Iranian intellectuals call for referendum amid political unrest

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN)

 

Iranian intellectuals call for referendum amid political unrest

Letter with 15 signatories says Iran’s leaders have failed to deliver on republican ideals

Pro-government rally in Iran
 Women hold posters of the Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini and the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a pro-government rally. Photograph: Mohammad Ali Marizad/AP

A group of prominent Iranian intellectuals have said they have lost hope that the Islamic Republic can reform, and have called for a referendum to establish whether the ruling establishment is still backed by a majority.

A day after Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, touted the idea of holding a referendum as a means to heal Iran’s deepening political divisions, 15 figures – including some based in Iran – said leaders had failed to deliver on republican ideals.

Signatories to the letter include the Nobel peace prize-winning lawyer Shirin Ebadi; Narges Mohammadi, a human rights activist currently imprisoned in Tehran; Nasrin Sotoudeh, a rights lawyer; and the film-makers Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Jafar Panahi.

Rouhani did not elaborate on what he was proposing to put to a vote, but he has sounded increasingly frustrated about the political stalemate.

The judiciary has limited his ability to improve social freedoms despite his triumph in last year’s presidential election, and critics say his recent budget, which allocated huge funds to state bodies under the control of hardliners, demonstrated his lack of power.

Meanwhile, the Iranian currency has taken another dive against the dollar in recent days, adding to fears about the state of the economy.

Speaking last week, Rouhani expressed concern about what he said was the unwillingness of his hardline opponents to listen to the voices of ordinary people, particularly after a wave of unrest that began in late December.

“The previous regime, which thought that its rule would be lifelong and its monarchy eternal, lost everything because it did not listen to the voices of criticism, advice, reformers, the clergy, elders and intellectuals,” he said, referring to the late shah’s rule. “The previous regime did not listen to the voice of people’s protests and only listened to one voice, and that was the people’s revolution. For a government that only wants to hear the sound of revolution, it will be too late.”

The activists’ letter states: “Four decades have passed since the establishment of the Islamic republic, a government whose obsession with Islamisation has left little room for republican ideals.”

It criticises the conservative-dominated judiciary, which acts independently of Rouhani’s government. “The judiciary is reduced to the executor of the political wishes of those who hold the reins of power. So many women, lawyers, journalists, teachers, students, workers and political and social activists have been harassed, arrested, convicted of serious crimes and sent to prison, solely for criticising officials, enlightening public opinion, inviting the rulers to respect separation of religion from government or demanding women’s relief from the mandatory veil.”

Last month Mehdi Karroubi, an Iranian opposition leader currently under house arrest, wrote a letter attacking the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power in Iran. Direct criticism of Khamenei is rare.

Karroubi, a former speaker of parliament, wrote: “You have been Iran’s top leader for three decades but still speak like an opposition. During the last three decades you have eliminated the main revolutionary forces to implement your own policies, and now you should face the results of that.”

Iranian officials say high turnouts in elections show that the establishment is still popular. Critics dispute that, saying many voters participate in the hope of bringing about change.

Saeed Barzin, a London-based Iranian analyst, said Rouhani’s call for a referendum was a threat to push back the economic and political meddling of an unelected faction dominated by hardliners, in particular the Revolutionary Guards.

“The undercurrent issue is how the power will be distributed after Khamenei, and in a way the power struggle has already begun,” Barzin said. “Reformists feel under threat that the current situation might lead to people losing hope in reform or becoming radical or becoming apolitical. Hardliners, on the other side, might see an opportunity here to scapegoat Rouhani and even conduct a soft coup d’état, but it’s a gamble.”

Barzin said he was not impressed by the activists’ letter, though the range of signatories was interesting. Even those based in Iran, he said, did not represent mainstream reformists, who would view holding such a referendum as the establishment acquiescing to its own destruction.

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

Corruption and Poverty Lead to Rage and Despair in Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Corruption and Poverty Lead to Rage and Despair in Iran

Screenshot from video of protests in Tehran from January 4, 2018. Available on YouTube: https://youtu.be/hNNVlONyNGs

This piece was cross-posted on the website of Arseh Sevom website, a non-governmental organization that promotes peace, democracy, and human rights for Persian-speaking communities.

“Where’s my money?” That’s what many in Iran have been asking over the past few years as they’ve watched inflation and corruption decimate their earnings.

Inflation has hit the poor and working class the hardest. The costs of food, utilities, and healthcare have risen dramatically over the past five years. In 2013, the cost of food increased by just over 57%; in 2017, it rose by a further 13.9%. Meanwhile, the youth unemployment rate hovers at about 25%.

Simply put, there is plenty of economic despair to go around. But it doesn’t end there. Desperate people have invested in pyramid schemes that enriched a few at the cost of the many. Workers all over Iran have waited up to a year to be paid for completed work. This traps them in inescapable debt and many land up in prison for using bad checks, placing even more stress on already struggling households.

In the last half of 2017, there were near-daily protests in front of Iran’s parliament. Teachers, laborers, and bus drivers demonstrated to demand higher pay and better working conditions. This is not new: these protests are more than a decade old now.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been unable to deliver the freedoms and financial stability that its citizens long for. Some of this is the result of sanctions imposed by the United States; much of it, however, is due to corruption and bad governance.

US-imposed financial sanctions have actually provided excuses for bad planning and rampant corruption. As long as they are in place, the Iranian government can hide behind them, blaming everything from milk shortages to poor aircraft maintenance on sanctions.

Meanwhile, those who learned to game the system have raked in the big bucks. A perfect example is Iran’s Babak Zanjani who became a billionaire many times over thanks to international sanctions against Iran and his clever manipulation of his position as the Islamic Republic’s money launderer. In late 2013, he was arrested

We’re not all in this together

Paykans in Northern Tehran. Photo by Wikipaykan – Own workCC BY-SA 3.0Link

In 2003, Iran’s streets were filled with the boxy white Paykan sedans and the occasional foreign-made compact car. Cafes were rare; any public signs of wealth, subtle. Many people lived on salaries that wouldn’t pay even a month’s rent — $1,000 a month seemed like an extravagant amount of money.

By the time I left Tehran in 2007, consumerism was on the rise. International companies and luxury products were finding a market in Iran. Soon after, couples would be eating gold-flaked ice cream in tower-top restaurants and flaunting their wealth in Jaguars and Porsches. Soon, there would be a rise in evictions of long-term tenants in order to build apartment towers. Soon, all pretense of shared struggle would be gone.

Wealth can’t protect you from environmental collapse

Screenshot from Al Jazeera Earthrise documentary: Iran’s Water Crisis by Gelareh Darabi

Tehran is being smothered in smog. Bad air days are increasing. People are suffering. In 2011, the Iranian government reported that nearly 3,000 people died every month because of complications resulting from pollution. That number may be higher, as research begins to show that many deaths from cardiovascular disease are actually the result of pollution, not lifestyle or diet.

Poor water management worsened during the Ahmadinejad administration from 2005 to 2013. During that time, newly constructed damns led to dry rivers, lakes, and aquifers. Once-fertile areas have been destroyed.

Private industry, with connections to the state, warned people against “exaggerating” the magnitude of the environmental crisis in Iran. An investigative report by environmental researchers found that scientific research on the crisis is often stifled.

Meanwhile, analysts predict millions of internal climate refugees. That’s something to prepare for, not ignore.

Protests are growing and waning

Many people in Iran have looked at the conflict in the surrounding region and felt lucky to have been somewhat insulated from it. They feel threatened by Daesh (also known as ISIL or ISIS, the brutal militant group that has taken over areas of Iraq and Syria) and by Saudi Arabia. They are afraid of the possibility of national disintegration and the type of government violence seen in Syria. This fear has put a damper on public protest.

The director of non-governmental organization Arseh Sevom (and also my life partner) Kamran Ashtary stated:

Iranians again show us that they are unpredictable. Those who had claimed that people were so afraid of a Syria-type scenario that they would not come to the streets, were wrong. As we say again and again, Iranians are always full of surprises. Violence and suppression won’t work forever.

This current wave of protests was apparently sparked by hardliners who initiated demonstrations in the eastern city of Mashhad against the moderate administration of Hassan Rouhani. The hardliners soon lost control, though, and people took to the streets in anger and desperation.

Ashtary added:

The Islamic Republic of Iran and the administration of President Rouhani have seen this coming. Over the past few months, there have been many protests from all sides: from teachers, bus drivers, and the working class. People all over Iran have become frustrated with Rouhani’s government. They see that the lifting of sanctions has pumped money into the country, but regular people, people who have been working very hard in Iran, have not seen the benefits.The level of corruption is high. The national budget shows money flowing into religious organizations without any accountability. The moderates and reformists have been quiet and have not taken the side of people suffering in Iran. Iranians have been quite patient with the Islamic Republic. That won’t last. This may be the last chance for non-violent change.

For the first time in decades, many people on the streets of Iran have been openly calling for an end to clerical rule. Some chanted for reinstatement of the Shah, while others have railed against the president and supreme leader.

This is in stark contrast to demonstrations in the aftermath of the 2009 elections, which was the last time masses of people took to the streets in Iran. Those protests called for a recount of the vote, for “small changes”. People sang nursery rhymes, not political slogans. One of the most chanted was:

Don’t fear, don’t fear, we are all together here

Revolution?

The people of Iran have been struggling for just governance since their 1905 constitutional revolution. The country’s democratic hopes have been dashed again and again. This is most notable in the case of the 1953 US- and British-led coup against Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh (see this Twitter essay by @_chloi for a good overview). In recent years many inside Iran have spoken of evolution, not revolution. These protesters are different though. Many feel that there is nothing left to lose.

The Iranian government is calling the protesters “counter-revolutionary.” Others are calling them revolutionary. In an unprecedented move, more than 40 students were preemptively arrested because of fears what they might do if they became involved in the protests. The Center for Human Rights in Iran has more information on this: Iranian Security Forces Have Arrested More Than 40 University Students.

Is this a revolution? Probably not. In a post on Facebook, Iran analyst Peyman Jafari noted:

History shows that protests have their own dynamics. They can grow, radicalize, and lead to revolution. But the same history shows that they can end in repression and concessions. What we know of Iranian society and government point to the second outcome.

What can civil society do?

IranWire’s Maziar Bahari suggested some changes to US policy to better support demonstrators:

Three simple suggestions for the US government and others:
1- impose sanctions on Iranian state TV, IRIB 2- lift travel ban for Iranians 3- condemn violence from all sides, both violence by the government and those who promote violence against mosques and banks in Iran.

Journalist Mostafa Khosravi told Global Voices:

This is a very critical time for reformists in Iran. If they don’t find a way to support those demonstrating in the streets, they will lose all of the backing they’ve gained over the past six years. By this I mean, the seats gained by Reformists in Parliament and on city councils. Protesters are asking them for support. So far, their only response has been to tell them to calm down. If that’s the best they can do, there is no hope for them as a party.

With reports of nearly 1,000 arrested, the crackdown seems more effective than the “calm down”.  Journalist Golnaz Esfandiari reported that hardline news outlets are using Twitter to crowdsource the identification of protesters:

Iranian hardline news outlets endanger anti-establishment protesters by calling for their identification https://www.rferl.org/a/iran-revolutionary-guards-crowdsource-protester-crackdown/28955120.html 

Iran’s IRGC, Allies Enlist Public, And Twitter, To Chase Suspected Protesters

Some Iranians are calling out local media and Twitter over apparent vigilantism on behalf of the feared Revolutionary Guards.

rferl.org

In a letter from prison, the vice president of the Defenders of Human Rights, Narges Mohammadi, published recommendations for supporting the demonstrations without violence. She asks that civil society put pressure on government to reevaluate the budget, and feels that this is the best way to support peaceful protests and bring about change:

Instead of talking, the government needs to take concrete steps to support and protect the rights of the people by making fundamental reforms.

In this critical situation, the members of parliament need to listen to the concerns of the people. They need to ensure that the proposed budget is not ratified.

We, the people, with determination and without violence, must stand firm in demanding our rights. The protest will be costly but it must also pay off. For now, the most urgent matter in the struggle against corruption and poverty is the 2018 budget proposal. We need to engage in peaceful protest in order to prevent its passage.

If I were not in prison, I would be in front of Parliament every day that the budget bill was under discussion. The members of parliament need to know that they are accountable to the people, that they represent the people, and that the eyes of the people are upon them.

Mostafa Khosravi contributed research for this article.

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

Don’t You Know I’m A God—My One Fingered Salute To Saddam

Don’t You Know I’m A God

 

In Baghdad town where everyone was my clown

Me on their strings a pulling

Twas with myself in love I fell

Tis to my name Saddam they are a bowing

I’ve been God here for twenty odd years

Though two Bush’s tried to scare me

Nine palaces are where I call my home

They can kiss my behind for trying

 

When I look to the east, and I look to the west

I can see no eagle a coming

My Republican Guard is the best there could be

The God of Iraq they are a guarding

Georgie o Georgie come take your best swing

Then on your face you’ll be a falling

Georgie you know that all my people love me

You come here in the sand and dust you’ll be dying

 

What’s this, those birds that we could not see

With all those bombs a falling

Don’t you know that I am the God of Iraq

Now into a wormhole I am a crawling

It was here that I hid for a couple of months

My beard growing gray and balding

Georgie o Georgie it’s your name I am cursing

From a God to a man on trial I’ve fallen

I wonder, does a man feel the snap of his neck

When from the gallows he finds himself swinging

When Iran’s ‘Supreme Mass Murderer’ Dies Will The People Of Iran Insist On Freedom?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

It’s time to prepare for Iran’s political collapse

 July 5

Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In recent congressional testimony, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sensibly stressed that the United States should “work towards support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government.” The commentariat was aghast, and the Islamic republic registered a formal protest note. Both parties seemed surprised that the United States has long assisted those seeking democratic change. During the Cold War, secretaries of state routinely assured those trapped behind the Iron Curtain that America supported their aspirations. Given that Iran is ruled by an aging Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the United States should be prepared for a transition of power there that may yet precipitate the collapse of the entire system.

In a region littered with failed states, Iran is often mischaracterized as an island of stability. The history of the Islamic republic, however, is a turbulent one, featuring a constant struggle between an authoritarian regime and restive population seeking democratic empowerment. When they first assumed power, the clerical oligarchs waged bloody street battles to repress other members of the revolutionary coalition who did not share their desire for a theocratic dictatorship. In the 1990’s, they faced the rise of a reform movement that remains the most exhilarating attempt to harmonize religion and pluralism. The reformists spoke about reconsidering Khamenei’s absolutist pretensions and expanding civil society and critical media. The regime reacted with its usual mixture of terror and intimidation to eviscerate the movement. And then came the Green Revolt in summer 2009 that forever delegitimized the system and severed the bonds between state and society.

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The one thing certain about Iran’s future is that another protest movement will rise at some point seeking to displace the regime.

Today, the Islamic republic lumbers on as the Soviet Union did during its last years. It professes an ideology that convinces no one. It commands security services that proved unreliable in the 2009 rebellion, causing the regime to deploy the Basij militias because many commanders of the Revolutionary Guards refused to shoot the protesters.

The seminaries in the shrine city of Qom appreciate the damage that the government of God has done to Islam as the mosques remain empty even during important religious commemorations. Young men don’t wish to join the clergy, and women don’t want to marry clerics. The system is engulfed by corruption, which is particularly problematic for a regime that bases its power on divine ordinance. And Iran just underwent a presidential election where the winner, Hassan Rouhani, promised freedoms he has no intention of delivering and further delegitimized the government by airing its dirty laundry on issues of craft and repression. Today, the Islamic republic will not be able to manage a succession to the post of the supreme leader as its factions are too divided and its public too disaffected.

The regime does, however, have one thing in its favor: its nuclear agreement with the international community (officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.) Historically, arms-control treaties have generated their own constituency. During the 1970s, at the height of U.S.-Soviet arms-control diplomacy, influential voices in the West did not want to pressure the Kremlin for fear that it would disrupt the agreements. The Islamic republic can count on similar forbearance from critical sectors of Washington. Many will feign concern about Iran’s terrorism or human rights abuses, but will rebuff attempts to impose truly crippling sanctions on Tehran. The legitimacy and longevity of the regime will not be questioned by those whose foremost priority is sustaining a deficient arms-control accord. And it was this sentiment that Tillerson challenged when he called for making common cause with those struggling for freedom inside Iran. The amorality of arms control has little room for such lofty and idealistic ambitions.

The task of a judicious U.S. government today is to plan for the probable outbreak of another protest movement or the sudden passing of Khamenei that could destabilize the system to the point of collapse. How can we further sow discord in Iran’s vicious factional politics? How can the United States weaken the regime’s already unsteady security services? This will require not just draining the Islamic republic’s coffers but also finding ways to empower its domestic critics. The planning for all this must start today; once the crisis breaks out, it will be too late for America to be a player.

In March 1953, when Joseph Stalin died, President Dwight Eisenhower asked to see his government’s studies about how to exploit the Soviet succession crisis. There were none. An exasperated Eisenhower exclaimed, “For about seven years, ever since 1946, I know that everybody who should have been concerned with such things has been sounding off on what we should do when Stalin dies…. Well he did — and we want to see what bright ideas were in the files of this government, what plans were laid. What we found was that the result of seven years of yapping is exactly zero. We have no plan.” For his part, Tillerson has established the guidepost that should direct U.S. foreign policy. The task for the administration now is to study ways that we can take advantage of Iran’s looming crisis to potentially displace one of America’s most entrenched adversaries.

Saudi Arabia Captures Iranian Boat With 3 Republican Guard Soldiers With Explosives: Iran Says They Were Fishing Boats

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWS PAPER)

Iran and Saudi Arabia offer clashing accounts of offshore confrontation

Iran says Saudi navy opened fire on fishing boats as Saudi navy says it captured boat and detained three members of Revolutionary Guards

Saudi army officers walk past F-15 fighter jets at King Salman airbase in Riyadh.
Members of the Saudi armed forces walk past F-15 fighter jets at King Salman airbase. The country’s navy intercepted three boats last week. Photograph: Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images

The Saudi navy said it had captured three members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards from a boat seized last week as the vessel approached Saudi Arabia’s offshore Marjan oilfield, Riyadh has said.

Iran’s interior ministry denied the Saudi claim, however, saying that the Saudi navy had opened fire on two Iranian fishing boats.

Relations between the two countries are at their worst in years, as they support opposite sides in conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, and each accuses the other of destabilising regional security.

In a statement on Monday, the Saudi information ministry said: “This was one of three vessels which were intercepted by Saudi forces. It was captured with the three men on board, the other two escaped.

“The three captured members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are now being questioned by Saudi authorities,” the statement said, citing a Saudi official.

The vessel, which was seized last Friday, was carrying explosives and the those captured intended to conduct a “terrorist act” in Saudi territorial waters, the statement claimed.

An earlier report from the Saudi Press Agency said the Saudi navy had fired warning shots at the two boats that managed to escape.

But Majid Babaei, the director of Iran’s border agency, told the semi-official Youth Journalist’s Club (YJC) news agency that the Saudi claim was untrue.

“The issue is about two fishing boats and Saudis have fired at the boats, which resulted in the death of one fisherman. The people targeted were fishermen and the boats they were sailing on were fishing boats,” he said.

Iran’s Tasnim news agency said on Saturday that Saudi border guards had opened fire on an Iranian fishing boat in the Gulf on Friday, killing a fisherman. It said the boat was one of two Iranian boats fishing in the Gulf that had been pushed off course by waves.

Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have steadily deteriorated. On 5 June, Riyadh and other Arab governments severed ties with Qatar, citing its support of Iran as a reason.

Days later suicide bombings and shootings in Tehran killed at least 17 people. Shia Muslim Iran repeated accusations that Saudi Arabia funds Sunni Islamist militants, including Islamic State. Riyadh has denied involvement in the attacks.

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EXCLUSIVE: Shadowy Iranian Republican Guard General visits Moscow, violating Sanctions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS AND ‘OUTBRAIN’)

IRAN

EXCLUSIVE: Shadowy Iranian general visits Moscow, violating sanctions

A shadowy Iranian general responsible for the deaths of nearly 500 Americans traveled to Moscow Wednesday to meet with high-ranking Russian officials — a trip that violated multiple United Nations resolutions forbidding him from leaving his country, multiple western intelligence officials with direct knowledge of the visit told Fox News.

RUSSIAN SPY SHIP SPOTTED CLOSER TO USA, NEAR NAVY SUBMARINE BASE

Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani arrived in Terminal A of Vnukovo airport outside Moscow on Feb. 14 on Mahan Air WD084 at 12:13 p.m. local time and was scheduled to remain in Russia for a few days for meetings, officials said.

Soleimani is visiting Moscow to express his displeasure with the Russian government over their relationship with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, mainly regarding weapons deals and strengthening economic ties, sources told Fox News.

MIDEAST PEACE MAY NOT COME FROM TWO-STATE SOLUTION, WHITE HOUSE SAYS

The CIA would not immediately answer a request for comment. A State Department spokesman said he was unaware of the visit.

This is Soleimani’s third trip to Moscow following visits in April and July last year. Soleimani is thought to be the mastermind behind Iran’s proxy war in Syria in order to prop up the Assad regime. Soleimani met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu days after the Iranian nuclear deal was agreed to in Vienna. Iran has been a key ally along with Russia in Syria, working together to shore up support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against opposition fighters, some of whom are backed by the United States.

The Quds Force, which Soleimani heads, is the special operations wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, responsible for supporting terrorist proxy forces across the Middle East. Soleimani reports directly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Soleimani was first designated a terrorist and sanctioned by the U.S. in 2005 for his role as a supporter of terrorism. In October 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department tied Soleimani to the failed Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States at a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Testifying before Congress last year, former Secretary of State John Kerry said Soleimani and the Quds Force would continue to face sanctions even after some UN sanctions were lifted on Iran following the landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, including the United States.

UN Resolution 1747 prohibits Soleimani to travel, and any country that lets him transit or travel is also defying sanctions. Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and would be a aware of the restrictions against meeting him.

During his confirmation hearing before Congress in 2015, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said many Americans were killed by Iranian-backed forces under the command of Soleimani.

“The number has been recently quoted as about 500. We weren’t always able to attribute the casualties we had to Iranian activity, although many times we suspected it was Iranian activity even though we didn’t necessarily have the forensics to support that,” Dunford told lawmakers.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry said five days after Soleimani’s Moscow visit that he would never receive sanctions relief.

“Under the United States’s initiative, Qassem Soleimani will never be relieved of any sanctions,” Kerry said.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

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