Friday, May 5, 2017

Eye on Iran: Trump Joins Saudi Arabia, Arab Leaders For Potential Anti-Iran Alliance

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President Donald Trump is answering critics who call him "anti-Islamic" by making his first trip overseas to Saudi Arabia, to meet with Arab leaders to talk about fighting the so-called Islamic State. "It lays to rest the notion that America is anti-Muslim," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters Thursday, saying it would "change the conversation with regards to America's relationship with the Islamic world." After Riyadh, Trump will travel to Israel and the Vatican-a tour meant to unite the world's great religions against radicalism and to put a marker down for restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, senior administration officials told reporters Thursday. The trip indicates that Trump is re-aligning the White House with Saudi Arabia's and Israel's anti-Iran position, while the Obama administration had sought to stay more neutral in order to deliver the Iranian nuclear deal.

Efforts to unseat the moderate cleric have been aided by the growing perception that the rewards from the nuclear accord haven't been evenly distributed. In an April survey by IranPoll, 72 percent of respondents said the deal hadn't improved the living standards of average Iranians. Khamenei has admonished candidates not to campaign on their ability to attract foreign investment, a comment widely seen as a dig at the incumbent. "Rouhani needs in the next two weeks to work on showing that post-sanctions developments will benefit the poor, if not now, then in his second term," says Adnan Tabatabai, chief executive officer of the Center for Applied Research in Partnership With the Orient, a think tank based in Bonn, Germany. Hossein, who owns a shop that sells saffron, barberries, and spices in the northeastern city of Torqabeh, Qalibaf's hometown, voted for Rouhani in 2013, but he's considering supporting the Tehran mayor this time around. "I am of two minds," says the merchant, adding that business was better under Rouhani's predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

When Iran attempted to launch a cruise missile from a "midget" submarine earlier this week, Pentagon officials saw more evidence of North Korean influence in the Islamic Republic - with intelligence reports saying the submarine was based on a Pyongyang design, the same type that sank a South Korean warship in 2010. According to U.S. defense officials, Iran was attempting to launch a Jask-2 cruise missile underwater for the first time, but the launch failed. Nonproliferation experts have long suspected North Korea and Iran are sharing expertise when it comes to their rogue missile programs. "The very first missiles we saw in Iran were simply copies of North Korean missiles," said Jeffrey Lewis, a missile proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. "Over the years, we've seen photographs of North Korean and Iranian officials in each other's countries, and we've seen all kinds of common hardware."  


Former Senator Joe Lieberman discussed the Iranian elections and the implications of the outcome in a phone interview with Jewish Insider on Wednesday. "Unfortunately I would say that there is no preferable outcome for the United States," Lieberman said about the May 19 Iranian presidential election. "In other words, Rouhani was described as the moderate has been the leader of the government during the time when they have done so much damage in their own countries with a number of executions of political opponents is up. They've also presented thousands of IRGC soldiers into Syria. They've greatly strengthened Hezbollah which strengthened Syria, but also threatening Israel. And they're involved in aggression in Yemen. So he may call himself a moderate, but he's not. Ebrahim Raisi, the main opponent to Rouhani, seems to be more theologically conservative and enjoys, it appears, the backing of the Supreme Leader. But in the end, the Supreme Leader is the power and he's not changing. In fact, very little has changed about the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran since 1979 when it seized power. And, therefore, they remain, as they say themselves, our determined and intransigent enemies."

Former Senator Joe Lieberman - now the chairman of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) - said in an interview with Jewish Insider published on Thursday that he "would guess that whoever wins the election in Iran will stick to the nuclear agreement to the same extent, because it benefits Iran so much." Lieberman, who spent the bulk of his political career as a Democratic legislator, expressed confidence in Trump's skeptical attitude toward Iran. "Trump ... has been a critic of the agreement from the beginning," he stated. "And I think we can count on his administration to demand full compliance, not only with the agreement, but as he's recently said, the spirit of the agreement."


Congress is considering new methods to crack down on and expose a state-controlled Iranian airline company that routinely uses commercial flights to ferry weapons and terrorist fighters to regional hotspots, according to a copy of new bipartisan legislation circulating through the Senate and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. The legislation comes after U.S. plane manufacturer Boeing has announced plans to move forward with a multi-billion dollar deal with Iran Air, an Iranian state-controlled company that is likely to dole out at least a portion of the new airplanes to Mahan Air, another state-controlled carrier suspected of playing a key role in the country's terrorism operations.


CMA CGM Group has appointed CMA CGM Pars as its new agency in Iran as from May 1st, 2017.


Russia, Turkey and Iran signed an agreement Thursday for the creation of "de-escalation zones" in Syria as a step toward greater stability in the war-torn country, according to Turkish and Russian officials. U.S. officials reacted warily to the agreement, questioning whether any plan that includes Iran can succeed. The deal, signed during Syrian peace negotiations held in the Kazakh capital of Astana by officials from the three guarantor nations, covers multiple provinces in the Mideast country that are contested between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran, and multiple armed rebel groups.


The White House on Thursday announced that the US President Donald Trump will visit Saudi Arabia on May 23, and senior US administration officials said they are working to build a framework in the Middle East to counter ISIS and Iran, and provide a security blanket for America's allies in the region. Iran must be confronted, they said and the new National Security Council and Trump are placing the Iranian threat within the strategic threat posed by Russia. The Americans see Iran's actions and goals as similar to those of Russia's. Both Tehran and Moscow seeks to replace US influence. In addition, the Americans see Iran as a "potential for Russia". It is difficult for Russia to keep Bashar al-Assad in power without Iran. Iran can also help Russia gain a wider influence in Iraq at the expense of the Americans.

Iran said on Thursday it is ready for talks with Saudi Arabia to promote regional peace despite "unlawful and inflammatory" remarks by the Saudi deputy crown prince, who vowed to protect his kingdom from what he called Iranian efforts to dominate the Muslim world. "We have no desire, nor any interest, in an escalation of tension in our neighborhood," Iran's U.N. Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo wrote in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council. "We continue to stand ready for dialogue and accommodation to promote regional stability, combat destabilizing extremist violence and reject sectarian hatred," he wrote. "We hope Saudi Arabia will be persuaded to heed the call of reason."

Iran responded angrily on Thursday to criticisms by Saudi Arabia's defense minister, accusing him of acts that violate the United Nations Charter and calling his kingdom an instigator of "dangerous ambitions in the region and beyond." The Iranian response came in a formal protest letter sent to the United Nations Security Council and to Secretary General António Guterres by Iran's ambassador, Gholamali Khoshroo. The latest exchange could further exacerbate tensions between Shiite-led Iran and Sunni-led Saudi Arabia, which compete for religious and political influence in the Middle East and stand with opposite sides in the Syria and Yemen conflicts.


British-Iranian grandfather will be entering his seventh year in prison for alleged espionage charges in Iran, his family said. Kamal Foroughi, a 77-year-old oil and gas company consultant, was detained in 2011 before being convicted of espionage and possessing alcohol two years later. Friday marks six years since the detention of Mr Foroughi, who strenuously maintains his innocence. The family of the dual national have long campaigned for his release from Evin prison in Tehran - the same jail where another dual national, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, is being held.


Iran's main pro-reform opposition leaders plan to speak out from their confinement under house arrest this month to publicly back President Hassan Rouhani for re-election, aides say, helping win over voters disillusioned with the slow pace of change. Rouhani was elected in a landslide in 2013 on promises to ease Iran's international isolation and open up society. He is standing for a second term against five other candidates, mostly prominent hardliners, on May 19, with a run-off a week later if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of votes cast in the first round. In his first term, Rouhani expended his political capital pushing through a landmark agreement with global powers to limit Iran's nuclear program in return for the lifting of international financial sanctions.

Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and prominent Reformist lawmaker Mohammad Reza Aref have reached a consensus on setting up a committee to do preparatory work for what has been dubbed the National Dialogue Plan. The initiative has been discussed in recent months by members of the Hope (Omid) faction, a Reformist parliamentary bloc led by Aref. While former Reformist President Mohammad Khatami's call for national reconciliation earlier this year was roundly rejected by Iranian conservatives, the initiative may finally take off with Principlist parliament Speaker Ali Larijani at its helm.  As its running theme, the plan encourages a dialogue-based solution to discrepancies and disputes between political groups in a bid to reduce factional tension and sniping.

The six candidates contesting Iran's presidential elections are to join their second live debate on state television ahead the May 19 race. The session is to start at 16:30 local time (21:00 GMT) on Friday. It is to address "political-cultural" affairs. The debate will gather incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, First Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri, Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, member of Iran's Expediency Council Mostafa Aqa-Mirsalim, Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi, the current custodian of the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH) in the northeastern city of Mashhad and former vice president Mostafa Hashemi-Taba. The previous debate, which took place last week, revolved around social issues.


Are there reasonable grounds to believe that the time is ripe for the United States and its Middle Eastern allies to put together a new, but sound, positive, and effective Middle East regional security policy? And which would have as its core three objectives the US and its allies might adopt: (1) the elimination of the Iranian Revolutionary Islamic objectives (found in the Iranian constitution); (2) an end, not a pause, to Iran's nuclear weapons program; and (3) limits on Iran's ballistic missile capabilities. In pursuit of such a policy, to get a change in Iranian behavior, here are some options we might consider, some of which have already been adopted or are in the process of being adopted.

While Iran is fighting Saudi Arabia and Gulf states through its militias in Yemen and directly in Bahrain, and combats for its interests in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, reconciliation and peacemaking attempts continued between Iran and the Gulf States, prominently Saudi Arabia. Occasionally, calls for negotiations would come from former US President Barack Obama, or through European foreign ministers, and sometimes - shockingly - through Gulf countries' efforts. Each party credits itself for strengthening their positions even if it came on the expenses of Arab and Gulf states, though these calls would benefit Iran. Everyone knows that Iran can't go on with a reasonable dialogue while executing its expansion and interference in internal affairs policy. Yet, it seems that the final chapter of these callings is irreversibly over after Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman explained his country's position saying it is impossible to reach mutual understanding between Saudi Arabia and Iran: "There is no common ground between us and the Iranian regime."

"Iran's provocative actions threaten the United States, the region and the world," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned in a major speech last month. The mere possibility of Washington pushing back on Tehran's transgressions and focusing not only on the mullahs' nuclear program but also on "alarming and ongoing provocations that export terror and violence" has already sent shockwaves through the clerical establishment. Tillerson said the Trump administration is reviewing America's overall Iran policy, a welcome opportunity to end nearly 40 years of botched rapprochement. A good place to start is by recognizing two basic realities: The regime is vulnerable to a hostile population eager to overthrow it, and the notion that the mullocracy can "reform" itself is a dangerous illusion that prolongs past mistakes.

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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