More Israeli Attacks on Iran

“Unidentified warplanes” strike Shiite militia targets in the Al Bukamal region of eastern Syria early Tuesday morning, Arab media outlets report. The airstrikes were allegedly carried out near the Iraqi border and targeted the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units. One Iraqi news channel says Israel behind the attacks.

“Unidentified warplanes” struck Shiite militia targets in the Al Bukamal region of eastern Syria early Tuesday morning, Arab media outlets reported.

According to the reports, the airstrikes were carried out near the Iraqi border and targeted the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units.

One Iraqi news channel pointed to Israel as the perpetrator of one of the attacks.

The purported strikes are the latest in a mysterious spate of attacks attributed to Israel against Iran-backed bases in Syria and Iraq.

Earlier this month, 18 pro-Iran fighters were said to have been killed in an overnight airstrike on the Syrian side of the border.

Most of the explosions have targeted installations belonging to the Popular Mobilization Units.

The attacks come amid rising tensions in the Middle East and especially amid the crisis between Iran and the US in the wake of the collapsing nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, as well as a recent airstrike on Saudi oil plants that the US has blamed on Iran.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that Iran has no immunity anywhere and that the Israeli military forces “will act – and currently are acting – against them.”

This article was originally published by i24NEWS.

 

Bolton was the Right Choice for the Prophecy

Bolton was a wrong choice by the impulsive president

TEHRAN – Donald Trump trumped his national security advisor John Bolton on Tuesday via a Twitter, saying he had “strongly disagreed” with many of Bolton’s positions.  

Naming Bolton as national security advisor was in sharp contrast to Trump’s campaign promises including his criticism of “unending wars” that Republican President George W. Bush and his close team, Bolton included, had started in Afghanistan and Iraq.

After firing him, Trump admitted Bolton made a number of “big mistakes”, including pushing for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Trump has turned his administration into a trial and error system. Analysts say Trump’s decisions are based on his impulses and that he has no strategy.

It was quite clear that Bolton was a wrong choice for the important post of national security advisor. Even moderate Republican politicians did not approve of Bolton’s ultra-hawkish tendencies.

He is a hard-hearted person. He has shown no remorse for the disastrous Iraq war.

Not being affected by the tragedy of the Iraq war, he advocated for war against North Korea, Iran, Syria and Venezuela. 

Bolton’s thirst for war against Iran was so high that he favored Mojahdin Khalq Organization (MKO/MEK) – a cult group that some analysts have likened to Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge – as a replacement for the Islamic Republic system.

Trump’s administration is fraught with repeated mistakes. Trump knew beforehand that Bolton had pushed for the Iraq war and that he was paid by the MEK, which was on the State Department terrorist list until 2012.

Also, in March 2015, while Iran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) were busy negotiating a deal over Iran’s nuclear program, he wrote an editorial in the New York Times suggesting strikes on Iran’s nuclear sites.

Trump himself was a fierce critic of the 2015 nuclear deal. But, he ditched the deal in May 2018, just one month after naming Bolton for the senior post.

Though Bolton is not the only culprit for all the chaos haunting the Trump administration, he added new problems to the old ones. To the detriment of Europe, he triggered a new arms race with Russia by encouraging the Trump administration to abandon the Cold War-era INF Treaty, sabotaged dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang, and disgraced the U.S. for his unsuccessful push for the ouster of the Venezuelan government.

Writing in the National Interest on September 10, Paul Pillar, author of Why America Misunderstands the World, says, “Bolton’s wrecking career began as an undersecretary in the George W. Bush administration, when Bolton boasted of his role in killing the earlier Agreed Framework dealing with the North Korean nuclear program.”

Pillar also says, “In each of his positions in government, Bolton has made the world a more conflictual place and the United States a more isolated and despised country.”

Now, Bolton has been sacked or forced to resign but the U.S. is left with a number of emerging problems: Iran is reducing its commitments under the nuclear deal, or the JCPOA, to an extent that may lead to its demise, Washington’s allies in Europe and Asia have largely lost their trust America and now see Washington as a part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

PA/PA

Bolton’s Damage is Already Done

Despite John Bolton exit, don’t expect thaw in US-Iran relations

President Donald Trump is not likely to be dragged into a war, but robust policy towards Tehran is expected to continue

Raghida Dergham

September 14, 2019

With US national security adviser John Bolton having recently departed the White House, the question being asked is whether president Donald Trump will decide to soften the hardline approach taken by his administration in dealing with an uncertain world or if he will stay the course.

It is hard to determine whether Mr Bolton resigned or was dismissed. Either way, the vacuum left by his exit might give the mercurial president a free hand to intervene in matters regarding foreign policy that could have profound consequences. Regardless of their differences or Mr Bolton’s quirks, he did manage to protect his boss from making mistakes while guaranteeing consistency in US foreign policy. But with him gone, will there be shifts in American behaviour towards Iran, Afghanistan, Venezuela and North Korea?

The two men had been divided on how to deal with the world at large. Mr Trump places great emphasis on the art of deal-making for he views himself as a good negotiator but his brand of deal-making applies more to the business world than it does to foreign affairs. Brokering deals requires flexibility and Mr Bolton proved an obstacle in this regard because he valued consistency and toughness even more.

That said, one country towards which Mr Trump is unlikely to change his robust policy is Iran.

Thus far, he has avoided military strikes against the regime, despite concerns Tehran has been accumulating ballistic missiles, which prompted Mr Trump to shred the 2015 nuclear deal struck by his predecessor. While maintaining effective sanctions against the Iranian regime, as well as against militia groups it sponsors in the Middle East – including Hezbollah in Lebanon – Mr Trump has now signalled an openness to talk to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the hope of reaching a more comprehensive deal than the one Barack Obama secured.

How will Bolton’s departure affect US foreign policy?

Given that he is up for re-election next year, Mr Trump will be determined not to be dragged into a war with the Iranians. But securing a grand bargain with the regime will be a daunting challenge for his administration.

In response to the recent US pull-out, the Iranian regime has threatened to withdraw from the 2015 deal altogether and resume its nuclear activities. This is seen as a way to push the European parties to the deal to come up with ways to circumvent US sanctions while at the same time applying pressure on Mr Trump to soften his stance. This tactic has worked to the extent that the US president has expressed a willingness to talk.

France, meanwhile, offered Iran access to $15 billion in credit to stave off economic collapse, if Tehran returns to the terms of the deal and negotiates over security issues, including its regional policies. However, according to a source in Washington, the US has made it clear to French President Emmanuel Macron that his plan is unacceptable. The US reportedly told Mr Macron that it does not need him “to build a bridge” between Washington and Tehran, just for the sake of having a sit-down with the Iranian leadership.

There have been suggestions that a US-Iran meeting is possible on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting later this month in New York. The US sees this as an opportunity for dialogue but will not lift sanctions just to entertain the notion of having talks. That puts the US at odds with the position expressed by Mr Rouhani, who has insisted on the lifting of sanctions as a prelude to any talks. The question therefore is how this gap can be bridged, particularly with the French initiative dead in the water.

Meanwhile next week, even as the name of Mr Bolton’s successor is expected to be announced, meetings are being scheduled to review US policy on Iran, following which new sanctions could be unveiled.

As Donald Trump’s NSA, John Bolton protected his boss from making mistakes while ensuring consistency in US foreign policy. AP

Sources have said even if a meeting were to be held between Mr Trump and Mr Rouhani, it would not be a significant nor substantial one, given that the US president will present a list of demands that Tehran is unlikely to accept. The broad outlines of these demands are already known: to renegotiate the parameters of the nuclear deal, halt the development and testing of ballistic missiles, and end support for groups Washington designates as terror organisations, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, in addition to Iran-backed paramilitaries such as the PMF in Iraq.

These militia groups have recently restated their loyalty to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as to the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. In a speech this week marking the Shia Muslim celebration of Ashura, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his party would accept being killed 1,000 times by the “Americans and Zionists” rather than abandon Mr Khamenei, whom he called the heir of Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. Mr Nasrallah said his “axis of resistance” was prepared to take part in any war on behalf of Iran.

That Mr Nasrallah declared loyalty to Iran rather than his native Lebanon was telling, even more so at a time when David Schenker, the US assistant secretary for near eastern affairs, was making his first visit to Beirut. It was met with a robust response, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly calling for a “gloves-off approach” against Hezbollah and its backers. Mr Schenker himself told Lebanese officials: “The window of opportunity is still open but it has started to close. All those concerned must know we are very serious.”

This could mean more sanctions. What is troubling, however, is whether it would translate to more than that.

Mr Schenker’s Lebanon visit was purportedly to highlight the danger of Hezbollah’s actions across the region, said to include manufacturing precision rockets in Lebanon. Lebanese leaders have been warned that unless they take action to rein in the group, their country could experience an outbreak of war. Confrontation remains a possibility.

Updated: September 14, 2019 05:39 PM

Babylon the Great Prepares the Saudi Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

U.S. energy secretary to discuss nuclear power with Saudi on Monday

WASHINGTON, Sept 13 (Reuters) – U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Friday he will meet the new Saudi energy minister on Monday and likely discuss plans the kingdom has to build nuclear reactors.

Rick Perry said he would meet energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, who took over from Khalid al-Falih on Sunday. Perry did not say where he would meet the minister, but Perry is due to attend the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna next week. He also said the Trump administration wants the kingdom to agree to so-called 123 nonproliferation standards before coming to any agreement. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Trump’s Futile Warning to Iran

‘If they are thinking about enrichment, they can forget about it’

Trump warns Iran against further uranium enrichment

US President says he doesn’t rule out lifting sanctions on Iran which he says are getting tougher.

Thursday 12/09/2019

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Wednesday warned Iran against further uranium enrichment but left open the possibility the US could lift sanctions to pave the way to a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani.

Asked if he would ease crippling sanctions to help bring about a meeting with the Iranian leader, Trump replied “we will see what happens,” while warning it would be “very, very dangerous” for Iran to boost its enriched uranium stockpiles.

Trump said he believes Iran would like to make a deal because “they have tremendous financial difficulty, and the sanctions are getting tougher and tougher.”

“We cannot let Iran have a nuclear weapon, and they never will have a nuclear weapon,” he said.

If they are thinking about enrichment, they can forget about it. Because it’s going to be very dangerous for them to enrich. Very, very dangerous, okay?”

Rouhani has dismissed meeting with Trump, insisting that Washington must lift the sanctions it has imposed on Iran.

“The Americans must understand that bellicosity and warmongering don’t work in their favour. Both… must be abandoned,” Rouhani told his cabinet earlier Wednesday.

“The enemy imposed ‘maximum pressure’ on us. Our response is to resist and confront this,” he said, referring to the US sanctions.

Trump has used sanctions to step up pressure on Tehran since he pulled the United States out of a 2015 deal under which Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in return for a lifting of sanctions.

But speaking the day after he fired John Bolton, an architect of the “maximum pressure” strategy, Trump said his administration was dealing with both Iran and North Korea “at a very high level.”

“I think Iran has a tremendous potential. They are incredible people. We are not looking for regime change. We hope that we can make a deal. If we can’t make a deal, that’s fine, too.”

Bolton’s Irreversible Path to Destruction (Revelation 16)

John Bolton is finally gone. But can his path of destruction be reversed?

Ben Armbruster

Washington DC’s most famous warmonger might have lost his job, but this probably won’t be the last we hear of Bolton

Wed 11 Sep 2019 09.12 EDT

Our long international nightmare of John Bolton is over. For now.

Did Bolton resign? Was he fired? It doesn’t matter. John Bolton is now no longer in charge of US national security policy and thus, we can all breathe a little easier.

Trump wants to build a legacy, Bolton to break things – something had to give

Indeed, Bolton’s top priority has always been to go to war with Iran. One of the biggest concerns among those of us who understand that going to war with Iran is a bad idea was that Bolton, an experienced bureaucrat, would take advantage of a naive commander-in-chief and use innocuous enough policy decisions to slow-walk Donald Trump into a corner where war was the only way out.

Bolton – who has made a career of scuttling arms control agreements – also had his sights on cancelling the Obama-era New Start Treaty, an agreement between the US and Russia that placed limits on the number of deployed nuclear warheads, missiles, bombers and launchers.

Bolton has spent the better part of his tenure in the Trump administration disparaging the treaty, repeatedly signaling that the US wouldn’t put much effort toward renewing it before it expires in February 2021.

But while our collective outlook going forward is promising without Bolton anywhere near the levers of power, the trail of flames he has left behind will have lasting damage.

Yes he wasn’t successful in convincing Trump to attack Iran, but Bolton helped create the conditions for war by pushing Trump to finally withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal mere weeks after assuming the top national security job. As predicted (even by the CIA), that policy has turned out to be a complete disaster, with the US isolated from its European allies, Iran’s nuclear program less constrained, and the Trump administration failing miserably in its quest to rein in Iran’s nefarious regional behavior or to spark internal strife toward the regime.

And even though Bolton’s departure gives New Start a new lease on life, he convinced Trump to ditch diplomatic efforts at saving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia and instead shepherded a US withdrawal, which officially went into effect last month. Experts are already citing the move as the catalyst for a renewed cold war-esque arms race.

Mere months before joining the Trump administration, Bolton attempted to make a legal argument for an unprovoked first strike on North Korea, and he made sure to preserve that option by standing in the way of Trump’s diplomatic efforts to reduce tensions (Trump himself created) with Kim Jong-un. Bolton’s efforts became so intrusive that Trump apparently banished him to Mongolia when he decided to pay a visit to Kim at the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

It’s unclear whether we will be able to reverse Bolton’s path of destruction, as it probably also depends on whether Trump wins the presidential election again.

But the tragic subplot to the Trump-era Bolton debacle is the persistence of the constant revolving door of failure in Washington that is fueled by deep pockets and an insider media environment that is incapable of holding anyone to account.

Bolton’s disastrous ideas have been thoroughly discredited and his political and policy career should have been cast aside long ago, perhaps even after the Senate declined to bless his nomination as US ambassador to the United Nations back in 2005 because of his extremist views.

But instead, his post-Bush administration career flourished, presiding over a grotesquely anti-Muslim “thinktank”; landing a lucrative gig as a Fox News contributor; regularly calling for war on the op-ed pages of, for example, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times; generally hanging around Washington undeterred from, as Media Matters put it, establishing “a record of warmongering, bigotry and pushing conspiracy theories”; and then ultimately becoming one of the most powerful national security officials in the US government.

It’s likely then that we have not heard the last of John Bolton. He will probably return to Fox News or the rightwing machine will give him piles of cash to continue his quest to kill American diplomacy, and perhaps even run for president.

Ben Armbruster is the communications director for Win Without War and previously served as national security editor at ThinkProgress

The Saudi and Iranian Nuclear Horns (Daniel)

Saudi Arabia is moving forward with a uranium enrichment program, but can the U.S. embrace a nuclear Saudi Arabia after exiting the Iran Deal?

While attending a conference in Abu Dhabi on Monday, Saudi Arabi’s energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, told attendees that Saudi Arabia was “cautiously” proceeding ahead with plans to enrich uranium to use in two planned nuclear power reactors.

“We are proceeding with it cautiously … we are experimenting with two nuclear reactors,” Reuters quoted Salman as saying at the 24th World Energy Congress.

Saudi Arabia has long looked toward the possibility of nuclear power as a solution for its growing energy demands. However, in the highly volatile Middle East, enriching uranium for peaceful purposes opens the door to further enriching uranium up to weapons-grade levels, a plausibility that brought the end of Iran Nuclear Deal in 2018.

Most nuclear reactors are light-water reactors that use uranium enriched between three and five percent. The same technology used to enrich uranium for energy purposes is used to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels which typically use uranium enriched to 80% or more.

Under President Trump, the U.S. pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran Deal, originally signed in 2015 under President Obama. Under the deal, Iran agreed to limit enriching uranium to 3.67% as well as to reduce stockpiles of its enriched uranium.

President Trump was a fierce critic of the Iran Deal calling it “horrible” and “incompetent,” while also claiming that Iran was frequently in violation of the deal and enriching uranium beyond the deal’s limits.

Yet, Trump and the U.S. have never offered any proof that Iran was in violation of the deal. In fact, the agency responsible for monitoring the Iran Deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirmed in 15 consecutive reports that Iran was in compliance with the JCPOA.

Now Saudi Arabia is looking to enrich uranium likely to the same levels that Iran was enriching uranium to when the U.S. pulled out of the JCPOA. However, there is one crucial difference between the two nations’ nuclear programs. Unlike Iran and the U.S.’ volatile relationship, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have long been fervent allies (an alliance first formed under Nixon) thanks to a bond over oil, weapons and shared Middle East goals.

Iran and the U.S. have a complicated history beginning with the U.S. and U.K.-led coup and overthrowal of Iran’s democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953 and the subsequent 1979 Iranian Revolution that overthrew the U.S. backed monarchical rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

US Appears to Embrace a Nuclear Saudi Arabia

So while the U.S. has often condemned and cast a leery eye toward Iran’s nuclear power program, now, in the face of Saudi Arabia building its first two nuclear reactors, the U.S.’ reaction seems almost the polar opposite.

In March, the Daily Beast reported that the Trump administration had already secretly okayed six American companies to conduct nuclear-related work in Saudi Arabia. The month prior, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform opened an investigation into the Trump administration’s approval, looking into whether it rushed the sale of sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia and violated U.S. law by bypassing the required congressional approval.

According to the House report, under the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) “the U.S. may not transfer nuclear technology to a foreign country without the approval of Congress, in order to ensure that the agreement reached with the foreign government meets nine specific nonproliferation requirements.”

As Yasmeen Rasidi previously wrote for Citizen Truth, the congressional report said it was written in response to several whistleblowers who spoke up about the White House’s efforts to advance the transfer of sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

“The whistleblowers who came forward have warned of conflicts of interest among top White House advisers that could implicate federal criminal statutes,” Representative Elijah Cummings, the Democrat chairman of the committee, wrote in a letter to the White House in February of 2019.

Similarly, Trump has forced through the sale of billions in weapons to Saudi Arabia also bypassing or vetoing the necessary congressional approval. In July, Trump vetoed three bills passed by both the House and Senate which prohibited the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Previously, in May, Trump declared an emergency in order to bypass Congress and speed up the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

123 Agreement and Moving Forward

In order to move forward with supporting the Saudi Arabian nuclear reactors and uranium enrichment program, the U.S. is likely to insist that Saudi Arabia sign the “123 Agreement” – an agreement that binds the signatory to using its nuclear program for peaceful purposes only.

Such an agreement would allow U.S. companies to remain in the running to build and work on Saudi Arabia’s nuclear projects.

According to Reuters, Dan Brouillette, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, said as much at the Abu Dhabi conference.

“It’s important for us, with regards to U.S. technology, we’re going to pursue a 123 Agreement,” Brouillette said.

“We would like to see a 123 Agreement accompany any agreement to transfer U.S. technology or use U.S. technology in Saudi or any other place,” he added.

However, the same Reuters report claimed that progress on signing the deal has been limited because Saudi Arabia does not want to entirely rule out the possibility of enriching uranium to higher levels or reprocessing spent fuel – both potential paths to nuclear weapons.

The 123 Agreement has also been tossed around as a possibility for negotiating with Iran. Senator Lindsey Graham told the Daily Beast in early August that he urged President Trump to put the 123 Agreement on the table with Iran.

“I told the president: Put the 123 on the table with the Iranians. Make them say ‘no,’” Graham told The Daily Beast. “I think the Iranians will say no. And I think that will force the Europeans’ hands.” So far, no such offer has been made.

Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Future

In March of 2018, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS News in an interview that if Iran builds a nuclear bomb, so will Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” MBS stated in the televised interview.

While Saudi Arabia’s true nuclear weapons ambitions are unknown, Saudi Arabia is aiming to build as many as sixteen nuclear reactors by 2040 – a lucrative contract for any nuclear tech company.

Israel’s Collusion With Babylon the Great

Iran denounces ‘U.S.-Israeli plot’ over nuclear program

VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has denounced a “U.S.-Israeli plot” to put pressure on the U.N. nuclear watchdog, after the IAEA called in recent days for more cooperation from Tehran following what diplomats say was the detection of uranium particles at an undeclared site.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has broad powers to inspect Iran under its 2015 nuclear agreement with major powers. The IAEA has issued its calls in recent days for Iran to cooperate, without saying specifically what prompted them, saying this is confidential.

Diplomats told Reuters the agency wants Iran to explain how traces of uranium were found at a site that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described a year ago as a “secret atomic warehouse”.

“Since two days before this session of the Board, we are witnessing a U.S.-Israeli plot with the support of their affiliated media,” Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, said in a statement to an IAEA Board of Governors meeting that began on Monday.

He singled out former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, a hawk on Iran who left his job on Tuesday. On Saturday here, hours before the IAEA’s acting chief flew to Tehran for a visit, Bolton had said that Iran “may be concealing nuclear material and/or activities”.

Netanyahu, who like U.S. President Donald Trump opposes Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers, also said on Monday that Iran had been developing nuclear weapons at a different site that Tehran has since destroyed.

Iran says its aims are entirely peaceful.

“John Bolton’s remark wishing to set an agenda for the visit of the Acting DG on the night that he was on his way to Tehran, along with the media campaign done by two news agencies, as well as the show played by the Israeli regime Prime Minister, all-in-all indicate that a joint project is underway,” Gharibabadi said.

He did not identify the news agencies he was referring to. The Reuters report on the uranium traces was published on Sunday.

“These show-off measures are aimed at increasing pressure on the Agency, hitting the last straw on the JCPOA,” he said, referring to Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers by its full name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Washington exited the nuclear agreement last year and has reimposed sanctions on Iran. Iran has responded by announcing some steps to exceed thresholds in the agreement but says it still aims to keep the pact in place.

When asked by reporters whether traces of radioactive material had been found and why the IAEA is pushing for better cooperation, Gharibabadi said such issues are confidential and Iran is “timely and proactively cooperating” with the IAEA.

He also took a swipe at Israel, which is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons and has a policy of deliberate ambiguity about its nuclear capabilities.

“Israel talking about adhering to non-proliferation is like (the) mafia talking about adhering to the laws against organized crimes,” he said.

Reporting by Francois Murphy

Iran Reminds America We Are Bitter Enemies

iraq-billboard-iran-trump.jpg

“Death to America” billboards pop up in Baghdad. It’s a message from Iran.

BY TUCKER REALS, OMAR OMAR, KHALED WASSEF

SEPTEMBER 11, 2019 / 10:56 AM / CBS NEWS

Billboards with the slogans “Death to America — Death to Israel” have appeared in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad in recent days. There are at least five of the large signs in central Baghdad, some less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy, the Iraqi presidential palace and the national government’s headquarters.

The signs appear to be part of a campaign by Iran, carried out through proxy groups that directly threaten U.S. troops in Iraq, to demonstrate its strength and reach in the region as tension between Washington and Tehran threatens to explode into conflict.

“The billboards erected in the streets of Baghdad are evidence of the government’s inability to control pro-Iranian groups who want to drag Iraq into an international conflict that endangers the country’s future on behalf of Iran,” Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Iraq’s Nineveh province, said last week.

Iraqi political analyst and former presidential adviser Hiwa Osman told CBS News the signs show how firm a foothold Iran has in Iraq. “There isn’t a difference between Iran and its militias inside Iraq,” Osman said.

Nuclear Iran

• What John Bolton’s departure means for the Iran standoff

• Iran woman banned from soccer stadium burns herself to death

• Iran upgrades nuclear infrastructure as 2015 deal collapses

• Iran using advanced centrifuges, violating nuclear deal

MORE IN NUCLEAR IRAN

He said hard-line Iranian factions in the country are undoubtedly behind the billboards, “sending the message that should conflict arise (between Iran and the U.S.), they are on the Iranian side.”

“America doesn’t scare anyone” in Iraq, but “Iran does,” said Osman, who was an adviser to the Iraqi president from 2005 to 2008. “If you speak against America nothing happens. If you speak against Iran, you are likely to get killed.”

The message from Iran has also been conveyed through attacks targeting Israel, blamed on another Iranian proxy group, Hezbollah, and Iran’s actions in the Persian Gulf.

A billboard in Baghdad bearing a disparaging likeness of the Statue of Liberty and Donald Trump, and text reading, “The U.S. is responsible for the region’s insecurity and instability because it supports the Zionist occupation and terrorist groups,” is seen in central Baghdad, Sept. 6, 2019.

AP

One of the Baghdad billboards includes a violent depiction of the Statue of Liberty and President Donald Trump. The accompanying text reads: “The U.S. is responsible for the region’s insecurity and instability,” for supporting Israel.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and Iraqi government officials declined to comment on the billboards to CBS News.

Iraq is caught between two allies

Iraq is a vital U.S. ally in the Middle East. American forces worked directly with their Iraqi counterparts to drive ISIS out of the country. Some 5,000 U.S. service members are still there, helping train the Iraqi military, keep ISIS remnants at bay and maintain the tenuous security in the country.

The American forces also help protect U.S. interests in Iraq and, unofficially, serve as a very deliberate reminder of U.S. power to Iraq’s northern neighbor, Iran.

But even with U.S. support, the government in Baghdad still depends on local militias — many of them backed directly by Iran — to maintain security.

The Shiite, Iranian-backed “Popular Mobilization Units” (PMU) became key Iraqi allies early in the fight against ISIS and still hold significant sway in many parts of the country, including parts of Baghdad.

Iraq relying on Shiite militia with disturbin…

Iraq needs to work with both Iran and the United States. But with tension between those two Iraqi allies as high as it’s been in decades, many Iraqis fear their country could get caught in the middle of a war between Tehran and Washington.

Iraqi President Barham Salih told CBS News’ Roxana Saberi in May that he was “very worried” by the prospect.

“Iraq has been living through hell for the last four decades,” he said. “Enough of wars, enough of conflict, and certainly, Iraqis do not want to see this country yet again turn into a zone of proxy conflict.”

Persistent “rogue elements”

For almost a decade before they simultaneously battled ISIS, the Iranian-backed militias were some of the most lethal forces attacking American troops in Iraq. They haven’t gone anywhere, and Iran wants it known they would pose the same threat in any new conflict.

At the end of August, a senior PMU leader made it clear that all Americans in Iraq would become targets in the event of a U.S. war with Iran.

“All those Americans will be taken hostage by the resistance,” said Abu Alal al-Walaei, Secretary General of Kataib Sayed al-Shuhadaa, one of the biggest PMU militias in Iraq. The interviewer was startled by the assertion.

“I will say it again,” al-Walaei said. “All Americans will be hostages of the resistance if a war breaks out, because we will stand by the Islamic Republic (of Iran).” He said he wasn’t speaking in his capacity as a PMU leader, but merely as leader of an individual “resistance faction.”

The problem is well recognized, both in Iraq and Washington.

A billboard installed by a militant faction of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units on a main road in Baghdad bears the slogan: “Death to America and Israel,” next to a picture of a helicopter carrying a coffin draped with the U.S. flag,  August 30, 2019.

GETTY

Even President Salih conceded to CBS News in the spring that there were “rogue elements” that “may not be totally accountable to the state.” He said he and other Iraqi leaders were pressing those Iranian-backed Shiite militia to “cool it.”

At the end of August, Ambassador Jonathan Cohen, then the United States’ acting permanent representative to the United Nations, told members of the Security Council that “Iran’s sponsorship of destabilizing armed groups in Iraq operating outside of government control undermines Iraq’s sovereignty and threatens the safety of civilians.”

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen

GETTY

Cohen called for “these destabilizing armed groups to be removed from civilian centers and replaced with professional security forces that are responsive to Baghdad and responsible for enforcing the rule of law.”

The Iraqi government is trying to do that, by convincing the militias — of which Osman believes there are about 12 — to join the national defense forces and take commands from Baghdad, rather than Tehran.

A deal was reached for them to do so by the end of July, but a PMU leader informed Iraq’s government that he would need another two months to get all the militias to commit to the plan. Osman said at least four or five of the groups are considered hardline Iranian factions, and they are putting up the resistance (and likely the billboards).

Support for the rogues

It’s difficult to gauge how much affinity the Iraqi public has for Iran’s proxy groups. The inter-Islam divide between Sunni and Shiite still looms large in Iraqi society. There is still bitter resentment in the predominantly Shiite country over the brutality of Saddam Hussein’s Sunni regime, which ruled over the majority by force.

Some Iraqis are suspicious of American motives. One resident of the capital, 27-year-old Ali Hassan, told CBS News he believed the U.S. was “operating in Iraq on behalf of the Israelis.”

Shopkeeper Mohamad al-Rekabi shared that view, which echoes the narrative offered by Tehran: “America and Israel have chosen to start a war with us, and we are ready for it.”

But that sentiment is not ubiquitous. Iran and Iraq fought an eight-year war only 30 years ago, and for many Iraqis the fear of what Tehran can do in a conflict far outweighs any loyalty to the regime there.

“Iran is our neighbor, on our border. America is thousands of miles away,” Osman said. “When push comes to shove, the Iraqis don’t want to piss off the Iranians. They know the extent of damage the Iranians can inflict.”

Baghdad resident Haj Mhessen lost one of his two sons, both members of Iraq’s national security forces, in the fight against ISIS. He worried the billboards reflect a push toward a new war, and he hoped the Iraqi government would avoid being dragged into it.

“Why do America and Iran want to pull Iraq into this war?” he asked rhetorically. “I will tell you why, because none of them is ready to endanger their country and people. They want to use us, the Iraqis, to do the dirty fight for them.”

First published on September 11, 2019 / 10:56 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Iran Remains a Menace (Daniel 8:4)

Iran’s regime: a source of terrorism and a global threat

News : Middle East

Published: 10 September 2019

On Tuesday, September 10, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the terrorist group Hezbollah, in a video message to its supporters, reiterated his allegiance to the Iranian regime.

Calling Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, the head of the so-called “axis of resistance,” Nasrallah said, “Hereby we declare to the whole world that Khamenei is the head of the axis of resistance and the Islamic republic is the heart and essence of resistance,” the Iranian regime and its proxy terrorist groups call themselves the resistance.

In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS on September 7, James Mattis, the former United States’ Secretary of Defense, underlined Iran’s regime global threat and terrorism and accused Iran of assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

“this is a country that uses terrorism; they killed the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, they used terrorism to try to sow discord in Bahrain. They have used terrorism all through the region and in Yemen,” Mattis said.

Terrorism against its political opponents

In addition to its domestic oppression and regional terrorism, the Iranian regime has used terrorism to eliminate its dissidents abroad, mainly the members and supporters of the National Council of resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, MEK).

Iran’s regime has not only oppressed its opponents inside Iran but has carried out dozens of terrorist plots abroad against them, particularly in Europe. The most recent example was a failed bombing plot in Paris, France, in 2018, against the annual “Free Iran” gathering of the NCRI. The attack was planned by the diplomats of the regime in Europe. European authorities discovered and thwarted the bombing plot and arrested an Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, in connection with the attempt. Assadi currently awaits trial in Belgium.

The regime’s embassies in Europe, are proven to be centers of terrorism and espionage and have played a key role in Iran’s assassinations.

Other terrorist attacks conducted by the Iranian regime abroad against the MEK and NCRI members include the following:

• The kidnapping and mutilation of Ali Akbar Ghorbani, MEK member in June 4, 1992, In Turkey.

• The assassination of Kurdish opposition leaders in Berlin, Germany, in 1992

• The assassination of Mohammad Hossein Naghdi, NCRI member, in Rome, Italy, in 1993

• The assassination of Zahra Rajabi, NCRI member, in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1996

After reviewing Iran’s regime history of terrorism, it becomes clear that, unless firmly confronted, this regime will continue its terrorism because it is one of the key factors of its survival.