Thursday, July 20, 2017

Eye on Iran: Iran Blasted As 'Leading Sponsor' Of Terrorism In New U.S. Report

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The Trump administration Wednesday continued its sharp criticism of Iran, labeling Tehran the world's top government sponsor of terrorism. In a new report, the State Department said terrorist attacks and deaths from terrorism declined worldwide last year. The Islamic State militant group remained the most active "nonstate" perpetrator, the report said, despite having suffered a significant loss of territory. The document, formally titled Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, is issued annually under congressional mandate. A section on state sponsors of terrorism highlights Iran, its arming of the Hezbollah organization in Lebanon and anti-Israel groups like Hamas, plus its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom the U.S. accuses of committing numerous atrocities against his citizenry.

Iran will not fall into the "trap" that the Trump administration is attempting to set in order to force the collapse of the 2015 nuclear deal, President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday. The U.S. "ploy today is to behave in such a way as to have Iran say 'I am walking away'" from the agreement, Rouhani told his cabinet, according to the state-run Iranian Students News Agency. Iran "needs to be aware not to fall into their trap," he said. Rouhani's intervention came after the U.S. again made clear its readiness to confront Iran and the accord that scaled back its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. On Monday, it affirmed that the Islamic Republic has continued to meet the agreement's conditions -- as required every three months -- but hours later imposed new sanctions over what it called Iran's persistent efforts to destabilize the Middle East. There is "a school of thought in the administration" that wants to push Iran into walking away from the deal, said Henry Smith, lead analyst on Iran and the Middle East at the Dubai office of Control Risks, a research group. "The motivation for that is to make Iran look like it's at fault rather than" the U.S, he said. The White House is conducting a broader review of policy toward the Islamic Republic.

The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday Washington should move its bases and avoid "miscalculations" over new sanctions against Tehran, Iranian agencies reported.  The Trump administration imposed the new sanctions on Tuesday over Iran's ballistic missile program and said Tehran's "malign activities" in the Middle East undercut any positive contributions coming from the 2015 nuclear accord.  Iran says its program to develop ballistic missiles is defensive and does not violate the nuclear accord.  "If the United States wants to pursue sanctions against Iran's defenses and the Guards, then it has to move its regional bases to a distance of about 1,000 km (620 miles) around Iran and be aware that it would pay a high price for any miscalculations," Tasnim and other news agencies quoted Guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari as saying.  The Pentagon said it was not planning on its moving bases.


It has never been a particularly well-kept secret that Israel has conducted clandestine airstrikes in Syrian territory over recent years. But this week, Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to not only admit that these strikes had occurred, but that they had occurred "dozens" of times. The Israeli prime minister made this admission accidentally - all thanks to a hot mic. Netanyahu's remarks came during a meeting with Eastern European leaders in Budapest on Wednesday. Although the meeting occurred behind closed doors, the Israeli leader's microphone remained on and his voice was transmitted to headphones given to reporters earlier. Speaking to the leaders of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, Netanyahu said Israel had specifically targeted Iranian weapons shipments to the Lebanese militia Hezbollah in Syria, where Hezbollah is helping bolster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the ongoing civil war.


Kuwait said Thursday it is shutting the Iranian cultural mission to the country and calling for a reduction in the number of Iranian diplomats stationed there, deepening a rift between the Gulf Arab states and Tehran. The official Kuwait News Agency announced the move in a brief statement Thursday. It linked the decision to the case of a terrorist cell broken up in 2015 that authorities allege had contacts with Iran and the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah. The Iranian ambassador to Kuwait has been notified of the decision, the news agency, known as KUNA, reported. Iranian state television and other news agencies in the Islamic Republic quickly reported the news, citing Arab media. Embassy staff and officials in Tehran did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The 2015 case centers on a group of 26 people known as the al-Abdali cell whose arrests for links to Shiite powerhouse Iran touched on sensitive sectarian issues in Kuwait, a Sunni-majority country.


An Iranian Kurdish journalist reported in an interview with Al Arabiya that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces in Iran's Kurdistan and its recruiting forces, known as the Basij, received orders to launch a recruitment campaign in preparation for a possible war against the Kurdistan region in the event of its independence. Azad Mustovi, an Iranian Kurdish journalist in exile in France, quoted an informed source in Kurdistan Iran, who declined to be identified for security reasons, as saying that in recent days, the headquarters of the Revolutionary Guards and the mobilization forces have launched a recruitment campaign to send troops to Iraqi Kurdistan if necessary in preparation for a possible war with the Kurdish Peshmerga of Iraq in the event of the declaration of independence of Iraqi Kurdistan. The source added that some elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards of Iranian Kurds origins declared their unwillingness to fight against the Kurds of Iraq, but they are ready to fight against ISIS.


The last thing the United States needs is another war in the Middle East. Yet a drumbeat of provocative words, outright threats and actions - from President Trump and some of his top aides as well as Sunni Arab leaders and American activists - is raising tensions that could lead to armed conflict with Iran. Tehran invites some of this hostility with moves like detaining Xiyue Wang, a Princeton scholar, and supporting the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. And for many American politicians, Iran - estranged from the United States since 1979 - deserves only punishment and isolation. But Iran and the United States also share some interests, like fighting the Islamic State. So why not take advantage of all the diplomatic tools, including opening a dialogue, used before to manage difficult and even hostile governments? It is useful to recall the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq War, arguably America's biggest strategic blunder in modern times. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the country was riveted on Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. But in Washington, the talk turned almost immediately to Iraq and the chance to overthrow Saddam Hussein, even though he had nothing to do with Sept. 11 and had no nuclear weapons, as President George W. Bush alleged. Mr. Bush decided to fight a pre-emptive war without a solid justification or strategy.

President Trump reportedly battled with aides before deciding to certify that Iran is in compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a decision that rankled opponents of the deal. While confirming Iran's compliance with the JCPOA, the Trump administration tried to signal its willingness to impose new sanctions for Iran's non-nuclear behavior. In addition, Bloomberg's Eli Lake reports, "Administration officials on Monday said the Treasury Department was still reviewing a proposed sale of civilian airliners from Boeing to Iran's largest airline. That deal is under scrutiny because Iran uses its civilian air fleet to send supplies, personnel and weapons to the war in Syria." That couldn't come a moment too soon, according to critics of the JCPOA. John Hannah and Saeed Ghasseminejad write.

The world's biggest gas field lies between Qatar and Iran, and the half-competitive, half-cooperative race to exploit it has taken a new turn. For both countries, this enormous resource is also a source of political power. Now, with the emirate at odds with Tehran's foe, Saudi Arabia, its tacit cooperation with Iran is gaining, even as the two are set to compete more intensely in gas markets. In 1971, Shell first drilled into what became Qatar's North Field and was disappointed to find not oil, but gas, though in vast quantities. The country was only a modest oil producer with a tiny domestic and regional energy market. Through the 1980s and 1990s, it struggled to develop a liquefied natural gas project to export to Asia, but with low global energy prices, a cost-cutting BP gave up and Mobil took over. The emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who took power from his cautious father in a bloodless coup in 1995, was keen to press ahead.

This week marks the 23rd anniversary of the 1994 bombing of the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded an additional 300. Iran has marked the occasion by insulting the victims of the attack with a hollow offer of assistance, even as it shelters the senior Iranians indicted for the crime. Indeed, Iran continues to actively engage in a wide range of illicit and militant activities around the world. Just this week, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned 16 Iranian entities and individuals responsible for supporting the Iranian military and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), only further underscoring Iran's commitment to illicit activities since 1994. In 1994, Iranian agents and Hezbollah terrorists blew up a Jewish community center in Argentina. Twenty-three years later, Tehran now says it is ready to work with INTERPOL to resolve the case, even as it insists that the investigation to date has been unduly influenced by "political interests" - a thinly-veiled reference to the U.S. and Israel. But like past Iranian offers to cooperate on the case, this should not be seen as a genuine effort to solve the crime, but rather as an attempt to absolve Iran of its role in a heinous act of terrorism.

Marking two years since Iran's nuclear deal (JCPOA), we would be badly mistaken if we assumed that the 'architects' of Barack Obama's policy of handing over the keys of the Middle East to Tehran rulers feel any kind of regret or remorse. Not a bit. Obama's 'cabal', which gave Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) a carte blanche throughout the region when it was in charge of it Middle East policies, is quite happy with what it has 'achieved' despite its admission that "Iran's behavior in the region has not improved". The other day, Robert Malley, a leading member of the said 'cabal' tweeted an article co-written by Philip Gordon, another 'cabal' member with Richard Nephew - a researcher and expert who dealt with Iran's nuclear file between 2011 and 2013 - in The Atlantic magazine. Malley, a 'progressive' admirer of Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iran's rulers who detests Arab 'conservatives', tweeted 'Why the Iran deal has worked, and why its critics have it wrong'. As for Gordon and Nephew, they chose for their article the following title 'The 'Worst Deal Ever' That Actually Wasn't'!

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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