Tehran’s dangerous missiles

Recently, the head of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Air Defenses, brigadier general Farzad Esmaili, declared proudly that Iran conducted its first ever long range ballistic missile test. He boasted that the Bavar 373 system is to be fully operational by March 2018, which would increase Iran’s “combat capabilities”. In addition, the new defense minister, brigadier general Amir Hatami, also voiced some bold public statements vowing continued support to the resistance front and to boost the missile program as a priority.

It was clear that boasting the missile capabilities and continued tests were an act of defiance and provocation. After all, UN security Council Resolution 2231, adopting the JCPOA, calls upon Iran categorically “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology, until the date eight years after the JCPOA adoption day” (Annex B, paragraph 3). Such open defiance was interpreted as a clear shift in Iranian policy, from covert discretion to public display and from a defense mode to an offense mode.

By doing so, Tehran is sending a strong and dangerous message to the world, mainly a message of hard power, “that there will be military repercussions for any country standing in the way of its mission to spread its revolutionary principles”. It also reflects an absence of fear of any future sanctions, a perception of the weakness of the West and a strong feeling of empowerment. The arabnews observes this with alarm, predicting that this approach “will lead to further regional destabilization, insecurity and tensions”. In this context, Iran displays a feeling of strength, as a result of the victories over ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the geo-political link with Russia and Turkey and the billions pledged in deals. Others see in this a display of military might more aimed at Iran’s chief regional rival Saudi Arabia as well as other Arab allies of the United States.

Others interpreted these developments as a retaliation to the new ballistic-related sanctions imposed by the US Trump administration, In a build-up towards the review of the nuclear deal and possible declaration of Iranian non-compliance. In this context, Iran’s increased ballistic missile activity should be seen as a “next level”. After president Rouhani’s rhetorical threats that Iran’s nuclear program “could be restarted within hours if US threats and sanctions continue”, there followed the parliamentary vote to increase spending on the missile program and foreign operations of the IRGC.

Whatever the case may be, Tehran’s boasting of its missile capability is a raising alarm bells all over the world because, despite the fact that Tehran continues to claim that the missiles are for “defensive purposes” only, these larger-range missiles obviously point to the fact that these missiles are meant to attack other countries and any country within the range of these missiles should start worrying now.

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65 Hangings 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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Impeachment of Minister is a Crack in Rouhani’s Wall


Last week, hardliners in the Iranian parliament (Majlis) impeached Reza Faraji-Dana, the Minister of Science, for supporting reformist teachers who protested back in 2009, allowing students who were deemed radicals back into universities, fighting politically-motivated scholarships, being an “extremist”, purging staff from previous administrations, hiring employees not cleared by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence etc… all of which can be summed up under one main goal: undermine President Rouhani.


Finally, Hardliners Battle and Win

This was not an overwhelming victory by hardliners (145 votes for impeachment, 110 against and 15 abstentions) but it did send out a war cry: If we can’t topple Rouhani, we’ll topple his administration one minister at a time. To their chagrin, the hardliners may not have enough influence to derail Rouhani’s efforts for a nuclear deal with the West due to the support he receives from Khamenei, but they can legally hamper him on internal affairs in which Khamenei remains an ultra-conservative.

The final nail in Faraji-Dana’s impeachment was a video in which he said “I will not pay ransoms such as scholarships to remain a minister and avoid confrontation with the MPs” which echoes Rouhani’s attitude since his election. The hardliners are now setting their sights on impeaching Rouhani’s Culture Minister, Ali Janatti for his efforts to open up access to the Internet and ease enforcement laws regarding Hijabs for women.

Rouhani saved some face by absenting himself from the impeachment (he was on a tour of the remote province of Aderbil at the time), by rehiring Faraji-Dana as his advisor, by hiring another reformer, Mohammad Ali Nafaji as interim minister while advising him to maintain Faraji-Dana’s course and by magnanimously accepting the Majlis decision.


The Main Battle – the Nuclear Deal

Last month, Rouhani lashed out at hardliners by calling them “political cowards” and telling them to “go to hell“. He criticized them further by stating that they were “50 years too late”, and hampering his efforts to “change the image of the Islamic Republic, which has been tarnished in recent years”.

Rouhani needs a nuclear deal but more importantly, he needs the nuclear-based sanctions lifted in order to restore an economy on the brink of disaster. His strategy is sound since Iran’s economy began recovering with the onset of the nuclear negotiations which brought some sanction relief but more importantly opened the doors of Tehran to foreign business.

But the hardliners are worried that Western influence would undermine the power of the mullahs and the IRGC which have been the bloodline of power since Khomeini returned triumphant to Tehran. For them a nuclear deal would just mean that Westerners could increase their influence not only on foreign policy but on internal affairs as well…they are probably right.

In fact, the nuclear deal is dangerous for Rouhani in a “dammed if it succeeds and dammed if it fails” situation: if the nuclear deal is inked, hardliners will poke holes at the deal in an effort to derail Rouhani himself while if the talks flounder, Rouhani’s voters will stop supporting him out of disappointment.

If anyone doubted Rouhani’s ability to lead Iran to a rapprochement with the West in the past, their doubts can only increase. The day after may even be more difficult. The only person who can save Rouhani in his upcoming battles is Khamenei himself who also chose to remain silent on Faraji-Dana’s impeachment. In any case, Rouhani’s internal battlegrounds are beginning to materialize.

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.





Tehran Regime Mirrored in Football and Hijabs



Unless you are on holiday on another planet, you know that the World Cup is being played out in Brazil: 32 national football teams converged in Brazil, followed by billions of fans from all over the globe.

Football? Prisoners – Yes. Women – No

The World Cup is truly a world-uniting experience: Just to put things in proportion, nearly half of the planet’s population, 3.2 billion people, watched the last World Cup final. No matter what is the local time, work status, school status – people are watching it at home or in bars, restaurants and coffee shops – even prisoners in Guantanamo jail watch it.

Everyone is watching except for women in Iran.  Why? Because people like Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami believes that “if women attend games (both in stadiums and screenings) there could be no guarantees that hijab or chastity would be properly observed or respected.”

World Cup games cannot be screened in cinemas, restaurants and coffee shops to audiences that include women. Some Iranian women have openly defied these laws by viewing the games at restaurants and coffee shops which have led to police crackdowns resulting in forcing the establishments to not screen the games.

Yes, it’s “only” a game and no one is physically hurt. But it is another symbol of repression by the regime in Tehran just as separate rest rooms and restaurants were for African Americans in the US and in any other country that practices or practiced racism. And in this case, it’s even more symbolic since Iran’s national team was actually playing in the world cup!

Iranian authorities have cracked down on fans, going so far as to arrest people who appear in a video intended to support the footballers. Why? Once again, the fear of seeing women hijab-free.


The Hijab as a weapon

The issue of Hijabs and women’s clothing is creating quite a stir in Tehran over the past few months: hardliners are exasperated by grass-roots movements such as “my stealthy freedom“, a facebook fan page showing pictures of hijab-free women and the “Happy in Tehran“, a lip-sync video of Pharrell’s hit including hijab-free women. The hijab is the main focal point of the discussion on women’s clothing but just last week, Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli was summoned to parliament to answer questions about why more measures have not been taken to prevent women from wearing leggings in public.

The BBC reported that “There was a loud reaction from MPs as photos of what was dubbed “transgressive legwear” were shown on large screens during the parliamentary session”. It’s as if the Iranian parliament has nothing better to do than to discuss whether leggings are really pants or not.

In this context, it is easy to understand that the hijab is really a weapon used by the regime to repress women in Iran since the beginning of the Islamic revolution. So, why the fuss now? The answer can be found in President Rouhani’s efforts to question the essence of some religious and social laws including the hijab itself as is evident in his latest tweet in which he stated that “poverty is a greater threat to chastity than violating the hijab norms“. Hardliners in Tehran obviously don’t appreciate Rouhani’s open-mindedness and are fighting back. We can only hope that one day the hijab will become a symbol of achieved freedom by remaining in a drawer at home.

One Year of Rouhani – Still No Reason To Smile Over Human Rights


One year since Rouhani was elected and human rights have gone from bad to worse despite his promises for change. Rouhnai promised to bring back smiles to his people but in the mean time, the only people who are smiling are politicians.


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Simply Taqiyya or are Zarif and Rouhani for Real?



Is Rouhani’s moderate foreign policy for real or is it a ploy to gain time? If it is a ploy, he is backed by an age old policy of “Taqiyya” which allows Shi’a muslims to lie and deceive in order to protect the faith.

In any case, the answer to that question will come to light some time in 2015.


Iran Pushing for a South vs. West Strategy

west vs south

What Does Iran really want?

Regardless where you live, your religion or whether you’re leaning towards a Western point of view or the Iranian one, the answer to that question holds the key to understanding a conflict that has been brewing for the past 3 decades and seems on the brink of breaking out.


Demonizing the West

The problem is that it is hard to pinpoint who speaks for what in Iran. Legally and traditionally, it is the wish and word of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Electorally, President Hassan Rouhani and his ministers, namely his foreign minister Javad Zarif speak for the current government. Practically, you have the silent rule of the IRGC. And then, there are the endless members of parliament and law makers, generals and commanders, mullahs and activists who hold different visions.

Khamenei has given his support to Rouhani but his animosity towards the West is always evident: In a speech this month, he accused  the West is spreading fear of Islam and fostering sectarian conflict as part of a conspiracy to suppress the Muslim world. Khamenei, who more than anyone understands how to foster conflicts, summed it up by calling for the  “Jihad to continue until America is no more


Rallying the South

Another peek into the Iranian mindset was given by Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was recently quoted as saying that “In today’s world, there is a growing need for cooperation among the South countries“.

Zarif’s “South countries” probably refer to the 120 strong members of the “Non-Aligned Movement” (NAM) that include all of the African states as well as most of the Asian and South American states. And since Rouhani is the secretary general of NAM until August 2015, the stage for pitting “South” against “West” is optimally set.

It’s no surprise then that NAM is supportive of Iran in its efforts to ink a nuclear deal: “The choices and decisions of all countries, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, concerning the peaceful application of nuclear energy and fuel cycle policies must be respected


Divide and Conquer

Iran portrays itself as the country that will free the world of the West’s power. The easiest way to do so is to sow the seeds of discontent against the West (specifically the US) in the hope of rallying enough support for Khamenei’s vision of a benevolent “century of Islam” as opposed to the “evil hegemony of the West”.

The fact that this cry to battle emanates from a regime which is constantly embroiled in conflicts in the area (Syria, Kuwait, Pakistan, Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia etc…) should make the “Southern” countries suspiciousof Tehran’s motives.