Thursday, April 27, 2017

Eye on Iran: Hard-Line Iranian Candidate Says US Should Fear Iran

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A hard-line candidate in Iran's upcoming presidential election says the United States should be made to fear Iran so that it will back off on sanctions and threats. Ebrahim Raisi told a state TV talk show Wednesday that "today Americans are afraid of the word 'Iran,'" saying: "This is the solution. The solution is not backing down. We must force them to retreat." Raisi is challenging the incumbent, Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who has tried to improve relations with the West and whose government reached a landmark nuclear agreement with world powers. Iran's hard-liners criticized the deal, saying Rouhani gave too much away.

Israel struck an arms supply hub operated by the Lebanese group Hezbollah near Damascus airport on Thursday, Syrian rebel and regional intelligence sources said, targeting weapons sent from Iran via commercial and military cargo planes. Video carried on Lebanese TV and shared on social media showed the pre-dawn airstrikes caused a fire around the airport east of the Syrian capital, suggesting fuel sources or weapons containing explosives were hit. Syrian state media said Israeli missiles hit a military position southwest of the airport, but did not mention arms or fuel. It said "Israeli aggression" had caused explosions and some material losses, but did not expand on the damage.

A congressional committee chairman has asked the Trump administration to revive criminal cases against Iranian weapons traffickers that the Obama administration "unwisely abandoned." In a letter obtained by The Post, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce called for a stepped-up law enforcement effort to target individuals assisting Iran's nuclear and missile programs. In addition, Royce wants to re-open criminal cases involving Iranians that the Obama administration scrapped in effort to make a nuclear deal with Tehran. "We hope you evaluate the feasibility of re-opening the cases that were wrongly hindered," Royce (R-Calif.) wrote Tuesday to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.


Relatives of U.S. citizens jailed in Iran are trying to press the Trump administration to secure their release as worries grow over the health of an imprisoned father and son. Baquer and Siamak Namazi, convicted of espionage in a secret trial six months ago, are being held in a section of Tehran's notorious Evin prison, according to a petition their lawyer filed this week with the U.N.'s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The section of the prison is known "for the use of cruel and prolonged torture of political opponents of the government," the petition by lawyer Jared Genser says.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Associated Press published last week, President Trump suggested that Iran had broken the "spirit" of a nuclear proliferation deal agreed under President Barack Obama. Asked if he believed the United States would stay in the deal, Trump replied: "It's possible that we won't." The comment seemed to offer another hint that Trump may plan to upend the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) approved in 2015. As a candidate, Trump repeatedly criticized the "horrible" nuclear deal, pledging to "tear up" the accord if elected. But Iran's top diplomat doesn't seem to be worried. According to reports in the Iranian news media, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters at the sidelines of a cabinet session on Wednesday that they shouldn't take Trump's comments seriously.


A court in the United Arab Emirates has sentenced an Iranian businessman to 10 years in prison after being convicted of trying to bring an electric motor and other devices there to further Iran's nuclear program. A report by the state-run WAM news agency on Wednesday only identified the businessman by the initials S.M.A.R. It said he was convicted of "violating the international ban on nuclear weapons." It wasn't clear how the material the Iranian was convicted of trying to bring into the Islamic Republic would be used to manufacture an atomic bomb.


Iran expects to sign its first oil deal under the new Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC) model within a month, a senior Iranian official said on Thursday. "We expect that very soon, hopefully within a month we will have the first one to be signed," Deputy Oil Minister Rokneddin Javadi told a conference in Paris. In January, Iran said 29 companies from more than a dozen countries were allowed to bid for oil and gas projects under the IPC, which Tehran hopes will boost production after years of sanctions. But the IPC model has been delayed several times due to opposition from hardline rivals of President Hassan Rouhani.


Israel is seeking an "understanding" with the Trump administration that Iran must not be allowed to establish a permanent military foothold in Syria, Israel's intelligence minister told Reuters on Wednesday. In an interview, visiting Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said he was also using his meetings with White House officials and key lawmakers to press for further U.S. sanctions on Iran and the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which is supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "I want to achieve an understanding, an agreement between the U.S. and Israel ... not to let Iran have permanent military forces in Syria, by air, by land, by sea," Katz told Reuters, saying this should be part of any future international accord on ending Syria's six-year-old civil war.


Iran's special naval forces were equipped this weekend with new anti-ship cruise missiles capable of advanced precision and rapid deployment in the tense Gulf waters where occasional run-ins with the U.S. military have drawn international attention. A large quantity of the natively produced projectiles, known as Nasir, were handed over to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy (IRGCN), the maritime branch of Iran's elite military forces that take command from the country's religious leadership rather than its political, in a formal ceremony held Saturday. The event was attended by the nation's top military brass including Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan and IRGCN Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi.


As Iran approaches its May 19 presidential elections, the conservative candidates - who are determined to unseat incumbent moderate Hassan Rouhani - are making new campaign pledges to attract votes. Opponents of Rouhani have been focusing on unemployment and people's livelihoods, saying Rouhani has been wholly unable to solve the economic hardships many ordinary Iranians are facing. Conservative Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, who has registered to run for the presidency for the third time, has said that if elected, he would provide 2.5 million rials ($77 at the official exchange rate) a month to every jobless Iranian.
Ten Iranian border guards were killed by Sunni militants in a cross-border attack on the frontier with Pakistan on Wednesday, Tasnim news agency reported. The militant group called Jaish al Adl, or the Army of Justice, has claimed responsibility, the report said. "10 border guards of Mirjaveh county in Sistan and Baluchestan Province were martyred in an ambush by the terrorists in the Pakistani border's zero-point," Tasnim said. In a statement carried on state media, the Iranian police said the guards have been killed by long-range guns and "the Pakistani government bears the ultimate responsibility of the attack." Sistan-Baluchestan province in southeastern Iran has long been plagued by unrest from both drug smuggling gangs and separatist militants. The population of the province is predominantly Sunni Muslim; the majority of Iranians are Shi'ites.


As the Trump administration nears its 100th day in office, it has taken much-needed steps internationally, particularly in Syria.  But while the latest U.S. military action retaliating for the gassing of Khan Sheikoun was long overdue, even more can be done. With over 400,000 deaths, five million registered Syrian refugees, and the continuation of Assad's scorched-earth tactics, Syria will not become an island of stability any time soon, and especially after ISIS is ousted from its Raqqa stronghold.  Rather, Syria will remain polarized, politicized, and perilous unless Assad and his enablers are removed from power. Over the last few weeks, we have heard some argue that President Donald Trump's 'America first' organizing principle is fundamentally incompatible with an 'Assad must go' strategy.  However, promoting 'America first,' while pursuing a future without Assad are not mismatched goals in the era of Trump.  One should look no further than the guideposts of the president's emerging agenda on the world stage: gutting ISIS; checking Iran; and toughening immigration controls.  Tackling any one priority successfully would necessitate Assad's removal.

The Trump administration last week endorsed a narrative long promoted by critics of the Iran nuclear deal: It's North Korea all over again. "An unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea, and take the world along with it," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday at a press availability. He was explaining why President Donald Trump had ordered a review of the Iran nuclear deal reached by his predecessor, Barack Obama. "The United States is keen to avoid a second piece of evidence that strategic patience is a failed approach," Tillerson said. "Strategic patience" is a rubbery term that critics have applied loosely to presidents - Republican and Democratic - who do not strike back swiftly at evidence of nascent rogue weapons-of-mass-destruction programs, instead preferring diplomatic and economic pressure.

On May 14, these seven people will mark the beginning of their 10th year in prison for the crime of being leading members of Iran's viciously persecuted and harmlessly devout Baha'i community. These seven people formed the entirety of the Yaran, the "Friends," in Persian, a group that that looked after the needs of Iran's Baha'is - in the Baha'i tradition there is no clergy. The Friends served as the successor group to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Iran, an administrative group whose several members were "disappeared" during the Khomeinist revolution of 1979. The last eight members of the Spiritual Assembly were executed by firing squad on Dec. 27, 1981. Ten years ago, the seven Friends were arrested and held without charge for more than a year. In January 2010 they were tried in a charade of secret criminal prosecutions on a variety of preposterous allegations: espionage, insulting religious sanctity, collaboration with Israel, propaganda against the regime and "spreading corruption on Earth."

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.

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