The Dangers of Refusing to Link JCPOA to Tehran’s Behavior

“What is negotiation but the accumulation of small lies leading to advantage?”
(Felix Dennis)

It was a nail-biting moment for many as they waited for President Donald Trump to announce his position on “certifying” the nuclear agreement between major Western powers (plus Russia and China) and Iran; officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Although many leaks and announcements about Trump’s position proved to be true, it was so important that it drew immediate responses.

In the Middle East, the region most directly concerned about Iran’s nuclear plans, contrast in reactions could not have been greater. While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani angrily condemned Trump’s position widespread applause came from Arab countries disadvantaged not only by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but also its political exploitation of the international community’s silence towards it.

It is the silence that has allowed Iran to conquer and expand in the Region, thanks to its militias and conventional weapons.

Indeed, in the Middle East, specifically in the Gulf area, there are two serious threats posed by Iran’s ambitions for hegemony, including the nuclear agreement. The first is political, the second is nuclear.

The political threat is for all to see in the armed sectarian agitation, aided and sponsored by Tehran, whether through geographically dominant militias such as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq, ‘Fatemiyyoun’, ‘Zaynabiyyoun’ and Hezbollah militias in Syria and Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen; or through gangs involved in terrorism and clandestine activities as the ones we hear about in Bahrain, other Gulf states, and North African countries.

Sure enough, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which plays a vital role in Iran’s political, security and economic life, continuously highlights its interventions and has openly boasted its ‘control of four Arab capitals’. Moreover, Qassem Suleimani, the Commander of the ‘Quds Brigade’ of the IRGC, never misses an opportunity to appear inspecting the front lines in Iraq and Syria, although he is supposed to be ‘wanted’ and chased by the international community as a terrorist suspect!
As for the nuclear threat, it is no less dangerous from a purely scientific viewpoint.

It has a geological-seismic dimension that has adverse consequences on the safety of the Gulf region; given the fact that Iran straddles highly unstable, and thus, dangerous seismic faults. Furthermore, many Iranian nuclear reactors and installations have been built in vulnerable earthquake fault lines; and if we remember that only a short distance separates the port of Bushehr (home to one the major installations) and the eastern shores of the Arabian Peninsula, we may imagine what disaster may befall the whole region from any leakage like that we witnessed in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011.

Of course, the governments of Germany, France and the UK have every right to oppose or agree with Washington’s policies, but their insistence on defending the nuclear deal with Iran is based, in a large part, on economic interests. These governments, spurred by German, French and British companies and banks eager to enter Iran’s market of 90 million customers, refuse to acknowledge the link between the agreement and Iran’s harsh treatment of opposition at home, or its aggressive interventions in neighbouring Arab countries.

Indeed, Iran’s aggressive interventions have caused two major problems:

1- The refugee problem afflicting the countries of Western and Central Europe.

2- The problem of extremist terrorism under ‘Sunni’ Muslim slogans, provoked by Iran’s ‘Shi’ite’ Muslim slogans.

According to reliable statistics, Iran’s exports to EU countries have risen by % 375 between 2016 and 2017, European companies have invested heavily in the almost ‘virgin’ Iranian market, and there is rapid progress in banking facilities that is running parallel with these investments.

Thus, the three European governments’ positions look no different from that of Barack Obama’s administration which sponsored Tehran’s rehabilitation, accorded it all kinds of excuses, and gambled on making it a regional ally. They, just like the former US Democratic administration did before, are intentionally separating between nuclear technology and political repercussions. The three governments have ignored the fact that Iran’s lies second the World (after China) in the number of executions and first relative to population; and that many of these are of a political nature, mostly targeting ethnic and sectarian minorities.

Furthermore, the three governments, while claiming to defend human rights, have done nothing with regard to Tehran’s maltreatment of figures that were part of its regime’s elite like ex-premier Mir-Hossein Mousavi, and former Speaker Mehdi Karroubi, not to mention the first president of ‘The Islamic Republic’ Abolhassan Banisadr, still living in exile in France!

Berlin, Paris and London, which are repeating Obama’s same excuses that limit Muslim terror to Sunnis, refuse to admit Tehran’s active role in aiding and abetting even extremist Sunni Muslim groups worldwide, and co-operating with them, including Al Qaeda.

The three governments want us to accept former US Secretary of State John Kerry’s inverted logic when he stated, time and time again during the US-Iran nuclear negotiations, that they solely touched on the nuclear side and never included any “other issues”. It is the same “logic” that Kerry reiterated this week as he criticized President Trump’s refusal to “certificate” the JCPOA while taking a tough line too against the IRGC and its appendages after highlighting their destructive role regionally and globally. As for the “other issues” mentioned by Mr Kerry, and ignored then by the Obama administration, were Iran’s political, military and intelligence interventions in Arab countries.

Finally, the three European governments which have always claimed the moral high ground in welcoming refugees from the Middle East, could do better by adopting the maxim “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

The ounce of prevention in this case, is simply, ridding the World of the evils of extremism, destruction and hatred, all of which create and fuel terrorism.

Political Mobilization as Concerns over Blacklisting Revolutionary Guard Grow

London- A number of options is lined up at US President Donald Trump’s desk on containing the ever-expanding threat Iran poses against regional and international security. Counter-actively, Tehran spares no time in preparing responsive scenarios to the anticipated change in Washington policy. 

On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani kicked of the national cabinet meeting by issuing an explicit warning on the widespread concerns of the Revolutionary Guard being blacklisted and the nuclear deal scrapped.

The US president is expected to “decertify” Iran’s nuclear deal with global powers this week and add its Revolutionary Guards military force to Washington’s blacklist under a strategy to increase pressure on Tehran.

Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif discussed behind parliament’s closed doors multiple possible scenarios to confront any drastic change in US policies towards the nuclear deal, and White House’s attempt to restrain Revolutionary Guard’s regional interference.

Tehran’s confusion and political state of top alertness comes at a time when several international parties have jumped into consultations, in an attempt to persuade Trump to uphold the Vienna nuclear agreement, 21 months after it going into force.

Rouhani, despite being cited to have controversy with the country’s conservatives, gave a full-throated defense of his one-time rivals in the Revolutionary Guards, as the country’s pragmatist and hardline factions rallied together in the face of threats from Trump.

“If someone backs out of an international deal, he’s the loser, not the one who doesn’t,” Rouhani said during the cabinet meeting.

He said US action against the Guards would be a “mistake beyond mistakes”.

“Sticking to a deal shows the dignity of a state and to what extent its government is trustworthy,” he added.

“They think that the Guards are a military entity. The Revolutionary Guards are not a military entity. They’re in the heart of the people. The Revolutionary Guards, in all the days of danger, have defended our national interests,” he said.

“We’re one society. We’re Iran. There are no differences between differentfactions in confronting the plots of our enemies,” he added.

During an unprecedentedly bitter campaign, he repeatedly spoke out in public against the political influence of the Guards, accusing them of backing his hardline opponent to defend their economic interests.

In recent days, however, the threat of new action from Washington has prompted a public display of unity from the rival factions among Iran’s rulers.

“Today, the president of America has created conditions where Iran is more united than ever. Today, those who oppose the nuclear deal and those who support it are side by side. We all have one voice,” Rouhani said.

Trump is expected to unveil a broad strategy on confronting Iran this week, likely on Friday. There was always the chance he could still have a last-minute change of heart and certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 accord, which he has called an “embarrassment” and the “worst deal ever negotiated.”

Tehran Warns Harsh Response against Blacklisting Revolutionary Guard

London —Besides to Iran’s Guards’ commander Mohammad Ali Jafari earlier warning the United States against designating its Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group, saying US regional military bases would be at risk if further sanctions were passed, State Department spokesman Bahram Qasimi said that Tehran’s response will be firm.

Warnings came after the White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump would announce new US responses to Iran’s missile tests, support for “terrorism” and cyber operations as part of his new Iran strategy.

“As we’ve announced in the past, if America’s new law for sanctions is passed, this country will have to move their regional bases outside the 2,000 km range of Iran’s missiles,” Guards’ Jafari said, according to state media.

“If they do, Iran’s response will be firm, decisive and overwhelming,” State Department spokesman Bahram Qasimi was quoted as saying by a news conference.

Jafari also said that additional sanctions would end the chances for future dialogue with the US, and issued a stark warning to American troops.

“If the news is correct about the stupidity of the American government in considering the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American army to be like ISIS all around the world particularly in the Middle East,” Jafari said.

The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) are Iran’s most powerful internal and external security force. The Quds Force, the IRGC’s foreign espionage and paramilitary wing, and individuals and entities associated with the IRGC are on the US list of foreign terrorist organizations, but the organization as a whole is not.

“The Americans should know that the Trump government’s stupid behavior with the nuclear deal will be used by the Islamic Republic as an opportunity to move ahead with its missile, regional and conventional defense program,” Jafari said, according to state media.

Trump had accused Iran of financially supporting North Korea, which develops its nuclear missiles, saying that it violates the provisions of the nuclear deal.

“I believe they [Iranians] are funding North Korea. I believe they’re trading with North Korea. I believe they’re doing things with North Korea that are totally inappropriate,” Trump said in an interview with American politician and commentator Mike Huckabee for TBN.

US Ambassador Haley Says Iran Shown ‘True Colors’ by Rapprochement with Hamas

United States ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Thursday Iran had shown its “true colors” by restoring ties with Palestinian militant group Hamas and must be held to account by the international community.

According to Reuters, the new leader of Hamas in Gaza said on Monday that Tehran was again its biggest provider of money and arms after years of tension over the civil war in Syria. Hamas had angered Iran by refusing to support its ally, Syrian regime head Bashar al-Assad, in the six-year-old civil war.

“Iran is showing its true colors. Iran must decide whether it wants to be a member of the community of nations that can be expected to take its international obligations seriously or whether it wants to be the leader of a ultra-hardline terrorist movement. It cannot be both,” Haley said in a statement.

“It’s long past time for the international community to hold Iran to the same standard that all countries who actually value peace and security are held to,” she added.

Haley described the Hamas leader’s statement as a “stunning admission.” Iran is subject to an arms embargo – with exceptions granted only in cases when it has received UN Security Council approval for imports or exports.

Neither Hamas nor Iran have disclosed the full scale of Tehran’s backing. But regional diplomats have said Iran’s financial aid for the Islamist movement was dramatically reduced in recent years and directed to the Qassam Brigades rather than to Hamas’ political institutions.

Hamas seeks Israel’s destruction. It has fought three wars with Israel since seizing the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.
Hamas and Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, are locked in a political dispute over the issue of Palestinian unity.

Qatari-Iranian Alliance, a Stark Proof Supporting Boycott Allegations

Qatar

Qatari-Iranian cooperation by no means surfaced as a surprise to Gulf observers. The alliance stood as proof to the claims made by the bloc of four countries boycotting Qatar for its hostile behavior and actions.
It is stark proof that Qatar, like Iran, is a source of chaos and violence. The renewed alliance is at best described as the meeting of the two main violence-funding poles in the region.
On one hand, Iran is the main supporter of ultra-hardline militant groups such as Hezbollah, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, the Fatimids, and others. While on the other, Qatar, for nearly three decades, sponsored extremist militant organizations such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, Nusra Front, Ansar al-Sharia, and others.

The only common denominator bringing Qatar and Iran together is regional security and political cooperation.
Qatar is not an important trading partner of Iran, and there is no Shiite figure in Qatar to facilitate their visits to the holy sites. There is no cultural or popular consensus that can justify political rapprochement.
Doha saying that the economic boycott by its angry Gulf neighbors forced it into rebooting ties with Tehran is simply not true. The peninsula’s consumer market is relatively the smallest in the region, meaning that Qatar’s demands can easily be met.

Any potential Qatari-Iranian trade is based on one factor– forming a hostile front against Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE.
Adopting such an approach suggests that Qatar has fallen back to its pre-2010 policies. Qatar was an ally of Iran, a key supporter of Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad and Lebanon’s “Hezbollah. “
This alliance was then directed against the Saudi-Egyptian alliance. The relationship between Doha and Tehran lasted for over a decade, was anti-Saudi, with the two governments fiercely supporting Hezbollah and Hamas.

Signs of change and the advance of cooperation preceded visits carried out by Qatari officials to the Iranian capital recently. Al Jazeera, Doha’s state-funded media mouthpiece, started employing altered rhetoric from what the Qatari government was using.
It covered the Iran-backed Houthis militias, defended pro-Iranian armed groups in the Saudi town of Awamiyah, and changed its viewpoint about its coverage of the uprising in Syria.

Qatar refused to agree to several terms set by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, describing the blockade and demands made by the quartet a blunt and loud transgression against its sovereignty– but it is now making itself liable to Iranians and their allies.
Why? Not for military protection, as it is the case with Turkey, but the cooperation with Tehran is a conscious effort to take a hostile, offensive step in the region. In return, the Iranian cleric-led regime expects Qatar to pump funds and propaganda support to Iranian proxies spread across the region in order to amp pressure against its adversaries.

This all emphasizes what everyone knows already, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, the retiring prince, is still the one who first-handedly deals with the crisis in Qatar, not his son Tamim, the current emir.
Unfortunately for Doha, no matter who holds the reigns today, US policy under the leadership of Donald Trump, the main international player in the region, changed from what it was during former president Barack Obama. Trump’s administration is fighting Iran rather than appeasing it.

Doha’s cooperation with the Iranian regime is a nonsensical step and presents proof the Arab quartet can use in discussions with international governments. It is further evidence of the hostile nature of the Qatari administration and its ties to extremism and violence. It will be difficult to justify Doha’s decision to a large part of the Arab public which despises the mullahs in Tehran because of their actions in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

US Ambassador Haley Voices Concerns on IAEA Inspectors not Gaining Access to Iran Military Bases

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley voiced concern on Friday that nuclear inspectors were not granted access to Iranian military bases, and she urged the International Atomic Energy Agency to use all its authorities to ensure Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

“I have good confidence in the IAEA, but they are dealing with a country that has a clear history of lying and pursuing covert nuclear programs,” Haley told a news conference after returning from a trip to Vienna, where the IAEA is based.

“We are encouraging the IAEA to use all the authorities they have and to pursue every angle possible” to verify compliance with the nuclear deal.

On the other hand, Haley said on Friday that US sanctions against Venezuela were a strong message to President Nicolas Maduro that the United States would not tolerate a “dictatorship” in that country.

Haley, speaking at United Nations headquarters in New York, said she had not been asked to meet at the UN with visiting Venezuelan foreign minister Jorge Arreaza.

Tehran Seeks to Boost Quds Force, Ballistic Missiles Spending

London- Iran’s parliament voted yes on Sunday to a bill increasing government funds backing the Revolutionary Guards’ paramilitary unit, Quds Force, and the national ballistic missile program.

The increase is meant to counter recent US sanctions imposed against the Guard.

If the Guardian Council approves the bill, which is expected to do, the Iranian foreign ministry, the defense ministry, the Guards and the army will be asked to provide a “comprehensive and strategic program” to counter US threats and “anti-Iran activity.”

The plan should be presented within six months at most. A parliamentary committee is also tasked with monitoring US government and Congressional moves and proposing appropriate reciprocal measures to the Parliament.

Under terms of the bill, some $700 million will be put toward several projects, including the defense ministry and its intelligence agencies.

Among the agencies receiving money would be the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force, an expeditionary force run by Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who has been advising forces in Syria and Iraq.

The Guard, separate from Iran’s conventional military forces, answers only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Visas for American officials involved with the Iranian exile group called the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq will be banned.  

Gulf Cooperation Council Assistant Chief for political affairs and negotiations Dr. Abdul Aziz al-Owaishek told Asharq Al-Awsat that the GCC will soon sit over a US-held meeting to discuss ways to “deter Iran and Hezbollah activity,” adding that the they will mull future approaches on dealing with those blacklisted.

State-run IRNA news agency also said the bill referred to the money being used to improve Iran’s defense against a nuclear attack and develop nuclear propellers. In December, Iranian President Rouhani ordered officials to draw up plans on building nuclear-powered ships, something that appears to be allowed under the nuclear deal, over an earlier dispute on US sanctions under the Obama administration.

IRNA reported that 247 lawmakers attended the voting session, with 240 approving the spending plan and one lawmaker abstaining.

Iran denies that it had violated a UN resolution which endorsed Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal, preventing them from conducting activities related to ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons.

Reformists Unanimously Elect Next Tehran Mayor

Iran

London- Tehran’s municipal council named on Thursday the final candidate for mayor behind closed doors, replacing incumbent Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf with a pronounced reformist.

The reformist majority council agreed to elect presidential economic advisor Mohammad-Ali Najafi instead of the current conservative mayor Ghalibaf. The incoming mayor is expected to boost Tehran social programs.

Reformists officially announced consensus on Najafi after the withdrawal of five other candidates, reported Iranian sites.

Najafi also was unanimously voted in by the 21-member body.

The reformist bloc won a majority of the council’s seats, with the most outstanding winners being the son of former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohsen Hashemi, as well as the culture minister of the reformist government Ahmed Masjid Jamami.

Iranian media reported that Najafi , a former education minister, will formally submit necessary documents for the post to the interior ministry, followed by the swearing in after the official vote in the Tehran municipality.

The post of mayor of Iran’s biggest city, which has a population of more than 12m, has often been used as a platform to launch more ambitious political careers: Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the populist president who was in power from 2005 to 2013, was Qalibaf’s predecessor as Tehran’s mayor.

But Najafi, 65, has said he has no aspirations to run for president and promised to put an end to the politicization of the municipality, increase transparency and promote the private sector.

Tehran’s new city council will assume authority as of Aug. 23. Reformists accused the outgoing mayor Ghalibaf of handing over development projects to the Revolutionary Guards without going through a proper tender process.

Najafi is prompted by his supporting bloc as an anti-corruption hero, as opposed to his alt-right conservative predecessor. Najafi will immediately work on draining the swamp and tackling municipality corruption, said some reformists.

However, he might face resistance from hardliners who will be reluctant to give up the interests they have established over the past decade.

OIC Urges Greater Cooperation from Iran over 2016 Attack against Saudi Embassy

Saudi

Jeddah – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called on Iran to be more “clear” in its investigation into the attacks against the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad in early 2016.

The OIC General Secretariat urged Iranian authorities for more cooperation in the probes as it had vowed to do so.

The authorities should, based on OIC principles, work seriously to deter any escalation in stances in order to eliminate any vagueness that can only complicate the case, it added.

The remarks were made in wake of a Saudi Foreign Ministry statement last week that accused Iranian authorities of “persistently and consistently stalling” in the investigation into the embassy and consulate attacks.

The Islamic organization stressed the importance of “transparency and integrity” that would benefit Iran and Saudi Arabia and respect Riyadh’s legitimate demands.

Iran, despite an initial approval, has denied a Saudi team entry into Iran as part of the Iranian team investigating the attacks on the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad, said a Foreign Ministry source last week according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Experts Criticize Halting of Investigations into 2016 Attack against Saudi Diplomatic Missions in Iran

A number of prominent experts in Iranian affairs strongly denounced and rebuffed the Iranian regime for procrastinating and eventually halting investigations into the 2016 attack on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

The 2016 attack on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran was a mob action on 2 January 2016 by a crowd of protesters who stormed the embassy in Tehran and another Saudi diplomatic consulate in Mashhad, ransacking offices.

The experts criticized Iranian authorities for rejecting the participation of a Saudi team in the investigation process, considering it a sign that Iran is not serious to chase the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

More so, the experts added that such behavior is not strange, citing the 1979 storming of the American embassy in Tehran, and holding its staff captives for 444 days, the 1987 attack against the Saudi and Kuwaiti embassies respectively, the 1988 attack on the Russian embassy, the 2007 offensive on a Kuwaiti diplomat, the 2009 aggression against the Pakistani embassy, the 2011 attack on the British embassy and the latest attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate general in Mash-had in 2016.

In an expression of good will, Iran be keen on advancing investigations and bring criminals to justice, the Saudi Press Agency cited the experts as saying.

Working under the false banner of revolution, Iran is planning to destabilize the region, added the experts.

They said prolonging the pace of investigations is yet a clear evidence that the Iranian regime is involved in the attack against the Saudi diplomatic missions.

Those gave statements to SPA on the issue include a number of Tunisian politicians, scholars, and media personalities.

They include Chairman of the foreign, political and national security affairs at the Arab parliament Ahmed Al-Mashraqi, President of Tunisian Justice and Development party Abdulrazaq bin Al-Arabi, Shaker Sharfi, a Tunisian academician and politician, and Hasan bin Ali, a Tunisian media man.

Other commentators from Jordan are expert in Iranian-affairs Dr. Nabeel Al-Atoum, and Editor-in-chief Madar Al-Saa (round-the-clock) news agency of Amman, Jordan, Awwad Al-Khalaylah.