Posts Tagged ‘Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’

Trump’s threats over nuclear deal muffle Iran’s reformists

October 11, 2017

By Al Jazeera

By Ted Regencia

FAST FACTS

  • US President has until October 15 to certify or withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal
  • Agreement was signed by Iran and six world powers in July 2015
  • Since sanctions were lifted, $100bn in frozen Iran assets have been released

Image result for Shiroudi Stadium, Rouhani campaign speech, photos

It was 10 days before the May 2017 presidential elections in Iran. A fired-up crowd of men in green shirts and women in purple headscarves packed a sports stadium in Tehran from floor to ceiling.

Not far from the former US embassy in the capital, they were waiting for the arrival of President Hassan Rouhani, who was campaigning for reelection.

Outside, thousands more were pushing and shoving, jockeying to get in.

As droves of people in purple armbands streamed into the Shiroudi Stadium, the afternoon heat continued to rise. The swirling exhaust fans were no match for the stifling humidity. Rouhani’s campaign organisers started to distribute bottles of water, while supporters were profusely fanning themselves off.

When Rouhani finally emerged on stage, the crowd roared his name, overpowering the thump of his campaign song. His voice strained from campaigning.

Image result for Shiroudi Stadium, Rouhani campaign speech, photos

Rouhani spoke of the country’s aspiration for “freedom and reform”. At times, he would stop to wipe off the sweat from his face.

Then came the repeated rallying cry of his supporters, even interrupting the president mid-speech. “Ma sabze, sabze, sabzim. Batoom banafshemoon kard.”

“We are still green, but your batons have turned us purple,” they said in unison, referring to Rouhani’s purple campaign colour, the colour green that dominated the reform movement during the 2009 election, and the police crackdown that followed.

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Why do Trump’s threats on the Iran nuclear deal matter?

The chant was a clear sign which side the reformers were on, despite their misgivings towards Rouhani during his first term in office.

Rouhani would ride on that momentum to claim a decisive re-election victory, and then push for social, economic and political reforms.

But fewer than five months after victory celebrations, Rouhani’s supporters are now worried that reforms could stall if US President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to tear up the Iran nuclear deal.

Iranian political observers have warned that Trump’s threat could demoralise reformists and embolden the hardliners, sending the country back to a period of political uncertainty and economic recession, or worse, lead it to a military confrontation.

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Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Reuters file

Political and economic anxiety

Saeid Golkar, an Iran expert at the University of Tennessee in the US, told Al Jazeera that tensions and the threat of conflict help Iranian hardliners to “silence the moderates and consolidate their power”.

Saeed Jalili, a Tehran-based journalist, agreed, saying hardliners “feed on the hostility with the West” to consolidate their influence.

While both doubted the possibility of armed conflict in the event Trump scuttles the deal, they said the US threat is already causing anxiety among many Iranians.

“People are worried of the possibility of the return of the sanctions and economic hardships,” Golkar said.

Jalili added that businessmen, as well as the middle class and educated young people, are concerned that economic progress following the lifting of sanctions would be short-lived should the US and Iran return to political hostilities.

Since the Iran nuclear deal was signed in July 2015 between Iran and six world powers, Tehran has scaled back its uranium enrichment programme.

Iran’s FM Mohammad Zarif: ‘The US is addicted to sanctions’

In exchange, sanctions on Iran’s economy were lifted and $100bn of frozen assets were released. Iran was also allowed to trade its oil and gas in the world market, allowing it to earn over $41bn in the fiscal year that ended on March 2017.

During the same period, tourism has also increased hitting six million visitors, with an estimated revenue of $8bn.

Despite some progress, the US has still prevented American banks from dealing with Iranian businesses, and refused US credit card companies from operating in Iran – actions Tehran said violate the deal.

US companies, including oil and gas firms, are also prohibited from doing business there, and those who have managed – such as the aircraft maker Boeing – are being subjected to strict regulations.

Trump factor 

When Trump took office in January, relations between Washington, DC, and Tehran, took a turn for the worse after a couple years of detente.

Trump, who called the Iran nuclear agreement “the worst deal ever” during his campaign, has repeatedly vowed to end it since becoming president.

In September, during his first address at the United Nations, he called the Iranian government “a corrupt dictatorship” that exports “violence, bloodshed and chaos”.

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Is Trump leading the US on a warpath with Iran?

Since then, he has declared that Iran had “not lived up to the spirit” of the deal, hinting that his administration could withdraw from the landmark pact.

The deadline for Trump to make that decision is October 15. But he could make an announcement as early as October 12.

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Angered by Trump’s threats, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared Iran will not give in to US “bullying”.

In his own address before the UN, Rouhani criticised Trump’s remarks as “ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric filled with ridiculously baseless allegations”.

Golkar, the Iran expert and Chicago Council on Global Affairs analyst, said that Trump’s rhetoric alienates progressive and young Iranians, making it difficult for reformist leaders to open a room for compromise with the US.

‘Dangerous ground’

For Ariane Tabatabai, an Iran expert and professor at Georgetown University, it is puzzling that Trump is escalating tensions with Iran as the US faces a “real crisis” with North Korea.

While the Iran nuclear deal is not perfect, she said it was “precisely designed to remove the urgency” of Iran advancing its nuclear energy programme.

“If we’re looking at US foreign policy priorities, Iran should not be this high up given its actual capabilities,” Tabatabai said.

While unconvinced the US wants war with Iran, she said the Trump administration has no viable alternative if it decides to abandon the nuclear deal.

“The situation we are in is incredibly dangerous,” Tabatabai said.

“You have a situation where the two sides are back to not communicating, and their militaries and allies operate in close proximity to one another in a number of theatres. All this is a recipe for misperception and miscalculation.”

Trump eyes designating Revolutionary Guard as ‘terrorists’

Meanwhile, Golkar warned that apart from the possible termination of the nuclear deal, a more worrying prospect is Trump’s threat to declare Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a “terrorist” organisation.

On Tuesday, a Revolutionary Guard spokesman had already warned that Iran would teach the US “a new lesson”, if Trump goes ahead with that decision.

“If the US labels the Guard as as a terrorist group, and decertify the nuclear deal, Iran can react more harshly,” Golkar said reforming to the special military unit loyal to the Supreme Leader.

“They will see this as a full plan for regime change in Iran,” he said.

“Labelling the Guard can change the game completely. It has many unseen consequences, which can lead to a military confrontation with Iran.”

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/10/trump-threats-nuclear-deal-muffle-reformists-171011055025802.html

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Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warn U.S. against terrorist designation, new sanctions — U.S. announces new sanctions

July 18, 2017

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A senior commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned the United States on Monday that if it designated the group a terrorist organization and applied new sanctions its action could be perilous for U.S. forces in the region.

U.S. officials said earlier this year that President Donald Trump’s administration was considering a proposal that could lead to potentially categorizing the powerful Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.

In Mid-June the U.S. Senate voted for new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and other activities not related to the international nuclear agreement reached with the United States and other world powers in 2015.

To become law, the legislation must pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Trump.

“Counting the Revolutionary Guards the same as terrorist groups and applying similar sanctions to the Revolutionary Guards is a big risk for America and its bases and forces deployed in the region,” said Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri, according to Sepah News, an official news site of the Guards.

He did not give details on what form of risk he foresaw for U.S. forces and bases.

The Revolutionary Guards are the most powerful security force in Iran, overseeing vast economic holdings worth billions of dollars and wielding huge influence in its political system.

Baqeri said on Monday that Iran’s missile program was defensive and would never be up for negotiation, according to Sepah News.

Three days after the U.S. Senate voted on the new sanctions, Iran fired missiles into eastern Syria, targeting bases of Islamic State which had claimed responsibility for attacks in Tehran which killed 18 people.

The Revolutionary Guards are fighting in Syria against militant groups which oppose President Bashar al-Assad.

Baqeri was also critical of recent remarks by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis that regime change would be necessary before the United States could normalize relations with Iran.

“American officials should speak a little more wisely, thoughtfully and maturely about other countries, particularly a powerful country like Iran which has stood against all plots with strength and pride,” he said, according to Sepah News.

Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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U.S. targets Iran with new sanctions over missile program

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday unveiled new economic sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile program and for contributing to regional tensions and said it was deeply concerned about its “malign activities across the Middle East.”

The announcements came a day after President Donald Trump’s administration warned Tehran that it was not following the spirit of its 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.

The U.S. Department of Treasury said in a statement it was targeting 16 entities and individuals for supporting what is said was “illicit Iranian actors or transnational criminal activity.”

Those sanctioned had backed Iran’s military or Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) by developing drones and military equipment, producing and maintaining boats, and procuring electronic components, it said. Others had “orchestrated the theft of U.S. and Western software programs” sold to Iran’s government, the Treasury Department said.

The U.S. State Department had also designated two Iranian organizations involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program, according to the Treasury Department.

“The United States remains deeply concerned about Iran’s malign activities across the Middle East which undermine regional stability, security, and prosperity,” the State Department said in a statement.

It said the activities “undercut whatever ‘positive contributions’ to regional and international peace and security were intended to emerge” from the nuclear agreement.

The statement listed Iranian support for groups including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas movement as well as the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The Trump administration declared on Monday that Iran was complying with the nuclear deal concluded between Iran and six world powers under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and David Lawder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy

Iran Vessels Harassed U.S. Destroyer Near Persian Gulf, Navy Says

August 25, 2016

Fifth Fleet spokesman calls interaction ‘unsafe and unprofessional’

The U.S. Navy released footage showing four Iranian military vessels approaching a U.S. destroyer at high speed in international waters near the Persian Gulf on Tuesday. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty

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By PAUL SONNE
The Wall Street Journal
Aug. 24, 2016 7:27 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Four ships from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps harassed a U.S. destroyer near the Persian Gulf in what the U.S. Navy called an “unsafe and unprofessional” interaction.

The USS Nitze, an Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer, was transiting international waters near the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday when the four Iranian vessels approached at high speed and failed to respond to 12 separate radio communications, according to Cdr. William Urban, a spokesman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet.

The USS Nitze blew its whistle in five short blasts on three occasions—signaling the Iranian vessels were on a dangerous course—and fired off 10 flares in the direction of the approaching ships before altering course to avoid a potential collision, Cmdr. Urban said.

USS Nitze

As two of the Iranian vessels came within 300 yards of the destroyer, the quartet finally slowed speed and motored away from the U.S. ship, according to Cmdr. Urban, who characterized the interaction as a dangerous, harassing situation that could have led to further escalation. The USS Nitze was transiting the waters with the USS Mason, another guided-missile destroyer.

The incident was one of many interactions between Iranian and American ships in and around the Persian Gulf in recent months. But it was one of few the U.S. Navy has deemed unsafe or unprofessional.
According to a U.S. defense official, the Navy deemed about 10% of the hundreds of interactions between Iranian and American ships unsafe or unprofessional in 2015 and the first half of 2016. The official said the number of interactions—both safe and unsafe—has increased this year compared with 2015.

Iranian officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Write to Paul Sonne at paul.sonne@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-vessels-harassed-u-s-destroyer-near-persian-gulf-navy-says-1472081276

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Iran vessels make ‘high speed intercept’ of U.S. ship in Strait of Hormuz — “America is the greatest threat to the Islamic Revolution” — Iran hasn’t changed after the nuclear deal

August 25, 2016
 
By Idrees Ali | WASHINGTON

Four of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) vessels “harassed” a U.S. warship on Tuesday near the Strait of Hormuz, a U.S. defense official said, amid Washington’s concerns about Iran’s posture in the Gulf and in the Syrian civil war.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday that two of the Iranian vessels came within 300 yards of the USS Nitze in an incident that was “unsafe and unprofessional.”

The vessels harassed the destroyer by “conducting a high speed intercept and closing within a short distance of Nitze, despite repeated warnings,” the official said.

IRGC, the Islamic Republic’s praetorian guard, is suspicious of U.S. military activity near Iran’s borders and appears to be sticking to a familiar posture in the Gulf that predates last year’s nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers, including the United States.

The United States and other countries are concerned about Iran’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, its ballistic missile program, and its backing for Shiite militias that have abused civilians in Iraq.

The U.S. defense official said that in Tuesday’s incident the USS Nitze tried to communicate with the Iranian vessels 12 times, but received no response. It also fired 10 flares in the direction of two of the Iranian vessels.

“The Iranian high rate of closure… created a dangerous, harassing situation that could have led to further escalation, including additional defensive measures by Nitze,” the official said.

USS Nitze had to change course in order to distance itself from the Iranian vessels, the official said, adding that the incident could have led to a diplomatic protest, but the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran.

It remains to be seen whether these actions were carried out by rogue Revolutionary Guard commanders or sanctioned by senior officials in Tehran, said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“For four decades the Revolutionary Guard have been told that America is the greatest threat to the Islamic Revolution,” said Sadjadpour. “This institutional culture hasn’t changed after the nuclear deal,” he added.

In January, 10 U.S. sailors aboard two patrol craft were detained by the IRGC when they inadvertently entered Iranian territorial waters. They were released the next day after being held for about 15 hours.

The Gulf separates Iran from its regional rival Saudi Arabia and a U.S. naval base in Bahrain.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali. Additional reporting by Warren Strobel; Editing by Grant McCool and Andrew Hay)

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© Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Website/AFP/File | A picture released by the news website and public relations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shows US sailors being apprehended by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on January 13, 2016

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei spoke in January with Revolutionary Guards involved in detaining 10 U.S. Navy personnel who strayed into Iranian waters in the Gulf. They were released the next day. While such patrols were the Revolutionary Guards’ original responsibility, they have since grown deeply involved in many types of business in Iran.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei spoke in January with Revolutionary Guards involved in detaining 10 U.S. Navy personnel who strayed into Iranian waters in the Gulf. They were released the next day. While such patrols were the Revolutionary Guards’ original responsibility, they have since grown deeply involved in many types of business in Iran. PHOTO: LEADERS OFFICIAL WEBSITE / HANDO/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
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Stars and Stripes
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MANAMA, Bahrain — Four Iranian vessels conducted a “high-speed intercept” of the guided missile destroyer USS Nitze near the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, Aug. 23, defense officials said.

The Nitze and guided missile destroyer USS Mason were transiting international waters in the vicinity of the strait when approached by four Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels at a high rate of speed.

The Nitze attempted to communicate with the Iranians by radio 12 times, with no response. Two vessels continued toward the Nitze, which sounded five short blasts with the ship whistle — a signal used when another vessel’s intentions are unclear or its course is dangerous — on three occasions, according to a defense statement. The Nitze then fired ten flares towards the vessels, again with no response.

Nitze changed its course away from the Iranian vessels, despite being within the vicinity of offshore oil rigs, to create separation and avoid a potential collision, the statement said. The Iranian vessels slowed, and eventually left the scene after coming within 300 yards of Nitze.

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The Nitze and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, or NAVCENT, assessed the incident as unsafe and unprofessional, as the Iranian vessels didn’t abide by international law and maritime standards.

“These sorts of unsafe and unprofessional actions can lead to escalation and miscalculation, which may necessitate additional defensive measures,” said Cmdr. Bill Urban, NAVCENT public affairs officer. “Commanding officers have an inherent obligation for self defense.”

In 2015 and the first half of 2016, the U.S. Navy assessed that approximately 10 percent of interactions with the Iranians have been unsafe and/or unprofessional, Urban said.

“We absolutely expect all maritime nations to act in a professional manner in accordance with international law,” Urban said. “The U.S. Navy continues to remain vigilant, and is trained to respond in a professional manner for all interactions.”

The Strait of Hormuz is one of three major maritime commerce chokepoints — through which about one-fifth of the world’s oil supply flows — within the 2.5 million square miles of area the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command is responsible for, including the conflict-prone Persian Gulf.

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Twitter: @CChurchStripes

http://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/iranian-ships-conducted-high-speed-intercept-of-uss-nitze-1.425409

Obama’s folly: Khamenei praises arrest of U.S. sailors — Doubles down on belief in U.S. “deceit and treachery.” — Keeps the $100 billion

January 20, 2016

World | Wed Jan 20, 2016 6:51am EST

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday thanked the Revolutionary Guards for briefly detaining U.S. sailors last week, but condemned the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran as an action that damaged the country.

Protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran on Jan. 2 after Saudi Arabia executed a Shi’ite Muslim cleric. This prompted Riyadh to sever relations with Tehran, which in turn cut all commercial ties with Riyadh, and banned pilgrims from traveling to Mecca.

“Attacking the Saudi embassy (in Tehran) … was really bad and harmed Iran and Islam, but this should not be an excuse to criticize our devout young people,” Khamenei was quoted as saying on his website.

“I didn’t have the opportunity to thank the young soldiers in the Revolutionary Guards. What they did in the Persian Gulf was right,” Khamenei also said.

Ten U.S. sailors, who were aboard two patrol craft, were detained for 15 hours by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Jan. 12 when they inadvertently entered Iranian territorial waters.

“The politician should do the same and stop the enemies with full power if they cross the line anywhere,” Khamenei said.

Khamenei on Tuesday welcomed the implementation of the nuclear deal with world powers and lifting of international sanctions against Iran, but warned that Tehran should remain wary of its old enemy the United States and its “deceit and treachery.”

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Ten U.S. Navy sailors were forced to kneel and surrender to Iran on January 13, 2016. AFP image from video screengrab

Al of the details of this incident are still not clear. But it appears that the sailors were accidentally conducting what  international law would call an “innocent passage” into Iranian waters. That means Iran had no right under the law to hold them. But America often ignores such things these days — to our own peril. We either support and defend the rule of law or we don’t. If we don’t we now have to play by the rules of China, Russia and Iran. That means we better start getting a lot tougher….

— Peace and Freedom

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Americans missing in Baghdad kidnapped by Iran-backed militia

 Reuters

Three U.S. citizens who disappeared last week in Baghdad were kidnapped and are being held by an Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia, two Iraqi intelligence and two U.S. government sources said on Tuesday.

Unknown gunmen seized the three on Friday from a private residence in the southeastern Dora district of Baghdad, Iraqi officials say. They are the first Americans to be abducted in Iraq since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011.

The U.S. sources said Washington had no reason to believe Tehran was involved in the kidnapping and did not believe the trio were being held in Iran, which borders Iraq.

“They were abducted because they are Americans, not for personal or financial reasons,” one of the Iraqi sources in Baghdad said.

The three men are employed by a small company that is doing work for General Dynamics Corp (GD.N), under a larger contract with the U.S. Army, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The Iraqi government has struggled to rein in the Shi’ite militias, many of which fought the U.S. military following the 2003 invasion and have previously been accused of killing and abducting American nationals.

Baghdad-based analyst Hisham al-Hashemi, who advises the government, said the kidnappings were meant to embarrass and weaken Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is trying to balance his country’s relations with rival powers Iran and the United States.

“The militias are resentful of the success of the army in Ramadi which was achieved with the support of the U.S.-led coalition and without their involvement,” he said.

SECTARIAN TENSIONS

Shi’ite militias were kept out of the battle against Islamic State in Ramadi for fear of aggravating sectarian tensions among the Sunni population in the western city.

Baghdad touted the military’s advance there last month, with backing from coalition airstrikes, as evidence of a resurgent army after it collapsed in 2014.

The State Department said on Sunday it was working with Iraqi authorities to locate Americans reported missing, without confirming they had been kidnapped.

Asked about the kidnapping at the daily U.S. State Department news briefing on Tuesday, spokesman John Kirby said: “The picture is becoming a little bit more clear in terms of what might have happened.” He provided no details.

Kirby declined to say whether Secretary of State John Kerry had contacted Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif about the kidnapping.

Hostility between Tehran and Washington has eased in recent months with the lifting of crippling economic sanctions against Iran in return for compliance with a deal to curb its nuclear ambitions and a recent prisoner swap.

However, the United States imposed sanctions on 11 companies and individuals on Sunday for supplying Iran’s ballistic missile program.

(Additional reporting by Mohammed Zargham in Washington and Maher Chmaytelli in Baghdad; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Iran’s defense hawks prepare for worst after nuclear deal

November 4, 2015

By Sam Wilkin and William Maclean

DUBAI (Reuters) – As Iran’s government promises a new age of prosperity after sanctions, many Iranians are hoping for the best. But the security establishment, with an eye to its political survival, is very publicly preparing for the worst.

In the past few weeks, Iran has begun to implement a historic accord with world powers, voluntarily curbing its nuclear program in exchange for relief from the sanctions that have cut Tehran off from much of the world.

At the same time, the armed forces have loudly advertised developments to Iran’s missile deterrent and other defense capabilities, proclaiming they are still prepared for an attack by the Islamic Republic’s enemies.

The increase in martial messaging, which analysts say is aimed both at Iran’s enemies abroad and political moderates at home, has alarmed Israel and Gulf Arab countries which are wary of Iran’s ambitions in the Middle East.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved the nuclear deal last month. But he insisted that it did not herald a new era of co-operation with the United States, which he believes is determined to bring about regime change in Tehran.

“America’s goals have not changed. If they could destroy the Islamic Republic today, they would not hesitate for a moment,” he said on Tuesday.

MEN IN SUNGLASSES

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and other security hawks, whose narrative of resisting neo-imperialism found a ready audience under sanctions, have happily heeded his warnings.

State television released a video on Oct. 14 showing the head of the IRGC’s aerospace division inspecting an underground tunnel complex, purportedly 500 meters (1,600 feet) underground, filled with a variety of missiles on mobile launchers that the presenter said were ready to fire.

With the theme music from the historical epic Gladiator playing in the background, the video showed Brigadier Amir Ali Hajizadeh walking through the underground complex and addressing ranks of uniformed men wearing sunglasses.

The video was released just days after Iran tested a new precision-guided ballistic missile, the Emad, which will be the its first weapon able to accurately strike targets in its arch-enemy Israel.

The armed forces have also announced improvements to Iran’s radar and naval capabilities, with an emphasis on domestic production and self-sufficiency, and last week conducted annual civil defense drills.

Michael Elleman, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), said the tunnels had been in use for a long time, while the Emad missile was likely years away from operational readiness.

That would suggest that the timing of the messages was tied to politics rather than technological advances, he said.

FEARS OF “SEDITION”

Tehran is wary of the United States and Israel, some of whose commentators have called for military attacks on the Iran even after the nuclear deal, and also of Gulf Arab powers who are fighting a proxy war with Iran’s allies in Syria and waging a direct conflict against them in Yemen.

Domestically, the security establishment likely has an eye on upcoming elections to parliament and the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body with nominal power over the Supreme Leader, in February next year.

If President Hassan Rouhani’s ‘nuclear dividend’ brings those bodies under the control of his moderate allies, security hawks could see their influence eroded which, in their view, would threaten the Islamic Republic itself.

On Wednesday, hardline demonstrators marched through Tehran carrying missile-shaped balloons and placards warning against U.S. economic influence, on the anniversary of radical students storming the U.S. Embassy after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“If the people start thinking our nuclear deal means we can make a deal (with the United States) on other issues, this is a mistake and sedition,” IRGC commander Major-General Mohammad Ali Jafari said on Monday.

By invoking “sedition”, the word used by hardliners to describe a major reformist uprising that the IRGC put down in 2009, Jafari was hinting that the Guards could once again intervene in domestic politics; and his comments coincided with a crackdown on writers and artists accused of “propaganda against the regime”.

BALANCE OF POWER

To Tehran’s foes, though, the messaging is a reminder of a potent asymmetric arsenal that includes missiles, irregular forces and allied militias deployed in regional countries, and fast attack boats that could disrupt shipping in the Gulf.

Furthermore, it serves as proof that the IRGC, which controls all of these unconventional assets, has no intention of giving up its regional influence or allowing Iran to align itself with the U.S.-led regional order.

“We don’t pore over resolutions; it is our duty to expand our power and nobody can give us orders,” IRGC Deputy Commander Hossein Salami said in a televised interview on Oct. 25, responding to allegations that the Emad missile test two weeks earlier may have breached U.N. resolutions.

The IISS noted in its 2015 Military Balance report that Iran’s regular forces, while large, are poorly equipped compared to its rivals and would be unlikely to prevail in a conventional conflict waged outside Iran’s borders.

The air force, comprised largely of U.S.-made jets obtained before the revolution, is particularly weak compared to Iran’s Gulf Arab rivals which have spent billions of dollars on Western fighter aircraft this year alone.

Iran’s missile arsenal

By contrast, Iran’s missile arsenal is the strongest in the region and, while conventional missiles alone do not win wars, potential strikes on population centers or oil facilities are a cause for concern in Gulf Arab countries.

Improving the accuracy of missiles, which is Iran’s current aim, could expand their potential uses to hitting military bases or attacking crucial civilian infrastructure such as water desalination plants, airports or oil export terminals.

A military source in Qatar said Iran’s missile capability was considered the biggest conventional military threat to Gulf Arab countries, as well as U.S. military bases in the region and international shipping routes.

Israel too sees a threat from conventional missile attacks, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said last week, without naming Iran explicitly, and said he thought the nuclear deal had delayed but not removed the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon.

Israel has also expressed concerns that the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon could receive missiles from Iran, which has already supplied the group with smaller unguided rockets, while Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of training the Houthi fighters in Yemen who have seized the country’s stock of Scud missiles.

“While these publicity initiatives may look aggressive, the Iranians are always careful to say that the program is defensive in nature,” said Jeremy Binnie, Middle East Editor at IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly.

Nevertheless, he added, “now that the nuclear deal is in the bag, maybe it’s back to business as usual”.

(Additional reporting by Tom Finn in Doha; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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Russia preparing contract to supply Iran with S-300 missiles: Interfax

Russian state-owned arms exporter Rosoboronexport said on Monday it is preparing a contract to supply Iran with S-300 missile systems, Interfax news agency reported.

(Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Jason Bush)
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Image: Iran’s Qasem Soleimani, Quds Force Commander (Left), Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles (center) and Vladimir Putin

 

Netanyahu: Iran deal gives nuclear weapons to most dangerous terror state

April 12, 2015

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Iran’s path to the nuclear bomb threatens Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Iran would have nuclear weapons capacity under the terms of the framework deal with the six world powers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Saturday night, adding that he hopes the deal will not come to fruition.

“I truly believe that we are also talking about the security of the world,” he said, during a Mimouna celebration in Or Akiva. “The most dangerous terrorist state in the world shouldn’t receive the world’s most dangerous weapons. Therefore, we are committed to try to avoid a bad agreement and replace it with a good agreement.”

Out of the many challenges facing Israel, the greatest is Iran’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons, Netanyahu said.

All the problematic details of the framework agreement, which he warned the international community about in advance, were indeed included in the document, Netanyahu said.

“This deal gives the world’s leading terrorist state a safe path to the bomb that threatens Israel, the Middle East and the world,” Netanyahu said.

“It leaves Israel with significant nuclear capabilities, it doesn’t dismantle them, it preserves them,” Netanyahu said.

The supervision is not serious and there is no control mechanism, Netanyahu said.

Under the framework agreement sanctions would be removed immediately even though Iran continues its aggressive policies against Israel, throughout the Middle East and the world, he said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and other senior US officials are to brief Congress this week on the framework deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, reached earlier this month in Switzerland between Iran and the P5+1 world powers (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus Germany). The final agreement is to be worked out by the end of June.

As an example of how far apart the sides still are, on Thursday Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say for Iran on the deal, ruled out any “extraordinary supervision measures” over nuclear activities and said military sites could not be inspected.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday he would sign a deal only if sanctions were lifted.

“We will not sign any deal unless all sanctions are lifted on the same day…. We want a win-win deal for all parties involved in the nuclear talks,” Rouhani said. “The Iranian nation has been and will be the victor in the negotiations.

“Our main gain in the talks was the fact that US President Barack Obama acknowledged that Iranians will not surrender to bullying, sanctions and threats. It is a triumph for Iran that the first military power in the world has admitted Iranians will not bow to pressure.”

Ambiguities over the lifting of sanctions must be resolved, said Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to Fars News.

“There are ambiguities which need to be made clear and we must realize that this very issue of how the sanctions will be removed can lead to a lack of agreement,” Ali Jafari said.

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes on Friday told reporters in Panama that sanctions would be lifted only gradually and that military sites would have to be inspected.

Rhodes chalked up Tehran’s statements on sanctions and military inspections to the need to play to hard liners in Iran.

The test of the deal is not in the statements Iranians make, but what is written in the document that is expected to be finalized in June, Rhodes said.

“I think it’s very clear and understood that sanctions relief will be phased with respect to Iran; that they will have to conduct certain…take certain steps as a part of earning the continued provision of sanctions relief,” Rhodes said.

He clarified that the past UN Security Council resolutions on Iran would be replaced by a new resolution that would endorse the deal. It would freeze the sanctions, not dismantle them, so that if the deal were violated they could snap back into place, he explained. It would preserve existing sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missiles and sensitive technologies.

The final deal has to be consistent with the framework agreement, he said, adding that otherwise “there won’t be a deal. But I’m confident that there is going to be the ability to work hard and complete this work if Iran continues to show a will to get this done.”

He defended a White House tweet, posted Thursday in favor of the deal, that employed a variation of the cartoon of the Iranian bomb threat displayed by Netanyahu before the UN General Assembly. The White House graphic showed a pair of scissors cutting the bomb’s fuse.

Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium would be eliminated under the first step of the agreement and a stockpile of lower enriched uranium would be mostly eliminated as well, Rhodes said.

“Just as we’re also aiming to cut off the various other pathways to a nuclear weapon that Iran could pursue, so I don’t think anybody should be surprised that the United States and Israel, despite our very strong alliance and friendship and cooperation on many issues, are going to continue to be public in terms of expressing our views of the Iran deal,” he said.

“And we’ll be making our case, just as Prime Minister Netanyahu and his administration have regularly made their views known.”

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told CNN on Saturday morning that a military option remains on the table, should the deal fall apart. He said that bunker-busting bombs, meant to penetrate Iran’s underground facilities, are “ready to go.”

“We have the capability to shut down, sit back, and destroy the Iranian nuclear program and I believe the Iranians know that and understand that,” Carter said, indicating the US’s willingness to utilize high-powered bombs if Tehran does not abide by the deal.

Reuters and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Netanyahu-Iran-deal-gives-nuclear-weapons-to-most-dangerous-terror-state-396796

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