Friday, July 21, 2017

Eye on Iran: CIA Chief Warns Russian, Iranian Aims In Syria Threaten The U.S.

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On Iran, Pompeo said the Islamic Republic has a "significant foothold" in Syria and is seeking to create a corridor through Syria and Iraq as part of its effort to become the "kingpin" of the Middle East. "We are working diligently to figure out how to push back against Iran, not only in the nuclear arena but in all the other spaces as well," Pompeo said. Pompeo was a strong opponent of the deal Iran signed with world powers during the Obama administration to curb its nuclear program in exchange for lifting some sanctions. While the current administration has reluctantly certified that Iran is keeping its commitments under the accord, the intelligence chief compared its compliance to having a "bad tenant." "They don't pay their rent, you call them and then they send a check and it doesn't clear and then they send another one," Pompeo said. "And then the next day there's an old, tired sofa in the front yard and you tell them to take it away, and you know they drag it to the back. This is Iranian compliance today: grudging, minimalist, temporary."

Kuwait ordered the expulsion of the Iranian ambassador and 14 other diplomats for alleged links to a "spy and terror" cell, Iranian and Kuwaiti media reported on Thursday, worsening an unusual public dispute between the two countries.  Kuwait also told Iran's cultural and military missions to shut down, following a court case that increased tensions between the Gulf Arab state and Tehran. Iran responded to the expulsions by filing a complaint with the Kuwaiti charge d'affaires, the Iranian news agency ISNA said. ISNA also said Kuwait is allowing only four of 19 embassy staff to remain in the country. Some sources said those expelled were given 45 days to leave the country; others said 48 days. The expulsions were an unusual move for Kuwait, which avoids conflict and has worked at keeping good relations with all the countries in the region, and whose ruling emir is a regional diplomatic broker. Analysts said they thought the expulsion of the ambassador was the first ever by Kuwait.

The family of former FBI agent Robert Levinson has met with State Department officials about efforts to locate him more than a decade after he disappeared in Iran. That's according to a U.S official who says the meeting took place in Washington on Thursday. The official wasn't authorized to discuss the information publicly and requested anonymity. It's unclear exactly what the relatives discussed with the State Department. The official says many U.S. government officials believe Levinson is no longer alive. The State Department isn't confirming the meeting but says the U.S. is "unwavering" in its commitment to find Levinson and bring him home. The State Department says it seeks Iran's cooperation. Levinson disappeared from Iran's Kish Island in 2007. For years, U.S. officials didn't acknowledge his FBI affiliation.


New U.S. sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile programme are unfounded, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official said on Thursday, the RIA news agency reported Washington slapped new economic sanctions against Iran on Tuesday over its ballistic missile programme, saying Tehran's "malign activities" in the Middle East had undercut any "positive contributions" coming from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord. RIA also cited Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the Foreign Ministry's department for non-proliferation and arms control, as saying that the United States was fulfilling its own part of the Iran nuclear deal "very badly."


Iran threatened to reciprocate Kuwait's decision to expel most of its diplomats on Thursday, saying the accusations that Tehran was behind a terrorist cell in the country were "baseless". "Iran's strong objection has been communicated to Kuwait's charge d'affaires It was reiterated that Iran reserves the right to a reciprocal measure," said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi in a statement on his Telegram channel. A senior Kuwaiti official had earlier told AFP that 15 Iranian diplomats had been asked to leave the country. The move follows a court case in which 21 people were found guilty of belonging to a cell that had been formed and trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, which Tehran has denied "It is regrettable that Kuwaiti officials, in this sensitive situation in the region, instead of making an effort to reduce useless tensions... have targeted the Islamic republic with baseless accusations," an Iranian foreign ministry official told the Kuwaiti charge d'affaires during their meeting, according to Ghasemi.


The Center For Human Rights In Iran (CHRI) has voiced concern over what it says is a "disturbing trend" of arrests and imprisonments of Christian converts in Iran. The New York-based rights group said on July 20 that in less than two months, eleven Christian converts and the former leader of the Assyrian Pentecostal Church in Iran have been sentenced to long prison terms. "Christians are recognized as an official religious minority in Iran's Constitution, but the state continues to persecute members of the faith, especially converts," CHRI's executive director, Hadi Ghaemi, said in a statement. Activists say that dozens of Christian converts have been arrested and harassed in recent years in Iran, where according to applied Islamic laws a Muslim who converts to another faith can face the death penalty.


Iran's official IRNA news agency is reporting that elite Revolutionary Guard forces have killed three terrorists and wounded four others in a clash in a border area in the country's northwest. The Friday report said a Guard member was killed and another wounded in the clash that happened late Thursday. One terrorist was detained, the report said. IRNA did not identify the insurgents but said some of them escaped. Northwest of Iran is a Kurdish area close to the borders of both Iraq and Turkey and it is the scene of occasional clashes between Iranian forces and militant Kurdish separatists and Daesh (ISIS)-linked fighters. Iran also faces threats from Arab separatists in the southwest and Baluch militants on its eastern border with Pakistan.


Throughout the long and contentious debate over the nuclear deal with Iran, the question of Iranian compliance with any agreement was one of the most contentious. The pact was bitterly criticized for setting up an inspection process that was far from the "anytime, anywhere" system initially promised by the Obama administration. But in a stroke of irony, nearly two years into the life of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it is not just Iran's compliance that is being debated. Tehran is accusing the U.S. of violating the deal, a charge backed up by a feature in the New York Times. The president should embrace the breach, and he should realize he erred in certifying Iran's own compliance with the deal earlier this week - a decision he reportedly made at the behest of his counselors, going against his own inclinations. The next time the U.S. has to certify compliance, Trump should have the courage of his convictions and say no.

Two months have passed since the May presidential "elections" in Iran that saw the incumbent Hassan Rouhani reach a second term. The pro-Iran appeasement camp in the West went the distance to raise hopes over the hoax of Rouhani rendering major reforms. These voices somehow described Rouhani as a "reformist" and completely neglected the over 3,000 executions during his first term as president. Reports from across the country are turning out to be very disturbing, signaling more troubling times to come in reference to human rights violations. As fellow Forbes contributor Ellen R. Wald reported, "On July 16, news came out that an American graduate student at Princeton University named Xiyue Wang had been sentenced to 10 years in an Iranian prison for 'espionage.'" This is Iran again resorting to old tactics of taking Westerners as hostage, mainly dual citizens, to be used as bargaining chips in advancing objectives and politics in negotiations with interlocutors.

As the Iranian nuclear agreement turns two years old this month, Iranhawks are once again advocating their preferred solution to the Iranian problem: regime change. Last month, Politico reported that shortly after President Trump's inauguration, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative Washington think tank, had submitted a memo to the National Security Council arguing that "Iran is susceptible to a strategy of coerced democratization because it lacks popular support and relies on fear to sustain its power [...] The very structure of the regime invites instability, crisis and possibly collapse." As the Council on Foreign Relations' Ray Takeyh put it in another example, "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." U.S. President Donald Trump and his team's hostility toward the Islamic Republic has surely encouraged such hawks, with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently indicating that peaceful regime change is a policy option that his team may pursue. Regime change, however, simply isn't feasible unless the United States is ready to commit, politically and militarily, to another Middle Eastern theater for an extended period of time.

Over the past six months, in one way or another, President Donald Trump has kicked several of the cans inherited from Barack Obama down the road. After several attempts at abolishing it, the so-called Obamacare has been kicked into legislative oblivion. Obama's policy of courting the Castro brothers has been slightly modified but not scrapped. The Paris Climate Accord has been verbally dismissed but not definitely buried if only because it won't become binding until 2020. The latest can to be kicked down the road is the so-called Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action (CJPOA), the curious press release which enumerates things that Iran must do about its controversial nuclear project in exchange for the temporary suspension of sanctions. On Monday, the US State Department informed Congress that the president would extend the waiver for suspending sanctions for a further three months. The department justified the decision by claiming that Iran had respected the letter of the CJPOA while violating its spirit.

An American student, Xiyue Wang, who was in Tehran studying a dynasty that ended nearly a century ago, has been detained and sentenced to jail in Iran, likely without convincing proof. Universities in the United States must ban sending students to Iran until it demonstrates a willingness to stop turning them into geopolitical pawns. Based on my experiences, and in light of the long list of Westerners detained by the Iranian government in recent decades, it is reckless for American universities to ignore the real threat that students face when they travel to Iran. This is a painful position to for me to promote. Such exchanges have had a transformative effect on my life. I was introduced to the Middle East through the Beirut Exchange. I worked for four years at the American University of Afghanistan, having the honor of representing America's envied higher education system while doing my part to find more effective tools for US. foreign policy through research and writing. I wrote a short book detailing the life of a little-known Persian poet from Afghanistan whose studies in the United States in the 1970s led to a groundbreaking PhD documenting the previously unknown influence of Rumi on Walt Whitman.

Under this "deal," up to $150 billion in sanctions relief, as well as our leverage, was negotiated away without addressing Iran's non-nuclear bad activities: overthrowing foreign governments, sponsoring terrorism, developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, unjustly imprisoning Americans, blowing up mock U.S. warships, pledging to wipe Israel ("the little Satan") off the map, and chanting Death to America ("the great Satan") on national holidays, just to name a few. As far as Iran's nuclear activities go, the Iranians can't help themselves but to cheat. Even if they don't cheat, on top of the billions of dollars in sanctions relief that can be at least partially used for Iran's dangerous, threatening activities, it has a blueprint for how to obtain a nuclear weapon in just over a decade. It's the best of both worlds, and Iran is the clear all-around winner.

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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