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
The regime in Tehran continues to be in a state of shock after the passage of unprecedented United States Senate sanctions on Thursday targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program, support for terrorism in the Middle East and flagrant human rights violations.
‘JCPOA 2, 3 and 4’
The road ahead
The United States Senate recently voted overwhelmingly 92-7 in favor of moving forward on evaluating further sanctions against Iran and especially targeting the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Following eight years of Obama’s appeasement, this is a significant turn of events resulting in major concerns amongst Tehran and foreign counterparts. A key signal of Iran’s concerns and […]
by Ali Safavi
Napoleon once said, “In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.” Apparently true. Last week, the Iranian regime imposed sanctions on 15 American companies it accused of “support for terrorism,” among other things. None of the targeted U.S. companies do business in Iran. It is safe to say none are reconsidering their futures there.
(CNSNews.com) – A bipartisan group of prominent Americans including former senior administration officials, diplomats and generals, has handed President-elect Donald Trump a letter calling for a new approach towards Iran that includes opening a dialogue with the outlawed opposition.
The 23-strong group says despite the outgoing administration’s hopes that the negotiated nuclear agreement would lead to better behavior on the part of the Iranian regime, that has not been the case.
Signatories include a former FBI director, a former Attorney-General, two former governors, a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and two retired U.S. Marine Corps commandants.
“President Obama expressed the hope that nuclear negotiations would induce Iran’s leaders to act with greater consideration of American interests,” the letter states. “It is now clear that Iran’s leaders have shown no interest in reciprocating the U.S. overture beyond the terms of the JCPOA [nuclear deal] which gained them significant rewards.”
On the contrary, it says, “Iran’s rulers have directly targeted U.S. strategic interests, policies and principles, and those of our allies and friends in the Middle East.”
The letter cites Iran’s involvement in advancing sectarian conflict through its support for the Assad regime in Syria and Shi’ite militias in Iraq, and abuses at home including an “extremely high rate of executions.”
“To restore American influence and credibility in the world, the United States needs a revised policy based on universally shared norms and principles reflecting the ideals of peace and justice,” the letter says.
The signatories voice strong support for the exiled opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)/People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (MEK), and urge Trump to establish a dialogue with the group.
Commenting on the initiative, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said the clerical regime in Tehran has been a problem since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
“People talk about Islamic terrorism, they refer to ISIS or al-Qaeda, let’s make it clear what the real source of support for terrorism around the world – it’s the regime in Tehran,” he told Fox News. “They’re the world’s central banker.”
Bolton, who is not a signatory but has long voiced support for the NCRI, said, “I think what’s being offered here is to say, ‘Look, there is an opposition in Iran.’”
Asked about the possibility of Trump making contact with the NCRI as he had done with the president of Taiwan – angering China in the process – Bolton said that reaching out to the Iranian opposition “would have a remarkable effect.”
“I think the United States ought to feel free to speak to whomever it wants to speak to, if it’s in the best interests of the United States,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean you speak to everybody, but it does mean you pick your shots. Just because the government in Beijing doesn’t like it when we talk to the Taiwanese, just as I’m sure the ayatollahs will not be happy at all for President Trump or members of his administration to talk to the Iranian opposition … that should not deter us.”
“If anything, that should make us more interested in finding out what we can do to help the legitimate opposition in Iran, from whatever perspective they come from.”
Bolton commented on the bipartisan nature of the letter.
“You don’t see a lot of that in Washington, we haven’t for the past eight or ten years.”
In veiled criticism of the Obama administration’s approach to Iran, they write that the U.S. can no longer allow strategic interests – trying to reach a political settlement to the Syria conflict and stemming the flow of refugees fleeing the violence – to “be held hostage to a concern that Iran might renege on its commitments under the JCPOA.”
“The Iran policy will have to change, including a longoverdue focus on gross internal human rights violations and the lack of democratic legitimacy which is at the core of the Tehran regime’s lawless and destructive role.”
Until 2012, the NCRI/MEK was a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization. The letter writers argue – as does the NCRI – that the regime covertly spread false and damaging information about it, and that terror designations by the U.S. and other Western governments were largely diplomatic gestures taken at the regime’s request.
They noted that the NCRI/MEK had provided the West with key intelligence that helped to uncover Tehran’s clandestine nuclear program – “an act for which President George W. Bush publicly credited” the group.
“It is time to end the fundamentalist regime’s undue influence over U.S. policy and establish a channel of dialogue with the NCRI, as many other governments have done, consistent with the longstanding U.S. diplomatic practice of dialogue with political opposition groups worldwide.”
An attachment to the letter highlights NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi’s political program for a future Iran that includes universal suffrage, a guarantee of rights for all citizens and particularly women and minorities, an end to judicial excesses, an end to “the nightmare of fundamentalist Islamic dictatorship by once again separating church and state,” protection of property rights and, “last but certainly not least,” a non-nuclear Iran.
The letter was signed by: former Homeland Security Secretary and Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge; former FBI Director Louis Freeh; former Attorney General Michael Mukasey; former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Gen. (Ret.) Hugh Shelton; Gen. (Ret.) James Jones, former USMC commandant, NATO commander and national security advisor; former Pennsylvania governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Ed Rendell; former USMC commandant Gen. (Ret.) James Conway; New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; J. Kenneth Blackwell, former U.S. representative to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights; former assistant secretary of state Lincoln Bloomfield; former undersecretary of state for arms control Robert Joseph; Linda Chavez, former assistant to the president for public liaison in the Reagan administration; John Sano, former deputy director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service; former deputy commander U.S. European Command Gen. (Ret.) Charles Wald; former U.S. Air Force deputy chief of staff of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance Lt. Gen. (Ret.) David Deptula; Col. (Ret.) Wesley Martin, who served as senior anti-terrorism and force protection officer for coalition forces in Iraq; R. Bruce McColm, president of the Institute for Democratic Strategies; former ambassador and special envoy for the Northern Ireland peace process Mitchell Reiss; retired federal judge Eugene Sullivan; Raymond Tanter, former personal representative of secretary of defense to arms control negotiations; and former Democratic lawmakers Sens. Joe Lieberman (Ct.), Robert Torricelli (N.J.) and Rep. Patrick Kennedy (R.I.).
By Amir Basiri
Mainstream media is rife with news about Iran sealing multibillion-dollar deals with Airbus and Boeing to purchase more than 100 passenger planes.
Unfortunately, Iran is no ordinary buyer. It’s a mistake for anyone to rejoice over such a deal or boast about it improving economies and creating jobs. This is a regime designated as the leading state sponsor of terrorism.
The U.S. Treasury Department has identified Iranian commercial airlines as linked to the regime’s lethal and nonstop support for terrorism. With its numerous campaigns in support of Shiite militias and dictators, Iran has actively used its aging air fleet to shuttle hired mercenaries and arms to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon.
Iran Air and Iran Air Tours were both designated as terrorist-related in 2011. According to the U.S. Treasury Department these airlines are known to “disguise and manifest weapons shipments as medicine and generic spare parts” to Syria. They are known to airlift missiles and rocket components.
Mahan Air, an Iranian airline in close relations with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its Quds Force (QF), is known to provide airlifts to IRGC-QF personnel flown between Iran, Syria, and Iraq for military training.
“Mahan Air’s close coordination with the IRGC-QF–secretly ferrying operatives, weapons and funds on its flights–reveals yet another facet of the IRGC’s extensive infiltration of Iran’s commercial sector to facilitate its support for terrorism,” emphasized David S. Cohen, former U.S. Treasury Department undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. “Following the revelation about the IRGC-QF’s use of the international financial system to fund its murder-for-hire plot, today’s action highlights further the undeniable risks of doing business with Iran.”
Mahan Air eased the covert transfer of IRGC-QF officers by bypassing normal security procedures, such as excluding specific data on flight manifests in order to eliminate records of the IRGC-QF travel.
Eyebrows are raised as European and Asian countries provide legitimacy to IRGC-linked Mahan Air by permitting flight rights to relevant commercial routes. Furthermore, one can also argue that the revenue from these flights are used to fuel Iran’s support for extremist ends.
“By letting Mahan in, the Europeans are forgoing a critical pressure tool they have in their arsenal of non-military coercive measures to pressure Iran and Assad,” explained Emanuele Ottolenghi of the Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance at the bipartisan Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Representatives in the U.S. Congress from both sides of the aisle have been very clear in their positions about the nature Iran’s air fleet.
“Instead of more actions to ground these planes,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), adding, “the White House agreed to lift an Interpol notice.”
In the same hearing, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) demanded answers over how the Obama administration intended to ground “the airline of choice for the [IRGC] and Quds Force to go into Syria and kill people.”
Analysts have cited concerns over Iran’s airlines continuing “to ferry materiel to fighters in Syria.” A notable case in September involved an Iran Air flight scheduled to depart Tehran for Damascus which made a suspicious stop in Abadan — an Iranian port city located around 960 miles off route that also acts as a major IRGC logistics hub.
Here are further suspicious flights reported by Forbes:
“On June 9, an Iran Air aircraft flew to Damascus from Abadan using the Tehran-Damascus flight number, and on June 8 and 15 from Tehran while using the now-defunct Najaf-Tehran number. Since then, the airline’s flights to Damascus have multiplied in number and frequency, with the most recent one leaving from Yazd but broadcasting a Tehran-Damascus flight number, on July 29.”
The main Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has a history of unveiling Iran’s support for terrorism and exporting extremism across the region. Mahan Air provides “multiple daily flights from Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, Shiraz, and Abadan to Damascus. These flights use Iraqi air space and carry weapons, equipment and Revolutionary Guards for war against the Syrian people. Three daily direct flights from Abadan airport to Damascus is mainly done by Mahan Air,” as explained by a Nov. 12 NCRI statement.
State Department spokesman John Kirby assured that the Obama administration would certainly not neglect Iran’s support of terrorism following the nuclear deal, describing the notion as “completely without merit.” However, no serious action has been taken to this date, other than the Iran Sanctions Act passed by Congress, which U.S. President Barack Obama refused to sign.
By signing the Iran nuclear accord, also known as the JCPOA, Obama set the grounds to delist five of Tehran’s designated airlines despite the knowledge that they also facilitated terrorism through logistical and financial support.
The JCPOA has itself directly given the green light to Iran’s support for Shiite militias across the region, as forecast by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry even prior to the deal.
The atrocities in Aleppo also showed the lack of will in the Obama administration for any meaningful action against Iran. The regime continues to airlift fresh recruits and supplies to Assad’s armed forces, the Lebanese Hizb’allah and the IRGC, all considered staunch U.S. adversaries. This notorious trio is also heavily supporting Assad’s ruthless regime in the near six-year war claiming the lives of half a million people.
The new Airbus/Boeing signings, placing economic interests before those of international security and morality, will most likely pave the path for Iran to further expand its efforts to support terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism.
Advocates of these deals may argue Iran will not use planes such to shuttle forces to Syria due to its desperate need to replace its aging fleet. Considering Tehran’s ongoing interest in supporting extremism across the Middle East, it is quite hard to imagine any obstacle can be placed to prevent Iran from continuing its illicit airlifts throughout the region.
Originally posted in American Thinker
The U.S. Senate has given final approval to an extension of the Iran Sanctions Act which overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives last month.
The bill would renew sanctions on Iran for a period of 10 years. White House staff have indicated that President Barack Obama would likely sign such a bill if it passed Congress.
The ISA was first created in 1996 to punish investors in certain sectors of Iran’s economy. While it has already been renewed several times, Tehran had hoped that after the signing of the 2015 JCPOA, or Iran Deal, the largely symbolic bill would not be renewed.
Congress’ passing of the law is intended to demonstrate a firm hand in dealings with Iran, and to provide the President with powers to reinstate sanctions if Tehran violates the agreement. The White House has said that they did not believe the reinstatement was necessary.
The move has provoked sharp words from Tehran, where new sanctions one year after the implementation of the nuclear deal appear insulting. The issue is further complicated by the language of the deal, which prevents the creation of new sanctions but is unclear regarding the renewal of existing ones.
“Iran has proved that it sticks to its international agreements, but it also has appropriate responses for all situations,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi. “The extension of sanctions by the U.S. Congress is a violation of the deal.”
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khomeini has also said that he believes the sanctions bill is a breach of the JCPOA and threatened “retaliation”.
“If these sanctions are extended, it will surely constitute a violation of the deal and the U.S. should know that the Islamic Republic will definitely react to it,” said Khamenei last week.
The renewal of the bill is likely not, however, a shock to Tehran.
“The Iranians are quite committed to the deal”, said Middle East expert Matthew Mcinnes of the American Enterprise Institute, who said that Tehran was “bluffing”.
“They understood that these types of legislation such as the Iran Sanctions Act, which have been in effect for a long time, these types of things would likely be renewed.”
Three Democratic senators rejected the claim by the Iranian officials that the sanctions would violate the JCPOA.
“Iran is making this up. These problems don’t exist,” said Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“Congress, by extending ISA, is not taking any new steps against Iran at all.”
Cardin said the bill simply makes it possible for Congress to “snapback” suspended sanctions if Iran is found to be in violation of the deal.
“The Iranians need to know that there are consequences for their actions. Hopefully, they will change their course of actions,” added Senator Robert Menendez in an interview with The Weekly Standardmagazine. “In the absence of that, the United States should not ultimately let them be the veto over what we decide is the appropriate foreign policy.”
While Carden and Menendez both opposed the JCPOA last year, Senator Chris Coons, who supported the deal, has also rejected Iran’s claims of a breach of the deal.
“I am convinced that Congress is well within its rights to extend the Iran Sanctions Act,” he said.
“Iran has always resisted non-nuclear sanctions and tried to tie them into the nuclear deal. That’s not correct….I think it’s completely appropriate that we continue the sanctions architecture.”
The claims of retaliation by Tehran arrived days after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a United Nations nuclear watchdog group, said that Iran had exceeded the deal’s permitted limits of stockpiles of heavy water, a component used in the production of nuclear weapons, for the second time since January. It has also been suggested that Iran may have exceeded its limits of low-enriched uranium and that Iran’s advanced centrifuges may still be active.