Yemen: A new Mideast flash point?

Saudi army tanks are seen deployed near the Saudi-Yemeni border,
Saudi army tanks are seen deployed near the Saudi-Yemeni border,

By Heshmat Alavi


American Thinker, June 14,  2017
 – With the new U.S. administration blueprinting its Iran policy after escalating developments in Syria and the recent attacks in Tehran, one major battleground between the two arch-rivals is set to be Yemen.  Sitting at the opening of a major waterway through which a significant amount of the world’s seabound oil flows, this country of 27 million has been war-torn and desperately grappling with a famine currently risking the lives of 7 million people.
All the while, Iran and its offspring terror organization, the Lebanese Hezb’allah, are escalating their meddling in a war that has already left more than 10,000 killed and literally leveled the country’s already poor infrastructure.
And while the United Nations has issued pleas for support to boost the efforts of humanitarian aid organizations, signs show that Iran and its Houthi proxies are ignoring these calls.  The larger picture of the Middle East power struggle is casting a long shadow over this entire nation.  It is, however, worth noting that the Saudi-led coalition welcomed a U.N. proposal to hand the port city of Hodeidah, currently the country’s lifeline, to a neutral third party to supervise the urgent flow of humanitarian aid into Yemen.
The Iran-backed Ansar Allah militia group, aka the Houthis, will most likely turn down the proposals.  Such a handover would render the loss of their last remaining port in Yemen, choking the flow of Iran-supplied arms and ammunition.  It is a known fact that Iran’s involvement in Yemen is in line with its broader strategy of encircling the entire Arabian peninsula and upping pressure on its regional arch-rival, Saudi Arabia.
Iran seeks the destabilization of the Gulf States and to ultimately obtain the capability of replacing these governments with rulers loyal to the Islamic Republic’s doctrine.  Iraq is a vivid example of how Iran usurped the opportunity of the 2003 invasion to cast its shadow over this nation, especially during the eight years of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and eight years of Obama’s Chamberlain-style appeasement.
This is the very philosophy behind establishing and procuring terror cells with the objective of purging government officials and staging attacks targeting the infrastructure of various states, including Bahrain, Kuwait, and the UAE.  Bahrain, particularly, in March busted a terrorist cell linked to Hezb’allah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).
It is a known fact that the IRGC and Hezb’allah are present in Yemen, with their troops and foot soldiers fighting alongside Houthis, parallel to providing much needed training and advice to these forces.
The number of Hezb’allah fighters being captured is on the rise, with such statistics in the first three months of 2017 matching the entire course of 2016.  The death toll of Hezb’allah and IRGC forces also escalated in the first quarter of 2017.
More Iranian equipment across scattered front lines in Yemen is being discovered by advancing Yemeni and Saudi forces.  Further concerning is the fact that Iranian weapons convoys and shipments, consisting of drones and high-tech missiles, have been intercepted on the Yemen-Oman border.
Maritime traffic snaking the Yemeni coast lengthwise has experienced a dangerous rise in attacks staged by the Iranian IRGC and Hezb’allah.  Advisers to these two sources are busily training Houthis how to develop sophisticated drone boats packed with explosives and how to lay mines in Yemen’s Red and Arabian Sea waters.
Recent reports in the media shed light on the Houthis launching their first such attack, targeting an oil tanker in the southern Bab el-Mandeb Strait.  Assailants of unknown identity fired rocket-propelled grenades – a favorite tactic of insurgents – at the 70,362-ton M.T. Muskie, sailing under the Marshall Islands flag, using the strategic waterway heading into the Red Sea entrance, according to Reuters.
Involvement in the attack was denied by the Houthis, despite a history of evidence showing these Iran-supplemented proxies staging attacks on various navy vessels using the narrow water passage.  The Houthis are also known to have direct interest in disturbing the flow of Bab el-Mandeb’s maritime traffic to provide Tehran unprecedented influence over the Red Sea and up north to the Suez Canal .
As tensions continue to escalate in this vital corner of the globe, it becomes imperative for the international community, and especially U.S. allies in the region, to take urgent action against Iran’s meddling, with the aim of curbing its dangerous influence and establishing peace and tranquility in the Middle East.

Heshmat Alavi is a political and rights activist.  His writing focuses on Iran, including 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 and blogs at IranCommentary.

Source:  Yemen: A new Mideast flash point?

How Iran’s Mullahs Welcome The ISIS Attack

By Heshmat Alavi

By Heshmat Alavi

A total of six assailants armed with AK47 rifles and explosive vests launched two simultaneous attacks in Tehran targeting two heavily secured sites in the Iranian capital Wednesday morning. The unexpected twin assault left 17 killed and dozens more wounded in Iran’s parliament and the mausoleum of former Iranian regime leader Ruhollah Khomeini located south of the capital.

“Islamic State claimed responsibility and released a video purporting to show gunmen inside the parliament building and one body, apparently dead, on the floor,” according to Reuters in a wire from inside Iran.

The attackers, disguised as women, apparently were able to find their way in the parliament through the main entrance, the semi-official Tasnim news agency cited Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Hossein Zolfaghari. Four hours into the entire rampage Iranian state media reported the incident over with all six assailants dead.

Condemnations cross the board

As ISIS claimed to have staged its first ever attack in Iran, the international community condemned this heinous act of terrorism. Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, condemned the loss of innocent lives.

“ISIS’s conduct clearly benefits the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Khamenei, who wholeheartedly welcomes it as an opportunity to overcome his regime’s regional and international impasse and isolation. The founder and the number one state sponsor of terror is thus trying to switch the place of murderer and the victim and portray the central banker of terrorism as a victim,” Rajavi added.

“To uproot terrorism in the region:

– The IRGC must be designated as a terrorist entity.

– The IRGC and paramilitary proxies of the Khamenei caliphate must be removed from Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

– The Organization of Islamic Cooperation must expel the mullahs’ regime and recognize the Iranian Resistance for ending religious fascism.”

Devious past

However, there are also questions about the suspicious nature of this entire attack, especially considering the heavily fortified status of the two sites. One of the wounded individuals said in an interview people cannot bring even a pen into the parliament without passing through security.

There are also widespread signs seen in social media users inside Iran expressing uncertainty over ISIS being behind the attack.

There seems to be a general lack of trust on official sources. This is not without precedent.

Iran is also known to resort to such brutal tactics to tarnish the image of its opposition. In 1994 a staged bombing of the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad, northeast Iran, was staged by Iranian intelligence, leaving 25 dead and more than 300 injured. Iranian authorities immediately claimed of arresting the culprit and he confessed that he was a member of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The PMOI, however, condemned the attack. Some years later it was publicly acknowledged that the bombing of Imam Reza’s shrine, similar to the murder of three Christian priests, also been blamed on the PMOI/MEK, had been planned and carried out by the Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) to tarnish the image of the group.

Paving the path

It is expected that authorities shall certainly use this incident to increase the level domestic suppression.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in his first remarks following the attacks, specifically said, “When the central apparatus has such disorders, then you are weapons free.” Khamenei also used the term “soft war officers,” in a reference to principalists and hardcore elements of the Revolutionary Guards Basij paramilitary units, according to the BBC Farsi.

Iranian officials will take advantage of such a turn of events to justify their escalating intervention in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and counter growing popular opposition to its meddling in other states, while the country is in deep economic crisis and poverty is widespread. It is also feared that this incident may be used by Tehran to fuel sectarian wars across the region. Iran is known to support the Shiite Hashid al-Sha’bi in Iraq against ISIS and the minority Sunni community; Shiite Houthis to oust the legitimate government of Yemen and threaten its regional archrival Saudi Arabia; and Shiite militias from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to prop up the Assad regime against Syrian opposition forces and innocent people under the pretext of fighting ISIS.

Iran has blamed not only ISIS but also the United Sates and Saudi Arabia for the terror attack in Tehran. This is the Iranian regime in practice preparing the grounds for terrorist attacks across the Middle East against its rivals. However, this is the topic of an entire different discussion in the future.

Broader threats

A dangerous outcome of this incident would be the provision of ample opportunity to the Revolutionary Guards and Quds Force to escalate their regional meddling and demand more foothold.

View image on Twitter

Rest assured the Iranian regime will seek to capitalize this turn of events to boost the very pillars of its establishment, especially after the crisis-riddled presidential election where Khamenei failed to have his preferred candidate, conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, replace the incumbent Hassan Rouhani.

The mullahs in Tehran will no doubt increase their nationwide crackdown measures through the police and intelligence apparatus, boost their meddling through proxy forces across the region and press the gas pedal on the ballistic missile program.

A picture taken on June 7, 2017 shows ambulances and police arriving at the scene outside Iranian parliament in the capital Tehran during an attack on the complex. Gunmen and suicide bombers carried out coordinated attacks on Iran’s parliament and the tomb of revolutionary founder Ruhollah Khomeini on June 7, 2017, state media reported, killing at least three people. / AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: How Iran’s Mullahs Welcome The ISIS Attack

The IRGC finances these terrorist activities through its business activities

 

The IRGC is dedicated to protecting the Islamic Revolution, not the state of Iran. As guardians of the Islamic Revolution, it supports terrorist activities by the Quds Force and its other military divisions. The IRGC finances these terrorist activities through its business activities, making the overall organization simply the paymaster for terrorist activities by its constituent elements. Efforts to shut off the flow of funds by using U.S. Treasury sanctions against different controlled or directed business entities become a never-ending attempt to keep track of firms that shut down and reopen under a new name, adding difficulties to blocking the flow of funds to them.

Iran has built third underground ballistic missile factory

Iran has built third underground ballistic missile factory

Ankara, Reuters, 25 May 2017 – Iran has built a third underground ballistic missile production factory and will keep developing its missile programme, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted a senior commander of the elite Revolutionary Guard as saying.
In this photo obtained from ISNA, a surface-to-air missile is fired by Irans army, during a maneuver, in an undisclosed location in Iran, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. (File photo)
The development is likely to fuel tensions with the United States in a week when President Donald Trump, on his first foreign trip, has called Iran a sponsor of militant groups and a threat to countries across the Middle East.
“Iran’s third underground factory has been built by the Guards in recent years … We will continue to further develop our missile capabilities forcefully,” Fars quoted Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Guard’s airspace division, as saying.
Since taking office in January, Trump has imposed new sanctions on Iran in response to its recent missile launches, putting Tehran “on notice”.
Iran has reacted defiantly. President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday: “Iran does not need the permission of the United States to conduct missile tests”.
Iran’s Sunni Muslim Gulf neighbours and its arch-enemy Israel have expressed concerns over Tehran’s ballistic missile programme, seeing it as a threat to regional security.
In 2015, Iranian state TV aired footage of underground tunnels with ready-to-fire missiles on the back of trucks, saying the facility was one of hundreds of underground missile bases around the country.
“It is natural that our enemies America and the Zionist regime (Israel) are angry with our missile programme because they want Iran to be in a weak position,” Hajizadeh said.
Most nuclear-related sanctions on Iran were lifted last year after Tehran fulfilled commitments under a 2015 deal with major powers to scale back its nuclear programme – an agreement that Trump has frequently criticised as being too soft on Tehran. But Iran remains subject to a UN arms embargo and other restrictions.
Two months after implementation of the deal, the Guards test-fired two ballistic missiles that it said were designed to be able to hit Israel.
Iran says its missile programe is not in defiance with a UN resolution that calls on it to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for up to eight years.
“Along with improving our defence capabilities, we will continue our missile tests and missile production. The next missile to be produced is a surface-to-surface missile,” said Hajizadeh, without elaborating.
In retaliation for the new US sanctions over its ballistic missile programme, Iran this month added nine American individuals and companies to its own list of 15 US companies for alleged human rights violations and cooperation with Israel.

 

Source: Iran has built third underground ballistic missile factory

Iran: IRGC Terrorist Designation Key to a Peaceful Middle East

April 22nd was the anniversary of the creation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The IRGC is now 38 years old. According to General Mohammad Bagheri, chairman of Iran’s armed forces command, “the IRGC acted as the ‘security shield’ of the Iranian nation and all the Muslim people through their presence in Syria and Iraq…The country would have been lost if not for the IRGC.”

The IRGC, according to its statute, “is an entity under the supreme command of the leader”, and “political and ideologically following the velayat-e faqih (mullahs’ rule)”. The Iranian Resistance has emphasized over and over how the IRGC is used to impose their military crackdown and oppression of the Iranian people.

Part of the organization’s actions include exporting fundamentalism, terrorism, and warmongering, and this in itself is bent on the universal doctrine of the mullahs’ rule. “The IRGC is the element that should rally the people under the flag of Islam,” said Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani in his remarks on April 30th.

The IRGC restructured itself to enable confronting of popular protests, establishing an independent command structure for each province that is able to quell public uprisings. In addition, the Basij work with the IRGC, utilizing their spy networks within the universities, schools, administrative offices, factories, and neighborhoods to identify and arrest dissidents.

This organization has expanded outside of Iran, playing a leading role in fueling, expanding and continuing a number of other major wars in the region, including the current wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. The IRGC has become tool that the mullahs use to meddle in other countries, while claiming to want to play a peaceful role in the region. Some of the regional countries that Iran is currently meddling in with fundamentalism and terrorism including Turkey, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, and Afghanistan. The list of countries within the region not dealing with Iranian spies and militia groups is virtually non-existent.

There is a militia with Iran’s backing through the IRGC in a number of Middle Eastern countries. Even the Iranian regimes in various countries are staffed by the IRGC and used to pursue the IRGC’s agenda. The IRGC has not limited its terrorist activities to just the Middle East, but has expanded to Latin America and other international targets. The IRGC has built up contacts with the major global terrorist organization. In fact, after living in Iran for years, the commanders of many terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria are being returned by the Quds Force (part of the IRGC) to Iraq and Syria, especially during the last decade.

In flagrant violation of the UN Security Council resolutions, the IRGC continues to illegally export arms to regional countries. According to a report issued by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in January, the IRGC is sending arms to Yemen on a wide scale. The IRGC also produced huge numbers of roadside bombs, used to attack coalition forces in Iraq.

To pay for all of these activities, the IRGC is now in control of Iran’s main economic branches in different fields, thus funneling billions of dollars to its efforts annually. This doesn’t include the funds it receives directly from the Iranian government as part of its annual budget.

The U.S. government has considered labeling the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, something that Iran argues would sour relations between the two countries. Yet, if the IRGC is not designated as such, it will simply be allowed to continue collecting funds to pay for its terrorism, both within Iran and outside of it.

via  Iran: IRGC Terrorist Designation Key to a Peaceful Middle East — The Media Express

Middle East proxies’ ration of Iranian economy

 by Mohammad Amin 

There is a fundamental question about Iran’s economic status quo: More than one year after the lifting of international sanctions, why is the economy riddled with crises and even deteriorated in various regards?

In response to this question, Iranian affairs analysts cite various elements, including poor infrastructure, widespread corruption, political instability, numerous risks facing investments, and unfounded laws. But there are also factors created by the foreign policy choices of Iran’s theocratic government.

In this regard, one must undoubtedly take into consideration the heavy cost of Iran supporting terrorist proxy groups scattered across the Middle East. Iran’s fiscal budget bill (from March 2017 to March 2018) has allocated over 859 trillion rials (equal to $24.5 billion) for military and security affairs. This is 23 percent of the country’s general budget.

However, there is no mention of any proxy groups in the numbers and charts.

Iran Hezbollah

The main percentage of these groups’ costs are paid through the revenues of the “Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam” – Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Cooperative, the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation, the IRGC Basij Cooperative and a percentage of the government’s budget.

Although no official information has been published on these proxy groups’ expenses, a list of their names is proof itself of the heavy burden they place on Iran’s economy.

IRAQ

  • Badr Organization
  • Al-Nojaba Movement
  • Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq
  • Kata’ib Hezbollah
  • Kata’ib Imam al-Ali
  • Sarya Al Khorasani
  • Kata’ib Seyed al-Shohada
  • Liwa Abu Fadl
  • Liwa’a Zulfiqar
  • Harakat al-Abdal

The list also includes a number of smaller groups. The number of such Iran-linked Shiite groups in Iraq are in the dozens, and nearly all are members of the Popular Mobilization (PMF), or what is commonly known as the Hashd al-Shaabi.

hashd.jpg

YEMEN

The Ansarollah, or the Houthis, were established in 1997 under orders from Iran based on the Lebanese Hezbollah example and structure.

LEBANON

The Lebanese Hezbollah has a long and well-known history of being founded by Iran and advancing Tehran’s policy in the region, while conducting terrorist attacks across the globe.

BAHRAIN

  • Tayyar al-Amal al-Esmali
  • February 14th Coalition, consisting also of a number of other groups

THE GULF

The Gulf Hezbollah was established in 1984 under the supervision of IRGC Brigadier General Mohammad Mostafa Najjar (Iran’s former defense and interior minister from 2005 to 2013). Its range of activities covered countries south of Iran and the Persian Gulf.

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PALESTINE

  • Islamic Jihad Movement
  • Saberin Movement, consisting of Shiite Palestinians and established in April 2014 with a logo very similar to that of the IRGC.

EGYPT

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards of Egypt was established in December 2012.

“If we ever need arms or money for our struggle, we will follow Hassan Nasrallah’s example in Lebanon,” said Mohamed al-Khedhri, the group’s secretary general.

KUWAIT

The Kuwait Hezbollah

Kuwait authorities last year deported 11 Lebanese and three Iraqi nationals for links with Hezbollah, according to the Gulf Times.

AFGHANISTAN

The Fatemioun Brigade is one of the most important entities providing new Afghan recruits for the IRGC’s war in Syria.

13940718000412_PhotoI

PAKISTAN

The Zeinabioun Brigade, in addition to its fundamentalist activities in Pakistan, dispatches a significant number of its members to Syria in its support for IRGC combat missions.

Cost Estimate

Iran deliberately provides no report on the abovementioned groups’ expenses as part of its economy. Estimates provided by Western sources reflect only a small percentage of these expenses. For example, a July 2015 Congressional Research Service report estimates the expenses of these groups, and Iran’s financial support for the Bashar Assad regime, at $3.6 to $16 billion, of which $300 million is allocated to proxy militia groups. However, their expenses cannot be so low when the afore-mentioned groups are involved in a series of widespread foreign wars on Iran’s behalf.

  1. About Iraq, the Iranian regime pays members of its proxy group through monthly salaries, revealed a decade ago by the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). This movement presented a list of 31,690 Iraqi elements of the IRGC, all receiving salaries from Iran.
  2. Iran is providing the financial and arms resources for over 80,000 PMF members in Iraq, according to an October 2016 Agence France Presse wire.
  3. Providing the funds for IRGC-affiliated militias in Iraq takes place through technical and construction support or charities.

Rostam Ghasemi

“To this day Iran has provided $5bn in technical and engineering support to Iraq,” said Rostam Ghasemi, former head of the IRGC’s “Khatam al-Anbia” base and once Iran’s minister of oil.

Entities, such as the Iran-Iraq Comprehensive Cooperation Department and the Iran-Iraq Economic Development Department established subsequently from 2005 onward, are facilitating Tehran’s efforts to fund the proxy groups.

  1. In Yemen, Iran is providing for all the Houthis’ expenses and arms. The Houthi missile unit now enjoys ballistic missiles and weapons-carrying drones, all provided by Iran.
  2. Four Iranian vessels carrying weapons for Yemen were confiscated in the span of the last 18 months, according to Vice Admiral Kevin M. Donegan, Commander of the U.S. Naval Central Command in his remarks with reporters. (AFP, 27 October 2016)

Five arms consignments sent by Iran have been confiscated by Australian, French and American naval forces, according to a report presented by special experts of a U.N. working group (established based on UN Security Council Resolution 2140). Two commercial ships carrying Iranian weapons were confiscated by Saudi Arabian forces. (Asharq al-Awsat, 31 January 2017)

Hassan Nasrollah Khamenei

  1. The Lebanese Hezbollah, according to its current secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah, receives all its funds and arms from Iran.

“The Islamic government in Iran has relieved us of any need of money in the world,” Nasrallah said in a public speech delivered in 2012. (Al-Alam, Iran’s official Arab-language TV station, 7 February 2012)

  1. On 8 October 2013, Le Figaro cited Lebanese sources estimating Iran has provided Hezbollah $30 billion dollars over the past 30 years.

An analysis of various report delivers the following conclusion:

Iran’s financial support for various proxy groups
Groups Annual financial support estimate
Dozens of Shiite groups in Iraq $1.5 -$3 billion
Houthis in Yemen $1.5 -$2.5 billion
Lebanese Hezbollah $1 -$1.5 billion
Afghan Fatemioun $150 million
Pakistani Zeinabioun $100 million
Militias spread in Gulf countries $300 -$500 million
IRGC militias in other countries $100 -$300 million
TOTAL $4.65 -$7.8 billion

This short study provides a perspective into the effort the Iranian regime expends to wreak havoc and advocate Islamic fundamentalism across the Middle East through a wide spectrum of proxy groups. And the Iranian people are feeling the damage directly, as such funds, parallel to the billions poured by the mullahs into their nuclear program, ballistic missile ambitions, and domestic crackdown machine, have left the majority of the country living in deep poverty.

If the West seeks to support the Iranian people, the first necessary measure is to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization to severely limit Iran’s malignant activities.

Ehsan AminolRoaya 2Mohammad Amin (@EconomieIran) is a senior research fellow for the Paris-based Fondation d’Etudes pour le Moyen-Orient (FEMO) or Foundation for the Study of the Middle East. He has written several books and essays about the ruling theocracy, the transformation of Iran’s political economy under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East.

Feature Foto: Credit by Safin Hamed 

Source: Middle East proxies’ ration of Iranian economy

President Trump should blacklist Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to reduce the risk of war

President Trump should blacklist Iran's Revolutionary Guard to

by Alireza Jafarzadeh

In late March, multiple reports indicated that the Iranian regime was escalating its intrusion into Yemen, where Iran-backed Shiite rebels control the capital and much of the north and west of the country. Tehran has consistently denied its role, but there is a history of Iranian enhancement of the capabilities of the Houthi, whose exploits include missile attacks deep into Saudi Arabia and attempted strikes on U.S. Navy vessels.

It is crucial that President Trump break this cycle of violence. The simplest and most immediate way of doing so is by undermining the wealth and power of the IRGC — something that truly should have been done long ago.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran issued a report in February detailing the growth of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ training program for foreign-based terrorists and paramilitary fighters. Many new arrivals in Yemen are Afghanis who served under IRGC command in Syria.

The sharing of personnel between Syria and Yemen confirms that the sectarian tensions on display in those conflicts are symptoms of a region-wide crisis that is being exacerbated by Iran. They serve as glaring examples of how meddling spearheaded by the Iranian regime is turning national conflicts into proxy wars which directly challenge Western interests in the region.

A recent report by the Critical Threats Project sheds new light on the Iranian role in the intrusion into Yemen, identifying drone technology and other Iranian weapons allowing the Yemeni rebels to extend their reach. That report also highlighted a surge in foreign fighters, suggesting that Iran might be applying tactics like those used in the Syrian Civil War.

The IRGC continues to flaunt its presence in regional conflicts to overstate its supremacy. This goes hand-in-hand with IRGC fast-attack vessels ignoring all attempts at radio contact and all warnings to harass U.S. Navy ships. Several close encounters have been reported since the new administration took office.

It is clear that the escalation in Yemen is just the beginning. The IRGC will continue its overreach until directly confronted, or until it achieves the regional dominance it clearly seeks.

The dangerous IRGC antics have reportedly more than doubled since the conclusion of nuclear negotiations in July 2015. Incidents in the final months of the Obama administration necessitated warning shots from the American ships, to which IRGC and other Iranian officials responded with boasts that the Islamic Republic is prepared to take on the U.S. military before it backs down from its interventions in the broader Middle East.

The administration is already reviewing the possible designation of the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, which would effectively blacklist the group from international markets and greatly reduce the risk of Western capital making its way into the hands of terrorists. The strategy has received considerable support from Congress, with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee working on a sanctions bill that would similarly apply terrorism-related sanctions to the entirety of the IRGC.

There has also been some push-back, mostly from lobbyists affiliated with the Iranian regime, arguing that designating the IRGC would increase the risk of war between Iran and the U.S.

Actually, the opposite is true. The IRGC is pushing vigorously to draw the U.S. into proxy wars throughout the Middle East, none of which shows signs of reaching a peaceful conclusion as long as the IRGC remains involved. In contrast, since Trump put Tehran “on notice” following its January 29 ballistic missile test, the regime has shown willingness to cancel additional tests for fear of serious consequences.

The IRGC has no interest in prudent cost-benefit analysis. As long as it is operating freely, unconstrained by economic sanctions, it will continue to antagonize all of its adversaries. To avoid war, the United States needs to show strength and decisiveness. Backing down will only embolden the IRGC and increase the risk of war.

The only hope for a peaceful resolution to any of the regional crises is to confront the IRGC by political and economic means. The measures are already on the table. It remains to be seen whether the Trump Administration will step up and subject the IRGC to the blacklist it so richly deserves.

A_Jafarzadeh Alireza Jafarzadeh, the deputy director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is credited with exposing Iranian nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in 2002, triggering International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. He is the author of “The Iran Threat” (Palgrave MacMillan: 2008). His email isJafarzadeh@ncrius.org“>Jafarzadeh@ncrius.org.

Source: President Trump should blacklist Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to reduce the risk of war