Thursday, October 26, 2017

Eye on Iran: In Mideast, Mnuchin Looks to Raise Pressure on Iran, Stem Terror Financing

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U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin kicked off a week of high-level meetings across the Middle East aimed at increasing financial pressure on Iran and cracking down on terror financing in the region. On Wednesday, he launched a new regional antiterror-finance center in Saudi Arabia called the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, which brings together the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and five other Gulf states to cut off the flow of money to terror networks in the region... Mr. Mnuchin and other senior Trump officials also are seeking to bolster a new Iran policy, announced earlier this month, which aims to confront the U.S. adversary more aggressively, particularly over its weapons programs and links to terror groups in the region.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday backed new sanctions on Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah militia, part of an effort to take a tough line against Tehran without immediately moving to undermine an international nuclear agreement... The House will vote on Thursday on another bill, to impose additional sanctions on Iran related to its ballistic missiles program.  

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog will visit Iran on Sunday for talks with senior officials there, as opposition from the United States threatens to undermine an international accord to curtail Iran's nuclear program. 


"Today, right now, let's designate the Qods Force as an FTO and [Maj. Gen.] Qassem Soleimani as its head," United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) chief executive officer Mark Wallace told hearing of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.

During testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mark Wallace, former ambassador to the U.N who now heads the activist group United Against Nuclear Iran, said the decision by the Trump administration will now allow the U.S. government to deal with issues left out of the agreement. "The sky didn't fall with certification or not certification," Wallace told lawmakers. "Now we have to deal with Iran's behavior, as Iran and our government did not want to include a variety of issues in its negotiations in the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], it carved out everything from missiles to terrorism to human rights, let's now readdress those."

TRAILBLAZER - In an appearance before a House Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East hearing on the Iran nuclear deal, former United Nations Ambassador and fellow Floridian Mark Wallace paid tribute to outgoing Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as "a trailblazer as the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress and the first female chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee." Video is here.

Mark Wallace, CEO of United Against Nuclear Iran, endorsed the administration's call for legislation that would automatically reinstitute sanctions if Iran does not agree to address its concerns. He said the administration should also develop a more comprehensive strategy to deal with Iran's growing influence in the Middle East that is disconnected from the agreement. "We have to push Iran back and we have to use our economic pressure to do that," said Wallace, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for management and reform. "And it's worked in the past. It can work again, but it requires a bipartisan consensus."

One of these is David Daoud, a researcher analyst for the United Against a Nuclear Iran think tank and advocacy group, who argues that by attacking Lebanese national infrastructure, Israel could end up helping Hezbollah by proving to the Lebanese population that the terrorist group is, as it claims, the country's defender against the "Zionist regime."


"If international efforts led these days by U.S. President Trump don't help stop Iran attaining nuclear capabilities, Israel will act militarily by itself," Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said in an interview in Tokyo. "There are changes that can be made (to the agreement) to ensure that they will never have the ability to have a nuclear weapon."


Once again, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has emphasized that Tehran will not negotiate with the West over Iran's ballistic missile program.


The US Treasury Department's recent move to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) under terrorism authority has put the military organization back in the spotlight. The subsequent tweet by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in which he declared that "all Iranians are IRGC" ready to defend their homeland in response to US pressure, gave rise to spirited debate on social media about the Guard Corps and its role in Iranian society. The US Treasury's action and Zarif's response illustrate the dual character of the IRGC as it exists in Iran today. On one hand, it is a political and military organization and the principal actor behind Iran's internal and external security posture. On the other hand, it is an organization of great social significance, motivated by the ideology of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and a patron of institutions and bodies that define the orthodoxy of Iranian patriotism.


The BBC said on Wednesday it had filed an urgent complaint to the United Nations after Iran began a criminal investigation into 152 BBC Persian staff and contributors, accusing them of "conspiracy against national security" in Iran and abroad. Iran has frozen the assets of BBC Persian staff, meaning they cannot inherit family assets and preventing them and their families from selling assets, such as property or cars, in Iran.  All individuals on the list work, or have worked, for BBC Persian, part of the BBC World Service. A Reuters correspondent who was working for the BBC until 2015 was also on the list. "This is the latest in a sustained campaign of harassment and persecution which is designed to pressure journalists against continuing their work for the BBC," Britain's publicly funded broadcaster said in a statement.


US National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster has said that Washington is determined to confront Iran's proxies, including Hezbollah. In an interview with Alhurra news network, McMaster also accused Iran of taking advantage of divisions within the Kurdish Regional Government, to promote its own interests. "The most dangerous course of action to take is to not confront Hezbollah, to not confront these Iranian proxies who are propping up the (Bashar) Assad regime, and helping that regime continue to murder its own people. To not confront Iran's support for Houthis in Yemen in a way that was perpetuating that civil war there," he said.


Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi insisted he would keep close ties with both the U.S. and Iran even as tensions rise between the two, and warned them both away from competing on Iraq's turf as he reclaims it from the retreating forces of Islamic State and the Kurds. Mr. Abadi also said he wants U.S. forces to remain in Iraq after the last remaining Islamic State redoubts are liberated, and he pledged to disarm Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militias that refuse to come under his control.  In an interview with The Wall Street Journal and two other U.S. publications, he issued a plea to Washington and Tehran not to involve Iraq in their growing confrontation over Iran's nuclear deal and missile program, and the U.S. threat of renewed sanctions. Iraq, like Iran, is majority Shiite and Mr. Abadi's predominantly Shiite party has been allied with Tehran for decades.

As Iraqi forces reclaim the last stretches of territory held by the Islamic State, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he would not allow his country to become an arena for the United States, Iran and Sunni powers to fight out their rivalries. "We would like to work with you, both of you," Abadi said of the United States and Iran. "But please don't bring your trouble inside Iraq. You can sort it anywhere else."


A United Nations official threatened to call in security guards to calm a committee meeting on Iran's human rights violations after delegates from Saudi Arabia and Syria started shouting at each other. After a Saudi delegate had praised Asma Jahangir, the special rapporteur for Iran, for her report that highlighted Iran's continued human rights violations, Syrian diplomat Amjad Qassem Agha called for the UN to investigate Saudi Arabia for its bombing campaign in Yemen. The Saudi delegate then interrupted to object. Other diplomats watched as the Saudi and the Syrian officials shouted at each other, even after both their microphones were cut off.

Neutral Switzerland's embassies in Riyadh and Tehran have signed agreements to represent Iranian interests in Saudi Arabia and Saudi interests in Iran, the Swiss government said on Wednesday.  After the Middle Eastern rivals severed relations at the beginning of January 2016, both countries agreed to Switzerland's offer of its traditional policy of good offices to "undertake a protecting power mandate on both sides", Switzerland said. The Swiss government gave its approval to the arrangement at a meeting on Wednesday, with the mandate covering consular services for both nations.  "Switzerland has a long history of representing foreign interests whereby it covers partial consular services and sometimes diplomatic tasks for countries that have broken off relations, if requested by the states in question," the government said.

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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