President Donald Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive U.S. responses to Iran’s forces, its Shi‘ite Muslim proxies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups, according to six current and former U.S. officials. The proposal was prepared by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other top officials, and presented to Trump at a National Security Council meeting on Friday, the sources said.
U.S. President Donald Trump on September 8 urged Saudi Arabia and other Arab states to resolve their differences with Qatar and present a united front against Iran, the White House said. Trump spoke separately with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) Crown Prince Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Trump told them that unity among Washington's Arab partners was essential to promoting regional stability and countering the threat of Iran, the White House said.
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, has said that if the United States leaves the landmark nuclear deal signed in 2015, but other signatories remain committed, Iran will “most probably” uphold the agreement. In an interview with Der Spiegel, Salehi says that Iran wants to adhere to the agreement even if the U.S. withdraws, but a total collapse of the deal could lead to a nuclear arms race.
IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
A top deputy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said the Israeli leader must push President Donald Trump to freeze, change or cancel the international community’s nuclear deal with Iran during an upcoming trip to the United States. Yisrael Katz, Israel’s minister for intelligence and strategic affairs, told a security conference in the central Israeli city of Herzliya on Monday that changing the deal should be Netanyahu’s “primary mission.” Netanyahu is expected to meet with Trump next week on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
There is more riding on US President Donald Trump’s upcoming decision whether to recertify Iranian compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) than the fate of that landmark nuclear deal. Ever since Trump’s inauguration, the State Department has been sitting on or diverting funds for cultural and scientific exchanges with Iran. More than 500 Iranians have come to the United States on such exchanges since 2006, contributing to mutual scientific advances and creating a foundation for closer bilateral ties between the longtime adversaries. Under the Barack Obama administration and with the support of President Hassan Rouhani’s government, these exchanges had accelerated.
The Europe-Iran Forum (EIF) was established four years ago to help support business diplomacy between Iran and the West. Many of the complex challenges facing Iran involve both political and economic considerations, and so they cannot be solved by policymakers or business leaders working separately. Cooperation is needed among the full range of stakeholders, and the Forum is designed to help support more dialogue, information sharing, and relationship building within the network of business leaders and policymakers working on Iran today.
Iran Financial Center signed a data-sharing deal with the Greek data vendor company Inforex S.A. at Tehran Stock Exchange on Sunday. Based on the deal signed by IFC’s Managing Director Ali Naqavi and CEO of Inforex Elena Pateropoulou, the center will share data on Iran’s stock trading and financial securities with Inforex that will compile and offer them to foreign investors through its platforms for two years, IFC’s Public Relations Office reported.
The head of the Shin Bet security service said Sunday that Hamas is setting up a base in Lebanon with Iranian support as part of its ongoing efforts to deepen its connections with the Islamic Republic’s “Shiite axis.” Speaking to ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting, Nadav Argaman warned that the Palestinian terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip, has “continued to invest considerable resources in preparation for a future conflict, even at the cost of its citizens’ welfare.”
“Iranian threat is still considered as Israel’s principal concern”, a top Israeli Defense Forces General has maintained, adding that one of the reasons behind the concern is the fact that “They [Iranians] are very similar to us [Israelis]”. During a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, on Friday, September 8, Major General Yair Golan said Israel should prepare for a direct confrontation with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Benjamin Netanyahu urged all countries to fight terrorism and singled out Iran as a serial offender as he paid tribute to the victims of two bombings in Argentina on the first trip by an Israeli premier to Latin America. Surrounded by heavy security, Netanyahu held a closed-door meeting with members of Argentina's Jewish community, estimated to be Latin America's most numerous with 300,000 members. He also participated in a ceremony to remember victims of bomb attacks at the Israeli embassy in 1992, and at a Jewish community center in 1994. The embassy attack killed 29 and injured 220, while the community center blast left 85 dead and 300 injured. Israel blamed the embassy attack on the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah. Argentine investigators accused five former Iranian officials of sponsoring Hezbollah's attack on the community center but Iran denied involvement.
Pakistan and Iran say there is no military solution for the conflict in Afghanistan and that a negotiated political solution is imperative for lasting peace. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, on his day-long visit to Tehran Monday, discussed with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani the “strengthening of brotherly relations between the two countries rooted in common history, culture and people,” according to a statement issued by the ministry. Asif earlier held detailed talks with Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif on bilateral relations and the prevailing regional situation, including efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan. They underscored that the regional countries have vital stakes in the stability of Afghanistan and should play a more proactive role in peace efforts.
Afghanistan’s foreign minister asked India on Monday to expedite development of a strategic port in Iran to bolster a trade route for land-locked Central Asian countries that would bypass Pakistan. The port would allow India to transport goods to Afghanistan by sea. Pakistan currently does not allow India to transport through its territory to Afghanistan. Last year, India committed up to $500 million for the development of the Chabahar port along with associated roads and rail lines.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have called for cooperation in offering aid to Rohingya Muslims living in Myanmar. The two presidents, speaking along the sidelines of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit on science and technology in Astana, Kazakhstan, over the weekend, stressed the importance of taking action to put an end to the violence against the Rohingya. Rouhani said in Astana that the plight of the Rohingya, along with other situations in the Muslim world, including Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Palestine, showed the need for unity.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated Tehran’s policy to help boost regional stability and said the Islamic Republic is against any kind of pressure or threat against neighboring countries, including Qatar. Iran’s policy toward the Middle East region is crystal clear, Zarif said in a Monday meeting with the Qatari ambassador to Tehran, Ali Bin Hamad al-Sulaiti. “Regional problems should be resolved through dialogue, and we are opposed to any kind of pressure and threat posed by anyone against (our) neighbors,” he noted. During the meeting, the two sides also exchanged views about the latest efforts to boost relations between Tehran and Doha in diverse areas, including economy and trade. Al-Sulaiti returned to the Iranian capital on August 25 to resume his diplomatic career after a 20-month hiatus that started in January 2016.
The Israeli intelligence minister said on Monday that President Bashar al-Assad was ready to permit Iran to set up military bases in Syria that would pose a long-term threat to neighbouring Israel. While formally neutral on the six-year-old Syrian civil war, Israel worries that Assad’s recent gains have given his Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah allies a foothold on its northern front. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lobbied Russia, Assad’s most powerful backer, and the United States to curb the Iranian presence in Syria -- as well as hinting that Israel could launch preemptive strikes against its arch-foe there.
Iraq’s Shiite political scene is witnessing significant shifts ahead of parliamentary elections next year that could affect Iran's influence in the country. The rising tensions between pro-Tehran Shiite alliances have been worrying enough to prompt Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to send an envoy to Iraq last week on a mission to unite the disputing parties.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Al Mayadeen TV on Sept. 6, “We are prepared to cooperate with Islamic countries on all issues that are important to the Islamic world. … If the Saudi government is ready to turn the page, Iran is ready for that as well." Although Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir termed Zarif’s gesture as “laughable,” there are signs that a slow thaw may be in the works, the result of a shifting regional landscape.
Iran’s judiciary news website is reporting that an appeals court has upheld the prison sentence of a man charged with “collaborating with the hostile government” of the United States. Mizan Online’s Monday report quotes Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi as saying that an appeals court approved a two-year prison sentence for a man only identified by his first name, Alrieza. The report did not elaborate, but the term is relatively low compared to previous similar cases, some involving up to 10 years of jail time. Despite a U.S. call in July for the immediate release of U.S. citizens and other detained foreigners, Iran in September upheld a 10-year jail term for an American citizen, two US-Iranian dual nationals and a Lebanese citizen on similar charges.
Rivalry and tension between Iran’s executive branch of the government and organs directly controlled by the Supreme Leader is not a new phenomenon. But its shadow hangs over the country’s politics and harms effective governance. In the past ten years, we have witnessed numerous instances of conflict, but in fact it existed even during the first Supreme Leader, ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeni’s tenure. Especially, as parliament’s influence waned in recent years, organs directly controlled by the Supreme Leader became even more potent tools for poking at the executive branch.
Iran will reach an oil production rate of 4.5 million barrels per day (bpd) within five years, Ali Kardor, the managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), said Sunday according to the oil ministry news site SHANA. Iran has been producing around 3.8 million bpd in recent months. Iranian gas production will reach 1.3 billion cubic meters per day and production of gas condensate will reach 864,000 bpd in the next five years, Kardor said.
For most of his life, alcohol rehab for Mehdi consisted of regular stretches in prison and lashings that left dark marks on his back. Now, at 36, he has prematurely gray hair, but with the help of an Alcoholics Anonymous group he swears he has finally stopped drinking. In recent years, Iran, where alcohol has been illegal since the 1979 revolution and is taboo for devout Muslims, has taken the first step and admitted that, like most other nations, it has an alcohol problem. Since 2015, when the Health Ministry ordered addiction treatment centers to care for alcoholics, dozens of private clinics and government institutions have opened help desks and special wards for alcoholics. The government has also allowed a large and growing network of Alcoholics Anonymous groups, modeled after those in the United States. The relaxing of prohibition has allowed addicts like Mehdi to emerge from the shadows and embrace a new circle of friends — recovering alcoholics — who greeted him as he entered a West Tehran apartment one recent evening.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
Supporters of Barack Obama’s 2015 Iran nuclear agreement have, over the past two years, tried almost everything to sustain it. Nonetheless, weaknesses in its terms, structure, implementation and basic strategic fallacy — i.e., that Iran’s international behavior would “moderate” once it was adopted — are all increasingly apparent. For the deal’s acolytes, however, continuing U.S. adherence has become a near-theological imperative. At the most basic level, the agreement’s adherents ignore how ambiguous and badly worded it is, allowing Iran enormous latitude to continue advancing its nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs without being even “technically” in violation.
Over the past months, while the western media has been obsessed with the latest tweet of President Donald Trump, there have been disturbing developments in the Middle East. Storm clouds are gathering on Israel’s horizon that will one day pose a grave danger to the security of Israel. In a speech given this June, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah warned that a future war with Israel, “…could open the way for thousands, even hundreds of thousands of fighters from all over the Arab and Islamic world to participate – from Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan”.
Amid the White House review of its Iran policy and subsequent to the signing into law of H.R. 6634, which imposes tough sanctions on the Iranian regime and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), familiar voices in Washington have begun fear mongering that supporting “regime change” leads to war. Let us be clear: The real issue is not war. There has never been any suggestion of military intervention. Here are the real questions that need to be answered: Should the Iranian people continue to suffer under a brutal dictatorship, which has denied them their most rudimentary rights, or do they have the right to change this suppressive regime? Should the world remain silent on the destructive role of the Iranian regime in the region, including its direct participation in the carnage in Syria? Far from being warmongers, advocates of regime change are calling for a transformation from within, led by indigenous forces, not through foreign military intervention.