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Boeing must be stopped from doing business with Iran

The Iranian regime might soon become a lobbying force to reckon with on Capitol Hill. That is one upshot of Boeing’s plan to expedite delivery of its airplanes sold to Iran. It is also why President Trump should move quickly to scuttle the deal by which Boeing agreed to sell 80 civilian aircraft for $16.6 billion.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), among others, have already made a persuasive case against the sale. They argue that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards fly airplanes, like the Boeing ones, to ferry weapons to their clients, such as Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and the terrorist group Hezbollah. Both have shown little mercy in the mullahs’ drive to destabilize and dominate the Middle East.

The possibility of a permanent Iran lobby should also give the deal’s proponents pause. For years a loose, but committed network of regime apologists in Washington pushed an unpopular pro-Tehran agenda. Then, under former President Obama, they gained a foothold in the executive branch. Regime surrogates managed to shape the Iranian narrative to the extent that they achieved the nuclear deal they desperately wanted.

Now the regime hopes to consolidate and even extend its gains. Flush with cash from the removal of sanctions, the ruling clerics would like to modernize their aging fleet of aircraft, but it comes with an added bonus. If the sale goes through, it will trigger a gold rush of business to Iran.

Even if American firms don’t immediately strike deals, they will nonetheless be able to cement their relationships with regime elites for future transactions. For an example of this, look no further than the 2014 Europe-Iran Forum held in London. As the Wall Street Journal has reported, the gathering encouraged “global law firms, business consultancies, marketing firms, auctioneers and telecom providers to ‘prepare and evaluate the post-sanctions trade framework and investment opportunities’ in Iran.” Once the taint of doing business with the regime has been erased, it will be much easier for U.S. companies to justify their entrance into the Iranian market.

Corporate America’s burgeoning business ties with Iran would inevitably create in DC an entrenched constituency that would block legislation targeting Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, its support for international terrorism, and its myriad of human rights abuses. Boeing has already said the deal “will support tens of thousands of U.S. jobs directly associated with production and delivery of the 777-300ERs and nearly 100,000 U.S. jobs in the U.S. aerospace value stream for the full course of deliveries.” With the public’s demand for job creation, individual congressional members won’t act against Iran if it means losing jobs in their home districts and states.

To truly put America’s national security interests first, the Trump administration should resist the temptation to appease American corporate interests and nip the gold rush to Iran in the bud by blocking the Boeing deal. It might not be the most popular thing to do right now, but it is the wisest move for America in the long run.

Peter Kohanloo is president of the Iranian American Majority (@IAMajority), an advocacy organization dedicated to promoting human rights and democracy in Iran. 

Source: http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/foreign-policy/330579-boeing-must-be-stopped-from-doing-business-with-iran

“We must force them to retreat” – Iran’s sabre rattling grows before elections

“Today Americans are afraid of the word Iran. This is the solution. The solution is not backing down. We must force them to retreat.”

Those are the words this week of Ebrahim Raisi, the hardline candidate in Iran’s upcoming ‘elections’, representing yet another ramping up of the already heated rhetoric ahead of voting in just over three weeks’ time.

Unfortunately, it is not just words that are being used in an increasingly irresponsible manner; the belligerence and malicious behaviour of Tehran’s clerical regime has been reflected in the actions of Iran’s military, which have grown ever more reckless.

On Monday this week, for example, a heavily-armed Iranian attack boat sped towards the USS Mahan, forcing the US destroyer to fire warning flares. In January, the USS Mahan took similar emergency action in the face of four fast-approaching Iranian vessels. Last August, another US Navy ship fired warning shots towards an Iranian fast-attack boat that approached two US vessels. This is not to mention the numerous ballistic missile tests carried out in contravention of UN resolutions.

The context of this is two-fold. At home, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who back the hardline Raisi, feel they must put on a show of force to help swing the upcoming Presidential election in Iran. Secondly, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced on Wednesday that the US will conduct a “comprehensive review” of its policy toward Iran, and the regime’s only available response is to put on a show of resistance against the US military.

Throw into the mix the rumours that the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is suffering from cancer and a parallel search for his successor is underway, and it is all too easy to see a situation where Iran’s bullish attempts to spread alarm continue as it seeks to avoid encouraging any perceptions, internal or external, of weakness.

For the wider international community, the foreign policy agenda of the Trump administration, which has now almost completed its first 100 days in office, has been at the very top of new President’s list of interests.

Indeed, the approach of President Trump to Syria, North Korea and Iran, whether through official statements or, more notably, his tweets, has turned out to be one of the primary topics of worldwide debate.

It is hard to argue that the response to the horrific chemical attack in Syria was not met with a proportional and reasonable response by the US. It is hard to argue that Trump saying North Korea has “gotta behave” is not a proportional and reasonable approach to take an international pariah. And it is hard to argue that seeking to hold Iran to its side of the nuclear deal is not a proportional and reasonable thing for the US to do.

President Trump has been regularly criticised for his 140-character approach to diplomacy, but in reality it is this sabre-rattling by Iran and its leaders that is most likely to lead to real conflict.

It is important that the international community is not blind to this, nor that it tolerates any escalation, in words or deeds, by the regime in Tehran.

The efforts by Iran to destabilise the Middle East are well documented. Its support for terrorist groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere are too often disregarded by the Western media.

Yes, of course, attempts by Iran to reintegrate with the international community should be welcomed. However, we must be much firmer in responding to these continuing provocations by Tehran.

For Iran’s leaders and military to promote their own malicious agenda against neighbouring states – including allies of the West – in such a blatant and brazen manner is simply not acceptable. To stand by and not overtly condemn, or be seen to overlook, such behaviour is only going to encourage further acts of a similar nature, or perhaps worse.

The people of Iran deserve better than what they get from their leaders, and the people of the world deserve better than a state which continues to act in such a thoughtless and nefarious manner.

Human Rights Abuser Up For Election Signals The Wrong Direction For Iran

Last week, Ebrahim Raisi, a notorious human rights abuser, announced his candidacy for the upcoming sham Iranian presidential elections on May 19. Raisi was a member of “Death Commission,” as it is known among Iranian political prisoners. The commission oversaw the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988, mostly members and supporters of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK).

Raisi was a low level cleric at the time and in return for his services was elevated in the rank and files of the mullahs’ hierarchy. Raisi is a close confidant of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and has even been tipped as a possible successor to him. Currently Raisi is the custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, the wealthiest charity foundation in charge of Iran’s holiest shrine in Mashhad, northwestern Iran, with very close ties to Khamenei’s powerhouse.

Raisi and Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi — Iran’s Justice Minister in Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet — were two of the four members of the Death Commission who were tasked by then Supreme Leader Khomeini to summarily execute political prisoners. Khomeini hand wrote a fatwa, a religious decree, authorizing the Commission’s task. In the summer of 1988, the Commission handed down 30,000 death sentences. The kangaroo courts hardly lasted more than three minutes on average. Some of the political prisoners who miraculously survived the slaughter have written or spoken of their ordeals. A simple question was asked by the judges: Do you still believe in Mojahedin? And depending on the answer, one could end up before a hangman. The gruesome accounts of survivors, especially female prisoners, often leave the listeners in shock.

What first shined light on all of this was an audio tape that was leaked out by Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri’s son in August 2016. Montazeri, the handpicked successor of Khomeini, was sacked for his public objections to mass executions in 1988. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest and died in 2009.

In the moving tape, Montazeri can be heard telling a meeting of the “Death Commission” in 1988 that they are responsible for a crime against humanity. He said: “The greatest crime committed during the reign of the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you. Your names will in the future be etched in the annals of history as criminals.” Pour-Mohammadi has since admitted his role in the “Death Commission” and boasted that he was proud to “carry out God’s will and he has not lost sleep over what he did.”

Canada’s Parliament adopted the following motion on June 5, 2013: “That the House condemn the mass murder of political prisoners in Iran in the summer of 1988 as a crime against humanity, honor the memory of the victims buried in mass graves at Khavaran cemetery and other locations in Iran, and establish September 1 as a day of solidarity with political prisoners in Iran.”

The elections in Iran – for parliament or president — have been designed or “engineered,” as the word has been widely used by the regime’s inner circles for both internal and external consumption. However, after the nuclear deal with the West it has become much more significant for the regime since it wants to display a popularity show at home and sell it to rest of the world. It is no secret that the regime has no popular support in Iran.

The mullahs’ regime is surrounded by social and economic problems at home, such as 11 million unemployed. Tehran’s mayor said on April 3 that 10 million Iranians live under absolute poverty line. The IRGC is involved in three active wars in the region — Iraq, Syria and Yemen — not to mention financing and training other militia groups elsewhere in the world as far from Iran as South America. In the case of the Syrian war alone, the regime has spent over $100 billion. Bringing a fresh player to the so-called elections is more out of desperation than a show of control.

As U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley mentioned recently: “Peace and security cannot be achieved in isolation from human rights.” The long-suffering people of Iran, Syria and Iraq bear witness that “human rights abuses are not the byproduct of conflict; they are the cause of conflict, or they are the fuel that feeds the conflict.”

Ebrahim Raisis and his ilk should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their crimes against humanity. Bringing him to justice will set an example that the U.S. and the rest of the world will not forget.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2017/04/22/human-rights-abuser-up-for-election-signals-the-wrong-direction-for-iran/2/#5958c10a67bd 

Trump team raises rhetoric against Iran

The Trump administration is stepping up its rhetoric against Iran even as it acknowledges the country is in compliance with a nuclear deal the president has long derided.

Since fulfilling a legal requirement to certify to Congress that Iran is complying with the deal, administration officials have repeatedly slammed Tehran. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson compared the country to North Korea, and President Trump declared that Iran is violating the “spirit” of the deal.

The administration’s actions were to make sure that “the certification wasn’t perceived as a newfound approval of the [deal] as a mechanism for dealing with Iran,” said Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution. “The statements that we’ve seen from Tillerson are reflective of what I see as an emerging focus on Iran as a major priority.”

Trump has long railed against the 2016 deal between Iran and six world powers that requires Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for lifted sanctions.

On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly called the accord the “worst deal ever negotiated” and threatened to tear it up or renegotiate it.

Shortly after taking office, Trump put Iran “on notice” and slapped new sanctions on the country for its ballistic missile program.

But the administration has been relatively quiet on Iran since, as other foreign policy issues from Syria to North Korea took center stage.

Now, the administration’s rhetoric on Iran is ratcheting back up.

The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act passed by Congress in 2015 requires the president to certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal, referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
That deadline came this week, and Tillerson sent a letter to Congress making the certification Tuesday night.

But Tillerson coupled the certification with an announcement that the National Security Council is reviewing whether lifting sanctions is in the U.S.’s national security interests. Tillerson cited Iran’s sponsorship of terrorists, which is not covered under the nuclear deal.

The next day, Tillerson appeared at a hastily arranged and rare press conference, where he called the nuclear deal a “failed approach” that could lead to Iran becoming the next North Korea.

“The JCPOA fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran; it only delays their goal of becoming a nuclear state,” he said. “This deal represents the same failed approach of the past that brought us to the current imminent threat we face from North Korea. The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran.”

Then on Thursday, Trump reiterated his belief that the deal was a “terrible agreement” and said Iran is violating its “spirit.”

“They are not living up to the spirit of the agreement, I can tell you that,” Trump said at a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. “And we’re analyzing it very, very carefully and we’ll have something to say about it in the not-too-distant future. But Iran has not lived up to the spirit of the agreement. And they have to do that. They have to do that. So we will see what happens.”

However, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Friday the deal “still stands.” Mattis was a staunch opponent when it was being negotiated, but has since said the United States should not renege on its commitments now that it is done.

“That in no way mitigates or excuses the other activities of Iran in the region, to include its support of the war in Yemen that grinds on thanks to their support — to the Iranian support — or what they’re doing in Syria to keep [Bashar] Assad in power and continue the mayhem and the chaos and the murder that’s going on there,” Mattis told reporters in Israel on Friday.

“So these are separate issues, but the agreement on nuclear issues still stands.”

Barbara Slavin, acting director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, called the administration’s rhetoric on Iran in recent days “schizophrenic.”

“Is the administration ashamed of the fact that the agreement is working?” she asked. “It’s just unfortunate that we had gotten to a certain place of civility with Iran, and this administration seems willing to throw it all away.”

Maloney at Brookings said the administration is likely talking tough because of two upcoming key nuclear deal events.

First, on Tuesday, the Joint Commission overseeing implementation of the deal will meet in Vienna. As a member of the commission, the United States will send representatives.

And next month, the administration will have to decide whether to renew the waivers that provide sanctions relief to Iran, which many expect it will do.

“That will have a certain perception, conceivably by [Trump’s] base, and what the administration wants to do is begin to the shape narrative of its approach to Iran,” Maloney said.

Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the Trump administration is “threading the needle” pending the completion of its Iran policy review. In other words, it is taking action that continues the status quo — such as certifying Iran’s compliance with the deal and likely renewing the waivers — while employing harsh rhetoric.

“As long the policy review is not finalized, I think the administration will continue to hedge and not box the president in,” Dubowitz said. “From the rhetoric alone, we’ve seen a 180 degree reversal from the previous administration. It’s clear that this administration does not see Iran as a stabilizing influence in the region.”


Source: http://thehill.com/policy/defense/329991-trump-team-raises-rhetoric-against-iran

Trump’s nuclear problem with Iran requires a plan B

Once again rhetoric and reality in the Trump administration appear to be at odds with each other.

Earlier this week, the administration certified to Congress – as it must every 90 days – that Iran was abiding by the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name given to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

But the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, later underlined that his country’s policy towards Iran was under full-scale review.

And in a message that will be heard loud and clear in Tehran, he castigated Iran’s “alarming and ongoing provocations” and described the country as “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism”.

There was a broader warning, too. “An unchecked Iran,” he said, “has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea”.

So is the Trump administration behaving inconsistently? Well, probably not.

Certifying that Iran is upholding its end of the bargain does not preclude a fundamental US policy review – one that would be normal for any incoming administration, and, given the personnel surrounding US President Donald Trump, is likely to be far from sympathetic to Tehran.

The Iran deal of course was famously characterised by then candidate Mr Trump as one of the worst deals ever negotiated. For now it is still there and for all we know it may have considerable life in it yet.

The problem for US policy is to grapple with three aspects of Iran and its behaviour.

Firstly, there is the nuclear issue, and whatever the controversy surrounding the nuclear deal, it does impose constraints on Tehran’s nuclear programme in return for tangible economic benefits. Iran at the moment is not “unchecked”, to use the term mentioned by Mr Tillerson.

Many western experts back the deal even if they have little enthusiasm for it. Even senior security figures in Israel – who opposed the Obama administration’s negotiation of the agreement – have tacitly accepted that it does provide a framework to manage the problem.

Reports suggest that even the Saudis – also long-time opponents of the agreement – have counselled Mr Trump not to abandon it. Of course it will not last for ever. And one of the strongest arguments of the deal’s critics has always been: What will happen 15 years after the implementation of the deal, when some of the key provisions restricting Iran’s nuclear activities expire?

One hope was that it would provide a platform for improved relations between Washington and Tehran. Well that has not proved to be the case. Tensions are rising in the Gulf; the wider chaos in the region which finds Washington and Tehran almost always on different sides has seen to that.

Indeed Mr Tillerson’s tough rhetoric may inevitably influence the ongoing presidential election campaign in Iran – and not in a positive way, at least as far as western interests are concerned. The hope that by the end of the JCPOA’s term, Washington will be dealing with a different Tehran, seems as fanciful as ever.

Regional player

Beyond the nuclear issue and bilateral relations there is the thorniest problem of all, Iran’s regional role.

Iran is now a crucial player, from Syria to Lebanon; to Yemen and the wider Gulf. It is an active player in the wider struggle against Israel, and Mr Tillerson made a point of mentioning how Tehran was providing support to Hezbollah in Lebanon and to some Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip.

Even in Iraq, Tehran is a problem for Washington where both back the elected government, but where Tehran and its militias and advisers on the ground are seen as encouraging (or at the very least not discouraging) Shia sectarianism in Iraqi politics.

The supreme irony of course is that it was US actions – the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq – that helped propel Iran to this position of regional influence.

Dangerous policy

Given the concerns of Washington’s Gulf allies there is a clear danger that Mr Trump’s initial policy thoughts may be, for example, to step-up military support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.

Negotiating with Tehran seems to be as far away from the administration’s thinking as talking to Pyongyang.

That is not to say that there is not plenty that Washington may legitimately oppose in Iran’s actions. But Iran lives in the region. It has its own security concerns and issues. It has often felt marginalised and its views ignored.

Moderating Iranian behaviour is surely a reasonable goal for Mr Trump’s policy review, as may be ensuring a measure of deterrence as well.

But it is hard to see how overturning the nuclear deal will improve matters in any way. This was not a bilateral agreement between the US and Iran but an international deal involving Russia and key EU countries.

Indeed EU trade with Iran is growing significantly and the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, recently underscored the EU’s view that the deal is working.

If the US seeks to overturn it there could be serious strains in its relationship with some of its key allies. More significantly it would be very hard to restore the range and depth of sanctions that existed before – sanctions one might add that complicated Iran’s life but did little to halt its nuclear programme.

The problem for Team Trump is to come up with a viable plan B; one that yields a comprehensive approach to the Iran problem in all its complexity.

The heady days of the US presidential campaign are over. Foreign policy is complicated – very complicated. Interests, allies and principles have to be weighed and balanced against each other. The Trump policy review must contend with this reality.


Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-39657880