Friday, March 3, 2017

Eye on Iran: Iranian-American's Hunger Strike Highlights Iran's Jailing of Dual Nationals

View our videos on YouTube


The sister of an Iranian-American man detained in Iran since July says he has entered the third week of a hunger strike against what he sees as an unjust jail term for "collaborating with a hostile government." Speaking to VOA Persian by phone from her home in San Diego, California, on Thursday, Fateme Shahini said she has learned that her brother Reza "Robin" Shahini, who is in his late 40s, has become weak and accepted intravenous blood transfusions. Fateme Shahini said she learned of her brother's condition from her mother and sister, whom she said had visited him Wednesday at the prison where he is being detained in the northern city of Gorgan. Fateme Shahini said her mother and sister pleaded with Robin Shahini to end the hunger strike that he began February 15, but he refused. She also said it was the first time they were allowed to see him in three weeks.

Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp is nearing an agreement to plead guilty to U.S. criminal charges and pay hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties over allegations it violated U.S. laws that restrict sale of U.S. technology to Iran, a person familiar with the matter said. The company has not yet signed a deal with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Treasury, cautioned the person, who declined to speak on the record because the negotiations are not public. Others noted that with a new U.S. administration prompting changes in personnel at government departments, a final deal may be delayed or even scuttled. But ZTE is expected to plead guilty to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, among other charges, the source said, and pay penalties in the hundreds of millions.

Despite ongoing concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions, dealing with threats emanating from the Syrian war theater currently tops the agenda of Israel's security apparatus, according to a top intelligence official. "The most important strategic issue we're currently facing is the strengthening of the Shiite axis led by Iran in Syria, especially after the fall of Aleppo," Chagai Tzuriel, the director-general of the Intelligence Ministry, told The Times of Israel. In mid-December, pro-government forces captured the war-torn city from the hands of rebels fighters. "Syria is the key arena, because it's a microcosm of everything: world powers, such as Russia and the US; regional actors such as Iran and Turkey; and rival groups within the country, such the Assad regime, the opposition, the Kurds and the Islamic State," Tzuriel said during a briefing last week in his Jerusalem office. "Whatever happens in Syria today will greatly impact the region, and beyond, for years to come."


When the Iranian nuclear deal took effect more than a year ago, there were high hopes that it would set Tehran on a new course of responsible engagement in world affairs. Instead, the country has chosen increased conflict and aggression. The Trump administration's early move to impose new sanctions on Iran was a measured reaction-long overdue and welcomed by all of America's friends in the region. Iran's hostile behavior is only growing worse. There have been multiple interceptions of illicit Iranian weapons destined for Houthi rebels in Yemen. On New Year's Day, Iranian-backed militants in Bahrain organized a prison break of convicted terrorists. Later in January, Tehran tested a nuclear-capable ballistic missile, at least its 12th violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution barring such tests. Meanwhile, Iran has steadily escalated its support for the Houthis, prolonging a war that has had horrible humanitarian consequences and distracted from the fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the world's most dangerous terrorist franchises. As Defense Secretary James Mattis said at his confirmation hearings, Iran is "the biggest destabilizing force in the Middle East." Last month he called the regime "the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world." Last year Mr. Mattis said Iran had used the rise of Islamic State as an excuse "to continue its mischief." Tehran promises more of the same. Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, praised Iran's "great missile power" last month, saying: "We are adding to our numbers of missiles, warships, and rocket launchers every day." What exactly does Iran want? Its constitution calls for exporting its Islamic-inspired revolution to the rest of the world. Its leaders talk of "Greater Persia"-a sphere of influence encompassing much of the Middle East. And "Death to America" remains a favorite rallying cry in Tehran. Checking Iranian aggression will not be easy, but the stability of the region depends upon it. Holding the country to its commitments would be an important first step. Rebuilding America's ties to its traditional partners in the region would be another. So too would be directly confronting Iranian interference in places like Yemen.

When news from Iran flashes across television screens in the United States, Americans have grown accustomed to seeing belligerence, including ballistic missile tests, harassment of U.S. forces, the kidnapping of our sailors and the unlawful imprisonment of U.S. citizens. These are not the actions of a rational or friendly regime. They are the actions of autocratic thugs. The Obama administration appeased Iran for eight years. Now the Trump Administration is ensuring America finally - and rightfully - stands up against Iranian hostility. We believe they should also start pushing back against the regime's disturbing and unabashed support for our terrorist enemies. Iran is the world's foremost state sponsor of terror, and we are alarmed by their increasing assistance to a "who's who" list of Islamist militant groups. Earlier this year, we introduced a bill to direct the State Department to determine whether the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a branch of the regime's military, meets the criteria to be designated as a foreign terrorist organization. The Trump administration should do exactly that. The IRGC is responsible for exporting the Islamic Republic's radical ideology and subsidizing terror across the globe... Yet Iran's long-standing support for al-Qaeda is what always seems to fly under the radar - and it's a relationship that should cause particular concern in the West. Consider the 9/11 Commission Report, which described "strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al-Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11," including future 9/11 hijackers.

Prior to beginning nuclear negotiations with Iran, the Iranian economy had shrunk 5.4% according to Iran's own statistics. The Iranian currency was in free fall and there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Nevertheless, simply to get Iran to the table, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry approved nearly $12 billion in incentives, an amount equal to more than twice the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' annual budget. When even supporters of the Iran deal say they believe it could have been better, the basis of their criticism is that Kerry and his team squandered the leverage provided by Iran's financial desperation. But, whatever the merits of the deal-historians will have the ultimate say on whether it was wise or naïve-one thing is clear: Ordinary Iranians expected to benefit from its conclusion. After all, the deal unfroze tens of billions of dollars of frozen assets and lifted barriers to trade. European leaders have raced to invest in the country, no matter that this often means partnering with businesses controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Even that money is not the sum total of all that has flowed into Iran. The Obama administration, for example, has paid more than $1 billion in ransom for Us hostages. Here's the problem for ordinary Iranians: Even if the Islamic Republic now operates back in the black, Iranians have not experienced much if any economic benefit in the aftermath of the deal... Growing unease among Iranians at their government's failure to improve their lives even after the Iranian nuclear deal provides a real opportunity.

McMaster, President Trump's newly appointed National Security Advisor, must ensure the new administration reverses a decades-old pattern of neglecting Iran's nuclear-capable cruise missile capabilities and their importance to Iran's nuclear weapons program. The White House had no trouble marshaling evidence for its decision to put Iran "on notice" last month but then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn failed to mention an Iranian nuclear capable cruise missile test earlier that week. Usually, it's Iran's ballistic missiles that grab the headlines. The largest such arsenal in the Middle East, they can strike anywhere in the region, and Tehran has transferred thousands to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran also tests new nuclear-capable versions regularly, as they have done in recent weeks. During Iran's annual military parade, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) inscribes its most bellicose threats against Israel on these missiles. Despite their design as nuclear delivery vehicles, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran's nuclear program places no restrictions on these weapons. In fact, U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 implementing the deal dropped the legally-binding ban on Iranian ballistic missile development, replacing it with a mere admonition against such activities. Nevertheless, even this much weaker language still encourages international condemnation, and occasionally sanctions, when Tehran conducts new tests. That same resolution, like the JCPOA, does not address cruise missiles. This is somewhat unsurprising, as Iran first acquired a small handful of nuclear-capable cruise missiles very surreptitiously.

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, P.O. Box 1028, New York, NY 10185-1028

No comments:

Post a Comment