Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Eye on Iran: Exclusive: Iran Revolutionary Guards Find New Route To Arm Yemen Rebels

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Iran's Revolutionary Guards have started using a new route across the Gulf to funnel covert arms shipments to their Houthi allies in Yemen's civil war, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters. In March, regional and Western sources told Reuters that Iran was shipping weapons and military advisers to the Houthis either directly to Yemen or via Somalia. This route however risked contact with international naval vessels on patrol in the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. For the last six months the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has begun using waters further up the Gulf between Kuwait and Iran as it looks for new ways to beat an embargo on arms shipments to fellow Shi'ites in the Houthi movement, Western and Iranian sources say. Using this new route, Iranian ships transfer equipment to smaller vessels at the top of the Gulf, where they face less scrutiny. The [transshipments] take place in Kuwaiti waters and in nearby international shipping lanes, the sources said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged on Tuesday that he and President Donald Trump disagree over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and said the two men discuss how to use the international agreement to advance administration policies... Trump has preserved the deal for now, although he has made clear he did so reluctantly after being advised to do so by Tillerson.

Heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran look certain to stall already challenging efforts by Iran to attract billions of dollars in foreign investment for its oil and gas industry Iran finally signed its first major energy investment contract in early July with French energy giant Total but expectations that the deal will be the first of many have been upended by the worsening political climate triggered by new sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States.


Iran believes new sanctions that the United States has imposed on it breach the nuclear deal it agreed in 2015 and has complained to a body that oversees the pact's implementation, a senior politician said on Tuesday.

The Iran nuclear deal, struck in 2015 after countless late nights and serial missed deadlines, is running into trouble just six months into Donald Trump's presidency. Trump has indicated he's unlikely to again certify Iran's compliance, as required under U.S. law every 90 days, arguing its missile program and foreign policy are an affront to the spirit of the pact. Separately, Congress has approved broadening sanctions through legislation awaiting Trump's signature. The pressure has put Tehran in a bind: It sees the American actions as an infringement of the agreement, and factions that have consistently rejected it are pushing for a more aggressive Iranian riposte. Delivering one would risk allowing the U.S. to blame Iran for any subsequent collapse of the accord.


With this latest launch, Iran's space program has emerged from a three-year dormancy initiated by Rouhani but probably issuing from technical and budgetary constraints as well. Further launches can be expected in the near future, likely renewing concerns over the nature of Iran's missile and SLV programs. The scenario is especially worrisome when considering assessments that a ballistic-missile derivative of the Simorgh could potentially achieve intercontinental range. Iran insists its inherently military-run space program is for peaceful purposes only and that its ballistic missiles are for conventional deterrence at a range no greater than 2,000 kilometers. Such rhetoric and Iran's technical limitations notwithstanding, the mere possibility of diverted know-how from an SLV to an ICBM program will unsettle many Western capitals. Previous close cooperation between Tehran and Pyongyang will provide no further solace.


In just the past few weeks: Iran launched a rocket carrying a satellite into space. It also announced it is creating a new missile production line, and said it would continue with its missile program.. The U.S. Navy fired warning shots at an Iranian vessel that came dangerously close to them in the Persian Gulf. Iran signed a military cooperation deal with Iraq, and it has been downplaying the U.S. role in the efforts to liberate Mosul from ISIS. Why it matters: Iran has long been wary of the U.S. presence in the region, since it believes the U.S. is out to undermine its regime and ability to influence the region. These latest steps are Iran signaling to the U.S. that the time has come for U.S. influence in the region to wane, said Nick Heras, who has conducted research at the National Defense University for U.S. Cyber Command. Farzan Sabet, a Stanford University expert on U.S.-Iran relations who has done research on U.S.-Iran relations, put it simply - Iran "wants the Americans to leave." The latest response: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters Tuesday "it is our intention to push back on Iran's expansionist efforts to destabilize the region."


The autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan has not been informed of plans by the central government that Iraq and Iran agreed to study the potential construction of a pipeline that would export crude oil from fields in Kirkuk via Iran, a senior Kurdish lawmaker told London-based Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat on Tuesday, adding that the Iraq-Iran project was violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.


Iran is gradually increasing its support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Rather than eliminating the Iranian presence in the country, the Saudi-led war is giving Tehran the opportunity to become more influential there than ever. The Houthis remain fiercely independent of Iran, but they will need Tehran's backing more as the stalemate continues.


The visit to Saudi Arabia by Iraq's influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr was welcomed by the Trump administration on Monday, and is seen by experts as a significant development for regional stability and countering Iran's expansionism. The black-turbaned cleric sent a message to several quarters by meeting Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah on Sunday. Mr Al Sadr's last visit to the kingdom in 2006 was centred on the Hajj, but his latest one is very political in nature and comes at a critical time in Saudi-Iraqi relations. Commenting on the visit, a US state department official told The National that "both Saudi Arabia and Iraq are solid partners of the United States" and "we welcome strong relations between the two countries and continue to support their efforts and outreach in this regard".  Ever since 2003, successive US administrations have pushed for more Saudi engagement with the new Iraq, and the past two months have seen three high-level Iraqi visits to Saudi Arabia - by prime minister Haider Al Abadi, his interior minister Qasim Al Araji, and now by Mr Al Sadr.


Amnesty International says Iran's judicial and security bodies have waged a vicious clampdown on human rights defenders, vilifying and imprisoning activists who dare to stand up for people's rights. In a new report, the rights watchdog says scores of Iranian human rights defenders have been imprisoned on fabricated charges of threatening "national security." Many others have been subjected to surveillance, interrogations, and drawn-out criminal proceedings coercing them into self-censorship, it says... It says the wave of repression appears to be an attempt on the part of the state's repressive arms to crush any hopes of human rights reform raised by the promises of increased freedoms made during President Hassan Rohani's first election campaign in 2013.

A prisoner was hanged in public in Iran while a large crowd of people watched.  Iran Human Rights (August 1 2017): A prisoner by the name of Hossein Sarooki was hanged in public in the city of Juybar on murder charges.  According to the state-run news agency, Jouybaran, the execution was carried out on the morning of Tuesday August 1 in front of a crowd of five thousand people.  An informed source tells Iran Human Rights that Hossein Sarooki was 28 years of age at the time of his execution and was transferred to solitary confinement at Ghaem Shahr Prison on Monday in preparation for his execution.

The families of two former opposition presidential candidates in Iran who have been under house arrest since 2011 say that they are being denied adequate care despite deteriorating health, Human Right Watch said today. The former candidates, Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Zahra Rahnavard, an author and activist who is Mousavi's wife, have been under house arrest in Tehran since February 2011. Iranian authorities should immediately provide them with unrestricted access to adequate health care.

The Times of Israel is acutely concerned for the well-being of Neda Amin, a Turkey-based, Iranian-born blogger for The Times of Israel's Persian website, who is being threatened with imminent deportation by Turkey. Amin has appealed to the United Nations in Turkey to protect her, noting that the UN previously designated her a refugee in 2015, and has also appealed to human rights organizations and others to intervene on her behalf, asking that a country be found where she can be given safe refuge. Amin fears that if no other country takes her in, she will be sent back to Iran, where she fears for her fate. She is now battling the deportation threat via the Turkish courts. The UN Watch NGO is circulating a petition on Amin's behalf, warning that she "is in grave danger should she be deported back to Iran."

Iranian opposition figure Mehdi Karrubi has been hospitalized for a second time in a week due to a heart condition, his wife said. Karrubi's wife, Fatemeh Karrubi, told the semiofficial ILNA news agency on July 31 that her husband had been transferred to the coronary unit of a Tehran hospital after having tests done. She said doctors don't think it's safe for him to undergo open-heart surgery. Karrubi, 79, a former parliament speaker who has been under house arrest since 2011 without being charged, was also briefly hospitalized on July 25 due to heart problems. Karrubi's relatives say his health problems have been caused by his long detention. Karrubi, along with opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, were placed under house arrest in February 2011 for challenging the establishment over the disputed 2009 presidential vote and also for highlighting human rights abuses.


Iran's president is under pressure to appoint female ministers as he mulls a cabinet reshuffle before his swearing-in ceremony on Sunday. Hassan Rouhani's all-male list of ministers during his first term in office dismayed his base even though the moderate cleric appointed a number of women as vice-president, a comparatively less senior position in Iran's political hierarchy.  As jockeying intensifies before the unveiling of his new cabinet, concerns have grown that Rouhani may give in to pressure from hardliners and not include women as ministers. Expectation is particularly high because he ran on a reformist agenda. Under the Iranian constitution, the Majlis (parliament), would have to approve his appointees.

The economy dominated Iran's recent presidential election. Hassan Rouhani, the incumbent, argued that integration into the global economy is the only path to prosperity and job creation, while his rivals accused his administration of having ignored the poor. Rouhani's opponents also promised to create millions of jobs, double the size of the economy and triple monthly cash payments to low-income families. In the end, most Iranian voters preferred Rouhani's path. Whether President Rouhani can deliver on his promises remains unclear, as does whether the head of government is powerful enough to realize any pledge to fundamentally revive the economy. The distinct division between the public and private sectors of national economies as generally understood by economists does not apply in Iran. Iranian university professor Amrollah Ghadiri wrote in a May 1 editorial for the leading daily Donya-e Eqtesad, "It is time for us to separate the government as the executive branch from the state and organizations affiliated with the state in studying the economy."

Iran's justice department confirmed the arrest of two Iranian religious eulogists on Sunday. Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei provided no names or details on the reason for their arrests, but according to unofficial reports they were arrested on charges of spying for Israel. In unconfirmed reports circulating on social media in the last few weeks, that sound like a Hollywood movie plot, two young women allegedly approached the two famous religious eulogists, Reza Helali and Rouhollah Bahmani, who have close ties to the conservative political establishment, and started up romantic relations with them, extracting sensitive information that they passed on to individuals working for the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad. The unconfirmed reports can have a public relations impact for the regime because Helali and Bahmani both have close ties to high-ranking Iranian officials.

Earlier this year, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke of "Iran's alarming and ongoing provocations that export terror and violence: "Whether it be assassination attempts, support of weapons of mass destruction, deploying destabilizing militias, Iran spends its treasure and time disrupting peace." Evidence of Iran's malign activity was recently made available when the State Department published its annual report on global terrorism. As Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism Justin Siberell said at the release of the report, while ISIS remains a top focus for U.S. and international counterterrorism efforts, Iran remains the foremost state sponsor of terrorism globally. The report identifies the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps' Qods Force as Iran's primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad- for example, through the Qods Force's direct involvement in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

Iran or North Korea? Which threat should America confront first? Here's a thought: both... [O]ne action the United States can take would be to put forth a UN resolution naming and sanctioning persons and entities involved in the Iran-North Korea arms cooperation. Western diplomats tell me it likely won't pass. Yet they're intrigued by publicly airing, Adlai Stevenson-like, America's intel on Iran-Nork cooperation. Iran's missile program was, bizarrely, left out of Obama's nuclear deal Revealing the Tehran-Pyongyang nexus might convince allies wobbly about Tehran's violations that the mullahs' threat is global. It could also start the process of plugging a major cash source for the Kim regime... We've long thought of Iran and North Korea as separate problems. Time for a holistic approach that will give a jolt to the diplomatic stalemate... But a change in diplomatic strategy is needed too, and fast. Time to expose what everyone knows, but no one ever says out loud: Kim and the mullahs are BFFs.

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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