Archive for December, 2017

PRESSURE OF THE PEOPLE THREATENS LEADING REGIME IN THE MIDDLE EAST CHALLENGING THE WEST

December 31, 2017

Fox News on December 31, 2017, Fox News published a commentary on the ongoing protests against the Iranian regime. Excerpts below:

President Trump should take decisive action in 2018 to support the ouster of the virulently anti-American theocracy that has ruled Iran with an iron fist and threatened its neighbors for the past four decades.

The president’s first step should be to throw American support behind the brave anti-government protesters who have taken to the streets in mass demonstrations across the Islamic Republic since [October 28, 2017].

President Trump himself used his Twitter account to condemn the arrest of protesters in Iran, writing…: “Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching!”

The United States should next impose crippling economic sanctions targeting key institutions that act as a lifeline for the Iranian regime, in particular the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. The U.S. should also make it clear that Iran will face serious consequences if protesters are suppressed violently.

As a political gesture, the Trump administration should also formally recognize the Iranian people’s right to regime change and the legitimacy of the organized resistance that is pursuing this goal.
The latest nationwide demonstrations are indicative of fierce discontent and growing frustration with the Iranian regime’s corruption, incompetence and badly misplaced priorities.

With slogans like “Death to the dictator, death to Rouhani,” and “Leave Syria alone; think about us instead,” – referring to Iran’s unpopular military intervention to prop up Syrian dictator Bashar Assad – protestors have demonstrated their frustration with the endemic culture of corruption in Iran.

Slogans targeting the Iranian regime’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, show that resentment is giving way to anger and that the regime is more vulnerable to losing the consent of the governed than many Western analysts may have thought.

Unfortunately, America and its allies have pursued relations with so-called Iranian moderates since long before President Rouhani emerged as a player in contemporary Iranian politics. The result has only been a worsening situation for Western interests and also for the beleaguered people of Iran.

But American officials have put the U.S. relationship with opposition forces at risk time and again by pursuing back channel deals with Iran’s clerical rulers, while ignoring the voices of the Iranian people.

Each new protest against the rulers of Iran represents an opportunity to use the people’s resentment as leverage against the regime.

To its credit, the Trump administration has taken preliminary steps in the right direction by imposing comprehensive sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards, a leading perpetrator of domestic crackdowns and international terrorism.

The opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran and its leading constituent group, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), are mobilized to safeguard the people’s rights in the Islamic Republic.

If the U.S. provides strong support to anti-regime forces in Iran, America will have the opportunity to strike a fatal blow against a dangerous and tyrannical government by leveraging the discontent on the Iranian street and closing ranks with those seeking to topple the regime.

President Trump should follow this course in 2018.

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IRAN’S IMPERIAL PROJECT – A CHALLENGE TO THE WEST

December 2, 2017

Washington Times on November 20, 2017, published a commentary by Ilan Berman, a leading US foreign policy expert on what is actually the main political problem in the Middle East. Excerpts below:

Iran is on the march in the Middle East.

…accounts out of Iraq, Lebanon and beyond has pointed to an inescapable conclusion: Iran is erecting a new empire in the region.

Already three years ago, the contours of Iran’s regional ambitions were coming into focus. With the seizure of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, by the country’s Iranian-supported Houthi rebels in the fall of 2014, the Islamic Republic of Iran could effectively claim control of four Arab regional capitals (including Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad).

Since then, Tehran’s grip on those territories has only tightened. In Syria, Iran’s strategic footprint has expanded steadily, to the point at which Tehran is now reportedly planning a permanent military presence in the country as part of its partnership with the regime of Bashar Assad.

In Lebanon, working via its chief terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, the Islamic republic has become…dominant in national politics…

Meanwhile in Iraq, Iran’s support for the hashd al-shaabi, the powerful Shiite militias that now dominate the country’s Ministry of Interior, has made it a key stakeholder in (and the most likely winner of) the country’s national elections next year.

And in Yemen, the expanding power of the Houthis, and the threat that they pose to neighboring Saudi Arabia as well as to American forces in the Gulf, has had everything to do with growing political and military support from Tehran.

…Iran’s imperial project is now accelerating in at least two ways.

First, mounting evidence from the Syrian theater indicates that Iran has succeeded in deploying a formidable expeditionary force of fighters there. Historically, Iran’s clerical army, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has served as the regime’s dedicated foreign legion. But the Syrian civil war has provided Iranian officials with an opportunity to marshal a supplemental cadre of irregular fighters and “volunteers,” drawn from Iraq’s Shiite militias as well as places like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen.

The result is a secondary Iranian proxy force that, according to some estimates, could number as many as 200,000 men under arms, and which can be deployed by Tehran to other theaters in the future, once the war in Syria dies down.

Second, Iran has succeeded in establishing resupply routes to funnel both personnel and materiel to the Levant….Iran’s growing control over Iraq via the Hashd al-Shaabi has created a land corridor that provides a direct transport link into Syria for Iranian forces and arms. This has been supplemented by an “air bridge” of flights spearheaded by Iran’s national air carrier, Iran Air, which has helped to ferry both guerrillas and Guardsmen to the Syrian front. The end result is a zone of Iranian control stretching from territorial Iran all the way to the Eastern Mediterranean.

What has made all this possible? A large portion of the blame rests with the 2015 nuclear deal concluded between Iran and the P5+1 powers. That agreement proffered enormous economic benefits to the Islamic Republic in hopes that, over time, it would lead to a moderation of the Iranian regime. Instead, the opposite has happened. The extensive sanctions relief built into the deal has provided Iran’s ailing economy a much-needed fiscal shot in the arm, and freed up funds that Iran has poured into its proxy forces and its military modernization efforts.

Today, policymakers in Washington remain preoccupied with degrading and defeating the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq and Syria. As a result, they have paid scant attention to how other regional actors might be empowered by our counterterrorism fight.

Comment: Iran is a long-time challenger of the West. The Persian Sassanian empire has been the organizational model (third to seventh century AD) for the Islamic Iranian state. The statecraft offered a bureaucracy, an effective military system and diplomacy intelligence. Muslim rule is built on classical Persian documentation such as the tenth century Book of Kings and the epic Shahnama.

The Sassanian empire was centered on a Persian “power state”. The Book of Government (seyasat-nameh) by Nizam al-Mulk (d. 1092 AD) was prepared as aid to helping sustain fundamentalist Islam, but the origin of the work is completely Iranian.

Persia was also the home to the Assassins (ca 1000 to 1275 AD).

Iran is a megastate and empire on the world island. It is the home of endemic conspiracy thinking. The coastline in the south constitutes half of the Arabian Gulf. With Oman it controls the vital Strait of Hormuz.

Russia was for a long time a provider of arms to Iran. Moscow has also since the 1990s provided Iran with nuclear materials and technology for missile systems. Iran also has military cooperation with North Korea despite. Another threat to the West (including Israel) is that Iran is actively seeking Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorist partners of Iran.