Iran: UK Denies Sending Any Mediators to Iran as Rouhani Says Ready to Negotiate

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

UK Denies Sending Any Mediators to Iran as Rouhani Says Ready to Negotiate

Wednesday, 24 July, 2019 – 10:30
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia, 14 February 2019. Sergei Chirikov/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
Britain has not sent any representatives to Tehran, a British source said after Iranian media reported that a mediator had been sent to discuss the freeing of a British-flagged tanker seized by Iran.

“We are not aware of any representatives being sent as mediators to Iran,” a British diplomatic source said.

The UK is in a tense standoff with Tehran over British authorities’ seizure of an Iranian tanker in early July and Iran’s detention of a UK-flagged ship in the Gulf last week.

Wednesday’s denial came as Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran is ready for “just” negotiations but not if they mean surrender.

Rouhani seemed to be referring to possible negotiations with the United States.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year and reimposed sanctions on it, but has said he is willing to hold talks with Tehran.

“As long as I have the responsibility for the executive duties of the country, we are completely ready for just, legal and honest negotiations to solve the problems,” Rouhani said, according to his official website.

“But at the same time we are not ready to sit at the table of surrender under the name of negotiations.”

Amid soaring tensions in the region, Trump said in late June that he had called off strikes against Iran at the last minute in response to the destruction of a US drone.

A series of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf region, as well as Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker in retaliation for Britain impounding one of its own vessels in Gibraltar, have turned the area into a powder keg.

ISIS releases video claiming to show Iran parade attack gunmen

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Islamic State releases video claiming to show Iran parade attack gunmen

Assailants disguised as soldiers attacked annual military parade in city of Ahwaz, killing at least 29, including women and children

Still form a video released by the Islamic State affiliated Amak news agencyy purporting to show the perpetrators of a shooting attack in a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahwaz which left 29 people dead (Twitter)

Still form a video released by the Islamic State affiliated Amak news agency purporting to show the perpetrators of a shooting attack in a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahwaz which left 29 people dead (Twitter)

A news agency affiliated with the Islamic State terrorist group released a video Sunday which purports to show the perpetrators of a shooting attack at a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahwaz which left at least 29 people dead, including women and children, and wounded dozens more, some of them critically.

The footage, released by the Amaq news agency, shows three men in a vehicle, apparently on their way to carry out the attack.

“We are Muslims, they are heretics,” one of the men can be heard saying in the video. “We will kill them with a guerilla attack, inshallah.”

Gunmen disguised as soldiers on Saturday attacked the annual Iranian military parade in the country’s oil-rich southwest, marking the anniversary of the start of its 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

The attack saw gunfire sprayed into a crowd of marching soldiers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, bystanders, and government officials watching from a nearby riser.

Iranian officials blamed a number of different targets, including Israel, the US, and regional-arch enemy Saudi Arabia, while two groups — the Islamic State and an anti-government Arab group — claimed responsibility.

But in the hours following the attack, state media and government officials seemed to come to the consensus that Arab separatists in the region were responsible.

An image made available by Iran’s Mehr News agency on September 22, 2018, shows an Iranian soldier carrying a child at the site of an attack on a military parade in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz, that was marking the anniversary of the outbreak of its devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. (AFP/ MEHR NEWS AND AFP PHOTO / Mehdi Pedramkhou)

Ahvaz lies in Khuzestan, a province bordering Iraq that has a large ethnic Arab community and has seen separatist violence in the past that Iran has blamed on its regional rivals. The separatists, however, previously only conducted pipeline bombings at night or hit-and-run attacks.

The separatists accuse Iran’s Persian-dominated government of discriminating against its ethnic Arab minority. Iran has blamed its Mideast archival, the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for funding their activity. State media in Saudi Arabia did not immediately acknowledge the attack.

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in the capital Tehran on September 22, 2018. (AFP / STR)

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused US-backed Gulf states of being behind the attack, saying in a statement that “this crime is a continuation of the plots of the regional states that are puppets of the United States.”

“Their goal is to create insecurity in our dear country,” he added.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also immediately blamed the attack on regional countries and their “US masters,” calling the gunmen “terrorists recruited, trained, armed, and paid” by foreign powers. The claim further raises tensions in the Mideast as Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers is in jeopardy after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord.

“Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

Terrorists recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime have attacked Ahvaz. Children and journos among casualties. Iran holds regional terror sponsors and their US masters accountable for such attacks. Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, ordered the country’s security forces to identify those behind the attack, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency, and warned of an aggressive response.

“The response of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the smallest threat will be crushing,” Rouhani said on his official website. “Those who give intelligence and propaganda support to these terrorists must answer for it.”

Earlier Saturday, a spokesman for the Iranian army blamed Israel and the US for the attack.

Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi told the state news agency IRNA, that the gunmen who opened fire at the parade were “not from Daesh [Islamic State] or other groups fighting [Iran’s] Islamic system … but are linked to America and [Israel’s intelligence agency] Mossad.”

Shekarchi also claimed “the terrorists have undergone training in two countries in the Persian Gulf.”

The Islamic State terrorist group had earlier claimed responsibility for the deadly attack. Citing a security source, its propaganda agency Amaq said: “Islamic State fighters attacked a gathering of Iranian forces in the city of Ahvaz in southern Iran.”

An Iranian soldier runs past injured colleagues lying on the ground at the scene of an attack on a military parade in Ahvaz, September 22, 2018. (AFP/ ISNA / MORTEZA JABERIAN)

In a further claim, Yaghub Hur Totsari, a spokesman for the Arab Struggle Movement to Liberate Ahvaz, told Reuters the Ahvaz National Resistance umbrella organization of Arab anti-government armed movements was behind the attack, but did not specify which particular group carried it out.

Shekarchi said the dead included a young girl and a former serviceman in a wheelchair.

“Of the four terrorists, three were sent to hell at the scene, while the fourth who had been wounded and arrested went to hell moments ago due to his severe wounds,” Shekarchi told state television.

Khuzestan deputy governor Ali-Hossein Hosseinzadeh told the semi-official ISNA news agency that “eight to nine” troops were among those killed, as well as a journalist.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif listens during a meeting between the Iranian president and the North Korean foreign minister in the capital Tehran on August 8, 2018. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

The Revolutionary Guard is a paramilitary force answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Guard also has vast holdings in Iran’s economy.

Guard spokesman Gen. Ramazan Sharif also said that an Arab separatist group funded by Sunni arch-rival Saudi Arabia carried out the attack.

“Those who opened fire on civilians and the armed forces have links to the Ahvazi movement,” Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif told ISNA. “They are funded by Saudi Arabia and attempted to cast a shadow over the Iranian armed forces.”

State television immediately described the assailants as “takfiri gunmen,” a term previously used to describe the Islamic State group. Iran faced a bloody assault last year from the Islamic State group, and Arab separatists in the region have attacked oil pipelines there in the past.

Saturday’s rally was one of many in cities across Iran held to mark the anniversary of the launch of the war with massive Iraqi air strikes.

In this photo provided by the Iranian Students’ News Agency, ISNA, Iranian armed forces members and civilians take shelter in a shooting during a military parade marking the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran, in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran, September 22, 2018. (AP Photo/ISNA, Behrad Ghasemi)

A rare attack

The attack came as rows of Revolutionary Guard soldiers marched down Ahvaz’s Quds (Jerusalem) Boulevard, which, like many other places around the country saw an annual parade marking the start of Iran’s long 1980s war with Iraq. Images captured by state television showed journalists and onlookers turn to look toward the first shots, then the rows of marchers broke as soldiers and civilians sought cover under sustained gunfire.

“Oh God! Go, go, go! Lie down! Lie down!” one man screamed as a woman fled with her baby.

In the aftermath, paramedics tended to the wounded as soldiers, some bloodied in their dress uniforms, helped their comrades to ambulances.

“We suddenly realized that some armed people wearing fake military outfits started attacking the comrades from behind [the stage] and then opened fire on women and children,” an unnamed wounded soldier told state TV. “They were just aimlessly shooting around and did not have a specific target.”

Saturday’s attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Islamic State group assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran. That attack had at that point been the only one by the Sunni extremists inside of Shiite Iran, which has been deeply involved in the wars in Iraq and Syria where the militants once held vast territory.

In this photo provided by the Iranian Students’ News Agency, ISNA, Revolutionary Guard members carry a wounded comrade after a shooting during their parade marking the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran, in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran, September 22, 2018. (AP Photo/ISNA, Shayan Haji Najaf)

At least 18 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in the 2017 attack that saw gunmen carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles and explosives storm the parliament complex where a legislative session had been in progress, starting an hours-long siege. Meanwhile, gunmen and suicide bombers also struck outside Khomeini’s mausoleum on Tehran’s southern outskirts. Khomeini led the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah to become Iran’s first supreme leader until his death in 1989.

In the last decade, such attacks have been incredibly rare. In 2009 more than 40 people, including six Guard commanders, were killed in a suicide attack by Sunni extremists in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province.

READ MORE:

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard welcomes Trump’s pullout from nuke deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard welcomes Trump’s pullout from nuke deal

General Mohammad Ali Jafari says the Americans were ‘not trustworthy’ from the start, adds move won’t have any impact

The head of Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard General Mohammad Ali Jafari speaks to journalists after his speech at a conference called "A World Without Terror," in Tehran, Iran, October 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The head of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard General Mohammad Ali Jafari speaks to journalists after his speech at a conference called “A World Without Terror,” in Tehran, Iran, October 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard welcomed US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal, saying it was clear from the beginning that the Americans were “not trustworthy” and that the move would have no impact.

The semi-official Fars news agency on Wednesday quoted General Mohammad Ali Jafari as predicting that the European Union, which opposed the pullout, would eventually join the US, meaning the “the fate of the deal is clear.”

He was quoted as saying: “We welcome Trump’s decision on pulling out of the deal. This is not a new event and has no effective role in any field.” He added that “it was clear that the Americans are not trustworthy.”

The Revolutionary Guard is a paramilitary force dominated by hardliners, which answers directly to Iran’s supreme leader.

The country’s hardliners and conservatives have long opposed the nuclear pact, and on Wednesday called again to scrap it.

“Trump has torn up the nuclear deal, it is time for us to burn it,” said the hard-line Kayhan newspaper, echoing a recent threat by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Kayhan has been one of the fiercest critics of the agreement, under which Iran vowed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

But the country’s reformists are in favor of preserving the deal.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday slammed Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal as an act of “psychological warfare,” warning that his country could start enriching uranium more than ever in the coming weeks.

President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting with officials and industrialists, at a petroleum conference in Tehran, Iran, May 8, 2018. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Rouhani has stated in recent days that he hopes to salvage the deal as much as possible with the help of the other parties — Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, and the European Union — who have strongly opposed Washington’s decision to pull out.

State television said the decision was “illegal, illegitimate, and undermines international agreements,” Reuters reported.

Speaking live on state television, Rouhani said he wished to discuss Trump’s decision with the European, Russian, and Chinese parties to the 2015 deal. There’s a “short time” to negotiate, he said, adding that he will be sending Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to countries remaining in the accord.

“I have ordered Iran’s atomic organization that whenever it is needed, we will start enriching uranium more than before,” he said, adding that Iran would start this “in the next weeks.”

The Iranian president appeared on the state broadcaster just minutes after Trump announced the historic decision to withdraw the United States from the agreement.

READ MORE:

In Iran, Environmentalists Now Seen as Spies

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Photo

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran arriving at a news conference, with a portrait of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, last week in Tehran. Credit Abedin Taherkenareh/European Press photo Agency

TEHRAN — The increasingly bitter feud between Iran’s president and hard-line commanders and clerics exploded into the open over the weekend with the arrest of a top environmental official and the prison death of a prominent Iranian-Canadian environmental activist who was arrested last month.

The official, Kaveh Madani, the deputy head of the Department of the Environment, was arrested on Saturday, interrogated, and apparently released on Monday by intelligence agents affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. His department posted an image of him on Twitter during a meeting on Monday with the German ambassador to Iran, Michael Klor-Berchtold.

The arrest of Mr. Madani, 36, an American-educated academic on leave from London’s Imperial College, was particularly embarrassing for President Hassan Rouhani, who had recruited him as a sign the country is ready to welcome back expatriate Iranians.

It was consistent with a series of actions taken by hard-line groups in recent months to publicly humiliate and undermine Mr. Rouhani, analysts say. They are accused of instigating the protests that shook the government around the New Year in an effort to show that Mr. Rouhani’s promises of economic growth were failing. That backfired when the protests spread to 80 cities and anger quickly turned against the Islamic establishment.

The hard-liners had been incensed by Mr. Rouhani’s decision to leak a sensitive government budget document showing generous payouts to support military adventures and conservative clerical organizations while cutting subsidies for the poor and middle class.

Continue reading the main story

“I have never seen the fight between these two factions so open here in Iran, the government versus those who are nonelected,” said Farshad Ghorbanpour, an analyst with close ties to the Rouhani government. “I’m afraid that if solutions are not found, we might see escalation and even clashes in the near future.”

The sparring is taking place against a backdrop of growing public dissatisfaction with the government over the mismanagement of the economy, corruption, bank failures and the powerful sense that people no longer want the government to tell them how to live — symbolized this month by numerous women publicly removing their hijabs to protest mandatory veiling.

With the arrests of Mr. Madani and several environmental activists including Kavous Seyed Emami, the Iranian-Canadian, the fight seems to have expanded into the environmental arena as the government confronts growing fears of water shortages this summer. The activists, some critical of the government for long-term mismanagement of water supplies, have been accused by the Revolutionary Guards of spying.

Photo

Kavous Seyed Emami in a photo provided by his family. Creditvia Agence France-Press — Getty Images

Mr. Seyed Emami, one of the founders of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Iran’s most prominent nongovernmental organization focused on the environment, was quietly arrested along with six associates in January, a spokesman for the family said on Saturday.

The spokesman said that the family had been told that he killed himself in prison after having confessed to spying. The family denies the allegation of spying and doubts he committed suicide, but the prison authorities have so far refused to return Mr. Seyed Emami’s body to the family for a proper autopsy. He was to be buried on Tuesday, and it remained unclear if the family’s wish for an independent autopsy would be granted.

Also unclear is where the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, comes down in the feud between the hard-liners and Mr. Rouhani. Mr. Khamenei has long sought to balance opposing factions to preserve his power, and analysts said he would be unlikely to take a strong stand on one side or the other until he felt he had no choice. On major decisions, like the nuclear agreement and seeking better relations with the international community, he has supported Mr. Rouhani, if grudgingly.

On Sunday, Mr. Rouhani struck back at his opponents, warning the Revolutionary Guards, the judiciary and the clerical councils that his government is considering organizing a referendum to break the deadlock between those who want change and those who want to hold it back.

“Anywhere we may have differences,” he said in a speech at the 39th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, “we should refer to the vote of the people and a referendum.”

While there is little chance of that plan succeeding, analysts say, suggesting a referendum could perhaps help Mr. Rouhani regain popularity among the middle classes who have become cynical over his inability to deliver on years of promises of a more open and transparent economy and greater personal freedoms.

“Mr. Rouhani insists on diverting attention away from his failing economic policies,” said Hamidreza Taraghi, a hard-line political analyst. “The government is not allowed to initiate referendums on everything, only in the case of a stalemate between separate powers. These are just disputes.”

Since the New Year’s protests, the pressure on the two sides has only increased, with the economy dragging and the national currency, the rial, falling sharply in value against the dollar and the euro. The government is having trouble attracting desperately needed foreign investment, because of unilateral United States sanctions and uncertainty over the fate of the nuclear agreement.

In an apparent victory for Mr. Rouhani, the minister of defense, Amir Hatami, said in January that Ayatollah Khamenei had ordered both the regular army and the Revolutionary Guards to sell off economic assets to the private sector. But the arrests and pressures indicate there will be no smooth transition, if any, analysts said.

“This country is in deadlock. I think last month’s so-called-protests were incited and encouraged by government opponents, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps,” said Saeed Laylaz, an economist close to the government. “I think the opponents of Rouhani want to show their teeth after the president has made clear he wants to harness the power and influence of the non-elected parts of the state, including the Guards

Iran: Government Cracks Down On Republican Guards Financial Scams

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE FINANCIAL TIMES)

 

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Iran Add to my FT Iran cracks down on Revolutionary Guards business network Elite force has had to restructure some companies and transfer others to the state Read next fast FT Bahrain prices $3bn, three-tranche bond deal; demand tops $15bn Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards naval unit march at a parade in Tehran in 2011 © Reuters Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) 3 Save to my FT YESTERDAY by Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps is being forced to shrink its sprawling business empire and some of its senior members have been arrested as part of President Hassan Rouhani’s attempts to curb the elite force’s role in the economy. In the past year, the guards, who have interests in sectors ranging from oil and gas to telecoms and construction, have had to restructure some holding companies and transfer ownership of others back to the state, a regime insider and a government official told the Financial Times. At least a dozen guards members and affiliated businessmen have been detained in recent months, while others are being forced to pay back wealth accrued through suspect business deals, the officials said. One manager of a large holding company affiliated to the guards was arrested a few months ago and cash worth millions of dollars was confiscated from his house, said a businessman who has worked with the guards. A brigadier general — described as the corps’ economic brain — was also arrested this year, but released on bail, the regime insider said. The crackdown, which is being conducted discreetly to avoid undermining the guards — one of the most powerful arms of Islamic republic’s regime — began last year. It started after Mr Rouhani, a pragmatist who has criticised the guards’ role in the economy, told Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, about the vast wealth individuals affiliated to the 120,000-strong force had accumulated, the officials said. “Mr Rouhani has told the supreme leader that the economy has reached a deadlock because of high levels of corruption and the guards’ massive control over the economy,” said one regime insider, who is a relative of the supreme leader. “Other than economic concerns, Mr Khamenei feels the need to save the guards [from corruption] and has naturally thrown his support behind the move.” Khatam-ul-Anbia, the guards’ economic arm, declined to comment. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani (r) receives the official seal of approval from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Islamic republic’s supreme leader, in August after he had won a second term © AP Iranian analysts say corruption involving politically connected individuals and entities is hampering economic development and efforts to boost growth as the country grapples with high unemployment. Two months after he secured a second term in May elections, Mr Rouhani said the guards had created “a government with a gun,” which “scared” the private sector. The president has been seeking to open up the Islamic republic and attract foreign investment since he signed a nuclear accord with world powers in 2015. But he has faced resistance from hardliners within the regime, including the guards, who critics say want to protect their interests. Under the nuclear accord, many sanctions were lifted and Iran agreed to scale back its nuclear activity. The empire There are few public details available about the Revolutionary Guards’ business interests. But some companies are known to be affiliated to the force. These include Sadra Iran Maritime Industrial Company, which builds oil tankers and is involved in oil and gas projects, and Shahid Rajaee Professional Group, one of Iran’s biggest construction companies. One of the guards’ consortiums, Etemad Mobin Development Company, bought Telecom Company of Iran, a state company, for $7.8bn in 2009. Other companies linked to the guards include Ansar Bank and Sepanir Oil and Gas Engineering. The forces’ interests stretch across many other sectors, such as health, agriculture and petrochemicals But the US has retained financial sanctions related to Tehran’s alleged support for terrorism. The Trump administration has also imposed new sanctions on companies and individuals affiliated to the guards. The measures have put off international investors who fear they could inadvertently end up doing business with entities linked to the guards’ opaque empire. There is little public information about the force’s business interests. Khatam-ul-Anbia’s website makes references to the areas it works in, including mining, petrochemicals, health and agriculture, but does not name companies. Some economists and businessmen estimate that the corps’ network of companies could be valued at around $100bn. The guards involvement in the economy is traced back to the end of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s when commanders were rewarded with contracts to build roads, dams and bridges to help reconstruct the country. The force’s business interests rapidly spread during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, a populist hardliner, as the corps was awarded state projects in strategic sectors, including oil and gas. A consortium affiliated to the guards paid $7.8bn for the Telecom Company of Iran, a state entity, in 2009. It has since become a cash cow to fund the corps and its allies, political observers say. Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s rule from 2005 to 2013 was tarnished by widespread allegations of corruption. International sanctions against the Islamic republic were also tightened during his presidency, but that presented those linked to the regime’s centres of power with the opportunity to use their networks to get involved in murky sanctions-busting deals, including selling crude, analysts say. The government official said the guards have so far been complying with Mr Rouhani’s efforts to scale back their economic interests. “Whether he will succeed or not, Rouhani is standing firm and determined to bring the guards under the general umbrella of the economy and give them projects only under certain competitive conditions,” the official said. “The country’s economy is in such a critical state that there is no choice but for the guards to go back to its main military task. The level of unaccountability and power is eating up the whole economy.” Mr Rouhani last month increased the official budget for the corps’ ballistic missile programme and overseas military campaigns in a bid to placate the guards and counter their argument that they need businesses to fund their operations, including in Syria and Iraq. “Rouhani wants the guards to be a strong military body and a powerful antiterrorism force in the Middle East but not to import cosmetics,” said the businessman. The restructuring of the corps’ businesses is being overseen by Major General Mohammad Bagheri, the joint chief of staff of the armed forces, who is responsible for the guards and the conventional military, the regime insider said. That is intended to show that the process is carried out by a bipartisan institution. But the regime insider said the overhaul can only work as long as it has the backing of the 78-year-old Ayatollah, Iran’s ultimate decision maker. “If the guards’ business interests are not rolled back today, they will take full control of the country after the leader’s death,” he said. Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don’t copy articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web. Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) 3 Save to my FT Latest in Middle East & North Africa fast FT Bahrain prices $3bn, three-tranche bond deal; demand tops $15bn fast FT Tunisia parliament passes controversial economic reconciliation law Qatar counters embargo with $38bn injection Saudi Arabia detains two prominent clerics Saudi Arabia to launch global PR offensive

The People Of Iran Will Soon Over Through Their Mullah Mass Murder Dictators

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORBES)

World Affairs #ForeignAffairs

What Does The Future Hold For Iran?

 Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

A Shahab-3 long range missile (L) and Zolfaghar missiles (R) are displayed during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017. Chants against the Saudi royal family and the Islamic State group mingled with the traditional cries of ‘Death to Israel’ and ‘Death to America’ at Jerusalem Day rallies across Iran today. / AFP PHOTO / Stringer (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

With developments regarding Iran and the Middle East on fast forward recently, voices are heard speaking of winds of change in Iran. Iran’s society, described as a powder keg due to social discontent, is literally simmering.

And after far too many years, the international community is gradually but surely realizing how appeasement will only yield further destruction. Catapulting events further is Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s failure to engineer the recent presidential election to unify his regime for the tsunamis ahead.

Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi was the keynote speaker of a recent convention in Paris where she delivered a very different and new perspective on how to resolve the Iran dilemma.

We are also only a week away from July 14th, marking the second year of the Iran nuclear deal signing. Despite a windfall of over $100 billion dollars pouring into Iran, this agreement has failed to provide meaningful change in people’s lives.

And yet, Tehran has in fact allocated these funds to fuel turmoil across the Middle East, in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and beyond.

Returning to Iran’s milestone May 19th presidential “election”, Khamenei attempted to end his regime’s impasse by placing his weight behind conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi in that race.

Considering Raisi’s notorious role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, and a massive campaign launched by activists of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) inside Iran, Khamenei’s candidate stood no chance.

However, the fact that the incumbent President Hassan Rouhani was able to secure a second term will not render any change in the regime’s status quo. In fact, quite the opposite.

In an attempt to fabricate the final vote tally, the mullahs’ regime boasted a 70+ percent voter participation. Merely a month later, however, Iran’s Assembly of Experts, an 88-cleric body tasked to select the next supreme leader and supposedly maintain him under their oversight, issued a statement declaring “people’s votes, demands and views” are of no significance whatsoever. This is the Iranian regime’s definition of democracy.

Thus, with a look at the past 38 years and the ever so changing status in and out of Iran today, there are three initial conclusions we can reach:

1) The rule of the mullahs’ dictatorship in Iran must come to an end.

2) Such an objective is now within reach more than ever before. Rifts inside Iran’s political hierarchy are inflicting deep, irrecoverable wounds.

3) In contrast to its neighbors, Iran enjoys a democratic alternative and an organized opposition movement fully capable of setting this regime aside.

For those continuing to advocate a policy of encouraging reform from within, this regime will not be reformed. Period. This has been proven through 20 years of three presidents claiming to be reformists/moderates. The slate includes Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammad Khatami and the current Hassan Rouhani.

All the while, for three decades the West has gone the limits in testing the appeasement policy. Unfortunately, lessons have not been learned from Chamberlain’s disastrous agreement with Hitler.

And yet, despite the deafening propaganda orchestrated by the mullahs’ regime, this apparatus is threatened most not by a foreign foe, but the numerous protests and revolts witnessed each day through Iran. This is a ticking time bomb winding down fast.

The regime’s incompetence in resolving domestic and foreign dilemmas, and its failure to obtain nuclear weapons has left the ruling regime highly concerned over the road ahead.

Unfortunately, the countries going through the Arab Spring had no alternative apparatus to replace their ousted ruling governments. This is not the case with Iran.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, (NCRI), an umbrella coalition with the PMOI/MEK as its core member, enjoys vast influence inside Iran, seen in the following developments:

1) Back in 2009 the NCRI established the main uprising core across Iran, elevating the motto of “Where is my vote?” to a more demanding, “Down with the Dictator.”

2) For a year now the NCRI has directed a campaign focusing on seeking justice regarding the 1988 massacre. Iran, with its very young population, witnessed the regime succumbing to the people’s will of condemning Raisi for his role in the mullahs’ decades of executions.

From day one of their rule the mullahs have been at war with the entire Iranian population. All other wars, especially the devastating Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, the ongoing onslaught in Syria and Iran’s role in the killings, and the regime’s face off with the international community over its effort to build an atomic bomb, have been aimed at cloaking this ultimate war.

Thus, it is a mistaken conclusion to believe Iran resorting to such wars are signs of its strength. With no government stepping up to the plate to confront Tehran’s all-out belligerence.

It has only been the Iranian opposition, represented by the NCRI, leading the effort to expose the mullahs’ true nature. The NCRI hoisted the flag peace and freedom in response to the mullahs’ warmongering, been the sole supporter of the Syrian people from their first protests back in March 2011, and continuously blown the whistle on Iran’s notorious nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions.

Four decades of appeasement in the face of Iran’s human rights violations, deadly meddling in the Middle East and beyond, terrorism and a concentrated nuclear/ballistic missile drive, have failed miserably. There is also no need for another devastating war in an already flash point region.

A solution is at hand, demanding strong and brave decisions by the United Nations, European Union, United States and regional countries.

a) Designating the Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization;

b) Revoking Tehran’s membership from all international organizations, including mainly the UN and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation;

c) Setting international tribunals to hold Khamenei and other senior Iranian regime officials accountable for gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity;

d) Recognizing the Iranian people’s legitimate resistance to topple the mullahs’ rule.

This regime has taken advantage of a highly flawed appeasement policy for too long. The Iranian people and their organized resistance, pioneered by the NCRI, need not a single dime, rifle or bullet. Together they are more than able and absolutely capable to end the mullahs’ rule.

“…the ultimate solution to the crisis in the region and confronting groups like ISIS, is the overthrow of the Iranian regime by the Iranian people and Resistance,” Mrs. Rajavi said.

Iran: Will The Supreme Ruler Ali Khamenei Allow President Hassan Rouhani Win Re-Election?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘NATIONAL INTEREST’ REUTERS AND THE BBC)

Can Hassan Rouhani Win Re-Election?

Rouhani’s approach to foreign affairs, his basic faith in the power of diplomacy to resolve bitter conflicts, has been discredited.

November 29, 2016

Before the U.S. elections, when Trump’s chances at ascending to the Oval Office seemed, to most liberal voters at least, a distant possibility, Iranian hardliners lined up with many of the world’s other autocrats to cheer him on. This wasn’t just a display of schadenfreude. In Iran, few hardliners, and certainly not the country’s supreme leader, have ever said a nice thing about any U.S. politician. At the heart of their enthusiasm for Trump is the knowledge that however he changes U.S. policy toward Iran as president, it’ll significantly complicate Hassan Rouhani’s hopes of winning a re-election in May.

Rouhani has led a charge to fill the country’s elective institutions with a diverse coalition of moderates that generally share his centrist values on privatization and diplomatic engagement. In elections last February, he helped oust prominent hardliners from their long-held seats in the parliament and Assembly of Experts, a clerical oversight body. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, moreover, has a personal stake in the May elections, given his interest in isolating Hashemi Rafsanjani, a longtime rival who has orchestrated Rouhani’s rise, from the locus of executive power. As one former reformist official told Reuters in July, “Hardliners want a president who is closer to their camp and gets his directions from Khamenei’s allies.”

Amid this maneuvering, Trump’s electoral victory has all but sealed the legacy, if not the fate, of Rouhani’s landmark policy: the nuclear deal. Trump has promised to either renegotiate or alternately dismantle it – not that the distinction matters much. Rouhani said the day after Trump’s win that there would be “no possibility” of changing the deal. Short of a credible U.S. threat of war, it’s difficult to imagine why Rouhani would accept less favorable terms. At a minimum, Trump would have to make the trying case for why world powers should renege on their prior commitments and reimpose an international sanctions regime.

Suffice it to say, Trump may not know how to negotiate a “better” deal without losing the necessary international buy-in. The furthest his campaign staff has gone toward explaining how to wring a more exacting agreement is a garbled statement of the obvious: “He will take the agreement, review it, send it to Congress, demand from the Iranians to restore few issues or change few issues, and there will be a discussion,” Walid Phares, a top foreign policy adviser to Trump, told the BBC.

Regardless of what tack he takes in his first 100 days, Trump’s rhetoric makes it clear that he doesn’t intend on sweetening the deal for Iran. This has major implications for Rouhani’s popularity. Since the deal’s implementation in January, he has been fighting the perception that it’s failing. Rouhani justified his concessions by promising two outcomes: first, they would alleviate the threat of war against the world’s greatest military power, and second, they would inject foreign capital into the Iranian economy and reconnect it to the global marketplace.

Hardliners have already questioned this bargain, asking why Rouhani negotiated away the country’s hard-fought nuclear program for disparately little economic relief. “The public is asking: what has the nuclear deal accomplished for people’s livelihood and for the dignity of Islamic Iran?” an editorial in the country’s hardliner Kayhan newspaper asked last July, and that was when Rouhani still had a U.S. counterpart who wanted the deal to succeed as much he did. According to a poll released that same month, three-quarters of Iranians, out of a sample of 1 thousand, said they haven’t seen any economic improvement since the deal was signed.

That poll suggests the extent to which the deal hasn’t panned out for Iran. It was supposed to act as a springboard for foreign investment in Iran, a country endowed with natural resources, a robust consumer base and an unrivaled manufacturing capacity. But the gold rush never came, in large part because banks refrained from resuming commercial ties with Iran. The nuclear deal may have lifted restrictions on international trade with Iran, but it left intact a dizzying array of U.S. sanctions, which have in turn left an insurmountable compliance risk for big banks.