IN 2018, PRESIDENT Donald Trump was seeking to jettison the landmark nuclear deal that his predecessor had signed with Iran in 2015, and he was looking for ways to win over a skeptical press. The White House claimed that the nuclear deal had allowed Iran to increase its military budget, and Washington Post reporters Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly asked for a source. In response, the White House passed along an article published in Forbes by a writer named Heshmat Alavi. “Iran’s current budget is funded largely through ‘oil, taxes, increasing bonds, [and] eliminating cash handouts or subsidies’ for Iranians, according to an article by a Forbes contributor, Heshmat Alavi, sent to us by a White House official,” Rizzo and Kelly reported. The White House had used Alavi’s article — itself partly drawn from Iranian sources — to justify its decision to terminate the agreement. “Heshmat Alavi is a persona run by a team of people from the political wing of the MEK. This is not and has never been a real person.” There’s a problem, though: Heshmat Alavi appears not to exist. Alavi’s persona is a propaganda operation run by the Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e-Khalq, which is known by the initials MEK, two sources told The Intercept.
Saudi and UAE pressure on Qatar to embrace a tougher stance against Iran have left the Arab Gulf states divided as the U.S. builds tension with Teheran, writes Giorgio Cafiero.
It can be readily demonstrated that the proffered U.S. justifications for labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization are no more than harebrained excuses designed to put further pressure on the Iranian people in pursuit of its long-standing policy of regime change from within. Indeed, it can reasonably be argued that, in light of the fact the U.S. has repeatedly terrorized many peoples and nations in various parts of the world, its designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization represents an ironic case of the pot calling the kettle black.
If Iran duplicates its formula from Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen by sending long-range missiles to Iraq, then future conflicts with Israel would likely include military action on Iraqi soil. Iran’s long-range rockets and missiles allow it to threaten enemy forces and populations hundreds of kilometers away, while proxy warfare enables it to indirectly harass and deter these enemies with minimal risk of confrontation on Iranian territory. In recent years, Tehran has combined these strategies to great effect in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. There are signs that Iraq may be the next theater for this approach—signs that were evident well before the latest U.S. military deployments to the region and meetings with Iraqi leaders. If so, such a scenario would threaten Iraq’s hopes for a peaceful future and its relations with the United States.
2019-05-13FROM KARBALA TO AL-FUJAIRAH: AN ACT OF SABOTAGE MAY END PROSPECTS OF A SUMMER WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST
On Sunday morning, at 04:00 am local time, a strong explosion was heard at the United Arab Emirates harbour of al-Fujairah, seriously damaging five cargo vessels – al Marzoqah, al Miraj, al Majd, al Amijal and Khamsa Ashra – but leaving no injuries or spills of chemicals or fuel. Among the four ships were two Saudi Arabia oil tankers. It was a clean, low cost, quick and very efficient operation with an immense result: it put an end to the prospects not only of a war between the US and Iran this summer but also to those of a war between Hezbollah and Israel. The sabotage gave a taste of what could happen to the Middle Eastern countries’ economies and to world imports of oil in case Iran is cornered and attacked. The US and its Middle Eastern allies may not want to imagine what Iran is capable of – even if no tangible proof of sabotage leads to Iran – in case of war. Trump will have to think carefully about his re-election in 2020 if he undertakes a war without any clear horizon or results.
The IRGC naval forces commander has warned that if Iran’s benefits in the Strait of Hormuz, which according to international rules is an international waterway, are denied, it will close the strategic strait. Speaking to Tehran-based Arabic-language Al-Alam TV, IRGC Navy Commander Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri said that replacing the IRGC commander-in-chief by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution last night had nothing to do with the US’s recent decision against the IRGC.
Having said that, not all tough places are the same. They each present a different set of challenges. I – it reminds me, you would know this as – it’s a bit of an aside. But in terms of how you think about problem sets, I – when I was a cadet, what’s the first – what’s the cadet motto at West Point? You will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do. I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. (Laughter.) It’s – it was like – we had entire training courses. (Applause.) It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.
The Trump administration added another layer to its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran when it declared the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a “Foreign Terrorist Organization”—an escalation that exposes to U.S. criminal prosecution anyone supporting the most powerful security services of the Iranian government. “This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” President Donald Trump said, announcing the decision in a statement Monday morning. “This designation will be the first time that the United States has ever named a part of another government as a FTO.”
When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat down for an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network in a hotel in Jerusalem earlier this month, he made a remark that was perhaps the most revelatory of any in his nearly one year in office. An evangelical Christian, Mr. Pompeo had just returned from tours of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built on the ground where Jesus is said to have been crucified and buried, and of tunnels beneath the Western Wall, by the holiest site in Judaism. The interviewer posed a question around a biblical tale about a queen who saved Jews from slaughter by a Persian official: Did Mr. Pompeo think President Trump had been “raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?” “As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible,” Mr. Pompeo said. “It was remarkable — so we were down in the tunnels where we could see 3,000 years ago, and 2,000 years ago, if I have the history just right — to see the remarkable history of the faith in this place, and the work that our administration’s done, to make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state, remains. I am confident that the Lord is at work here.” White evangelical Christians are a powerful force in the Republican Party. Vice President Mike Pence is a staunch believer and former President George W. Bush is an adherent, too.
Relations between the two countries, long bound by common interests in oil and security, have strained over what some analysts see as a more assertive Saudi foreign policy.