65 Hangins in One Week Under Rouhani

65 hangings

Human rights in Iran are going from bad to worst under “moderate” president Rouhani.

The rate of executions reached an all time high last week with 65 reported executions in one week. 45 of these executions took place in Karaj city prisons less than a week after prisoners there staged protests.

But Tehran is not only consistently abusing human rights it is also mocking the West by repeated denials of doing so and accusing the West of double standards.

While the West is shocked by these abuses, the Iranian parliament is issuing more laws which promote and entrench these abuses.

The world must wake up to the fact that Iran is a serial abuser of human rights and that denials and accusations by Tehran are only meant to allow these abuses to continue.

 

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US Playing Checkers Outfoxed By Iran Playing Chess

checkers chess

Iran successfully changed the rules of the game baffling the US.
In Tehran’s rule book, it’s OK to…

  • shout out “stop terrorism” while funding terrorist organizations.
  • negotiate with the US for peace while chanting “death to America”.
  • back Houthis in Yemen while telling the Saudis to not meddle.
  • support Assad while warning everyone to not interfere in Syria.
  • demand lifting of nuclear sanctions without giving anything up.
  • systematically abuse human rights and continue to act as if it’s OK.
  • accuse the West of Islamophobia while fanning the flames of racial hate.

The West, with the US at its head, doesn’t know how to deal with Iran and is therefore doomed to lose again and again until the rules of the game will be equal on both sides.

 

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Iran is King of the Meddle East

meddle eastTehran’s stance on Yemen is cynical to the point of schizophrenia. On the one hand, it is obvious to all that it is meddling in Yemenite politics by supporting the Shiite Houthi rebels to exchange the current Saudi-supported Yemeni government with one that is more sympathetic to Iran and to the Islamic revolution. On the other hand, once the Saudis struck back at the Houthi rebels, Tehran went into its “Deny, Accuse & Threaten” mode, by denying supporting the Houthi rebels, accusing the Saudis of meddling and threatening to retaliate.

Will Tehran ever come clean on its aspirations to dominate the region and/or Islam? Probably not until it has achieved its goal and by then, it will be a fait accompli.

 

Axis of Iran vs. Axis of Saudi Arabia

Iran-saudiMake no mistake, this is not a localized skirmish between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebels: this is a war of wills between Iran and its allies vs. Saudi Arabia and its allies.

The Saudi’s first level of coalition includes Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Egypt, Sudan, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt. Its second level of coalition includes the US and then many EU countries and Israel.

The Iranian’s first level of coalition includes Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. Its second level includes Pakistan (began as a Saudi supporter and then went neutral) and Russia.

This localized war is the fulcrum of interests of most Middle Eastern countries as well as US and Russia so what happens in Yemen happen will definitely not stay in Yemen.

 

Tehran’s Meddling Method

crescent dominationsYemen is not the first country that Iran is meddling in.

In fact, Tehran is a prolific and compulsive meddler in politics of states that can potentially join the Islamic Revolution. It has succeeded to do so in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. The governments in these three countries owe allegiance to Tehran in no uncertain terms and their countries are home to Hezbollah militia and Qods “advisors” and forces.

It is also trying to meddle in all the Gulf states, in Afghanistan, Pakistan and some South American countries to lesser degrees of success.

Here’s Tehran’s 5-point method of meddling:

  1. Identify “partners”: Identify pro-Shiite leaders, factions and militia within targeted countries.
  2. Support “innocently”:  Support them “culturally” and financially while meddling in local politics.
  3. Support Militarily: Increase meddling by introducing direct and indirect military strength.
  4. Strengthen Allegiances: Establish Hezbollah-like militia with allegiance directly to Tehran.
  5. Instigate Coup D’etat: Help the Shiite factions to overthrow the government and reap the political, economic and military benefits.

It is in this manner that Tehran manages to expand its level of influence without actually starting a war in any of these countries – The trick is to get an invite to meddle so that nobody can call it meddling.

 

Yemen Spiraling Out of Control

iran saudiThe war in Yemen is not only fought on battlefields but in rhetoric and right now the rhetoric is heating up.

Supreme Leader Khamenei simply called the Saudi attacks on Yemen “genocide“.  Of course, Khamenei is selective in using such words: He is careful not to call the slaughter of Yemenites by Houthi rebels, nor the slaughter of Syrian rebels by Assad’s regime “genocide” – both wars that are militarily supported by Tehran.

Iranian FM Zarif at first denied any Iranian support of Houthi rebels and warned Saudi Arabia that it was making a “big mistake” but then took a different approach that suits the smiling diplomat: Iran, Zarif says, is simply “worried about bout the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen” and is now calling for a change in government .

But his deputy FM, Amir-Abdollahian, was much more threatening:  He warned the Saudis that continued aggression against Yemen would lead to “inevitable consequences“, and insinuated, as usual, that the Saudis were being played by the US.

The US is walking a tight rope with no safety net: US President Obama is adamant in signing a nuclear deal with Iran despite knowing that a) Iran will remain hostile even after a nuclear deal and b) Iran can develop a bomb if it chooses to do so. On the other hand, US Secretary of State Kerry warned Tehran that the US would “not stand by” while Iran continues to support Houthi rebels.

The Saudi shrugged off Iran’s warnings and re-accused Tehran of meddling and of instigating the situation which has led to this war.

The upcoming weeks will be crucial as answers to the following questions will be revealed: Will the Saudi initiative be successful? Will Iran get involved directly? How will the US react? How will the rest of the world react?

Iran and US Agree to Disagree and Disagree to Agree

agree to disagree

Apart from the initial smiles and hugs following the framework agreement orchestrated by Kerry and Zarif in Lausanne, the only issue that both sides could agree on is their mutual disagreement.

The conflicting fact sheets, the ambiguities, the loose ends, the nuances, the continued efforts to sell the agreement back home to hardliners on both sides and the wish to maintain bargaining pressure all led to the point where an agreement was signed but nobody understands exactly what are the terms of the agreement.

 

The Key Disagreements

disagreement-1The disagreements are not cases of “crossing T’s and dotting I’s”. In fact, some of them are at the crux of a nuclear agreement designed to force Iran to maintain a peaceful nuclear program:

  • Lifting of sanctions: Iran wants immediate dissemination of sanctions on signing the final deal while the US wants the sanctions to be removed gradually in response to Iran’s behavior.
  • Areas of inspections: Iran agrees to the inspections of all nuclear sites registered with the IAEA while the US wants to include military/civilian bases that are suspected of being used to militarize the nuclear program.
  • Bases of enrichment: Iran plans to continue enrichment in all nuclear bases that do so today while the US wants enrichment to be carried out in the base in Natanz and nowhere else.

Other points of disagreement include the types of centrifuges to be used, the rights to enrich beyond 3.67% for “research” purposes and sanctions that aren’t nuclear-related.

 

The Rhetoric of Disagreement

disagreementBut apart from the fact sheets, it is worth listening to the conflicting rhetoric on both sides.

Let’s start with Supreme leader Khamenei since he is the ultimate deal maker/breaker. At best, he is non-committal: he “neither supports nor opposes the deal” since “everything is in the details.” Of course, he blames the “devilish” USA for being deceptive and remains firm on his demands that “all sanctions should be removed when the deal is signed”. In a later statement, he alluded to the problem of the US’s ambiguity as the main hurdle for talks on any issue.

President Rouhani echoes Khamenei’s insistence that all sanctions should end on the day the deal is signed while adding that “the Iranian nation has been and will be the victor in the negotiations” and that the US and the EU could not “overpower” Iran’s “formidable” diplomats, legal experts and politicians.

FM Zarif’s rhetoric is similar to Rouhani’s on all points and Iranian nuclear chief Salehi straightforwardly stated that the centrifuges will keep spinning in a “business as usual” fashion, meaning that nothing within the nuclear program would stop.

On the other side of the world, Secretary of State Kerry is sticking to his fact sheet saying that “the deal is what we said it was” and the White House insists that sanctions relief would be “phased”. President Obama candidly explained that he is “not surprised” at the conflicting views and promised that “we won’t have to speculate on what the (nuclear) deal will be” because the final deal will be detailed and clear of any ambiguities.

It seems ironic that it is the lawmakers on both sides who are not willing to accept a ambiguous deal which is open to disputations: 163 MP’s of Iran’s Majlis have signed a petition demanding that Zarif publish Iran’s fact sheet. Meanwhile, in Washington, Kerry is trying to fight off demands by congress to clarify the discrepancies of the fact sheets.

 

Some things are clear

putin

If the US and Iran can manage to find a detailed deal that both sides can sign, sanctions will be relieved and Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb may be slowed down. But even Obama has no qualms about the fact that no nuclear deal can keep Iran away from a bomb if it wishes to militarize its nuclear program. With or without a deal, Iran will probably reach nuclear break-out at some point which would eventually lead to a war.

On the other hand, guess who doesn’t really care about the discrepancies? Russia, China, Turkey, India and a host of other countries looking to cash in on the deal…but first and foremost, Russia. Why? Because Russia is in a classic win-win situation: If the nuclear deal is or isn’t inked, Russia will benefit from increased trade and supply Iran with nuclear sites and uranium. Furthermore, Russia has already declared that it plans to sell specialized anti-aircraft missiles on par with the US’s patriot missiles to defend Iran’s nuclear sites. And if a war does erupt over Iran’s nuclear program, you know whose side Russia will be on!

Nuclear Deal, If…

nuclea deal ifFollowing the nuclear “Joint Plan of Action” (JPoA) signed between the P5+1 and Iran in Geneva in 2013, a “Framework Agreement” (FA) was finally closed in overtime in Lausanne this week.

The basic nuclear details sound quite simple: Cap centrifuges to 6,000 (from 9,000 in JPoA), enrichment to 3.67% (down from 5% in JPoA), enrichment only at Natanz (not mentioned in JPoA) and access of IAEA officials (just like JPoA).

The basic sanction details sound quite simple as well: Eliminations of all nuclear sanctions by the US/EU/UN ($7 Billion in JPoA).

But, beyond basics, there still is no real nuclear deal – that’s supposed to be penned in June if…

 

If…Rouhani “plays ball”…
Hassan RouhaniIf Rouhani patiently “plays ball” and upholds his end of the FA, as he personally vowed to do, he will have achieved his greatest election promise: disposal of all sanctions with an intact nuclear program with a bonus sunset clause. Worth being patient for…

Within 3 months, he can sign a nuclear deal and can set his sights on an economic boom, a rapprochement with the West and, perhaps, more time to develop the potential for nuclear break-out.

Rouhani focused on minimizing nuclear restrictions, sunset clauses and the time spans of the elimination of sanctions. Without them, the hardliners, and more importantly, Khamenei himself, would not buy the deal.

And best of all, he doesn’t even have to be friendly with the US…(Zarif’s quote: “Iran and U.S. relations have nothing to do with this, which was an attempt to resolve the nuclear issue … We have serious differences with the United States”),  nor is he forced to stop meddling in Syria, Iraq and Yemen…nor is he forced to uphold his other election promise of better human rights in Iran.

 

If…Obama Chooses Engagement

141219-obama-sony-1613_f26a4f11b15d21fb1e0c10d2c3792a8bObama chose to work things out with Iran through engagement instead of through war or increased sanctions and isolation.

Had the FA not been signed, Obama would have to increase the sanctions which would effectively push Rouhani into his brother in sanctions’ open arms, Putin. Less likely, Obama would have chosen the war-path which he so desperately wants to avoid.

Obama focused on a “low risk”-“high gain” strategy: Continue to actively strive for peace and hope that the future will smile on him. Not without criticism from within (Republicans/Congress) and from without (Israel, Saudi Arabia, France, UK…).

 

If…Both Agree to Disagree

us-iran.siMuch like the earlier JPoA, the FA is sometimes vague in the parameters of nuclear restrictions and on the time frame of the eliminating of sanctions. “Loose ends” are emerging as quickly as statements by leaders in in Tehran and in Washington to their respective crowds.

Flashback to November 23rd 2013 when the White House issued a fact sheet on the JPoA which satisfied politicians and voters sitting on the fence. Within days, Tehran called the fact sheet out as “invalid” for “overselling” to the Americans quite simply because it was “underselling” to its own hardliners.

Tehran poked a number of loopholes into the JPoA: the right to enrich 20% for “research purposes”, the exclusion of the heavy water plant in Arak, the number and quality of active centrifuges etc…All loose ends that were not tied by the P5+1 negotiators. But the talks went on…for thirteen months (beyond the 6 months in the JPoA deal).

And it’s happening again…

The official Iranian version is simply labeled “press statement”, beginning with a spoiler that the FA has no “legal aspect” yet and is intended only as “a guideline for drafting future accords”. The American text is called the “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” implying that “it’s a done deal”.

In some case, the Iranian text differs from the US version when it comes to nuclear restrictions: enrichment facilities (US says only Natanz, Iran says Fordow as well), the sunset clause (US says 10-15, Iran says none), the quality of centrifuges (US says old, Iran says advanced), the upkeep of Arak (US says no nuclear activity, Iran says “updated and modernized”) and the transparency of military aspects of the nuclear program (US says full transparency, Iran says…nothing)

But when it comes to the relief of sanctions, the differences touch on the type of sanctions to be lifted (US says “nuclear”, Iran says “all”) and the time span (US says “step-by-step” while Iran says “immediate” cancellation).

Do any of these amount to deal breakers? They certainly can in the hands of hardliners on both sides. More likely they will be used by Tehran as distractions to Iranian’s best strategy – patience, because, meanwhile, while the talks go on, the money flows in and the centrifuges spin.

 

And, if…Khamenei Signs

amiri20130417141414517_0Yes, the biggest “if” of all: will Khamenei sign this deal?

Only Khamenei knows what is his state of mind, his intentions for his legacy and his ambitions for Iran and for the Islamic Revolution.

 

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Proxy War in Yemen Ignites Regional Power Play

saudi iranThe situation in Yemen is spiraling out of control and is rapidly turning into the center of a Proxy war with ever-growing conflicts of interests – Yemen was upgraded from a local war zone of government and rebels to a regional war with global consequences.

 

 

Tehran Meddles in Yemen

yemen iranBack in 2007, the Yemenite government accused Iran of “meddling in its internal affairs“. By  2012, Iran, through its Qods forces, supported Shiite Houthi rebels with arms shipments, Hezbollah militia and “military advisors”. A power play between Iran and Yemen’s historical patron, Saudi Arabia began to unravel.

Within three years, Yemen’s president fled from his country, finding refuge in Saudi Arabia while Sanna became another satellite of Tehran following Beirut, Damascus (through supporting Assad) and Baghdad (with the US’s blessing for fighting ISIS).  The US had already pulled out (a “death blow” for Yemen), the diplomats and the UN would follow – Sanna fell into disarray and panic as Houthi rebels, Hezbollah militia and suicide bombers took control. Meanwhile, economic partnerships were laid out and Iran even offered to provide Yemen with a huger power plant…it all seemed perfect for Tehran.

 

 

…except for Saudi Arabia…

saudi-arabia-armyThe Saudis were fuming at the loss of Yemen and the birth of another Shiite state modeled on the export of Iran’s revolution. They watched as the US backed out of Yemen while pursuing a nuclear deal which seemed to the Saudis shaky at best – in fact, it sent them to chase after their own nuclear program, possibly igniting a regional arms race.

And then, the Saudis, motivated by the fear of Iran’s increasing crescent of power coupled with the threat of Tehran with nukes, bombed the Houthis and suddenly, everyone had to pick sides. What had begun as a few border skirmishes with Houthi rebels as early as December 2009 developed into a massive airstrike which was quickly followed by preparations for a ground offensive: The 100 warplanes and the 150,000 troops that Saudi Arabia was “contributing” to the war could not be ignored.

 

 

Picking Sides…

handsThe Iranians, obviously, cried foul and demanded that the Saudis cease the attacks and accused the embattled government of using “terrorists” to fight the rebels (“terrorism” has become a question of geographical perspective). This didn’t stop the Iranians from unloading 185 tons of weapons on Houthi rebels. Pakistan first took the Saudis side and then switched allegiance to Iran.

Meanwhile, Arab countries, which also fear Iran’s meddling and the accompanying Muslim Brotherhood uprisings, backed Saudi Arabia: Jordan, Morocco and Egypt were the obvious ones. But Sudan, which had once been under Iran’s “support” had to choose sides and chose pragmatism over ideology.

Turkey, already involved in a proxy war over Syrian soil, decided to back Saudi Arabia as well. The Turks, just like the Saudis, fear Iran’s localized meddling, its regional aspirations, its Islamic war-cry and its nuclear potential. Iran’s Islamic Revolution and Iran’s nuclear potential. Now the leader of Turkey visits Teheran, we await the outcome of that.

Even the UK slammed Iran for supporting the Houthi rebels and effectively overthrowing the government.

 

And the US?

150321173909-2441-0The US was stuck between the proverbial “rock and the hard place“: Support its historical friends or its new negotiating partner?

Obama’s pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran as well his “appreciation” of Iran’s war with ISIS lead him to favor his friends in Tehran which unleashed attacks from within (the Republican Senate) and from without (Israel, the Gulf States and some countries in the EU such as France and the UK). This did not stop him from creating a framework of a nuclear deal with Iran which is to be finalized in June.

Obama is trying to stay neutral on Yemen, knowing that joining Saudi Arabia would jeopardize his prized nuclear deal. But sooner or later, he will have to choose sides.

 

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Obama Offers “Hope”, Khamenei Offers “Death”

obama khamenei 2In these last few days, Iranians celebrated Nowruz (New Year) and President Obama released a video dedicated to all the “Iranian leaders and Iranian people”. In the message, Obama sounds optimistic, and explains to the people of Iran that this is a time to have “hope” for a better future after a nuclear deal is clinched. Four days later, Iran’s supreme leader Khamenei, responded to that message, with vitriolic rhetoric about how the US was not to be trusted and, “Death to America, of course”.

This is the part where I urge you, the reader, to watch both videos – both just over 4 minutes long. The overwhelming differences between them, once you watch, will make this post redundant.

 

A Different Perspective

obamaObama and Khamenei are as different as the US and Iran: In less than 2 years, Obama, whose mandate of control was given to him by the voters in America, will step down from his office and be replaced by someone else. Khamenei, who was appointed by the Assembly of Experts for an indefinite term, will probably be replaced after his demise.

Obama wants a deal so bad, he is ready to fight congress for it, fight against his main ally in the Middle East (Israel) and veto any new sanctions. Sure, that doesn’t mean that he will sign a deal “no matter what”, but it is obvious to all that he is trying.

Khamenei is at best partial about the deal: During the last year, he changed his mind on the nuclear talks – in November he said that the lack of a deal shows Iranian strength, 3 months after that he claimed that no deal is better than a bad one, and in March he warned the US from spoiling the nuclear deal.

So while the Obama is busy trying to make a change in his limited time in office, Khamenei seems to be doing everything in his power to limit change.

 

“Death to America, of course”

khamenei deathIt’s chilling to see that not only does Khamenei’s crowd automatically go into “Death to America” chants, but that Khamenei, whose President and Foreign Minister are working hard to close a deal with the US, simply adds ” Death to America, of course”. “Of course”? Is calling for the death of a state and its people so trivial that he answers “of course”?

What is his message to the Americans and to the Iranians who look on in hope that a peaceful solution be attained? It certainly isn’t one of rapprochement and of change – it is simply reverting to the dogmatic cries that have kept Iran isolated and under sanctions for so long.

As we outlined in an earlier post, the nuclear deal is not really about centrifuges and degrees of Uranium enrichment: it is about the state of mind and the goals of Iran’s leaders. If you think that the call of “Death to America” sounds horrifying now, imagine hearing the same chant knowing that Iran has a nuclear bomb.

 

If Khamenei hates the Americans so much and he keeps on changing his mind, they why is he allowing his government to conduct negotiations? In short: regime survival, “Money”.

Khamenei’s power as a Supreme Leader is severely tested in times of economic hardships. These economic hardships are a result from his policies. If the Iranians get too hungry, they might hit the streets in an effort to change his policies or change him. The ONLY reason Khamenei is willing to negotiate a deal is to immediately relieve Iran of the crippling sanctions while keeping the nuclear program intact. What happens after that is irrelevant to him since he will be dead.

Why Does Tehran Deny That Sanctions Were Effective?

sanctions iran

Listening to Iranian leaders on sanctions gives an uncomfortable feeling of schizophrenia:

  • On the one hand, they state that sanctions are illegal, inhumane, politicized and paralyzing and that all sanctions should be lifted in the upcoming nuclear deal.
  • On the other hand, they continue to maintain that sanctions are useless, have been beneficial to Iran’s economy and that negotiations are not a result of sanctions.

Some would say that there is no contradiction between these two conflicting views.

Others would wisely say that all the rhetoric surrounding the sanctions is simply part of the 101 of negotiations in Tehran.

 

No Rouhani Without Sanctions

Hasan RowhaniOn Rouhani’s presidential campaign, he was acutely aware of the weight of the sanctions resulting from Tehran’s suspicious nuclear program: “Our centrifuges are good to spin when our people’s economy is also spinning in the right direction” – ie: a nuclear program is good only if the economy is good as well. As a result, his campaign was based primarily on a rapprochement with the West in order to relieve Iran from the crippling effect of sanctions. Without it, he would not have won.

Following the interim deal and the relief of some sanctions, Rouhani triumphantly told a crowd that “sanctions are unraveling” and will “shatter in the coming months”. At the time he also stated that “due to the brutal sanctions and unwise administration, our country has faced myriad problems in the past years”.

And yet, he makes a point of saying that “significant accomplishment was achieved under sanctions, which goes to show sanctions aren’t the reason we’re at negotiation table” and that the Iranian economy is “untrammeled by sanctions“. Furthermore, he went on to add that sanctions had “boosted” Iran’s military power. What?

 

Why Can’t They Admit It?

Rohani-with-Salehi-and-ZarifEven before Rouhani took office, Iranian leaders tried to play down the effects of sanctions: Previous Foreign Minister Salehi spoke about sanctions causing only “minor problems” and then later calling them “irrational and fruitless“.  Judiciary Chief Larijani echoed Salehi’s by calling  the sanctions “futile” and “totally ineffective” while his brother and Chief of Parliament Larijani maintained that the problem with Iran’s economy was unemployment that was not a result of sanctions ,implying that the blame should be placed on Ahmadinejad‘s government, adding that sanctions were more costly to the US.

His own Foreign Minister Zarif kept on singing the same tune that “sanctions had no effect on Iran’s approach in the talks” and that “sanctions have utterly failed” and yet, this same person states that any added sanctions would “kill a nuclear deal” and his main condition to a nuclear deal remains the complete removal of all sanctions from day one.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the sanctions hurt Iranians. They might not have hurt directly the leaders in the regime and Zarif even mentioned that “some in Iran don’t want the sanctions to end“, implying that sanctions were good for business for people in power (specially the IRGC).

 

Khamenei Knows the Answer

angryBut sanctions hurt the average Iranian and it is the average Iranian who voted Rouhani to office and Tehran to the negotiation table. It is the pain and the anger of the average Iranian that scared Khamenei into allowing his government to kowtow to “The Great Satan” because he knows full well that enough angry and hungry Iranians could mean his downfall.

So when Khamenei launched his “Economy of Resistance” and called for Iranians to “resist sanctions and keep the enemy from achieving its objectives” and that “if Iran does not resist sanctions, the enemy will set conditions for Tehran’s nuclear program”, it becomes obvious why Iranian leaders love to deny that sanctions are effective. But that is not enough for Khamenei: he envisions the day that Iran will one day be the one to impose sanctions on the West.

It is also noteworthy to note that Khamenei personal empire was one of the chief beneficiaries of the first round of sanctions relief from the interim agreement.

Khamenei wants the sanctions gone and that is why he approves of the nuclear negotiations despite his hatred of the West.

 

Make no mistake, sanctions were effective in bringing Rouhani to the presidency and Tehran/Khamenei to the negotiating table.

But admitting that sanctions were effective could lead the P5+1 negotiators to continue to inflict sanctions in order to get a better deal (for the West) with Iran and at the same time reflect the regime’s weakness to the Iranian people who might decide to pressure the regime into a worst deal (for Tehran) or even topple the regime itself. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Younesi is Scapegoat for “Persian Empire” Statement

younesi2

Rouhani’s chief adviser on Ethnic and Religious Minorities (and former Intelligence Minister) Ali Younesi’s visions of a “Greater Iranian Empire” struck a nerve in the hearts of Iran’s Arab neighbors. Their fierce reaction to his statement caught the Iranian leaders off-guard and sent them scrambling to control the damage. Younesi, as well as Iranian parliament chief Ali Larijani, chose the “lost in translation” excuse while 104 members of the Iranian parliament requested Younesi’s dismissal.

Whether Younesi’s aspirations were exaggerated in translation or not is debatable. What isn’t debatable is that his was not a lone voice in the dark and that his timing reflects once again the split personality of Tehran since Rouhani took office.

 

Nuclear Deal Based on Regional Peace

PeaceBombsFor over a year and half, Tehran has been trying to broker a nuclear deal and subsequently a rapprochement with the West based on repeated statements that Iran is a peaceful country with peaceful aspirations.

Khamenei’s “nuclear fatwa”, Rouhani’s “WAVE” initiative and efforts to mend fences with Iran’s Gulf neighbors all exemplify Iran’s efforts to be seen as a promoter of peace.

Younesi’s aspirations for a greater Iran may not impede a nuclear deal per se but his reasons for such an empire should light up a series of red lights at the nuclear negotiations table. According to Younesi, a greater Iran will “protect all of the nationalities in the area…against Islamic extremism, takfirism, atheism, neo-Ottomans, the Wahhabis, the West and Zionism“.

The Iranian army and its terrorist proxy groups are already fighting all these “enemies” de facto in different areas of the world – adding nuclear capability to its military arsenal could prove devastating to all these “enemies” in the future.

 

Regional Subversion and Meddling

crescent dominationsAs we showed in our earlier post, Iran’s “Crescent of Control” is growing: What began in Lebanon, spread to Syria, Iraq and lately Yemen. In all of these countries, Iranian politics, religious outlooks and military forces are at center stage.

Tehran continues to state that its presence in all of these countries was welcomed which can remind us of Roman expansion and world conquest in the name of defending smaller entities. Lebanon has been taken over, militarily and politically, by Iran’s proxy Hezbollah; Assad invited Iran to fight on his side in the civil war; Iraq requested Iran’s help to fight ISIS and Yemenite Houthi rebels took power with Iranian military support.

But Tehran’s modus operandi is the same in all cases: identify pro-Shiite leaders/factions and offer them political and military support (including terrorist infrastructure) while making sure that these leaders continue to thank Iran for its “welcomed interference”.

As such, countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are within Tehran’s sights as the next countries to join its Crescent of Control.

 

Global Islamic Awakening

islamic awakeningYounesi’s statement might be dismissed but Supreme Leader Khamenei’s own visions for a Global Islamic Awakening can’t:

  • The Enemy: “For two hundred years, Westerners ruled the Islamic Ummah…They occupied Islamic countries: some of them directly, some of them indirectly with the help of local dictatorships. England, France and finally America – which is the Great Satan”.
  • The Inspiration: “A new era is starting throughout the world…Today neither Marxism, nor western liberal democracy, nor secular nationalism has any appeal…the greatest appeal belongs to Islam, the Holy Quran and the school of thought that is based on divine revelation.”
  • The Opportunity: “Today the arrogant powers of the world feel helpless in the face of Islamic Awakening. You are dominant. You will win. The future belongs to you”.
  • The Goal: “This century is the century of Islam…The kind of Islam that is based on rationality, Islam that is based on thinking, Islam that is based on spirituality, Islam that is based on attention to God and reliance on Him, Islam that is based on jihad.”
  • The Brotherhood: “Today the Islamic movement throughout the world of Islam is independent of Shia and Sunni…It is independent of Arabs, Persians and other ethnicities. There must be a sense of brotherhood among us…The goal is Quranic and Islamic rule…all of us are opposed to the arrogant powers, all of us are opposed to the evil hegemony of the west, all of us are opposed to the cancerous tumor, Israel.”
  • The Promise: “By Allah’s favor, there will be a day when the Islamic Ummah will reach the peak of power and independence…Muslim nations should come together under the banner of the call to God and the call to Islam. Then the Islamic Ummah will regain its dignity”.

Makes Younesi’s statement sound childish, doesn’t it?

 

Global Uprising of the “Underdogs”

non-aligned-movementAdd to all of this Iran’s repeated call to all NAM states to overthrow the “oppressive” forces of the West.

Here’s how previous Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi opened the 16th NAM summit in Tehran in 2012: “We believe that adopting worn-out policies based on intimidation and humiliation (by Western powers) is not only unjust and unjustifiable but also weakens international cooperation for the materialisation of the goals and objectives of the UN charter…No doubt, those who plan such policies will soon find out that they are doomed to failure.” He also attacked the UN Security Council as “illogical, unjust and completely undemocratic” and called for “fundamental changes in global governance”.

The state-run PRESSTV site made things clearer with an article headed “Iran’s NAM summit will isolate the West“.

Many NAM states tended to agree with Iran – especially states who were colonies in the past or who feel that their third-world status was implemented by the Western powers. For them, Iran is a champion to overturn their status as “global underdogs”.

 

So, all in all, Younesi’s “Greater Iran” vision does seem to reflect a general call for overturning the current status quo: whether it be through regional subversion, Islamic Awakenings, mutual aid to “underdogs” or a nuclear arms race, Iran is striving to expand its influence dramatically. Maybe we should thank Younesi for voicing what the Mullahs in Tehran really believe but feared to say.

Human Rights in Iran from Bad to Worst

human rights 2As Rouhani took office, his image of a moderate leader with aspirations for rapprochement with the West ignited sparks of hope that Iran would find itself out of isolation.

In regards to Tehran’s nuclear program, the sparks of hope turned into a bonfire with the preliminary agreement in Geneva. Since then, the bonfire grew and simmered but the fire of hope kept on burning, warming relations between Tehran and the rest of the world.

But as far as human rights in Iran are concerned, the sparks landed hopelessly on the hard and unwavering laws of the Islamic regime and Rouhani’s promises of reform never had a chance.

Now, over a year and a half into his presidency, the latest reports from the UN, one issued by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and another by the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran Ahmed Shaheed, the state of human rights in Iran has gone from bad to worst on nearly all fronts.

 

From Freedom of Speech to Jail

ankabootFreedom of speech is a rare commodity in Iran: anyone contradicting the regime’s guide lines is liable to find himself in jail, or worst.

Take social media, for example: Iranian leaders such as Khamenei, Rouhani, Zarif, Larijani etc… are heavy users of social media as part of their propaganda but the use of social media is not available to the majority of Iranians. In fact, the IRGC has launched a surveillance operation code-named “Ankaboot” (spider) which gathers data of over 8 million Iranian “likes” on facebook in an effort to root out “corrupters” and “insulters of Islam”. This program has led to at least 60-70 arrests and this is just the beginning.

More than 13 bloggers and journalists were arrested over the past year bringing the tally of imprisoned journalists to 30 including some, such as Soheil Arabi, who are facing death sentences for “insulting the Supreme Leader”.

Websites, newspapers and TV stations are shut down if they are found to be critical of the regime and it’s going to get worst as a “Media Council” bill is being drafted in parliament which will give the government more punitive powers over the media.

Shutting down media is supplemented with the systematic destruction of satellite dishes in order to make sure that content that is deemed unfit to the regime should not be seen or heard by the Iranian people.

 

Persecution of Religious Minorities

Education-Is-Not-A-Crime-846x454Despite the fact that the Iranian constitution allows for the freedom of religious minorities to exist, in reality, they are being persecuted.

Baha’is are singled out for persecution on a regular basis on many fronts. i.e.:

  • Burials: Tehran issues strict laws contrary to Baha’I traditions concerning burials and have repeatedly delayed Baha’I burials.
  • Education: Baha’i students are systematically discriminated in higher education and are regularly barred from registering in universities – this has sparked the worldwide “Education Is Not A Crime” campaign.

Christians are also persecuted and at least 92 Christians are in jail for their religious beliefs. On Christmas day, mass arrests were conducted in churches across the nation and several pastors remain in jail to this date.

Even Sunnis are persecuted and are not given permits to build new mosques while being told that they should pray in Shiite mosques instead.

 

Segregation and Persecution of Women

acid attackA set of new laws are being drafted to increase the persecution of women in Iran:

Together with women’s hair being hidden, women’s voices are being shut: Women are not allowed to sing in public. Some musicians were brave enough to defy these laws only to find their concerts shut down. Other prominent Iranian singers simply left the country to sing elsewhere.

 

Executions Rise

jabbariDespite all the pressure against Iran to tone down its policy of the death penalty, the numbers of executions is at a 12 year peak and is the highest per capita in the world. The human rights chief Javad Larijani made a big issue about  the fact that “80%”  of the executions were for drug-related offenses, as if that made it OK, but in fact, that number is closer to 50%. Out of 753 documented executions, 362 were drug-related. The rest of the executions include 13 juveniles and 25 women.

High profile executions  include the hanging of Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, whose crime was killing an employee at the Ministry of Intelligence who attempted to rape her and the Kurdish Saman Naseem, 22, for the crime of “enmity against God” while being a juvenile.

In order to understand fully just how bad the situation is, one should read the list of executions and identify the charges of those executed which include “Moharebeh” (enmity against God” and many suspicious “N/A” charges which could be anything from freedom of speech to human rights activism.

 

Rouhani promised radical changes in the state of human rights in Iran and to his credit, he continues to speak out on these issues.

Unfortunately, he seems powerless to “walk the talk” and Rouhani has not introduced one single bill which eases the desecration of human rights in Iran. Oh, and Tehran’s response to the UN reports? Tehran, as in the past, shows neither acceptance nor remorse and instead simply deemed “unrealistic” and “biased”.