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Ed Webb

From Iraq to Lebanon, Iran Is Facing a Backlash - 0 views

  • Since the outbreak of the protests in early October, various security forces, including Iranian-backed Shiite militias, have killed more than 400 Iraqis and wounded some 20,000 others. Not only is there good reason to believe that much of the brutality has taken place at the behest of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Qassem Suleimani, the notorious commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, but the available evidence seems to confirm it. Aware of the anti-Iranian mood on the Iraqi streets—exemplified by protesters beating their shoes against portraits of Khamenei, just as they had done with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003—an unnerved Khamenei did not hesitate to intervene.
  • Suleimani called for a heavy-handed approach to deal with people on the streets, reportedly saying, “we in Iran know how to deal with protests,” an implicit reference to prior violent suppressions of peaceful demonstrations in Iran and, more aggressively, in Syria. The death toll in Iraq surpassed 100 the day after his departure, confirming the power of Iran’s word.
  • Tehran has invested heavily in hard and soft power tools to expand its influence in Iraq. This investment has eventually paid dividends. Some of the most prominent individuals in Iraq today—including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Hadi al-Amiri, former government officials and leaders of the most powerful Iranian-backed militias—were initially recruited by the IRGC in the early 1980s to spread the Islamic Revolution into Iraq
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  • Tehran planned to replicate its “Hezbollah model” in Iraq: nurturing militancy to gain control of territory, while encouraging these militants to take advantage of a newly created democracy as a way to penetrate political institutions. These efforts were bolstered by close cross-border clerical and personal relationships.
  • Leaked Iranian intelligence cables shed light on the scale and nature of Iran’s systematic and deep-rooted interference in Iraq, from its network of militant agents to its oversight of political institutions. The cables confirm what protesters already knew: Tehran has been committing enormous resources to imposing a command-and-control structure on Baghdad. Viewed within the broader context of worsening economic conditions and unresponsive, corrupt governance, protesters see Iran as the source of their grievances, fuelling anti-Iranian sentiment on the streets.
  • The protests in Lebanon, which have been uniquely secular despite the fragile sectarian composition of its population, are driven by charges of corruption and a desire to replace a rigid and unresponsive establishment—of which Hezbollah has become an intrinsic part.
  • A recent Asda’a BCW survey suggests that two-thirds of young Arabs consider Iran an enemy of their country.
  • The soaring levels of public discontent in Iran have been consistently overlooked by policymakers and commentators. The most recent protests in Iran, which were brutally repressed by the regime, caught many in the West off guard—but signs of widespread discontent have been in place for many years.
  • In 2009, there was a genuine belief that the Islamic Republic could be reformed, expressed primarily in the demand that Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist presidential candidate, be installed as president. Now, the moderate pro-reform slogans that were heard on Iranian streets in 2009 have been replaced with more hostile chants, such as “Death to Khamenei” and “Mullahs have to get lost”—signaling a broader rejection of the entire Islamic revolutionary system.
  • as protesters in Iraq chant, “Iran out, Baghdad free,” in Iran they cry, “no to Gaza, no to Lebanon, I give my life only for Iran”—reflecting a growing desire in both countries for governments that put domestic interests above regional considerations
  • The IRGC and Iran’s Shiite proxies will not stand down without a fight. While the combination of pressure in Iraq, Lebanon, and Iran may help weaken the regime in Tehran, it will probably be a deadly affair.
Ed Webb

Russia's future in Iran looks brighter as Europe, US fade - 0 views

  • To ease the isolation and economic pressure, Iran is looking to strengthen trade and financial relations with Russia as well as China and neighboring countries such as Turkey, Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Iran has been seeking to conclude banking agreements and establish non-dollar and SWIFT-free financial mechanisms with these countries. Iran's efforts in this regard in relation to Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey have been somewhat fruitful.
  •  trade between Iran and Russia grew 24.6% in the first seven months of 2019, reaching $1.33 billion. Russian exports to Iran reached $999.3 million (39.3% growth) and Iran’s exports to Russia stood at $333.7 million — a 6.2% decrease compared with the same period in the preceding year. Iran's share of Russia's total foreign trade rose from 0.3% to 0.4%.
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  • Iran said earlier this month that it has connected its Financial Electronic Messaging System (SEPAM) to the financial messaging system developed by the the Bank of Russia, SPFS, and trade is increasing and expected to continue growing in the coming months.
  • But the economic capacity of Iran-Russia relations is limited and Moscow doesn’t want to jeopardize its interests in a confrontation between Iran and the United States. So, although launching a special financial channel could boost bilateral trade, the increase wouldn’t be all that significant. For Iran, the regional aspect of launching this channel is more important than its bilateral dimension.
  • the transport capacity between the Far East, India, Russia and Europe is 30 million tons of cargo, expandable to 100 million tons. Mohammad Eslami, Iranian minister of roads and urban development, emphasized Iran will increase its share of cargo transported between the East and West. One of Iran's options for achieving this goal is the INSTC. According to Eslami, Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan will launch their integrated transport system by the end of 2020
  • boosting trade and financial ties with Iran could help fulfill Russia's political goals of reducing US pressure on Iran, saving the Iran nuclear deal and maintaining long-term regional relations with Iran
  • Russia doesn’t want to lag behind its rivals in taking advantage of Iran's large market. Iran and China recently updated a 25-year, $400 billion economic agreement signed in 2016. Europe hopes to expand trade with Iran through INSTEX. If the European and Chinese plans are realized, Russia's access to the Iranian market will decline and Moscow’s political goals will be challenged.
Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » "Bush White House Wanted to Destroy the Syrian Sta... - 0 views

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Ed Webb

After Soleimani | Newlines Magazine - 0 views

  • The Trump administration assassinated Soleimani to compel change in Iran’s behavior and to throw a wrench in the gears of Iran’s expansive regional influence. Twelve months is too short a period to measure its impact in the realms of longstanding policy and force posture. Outside of some signs of disunity among some of Iraq’s Shiite militias, not much has changed. The impact of Soleimani’s death is therefore impossible to accurately gauge. What we can say is that his death unleashed an emotional and political wave that has surged from his legacy. It is driven almost entirely by his benefactors in Tehran and clients across the region and it is fueled by their desire to shape the memory of the man, myth and legend they helped create.
  • To some, his death was small justice, an emphatic ending to the life of a man who served as the backbone of Assad’s brutal war against the Syrian people and facilitated the empowerment of corrupt, coercive militias in Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon. To others, particularly his supporters and patrons, Soleimani was a hero: a leader in the war against ISIS and a champion of the Shiite Muslim minority.
  • To appreciate the complexity threaded throughout varying perceptions of Soleimani, it’s essential to understand what he symbolizes to Iran, to his military, and to the foreign groups he worked so closely with.
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  • The 1979 revolution was fueled by both desperate frustration and an abundance of hope. Across the various ideologies and sentiments that shaped the revolutionary movement, there was a common desire to break Iran’s subservience to foreign powers. This desire is often described as anti-Americanism or even anti-imperialism, and while that accurately reflects the language used by the revolutionaries at the time, it is also a reductive view.
  • under the stewardship of Khomeini, the architect of Iran’s theocracy and first supreme leader, justice was perceived much more broadly. It was primarily about two things: establishing an Islamic system at home and overturning the U.S. dominated status quo in the region, with an emphasis on countering Israel.
  • Prior to the revolution, the Shah had situated Iran as a bulwark to the Soviet Union and the spread of communism. Iran’s regional relations were driven by Cold War considerations and by the Shah’s desire to transform Iran into the predominant power in the Persian Gulf.
  • The 1953 coup d’etat was just one in a string of indignities that had been eroding the Iranian national character since the 18th century. It also marked the United States’ entrance into the Middle East, and the beginning of the love-hate relationship between Washington and Tehran.
  • When war came to Iran, IRGC units were among the first to deploy. With little training and spare resources, their response was sporadic and innovative.What they lacked in capabilities and training, they compensated with zeal and fearlessness. Eventually the IRGC began to use the tactic of “human wave” assaults that showcased those qualities on the battlefield. IRGC forces would charge en masse into Iraqi defenses, overwhelming the defenders by being able to absorb mass casualties without relenting the advance. Iraqis fired until they ran out of ammunition and then were forced to retreat. The IRGC used this tactic to impressive effect, winning battle after battle and eventually forcing a full-scale Iraqi retreat in the summer of 1982
  • Whereas much of the region and foreign powers were supporting Iraq, Iran was virtually alone in fighting the war, with only Syria providing it any meaningful political support. The war ended as a stalemate in 1988. Iran saw itself as up against the world and it could not overcome the vast amount of support buttressing Saddam Hussein’s Iraq
  • as Khamenei’s main support base, the IRGC grew into a formidable political actor within Iran, and the primary strategic arm of the regime. Many of the young men who joined the IRGC during the war also rose to become commanders and officers with it. This included Soleimani, who became a rising star in the IRGC’s Quds Force division, which was responsible for all foreign activities and operations
  • the IRGC shot down a passenger jet, killing everyone on board. The narrative of the assassination was instantly overtaken by the grief and shock of the everyday Iranians who struggled to make sense of a preventable tragedy. Iran’s leaders attempted to skirt blame and cover up the IRGC’s catastrophic error. Family members who spoke out and demanded answers were cruelly silenced. Soleimani’s image was everywhere, yet justice was nowhere to be seen.
  • It wasn’t until the U.S.-led 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq that Iran was provided an opportunity to change its regional position. Soleimani, who had by then become the leader of the IRGC’s Quds Force, saw opportunity and peril in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Iran’s allies benefited from the end of the Baathist regime, but a longstanding U.S. military presence in Iraq was also a threat to Iran. Soleimani championed a policy that sought to exploit both the political landscape and the shadows of the new Iraqi frontier. He encouraged political participation of Iran’s Shiite allies while also developing an insurgent network that waged war against the U.S. and coalition forces, killing or maiming hundreds of servicemembers in the process. The effort was largely effective. When U.S. forces departed Iraq in late 2011, Soleimani’s clients were among the most powerful political actors in Iraq and Iran was the most influential outside power in the country.
  • The irony of Soleimani’s successes in Syria and Iraq is that they prepared the ground for the rise of ISIS. The Islamic State’s explosion into Iraq should have been recognized as the product of Soleimani’s myopic view of Iraq and Syria as simply battlegrounds for Iran’s advancement. Yet, Soleimani and the IRGC seized the moment and self-consciously rebranded their enterprise. Iran was the first outside state to support Iraq’s war against ISIS, and Soleimani let the whole world know of his role. What appeared on social media as authentic and spontaneous pictures of Soleimani on the frontlines with Iraqi troops and commanders, was actually a deliberate effort by the IRGC to recast Soleimani’s image. He was no longer a shadow commander, but a MacArthur-esque figure almost single-handedly fighting the dark forces of ISIS. A national hero in Iran, and the savior of Iraq and Syria.
  • He was killed because he was important. He was killed because Iran was important.
  • The IRGC increased their investment in Soleimani after his death, using his persona to rebrand themselves and the regime to a new generation. Soleimani became the archetype of the Islamic Republic’s self-conception. His figure symbolizes how the regime desires to be seen by the Iranian people and by the world. Soleimani has been cast as brave, selfless and humble; a warrior, a believer and a patriot. His is a transnational community that connects Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen with Iran. He justifies Iran’s regional activities by casting them as an essential part of Iranian patriotism and national identity. To be Iranian in the narrative promoted by the regime is to be part of a larger Islamic enterprise. Not the umma or global Islamic community, but rather, the resistance: the militant groups and personalities who share the Islamic Republic’s enemies and its political aspirations.
  • mythologizing of Soleimani has not only been aspirational, it has also been driven by concerns within the IRGC that the regime is losing support and legitimacy among the Iranian people. This is particularly true for the younger generations, which know nothing of the Shah’s brutality, the sense of injustice that enveloped Iran during its war with Iraq, or the hope that accompanied President Khatami’s reformist platform in the 1990s. Instead, what they know is Iran’s 21st century experience, which has been one of near-constant antagonism and increasing privation.
  • the explosion of protests across Iran in 2018 and 2019. Iran has experienced episodic protest movements in the past, but these protests were different
  • The IRGC confronted the protests head-on and with unrelenting brutality. Using machine guns, tanks, and direct fire to murder Iranian youths in the streets and hunt them down in alleyways.
  • There was indeed something personal about Soleimani’s death. No matter what he represented, he was an Iranian. That he was singled out and murdered by a foreign power sat uncomfortably with most of his compatriots, regardless of their politics
  • Iran knew that both Israel and the United States had to factor in potential attacks by Hezbollah were they ever to strike Iran, and Syria was the lynchpin for Iran’s sustained influence on the Lebanese organization. Syria was therefore key to Iran’s larger deterrence strategy vis-à-vis the United States and Israel
  • Just as Apple carried on without Steve Jobs, the IRGC will retain the ability to manage its proxies and exert influence beyond Iran’s borders without Soleimani at the helm. The law of inertia also applies. Unless the IRGC and its proxies are challenged directly, momentum will carry them forward.
  • Both Lebanon and Iraq have been hit by intense protest movements over the last year, with much of the anger of the younger generations being aimed at the political elite and their foreign backers. Even though Iran’s influence has helped empower Shiite elites in each country, an increasing number of younger Shiites appear to have soured on Iran and blame it for their country’s morass. This is especially true in Iraq, where young Shiites make up the vast majority of the protest movement that has railed against government corruption and the political power of Iran-backed militias
  • while Soleimani helped expand Iranian influence in the region, that influence rests on shaky ground. The height of Iran’s influence — at least as presently expressed through the IRGC — has probably passed.
Ed Webb

Thanks to Trump, Iran Is Winning the Battle for the Middle East's Future - 0 views

  • a world undergoing major change, as China, Russia, and regional powers such as Iran seek to supplant U.S. military hegemony.  Nowhere is this shift more apparent than in the Middle East, where the incoherence of the Trump administration’s foreign policy has been on full display. However, these rapid changes also present a lesson on the overreach of past U.S. interventions and an opportunity for the United States to extricate itself from regional conflicts and push local powers toward cooperation.
  • a recent interview aired on Iranian state television with Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.  In the rare interview, reportedly the first given by Suleimani in more than 20 years, the elusive commander outlined the regional landscape leading up to the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War
  • According to Suleimani, Israel’s goal was to “get rid of Hezbollah forever.” He lamented the “willingness of Arab countries and their discreet announcement of cooperation” with Israel at the time, which he claimed was aimed at “obliterating Hezbollah and changing the demography in southern Lebanon.”
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  • Over the past decade and a half, the wars waged by Washington and its allies against the Iran-led camp have all been unsuccessful. Hezbollah fought Israel to a bloody stalemate in 2006. Iranian influence in Iraq has been consolidated. Iran and its allies have won the Syrian civil war. Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign has failed to bring Iran to heel.
  • At a time when Trump is pushing uncompromising unilateralism, the rest of the world has made clear its desire for a rules-based order grounded in multilateralism, as evident in efforts to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the advent of new regional institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. In the Middle East, the United States and its major European and regional allies no longer share a cohesive, united vision. This is evident not just in Trump’s haphazard approach to the troop withdrawal from Syria but in his drive to undo the Iran nuclear deal.
  • The coalition of Arab states and Israel that the Trump administration had mobilized against Iran now shows serious signs of splintering
  • for the Gulf states, the forecast is clear: The United States is leaving the Middle East. They have long feared losing the U.S. security umbrella, which was at the root of their rage against former President Barack Obama’s diplomacy with Iran. However, after inciting Trump to escalation and conflict with Iran, his refusal to deploy U.S. military power after the aforementioned attacks is spurring a fundamental recalculation of their security strategies
  • the Emirati government has reached a new maritime agreement with Iran and has reportedly sent a senior official to Tehran to improve ties. Even Saudi Arabia, the leader of the anti-Iran bloc, is communicating to Iran a desire for de-escalation and an end to the war in Yemen
  • It in fact makes little sense for the United States to bear most of the cost of securing the Gulf. In a 2010 study, Roger Stern, an economic geographer at Princeton University, found that from 1976 to 2007, the United States spent $6.8 trillion on protecting the oil flow from the Persian Gulf. “[O]n an annual basis the Persian Gulf mission now costs about as much as did the Cold War,” Stern wrote. This expenditure is even more striking given that, in recent years, the United States has received less than 10 percent of Gulf hydrocarbons. In effect, Washington has given the major importers of Gulf energy (i.e., China, India, and Japan) a free ride when it comes to their energy security.
  • push for the creation of a collective security system in the Gulf
  • A Gulf security system could help ease the security dilemmas between Iran, Iraq, and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries through institutionalized forums for regular dialogue and the facilitation of nonaggression pacts. For such a system to be successful in assuming the burden for ensuring the free flow of Gulf energy, it will require external powers, particularly the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the European Union, and the other major importers of Gulf hydrocarbons, to play a helpful role in promoting regional dialogue
  • it was not Suleimani’s victories that led to the current juncture but self-defeating moves by successive U.S. administrations afflicted with hubris and a desire to transform the Middle East
Ed Webb

FDD Aligned with State Department to Attack Supporters of Iran Diplomacy - LobeLog - 0 views

  • the State Department suspended its funding for a mysterious website and Twitter account, and @IranDisInfo, after the project attacked human rights workers, journalists and academics, many of whom are based inside the U.S. But the role of the U.S. government in financing IranDisInfo’s criticisms of Human Rights Watch and the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a group that has been outspoken in warning about the Trump administration’s increasingly aggressive military posture towards Iran, appears to have been in collaboration with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). FDD pushes for military confrontation with Iran and has received funding from some of Trump and the GOP’s biggest campaign megadonors. While simultaneously denying their support for a war with Iran, FDD’s scholars have repeatedly urged U.S. military action against the Islamic Republic.
  • Dubowitz and his FDD colleagues have been advising the Trump White House on their regime change strategy in Iran.
  • FDD’s involvement with IranDisInfo was thinly concealed.  The website and Twitter account heavily promoted Mark Dubowitz and FDD advisor Saeed Ghasseminejad. Buried on FDD’s website is an “Iran Disinformation Project” that publishes the identical content from Ghasseminejad that was cross-posted on IranDisInfo’s website. And on at least five occasions FDD’s Twitter account promoted articles by Ghasseminejad “in @IranDisInfo.” Except the links didn’t send users to IranDisInfo’s website. Instead, the links were to FDD’s own “Iran Disinformation Project,” hosted on FDD’s website.
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  • In 2017, FDD received $3.63 million from billionaire Bernard Marcus, which constituted over a quarter of FDD’s contributions that year. Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot, is outspoken about his hatred of Iran, which he characterized as “the devil” in a 2015 Fox Business interview. Marcus is Trump’s second biggest campaign supporter, contributing $7 million to pro-Trump super PACs before the 2016 election.
  • by the end of the 2011 tax year, Sheldon Adelson, who went on to become Trump’s single biggest campaign funder, the GOP’s biggest funder in the 2018 midterms, and personal advocate for Trump to take Bolton as his national security adviser, was FDD’s third biggest donor, contributing at least $1.5 million. (Dubowitz says Adelson no longer contributes to FDD.) In 2013, Adelson publicly proposed the U.S. launch a preventive nuclear attack on Iran, targeting the desert, and threaten to launch a second nuclear weapon at Tehran if Iran didn’t abandon its nuclear program.
  • the Trump administration’s decision to seemingly enter into a collaborative arrangement with FDD or Ghasseminejad, an FDD “adviser,” points to the State Department, under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s leadership, moving to increasingly align itself with organizations and individuals pushing the U.S. towards another war in the Middle East.
  • Marcus and Adelson publicly endorse a militarist posture towards Iran and aren’t shy about writing big checks to politicians and organizations that share that mission. With Adelson and Marcus’s preferred national security adviser, John Bolton, evidently pushing the U.S. towards a military confrontation with Iran, it’s no wonder that FDD, possibly (until Friday) with the support of U.S.-taxpayer funding, is engaged in a public-diplomacy campaign against critics of Trump and Bolton’s Iran policy.
Ed Webb

A campaign for war with Iran begins - War Room - - 0 views

  • The most critical assumption that Israeli officials have presented publicly for the past 18 years -- long before the firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stepped on the scene -- is that the Iranian government is irrational and that Iran constitutes an existential threat to Israel. These departing points in the Israeli analysis eliminate all options on Iran with the exception of preventive military action. An adversary who isn’t rational cannot be deterred nor contained, because such an actor -- by definition -- does not make decisions based on a cost-benefit analysis. In addition, if the foe is presented as an existential threat, then preventive action is the sole rational response. These Israeli assumptions short-cut the entire policy process and skip all the steps that normally are taken before a state determines that force is necessary. Judging by Israel’s rhetoric, it is easy to conclude that these beliefs are genuinely held as undisputable truths by the Israeli security apparatus. But if judged by its actions rather than its rhetoric, a very different image emerges -- one that shows an astute Israeli appreciation for the complexity of Iran’s security calculations and decision-making processes, and a recognition that conventional arguments are insufficient to convince Washington to view Iran from an Israeli lens.
  • Goldberg’s lengthy essay fails to recognize that throughout the 1980s, in spite of the Iranian government’s venomous rhetoric against Israel and its anti-Israeli ideology, the Jewish state sought to retain relations with Iran and actively aided Iran in the Iraq-Iran war. Only three days after Iraqi troops entered Iranian territory, Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan interrupted a private visit to Vienna to hold a press conference to urge the United States -- in the middle of the hostage crisis -- to forget the past and help Iran keep up its defenses.
  • it wasn’t new Iranian capabilities or a sudden discovery of Iran’s anti-Israeli rhetoric that prompted the depiction of Iran as an existential threat. Rather, it was the fear that in the new post-Cold War environment in which Israel had lost much of its strategic significance to Washington, improved relations between the US and Iran could come at the expense of Israeli security interests. Iran would become emboldened and the U.S. would no longer seek to contain its growth. The balance of power would shift from Israel towards Iran and the Jewish state would no longer be able rely on Washington to control Tehran. "The Great Satan will make up with Iran and forget about Israel," Gerald Steinberg of Bar Ilan University in Israel told me during a visit to Jerusalem.
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  • Goldberg’s article is perhaps better understood as the starting salvo in a long-term campaign to create the necessary conditions for a future war with Iran
  • This past summer in Israel, former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevi told me the same thing and pointed out that speaking of Iran as an existential threat exaggerates Iran’s power and leaves the false -- and dangerous -- impression that Israel is helpless and vulnerable.
  • Even an Iran that doesn't have nuclear weapons but that can build them would damage Israel's ability to deter militant Palestinian and Lebanese organizations. It would damage the image of Israel as the sole nuclear-armed state in the region and undercut the myth of its invincibility. Gone would be the days when Israel's military supremacy would enable it to dictate the parameters of peace and pursue unilateral peace plans.
  • e under the Clinton years -- most importantly with the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998 -- serious preparation for selling an Iran war to the American public under a Republican president (Palin?) in 2013 must be undertaken now, both to establish the narrative for that sell and to use the narrative to remove any obstacles in the White House along the way
  • even raising the specter of war undercuts the opposition in Iran
Sarah Henry

Iran sends mixed signals on quitting nuclear curb pact | International | Reuters - 0 views

  • An influential Iranian leader suggested on Monday Iran should quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty in protest against a U.N. censure over its nuclear activity
  • Russia said it was "seriously concerned" by Iran's gambit to massively expand enrichment, criticism that could raise Western hopes for Russian backing for harsher sanctions against Tehran.
  • Washington condemned the plans as a serious violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions
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  • However, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's atomic energy agency and seen as a relative moderate, told Reuters later Tehran had no wish to leave the NPT.
  • Analysts believe Iran would think twice before quitting the NPT since this would betray weapons ambitions and could provoke a pre-emptive attack by Israel and possibly the United States.
    Different public figures in Iran are giving contradictory statements about the nuclear program in Iran, and the possibility of Iran's pulling out of the NPT
Ed Webb

Iran Using Iraqi Kurdistan Against the U.S. and Turkey - Newlines Institute - 0 views

  • A series of rocket strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital, Erbil, on Feb. 15 are the latest in a string of “resistance axis” activity that has undermined Iraq’s security, endangered civilians, rendered the central state weak and incapable, and added the possibility of a larger regional escalation between Iran-aligned groups and their rivals. The attacks sent a warning message to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the federal government of Iraq, and foreign actors including the U.S. and Turkey.
  • The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) are an umbrella of Iraqi state-sponsored armed groups and militias under the command of Iraq’s prime minister. The PMF have incorporated within their ranks some of the most notorious Shiite militias, namely Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kataib Hezbollah, which have been involved in human rights violations and organized crime. These militias overtly object to U.S. presence in Iraq in all forms and have boasted about attacking U.S. interests, referring to themselves as “the resistance” They answer to Iran despite being part of the Iraqi state’s security apparatus.
  • The attacks were designed to convey a clear message to both the U.S. and the Iraqi federal government: No corner of Iraq, however populated or secure it may seem, is safe from militia interference. 
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  • while Iran denied the attack and its proxy militias have remained silent, Iran-linked militias like the Islamic Resistance Zulfiqar Forces endorsed the strikes.
  • Political and military elements of the resistance are looking to carve out further influence in Iraq, particularly ahead of parliamentary elections in October and pressure from Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
  • For Iran-aligned groups, attacks on urban centers like Erbil are a vehicle to weaken governmental control, exacerbating tensions between regional governments, imposing fear among citizens, and creating distrust in Baghdad’s ability to rein in “rogue” groups that threaten Iraqi security.
  • the first month of the Biden administration shattered Tehran’s hope for short-term sanctions relief, with President Joe Biden asserting that the U.S. would require Iran’s return to the negotiating table before Washington turned back the dial on sanctions. In the absence of an immediate shift in Washington, Iran turned back to its former strategy, twisting the coalition’s arm in Iraq through successive strikes on its positions and assets in an effort to pressure an American withdrawal and create leverage in nuclear negotiations.
  • Turkey, too, was a target audience of the Erbil attack. Coordinating with its campaign for influence in northern Syria, Ankara has sought to project influence in Iraqi Kurdistan through a series of military operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and by strengthening political and economic relations with the KRG. While Iran and Turkey have engaged in limited cooperation in countering Kurdish insurgents in the Qandil Mountains along the Iraqi-Turkish-Iranian border, the countries have divergent aims in Iraq.
  • The strikes in Erbil are an opportunity for Washington to recognize it is without a policy, let alone a long-term strategy, in Iraq. While the administration has vowed to continue coalition efforts against ISIS and re-approach the Iran nuclear deal, it has not constructed a comprehensive plan for Iraq. Reviving the policy of compartmentalizing security priorities – a tendency of the Obama administration – will fail to address the malign activity of these groups.
  • the U.S. should seek to work with the KRG and the Iraqi government to publicly spotlight these groups’ connections through investigations that can reduce their plausible deniability. By collecting evidence that links resistance militias to Tehran and attacks, the U.S. can wield significant leverage in future negotiations on the nuclear deal and compel Iran to reconsider its malign activities.  
  • The new pattern of militia behavior indicates that Iraqi Kurdistan – once widely thought of as the safest region in Iraq – will likely be the target of more strikes at the direct or indirect instruction of Tehran, complicating Washington’s strategy in Iraq, Ankara’s designs in Ninewa province, and Baghdad’s and Erbil’s ability to impose control.
Ed Webb

Restart, a fringe Iranian dissident group linked to Qanon, shows how conspiracy spreads... - 0 views

  • Although QAnon’s raison d’être is largely rooted in domestic politics—and it has capitalized mainly on anxieties prevalent in U.S. society—the conspiracy theory has recently developed an unlikely group of adherents: an Iranian dissident group that calls itself Restart. Despite remaining a minor political force for now, Restart is a fascinating example of a broader trend: conspiracist thinking going global.
  • Iranian opposition factions have been able to increase their social-media reach and following since Trump took office—likely because of the perception that the Trump administration’s Iran policy favors them. At the same time, Tehran has also grown its online influence operations—with concerted efforts to launch disinformation campaigns against the United States.
  • They are all vying for influence not in their native Iran, but in the United States
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  • Restart exists in the Internet more than the real world. But unlike QAnon, which has more of a presence in mainstream U.S. politics (with some candidates for office even espousing their ideas), Restart remains small. Its leader has certainly encouraged violent dissent, but more than leading to an actual rise in protests, Restart’s activities illustrate how fringe movements and media outlets can push narratives and amplify messages that can come to dominate more mainstream political discussions in the United States and around the globe.
  • “Heshmat Alavi is a persona run by a team of people from the political wing of the MEK,” as an MEK defector told the Intercept in 2019. “This is not and has never been a real person.”
  • Even more so than the MeK, Restart’s reach within Iran is limited. But the movement has gained some traction in fringe media outlets in the United States promoted by the president of the United States.
  • For years, various Iranian groups have lobbied in Washington
  • Although they appeal to different groups in the United States, they all benefit from the country’s divisions, which they can manipulate to their advantage.
  • The Restarters take this idea to a new level. Accounts linked with the group have pushed for war with Iran and have proffered offers to fight alongside Americans should the United States decide to stage a military intervention to topple the Iranian regime. And to further appeal to the Trump administration, they have adopted the slogan #MIGA (for “Make Iran Great Again,” a play on Trump’s #MAGA, or “Make America Great Again”). Restart frequently replies to the president’s tweets with this hashtag.
  • Responding to reporters’ questions about U.S.-Iranian relations in June 2019, Trump noted, “Let’s make Iran great again. Does that make sense? Make Iran great again.” Even if this was a coincidence, it raised the group’s profile among some parts of the president’s base.
  • A fringe group such as this one would have been unlikely to gain any prominence in the absence of two factors: First, a U.S. political landscape characterized by deep partisanship and a distrust of traditional authorities; and second, the proliferation of social media platforms.
Ed Webb

Trump tightens the screws on Iran's oil - 0 views

  • the White House is embarking on an economic offensive intended to collapse the Iranian government, which is already contending with a steady tempo of internal unrest driven by economic and political frustrations
  • Those who have lamented Obama’s restraint in the Middle East will now have another taste of its antithesis: the purposeful American disruption of the status quo underpinned by the assumption that things can only get better. Unfortunately, that rarely holds true in the Middle East
  • without the reinforcement of multilateral measures or broad diplomatic support, the Trump administration is deploying U.S. sanctions on Iran as a bludgeon rather than a scalpel in hopes of wreaking maximum havoc on Iran as quickly as possible. The financial measures targeting Iran effectively cast a much wider net than traditional trade sanctions, and the risk of steep fines or worse—loss of access to the U.S. economy—acts as a powerful deterrent for individual and firm decisionmaking even in the absence of government buy-in.
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  • This time around, Washington has chosen to go it alone on Iran, after an intense but ultimately fruitless effort by Britain, France, and Germany to devise a compromise to save the nuclear deal. That awkward episode, in which the president appeared wholly uninformed about the talks, was a feature, not a bug; spurning compromise is the modus operandi for U.S. policy toward Iran, as the latest U.S. statements ruling out sanctions waivers or exemptions make clear.
  • It’s not just oil: U.S. sanctions will be felt across every aspect of the Iranian economy, although in theory, agricultural products, medicines, and medical devices are exempted. In practice, the repercussions are sweeping and unpredictable
  • Iran sends its largest oil volumes to China and India, where diverse and reliable energy supplies are critical components of economic growth and national security. Both governments can draw upon ample access to bespoke financial institutions and other creative workarounds that sustain trade with Iran and are likely to seek to exploit the opportunity to press Iran for discounts and favorable payment arrangements
  • As Iran’s OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, observed: “You cannot place sanctions on two OPEC founder members and still blame OPEC for oil price volatility. … this is business, Mr. President—we thought you knew it.”
  • Through considerable internal turmoil and external conflicts, Iran has been a mainstay of global energy markets for a century; the only previous sustained rupture in Iranian supply came at the hands of a British embargo in 1951-53. That blockade ended with official American conspirators helping to effect the ouster of a troublesome Iranian leadership. At the time, this seemed like a victory for Washington; over the long term, that U.S. intervention to topple nationalist prime minister Mohammad Mossadeq proved to be a disaster for American interests and for Iran.
  • America’s open antagonism provides Tehran with another excuse to intensify repression and divert blame for the country’s woes
Ed Webb

Pentagon Official: We Didn't Link Iran to al-Qaeda In Hill Briefings - Defense One - 0 views

  • A senior defense official on Thursday fiercely denied that Pentagon officials have told Congress that there are connections between al-Qaeda and Iran
  • “In these briefings, none of the officials mentioned al-Qa’ida or the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force,”
  • “At no time did congressional staff ask about the link between al-Qa’ida and Iran.”
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  • There are some documented connections between Tehran and al-Qaeda—but legal analysts say those murky connections likely do not meet the legal threshold for using the 2001 AUMF to authorize military action against Iran. Security analysts and former officials describe al-Qaeda and the Iranian leaders as having at most opportunistic ties, rather than an operational alliance. Iran is a Shiite nation while al-Qaeda is a hardline Sunni group; the two are often on opposing sides of regional conflicts. Analysts say that Iran often keeps tabs on al-Qaeda and there have been al-Qaeda members inside Iran at various points, but they have often been under house arrest.
  • “I do not believe, for what it’s worth, the 2001 AUMF authorizes force against the state of Iran,” Rep. Mac Thornberry, Texas, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said in a hearing this month
  • Mulroy’s remarks expose a potential division between the State Department and the Defense Department. Lawmakers say that the Pentagon has made clear it doesn’t believe it has the authority to strike Iran under the old authorization. Pompeo, meanwhile, has provided no such assurances.  “Pompeo is never going to answer a question on authorization, so I’m not saying it came from Pompeo,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said after a briefing in May. “But…from DOD they seemed to make it clear they did not have authorization beyond self-defense. I think they said, ‘We can’t use the [2001] AUMF’.”
  • Pompeo “did not say, ‘I want to go to Iran and I’m going to use 2001’,” Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., a former Pentagon official, said during a House Armed Services hearing this month. But, she warned, “He referenced a relationship between Iran and al Qaeda.”
  • The scope of the president’s inherent warmaking powers has been an evolving debate since the early days of the country. Presidents across administrations have taken an increasingly expansive view of their warmaking authority, drawing lines around military activity determined to be below the threshold of war. Instead, presidents have used their Article II powers to claim legal authority to direct various combat operations, like President Obama’s use of airstrikes in Libya
  • In order to continue any kind of long-term engagement, the White House would have to ask for permission after 60 days under the 1973 War Powers Act—although that law was arguably flouted under the Obama administration and has been fiercely disputed under the Trump administration
Ed Webb

What Can We Learn from the Escalating Israeli Raids in Syria? - Lawfare - 0 views

  • Eyal Tsir Cohen is a visiting fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. Tsir is currently on leave from the Israeli prime minister’s office, where he has served for the last 30 years in various senior positions. His career has focused on security and intelligence issues, and shaping policies and strategies on global terrorism.
  • While Israel has reportedly carried out thousands of strikes in Syria and neighboring Iraq in recent years, the frequency, intensity, and toll of these recent attacks are unprecedented.
  • Israel has come to see that Iran is not forsaking its project in Syria, and further may be pursuing more sophisticated means of threatening Israel’s northern border. This week’s report that Iran is moving missiles into Iraq only reinforces this perception
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  • To diminish Iranian capabilities being shipped to Hezbollah and other Iranian militias working to open a low-intensity military front threatening Israel’s northern border; To maintain Israel’s freedom of action and air supremacy in its neighborhood and the Middle East in general by minimizing Syrian military capabilities, more specifically anti-aircraft missile sites and their support systems; and To send a message of deterrence to three main actors in the region: Assad’s regime, Iran and its emissaries, and Russia.
  • air raids weaken the Syrian army’s capabilities; distract Assad’s capabilities from coping with opposition forces, ISIS, and al-Qaida in the north and east of Syria; and keep this war-ridden country in grave economic instability.
  • Israel also reportedly targeted significant air defense capabilities, especially surface-to-air missiles, that threaten Israel’s strategic dominance over Lebanese and Syrian airspace
  • Israel hopes its strikes will push Tehran to abandon its project in Syria. But Iran has shown no willingness so far to consider this. Instead, it has simply worked to make its arms shipments more difficult to detect. The search-and-destroy campaign demands excellent intelligence capabilities on Israel’s part to uncover clandestine shipments sent by air or land to Syria through Iraq. Fine-grained intelligence is also necessary to allow the airstrike to be effective and to minimize collateral damage and casualties. This poses a great challenge to Israel because, in time, Iran and its Syrian counterparts can find new, creative ways to mask their supply chain to Syria and avoid detection
  • While previous raids mostly damaged buildings and infrastructure, Israel probably expected this raid to inflict Iranian casualties, thus raising the stakes of the conflict.
  • As Iran faces unrest at home—and amid major popular demonstrations in Iraq—Israel is willing to match or even exceed Iran’s aggressive moves. For Khamenei, the prospect of large investments repeatedly being destroyed in Syria may be a difficult one, politically, as his domestic economy plummets. The contrast between these recent raids, which reportedly killed 16 Iranians, and the relative lack of an Iranian reaction highlights that it is difficult for Iran to respond in kind to Israeli escalations.
  • as Israel works to diminish the Syrian state’s military capabilities, it risks merely pushing the Assad regime deeper into its dependency on Iran
  • while Russia has been fast to criticize Israel for its strikes in Syria, it may quietly prefer to see Israel doing the dirty work of lessening Iranian power there. While they are partners in upholding the Assad regime, in some ways the Russians and Iranians are competitors in Syria, especially when looking toward state-rebuilding. Should Israeli strikes push the Iranians to play less of a role, the Russians would be the first to fill the void they would leave. Further, Israeli strikes in Syrian military facilities create business opportunities for the Russian arms industry. The Syrian regime will need to replace its destroyed weapons systems, and Russian manufacturers stand ready to supply new ones. Russia, while publicly opposed to Israeli strikes, might actually benefit from a laissez-faire policy toward these attacks.
  • Israeli raids in November sent a clear message to Moscow that unless the Iranian element is taken out of the equation, Syria will remain an unstable battleground. The raids are also a reminder of Russia’s commitment to Israel to keep the Iranian Quds Forces outside of the 50-mile radius from Israel’s border. These raids underscore that, if the Russians cannot uphold their side of this understanding, then Israel will wreak havoc in Syria. Putin seeks a political resolution and stability in Syria, and the Russians understand that Syria has no prospect of recovery from its civil war amid the constant friction between Israel and Iran.
  • When the fight between Iran and Israel in Syria moves closer to the Iraqi border, Israeli airstrikes become riskier, Iranian intelligence capabilities become stronger, and Iran’s ability to deny responsibility for missile launches becomes greater.
  • Iran cannot really be deterred by threats to the integrity of the Syrian state because it views the Assad regime only as a useful path by which it can increase its regional power
  • Given the gaps in its strategic messaging, Israeli deterrence, in and of itself, will likely not produce the total Iranian withdrawal for which Israel is hoping. The pressures Iran faces by demonstrations at home and in Iraq are perhaps the likelier trigger for Tehran to reconsider its strategy
Ed Webb

Protests in Lebanon and Iraq Show That Iran Is Losing the Middle East Through Bad Gover... - 0 views

  • For the Shiite communities in Iraq and Lebanon, Tehran and its proxies have failed to translate military and political victories into a socioeconomic vision; simply put, Iran’s resistance narrative did not put food on the table.
  • Today, Iran seems to be winning the long game. Its proxy in Lebanon prevailed in last year’s parliamentary elections. In Syria, Iran managed to save its ally, President Bashar al-Assad. In the past several years, Iran has also gained a lot more power in Baghdad through its proxies, including the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the Shiite militias created to fight the Islamic State.
  • Hezbollah’s costly involvement in the Syrian war and pressure from U.S. sanctions on Iran have forced the party to cut salaries and services, widening the gap between the rich and the poor within its own community. Meanwhile, the party also drafted mostly Shiites from poor neighborhoods to go fight in Syria, while its officials benefited from the war riches, causing much resentment.
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  • all these victories failed to translate into public well-being. Iran might have benefited, but Shiites in Lebanon got more isolated than ever. That is why it is so meaningful that the Shiite community, by joining the protests, is now attempting to claim its Lebanese identity rather than the religious one that has, so far, failed it
  • tens of thousands of Iraqis in Baghdad and other Shiite-majority parts of southern Iraq came out in protest over the failures of the Iraqi political class to provide basic services and reduce unemployment and corruption. The crackdown was swift and aggressive, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 protesters. Reuters published a story more than a week into the protests confirming that Iran-backed militias had deployed snipers on Baghdad rooftops to deliberately kill protesters
  • Some Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq have expressed support for the Shiite protesters but have hesitated to get involved in order to avoid having the protesters labeled as members of the Islamic State, an excuse that Iran has used in both Iraq and Syria to attack uprisings.
  • Hezbollah will try not repeat the Iraqi PMF’s mistake of responding with violence. That’s why its military units have been training a number of non-Hezbollah members to join what it calls the Lebanese Resistance Brigades. The role of these brigades is precisely to deal with domestic challenges and allow Hezbollah to deny responsibility. Already, in an attempt to create a counter-revolution, hundreds of young men carrying the flags of Amal and Hezbollah attacked the protesters in a number of cities. So far, the Lebanese Army has stopped them from getting too close to the protests, but they have managed to physically hurt and terrorize people outside Beirut, mainly in Shiite towns and cities
  • Shiism does not belong to Iran
Ed Webb

The Fruits of Iran's Victory in Syria - Lawfare - 0 views

  • while Tehran was gaining prominence on the battlefield and in international fora aimed at addressing the Syrian crisis, Iran began to pay greater costs for its involvement there. Domestically, the Iranian populace and regime insiders alike were torn on their country’s presence in Syria. They believed containing ISIS was critical, but also saw Assad as a horrifying figure whose forces were leaving hundreds of thousands displaced, wounded, and killed. The Guards and Artesh were beginning to see their death tolls rise, with the number of killed troops repatriated surpassing 1,000 by 2016. And as the country was struggling to reap the economic benefits of the 2015 nuclear deal and subsequent sanctions relief, it was also dedicating millions of dollars to supplying Assad and his forces with funds, advisors, weapons, and other equipment. According to reporting by Haaretz, “Iranian state-owned banks set up credit lines for the Syrian government of $3.6 billion in 2013 and $1 billion in 2015 to let the regime buy oil and other goods from Iran.” And this amount doesn’t include Iranian-supplied arms to various groups in the region
  • The Islamic Republic did not anticipate when it became involved in Syria that the conflict would last seven years and that Assad would preserve his tenure. Iran may have signaled in the middle of the war that it would have been willing to drop Assad for another friendly presence in Damascus, but that view changed as it became clear that the international community, chiefly the United States and its European allies, were at least tacitly willing to live with Assad.
  • Iran’s military has gained significant battlefield experience, with its armed forces becoming much more cohesive. And this experience isn’t limited to Iranian troops, but also the militias Iran has deployed from other parts of the region, including approximately 14,000 Fatemiyoun and 5,000 Zeynabiyoun
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  • Tehran’s been able to project power beyond its means through its strategic deployment of militias in Syria
  • increased its strategic depth and preserved its lifeline to its chief non-state ally. Hezbollah’s ability to preserve its stronghold in Lebanon and to thrive is vital to the Islamic Republic because of the ways it increases Iran’s strategic depth, provides intelligence and counterintelligence benefits, and assists with Iran’s power projection, including by providing a deterrent against the United States and Israel
  • Iran has been able to contain ISIS in Syria, allowing it to minimize the threat posed by the group against its own territory and population
  • the Revolutionary Guards will continue to be involved in the security sector in Syria and have already made agreements with Assad. Iran is now involved in rebuilding Syria’s infrastructure, including in the energy sector. And the Guards are a natural candidate for these efforts, given their presence in Syria and experience in the Iranian oil and gas sectors. At home the Iranian government is trying to scale back the Guards’ economic activities, so they may see investment abroad as a natural next step. There have also been talks of joint transportation projects between Damascus and Tehran, which would facilitate bilateral trade. Iran hopes to become a key exporter of goods to Syria. Iranians are also eyeing the public health and education sectors as possible arenas for future involvement. Lastly, the Islamic Republic hopes to become a key arms supplier in the region and Syria is a natural market for its weapons and defense equipment
Ed Webb

Israel hoping for Iran confrontation before November election: sources - Business Insider - 0 views

  • A former Israeli defense official told Insider it was common knowledge that at least some of the latest attacks in Iran were done by Israeli intelligence.
  • An EU official also told Insider that they fear Israel is planning to provoke Iran into military confrontation "while Trump remains in office."
  • Israel is involved in an extended campaign to pressure or damage Iran before President Donald Trump could be voted out in the November election, a former Israeli defense official and a current EU intelligence official have told Insider.
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  • Iran has seen weekly incidents including explosions at a missile-production facility on June 22; the Natanz nuclear facility, Iran's largest uranium-enrichment facility, on July 2; and an important shipyard in the port city of Bushehr on Wednesday.
  • Israeli officials told The New York Times in July that their intelligence services were responsible for the nuclear facility explosion, and implied that other attacks would be forthcoming.
  • "It's been decided to follow the Trump administration's lead of exerting 'maximum pressure' on the Iranians," they said, referencing the US' economic sanctions policy directed toward Iran.
  • The attacks appear to be part of a campaign of "maximum pressure, minimal strategy," said the EU intelligence official
  • The source warned that Iran could be considering a rash response after exhibiting relative patience in the wake of the January assassination of top commander Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike.
  • I fear the Israeli plan here is to provoke an Iranian response that can turn into a military escalation while Trump remains in office
  • With a broad belief among America's allies that Trump is unlikely to win reelection, Israel's apparent shift in tactics towards high-pressure "kinetic" operations seem to reflect a belief that under a Biden administration, there would be a move to save the 2015 nuclear deal that had been scuttled by Trump.
Ed Webb

Pakistan detains 11 Iranian Guards on the border | Special Coverage | Reuters - 0 views

  • Pakistani forces detained 11 Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Monday for crossing into Pakistan days after an Iranian commander was reported saying his men should be allowed to confront terrorists in Pakistan. The Guards were arrested in the Mashkhel area on the border with Iran eight days after a suicide bomber killed 42 people, including six Revolutionary Guard commanders, in Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province. A Sunni Muslim group Jundollah (God's soldiers), claimed responsibility for the blast. Iran says the group operates from across the border in Pakistan.
  • Iranian border officials had told them that the encroachment was accidental and happened after the Guards launched an operation against Jundollah militants near the border.
  • the rise of Jundollah coincided with an explosion in drug smuggling from which it earned much of its funding
Ed Webb

IDF chief warns US not to rejoin Iran deal - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 0 views

  • On Jan. 26, the day Al-Monitor ran an article describing hints of a military option against Iran that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was directing at the new US administration, the chief of the Israel Defense Forces, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, delivered his annual address at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. His remarks shocked Israel’s political-defense establishment and likely reverberated in Washington and Tehran. Contrary to the position taken by two of Kochavi’s predecessors, Lt. Gen. (res.) Benny Gantz and Lt. Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, who currently serve as Israel’s ministers of defense and foreign affairs, respectively, Kochavi launched a direct attack on the Barack Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and delivered thinly veiled hints to the new Democratic administration.
  • “A return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, or even if it is a similar accord with several improvements, is bad and wrong from an operational and strategic point of view. Operationally, because it would enable Iran to enrich quantities of uranium, develop centrifuges to the point of a nuclear breakout. Strategically, it will drag the Middle East into a nuclear race,”
  • The timing of his remarks could not have been more sensitive, two days before the first working visit to Israel by US CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie and just one week after the Joe Biden administration took office. Kochavi did not give the Americans the usual 100 days of grace and did not leave the messaging to the politicians.
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  • Netanyahu associates were quick to issue a clarification, as diplomatic affairs analyst Barak Ravid reported immediately following Kochavi’s appearance, emphasizing that the prime minister is not interested at this stage in a confrontation with the US administration and is in fact seeking to develop an intimate dialogue with the Americans allowing him to present his position
  • Associates of Gantz and Ashkenazi were less laid back. Both spoke with their American counterparts shortly afterward, Ashkenazi with Blinken and Gantz with incoming Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Al-Monitor has learned that both ministers assuaged their counterparts’ concerns, explaining that Kochavi was not expressing an official Israeli position and that Israel seeks a productive, professional dialogue with the administration to bridge the gaps between them and ensure the closest coordination possible.
  • disseminated the full text of his speech to all the top IDF brass the following day
  • Kochavi’s position runs counter to that of most senior Israeli defense and intelligence officials (except for Mossad director Yossi Cohen, whose views are equally militant), who contend that the absence of a nuclear agreement with Iran is more of a threat to Israel than the deal from which the United States withdrew in 2018.
  • His address was not cleared with his superiors, the security cabinet or the government.
  • Kochavi’s position collides head on with the understandings that Gantz, Ashkenazi and probably Netanyahu are trying to develop along the Washington-Jerusalem axis.
  • was the shift professional or shaped by political considerations?
  • Kochavi’s abilities and charisma make him a natural candidate for Israel’s leadership after the Netanyahu era. In trying to depict himself as more Netanyahu than Netanyahu, he could be signaling that such is indeed his goal
  • He is building himself up as a defense hawk, a position that has been Netanyahu’s winning card for years.
    Israel's internal politics and its foreign policy interacting
Ed Webb

IRGC warns Saudi Arabia it must 'control' media 'provoking our youth' | - 0 views

  • The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has warned the Saudi royal family that it will “pay the price” unless it reins in the media outlets it allegedly funds. The warning comes as Tehran accuses foreign-based Persian-language networks—and especially the TV channel Iran International—of spreading fake news and inciting unrest.
  • the IRGC-linked Tasnim News Agency reported hours after his speech that the main target was Iran International. Tasnim maintained that there is "no doubt" that London-based Iran International "is linked to the crown prince," referring to Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (MbS). Tasnim also named Dubai-based Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath as other news networks funded by the Kingdom and targeted by Salami in his speech.
  • MP Mohammad Ali Naqdali—the secretary of the parliament’s legal and judicial commission—urged Iranian authorities on Oct. 8 to file a complaint against Iran International with the UK media regulator, Ofcom. The lawmaker called on the foreign ministry and judiciary to complain about Iran International over its alleged role in "encouraging further protests” in Iran. Naqdali also criticized other Persian-language outlets based in the UK, describing them as "lie-producing factories."
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  • Tehran has previously lodged a complaint against Iran International over its programming, but Ofcom ruled that the London-based television network had not broken any rules.
  • British newspaper The Guardian reported in Oct. 2018 that Iran International had financial ties to MbS. The Guardian charged that the TV network was "being funded through a secretive offshore entity and a company whose director is a Saudi Arabian businessman with close links to the Saudi crown prince." A month later, Iran International issued a statement denying any links to any governments, including Saudi Arabia, and insisted that it "does not advocate any movement or party or government." Some of Iran International's high-profile staff have stirred controversy for often expressing opinions on social media that may be in contravention of the outlet's editorial guidelines.
  • Iranian authorities have long taken issued with foreign-based Persian-language news networks, accusing them of being tasked with attacking the Islamic Republic. Salami's warning to the Saudi royal family comes as Tehran and Riyadh are working toward mending relations and re-establishing diplomatic ties. The IRGC commander's apparent criticism of Saudi media indicates that it will be brought up in the anticipated next round of talks between the two sides in Iraq.
Ed Webb

Arab Perspectives on Iran's Role in a Changing Middle East | United States Institute of... - 1 views

  • Arab attitudes about Iran vary widely and show considerable complexity—and at the same time they differ significantly from views about Iran in Israel
  • The possibility of Iran possessing nuclear weapons in the future concerns many Arabs but is “not a burning issue in the Gulf,”
  • Iran consistently places third when Arabs are asked in surveys to identify “the two most threatening states.” The two perceived as such are the United States and Israel
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  • despite a Sunni-Shi’a divide in attitudes toward Iran, even Sunni Arab views were based on a number of issues extending beyond sectarian identifications
  • the Arab sense that “there is a double-standard” on nuclear issues when it comes to the response to Israel’s nuclear program
  • Iranian support for the anti-Israeli movements of Hezbollah in Lebanon and of Hamas, which controls Gaza, is popular among Arab publics, even though it is opposed by some Arab governments
  • “The Palestinian-Israeli question remains a prism through which Arabs make evaluations,”
  • Some Arab governments, particularly those allied with the United States in the Gulf region, believe that Iran poses a geostrategic threat both because of Iraq’s declining power in the region after the 2003 war and rising Iranian influence itself
  • Telhami described general Arab feelings for Iran as “not one of love or support for the regime.” However, Iran is seen favorably by many because, “It’s that a system can rise in the name of Islam and be fiercely independent.”
  • Dunne said she senses that Arab sentiment toward Iran recently “may have shifted in a more negative direction,” including because of Iranian support for the Syrian regime’s conduct in the civil war. Though Iran in 2006 won much popular approval for backing Hezbollah in its conflict with Israel that year, Dunne said “the conversation in the region has moved on.” Iran’s Islamic Republic does not offer as appealing a model to Arab publics as it once might have
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