the other options are more dangerous.
Meanwhile, the US and Israeli press have mentioned the possibility of both Switzerland and Oman mediating between Washington and Tehran to de-escalate tensions between the two countries. If any such mediation efforts are to pay off, it is vital that the resumption of negotiations be tied to practical steps on the ground by the Iranian regime as an expression of goodwill, while the negotiation period must be kept short to thwart any Iranian schemes to play for time.
The Iranian regime’s strategy is clear — it is based on procrastinating until the 2020 US elections in the hope of a more friendly president coming to power. In the meantime, the regime seeks to keep the door open for possible negotiations to ease sanctions and pressures as a tactical maneuver. Any efforts by the Trump administration to reach a better deal with Iran’s regime could result in Washington falling into Tehran’s trap, with Khamenei’s regime offering no substantial concessions.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is Head of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami
This article has been adapted from its original source.