By Shahriar Kia
The current plan for sanctions against Iran leaves the regime between a proverbial rock and hard place since its choices are complied or die.
The adoption of “Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017” by the United States Senate has rendered a variety of reactions from Iran resembling the terrified status of the regime’s senior ranks. Iranian media have widely referred to this new bill and the resulting authorizations as the “mother of all sanctions” and the “sanctions black hole.”
“Section 5 of this bill is related to new sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). This new bill is dubbed the ‘sanctions black hole’ considering the fact that based on Executive Order 13224, any individual providing services to an identified organization in this Executive Order, that individual or his/her entity will be placed on the US sanctions list or the SDN… with the adoption and implementation of this bill, we can forecast that a few thousand individuals will be placed in the SDN sanctions list…,” according to IRGC-affiliated semi-official Fars news agency.
Continue reading: via Iran’s Impasse and the “Sanctions Black Hole” — Iran Liberty
Acting as a major wake up call for Iran, the US Senate on Thursday sent a strong message to the mullahs through a bill fit to place new sanctions targeting Tehran’s ballistic missile program, its support for regional and global terrorism and human rights violations.
Experts have noted the powerful nature of these new measures and analysts close to the Iranian regime have dubbed this measure as the “mother of all sanctions.”
Foad Izadi, a known Iranian intelligence figure, in a recent interview reflected on the depth of this advantage and described the nuclear sanctions as child’s play in comparison.
When we place these new sanctions alongside US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s support for regime change in Iran through peaceful steps and Members of Congress calling for blacklisting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization, we find the mullahs on the receiving end of very commanding signal.
The 98-2 vote has approved a sleek text that abides by the Iran nuclear deal. These sanctions, technically considered secondary, are in compliance with the nuclear deal due to the very characteristics of Iran’s missile program being excluded from the so-called “landmark” agreement that has failed to provide anything to boast about for the Iranian people. This was yet another concession provided by the Obama administration to Tehran, and the mullahs are seeking to capitalize by operating hand in hand.
“It truly is astounding what Iran continues to do around the world,” said Sen. Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “For a people that are capable of so much, their foreign policy is shockingly counter to their own interest.
“We see destabilizing act after destabilizing act — from missile launches, to arms transfers, to terrorist training, to illicit financial activities, to targeting Navy ships and detaining American citizens — the list goes on and on.”
The Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 enjoys an overwhelming focus on sanctioning any foreign individual or entity doing business with a counterpart pre-designated by the US administration in association with Iran’s ballistic missile program. For example, these sanctions can be imposed on any financial institution or foreign company involved in providing key parts or components necessary for Tehran’s controversial missile program.
Two other such actions by the Treasury Department in February and May were preludes, as the administration officially slapped sanctions against a slate of individuals and entities procuring for Iran’s ballistic missile program. The February sanctions were in response to Iran’s medium-range ballistic missile test in late-January, considered by many as a United Nations Security Council Resolution violation.
There are also voices heard questioning the effectiveness of this new measure able to add any particular new bite considering the already extensive landscape of US measures. And yet it is also recognized how such an initiative will be sending a very dominant political message to Iran.
The mullahs in Tehran are also one of, if not the, leading state in human rights violations. While many boasted of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gaining a second term launching a new drive for moderation, there are already increasing reports of dozens of executions ever since the May 19th vote and sweeping crackdown across the country. The recent twin attacks in Tehran on June 7th, which was claimed by ISIS, are also being exploited by the mullahs’ to increase domestic crackdown and foreign meddling.
- At least 30 inmates in a Southeast Iran prison are on the verge of execution, reports.
- As the Middle East is engulfed in a rift with many states severing diplomatic ties with Qatar, Iran continues to fuel the dilemma through capitalizing on this sensitive subject.
- Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen recently targeted three Saudi aid trucks delivering relief aid.
- Iranian boats resorted to new “unsafe and unprofessional” moves in training a laser on a US Marine Corps CH-53E helicopter as three US Naval ships were transiting Strait of Hormuz international waters.
The world has already experienced how a policy of appeasement and engagement has only emboldened the mullahs to the point of taking advantage of such dismal practices by the international community.
The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) have a history of unveiling Iran’s plots and warning the world about Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, ballistic missile drive, meddling across the Middle East and supporting terrorism, and resorting to unspeakable human rights violations.
This new round of sanctions will be considered a significant blow to these the Iranian regime’s illicit efforts, especially as experts believe the path is being paved to blacklist Iran’s IRGC. The Guards play a major, if not the leading, role in all the above-stated belligerences, and most concerning today is the foreign meddling that continues to wreak havoc in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and a variety of international waterways that can disrupt billions of dollars of economic transactions.
The new US Senate sanctions are very necessary indeed, as Iran only understands the language of force. This very correct measure should act as the building block and cornerstone of a new foundation of strong action to rein in Iran’s mullahs and finally bring about true and everlasting change and peace.
Signaling a major buzz topic in Washington these days, with the international community waiting anxiously, the new US administration is on the verge of implementing a significant Iran policy overhaul.
America nearly lost all of its influence in the Middle East as a result of a devastating engagement policy captained by the Obama-Kerry team, all in a desperate effort to obtain Tehran’s consent in completing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The impact of the support by the Obama Administration of the Arab Spring did the rest, as main Arab allies came under immense pressure.
While President Trump has not torn up the deal as candidate Trump pledged, his administration has taken the lead to strongly criticize Iran’s current behavior in the Middle East that poses a major threat to America’s strategic position and the security of regional allies.
The Trump administration, unlike its fledgling predecessor, is weighing on how to bring Iran’s mischievous behavior under control and have it completely halted.
Selling a false deal
Let’s review the facts on the ground:
– The Middle East is in carnage, with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and proxies launching deadly killings in Syria in support of Assad, massacring Sunnis and other minorities in Iraq, supporting Houthi militants in Yemen, and the Lebanese Hezbollah, just to name a few.
– Tehran is continuing its ballistic missile program full speed ahead, preparing to couple the project with an ongoing secret nuclear weapons drive, as exposed recently by the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
– Military confrontations between US-Arab allies and Iranian forces continue, as shown in the Gulf and the Bab Al Mandab.
– Flagrant human rights violations and increasing domestic crackdown. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, now seeking a second term, has presided over 3,000 executions.
We were reminded recently by US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley ,when she referred to existing Security Council resolutions banning Iran from importing or exporting arms, and end all ballistic missile testing.
Haley clearly indicated Trump will not allow such measures slide, as we witnessed far too often under the Obama watch.
“The United States will work closely with our partners to document and address any actions that violate these resolutions,” Haley said. “We must take a stand against Iran and Hezbollah’s illegal and dangerous behavior.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also raised eyebrows in remarks unseen from America’s top diplomat for many years. Iran continues to enjoy the top ranking of the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. The nature of sanctions being vital to the national and security interests of America, and its regional allies in particular, will be a major topic of a new JCPOA review.
Sanctions and economic pressures are a major leverage the US enjoys against Tehran. Blocking access to the global banking system and compelling companies and various institutions to choose between America’s $19 trillion economy and Iran’s half a trillion should not make the decision any harder.
Irony lies in the fact that Obama initially boosted US sanctions against Iran, only to ignore Iran’s highly belligerent proliferation activities and support for terrorism.
A recent Politico report highlighted how the Obama administration even released Iranian arms dealers apprehended by US authorities and dropped international arrest warrants seeking others. To this end, Obama literally risked US national security for the sake of appeasing Tehran’s mullahs.
The Trump administration is set to draw a major line in the sand. Beefing up sanctions could be a major policy change adopted by the new White House. To take steps further, Washington should seriously consider designating the mullahs’ Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization for its role in Iran’s meddling and supporting terrorism, extremism and Islamic fundamentalism across the Middle East, Tehran’s ongoing military development programs -especially the ballistic missile drives – and horrific human rights violations across the country.
If Washington would be able to address these options in full, not falling into the trap of removing the Iranian regime under the umbrella of “bringing democracy”, but supporting a growing liberal democratic opposition, a better future for Iran is possible. This will take time, during which economic and political pressure should be increased on the regime. Appeasing the mullahs will not reap any positive rewards, Tehran will not see any need to change at all.
– Dr. Cyril Widdershoven is the co-writer of this article.
The main Iranian opposition group held a press conference on April 21, releasing information that backed their claims that Iran was secretly conducting research into nuclear weapon components, such as bomb triggers and enriched uranium.
According to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the regime is doing the engineering and weaponization testing at a walled military compound that has been declared off-limits to inspectors.
“This is the site that has been kept secret,” said Alireza Jafrazadeh, the NCRI’s Washington office deputy director. “There is secret research to manufacture the bomb and basically cover up the real activities of the Iranian regime.”
According to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) of 2015, Iran has to follow specific rules in order to keep the sanctions from being put back in place. This agreement is seen as a major thorn in the side of the Trump administration by various U.S. officials. However, the State Department reported this week that Iran was abiding by the agreement. Iran has benefited from the billions of dollars that have been freed up by the lifting of the secondary sanctions, but the economic benefits have not been felt by the Iranian people. Instead, the funds appear to be paying for Iran’s interventions in various countries throughout the Middle East, including Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has said that “inspection of our military sites is out of the question and is one of our red lines.” A number of Iranian leaders have repeated that warning in recent months.
“In order to understand the regime’s secret and illicit activities, it is critical that the IAEA inspect and monitor not only the Research Academy, but also all other sites related to SPND,” the NCRI-MEK said. “This will help shed light on the scope of the regime’s secret military and nuclear activities.”
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also called Iran out for its expansionist terrorist activities, acknowledging that they are meeting the letter of the JCPOA, but not the spirit of the agreement.
“They are carrying out their research in various fields related to the manufacturing of a nuclear weapon,” said the NCRI’s report. “In some of these fields, new initiatives have also been undertaken in order to keep the real objectives of the research a secret and to cover up the real activities.”
Jafrazadeh noted that this report was not based on the IAEA monitoring known sites and measuring technical metrics, such as the amounts of enriched uranium. “What the council is disclosing is secret weaponization work that now needs to be investigated,” said Jafrazadeh. “We’re talking about an extensive covert operation by the Iranian regime.”
He also noted that these sites need to be inspected right away, before they are cleaned up by Iran and the evidence essentially disappears.
According to a statement by Sona Samsami, NCRI-US Representative Office, there are critical steps that need to be taken to restrict Iran’s nuclear program, including the end of their uranium enrichment program. She also encouraged that the international community exert control to obtain access to all sites, including the military ones for IAEA inspectors. The MEK have a long history of exposing sites and other information about Iran’s nuclear program.
It is now crystal clear that Iran has actually further expanded its activities and this new information clarifies all of SPND’s subdivisions, now located inside the highly controversial Parchin site in Tehran Lavizan district, are continuing their work without the JCPOA causing any halts or even speedbumps in this regard.
SPND and the possible military dimension (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program were the subject of an extensive 2011 report issued by the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA).
The PMOI/MEK has also unveiled new information about a new location associated to Iran’s nuclear weapons project, being kept secret to this day from the eyes of the IAEA inspectors. This led to the US State and Treasury departments in 2014 blacklisting SPND. The IAEA has yet to enjoy no access to SPND sites.
Obvious is the fact that Iran’s nuclear program is not peaceful in nature, as confirmed by US President Donald Trump in his latest remarks after Secretary Tillerson’s report.
The PMD aspect of Iran’s nuclear program were never resolved. Based on Iran’s nuclear program history, this regime has a long record of razing sites and cloaking its efforts from the outside world. Even Iran’s declared sites were acknowledged by Tehran only after the NCRI exposed them and eventually the IAEA gained access to.
The issue at hand that deserves long overdue attention is Iran’s covert efforts regarding its nuclear weapons program. Iran has been able to maintain intact the bigger bulk of its nuclear program, run by the military apparatus. Even the so-called civilian aspects of Tehran’s nuclear effort is under military control.
The international community should not limit its measures to merely monitoring Iran’s nuclear program. The NCRI is now, as ever, suggesting that all the sites referred in Friday’s press conference should be visited by the IAEA and there should be no acceptation of these sites being kept off limits by Tehran.
Secretary Tillerson correctly highlighted how the JCPOA fails to meet the objective of establishing a non-nuclear Iran and merely delays Tehran’s efforts of obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The weaponization aspect of Iran’s nuclear program has not been the focus of drive to contain the mullahs’ devious intentions. This must change. These latest revelations make it necessary for Congress to impose widespread sanctions and designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. This will send the ultimate message to Tehran, especially at a time when the regime is engulfed in a presidential election crisis.
by Amir Basiri
Just one day after the State Department officially notified Congress of Iran complying with its commitments based on the nuclear deal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s latest remarks caught Tehran by surprise.
The nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has failed to quell Iran’s capability and willpower to develop nuclear weapons, Tillerson emphasized, highlighting the fact that the mullahs’ ambitions continue to pose grave threats for international peace and security.
Prior to Tillerson’s latest lashing at Tehran, the Iranian regime was boasting the State Department’s required 90-day report as a major breakthrough. This was a first for the Trump administration in stating anything with the potential of being weighed as positive.
The White House is currently involved in an extensive review of its sensitive Iran policy, which includes a major evaluation and possible overhaul of the JCPOA claimed to be aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program, yet has failed to relieve all concerns, according to many critics.
As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump vowed to tear up the agreement, describing it as the “worst deal ever negotiated.” Once in office, however, President Trump is taking his time weighing the advice of his cabinet on how to correctly trek ahead on this matter.
A major flaw of President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran was its refusal to address the mullahs’ lethal meddling across the Middle East, including their involvement in Syria, and flagrant human rights violations at home.
Tillerson’s Wednesday remarks came as a staunch reminder to Iran of how serious the Trump administration takes its belligerence and “has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran.”
Iran’s “alarming and ongoing provocations that export terror and violence” were also fueled by the JCPOA as a windfall of billions poured into the Revolutionary Guards’ coffers, exactly when the regime should have been placed under even more pressure to succumb to further international community demands.
Tillerson made it crystal clear how Washington is keeping a very watchful eye on Tehran’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. This is especially true following the recent chemical attack in Idlib, Syria and Trump’s highly calculated strike targeting the airfield near Homs, Syria where the warplanes carrying the chemical weapons lifted from.
This also comes at a time when the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran issued a statement recently accusing the Syrian regime of launching Idlib chemical attack to support a campaign carried out by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Hama Province in response to major advances made by the Free Syrian Army and other Syrian opposition forces.
Tillerson also raised the issue of Iran’s continued support for the Houthis in Yemen, posing a major threat for U.S.-ally Saudi Arabia’s southern borders. Rest assured this and further matters involving Iran’s belligerence across the region were discussed in detail as U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited Riyadh.
Iran also understands how Tillerson’s remarks went on to target its involvement in harassing U.S. Navy ships in international waters of the Persian Gulf, indicating such measures will no longer be tolerated. Tehran is now thinking twice about testing Trump’s will in this regard, as he may allow his Navy captains to truly shoot their boats out of the water.
This major review of U.S. policy vis-à-vis Iran comes on the doorsteps of Iran’s crucial May 19 presidential election. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in a meeting with senior military commanders voiced serious concerns over a variety of crises hovering over the polls.
To this end, the Trump administration is on the right track in elevating the pressures necessary to make Iran understand its actions will no longer go condoned.
Amir Basiri (@amir_bas) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is an Iranian human rights activist.
Iran missile program is aimed at destabilizing peace in the ME
North Korea unleashing new threats against US
Fox News, April 19, 2017 – We failed to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. As a result, our options to stop them from developing a delivery system capable of reaching our shores are severely limited.
The hard lesson from our failure to stop North Korea before they became a nuclear power is that we MUST stop Iran from ever developing or acquiring a nuclear arsenal. A nuclear Iran would be far more dangerous to American interest than a nuclear North Korea.
Iran already has rockets capable of reaching numerous American allies. They are in the process of upgrading them and making them capable of delivering a nuclear payload to our shores. Its fundamentalist religious leaders would be willing to sacrifice millions of Iranians to destroy the big Satin (United States) or the little Satin (Israel).
The late ‘moderate’ leader Hashemi Rafsanjani once told an American journalist that if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, they “would kill as many as five million Jews,” and that if Israel retaliated, they would kill fifteen million Iranians, which would be “a small sacrifice from among the billion Muslims in the world.” He concluded that “it is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality.” Recall that the Iranian Mullahs were willing to sacrifice thousands of “child-soldiers” in their futile war with Iraq. There is nothing more dangerous than a “suicide regime” armed with nuclear weapons.
The deal signed by Iran in 2015 postpones Iran’s quest for a nuclear arsenal, but it doesn’t prevent it, despite Iran’s unequivocal statement in the preamble to the agreement that “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons.” (Emphasis added).
Recall that North Korea provided similar assurances to the Clinton Administration back in 1994, only to break them several years later – with no real consequences.
The Iranian Mullahs apparently regard their reaffirmation as merely hortatory and not legally binding. The body of the agreement itself – the portion Iran believes is legally binding — does not preclude Iran from developing nuclear weapons after a certain time, variously estimated as between 10 to 15 years from the signing of the agreement. Nor does it prevent Iran from perfecting its delivery systems, including nuclear tipped inter-continental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.
If we are not to make the same mistake with Iran that we made with North Korea, we must do something now – before Iran secures a weapon – to deter the Mullahs from becoming a nuclear power, over which we would have little or no leverage.
Congress should now enact legislation declaring that Iran’s reaffirmation that it will never “develop or acquire nuclear weapons” is an integral part of the agreement and represents the policy of the United States. It is too late to change the words of the deal, but it is not too late for Congress to insist that Iran comply fully with all of its provisions, even those in the preamble.
In order to ensure that the entirety of the agreement is carried out, including that reaffirmation, Congress should adopt the proposal made by Thomas L. Friedman on July 22, 2015 and by myself on 5 September 2013.
To quote Friedman: “Congress should pass a resolution authorizing this and future presidents to use force to prevent Iran from ever becoming a nuclear weapons state … Iran must know now that the U.S. president is authorized to destroy –without warning or negotiation – any attempt by Tehran to build a bomb.” I put it similarly: Congress should authorize the President “to take military action against Iran’s nuclear weapon’s program if it were to cross the red lines….”
The benefits of enacting such legislation are clear: the law would underline the centrality to the deal of Iran’s reaffirmation never to acquire nuclear weapons, and would provide both a deterrent against Iran violating its reaffirmation and an enforcement authorization in the event it does.
A law based on these two elements –adopting Iran’s reaffirmation as the official American policy and authorizing a preventive military strike if Iran tried to obtain nuclear weapons – may be an alternative we can live with. But without such an alternative, the deal is currently interpreted by Iran will not prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
In all probability, it would merely postpone that catastrophe for about a decade while legitimating its occurrence. This is not an outcome we can live with as evidenced by the crisis we are now confronting with North Korea.
So let us learn from our mistake and not repeat it with Iran.
By: Prof. Alan Dershowitz
Editor’s note: This article was originally published by Gatestone Institute and is reprinted with permission.