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  • Masoud Dalvand 10:45 am on January 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    Iran’s Trepidation Over Entering Uncharted Trump Territory 

    irans-trepidation-over-entering-uncharted-trump-territory

    By Heshmat Alavi

    US President Donald Trump posted a statement only minutes after his inauguration indicating the administration’s intention to launch a “state-of-the-art” missile-defense system to help protect allies against possible attacks from Iran and North Korea. This only adds to the trepidation felt in Tehran, already anxious about a new team in Washington and the end of the Obama “golden era.”

    Iran has revealed its major concerns about the fate of the nuclear pact, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), under Trump. This is also clear in recent remarks made by senior American figures.

    The new US president “is going to be much more forceful on the terms of the nuclear deal itself, and that itself may cause the ayatollahs to walk away, but I also know that he intends to confront…Iranian regional aggression, and their imperial project around the Middle East,” said Senator Tom Cotton, a fierce critic of the JCPOA, which he recently described as “dead.”

    Former CIA director and renowned US Army general David Petraeus made very specific suggestions to the new administration never to rule out the possibility of military action.

    “The US must prepare for action against Iran, if necessary,” he said at a recent security conference. “I told Trump we need to repeat what we want, for Iran not to have nuclear weapons and for the Islamic Republic to stop striving for a Shiite hegemony in the region. If you ask the Gulf States, their first problem is Iran, and only afterwards comes ISIS, Yemen…”

    And despite the fact that senior Iranian regime officials have threatened to “burn” the JCPOA if the Trump administration decides to tear it up, one simple principle should be kept in mind: Iran needs the deal to remain intact more than any other party. Thus, the mullahs’ macho rhetoric is meant for domestic use only, in order to maintain a straight face.

    In the meantime, President Trump’s West Asia affairs adviser, Walid Fares, raised the stakes further for Iran, proving yet again that the road ahead will be very difficult for Tehran.

    “Iran must accept a JCPOA revision. Otherwise, the US will be forced to adopt other methods to protect regional countries,” he said in a recent Asharq Al-Awsat interview.

    In response to such remarks, and the White House announcement of launching new missiles systems in the Middle East, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir used the opportunity of a joint press conference with his French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, to express his support.

    Trump has “spoken about containing Iran and its ability to cause mischief, and making sure Iran abides by the agreement,” Jubeir said, adding, “This is exactly our position.”

    Signs are showing President Trump will ratchet up JCPOA provisions and firmly enforce these measures, to say the least. As a result, cheating on the margins — something Tehran enjoyed during the Obama years — will become much more difficult.

    Furthermore, on issues the Obama White House neglected in the flawed JCPOA, the Trump administration will most likely focus much-needed attention on Tehran’s support for terrorism abroad – as seen so vividly in Iran’s involvement in Syria – and human rights violations back home.

    If the US administration penalized the mullahs in this realm in the coming months — by, for example, encouraging activities aimed at isolating Tehran — it will send a very strong message to the regime not used to such stark measures, and leave a lasting and meaningful impact on the establishment’s overall economic fortunes.

    To this end, Washington shouldn’t be the least concerned about any recent saber-rattling from Tehran regime officials, as it is merely a sign of Iran’s fear about trekking into uncharted Trump territory.

    To add insult to injury, nearly two dozen former senior American officials, some with very close relations to the new president, signed a hand-delivered letter encouraging the White House to work with the main Iranian opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), under the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, a charismatic Muslim woman advocating a peaceful, progressive and tolerant interpretation of Islam. The NCRI is a conglomerate of Iranian dissident groups, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

    All this and the new administration is just getting warmed up.

    Source : Iran’s Trepidation Over Entering Uncharted Trump Territory

    Originally published in algemeiner

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  • Masoud Dalvand 9:15 pm on January 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    International Leaders Call for IRGC to Be Blacklisted 

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    The Media Express

    U.S. lawmakers have called on the new administration to support designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. They cited its ongoing support of the Assad regime, where hundreds of thousands have been killed during the civil war. Residents of the former Camp Liberty came under attacks from the IRGC on a number of occasions. The lawmakers have also called for continued sanctions against the Iranian regime.

    In Iran, Rouhani’s government has been eager to appear as if they are mending international fences. However, reports from inside Iran by various agencies indicate that no real political change has occurred. Executions are on the rise and human rights violations occur at an alarming rate, despite multiple calls to stop these actions by the international community and human rights organizations.

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    Various international leaders have noted that this “reformist-moderate” has only further strengthened the position of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and…

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  • Masoud Dalvand 9:02 pm on January 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    Iran Sabotages a Syrian Ceasefire 

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    Iran Commentary

    By Heshmat Alavi

    Despite the boasted rhetoric about the agreement reached in the Astana talks over the Syria ceasefire, this latest stage unveiled the limits involved parties face in bringing an end to the six-year war. Even Russia’s chief negotiator at the discussion reached the point of complaining, more than once, about diverse complications. And the main obstacle remains Iran, due to the fact that a true ceasefire in Syria should spell the end of its foothold.

    The talks have even been dubbed a diplomatic coup, with all three sponsors, Moscow, Ankara, and Tehran accused of seeking separate objectives. The truth is there is no ceasefire thanks to Iran’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Despite the so-called “ceasefire pact” sealed on December 30th, pro-Assad forces backed by Iran — including the Lebanese Hizb’allah — have continued attacks on the besieged rebel-held area of Wadi Barada near Damascus.

    The Syrian…

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  • Masoud Dalvand 8:48 pm on January 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    Iran’s Plasco Catastrophe: Who Is Responsible? 

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    By reading this article,you will gain  useful information about the depth of corruption in the religious dictatorship ruling Iran.

    Iran Commentary

    The horrific inferno that engulfed Tehran’s iconic Plasco building, rendering a heartbreaking scene of a 20-story building crumbling to the ground, and accidentally broadcasted live on state TV, came as a catastrophic shock for all Iranians.

    To add to the pain, dozens of brave firemen who rushed to the scene ultimately sacrificed their lives in an effort to save their brethren. And amazingly, the Iranian regime refuses to provide an exact number of firefighters who perished in a disaster that should have prevented. Reports have circled of 30 and up to 75 losing their lives in this tragedy.

    Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi “extended her condolences to the people of Tehran and particularly the families of the victims on this tragic loss and urged Tehran’s residents to rush to the aid of the injured.”

    This incident has terrified the mullahs’ regime as all Iranians realized the predictable and preventable nature…

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  • Masoud Dalvand 7:49 pm on January 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    How Team Trump Can Counter Obama’s Iran Legacy 

    By Heshmat Alavi

    If the Iran nuclear deal — crafted and profoundly advocated by former US President Barack Obama — was meant to mature the mullahs, it failed miserably. With a new administration under President Donald Trump taking the helm in Washington, Iran is acting in ways never intended as a result of the nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

    With Obama at the wheel, America was unfortunately ready “to ignore violations of international accords, as we have done with Iran,” explained US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    One interesting example is Iran’s practice of producing an excessive amount of heavy water, more than the JCPOA-permitted limit. It was made public that the Obama White House assisted Tehran in dodging this violation by purchasing the excess heavy water produced by Iran. This had literally provided Tehran a fruitful business opportunity: Violate the JCPOA and get paid for it. Go figure.

    “There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage…

    As expected, Obama administration officials defended their actions, arguing that Iran’s effort to obtain nuclear weapons would face hurdles with the shipping out of excess heavy water and adding such a safety precaution is worth the cost of $8.6 million.

    The bigger picture, however, is far more disturbing. Washington also provided yet another compensation to Tehran by blessing the provision of 116 metric tons of Russian natural uranium.

    To add insult to injury: “The Obama administration left top lawmakers, including leaders on the congressional committees charged with overseeing American foreign policy, in the dark about a secret deal to send Iran more than one hundred metric tons of natural uranium,” according to The Weekly Standard.

    Yes, Iran is permitted to possess raw uranium based on JCPOA articles. Yet it is necessary to reiterate that the Obama-authorized batch provides Iran with enough materials to enrich for peaceful energy purposes — and up to 10 nuclear bombs.

    While President Trump tearing up the nuclear deal may counter the advice of a slate of senior officials, one very effective approach would be to make the worst deal in history better.

    The Trump administration can adopt an approach wrongfully set aside by Team Obama, namely, presenting a “credible threat of sanctions that could severely damage the Iranian energy and financial sectors, and a credible surgical military option,” as explained in a USA Today piece.

    Tillerson aims to call for an extensive Iran deal evaluation. He has promised “no nuclear enrichment in Iran, no storing of nuclear materials in Iran” and that America will “hold [the Iranians] to that agreement.” Rest assured, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his inner circle are already bracing for impact.

    The West’s misinterpretation of Iran, its assumption that Tehran would abandon the nuclear deal or risk a military confrontation with America, must be put aside once and for all. It should be understood that the regime in its entirety desperately needs the JCPOA to remain intact, despite all the macho rhetoric heard from various Iranian figures.

    Senior regime officials understand very well the Iranian population were fed up with continuing sanctions for a nonsense nuclear program. No nuclear deal meant only a matter of time for the powder keg of Iranian society to explode completely out of control.

    And Khamenei more than anyone else understands his unconventional military structure, and the low morale among the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and Iran’s classic army, are no match for any military confrontation with even regional countries, let alone the United States.

    This brings us to the question of what approach Team Trump should adopt.

    Iran must understand that America is committed to uprooting the crises plaguing the Middle East, especially Iran’s involvement in Syria. Iran has spread its disease across the region through the notorious IRGC and its extraterritorial Quds Force, led by Qassem Suleimani. Sanctioning all such entities, especially the IRGC, as foreign terrorist organization would be the very launch pad the Trump administration needs to send Iran the best signal.

    The mullahs have wreaked havoc inside of Iran, throughout the Middle East and beyond. It is high time for America to stand alongside the Iranian people in their plight to establish democracy by ridding this ancient land of such a ruthless regime.

    Unlike all its neighbors in the Middle East that embraced the Arab Spring, Iran enjoys a highly organized opposition movement led by Maryam Rajavi, a progressive-minded Muslim woman and President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The international community, spearheaded by America, should recognize this movement as the legitimate representative of the Iranian people, as advised recently by 23 former senior American government officials in a letter hand-delivered to then President-elect Donald Trump.

    Tehran must realize that with Obama gone, Washington will no longer safeguard its interests at all costs. The tides have changed and the mullahs must fasten their seatbelts for the upcoming journey.

    Originally posted in  Algemeiner

    via   How Team Trump Can Counter Obama’s Iran Legacy — Iran Commentary

     
  • Masoud Dalvand 6:56 am on January 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    Appeasement of Iran Must End 

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    A tumultuous year lies ahead. With a new administration taking the helm in Washington, the French elections upcoming, then the sham “elections” in Iran, and unprecedented developments in the making in the Middle East and on the international stage.

    2017 has begun with enormous concerns for the mullahs in Iran. With the death of former Iranian regime president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s establishment witnessed the fall of one of its two pillars.

    To this end, Tehran’s religious dictatorship suffered a devastating blow and weakened in its entirety.

    The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the most ruthless factions of his regime are trekking down the path of further contraction, advocating extremism,supporting terrorism, and pursuing their nuclear ambitions.

    With the regime weakness bringing joy to the Iranian population, the mullahs are left terrified of a repeat of uprisings on the model of 2009. This is especially significant with crucial presidential “elections” coming in May.

    The general public and even political prisoners are voicing their dissent like never before, especially thanks to social media. Families of regime victims are protesting, especially those whose loved ones perished amongst the 30,000 political prisoners massacred by the mullahs back in 1988. The people are demanding an end to ruthless executions and the regime’s existence.

    The Iranian people, one year after the Iranian nuclear pact’s implementation,have gained nothing. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, however, has ironically benefited Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), allowing Iran to finance lethal ambitions in Syria and throughout the Middle East.

    The world has come to realize that the mullahs, the IRGC, the Lebanese Hizb’allah and other Shiite militias have no such role of confronting extremism and Daesh (ISIS/ISIL). In fact, their goal has been to maintain Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in power.

    They have the main source of distributing terrorism and instability across this flashpoint region. In fact, their presence in Syria guarantees the mullahs’ continued rule back home.

    Khamenei recently said if they hadn’t fought in Syria, they “had not been confronted [in Syria], we should have stood against them in Tehran, Fars, Khorasan and Isfahan.”

    In response to the latest Syrian ceasefire effort, Iran and its proxy elements are the sole parties seeking to sabotage the entire initiative. According to Syrian opposition leaders, Iran is the sole party seeking nothing but to maintain Assad in power at all costs.

    No political solution is possible in the Levant as long as the IRGC and their Shiite militias are present in the country. Thus, if we seek peace in this land, the only serious path forward lies in expelling the mullahs from Syria. The main party in detriment from a ceasefire and eventual peace in Syria is none other than Tehran.

    The Obama administration’s appeasement policy vis-à-vis Iran is the main reason behind the Syria tragedy and the mullahs’ dominance in this war. Iran counted on the West’s engagement approach to literally export its extremism under the banner of Islam.

    The end of Obama’s tenure leaves little hope for the mullahs’ regime to act as they wish. This situation intensified ever since the occupation of Iraq back in 2003. Khamenei has been the main benefactor in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. But such days are over.

    Considering the failed rapprochement approach, a policy change is needed to end the Middle East crisis. Actions must be taken in the face of the IRGC’s terrorism and its destructive role in the region. Otherwise neither the Middle East nor the world, for that matter, will ever experience true peace and tranquility.

    We cannot ally with one form of extremism to root out another. Extremism under the name of Islam, be it Sunni or Shiite, is no different in viciousness and none represent Islam. In fact, they are better described as forms of religious fascism.

    Therefore, no government can promote an alliance with Tehran under the pretext of pursuing a security policy. Furthermore, we cannot neglect our principles for the mere sake of short-term economic gains and turn our backs on human rights and women’s rights violations in Iran.

    Today’s Iran has an alternative with a democratic agenda based on respecting religious freedoms, universal suffrage, separation of church and state, and gender equality. The voice of this alternative should be heard, as proposed by nearly two dozen senior top U.S. officials in a hand-delivered letter to President Donald Trump.

    This alternative is none other than the National Council of Resistance of Iranunder the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, who years ago presented her vision for a future Iran in a 10-point-plan.

    The solution presented by the Iranian opposition can render a new era for the people of Iran, nations across the Middle East and beyond. We only need to remain loyal to our democratic values and principles.

    shahriar_kia2  Shahriar Kia is a political analyst and member of Iranian opposition (PMOI/MEK). He graduated from North Texas University. @shahriarkia

    Source: Appeasement of Iran Must End

     
  • Masoud Dalvand 7:41 pm on January 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    What Is Iran’s Policy-Making Mechanism? 

    what-is-irans-policy-making-mechanism

    January 25, 2017

    By Heshmat Alavi

     As we close in to the Iran presidential election — read “selection” — a more precise look at the policymaking mechanisms at work in this very peculiar theocratic system is necessary.

    The regime in Iran, with Hassan Rouhani as its president, has been eager to portray an image of a government mending fences with the international community.

    However, no beginning of true political change has occurred in Iran despite Rouhani’s deceptive smiles. The so-called “reformist-moderate” initiative in Iran has only further strengthened and secured Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) in power.

    There is a misleading notion of two divergent political trends in Iran, one pursuing a so-called “hardline” approach led by the Khamenei-IRGC camp, and another claiming a more “reformist” attitude by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his mentor and fierce Khamenei rival, the late former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

    Yet the harsh reality is that these seemingly competing trends are quietly harmonious in practice. Khamenei continues to monopolize power in Iran, while in need of the rival camp to portray a satisfactory canvas of his regime to the outside world.

    Khamenei has the last word on all national security and foreign policy matters. Concern at times raised by outside analysts over escalating tensions between the two sides over subjects such as the nuclear deal are the result of Iran’s deceptive propaganda machine at work. The regime, in its entirety, focuses on swaying all attention far from the true policymaking mechanics at work deep in Tehran.

    Rouhani only became president with Khamenei’s personal blessing, as the latter understood fully the potential of another 2009-style uprising brewing in Iran. The Guardian Council, Khamenei’s lever to control all elections by vetting each and every candidate, enjoys the authority to bar any individual considered unpalatable. Rest assured that Khamenei considered Rouhani useful, or else he would have joined the long list of disqualified others.

    Khamenei saw his regime facing a massive economic crisis threatening to spark a major uprising after former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, described as a firebrand, plunged Iran into serious international isolation. Sanctions were frustrating the Iranian population and the global oil price nosedive added insult to injury.

    At first glance the IRGC, taking control over a large portion of Iran’s economy, was benefiting as sanctions burdened private sector competitors. Yet little by little even the IRGC’s profits began to plunge, and Khamenei realized his desperate need for sanctions reliefs at the price of taking a major step back from his nuclear ambitions.

    Tehran is taking advantage of the Iran nuclear deal as a medium to calm domestic unrest and to revive the IRGC’s former economic stature. To this end, Khamenei needed a figure such as Rouhani to help convince the international community to make the deal. Of course, Tehran also enjoyed a major lifeline through the pro-appeasement dogma adopted by U.S. President Barack Obama.

    In the meantime, Khamenei also needed to preserve his domestic image, as kowtowing to foreign pressure would be recipe for disaster. This is where the regime pursued a two-faced approach. While Rouhani and his top diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, played “good cop” shaking hands with the “Great Satan,” Khamenei remains the “bad cop” in resorting to blatant rhetoric against America and Co.

    This double-standard policy, pursued in parallel, has become the doctrine for the Iranian regime to maintain control over increasing domestic agitation while presenting an appealing portrait to the outside world.

    While regime loyalists stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and Khamenei threatened Riyadh with “divine revenge,” five American hostages were released in return for the United Nations declaring Iran in compliance with the nuclear pact.

    A further in-depth evaluation proves Iran’s new economic exchanges with the West are not parallel to any political improvements. In fact, safeguarding the IRGC’s grip on the economy is considered vital to enhancing their political position.

    The IRGC has also been described as “a major force when it comes to controlling Iran’s economy. Many Iranians in and out of the country have called the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ‘Iran’s mafia.’”

    The elimination of 99% of so-called “reformist” candidates in the February 26 parliamentary elections can provide a preview to the upcoming presidential elections, with higher stakes at play.

    No pragmatic behavior by Iran will render any meaningful change within. Nor will Tehran ever abandon regional ambitions in which it has invested billions, including Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon. In fact, boosting efforts to realize such objectives is necessary to maintain Iran’s political status quo.

    While Khamenei remains in control, recent developments in Syria, with Russia and Turkey spearheading a ceasefire agreement, are completely against Iran’s interests. This is parallel to snowballing dissent inside Iran on the verge of intense times prior to the May 2017 presidential election. This leaves Khamenei before a major dilemma over how to play his cards.

    “The 37-year-old experience of the destructive and murderous mullahs’ regime in my country has shown that no degree of political and economic concessions, which have been carried out at the expense of the Iranian people, have led to a change of behavior or policies of the Iranian regime either inside or outside of Iran,” said Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group of dissident entities including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

    Sanctions relief providing temporary life-support for Tehran won’t last long. The international community, and the new administration in Washington, should take advantage of the nuclear deal to increase pressure on Tehran, forcing it to start actually abiding by international laws and standards.

    Heshmat Alavi is a political and rights activist. His writing focuses on Iran, ranging from human rights violations, social crackdown, the regime’s support for terrorism and meddling in foreign countries, and the controversial nuclear program.

    He tweets at @HeshmatAlavi & blogs at IranCommentary

    Source: What Is Iran’s Policy-Making Mechanism?

     
  • Masoud Dalvand 9:18 pm on January 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: French National Assembly, , , , , , ,   

    Paris: Conference on Iran policy at French National Assembly 

     

    conference-on-iran-policy

    On Tuesday, January 17, 2017, a conference was held at the French National Assembly to discuss the changing role of Europe in the Middle East following recent political developments.

    The conference, entitled “Middle East Developments: French and European Approaches”, was held in the Assembly’s Victor Hugo hall. Maryam Rajavi, the event’s keynote speaker, was joined by French parliamentarians including Dominique Lefebvre, Michel Terrot, Brigitte Allain, Pascal Deguilhem, Philippe Gosselin, and Federic Reiss, as well as former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Lincoln Bloomfield and Dr. Alejo Vidal Quadras, former Vice President of the European Parliament.

    Continue Reading…

    via  Paris: Conference on Iran policy at French National Assembly — The Media Express

     
  • Masoud Dalvand 9:01 pm on January 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    What to learn from Iran’s unconventional naval tactics 

    Tehran took advantage of Obama’s appeasement to increase its Middle East influence. An alternative is available, and it’s not war.

    Once again Iran resorted to its desperate and unprofessional tactic of dispatching fast-attack boats in the Persian Gulf to harass U.S. Navy ships, this time leading to warning shots fired by the USS Mahan destroyer.

    This latest incident, taking place on Monday, January 9th, was the first such case recorded in 2017 and can be a prelude to what lies ahead. A weak Obama administration policy vis-à-vis Iran, based on appeasement, allowed Tehran take advantage especially for domestic purposes.

    Iran understands perfectly it stands no match against the U.S. in conventional military warfare, including naval combat. The Iranian navy suffered devastating blows by the U.S. Navy throughout the 1980s through the course of the Iran-Iraq War.

    Following a year of significant tension in the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz–through which a significant amount of the world’s oil exports passes–Iran is bracing for a new administration in Washington.

    After Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei succumbed to the humiliation of signing a nuclear accord with the international community, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he desperately needs to continue boasting the anti-American mantra through such measures and provocative marital encounters.

    Despite the U.S. designating Iran as the leading state sponsor of terrorism, the mullahs understood fully how former U.S. president Barack Obama sought to hallmark the Iran deal as his foreign policy legacy. As a dismal consequence, amongst many others, Tehran was able to pursue its lethal policies in Syria to maintain Bashar Assad in power, knowing the Obama administration would refrain from any action threatening the nuclear talks.

    Betting on the notion Obama would avoid any confrontation potentially endangering the JCPOA, Iran escalated its use of unconventional military methods to maintain a satisfactory image and reputation for its already dwindling and dismal social base.

    Back in January of 2016 Iran’s Revolutionary Guards members apprehended a number of U.S. Navy sailors, launching a wave of criticism in the U.S. against Obama and his Iran doctrine. It is believed the general political atmosphere established by the Obama administration twisted the U.S. Navy’s arm from taking any measures even authorized by the books.

    Parallel to naval aggravations, Iran has invested in a dangerous ballistic missile program, threatening not only U.S. interests and allies in the Middle East, but also capitals in Eastern Europe. This must be evaluated through Khamenei’s perspective, how ballistic missile launchesallows him to canvas a somewhat reputable image against the “Great Satan” and other Iran ill-wishers.

    This need increased significantly following the sudden death of former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. While considered a staunch rival of Khamenei and seeking his throne, Rafsanjani was nonetheless the balancing element for the regime in its entirety. His absence has left a void, and Khamenei and the regime against dangerous times ahead.

    “The death of Rafsanjani, one of the pillars of the religious fascism ruling Iran and its balance factor collapsed, and the regime in its entirety is closer now to its overthrow,” explained Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella group of dissident entities including People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

    The new U.S. administration has the opportunity to remedy the highly flawed Middle East doctrine adopted by Team Obama, most importantly its Iran policy dossier.

    Supporting the NCRI is one serious option in this regard.

    “Nearly two dozen former top U.S. government officials have urged President-elect Donald Trump to work with Iran’s opposition once in office,” based on a letter obtained by Fox News, signed by former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani; former Sen. Joe Lieberman; and retired Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Bill Clinton, to name a few.

     

    via  What to learn from Iran’s unconventional naval tactics — Iran Commentary

     
  • Masoud Dalvand 9:14 pm on January 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Astana, , , , , ,   

    Astana Talks: Why Iran and Russia differ on Syria? 

    The Nur-Astana mosque in Astana on January 22, 2017. The Astana peace talks, set to begin on Monday, will be the first time a delegation composed exclusively of rebel groups will negotiate with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (AFP)

    With a new administration under Donald Trump taking the helm in Washington, Iran has shown its concerns by opposing any participation by the United States in upcoming Syrian peace talks scheduled for today in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

    “We have not invited them, and we are against their presence,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on January 17, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, citing Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

    This is Iran trying to keep a straight face for its dwindling social base back home, knowing they have lost hegemony in the Syria dossier to Russia, and yet refusing to admit such a strategic setback. Zarif’s remarks, however, went against pledges made by Russia and Turkey, who have recently taken the initiative out of Iran’s hands in Syria, of inviting the new Trump administration to the Astana talks. US officials have also signaled Washington will be taking part in the new effort.

    This latest development points to a major conflict over one of the many definite flashpoints to come between Washington and Tehran over the Middle East. This goes parallel to the highly possible strong approach Team Trump is on the track of adopting, making a significant U-turn in comparison to the Obama administration and their immensely flawed appeasement policy.

    In fact, it also proves how Moscow never considered Tehran a strategic partner. It is quite obvious Kremlin would prefer a strong relationship and a real “reset” with the White House, and not the mullahs and what little they have to offer. While Iran considers Syria its 35th province, it has never been the case for Moscow.

    “If the enemy attacks us and seeks to take Syria or Khuzestan [oil-rich southwestern Iranian province], our priority would be to keep Syria, because if we keep Syria, we can take back Khuzestan. But if we lose Syria, we would lose Tehran,” said senior Iranian cleric and former IRGC intelligence chief Mehdi Taeb in describing the utter importance of Syria for Iran.

    Russia’s objectives

    Russia, however, has a variety of objectives in its return to the Middle East after 40 years. With crippling sanctions imposed by the US and Europe over the row in Ukraine and Crimea, Moscow is considering to not only gain a foothold in a strategic corner of the globe, but to also obtain a bargaining chip for future deals with Brussels and Washington.

    Russia seeks to maintain its hold on Syria as a Middle East ally and a profitable market for its export of military weapons. This, however, does not spell into maintaining Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in power. The arrangements Moscow is looking for can be reached in talks with the West.

    Tehran, on the other hand, is trekking a completely different trail and continuing its original path of establishing a disastrous “Shiite crescent” across the region. Meaning Iran simply cannot have an overhaul take place in Syria, while this is exactly what the Western-backed Syrian opposition seeks.

    Iran has invested heavily in Syria and its conglomerate of Shiite militias–far more powerful than what is left of Assad’s army–are taking orders from Tehran, not Damascus. Syria is the cornerstone and the backbone of Iran’s Middle East strategy, stretching from Iraq to Lebanon and even Yemen.

    As a result, with Russia pursuing a main objective of obtaining more concessions from the US and Europe on various issues including Ukraine, the possibility of Moscow and Washington reaching an agreement over Syria vastly in contrast to Tehran’s interests should not at all be considered farfetched.

    This lays the ground for a dangerous potential, from Iran’s perspective, of Russia and the US coming to terms over Syria’s future. Moscow is in pursuit of a fast solution for Syria and sees Washington involvement in the Astana talks in line with such an objective.

    And this is why Zarif, Iran’s top diplomat, seems to have shown such a harsh reaction, as if Iran is being thrown under the bus by Russia. The dispute between Moscow and Tehran over Syria and its future are serious, to say the least. As I explained in a recent Gatestone piece:

    “Iran may have enjoyed tactical gains in Aleppo. However, Russia apparently has separate, long-term interests in complete dissimilarity from those of Tehran. Russia has conducted secret direct talks with the Syrian opposition. To add insult to injury, Iran – viewing the Obama presidency as a golden era – is also concerned about the incoming presidency of Donald Trump and his administration, who seem to have strong views against Tehran.”

    Originally posted in Al Arabiya English

    via  Astana Talks: Why Iran and Russia differ on Syria? — Iran Commentary

     
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