Posts Tagged ‘Revolutionary Guards’

Israel Claims It Destroyed Much of Iran’s Offensive Capability in Syria — Israeli arrogance and Hezbollah may pose the next great danger

May 10, 2018

Israel thwarted Iran’s revenge attack, struck dozens of Iranian military sites ■ Tehran could still use its big gun, Hezbollah, but is likely to reconsider its policy ■ Israeli politicians’ arrogance poses a danger

.Missile fire is seen over Daraa, Syria, May 10, 2018.
Missile fire is seen over Daraa, Syria, May 10, 2018.\ ALAA AL-FAQIR/ REUTERS

This time, the intelligence assessment was spot on. The Iranian reaction to previous airstrikes attributed to Israel arrived from the direction, at the time and in the manner Israel expected.

After a month of operational delays – some of them due to disruptions caused by Israel – at around midnight on Wednesday night, the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force executed its retaliation plan for the death of seven Iranians when the T4 air base in Syria was bombed on April 9.

But the Iranian reaction was a total flop. Four of its missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system and the rest fell in Syrian territory.

Despite that failure, the Israeli reaction was completely disproportionate: Massive bombing of about 50 Iranian targets in Syria, which probably set back Iran’s effort to establish a military presence there by several months.

skip – Iran targets Israel from Syria, Israel responds

Iran targets Israel from Syria, Israel responds – דלג

Iran targets Israel from Syria, Israel responds

>> Israel struck ‘almost all of the Iranian infrastructure in Syria,’ defense chief says

Ostensibly, Israel’s harsh response could cause the Iranians to stop and rethink their moves. Israel has already demonstrated its military and intelligence power with the series of strikes attributed to it in recent months. But the scale of Israel’s reaction early Thursday morning was something else entirely.

That said, arguably it would be better not to get caught up in the self-assurance and arrogance evident in certain reactions Thursday morning on news shows, among lawmakers and on social media.

There are constraints on Iran at this time. First off, it is relatively weak in Syria, and there is the concern that the Trump administration – having just withdrawn the United States from the nuclear agreement with Iran – might do something unexpected. Under extreme circumstances, or just later on, Tehran might whip out its biggest gun, Hezbollah, in which case the conflict could take on a very different form.

skip – Tweet: Illustration of Israeli strike in Syria.

It seems the Israel Defense Forces carried out the directives of the political leaders, and the operational plans, admirably early Thursday morning. Even so, we can only hope the gratuitous reveling in our invincible wondrousness won’t end up reminding us of then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s boasting about Operation Density (aka “Fajr Night”), when the Israel Air Force claimed to have taken out all of Hezbollah’s long-range missile launchers and rockets on the second night of the Second Lebanon War in July 2006, or the euphoric “Churchill speech” in the Knesset that followed four days later.

Israel has acted in Syria exactly as it said it would. For months, the prime minister, defense minister and IDF chief of staff have been saying that Iran establishing a military presence in Syria would cross a line in the sand – something Israel couldn’t live with and would take forceful action to prevent.

The messages were also delivered in previous attacks, starting last September. In April, right after the raid on the Iranian T4 air base attributed to Israel, military sources hinted that the IDF could eradicate Iran’s military presence in Syria if Iran insisted on retaliating.

The Thursday morning attack turned threat into action, even if the airstrikes focused on infrastructure and logistics sites, rather than trying to kill as many Iranian fighters as possible.

Israel has been on the brink in Syria for some time. Meanwhile, the aggressive line it is leading against Iran, with the full consent of the security cabinet and IDF General Staff, is yielding impressive results.

Map of targets of Israeli strike in Syria
Map of targets of Israeli strike in Syria

But this is the very time for sober judgment. It remains unclear what caused a person as experienced as the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force chief, Qassem Soleimani, to execute such a half-baked terrorism plot, when he knew full well that Israel was watching his every move. His failure on Wednesday night does not guarantee that Iran will retreat from its overall plans, or that it will accept the Israeli attacks and not plan further moves on other fronts against Israeli targets, either abroad or on the Lebanese border.

It seems that, first and foremost, the intelligence community is now keeping a eye out for possible retaliatory moves by Hezbollah.

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Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Threaten Israel: ‘Finger’s on the Trigger, Missiles Ready for Launch’ — “The United States has been defeated.”

April 21, 2018

Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami says ‘Israel is surrounded and you have nowhere to escape to except to fall into the sea’

.Iran's President Hassan Rohani reviews a military parade during the 37th anniversary of Iraq's 1980 invasion of Iran, September 22, 2017.
Iran’s President Hassan Rohani reviews a military parade during the 37th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran, September 22, 2017.Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

A senior commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guardsthreatened Israel with destruction on Friday. “The finger is on the trigger and the missiles are ready at any given moment that the enemy conducts something against us, and we will launch them,” said Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, before Friday prayers in Tehran.

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Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami,

As for the American presence in Syria, “We have learned the formula of how to overcome the enemy and can harm his strategic interests anywhere,” added Salami. “The United States has been defeated in Syria because the Americans did not have a clear strategy and policy, and every action they take makes them look ridiculous, like the operation they did a few days ago, because they have no strategy. Today we are much stronger than ever before in all areas.”

>> Why Israel needs to escalate its threats against Iran – right now | Opinion >>

Concerning Israel, Salami added: “We know you very well, you are exposed to great harm because you have no depth, you are surrounded from every direction and you have nowhere to flee except to fall into the sea. Don’t put faith in your military bases because they are in firing range and we can attack them and prevent them [from operating].”

“You are living from the mouth of the snake and the resistance today is much stronger that what it was in the past. Don’t think that the new wars will be like the Second Lebanon War. You saw what the axis of resistance did to the heretic groups [in Syria] and how we succeeded in uprooting them. Don’t place you hope in the United States and Britain, when they arrive you will already have disappeared and so don’t make incorrect calculations,” said Salami.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the treats from Iran saying, “We are certain of our capabilities to protect ourselves with our own power.” Netanyahu made his remarks at a special cabinet meeting held in honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary at Independence Hall in Tel Aviv.

“Israel’s soldiers are prepared for any development and we will fight anyone who tries to harm us,” said Netanyahu. “We will not be deterred by the price, and those who want to kill us will pay the price. The IDF is ready for its mission, and the people will rise up to it.”

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Israel targeted an advanced Iranian air-defense system at the T4 base in Syria the week before in addition to attack drone deployment. Haaretz previously reported that the strike apparently targeted armaments aside from the drones, which could have reduced the Israel Air Force’s freedom of operation in Syrian airspace.

Earlier in the week, a senior Israeli military official admitted to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that Israel targeted T4, adding that “it was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets – both facilities and people.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Iran began bolstering air defenses following an escalation triggered by Iran sending an armed drone into Israeli airspace. Israel shot down the drone and retaliated with strikes in Syria, during which an Israeli F-16 war plane was downed.

The Israeli official told the New York Times that the incident “opened a new period,” adding that “this is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel – not by proxy.”

Israel conducted April 9 strike on Syrian airbase: NYT quotes Israeli military source — The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel

April 16, 2018

Reuters

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel maintained its official silence on Monday over its possible involvement in an April 9 air strike on a Syrian airbase after the New York Times quoted an unnamed Israeli military source as saying Israel had carried out the raid.

Syria and its main ally Russia blamed Israel for the attack, near the city of Homs, which followed reports of a poison gas attack by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces on the rebel-held town of Douma.

Israel, which has often struck Syrian army locations during its neighbor’s seven-year civil war, has neither confirmed nor denied mounting the raid. But Israeli officials said the Tiyas air base was being used by troops from Iran and that Israel would not accept such a presence in Syria of its arch foe.

Iran’s Tansim news agency said seven Iranian military personnel had been killed in the attack, which contributed to a sharp escalation of tensions between the West and Russia.

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Damage at the T4 base in Syria afer the israeli raid.

“(The Tiyas strike) was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people,” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman quoted the Israeli military source as saying.

Friedman described the seven Iranians killed as members of the Qods Force, a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps that oversees operations abroad, and one of them as a commander of a drone unit.

Asked about the claim of Israeli responsibility cited in the New York Times article, which was published on Sunday, an Israeli military spokeswoman said: “There is no comment at this time.”

While acknowledging that it has carried out scores of strikes in Syria against suspect Iranian deployments or arms transfers to Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, Israel generally does not comment on specific missions.

The attack on Tiyas came days before the United States, Britain and France launched 105 missiles targeting what Washington said were three chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for the suspected poison gas attack.

Assad has denied using chemical weapons.

Israeli soldiers taking part in a training session last week in the Golan Heights.CreditJalaa Marey/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Despite the Israeli source’s comment to the New York Times that the killing of Iranians at Tiyas was unprecedented for Israeli missions in Syria, a 2015 air strike there that Hezbollah blamed on Israel killed an Iranian general along with several of the Lebanese guerrillas.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Gareth Jones

See also:

The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel

NYT: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/15/opinion/war-syria-iran-israel.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fopinion&action=click&contentCollection=opinion&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=7&pgtype=sectionfront

What Did Israel Attack in Syria: Air Force Compound Under Exclusive Iranian Control

April 11, 2018

The base, known as T4, is home to Russian and Syrian contingents; Israel assesses that Tehran’s activity is known to Assad but that he doesn’t halt it despite the risk to his forces

The Syrian airbase near Homs that sustained an airstrike Monday night is where Iran is trying to set up a large air force compound under its exclusive control.

Syria, Iran and Russia all blamed Israel for the strike, which killed at least four advisors from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force. Arab media reports said one was a colonel with a senior position in the Revolutionary Guards’ drone operation in Syria. The Lebanese television station Al-Manar, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, reported seven Iranians killed, and the true number could be even greater.

 Image result for T4 air base, after israel attack, hangar, photos, April 2018

In addition to the Revolutionary Guards, the large base, known as T4, hosts contingents of the Syrian and Russian air forces. The Iranians, who operate independently, are relatively far away from the Russians; they control the base’s western and northern sides. That’s apparently why Russia’s statements specified that the airstrike hit the western side of the base.

TwitterPicture of the targeted Iranian base in Syria, according to Iranian media.
Picture of the targeted Iranian base in Syria, according to Iranian media.Fars News Agency

On February 10, after an Iranian drone was downed inside Israeli territory, the Israeli air force bombed the drone’s command post, located at T4. According to foreign media reports, that strike also killed some Iranians, though that time, Iran itself didn’t announce the deaths.

Both strikes, coupled with a series of international media reports quoting “Western intelligence officials,” reveal that Iran is trying to establish a large-scale drone program in Syria as part of its effort to expand its military presence there.

But alongside Russia’s protests to Israel over the fact that it views both strikes as endangering its personnel, there is also apparently some tension between Russia and Iran. American intelligence sources say that Iran even moved its people from T4 to a Syrian airbase near Palmyra, far away from the area where Russia operates, for several weeks. It’s possible that the Russians threatened to stop arms shipments from Iran to Damascus if Iran didn’t do so.

>> Israel is now directly confronting Iran in Syria | Analysis 

Nevertheless, Iran recently returned to T4 and continues to deploy its Revolutionary Guards elsewhere in central Syria, including near the Damascus international airport. Israel believes all this has been done with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s knowledge, and that he hasn’t tried to dissuade the Iranians from such activities, even though they put his own forces at risk.

The T-4 base, near Palmyra, that was attacked.
The T-4 base, near Palmyra, that was attacked.Google / DigitalGlobe

Israel doesn’t yet have concrete evidence that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons to slaughter civilians in rebel-held Douma, near Damascus, last weekend, but it assigns high credibility to the claims that there was a chemical attack and that Assad’s forces were responsible for it. There were reportedly two attacks at the site, one using chlorine and one using a nerve gas, possibly sarin.

An analysis of footage of the dead and wounded shows clearly that some were hit by nerve gas. Israel doesn’t believe the Syrian, Russian and Iranian claim that the rebels forged evidence of the attack, while the chance that the rebels themselves accidently used chemical weapons against civilians in an area under their control seems very slim.

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Maintaining and using such weapons is relatively difficult, and the rebels in that area – the northern and eastern suburbs of Damascus – aren’t known to have such capabilities. In contrast, an Israeli Foreign Ministry statement denouncing the use of chemical weapons said the Assad regime recently resumed making such weapons.

The Syrian army has almost finished conquering the rebel enclaves in this area. The Syrians, backed by heavy Russian aerial bombardments, have mounted massive assaults on rebel-held neighborhoods to pressure them into signing surrender agreements.

>>Top Israeli defense officials push for offensive approach in Syria against Iran  Russia’ tough rhetoric shows that Israel is losing its leeway with the Kremlin | Analysis 

But for the first time in years, the Syrians aren’t noticeably relying on Shi’ite militias affiliated with Iran. Some of those militias have been assigned other tasks, including maintaining control of areas that have already been captured, like the northern city of Aleppo.

In contrast, Hezbollah’s elite units, including its Radwan commando force, are sent into battle whenever the Syrian effort runs into trouble. They are also assigned to protect assets vital to the regime in Damascus and the Alawite region in northwestern Syria. Hezbollah has a limited presence in southern Syria as well, and Israel suspects this is part of Iran’s future plans to create military friction with Israel along the border in the Golan Heights.

Israeli military forces in northern Golan Heights.
Israeli military forces in northern Golan Heights. Gil Eliahu

After they finish the fight in northern and eastern Damascus, Assad’s forces are expected to turn on the last major pocket of resistance near the capital: the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk in southern Damascus. The Islamic State still maintains an active presence in this area.

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Later, regime forces are expected to mount a major offensive in southern Syria – in Daraa, near the Jordanian border, and probably also in the Syrian part of the Golan, near Israel’s border. Israel’s assumption is that the regime will make every effort to regain effective control of most of the Syrian Golan, and that its offensive, backed by Russia and Iran, will continue.

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-the-target-of-the-strike-on-syria-was-the-iranian-air-force-compound-1.5990918

Iranian Death Toll in Syria Strike Attributed to Israel Rises to 7, Including Top Drone Commander

April 10, 2018

The bodies of the Iranians, described as military advisers, had been flown back to Iran and funerals would take place later on Tuesday, Iranian media said

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Syria's T-4 air base near Homs.
Syria’s T-4 air base near Homs.Google Earth

Seven Iranian military personnel were killed in Sunday’s air strike on a Syrian air base, Tasnim news agency said, almost double the number originally reported.

Iran’s Fars news agency previously reported that four Iranians were killed in the air strike. Media outlets associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps named the four dead, which included a senior officer in Iran’s unmanned aerial vehicle program.

skip – Twitter post by FDD’s Iran Project naming four Iranian killed in strikes on T-4 air base in Syria

T

Syria’s government and its allies Russia and Iran have accused Israel of carrying out the attack on the Tiyas, or T-4, air base near Homs – something that Israel has not confirmed or denied. The attack was originally attributed to Israel by the Russian Defense Ministry.

skip – Raw: Social media video shows missile over Syria

Raw: Social media video shows missile over Syria – דלג

>> Syria Airstrike Attributed to Israel Was Attempt to Curtail Iranian Air Power | Analysis <<

The bodies of the Iranians, described as military advisers, had been flown back to Iran and funerals would take place later on Tuesday, Tasnim said. Earlier Iranian media reports said four personnel were killed.

The attack took place hours after U.S. President Donald Trump warned there would be a “big price to pay” following the reports of a poison gas attack on the Syrian rebel-held town of Douma. Syria’s government has denied any involvement in that attack.

>> Top Israeli Defense Officials Push for Offensive Approach in Syria Against Iran | Analysis <<

“It seems the U.S. government is looking for an excuse for military intervention,” Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said as he arrived in Brazil early on Tuesday, according to state media.

“Iran’s stance on chemical weapons is clear and we condemn any use of them against any target,” Zarif added.

>> Russia’s Tough Rhetoric on Syria, Palestinians Is a Warning Sign for Israel | Analysis <<

The Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s most powerful military force, have been fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad for several years. More than 1,000 Iranians have been killed in Syria’s civil war, including senior members of the Guards.

https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/iran/iranian-death-toll-in-syria-strike-attributed-to-israel-rises-to-seven-1.5989375?utm_source=Push_Notification&utm_medium=web_push&utm_campaign=General

Europe Will Now Decide if the Iran Deal Survives

April 2, 2018

France, the U.K. and Germany can accept Trump’s conditions or kill the agreement.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Md., Feb. 24, 2017.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Md., Feb. 24, 2017. PHOTO: JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS
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If you heard a series of loud booms on March 22, they probably came from the exploding heads of many in the American and European political elite, following the appointment of John Bolton as White House national security adviser. With the ascension of this “hawk,” President Obama’s nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic of Iran appears to be on life support. Whether the deal survives is effectively Europe’s choice, but Mr. Trump must be prepared to accept a real fix if it’s offered.

On Jan. 12, Mr. Trump laid out three conditions for the Europeans to meet for the U.S. to remain in the nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. First, eliminate the provisions under which key nuclear restrictions expire over time. Second, constrain Tehran’s nuclear-capable long-range missile program. Finally, allow for the inspection of military sites where the regime conducted clandestine nuclear activities in the past and may be doing so now. If the Europeans do not agree to these demands by May 12, Mr. Trump will impose powerful economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

The U.S., France, the U.K. and Germany negotiated the 2015 deal, along with Iran, China and Russia. Beijing and Moscow aren’t likely to agree to a fix. But the Europeans are another story: They are massively invested in the U.S. and remain critical business partners for the Iranians. Europe is exposed to American secondary sanctions against Iran, and it has economic leverage over Tehran. Europeans also fear U.S. or Israeli military action against the Islamic Republic.

The recent trans-Atlantic talks have included how and when economic sanctions would be reimposed if Iran violates key red lines. The two sides also have been defining illegitimate commerce with the Islamic Republic. These discussions have focused on companies with ties to parties that control Iran’s economy, including the supreme leader, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the clerical establishment, as well as state and military companies.

European and American negotiators are also studying sanctions specifically targeted against the Revolutionary Guards, the praetorians of the Iranian regime. Sanctions on Hezbollah, the first and favorite foreign-born child of the Islamic revolution and Iran’s most effective Shiite militia in the Syrian civil war, are also being discussed. Trans-Atlantic measures against Iranian cyberwarfare and interference with maritime shipping remain on the table.

Until Mr. Bolton’s announcement, European negotiators were digging in on key aspects of these talks. While showing some flexibility on Iran’s long-range missiles and military-site inspections, they refused to budge in any meaningful way on sunset provisions. Germany has been particularly intransigent on this issue, as well as on Washington’s call for Europe to designate Hezbollah’s military and political wings as a terrorist organization—a longstanding and bipartisan American request. This resistance is even stranger given that Hezbollah has engaged in terrorism on European soil.

France, the U.K. and Germany also have refused to join the U.S. in designating the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization, which the Trump administration did in October. And they have resisted deploying the most powerful sanctions proposed to target Iran’s missile program. Tehran’s short-, medium- and intermediate-range missiles threaten U.S. forces in the Middle East and America’s closest regional allies.

There is a lot riding on these talks, as Tehran is moving toward regional dominance. It has shown its willingness to deploy its deadly forces and foreign Shiite militias abroad. The Islamic Republic continues to develop easy-to-hide advanced centrifuges and long-range ballistic missiles. Its economy will be increasingly immunized against American sanctions. This should be as unacceptable to the Europeans as it is to the U.S.

France, the U.K. and Germany are now in a bind. They are terrified that concessions to Washington could prompt Iran to walk away, leading to a full-blown nuclear crisis. They watched President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry cave to Iranian nuclear blackmail, which was Tehran’s negotiation strategy in 2015. But now they face an equally daunting challenge from Mr. Trump and his soon-to-be national security adviser, who seem prepared to walk away from the nuclear deal without even trying to fix it.

For the Europeans the least awful option should be to fix the nuclear deal. At least in private, they found it to be far short of the brilliant diplomatic achievement that Mr. Kerry touts. They will have to swallow some pride, as their dislike for Mr. Trump is profound. But if they don’t act, Mr. Bolton will ensure that the president walks away in May.

Do the Europeans really want to have a nasty trans-Atlantic row over the clerical regime? They ought to want to make this too good a deal for Messrs. Trump and Bolton to turn down.

If the president rejects such an agreement, the Europeans will have negotiated in good faith. But, if they won’t go far enough to strike an accord with Washington, then they will in part own the consequences that follow.

Mr. Dubowitz is chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Why Did Yemen’s Iran-Backed Houthis Fire Missiles Into Saudi Arabia?

March 31, 2018

Forbes

 Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

An image grab taken from a video handed out by Yemen’s Huthi rebels on March 27, 2018 shows what appears to be Huthi military forces launching a ballistic missile on March 25 reportedly from the capital Sanaa. / AFP/Getty Images

Common sense would suggest Iran toning down its language and measures as domestic and international pressures increase.

One cannot claim Tehran’s rulers lack common sense, as many accused Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi. The Iranian regime has been in power for four decades and their mentality hinges on pragmatism with the sole objective of maintaining their existence to the utmost extent.

Sunday night, local time, Saudi civilians became the target of seven ballistic missiles fired by the Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen.

“The Iran-aligned Houthi rebels fired three missiles at Riyadh and four others at the southern cities of Khamis Mushait, Jizan and Najran,” according to reports.

Saudi Patriot missile air defense batteries were able to destroy at least one projectile heading for an urban area, reports indicate. These batteries are programmable to allow missiles headed for remote areas lacking civilian population to hit the ground, preventing the unnecessary deployment of costly Patriot missiles.

This turn of events is resulting in a long slate of negative international reactions.

The United Nations, a long slate of Middle East countries, the United States and European Union have condemned the missile attacks, recommitting their support for the Kingdom.

London, despite its history of seeking to maintain ties with Tehran and expanding economic relations, grilled the latest developments in strong terms.

“We question why Iran is spending significant revenue in a country with which it has no real historical ties or interests,” reads a joint statement from Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt.

The text also calls for Iran to stop transferring weapons into Yemen. This is a litmus test for Tehran to prove it favors ending the violence and establishing peace in the Arab World’s poorest country. A test the Iranian regime has and will continue to fail, considering its nature of trekking from one crisis to another.

In line with this argument, Iran’s regular army chief commander again voiced threats of total annihilation against Israel.

“We will finish off Israel’s life within less than 25 years,” said Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi referring to a comment by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

This goes alongside the necessity for senior Iranian regime officials to save face in times of increasing domestic unrest parallel to elevating international isolation.

“We must choose between hard & harder. If we don’t accept the hard methods, we will have to succumb to more difficult circumstances,” said Iran’s Deputy Trade Minister Ali Sarzaeem.

Such comments from Iran come as the Trump administration undergoes major reshuffling, with analysts believing increasing pressure on Iran is a major focus.

After more than a year’s work with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump’s move to appoint CIA Director Mike Pompeo as his top diplomat is raising eyebrows across the globe, including most importantly in Tehran. Tillerson is well-known for convincing Trump, along with former National Security H.R. McMaster, to stick to the controversial Iran nuclear deal for a year.

With a new Secretary of State, and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton set to take over as National Security Advisor, many believe the coffin is completing for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the Iran nuclear agreement is formally known.

Security Studies Group@SecStudiesGrp

Iran deal was always going to collapse because it was built on unsustainable ambiguities. Obama gave Iran more than they could politically sell in the US so they built language into the deal that made sweeping commitments & gave them plausible deniability w/Congress & journalists

Security Studies Group@SecStudiesGrp

As @omriceren explains, “the JCPOA gave Iran too much in exchange for too little. Iran had been granted legalized nuclear and ballistic-missile programs, hundreds of billions of dollars and diplomatic and military space to expand across the Middle East.” https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/can-iran-deal-fixed/ 

Can the Iran Deal Be Fixed? – Commentary Magazine

President Trump and his administration are approaching a make-or-break May deadline for deciding whether to stay in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Lawmakers, analysts, and journalists have been strugg…

commentarymagazine.com

Tehran understands the unfolding situation is completely against its short- and long-term interests. Prior to the recent visit of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to Tehran, the West was seeking major curbing of Iran’s ballistic missile program and Middle East meddling. Tehran turning down that offer and taking into consideration the latest string of developments, the entire JCPOA now hangs in the balance.

Despite what you might read in mainstream media or hear from Iranian officials thumping their chests, Tehran desperately needs the JCPOA to remain intact.

Domestic circumstances are changing significantly following the December protests surge across Iran. Tehran’s rulers understand better than anyone their apparatus lacks the capacity to withstand a return to pre-JCPOA sanctions. The status quo is taking its toll on the regime’s day-to-day affairs, let alone with sanctions suffocating the economy.

For this very reason Iran’s regime is testing waters, such as through increasing hostilities in Yemen. Tehran seeks to maintain a poker face and claim more such steps will come if the U.S. decides to exit the JCPOA. This goes alongside previous claims of relaunching 20% uranium enrichment in a matter of 48 hours.

Although what needs understanding, as Europe is beginning to, is that Trump is not Obama. And Iran’s regime is far weaker due to the recent uprising, alongside growing intensifying internal disputes.

As a result, the circumstances are ripe to increase pressure on Tehran with actions such as sanctioning the mullahs’ Central Bank and crippling the Revolutionary Guards.

The likes of these actions, and not foreign military intervention, will place Washington and the West shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people in their struggle to set aside the mullahs and finally establish freedom and democracy.

The result of decades of appeasement is leaving no option but a firm policy vis-à-vis Tehran, and Washington is patching all loopholes.

Tehran comprehends these circumstances. If the mullahs’ back down from measures such as the recent Houthis’ missile attack, demands across the board will only increase.

I am a political/rights activist focusing on Iran & the Middle East. I also write in Al Arabiya English, and contributed to The Federalist, The Hill and Raddington Report. I tweet @HeshmatAlavi

https://www.forbes.com/sites/heshmatalavi/2018/03/29/why-did-yemens-iran-backed-houthis-fire-missiles-into-saudi-arabia/#38e2216f345a

Iran mocks Saudi threats but worries about destabilisation

March 27, 2018

AFP

© afp/AFP / by Eric Randolph | Iranian soldiers march during a military parade on September 22, 2017 in Tehran

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iranian officials and analysts on Tuesday rejected claims of supplying weapons to Yemeni rebels and mocked Saudi warnings of retaliation for a weekend missile attack.

But while deriding the threat of direct Saudi military action, conservative analysts in Tehran did express worry about what they said were increasingly coordinated efforts by the United States and its allies to destabilise the country.

The latest flashpoint in the ever-volatile region came on Sunday when Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen fired seven missiles into Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh said the missiles were Iranian-made and vowed “to respond against Iran at the right time and right place”.

Iran supports the Huthis, but denies any military ties.

“The aim of such claims by Saudi Arabia is to divert public opinion from the atrocities (they) are committing in Yemen,” said Yadollah Javani, a political officer for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, according to the conservative Tasnim news agency.

“The reality is that the nation of Yemen is standing up to Saudi aggression and has managed to build defence tools by relying on its own capabilities, including missile power, and this is the very thing Saudi Arabia never imagined,” he added.

Javani said it was impossible to send weapons to Yemen due to the blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition, which has been engaged in an aerial bombing campaign against the Huthis since 2015.

Analysts in Tehran dismissed the threats from Riyadh, saying the Yemen conflict had exposed Saudi Arabia’s weakness.

“The Saudis are incapable of defeating one of the poorest countries in the world,” said Mohammad Reza Marandi, a political analyst at the University of Tehran.

“The people of Yemen are fighting the Saudis in their slippers. They don’t even have boots. Even though the Saudis have hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons from Western countries to massacre these people and impose starvation, they have failed completely,” he added.

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen says it does what it can to avoid civilian casualties and investigate civilian deaths, but has been accused by rights groups of possible war crimes.

– Uniting anti-Iran elements –

Military confrontation aside, there are concerns in Iran over what appears to be the increasingly coordinated attempts to target Tehran by Gulf Arab monarchies, the United States and Israel.

“What I am concerned about is the Saudis’ intensified efforts to unite all anti-Iran elements including non-state actors… with the political and military support of its allies, particularly the US,” said Mojtaba Mousavi, a conservative political analyst in Tehran.

He cited the alleged support Riyadh has given to anti-Iran jihadist militias and the exiled opposition group, the People’s Mujahideen, considered a terrorist organisation by Tehran and blamed for stoking recent protests in the country.

“While a direct military war against Iran, either by Saudi or the US, is unlikely, there are efforts to destabilise Iran by empowering militia groups and increasing economic pressure on its society,” said Mousavi.

US President Donald Trump has threatened to walk away from a 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran when it next comes up for renewal in May.

Mousavi said the economic pressure on Iran was aimed at reducing public support for the Revolutionary Guards and their ballistic missile programme.

Widespread protests in Iran in December and January included chants against Iran’s overseas interventions, which some Iranians see as draining much-needed money from the struggling economy.

Iran’s enemies are seeking “to persuade the Iranian government and people to decrease the role of the IRGC (Revolutionary Guards) and their military capabilities like the missile programme,” said Mousavi.

Such efforts are not new, he said, but “a coalition of the US, Israel and Arab states is what makes it different from the past.”

There are recurrent rumours that Washington has worked to broker ties between the Gulf monarchies and Israel — who still have no diplomatic relations — in order to better confront common foe Iran.

European governments have meanwhile sought to salvage the nuclear deal by putting fresh pressure on Iran to curb the Guards’ regional activities and missile tests, in the hope this will appease Trump.

Iran’s conservatives worry that President Hassan Rouhani, who has already clashed with the Guards over their intrusion into the economic sphere, is poorly placed to confront this outside pressure since he has staked his legacy on efforts to rebuild trade ties with Europe.

Rouhani “relies too much on friendly diplomatic initiatives which may lead him to compromise on these serious issues,” said Mousavi.

by Eric Randolph

Torture, Suicide In Iran’s Prisons — “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”

February 22, 2018

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Above:  President Hassan Rouhani

By ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN

The New York Times
FEB. 22, 2018

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons,” Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote in “The House of the Dead,” his semi-autobiographical novel about inmates in a Siberian prison camp. Iran continues to fail the Dostoyevsky test.

The Evin Prison in Tehran, where a long list of leaders, intellectuals and journalists have been detained over the years, added to its infamy this month with the so-called suicide of Kavous Seyed Emami, a leading environmentalist and academic.

Dr. Seyed Emami, 63, who came from an old clerical family, was a dual Iranian and Canadian citizen. He had received his doctorate from the University of Oregon and returned to Iran in the early 1990s to teach sociology at Imam Sadeq University in Tehran, where Iran’s future elite is educated.

He helped found the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Iran’s most important environmental organization, with the encouragement of the United Nations and the Islamic Republic, especially Kaveh Madani, the deputy head of the country’s Department of Environmental Affairs.

On Jan. 24, Dr. Seyed Emami, Mr. Madani and Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American businessman, were arrested. Dr. Seyed Emami was accused of spying for the United States and Mossad. Two weeks after his arrest, prison authorities informed his family about his death. “This person was one of the accused, and given he knew there is a torrent of confessions against him and he confessed himself, unfortunately he committed suicide in prison,” Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, a prosecutor in Tehran, told an Iranian news agency.

Dr. Seyed Emami’s relatives raised doubts about the claim that he committed suicide, but the regime forced them to bury him without an independent autopsy.

Dr. Seyed Emami became a victim of the political struggle between President Hassan Rouhani and moderate reformers who have become increasingly concerned about environmental issues, especially dams, and die-hard conservatives among the Revolutionary Guards who are reluctant to slow down such rural projects.

When Hassan Firuzabadi, a former chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces and a military adviser to the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was asked by the Iranian press about the arrests of the environmentalists, he spoke about Western spies using lizards and chameleons that could “attract atomic waves” to spy on Iran’s nuclear program.

The increasingly common “suicides” by prisoners stem from Iran’s inordinate reliance on “confessions” in convicting defendants.

Iranian judges treat “confessions” as the “proof of proofs,” the “mother of proofs” and the “best evidence of guilt.” The use of forced confessions began in the last years of the shah’s rule, in the 1970s, but drastically increased after the Iranian revolution in 1979. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini regarded them as the highest proof of guilt.

I analyzed numerous legal cases and around 300 prison memoirs for a book about forced confessions. To obtain such “confessions,” interrogators in Iran rely heavily on psychological and physical pressures. They — like fellow interrogators elsewhere — scrupulously avoid the word torture (“shekanjeh” in Persian). In fact, the Iranian Constitution explicitly outlaws shekanjeh. Instead, interrogators describe what they do as “ta’zir” (punishment). Innumerable prison memoirs detail this process. It can be described as Iran’s version of “enhanced interrogation.”

Prisoners are asked a question, and if their answer is unsatisfactory, they are sentenced to a specific number of lashings on the ground that they had lied. These whippings can continue until the desired answer is given — and committed to paper. According to a letter circulated by some 40 members of Parliament, hallucinatory drugs now supplement these traditional methods.

In the 1980s and the 1990s, detainees were routinely shown on television reading their confessions, but the broadcasts were mostly stopped after most Iranians concluded that they were staged. The confessions continue to be used in court, however.

Detainees have a limited number of options in the face of interrogation. They can submit, even before the instruments of enhanced interrogation are displayed. They can undergo prolonged agony, which may lead to death, if inadvertently — interrogators want a confession, not a badly damaged corpse, which can cause political embarrassment. The detainees can accept a plea bargain and “admit” to a lesser transgression in return for release or a lighter sentence.

After the disputed presidential elections in 2009 in which the right-wing populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prevailed over reformist opponents, many — including visitors from abroad — gave “exclusive” interviews to the regime press confessing to sundry transgressions, especially helping foreign powers conspiring to bring about “regime change.”

Detainees have also agreed to public confessions and tried to insert phrases that undermined the whole ritual. A prisoner — later executed — declared in 1983 that he had been recruited into the K.G.B., the Soviet intelligence agency upon his arrival in Russia in 1951. He would have been aware that anyone versed in the topic would know the K.G.B. was created three years later, in 1954.

A former Khomeini follower said in his public confession in 1987 that he had resorted to black magic and the occult to spread cancerous cells among clerical leaders he opposed.

In 1984, leaders of the Communist Tudeh Party who had been arrested after criticizing Iran’s war with Iraq, vociferously thanked their “benevolent guards” for “opening their eyes,” providing them with books that debunked their previous ideology, and transforming prisons into “universities” and “educational institutions.” One stressed that the prison wardens had given them “shalaqha-e haqayeq,” or lashes of truth.

They confessed to “high treason” for adopting alien ideologies and failing to study properly the history of their country. They also held themselves “personally responsible” for “treasonable mistakes” made by the left in the distant past, such as during the constitutional revolution of 1906, which took place long before they were born.

Earlier reformers, led by President Mohammad Khatami, tried between 1997 and 2005 to pass legislation to prevent the use of torture in prison. But such attempts were swept away with the election of Mr. Ahmadinejad in 2005. President Rouhani, now embarrassed by the arrest of his environmentalist allies, is eager to channel the concerns of reformers about the use of torture. He has supported the 40 deputies who have protested prison “suicides” and has set up a committee to investigate the death of Dr. Seyed Emami. Time will show whether this committee has any teeth.

Irrespective of the findings of Mr. Rouhani’s committee, what Iran needs is a radical reform of its legal procedures to ensure that its courts will stop the use of “confessions” and instead rely on verifiable independent and collaborative evidence.

Ervand Abrahamian, an emeritus professor of history at City University of New York, is the author of “Tortured Confessions: Prisons and Public Recantations in Modern Iran.”

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5 officers killed in overnight Sufi protests in Iran

February 20, 2018

AFP

© STR/AFP/File | Iranian riot police are seen on a street of Tehran in June 2009

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iranian police said Tuesday the number of security officers killed in overnight protests by a Sufi sect had risen to five, with around 300 people arrested.The demonstrations by the Gonabadi Sufi order, known as dervishes, turned into running clashes with the police in northern Tehran on Monday.

Footage on state television showed a bus ploughing into a group of policemen in northern Tehran, which police said led to three deaths.

On Tuesday, police spokesman Saeed Montazer Almehdi said two members of the hardline Basij militia, which is linked to the Revolutionary Guards, were also killed.

“Two of our dear Basijis were martyred by the superstitious cult,” he told the semi-official ISNA news agency.

Montazer Almehdi said “more than 300” people had been arrested, including the driver of the bus.

The Gonabadis, one of the country’s largest Sufi sects, accuse the Iranian state of frequent harassment and discrimination.

Sufism is an accepted branch of Islam in Iran, but the practice is frowned upon by many conservative clerics. Officials and the media routinely refer to them as “deceived elements” or a cult.

Montazer Almehdi said police had struggled to talk the protesters down from the roofs of houses and that the protests had not been brought under control until late into the night.

“Thirty police officers on the scene were wounded,” he told ISNA. “A number of rioters were also wounded last night.”

A website linked to the group indicated the protests were linked to the recent arrest of members of the sect and police efforts to establish security check points near the home of their leader, Noor Ali Tabandeh.