Can Iran fight its nature?



A Scorpion wants to cross a river, but can’t swim. He goes to a frog and asks him for a ride on its back. the frog says: “if I give you a ride you’ll sting me”. The scorpion explains that if he stings the frog, they’ll both drown. The frog accepts this logic, and the two start their journey across the water. Halfway through, the frog feels a burning spear in its back and realizes that the scorpion did sting. As they’re both drowning, the frog asks the scorpion – “why did you do that – now we’ll both die”.

The scorpion tells him: “I can’t help it – it’s in my nature.”

Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Iraq… and Iran?

The last few years prove that it is only “natural” for Iran, with no better way of putting it, to be involved in as many skirmishes as it possibly can. The 3 big ones going on at the moment – The war in Syria, the Gaza Strip contention and the ISIS-IRAQ conflict, are claiming insurmountable amounts of casualties every day.

In addition, Iran is knees deep in all sorts of terror activities.

Referring to the Israel-Palestinian arena – The newspaper Javan, affiliated with the IRGC, stated that Iran “had armed the resistance in Gaza with Fajr 5 missiles and with drones to help fight Israel and gave Iran credit for its success.” And only recently, the Iranian leadership pledged further military assistance to the terrorist organizations in Gaza, while the Supreme Leader Khamenei called for expanding this assistance, stating “We believe that the West Bank should also be armed like Gaza”.

North of there, in the bloodbath that is the Syrian civil war, Iran has earned itself a whole Wikipedia article on its involvement. But we’re discussing terror here: Iran used and is still using Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror organization, to carry out its interests in Syria.

Terror on your doorstep

But in Iraq, the “let’s use a terror group” tactic went a bit off. It is hard, the regime slowly learns, to deal with a terror organization when it’s coming against you.

The Iranian agents in Iraq, numbered at 32,000, both covert and unconcealed, are using any kind of weapon they can, going so far as flying Jets. It seems Iran is genuinely scared of the threat that ISIS poses. This threat has even led Iranians to question whether it was wise spending all the personnel, ammo and supplies in other arenas (like Gaza and Syria). To quote Dina Esfandiary, who wrote earlier this month: “Iranians are terrified. Many question Iran’s involvement in Syria, but they support involvement in Iraq. Syria is an optional war: a crisis where Iran can dial its involvement up or down based on its policy preferences. It is not an existential issue. But ISIS activities in Iraq pose a real threat and a genuine sovereignty concern, something Iran hasn’t seen in a long time.”

It remains to be seen, whether Iran’s quest for Middle East power will lead to its downfall. For Iran’s sake, it must be able to beat its nature.


Iranian Child Brides = Socialized Slavery

child brides 2Within 9 months, roughly 31,000 girls under 15 were married in Iran. That’s about 36% of the new marriages. What’s worse is that the marriages of girls under 10 (!) is growing as well.

It’s time to put a stop to what seems to be a legal from of slavery in which small children find themselves at the will of their husbands and their families before they have even  found their own identities.

Suleimani – The Second Most Powerful Man in Tehran


The most interesting Iranian person in the world right now isn’t sitting in Vienna to talk about the nuclear agreement, and isn’t dishing out quirky or alarming quotes from Tehran. He is probably on a plane, flying to and from Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad etc…helping to increase Tehran’s military and political influence.

Meet Qassam Suleimani, commander of the IRGC’s “external” operations units, better known as the Qods Force. A former CIA chief, John Maguire calls him, “the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today“. Or you can call him by his nickname: Keiser Soze.


Suleimani in Iran

On the outside, he leads a “regular life”. He is 57 years old. He wakes up every day at 4:00 and goes to sleep early at 21:30. He has five children. He takes his wife on some of his many “business” trips. He suffers from back aches. He never raises his voice (in fact he is silent most of the time) but is gifted with an “understated charisma that makes people pay attention to him.

He is also a decorated war hero from the Iran-Iraq war and is connected all the way up to the Supreme Leader Khamenei himself who has referred to Suleimani as “a living martyr of the revolution.”

Rumours have it that Suleimani recently attempted a coup against Rouhani which was blocked at the last moment by Khamenei himself.”


Running the War in Damascus

In Syria, Suleimani has worked as the liaison between the leaders in Tehran, the Hezbollah chiefs and Bashar al-Assad for the past 3 years. He has built up Assad’s army from the inside after once exclaiming “The Syrian army is useless! Give me one brigade of the Basij, and I would conquer the whole country”.

He works in Damascus from a fortified nondescript building together with a large array of officers: Syrian military commanders, a Hezbollah commander, a coordinator of Iraqi Shiite militias and a close comrade of his, the Basij former deputy commander Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani.

Once Suleimani got settled in, an immediate sharp increase in Iranian supply flights into the Damascus airport carrying weapons and ammunition was noticed. Thousands of Quds operatives suddenly turned up within the Syrian army and in Assad’s special security service.


Working Behind the Scenes in Baghdad

But, as the ISIS crisis got into Iraq, Suleimani flew out repeatedly to Baghdad. The Guardian says – “Experts agree that it is hard to overestimate Suleimani’s role in Iraq. “At times of crisis Suleimani is the supreme puppeteer…He is everywhere and he’s nowhere. Suleimani is doing in Baghdad what he did in Damascus” – this time with Maliki instead of Assad.

Under his guidance, Tehran began by supplying Maliki with weapons and militia men as well as flying out drones and jet fighters into Iraq. Judging from Suleimani’s experience in Damascus, one can only expect Suleiman to set up a similar force in Baghdad as well.

In any case, it would be worthwhile to keep an eye out on him at all times…trouble is never far away from him.

Iran’s answer to fears of sexual harassment? Fire the women!

women municipality


It’s acts like these that make Iran so hard to understand: Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran and presidential candidate in the last presidential election, fired the women in his municipality because he felt that women who had male bosses were put in compromising positions which might lead to losing their dignity. They were fired “for their own comfort and well-being”.

That’s how Iran deals with sexual harassment: Instead of finding ways to limit incidents, to create an infrastructure that would intimidate and punish harassers, “simply” punish the women and their families who already live in harsh economic times.

Mr. Ghalibaf, how much more comfortable do these women feel now that they have less money to feed their families? How did firing them increase their level of well-being? The only people that you helped are the men who will get the jobs of the women who were fired and yourself for not having to deal with sexual harassment in your municipality in a fairer way.

Khamenei’s Red Lines

khamenei red 2 The talks in Vienna are rapidly approaching the July 20th deadline, and, as John Kerry remarked said on Tuesday, there are still big gaps between the sides . Foreign ministers from the P5+1, master negotiators and nuclear experts from all over the globe are trying to bridge those gaps, but it seems that there is only one man on earth who can effectively do that and he isn’t leaving Tehran in the near future: Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Unlike the leaders of the P5+1 countries who are under scrutiny by their own governments, parties and oppositions,  the power to make or break any deal with Iran rests fully on Khamenei himself. President Hassan Rouhani, his ministers, Iran’s members of parliament, the IRGC and all the military forces all have to answer to Khamenei and Khamenei alone. Last December he said that he would not interfere with the negotiations, but that didn’t stop him from continuing to bad-mouth and criticize the West (specially the US) and to vocalize his ‘red lines’ for negotiations which are at the base of the “gaps” between both sides. In fact, his statements have become more precise and more strident over the past month mixing numbers with allegories:

  • Khamenei on the West’s intentions in negotiations: “The other side threatens you with death so you would be happy with a fever.”
  • Khamenei on centrifuges for enrichment: “They want us to be content with 10,000 SWUs…Our people say that we need 190,000 SWUs.”
  • Khamenei on expectations of nuclear deal: “Officials from this government…think that if we negotiate the nuclear issue, differences will be resolved…I said that I am not optimistic about negotiations and it will not go anywhere, and you see that it has not gone anywhere. “
  • Khamenei on relations with the US (“The Great Satan”): “What our Foreign Ministry has started will continue. Iran will not violate what it agreed to. But the Americans are enemies of the Islamic Revolution, they are enemies of the Islamic Republic.”
  • Khamenei on long term plans: “This battle (Jihad) will only end when the society can get rid of the oppressors’ front with America at the head of it.”

As the zero hour looms ahead, it’s clear that Khamenei and his puppets are ‘digging their heels in the ground’, and hardening their stand instead of striving for a middle ground.  This might be a legitimate effort by Khamenei to force the P5+1 to break down negotiations in order to begin a blame game for the benefit of the Iranian people and Iran’s allies. On the other hand, it may simply be his way of adding more pressure on the negotiating teams and to paraphrase the Supreme Leader himself, to “threaten the West with death in order to be  happy with a fever”. In any case, it seems that hardliners, with Khamenei at their head, still have the upper hand. Just highlights once again the West’s inability to ever really comprehend the Iranian slippery strategy in negotiations. The only winners of these negotiations are the Iranians who found some relief from sanctions and the businesses who want to cash in on sanction-free Iran.

Is Pressure on Human Rights in Iran Succeeding?


Tehran has been crying foul on the pressure it is receiving on its horrid state of human rights, accusing the criticism to be politically motivated. In fact, Tehran  even went on the offensive and accused the US of human rights abuses. Regardless of the motives, it seems that the pressure is having some effect and has resulted in a “tsunami” of pardons in Iran.,052-iranian-prisoners


Red lines and the approaching deadline



Iranians keep saying that they never intended to build a bomb, nor do they intend to do so in the future…ever. Unfortunately, their transgressions and behavior in the past have shown these statements to be suspect. It is certain that Tehran has considered making a bomb in the past and judging from the involvement of the elusive and secretive Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the would-be “father of the Iranian bomb” behind the scenes in the nuclear negotiations, Tehran might still be contemplating making a bomb after all.

As the deadline on the nuclear negotiations gets closer, both sides are trying to figure out what would be a good compromise. All compromises are necessarily imperfect by definition but both sides are looking for a compromise that won’t cross their red lines, even if they are drawn on sand.


Red Lines in the Sand

The negotiations are not on whether Iran will or will not make a bomb but are focused on the time to break-out point. Estimates are currently 6-12 months, depending on who you ask.

Tehran wants to maintain the status quo on its nuclear program meaning that 90% of it will remain unchanged and whatever is changed can be unchanged within a short time. This way, if and when the Supreme Leader decides to make a bomb, it will be doable within up to 6 months.

The P5+1 want to Iran’s nuclear program to downsize by about 40% by decreasing centrifuges, uranium stocks, heavy water facilities etc…and increase transparency in the hope that if Tehran does rush for break-out they will need 12-18 months (hopefully enough time to intervene – whatever that means).

The truth is that no one knows how Tehran’s nuclear program will play out in the future and if the West can effectively block Iran’s rush to break-out if it wanted to.  Negotiations are less about the red lines and more about the immediate benefits, and in this case the short-term benefits are mostly on Iran’s side.


The Overt/Covert-Make/Buy Question

Were Tehran to reach for break-out, it could do so in one of 4 ways: Overtly make, overtly buy, covertly make or covertly buy a bomb. For their article “The Nuclear Maginot Line“, Allison and Setter asked several dozen experts to estimate which path Tehran would take if it decided to make a run for a bomb. The answers were split between “make/covert” and “make/overt” with “buy/covert” in third place.

The same experts were then asked what the focus of the P5+1 is in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the answer was resoundingly the “make/overt” option. This means that the P5+1 team is not focusing on Iran’s ability to covertly make or buy a nuclear weapon.


What Makes a Compromise Good?

For the P5+1, it seems that all most of the compromises being discussed don’t lengthen the break-out point sufficiently. In the opinions of three leading nuclear experts, Albright, Heinonen and Stricker, most of the compromises discussed compromise the ability of the P5+1 to effectively stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In their opinion, the final deal should be set within a framework of 5 basic parameters:

  • Adequate break-out time should be a minimum of 6-12 months if not more.
  • Irreversibility in program cut downs to increase the length of break-out time.
  • Stability through “provisions” that limit the possibility of wild accusations and violations.
  • Transparency that will allow IAEA inspectors the ability to issue warnings and assurances on time.
  • Ability to detect the clandestine acquisition and management of “sensitive nuclear facilities”.

Any deal that strays from these parameters is bound to be temporary and to blow up, literally, in the faces of the P5+1 leaders. The P5+1, and in fact the whole world, better hope that the Supreme Leader will not renege on his word.