Thursday, August 3, 2017

Eye on Iran: Now U.S. Has Company in Raising Pressure on Iran over Missile

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Joined by three Western allies, the United States on Wednesday escalated pressure on Iran over its space launch last week, saying the act disregarded a United Nations Security Council resolution on the use of missiles and was "threatening and provocative." In a letter to the Security Council and Secretary General António Guterres, Ambassador Nikki R. Haley of the United States and envoys from Britain, France and Germany said the Iranian missile that carried a satellite into orbit was "inherently capable of delivering a nuclear warhead." Under the Security Council resolution, 2231, which endorsed the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, Iran is called upon "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology."

Iran said new sanctions imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday break the terms of its nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers, and vowed an "appropriate and proportional" response. 

Iran's supreme leader on Thursday slammed the new U.S. sanctions on Tehran signed by President Donald Trump the previous day, and vowed his country would continue its missile program despite international pressure. Washington will "use any excuse to make a fuss" against Iran, said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking at a ceremony marking the formal endorsement of President Hassan Rouhani for his second term in office. "You launch a satellite-carrying missile, they make noise," he said, describing the Iranian launch as a "scientific and technical job that is routine and necessary." "The response to the hostility is to become stronger," Khamenei added and described the U.S government as "the top aggressor and the most shameless "enemy of Iran.


Here is a look at the possible paths out of the Iran deal for the U.S. and what the likely consequences would be. Just walk away. U.S. assessments of Iranian adherence to the deal are governed by a law passed in 2015 with bipartisan backing, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. Under the act's broad language, there may be room for the president to stop waiving sanctions on Iran simply because he sees the deal as inadequate. Parts of the law require Iran's adherence with the JCPOA, but others are more fungible and depend on what the president determines are U.S. national security interests... Walk away, but explain why. There are signs that Trump is ready to make the case to the international community that Iran is not in compliance as a predicate to pulling out... Provoke Iran into leaving the deal... Experts touted this strategy following Trump's election but before he assumed office. It would involve abiding by the agreement, but increasing pressure through non-deal related sanctions, targeting Iran's government for its missile testing and adventurism, and possibly increasing U.S. military presence in the region. According to this theory, the resulting pressure by Iranian hardliners on the government of President Hassan Rouhani, which favors the deal, would lead Iran to pull out.


The US is undermining the Iran nuclear deal by imposing sanctions on the country, a ranking Iranian official has said on state TV. "The main purpose of the United States in implementing the sanctions against Iran is to destroy the JCPOA," Deputy Foreign Minister Sayed Abbas Araqchi said... He added that Tehran "will show a very clever reaction" to the imposition of sanctions.

The U.S. says it persuaded France, Germany and the U.K. to join in signing a letter of protest to the United Nations Security Council about Iran's "threatening and provocative" launch last week of a rocket that can carry a satellite into space. The four powers, which brokered the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran along with China and Russia, called the launch "inconsistent" with a Security Council resolution that accompanied the nuclear agreement, which eased economic sanctions in exchange for a reduction of the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.


Qais al-Khazali, the secretary-general of Iraq's Asaib ahl al-Haq armed group, has accused the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey of supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and the broader region, according to Iran's Fars News Agency. "The heroic forces of Hashd al-Shaabi [Popular Mobilization Forces] easily chop the heads of these forces," he said while describing the Islamic State as the "special forces" of the United States and its allies.  Asaib Ahl al-Haq - or the League of the Righteous - is an Iraqi Shiite militant group fighting in Iraq and Syria. The group is funded by the Iran and reportedly has more than 10,000 fighters. According to the U.S. government accounts, the Lebanese Hezbollah upon a request by the Iranian government helped form and train AAH in 2005 to carry out attacks against the U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq. AAH has been accused of killing American soldiers and committing human rights abuses against Iraqi Sunnis... Khazali has reportedly pledged allegiance to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and his group takes orders from I.R.G.C. Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, rather than the government in Baghdad... Khazali was arrested by the U.S. military in 2007 for his alleged role in high-profile attack in Karbala that had killed five American service members... AH and U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces have recently been fighting against the Islamic State together, Khazali's anti-American sentiment has not diminished. Last year, he hinted that his fighters could blend in with Iraqi troops to kill American advisers in Mosul.

The deputy head of the Iranian Armed Forces has threatened to respond to the latest U.S. "insults" and stressed that the United States has to leave the region... The Iranian general emphasized that "the combatants of Islam" will continue to fight "America's mercenaries" and that "America has no option but to leave the West Asia region".... It is not the first time that Jazayeri issues a veiled threat against the U.S. military presence in the Middle East and calls on Washington to leave the region... And last month, he warned that the Islamic Republic will take action against U.S. interests in the region in retaliation to the Trump administration's regime change remarks"...  Referring to the new U.S. sanctions on Iran, the Iranian military official said: "We have plans that will inflict a lot of damages to America."

Hours after President Donald Trump signed a legislation imposing new sanctions on Iran (as well as on Russia and North Korea), the Iranian government announced that it will take "appropriate and proportionate" retaliatory measures, including further empowering the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.RG.C.) and its elite Quds Force. "The aim of these sanctions is to scare economic firms from dealing with Iran," said Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi. "But Europe will continue economic exchanges with Iran," he added. "To counter this plan, we have entered the judicial power into the field and will strengthen the Revolutionary Guards and the Quds Force." The new U.S sanctions target both the I.R.G.C. and Quds Force for their destabilizing role and support for terrorism in the region.


House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) issued the following statement after President Trump signed legislation to sanction Iran, Russia, and North Korea: "Today, the United States sent a powerful message to our adversaries that they will be held accountable for their actions. These sanctions directly target the destructive and destabilizing activities of Iran, Russia, and North Korea. We will continue to use every instrument of American power to defend this nation and the people we serve."


On Iran, the package imposes new sanctions on people involved in Iran's ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country's Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.

The legislation is aimed at punishing Moscow for interfering in the 2016 U.S presidential election and for its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where the Kremlin has backed President Bashar Assad. The law also imposes financial sanctions against Iran and North Korea. Trump said the law will "punish and deter bad behavior by the rogue regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang" and enhance existing sanctions on Moscow.

The measure also targets Iran's ballistic missile program, its support for terrorism and human rights violations, and yet it would still comply with the Iranian nuclear deal. Specifically, it imposes sanctions on any foreign person or foreign entity that does business with an entity already designated by the administration that has a connection to Iran's ballistic missile program. These sanctions, for example, could apply to any financial institution or any foreign company that provides key parts or components to Iran's missile program.


Kuwait on Wednesday denied a Reuters report that Iran was using the Gulf Arab state's waters to smuggle weapons and equipment to Houthi forces in Yemen "The State of Kuwait refuted news by the Reuters news agency regarding Iran's exploitation of Kuwaiti waters to deliver arms and military assistance to the Houthis in Yemen," a Foreign Ministry statement said. "A source at the ministry said that the country's waters were under the total control of the Kuwaiti navy and coast guard, adding that there were no reports of suspicious marine movements or activities," said the statement, carried by the official Kuwait news agency. The ministry urged international media to investigate such matters "more thoroughly". On Tuesday, Reuters cited sources familiar with the matter as saying that Iran's Revolutionary Guards had begun using a new route across the Gulf to funnel covert arms shipments to their Houthi allies in Yemen's civil war.


Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif's handshake and brief conversation with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir received mixed reactions inside Iran. While some described their meeting as an encouraging step to improving ties between the two neighbors, others criticized Zarif for seeking friendship with Riyadh. The two top diplomats exchanged diplomatic pleasantries on the sidelines of the Organization of Islamic cooperation (O.I.C.) summit in Istanbul on Tuesday. Hassan Hani-Zadeh, an Iranian international affairs analyst, said the handshake indicates "Saudi Arabia's new approach toward its neighbors, particularly Iran." He speculated that Turkey may have played a role in organizing the meeting. But Hani-Zadeh cautioned that Tehran must remain vigilant as Saudi Arabia may be attempting to "create Iranian Shiites and Arab Shiites" - citing the latest visit of prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to the Kingdom.

On Aug. 1, the foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia surprised political observers by shaking hands with each other at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting in Istanbul. Given that the encounter came in the wake of months of direct verbal clashes between the two over regional developments, some saw the unexpected greeting as potentially signaling a glimmer of hope for improvement in the Iran-Saudi relationship. Following the warm greeting, Mohammad Javad Zarif told Iranian journalists Aug. 1 that what happened on the sidelines of the OIC summit was a "diplomatic norm" and based on "mutual respect" and a "long-standing friendship" with Adel al-Jubeir. He added that the brief encounter was not groundwork for the resumption of diplomatic relations, which Saudi Arabia cut following the storming of its diplomatic facilities in Iran over its execution of a dissident Shiite cleric.


Iran's judicial and security bodies have waged a vicious crackdown against human rights defenders since Hassan Rouhani became president in 2013, demonizing and imprisoning activists who dare to stand up for people's rights, Amnesty International said in a new report published today. Caught in a web of repression: Iran's human rights defenders under attack details how scores of human rights activists - often labelled "foreign agents" and "traitors" by state media - have been prosecuted and jailed on spurious "national security" charges, dealing a crushing blow to hopes of human rights reform raised during President Hassan Rouhani's first election campaign. Some activists have been sentenced to more than 10 years behind bars for simple acts such as being in contact with the UN, EU or human rights organizations including Amnesty International.

After four years' imprisonment for "violating national security", Iranian Christian Maryam Naghash Zargaran was released from Tehran's Evin prison last night (1 August). She was due to be released four days earlier, on 28 July, but, as Mohabat News reported, this was delayed without explanation. Naghash Zargaran, 39, a convert from Islam, was first questioned by intelligence officers in January 2010 because of her work with underground churches, or "house churches".


Hassan Rouhani won the endorsement of Iran's supreme leader for his second term of president on Thursday after an easy election win, pledging to open Iran to foreign trade and investment but facing internal hardline resistance and renewed U.S. antagonism. Under Rouhani's watch, Iran emerged from international isolation in 2015 when it struck a deal with six world powers to curb its disputed nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of financial and economic sanctions in place for a decade.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed to continue his efforts to end the country's isolation as he was sworn in for a second term, a day after US President Donald Trump signed a bill increasing sanctions against the Islamic Republic. "We will never accept isolation," Rouhani told a packed audience of Iranian political and military officials in Tehran on Thursday. "The nuclear deal is a sign of Iran's goodwill on the international stage," he said, referring to the 2015 agreement to curb its atomic programme in exchange for an easing of sanctions.

The chief of staff of Iran's Armed Forces has called on the country's Sunni and Shiite communities to join hands to maintain security at home and continue to battle against America and Israel abroad. "Iran's Islamic revolution has constantly been attacked by the Arrogance [U.S.] and the child-killer regime of Israel," Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri told a gathering of top Iranian security officials and influential leaders of southwestern province of Sistan and Baluchestan.

Iran is becoming less dependent on its neighbors for natural gas with the launch of a pipeline to the northern provinces, the government said. Iranian Energy Minister Bijan Zangeneh was on hand for a ceremony for the launch of the Damghan-Neka natural gas pipeline for the customers in the isolated north of the country, the energy ministry's news website SHANA reported.


The 2015 Iran nuclear accord and subsequent side deals struck by the Obama administration to ransom U.S. hostages held by Iran disproportionately enriched the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its constituent Qods Force, its most elite unit. With unfrozen assets bolstering the Iranian treasury, the Islamic Republic decided to raise the Qods Force budget more than $300 million beyond the budgetary increase earlier granted to the IRGC as a whole. It's against this backdrop that comments by Brigadier General Esmail Qaani, deputy commander of the Qods Force, become so telling... Qaani suggested that the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington were an inside job He then bragged to an assembled group of Iranian veterans from fights in Syria and Iraq about how little the United States has been able to do to counter the growth of Iranian influence. Lastly, he bragged about "America has suffered more losses from us than we have suffered losses from them." This, of course, is not only a confession but also outright bragging about how the Qods Force murdered Americans in Iraq. It was the Qods Force, after all, that smuggled in explosively-formed, armor-penetrating projectiles into Iraq for insurgents to incorporate in improvised explosive devices. 

"Across the Middle East, the inevitable question is whether Washington's apparent willingness to live with North Korean nuclear weapons-even those that can now be delivered to the United States itself-foreshadows what is to come in Iran... But there are key differences between the two situations, and it is important to draw the right lessons from the North Korean experience. There is still time to prevent Iran from following in North Korea's footsteps, but only if leaders in Washington and elsewhere are honest about the challenge and recognize not just what is familiar about it but what is different as well... [A] key difference is that a military option to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb remains viable as a last resort. In North Korea, military preemption has long been precluded by the strategic reality that most of the South Korean population, including the capital city of Seoul, lies within range of thousands of North Korean rockets, and all of North Korea's neighbors, including South Korea, oppose military action to prevent proliferation.

Saudi Arabia has succession well in hand. Iran, on the other hand, has designated no successor to the Supreme Leader and is riven by deep political divisions united only in the belief that the perpetuity of their rule is contingent on exporting the Islamic Revolution. Lacking his predecessor Ayatollah Khomeini's charisma and stature, Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei consolidated his rule by placing loyal supporters of the Islamic Revolution in all branches of government and granting the Revolutionary Guard unprecedented economic and political power. These transformations yielded a sectarian-driven expansionist and interventionist foreign policy, the continuity of which vouchsafes the legitimacy of any Supreme Leader. The bottom line: Saudi Arabia has already had its succession and is forging ahead with needed reforms. With no clear successor, Iran's factions will vie with one another to escalate sectarian policies abroad in order to build revolutionary credentials for the next Supreme Leader at home.

The Saudi-Iran rivalry is less an ancient religious conflict and more a modern geopolitical proxy war cloaked in ethnic (Arab vs. Persian) and sectarian (Sunni vs. Shia) garb. The two countries are on opposing sides of horrific conflicts-in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq-that have caused over a million civilian casualties, the greatest refugee crisis since WWII, and the proliferation of Sunni Jihadist groups such as ISIS and Shiite militias to counter them. The most powerful man in each country-78-year-old Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and 31-year-Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS)-are a study in contrasts. Khamenei is a deeply traditional cleric who cautiously rules a predominantly modern society; MBS has a modern outlook and bold ambitions but presides over a deeply traditional society.

The passing of Iran's supreme leader and the Saudi king represents a pair of known unknowns: leadership transitions that are long anticipated and carefully planned, but whose realization will provide rare openings for jockeying by domestic rivals, testing by external adversaries, and possibly even mobilization on the streets. Each ruling system is likely to survive, but only if leaders can manage an array of new challenges such as the sense of political entitlement among Iran's post-revolutionary generation, the fissures within the Saudi royal family, and the structural distortions that plague both economies.

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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