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Iran fully prepared; US never dares to attack: Deputy FM

Press TV – November 12, 2019

A senior Iranian diplomat says the United States does not dare to attack Iran as it knows well that the Islamic Republic stands fully prepared to defend itself against any aggression.

“We are completely ready to defend the country and the Americans are aware of this; therefore, I believe that they do not dare to attack us and that is why we believe that no war will break out in the region,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi said in an interview with Russia’s RT Arabic television news network on Tuesday.

Tensions have been simmering between the US and Iran since May 2018, when Washington abruptly pulled out of a multilateral deal on Tehran’s nuclear program.

The White House then moved to unleash a campaign of “maximum” economic pressure, coupled with military provocations and threats, against the Islamic Republic.

Earlier this year, the tensions saw a sharp rise as the US and its allies blamed Tehran for a set of suspicious attacks on oil tankers in the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf. Iran rejected the claims, and said those attacks appear more like false-flag operations aimed at framing the Islamic Republic.

Washington, in June, sent an advanced RQ-4 Global Hawk reconnaissance drone on a spying mission into Iranian airspace, prompting Iran’s air defenses to shoot down the intruding aircraft.

‘Nukes have no place in Iran’s security ideology’

Elsewhere in his remarks, Araqchi rejected allegations that Iran is in pursuit of nuclear weapons, saying such arms have no place in the country’s security ideology.

“Using nuclear weapons is forbidden based on a fatwa by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and (late Founder of the Islamic Republic) Imam Khomeini and such a plan (to develop nukes) has no place in our security ideology. Iran is committed to fulfilling all of its responsibilities and duties,” he said.

He criticized the Western countries for failing to implement international agreements and recognize other states’ right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

“They [Westerners] are trying to create obstacles in the way of other countries. The issue of nonproliferation of nuclear weapons is very important but the recognition of the countries’ right to use nuclear energy peacefully is also a very significant issue,” the senior Iranian diplomat added.

He noted that Iran proved its goodwill by engaging in 12 years of nuclear negotiations with the aim of allaying the concerns of certain sides prior to the conclusion in 2015 of the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

After inking the deal, Araqchi added, Iran stayed fully committed to its end of the bargain, while the other parties failed to do the same.

Pointing to Iran’s one year of “strategic patience” after the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, the diplomat said Tehran decided to gradually decrease its commitments through a step-by-step approach “in order to give diplomacy an opportunity.”

The European signatories to the deal were required by the deal to shield the Iranian economy against the sanctions that the US reinstated after abandoning the JCPOA, but they failed to do so, prompting Tehran to go for the counter-measures.

Araqchi — who served as a member of the Iranian team negotiating with major world powers — explained that the Islamic Republic’s move to scale back its commitments aims to preserve the nuclear deal and not to kill it.

Tehran has so far rowed back its nuclear commitments four times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as the European signatories — France, Britain and the UK — find practical ways to protect the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

November 12, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 2 Comments

Uranium Particles Discovered by IAEA in Iran Not Related to JCPOA – Russian Senior Official

Sputnik – November 12, 2019

According to Russian Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov, the undeclared uranium particles found by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Iran has nothing to do with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“There is a lot of speculation around this phrase, it is presented as a kind of ‘hot’ fact, testifying to Iran’s dishonesty. This is a distortion of the real situation because it concerns the discovery of uranium particles that date from a period approximately between the beginning of the 1990s and no later than 2005. This has nothing to do with the JCPOA, nor does it indicate any gross violations by Iran,” Ulyanov stressed.

Earlier in the day, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif lashed out at the European signatories of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal, challenging their assertion that they had ‘fully upheld commitments under the JCPOA‘.

The IAEA said in its latest “confidential” report, which had been leaked to the Western media, that the agency had detected “natural uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at a location in Iran not declared to the agency.”

November 12, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Cornering and Strangulating Iran Has Backfired on Israel

By Alastair Crooke | Strategic Culture Foundation | November 11, 2019

What happens if the two premises on which Israel and America’s grand Iran strategy is founded are proven false? ‘What if’ maximum pressure fails either to implode the Iranian state politically, nor brings Iran to its knees, begging for a new ‘hairshirt’ nuclear deal? Well …? Well, it seems that Netanyahu and Mossad were so cocksure of their initial premise, that they neglected to think beyond first move on the chess board. It was to be checkmate in one. And this neglect is the cause of the strategic bind in which Israel now finds itself.

Lately, these lacunae in strategic thinking are being noticed. Iran is doing just fine, writes Henry Rome in Foreign Affairs:

“Some analysts predicted that Iran’s friends in Europe and Asia would defy the United States to lend Iran economic help. Others reckoned that the sanctions would send Iran’s economy into a “death spiral,” leaving Tehran the choice to either surrender or collapse. Neither of these predictions came to pass.

“Rather, Iran now enters its second year under maximum pressure strikingly confident in its economic stability and regional position. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other hard-liners are therefore likely to continue on their current course: Iran will go on tormenting the oil market, while bolstering its non-oil economy—and it will continue expanding its nuclear program while refusing to talk with Washington.”

Similarly, the (US) Crisis Group reports that on the eve of the US oil sanctions snapback in November 2018, Secretary Pompeo was asked if Iran might restart its nuclear program. He responded: “we’re confident that the Iranians will not make that decision”. But, Iran did just that: In April 2019 – after the US revoked the sanction waivers that had previously allowed eight countries to import Iranian oil – the Iranian leadership started pushing back.

They are still doing it. “Iran’s responses on the nuclear and regional fronts call into question the core premises of the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign … Tehran [effectively] has broken the binary outcome of concession or collapse by instead adopting what it touts as “maximum resistance”. As a result … there can be little doubt that the [US] strategy has fallen short, delivering impact without effect and rather than blunting Iran’s capabilities only sharpening its willingness to step up its [push-back]”, the Crisis Group report concludes.

So here we are: Iran’s “fourth step” in its incremental lessening of compliance with the JCPOA (injecting nuclear gas into the – hitherto empty – centrifuges at Fordo; augmenting enrichment to 5% and unveiling substantially improved centrifuges), effectively tests the very core to the Obama JCPOA strategy.

The Accord was built around a framework that meant Iran would remain at least 12 months away from break-out capacity (the moment when a state can transition into a nuclear weapons’ state). Iran – in these de-compliance steps is inching under that limit, if it is not already under it. (This does not, however, imply that Iran is seeking weapons, but rather that it is seeking a change in western behaviour.)

Yes, Israel – which pushed hard its assessment (albeit, onto a Trump team wholly receptive to this Israeli analysis) of an Iran entering into a death-spiral within one year, under Trump’s maximum pressure – can plead reasonably that its grand strategy was struck by two ‘black swans’. The double ‘punch’ quite evidently has knocked Israel – it is now all at sixes and sevens.

One was the 14 September strikes on the two Aramco plants in Saudi Arabia (claimed by the Houthis), but demonstrating a level of sophistication which Israelis explicitly admit took them wholly by surprise. And the second was the accumulated evidence that the US is in the process of quitting the Middle East. Again, Israel – or at least Netanyahu – never believed this could happen under Trump’s ‘watch’. Indeed, he had built a political platform on his claim of intimate rapport with the US President. Indeed, that did seem at the time to be perfectly true.

Israeli historian, Gilad Atzmon observes, “it now seems totally unrealistic to expect America to act militarily against Iran on behalf of Israel. Trump’s always unpredictable actions have convinced the Israeli defense establishment that the country has been left alone to deal with the Iranian threat. The American administration is only willing to act against Iran through sanctions”.

And the former Israeli Ambassador to Washington put the consequences yet more bluntly under the rubric of The Coming Middle East Conflagration: “Israel is bracing itself for war with Iranian proxies … But what will the United States do if conflict comes?” — by this Oren implies the US might do little, or nothing.

Yes. This is precisely the dilemma to which the Israeli policy of demonising Iran, and instigating ‘the world’ against Iran, has brought Israel. Israeli officials and commentators now see war as inevitable (see here and here) – and they are not happy.

War is not inevitable. It would not be inevitable if Trump could put aside his Art of the Deal pride, and contemplated a remedy of de-escalating sanctions – especially oil export sanctions – on Iran. But he has not done that. After a quick (and wholly unrealistic) ‘fling’ at having a reality-TV photo-op with President Rouhani, his Administration has doubled down by imposing further, new sanctions on Iran. (Friends might try to tell their American counterparts that it is well time they got over the 1979 Tehran Embassy siege.)

And war is not inevitable if Israel could assimilate the reality that the Middle East is in profound flux – and that Israel no longer enjoys the freedom to strike wherever, and whomsoever it choses, at will (and at no cost to itself). Those days are not wholly gone, but they are a rapidly diminishing asset.

Will Israel shift posture? It seems not. In the context of the Lebanon protests, the local banks are becoming vulnerable, as capital inflows and remittances dry up. Israeli, plus some American officials, are favouring withholding external financial assistance to the banks – thus making the banking system’s survival contingent on any new government agreeing to contain and disarm Hizbullah (something which, incidentally, no Lebanese government, of whatever ‘colour’, can do).

That is to say, US and Israeli policy is that of pushing Lebanon to the brink of financial collapse in order to leverage a blow at Iran. Never mind that it will be the demonstrators – and not Hizbullah – who will pay the heaviest price for pushing the crisis to the brink – in terms of a devalued pound, rising prices and austerity. (Hizbullah, in any case, exited the Lebanese banking system, long time past).

Iran, on the other hand, faced with maximum pressure, has little choice: It will not succumb to slow-strangulation by the US. Its riposte of calibrated counter-pressure to US max-pressure, however, does entail risks: It is predicated on the judgement that Trump does not want a major regional war (especially in the lead up to US elections), and also predicated (though less certainly) on the US President’s ability to avoid being cornered by his hawks into taking responsive military action (i.e. were another US drone to be shot down).

So, what do all these various geo-political ‘tea-leaves’ portend? Well, look at Lebanon and Iraq through the geo-political spectacles of Iran: On the one hand, it is well understood in Tehran that there is justified, deep popular anger in these states towards corruption, the iron sectarian structures and hopeless governance — but that is only one part of the story. The other is the long-standing geo-strategic war that is being waged against Iran.

Maximum pressure has not produced a chastened, and repentant Iran? So, now Iranians see the US and Israel resorting to ‘Euromaidan warfare’ (Ukrainian protests of 2013) against Iran’s Lebanese and Iraqi allies. (It was, after all, during President Aoun’s visit to Washington in March, that Trump first warned Aoun of what was coming – and presented his ultimatum: Contain Hezbollah, or expect unprecedented consequences, including sanctions and the loss of US aid).

Fresh sanctions, plus an Euromaidan-type assault on Iranian allies (Hizballah and Hash’d A-Shaabi)? Might we then expect another ‘Gulf surprise’ – in coming weeks?

This tit-for-tat of pressure and counter-pressure is set to continue — Michael Oren, the former Israeli Ambassador to the US, lays it out:

“The conflagration, like so many in the Middle East, could be ignited by a single spark. Israeli fighter jets have already conducted hundreds of bombing raids against Iranian targets in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Preferring to deter rather than embarrass Tehran, Israel rarely comments on such actions. But perhaps Israel miscalculates, hitting a particularly sensitive target; or perhaps politicians cannot resist taking credit. The result could be a counterstrike by Iran, using cruise missiles that penetrate Israel’s air defenses and smash into targets like the Kiryah, Tel Aviv’s equivalent of the Pentagon. Israel would retaliate massively against Hezbollah’s headquarters in Beirut as well as dozens of its emplacements along the Lebanese border. And then, after a day of large-scale exchanges, the real war would begin.

“Rockets, many carrying tons of TNT, would rain on Israel; drones armed with payloads would crash into crucial facilities, military and civilian. During the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, the rate of such fire reached between 200 and 300 projectiles a day. Today, it might reach as high as 4,000. The majority of the weapons in Hezbollah’s arsenal are standoff missiles with fixed trajectories that can be tracked and intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system. But Iron Dome is 90 percent effective on average, meaning that for every 100 rockets, 10 get through, and the seven operational batteries are incapable of covering the entire country. All of Israel, from Metulla in the north to the southern port city of Eilat, would be in range of enemy fire.”

Of course, the claim that Israeli air defences are 90% effective is ‘for the birds’ (Israeli officials would not be in such a panic if it were true). But Oren sets out the course to a region-wide war plainly enough. This is the end to which their Iran strategy has brought them.

And just to recall, this strategy was always a ‘strategy of choice’ – taken for domestic political purposes. Israel’s demonization of Iran did not begin with the Iranian Revolution. Israel initially had good relations with the revolutionary republic. The relationship transformed because an incoming Israeli Labour government needed it to transform: It wanted to upend the earlier political consensus, and to make peace with the ‘near enemy’ (i.e. its Arab neighbours). But Israel then required a ‘new’ villain threatening ‘plucky little Israel’ to keep unstinting US Congressional support coming through: Iran became that villain. And then, subsequently, Netanyahu made his twenty-year career out of the Iranian (nuclear) bogeyman.

Reaping what a long-term strategy of threats and incitement sows …? In one of the most detailed assessments of Iran’s strategy and doctrine across Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) concludes that Iran’s “third party capability” has become Tehran’s weapon of choice: “Iran now has an effective military advantage over the US and its allies in the Middle East, because of its ability to wage war using third parties such as Shia militias and insurgents”, the report concludes. It has the military edge? Well, well …

And doesn’t this fact help explain what is happening in Iraq and Lebanon today?

November 11, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rouhani: Iran to stay in JCPOA, reap benefits when UN arms embargo ends next year

Press TV – November 11, 2019

President Hassan Rouhani says Iran intends to stay in the 2015 nuclear deal despite US violations, arguing that the accord will be put to good use next year when a long-running arms embargo against Tehran comes to an end.

Rouhani said Monday Iran could respond to America’s exit from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in different manners, including leaving the deal altogether or keeping it at any price, but it decided to take the middle-ground option.

“By continuing the JCPOA, we will fulfill a major objective in terms of politics, security and defense,” he told a large crowd of people during a visit to the eastern province of Kerman.

Noting that for years Iran has been banned by the United Nations from buying and selling any kinds of weapons, Rouhani said the arms embargo will end next year according to the deal and the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorses it.

“This is one of the important effects of this deal. Otherwise, we could leave the deal today but the kind of benefit we stand to reap next year will no longer exist,” he said.

“We can leave now but then the UNSC resolutions [that were revoked under the deal] will return,” the president said, adding “We need to think where do the country’s interests lie.”

Iran, he said, did not want to stay fully committed to the deal while the others “sit on their hands” and do nothing.

“Therefore we took the middle ground to keep the JCPOA and preserve it while cutting back on what we had agreed to do under the agreement step by step,” he said.

Since May, Iran has been scaling down its nuclear deal commitments in retaliation for Washington’s 2018 pullout from the deal and the failure of three European signatories — the UK, France and Germany — to protect bilateral trade against American sanctions.

In the first three stages of its measured response, Iran enriched uranium beyond the 300kg limit set by the deal and ramped up enrichment to levels upon the pre-defined 3.67-percent cap. It also expanded nuclear research to areas banned in the agreement.

The fourth step, which was unleashed last week, was the injection of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas into centrifuges at the Fordow underground enrichment facility.

Tehran says its reciprocal measures do not violate the JCPOA and are based on Articles 26 and 36 of the agreement itself, which detail mechanisms to deal with non-compliance.

Iranian authorities have suggested that the measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the Iranian economy from the sanctions.

Rouhani said Monday Iran’s nuclear capability is “better than ever,” noting that Iranian nuclear experts have never stopped research and development work since the JCPOA was first signed in 2015.

“We will stand up to our enemies with full power. We haven’t done anything illegal and we are not willing to bow to your orders,” he said.

Touching on disparaging statements by Western countries, Rouhani said, “Are you mad we restarted Fordow? Are you mad with the resumption of nuclear enrichment? Are you mad at us for speeding up the Arak heavy water [facility]? Then you should fulfill your commitments as well.”

Germany, France and Britain were to meet in Paris on Monday to discuss how to respond to Iran stepping back from its commitments under the accord, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

“We are very concerned to see that there are other uranium enrichments that Iran has not only announced, but is also carrying out,” Maas said as he arrived for talks with fellow EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

“We want to preserve the JCPOA but Iran will have to return to his obligations and comply with them. Otherwise we will reserve for ourselves all the mechanisms laid down in the agreement,” he said.

Maas was apparently threatening to trigger a dispute mechanism in the 2015 nuclear deal, which could open the way to renewed UN sanctions.

November 11, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 2 Comments

Iran’s sanction-free tobacco sector benefitting others: Expert

Press TV – November 3, 2019

Foreign companies who avoid investing in Iran citing threats of American sanctions continue to inject money into the country’s lucrative tobacco sector as it remains exempt from the bans, says an expert.

Behzad Khosravi Adinehvand told the IRIB News on Sunday that Japanese and South Korean companies had remained active in Iran’s tobacco sector while they keep refraining from helping Iran cope with sanctions that have affected its vital industries like pharmaceuticals and the automotives.

He said companies from Japan and South Korea have invested around $150 million in a year in cigarette production and tobacco processing in Iran under licenses issued by American and British companies .

“No one is there to ask officials from Japan and South Korea why you are able to invest in the cigarette sector … but avoid doing the same in the automotive sector and in the pharmaceuticals?” said Adinehvand.

The expert criticized the duplicity in the way the American sanctions are enforced, saying the lucrative tobacco industry in Iran has been categorized as part of the food sector so that foreigners can keep profiteering from a huge demand that exists for international brands in the country.

He said Winston cigarettes had an annual share of around $3 billion in the Iranian market, while Marlboro pockets nearly $1 billion, adding that other subsidiary brands and companies from Japan and South Korea sell another $3 billion worth of cigarettes and tobacco products inside Iran.

Adinehvand said demand for tobacco in Iran had soared five-fold over the post 10 years to reach 10,000 tons a year, a major incentive for foreign companies to increase investment in the country.

He said Iran’s production of cigarettes could only respond to less than a third of the domestic demand which is around 100 billion cigarettes a year, or five billion packs of 20.

The expert said the Iranian government had a meager share of the revenues generated in the $4.2-billion cigarette industry in the country although studies suggest that national health agencies spend more than $2.5 billion annually on treatment of diseases caused by smoking.

November 3, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

Malaysian PM: No country can impose its sanctions on other countries

Press TV – November 3, 2019

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says his country cannot carry out trade with Iran, one of its big trading partners, as a result of Washington’s unilateral sanctions against Tehran, noting that US bans on Iran contravene the United Nations’ provisions.

Mahathir made the remarks while speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of the 35th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Thailand on Sunday.

“There is no provision in the United Nations that a country, which is dissatisfied with another country, can impose sanctions on that country and other countries trading with that nation,” the Malaysian prime minister said, while criticizing the inhibitory impact of US unilateral sanctions against Iran on Kuala Lumpur’s trade with Tehran.

He also dismissed applying sanctions against countries as an act “against the law.”

“The sanctions don’t apply to one country alone,” he said, adding that Malaysia is now being sanctioned.

The Malaysian premier further criticized those who “talk so much” about the rule of law, rule-based trade and relations, but fail to adhere to their own principles without singling out any country.

Mahathir’s remarks came amid reports denoting that banks in Malaysia are closing the accounts of Iranian individuals and companies, in what is believed to be a measure linked to sanctions imposed by Washington against Tehran after the former left the landmark Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Since quitting the JCPOA, US President Donald Trump has been running what he refers to as a “maximum pressure” campaign, which seeks to pressure Iran into negotiating a new deal that addresses its ballistic missile program and regional influence.

The spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the country’s embassy in Malaysia is doing its best to solve problems resulting from banking restrictions considered for Iranian nationals by some financial institutions in Malaysia.

Mousavi said, “Unfortunately, under the influence of the United States’ economic terrorism, some Malaysian banks have considered restrictions for opening accounts and providing services to Iranian nationals.”

Malaysia has maintained good diplomatic relations with Iran despite sanctions Washington imposed against Tehran. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made an official visit to Kuala Lumpur in August on the last leg of his three-nation Asian tour, which also took him to China and Japan.

November 3, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , | 2 Comments

Sanctioning Away Free Speech: Americans Meet With Iranians at Their Peril

By Philip Giraldi | Strategic Culture Foundation | October 10, 2019

The issue of the United States waging what seems to be a global war by way of sanctions rarely surfaces in the western media. The argument being made by the White House is that sanctions are capable of putting maximum pressure on a rogue regime without the necessity of having to go to war and actually kill people, but while economic warfare may seem to be more benign than bombing and shooting the reality is that thousands of people die anyway, whether through starvation or inability to obtain medicines. It is often noted that 500,000 Iraqi children died in the 1990s due to sanctions imposed by the Bill Clinton White House and current estimates of deaths in Syria, Iran and Venezuela number in the tens of thousands.

Meanwhile the regimes that are under siege through sanctions do not, in fact, capitulate to American demands even when they are feeling considerable pain. Cuba has been sanctioned by Washington since 1960 and nothing has been accomplished, apart from providing an excuse for the regime to tighten its control over the people. Indeed, one might argue that free trade and travel would have likely succeeded in democratizing Cuba much more quickly than threats coupled with a policy of economic and political isolation.

Apart from their ineffectiveness, the dark side of sanctions is what they do to third parties who get caught up in the conflict. America’s recently imposed total ban on Iranian petroleum exports comes with secondary sanctions that can be initiated on any country that buys the oil, alienating Washington’s few remaining friends and creating universal concern regarding the United States’ long-term intentions. Indeed, the United States was a country that prior to the “Global war on terror” was generally liked and respected, but today it is widely regarded as the most dangerous threat to peace in the world. This shift in perception is due to the actual wars that the US has started as well as the sanctions regime which has as its objective regime change of governments that it disapproves of.

Another aspect to sanctions that is somewhat invisible is the impact that government action has had on what are regarded as the constitutional rights of American citizens. Max Blumenthal has written an interesting article on a recent application of sanctions that has affected a group of citizens who were seeking to attend a conference in Beirut Lebanon.

Blumenthal describes how the attempt to criminalize any participation in a conference sponsored by the Iranian NGO New Horizon as a “significant escalation in the Trump administration’s strategy of ‘maximum pressure’ to bring about regime change in Iran.” A number of Americans who had intended to speak or otherwise participate in the conference were approached in advance by FBI agents, evidently acting under orders from Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. The Agents warned that any participants in the conference might be subject to arrest upon return to the US because New Horizon is under sanctions. One of those who was approached by the Bureau explained that “They’re interpreting the regulations to say that even if you associate with someone who has been sanctioned, you are subject to fines and imprisonment. I haven’t seen anything in the regulations that allows that, but they’ve set the bar so low that anyone can be designated.”

The New Horizon Conference is an annual event organized by Iranian TV host and filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh and his wife, Zeina Mehanna. New Horizon was placed under financial sanctions earlier this year by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). [Full disclosure: the author attended and spoke at the conference in Mashhad last year]

US government interest in New Horizon conferences appeared to begin in 2014, after the Jewish Anti-Defamation league (ADL) called that year’s meeting an “anti-Semitic gathering” that “included US and international anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers and anti-war activists.”

Potential participants in the Beirut conference made strenuous efforts to find out just what the consequences might be if they were to attend the event, but the Treasury Department refused to be drawn into a debate over restrictions that were arguably unconstitutional. Lawyers who were consulted warned that any notice from the FBI that someone might be arrested should be interpreted as meaning that someone will be arrested. Other sources in the government suggested privately that the Trump Administration would be delighted if it could make an example of some Americans who were soft on Iran.

Now that the conference has been concluded without any significant American presence, there has been some clarification of how the sanctions might be applied. Responding to a query by a potential participant, an OFAC employee explained that “transaction” and “dealing in transactions,” as those terms are used by OFAC, are broadly construed to include not only monetary dealings or exchanges, but also “providing any sort of service” and “non-monetary service,” including giving a presentation at a conference. Any person engaging in that activity could be subject to legal consequences because the Treasury Department and OFAC have broad latitude to take action against persons who violate its rules or guidelines, and that a range of factors are taken into consideration when deciding to take action against any specific person or for any specific violation.

When asked whether dealing with non-sanctioned Iranian organizations might also be construed negatively, the OFAC employee observed that there could or might be consequences. That’s because Iran (along with North Korea and a few other countries) is a “comprehensively sanctioned” country, meaning that anything having to do with “supporting it” is sanctionable.

Exactly how speaking at any Iranian sponsored event is damaging to American interests remains unclear, in spite of the “clarification” provided by OFAC, but the real damage is to those US citizens who choose to travel to countries that are at odds with Washington to offer a different perspective on what Americans actually think. And there is also considerable value in those travelers returning to the United States to share with fellow citizens perceptions of how foreigners regard US foreign policy, insofar as anything describable as a policy actually exists. In truth, the sanctions regime with its steady diet of punishment has now entered a new phase, as Blumenthal observed, where White House aggression overseas is now blowing back, eroding the protections afforded by the Bill of Rights in an act of self-destruction that is both unnecessary and incomprehensible.

October 10, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 2 Comments

Are There Israelis in the U.S. Government?

Sigal Mandelker refuses to say but resigns anyway

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • October 8, 2019

Given Israel’s clearly demonstrated ability to manipulate and manage American government at all levels, there is inevitably considerable speculation about the presence of actual Israeli citizens in the federal and state bureaucracies. Very often, lists that appear on the internet focus on Jewish legislators, but in reality, few of them are likely to have Israeli citizenship even if they regularly exhibit what amounts to “dual loyalty” sympathy for the Jewish state. Nevertheless, Jews who are Zionists are vastly over-represented in all government agencies that have anything at all to do with the Middle East.

There are, of course, some Jews who flaunt their identification with Israel, to include current Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer who describes himself as “protector” of Israel and former Senator Frank Lautenberg, frequently referred to as “Israel’s Senator.” One might also include Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff and mayor of Chicago, who reportedly served as a volunteer in the Israeli Army, and Doug Feith, who caused so much mischief from his perch at the Pentagon in the lead-up to the Iraq War. Feith had a law office in Jerusalem, suggesting that he might have obtained Israeli citizenship.

To be sure there are many non-Jews in the American government who have hitched their star to the Israeli wagon because they know it to be career enhancing. One only has to observe in action Senator Lindsay Graham, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and perhaps the most revolting of all, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who ran for office proclaiming that he would be the most pro-Israel governor in the United States. After being elected he traveled to Jerusalem with a large entourage of Zionist supporters to hold the first meeting of the Florida state government cabinet. According to some authorities in Florida, the meeting was supposed to be held in the state capitol Tallahassee and was therefore illegal, but DeSantis was undaunted and made clear to observers where his loyalty lies.

Part of the problem is that Israeli citizenship is obtained virtually automatically upon application by any Jew and once obtained it is permanent, only revocable by petitioning the Israeli government. Nor is there anything equating to a list of citizens, so it is possible to be an Israeli citizen while also holding American citizenship and no one would be the wiser. As the United States permits American citizens to have multiple passports and therefore nationalities there is, in fact, nothing in U.S. law that prohibits being both Israeli and American.

Having dual nationality is only a real issue when the policies of one citizenship conflict with the other, and that is precisely where the problem comes in with Israeli dual nationals in the United States, particularly if they wind up in the government. Frank Lautenberg, for example, was responsible for the “Lautenberg amendment” of 1990 which brought many thousands of Russian Jews into the United States as refugees, even though they were not in any danger and were therefore ineligible for that status. As refugees, they received significant taxpayer provided housing, subsistence and educational benefits.

Some other current officials in the government who may or may not have dual nationality and are in policy making positions might include U.S. (sic) Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and the recently resigned international negotiator Jason Greenblatt. Both have long histories of pro-Israel advocacy to include supporting illegal settlements on the West Bank. And there is also someone named Jared Kushner, whose ties to Israel are so close that Benjamin Netanyahu once slept in his father and mother’s apartment. If the metric to judge the actions – and loyalty – of these individuals is their willingness to place American interests ahead of those of Israel, they all would fail the test.

That said, there was one individual dual national who truly stood out when it came to serving Israeli interests from inside the United States government. She might be worthy of the nickname “Queen of Sanctions” because she was the Department of the Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (OTFI), who handed the punishment out and had her hand on the throttle to crank the pain up. She is our own, unfortunately, and also Israel’s own Sigal Pearl Mandelker, and it’s wonderful to be able to say that she finally resigned last week!

OFTI’s website proclaims that it is responsible for “safeguarding the financial system against illicit use and combating rogue nations, terrorist facilitators, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferators, money launderers, drug kingpins, and other national security threats,” but it has from its founding been really all about safeguarding Israel’s perceived interests. Grant Smith notes how “the secretive office has a special blind spot for major terrorism generators, such as tax-exempt money laundering from the United States into illegal Israeli settlements and proliferation financing and weapons technology smuggling into Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons complex.”

To be sure, sanctions have been the key weapon in the ongoing unending war against perceived “enemies” like Russia and Venezuela, but they have been laid on most promiscuously in the case of Iran, Israel’s number one enemy du jour, which has also been demonized by Washington even though it is no threat to the United States. And it should be recognized that sanctions are not a bloodless exercise used to pressure a recalcitrant government. They disproportionately affect the poor and powerless, who starve and are denied access to medicines, but they rarely have any impact on those who run the government. Five-hundred thousand Iraqi children died from sanctions imposed by President Bill Clinton and his vulturine Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Currently, Iranians and Venezuelans are dying, by some estimates in their tens of thousands.

Once on a sanctions list administered by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), there is no actual appeal process and no getting off the hook unless Mandelker said so. And anyone who has any contact with the sanctioned entity can be in for trouble, including American citizens who will find themselves no longer having rights to free speech and association. The terms for violation of sanctions used by OFAC are “transaction” and “dealing in transactions,” broadly construed to include not only monetary dealings or exchanges, but also “providing any sort of service” and “non-monetary service,” including giving a presentation at a conference or speaking or writing in support of a sanctioned group or individual.

OFAC has a broad mandate to punish anyone who has anything to do with any Iranian group or even any individual as Iran is considered a country that is “comprehensively sanctioned.” To cite just one example of how indiscriminately the sanctions regime works, Max Blumenthal has described how the FBI recently, acting under Mandelker’s orders, warned a number of Americans who had planned on speaking at an Iranian organized conference in Beirut that they might be arrested upon their return.

Mandelker was born in Israel and largely educated in the United States. She is predictably a lawyer. She has never stated how many citizenships she holds while repeated inquiries as to whether she retains her Israeli citizenship have been ignored by the Treasury Department. It is not clear how she managed to obtain a security clearance given her evident affinity to a foreign country. The position that she held until last Wednesday was created in 2004 by George W. Bush and is something of a “no Gentiles need apply” fiefdom. Its officials travel regularly on the taxpayer’s dime to Israel for consultations and also collaborate with pro-Israel organizations like AIPAC, WINEP and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). Mandelker’s predecessor was Adam Szubin and he was preceded by David Cohen and, before that, by the office’s founder Stuart Levey, who is currently Group Legal Manager and Group Managing Director for global bank HSBC. Since its creation, OFTI has not surprisingly focused on what might be described as Israel’s enemies, most notably among them being Iran.

Mandelker was clear about her role, citing her personal and business relationship with “our great partner, Israel.” Referring to sanctions on Iran, she has said that “Bad actors need money to do bad things. That is why we have this massive sanctions regime … Every time we apply that pressure, that crunch on them, we deny them the ability to get that kind of revenue, we make the world a safer place.” In support of the pain she is inflicting to no real purpose other than to force complete Iranian capitulation, she cites alleged Iranian misdeeds, foremost of which is its alleged threatening of Israel. She also condemns Iran’s support for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, who she claims has killed his own people with chemical weapons, an assertion that has proven to be untrue.

Mandelker touted her personal history as a claimed child of the seemingly ubiquitous “holocaust survivors.” In a speech at the Holocaust Museum in April she claimed that her parents went underground in Eastern Europe: “They were hiding underground, in forests, in ditches and under haystacks. I grew up hearing their stories, including about moments of great courage, some of which resulted in survival and others that ended in death.”

To be sure, Mandelker and her predecessors have been going after Iran’s money since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, constantly devising new restrictions and rules to make it hard for Tehran to do business with any other country. In 2006 Levey’s office began to focus on cutting off Iran from the global financial system. Currently the Trump administration is applying what it describes as “maximum pressure” in seeking to sink Iran’s economy by blocking all oil exports. Since May, any country buying Iranian oil has been vulnerable to secondary sanctions by Washington, all set up and choreographed by Mandelker.

That Mandelker and company have been engaging in economic warfare with a country with which the United States is not at war seems to have escaped the notice of the media and Washington’s chattering class, not surprisingly as Israel is a beneficiary of the policy. And the fact that the way sanctions are being enforced against American citizens is clearly unconstitutional has also slipped by the usual watchdogs. Sigal Mandelker was a prime example of why anyone who is either an actual dual national or plausibly possesses dual loyalty should not hold high office in the United States government and is a blessing that she is gone, though one imagines she will be replaced by another Zionist fanatic. If anyone wonders why Israel gets away with what it does the simple answer would be that there are just too many people at the federal level who think that serving Israel is the same as serving the United States. That is just not so and it is past time that the American public should wake up to that fact.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is https://councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

October 7, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 2 Comments

Iran ready to end nuclear standoff with United States once sanctions are lifted

By Sarah Abed | October 3, 2019

Last week’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, presented the perfect opportunity for dialogue and diplomacy between the United States and Iran, in what would have been a historical meeting, the first of its kind between American and Iranian leadership, since Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979. World leaders from France, Germany, Britain, among others attempted to bring the two world leaders together, to no avail.

President Rouhani has said that he is ready to end a nuclear standoff with the United States, if they follow through with lifting sanctions.  Last year, President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a multilateral nuclear deal and imposed harsh sanctions on Iran under its “maximum pressure” campaign.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron prepared a four-point document which both sides agreed to in principle, whereby Iran would renounce their nuclear ambitions in return for the United States lifting sanctions since 2017 and allowing the immediate resumption of Iranian oil exports and free use of revenues.

President Macron made numerous attempts during the UNGA to facilitate a meeting and even set up a confidential phone call so that both President Trump and President Rouhani could speak about his four-point plan, however that same day President Trump contradicted the message that President Rouhani had received from his French counterpart, when he mentioned to media plans to increase sanctions against Iran.

In addition to the attempts made during the UNGA, President Macron has tried to mediate for a few months and bring both leaders back to the table. He even proposed a 15 billion dollar line of credit to Iran, if the United States approved, but the United States has not shown much interest in this or other sanctions relief options and sees them as contradictory to its “maximum pressure” campaign.

The conditions stated in President Macron’s deal include Iran agreeing to never acquire a nuclear weapon, fully complying with its nuclear obligations and commitments under the JCPOA, accepting to negotiate the long-term framework for its nuclear activities, also refraining from aggression and seeking genuine peace and respect in the region through negotiations.

Iran has said that even though these conditions do not fully reflect Iran’s position and there would need to be some adjustments to the wording, that they would have accepted the trade-off and are still interested in the plan. Iran blames the US for being a roadblock in this deal by not publicly stating that they are willing to lift sanctions.

It’s an unlevel playing field…while the United States decides when or if they are ready to re-negotiate a nuclear deal, Iranian civilians are paying the price. Sanctions have made it hard for the most vulnerable members of society to afford medicine and food.

The main reason why President Rouhani refused to speak with his American counterpart at the UNGA was because he does not trust that the United States is sincere about their desire to re-negotiate a nuclear deal, they have already completely disregarded the current multilateral deal that was agreed upon under the previous administration and signed by former president Barack Obama. When said agreement was put into place, after a decade of negotiations and countless meetings through diplomatic channels, it was meant to outlive the previous president and continue through future administrations.

Iran is not interested in a meaningless photo-op or another one of President Trump’s publicity stunts where he meets with a “controversial” world leader simply to bolster public opinion. Iran wants action, and that begins with lifting crippling sanctions. Without establishing trust through sanctions relief, they do not see progress as possible.

While speaking at his weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday, President Rouhani said that Iran supports the general framework of the plan being pushed by European countries that are part of the JCPOA.

Iran’s allies such as China and Russia have ignored threats by the United States to sanction them if they continue doing business with Iran. While the United States shuns Iran, its leadership has been making strides in increasing diplomatic relations with South and Central American countries, as well as Asian countries with Pakistan even offering to mediate between the United States and Iran.

Iran is set to take its fourth step towards reducing its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) next month if European brokered diplomacy with the United States does not yield favorable results.  Every sixty days a step has been publicly stated and then taken since May by Iran.  Iran has stated that they are willing to be in full compliance with the JCPOA if sanctions are lifted.

Iran has said that these measures are within the framework of the JCPOA and in compliance with articles 26 and 36 of the Iran nuclear deal. Iran has also said that the IAEA can still access its nuclear sites while it reduces its commitments under the JCPOA. These reductions are in response to the United States’ “extensive and regular” violations of the JCPOA.

It’s seemingly evident that Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign which includes oil and banking embargos has not broken Iran to the point where they are forced to fold on important stances. The Iranian government has called out the United States on their aim to bring Iranian oil exports to zero.

Washington’s on-going attempt at regime-change in Iran has also been noted. Iran hasn’t been shy about exposing the role Washington has played in the Middle East and shining a light on their support for terrorist groups which they claim to be supposedly fighting, while Iran, Russia, Syria and regional partners defeat terrorists.

Iran has called on US troops to leave the Middle East.  Washington’s long-term intentions in northeastern Syria and their use of Kurdish militias revolves around protecting Israel, while keeping a watchful eye on Iran.

October 3, 2019 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , | 2 Comments

Iran nuclear issue at inflection point

French President Emmanuel Macron met Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani at UN Hqs, New York, Sept 24, 2019
By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | September 30, 2019

The unexpected move by the Pentagon to shift the Combined Air and Space Operations Center (CAOC) at al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar to the Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina 7,000 miles away from the Middle East took place against the backdrop of the gathering storms in the regional environment. It injects a crisis atmosphere into regional politics.

To put the Pentagon move in perspective, in addition to hosting Qatari forces, the base also hosts the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing of the US Air Force. Other US military has been active in the country as well including the US Navy SEALS. The facility is also used by the British Royal Airforce. The al-Udeid Air Base is one of the few US airbases overseas where B-52 bombers, America’s largest warplane can land due to the long runways.

This is not the first time that the US temporarily relocated the CAOC. The last time it happened was 13 years ago. When tensions erupted between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, there was even talk of relocating the Central Command out of Qatar.

However, in the current scenario, the Pentagon move is undoubtedly related to the US’ mounting tensions with Iran. If push came to shove and a full blown US-Iran conflict erupts, the CAOC would be one of Iran’s priority targets. The CAOC is so critical to providing fire power for the US forces operating in the region that the Pentagon cannot take risks. The US commander of the 609th Air and Space Operations Center has been quoted as saying, “Iran has indicated multiple times through multiple sources their intent to attack US forces.”

How serious are the prospects of a US-Iran military conflict? Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani disclosed after his return to Tehran from New York that the two sides came breathtakingly close to a summit meeting on the sidelines of the UN GA in New York last week. Rouhani said,

“They (Americans) had sent messages to almost all European and no-European leaders that they wanted one-to-one negotiations between the two Presidents, but we had rejected it, saying that negotiations had to be done in the framework of P5+1, and they accepted.”

“Of course, 3 out of the 6 countries, that is the Chancellor of Germany, Prime Minister of Britain, and President of France all insisted for the meeting to be held, saying that the US would lift all sanctions. But the problem here is that under sanctions and maximum pressure, even if we want to negotiate with the Americans within the framework of P5+1, nobody can predict about the end and upshot of the negotiation.”

Significantly, last Tuesday, during the UNGA in New York, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) also spoke with noticeable restraint in a rare interview with CBS’ ’60 Minutes’. MbS warned, “If the world does not take a strong and firm action to deter Iran, we will see further escalations that will threaten world interests. Oil supplies will be disrupted and oil prices will jump to unimaginably high numbers that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes.” And he went on to stay that a “political and peaceful solution is much better than the military one.”

Importantly, he was categorical that there should be a US-Iranian summit meeting, and added, “this is what we all ask for.” Conventional wisdom is that Saudi Arabia is petrified that the US may engage with Iran directly. But that is apparently not the case.

No doubt, the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Saudi Arabia in October will be keenly watched. Prior to the Saudi visit, Putin will be meeting Rouhani on the sidelines of the summit meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in Yerevan on October 1 when the regional situation and the Iran nuclear deal will certainly be on the agenda of discussion.

This is a defining moment in Russian-Iranian relations too, as Iran is about to sign the formal agreement to join a free trade zone with the EAEU, which of course is a prestigious Kremlin project.

Moscow is cautiously optimistic that “Possibly we will achieve some positive solution (on the 2015 nuclear deal) over several months to come, or else the situation will continue to get worse,” to quote Russia’s representative at international organisations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov during a press conference on Friday to highlight that the Iran nuclear issue is approaching an inflection point.

But Iran is potentially inching its way back [?] in the nuclear weapons business, with a fourth step it is expected to take in early November to reduce its commitments under the 2015 deal. A report in the Guardian last week said the European Union has “privately warned Iran that it will be forced to start withdrawing from the nuclear deal in November if Tehran goes ahead with its threat to take new steps away from the deal… The EU told Iran that it would put the issue of Iranian non-compliance into the agreement’s formal dispute mechanism if the next Iranian move away from the deal is significant… Once the deal’s dispute mechanism is triggered, both sides have 30 days to prove significant non-compliance, and if necessary a world-wide sanctions snap-back occurs.”

The Guardian report put across the European dilemma on the following lines: “The difficulty is that Iran says the steps are reversible, but if they learn about building a nuclear bomb, that is irreversible.”

Iran is no longer finding the support it hoped for in Europe and could be susceptible to broad censure. Conversely, the US is getting the opportunity to restore a modicum of credibility with its allies and the international community, which would broaden the pressure on Iran.

On the other hand, a climb-down by Trump is becoming more difficult in the rising tumult of impeachment proceedings. But while he may appear to have boxed himself in, it is still up to him to offer to Iran that resuming compliance with the 2015 agreement would be met with concrete benefits, like the $15 billion bailout package France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, has proposed.

Such a turn to events between now and November cannot be ruled out. After the UNGA, Trump hinted at willingness to negotiate. He said on Friday, “I don’t want military conflict. We’ve offered to talk, we’ve offered to discuss things… I’ve shown great restraint and hope that Iran likewise chooses peace.”

It is within these broad parameters that events may unfold in the coming months. Meanwhile, Pentagon is doing advance planning by shifting the CAOC away from the zone of conflict.

September 30, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

EU threatens to withdraw from JCPOA

By Richard Sudan – Press TV – September 28, 2019

European leaders have threatened to start withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in November if Tehran does not return to full compliance.

President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, and has since reinstated old sanctions and imposed new ones on Tehran in the hope of crippling its economy and forcing it into falling in line.

Since then, Europe says it has strived to preserve the deal, setting up a financial mechanism called INSTEX to help Iran circumvent US sanctions. But in reality not much has been achieved. Trade with Iran has not surged via INSTEX, and Europe has not stood up to the US over its illegal sanctions and unceremonious withdrawal from the historic deal. And yet Iran is the signatory being asked to cooperate.

Three separate steps have been taken so far by Iran and the fourth is scheduled for November. Tehran wants the US sanctions to be lifted, but as pressure on the Iranian people increases with inflation skyrocketing and vital goods and medicines becoming increasingly scarce, the government is losing patience.

This past week European leaders tried to orchestrate a meeting between Trump and Rouhani at the UN General Assembly. Macron told Rouhani it was an opportunity he shouldn’t miss, but Iran’s president was candid.

So no talks on any level until all US sanctions are lifted. During and after the UN general assembly Europe’s tone became increasingly aggressive towards Tehran. The JCPOA’s European trio blamed Iran for the attacks on Saudi oil refineries and threatened to withdraw from the nuclear deal in November if Iran did not return to full compliance.

September 28, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , , | 2 Comments

Modi-Rouhani meeting is a morality play

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | September 27, 2019

Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his 6-day long visit to the US with a bang — a stunning stage appearance with President Trump at the Howdy Modi in Houston last Sunday.

But on Thursday, he ended up with a hastily arranged meeting with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani in New York just before the latter’s departure for Tehran. The symbolism is at once obvious.

Only 4 days earlier, in a famous remark at the Howdy Modi, Trump thrilled the Sangh Parivar audience with a stirring call that the US and India should jointly fight “radical Islamic terrorism.” Modi and the audience cheered in the mistaken belief that Trump was condemning Pakistan, but only to be told the next day by POTUS himself that he was only referring to Iran.

However, if photo journalism is any indicator, Modi looked subdued at the meeting with Rouhani. It must have been a difficult meeting. The Iranian report was rather taciturn. The primary purpose seems to have been to break the ice.

The India-Iran relations have been on a roller-coaster under Modi’s watch. He gave high hopes to Rouhani when they met for the first time on the sidelines of the historic Ufa summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in June 2015 by proposing multi-billion dollar investment plans in Iran’s economy spanning the industrial and infrastructural fields.

Rouhani took the idea seriously and fast-tracked the contract for India to develop and operate one of the container terminals in the strategic Chabahar Port in the Sistan-Baluchistan province, ignoring Pakistan’s disquiet over such an Indian presence hardly 80 kms from its restive border regions.

Rouhani upset the Pakistanis further by accepting the Indian offer to build a railway line connecting Chabahar with Zahedan on the Iran-Afghan border further north.

Indians were jubilant that in geopolitical terms, India’s cooperation in regional connectivity with Iran matched China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

All that is history, of course. Iran’s ambassador to India Ali Chegeni regretted recently that India not only buckled under American pressure to stop its oil imports from Iran but also slowed down its project work at Chabahar. The tensions are showing. Iran has taken a critical position on the situation in J&K.

Yet, it was Iran which in 1994 had helped India to prevent an OIC resolution on the human rights situation in J&K from being tabled at the UN forum, breaking the IOC consensus and demanding that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.

Yes, Iran played a helpful role in ensuring that the Shia-dominated Kargil region of J&K stayed out of the Pakistan-sponsored insurgency in the early nineties. The Narasimha Rao government allowed the then Iranian Ambassador to India Sheikh Attar to visit Kargil when the region was closed to the international community and foreign media.

Yes, it was the same Iran with which India also had cooperation at the level of intelligence agencies in the early nineties.

What explains the present crisis? Succinctly put, India’s policies in the Persian Gulf have come under the influence of the Israel-Saudi-UAE axis. Indian diplomacy is quite adept at balancing the relations with Iran on one side and the Israel-Saudi-UAE troika on the other. But the present ruling elite abandoned that policy and began identifying with the troika.

Conceivably, the US encouraged this shift. But the main factor has been the bonhomie that has come to exist at the leadership with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and the Crown Princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. If a marker is to be put on the downhill slide of India-Iran relations, it must be Modi’s extended 5-day visit to Israel in July 2017.

India-Iran relations suffered as a result of Delhi’s gravitation toward the the orbit of what Iran calls the “B Team” of the US. Iran never stood in the way of India keeping diversified relationships in West Asia, including with its adversaries such as the US, Israel or Saudi Arabia, but the plain truth is Delhi simply cooled down on the relationship with Iran.

How the B Team worked on the Indian leadership remains a mystery, but the Israelis, Saudis and Emiratis played their cards well, knowing exactly which strings to be pulled among the movers and shakers of the present ruling dispensation in Delhi.

Suffice to say, Modi’s meeting with Rouhani on Thursday was an act of atonement. India is in a chastened mood today. Delhi dumped Iran as a major supplier of oil (on concessional terms) and instead opted to buy from the US and Saudi Arabia and the UAE (at market price), but there has been no quid pro quo.

Trump is deepening the US-Pakistan relations and has waded into the Kashmir issue. As for the Sheikhs, they probably had no intentions to make big investments in India. Meanwhile, Netanyahu, one of Modi’s closest friends in the world circuit, lost the election and if he fails to form the next government, may lose his immunity from prosecution and end up in jail.     

Without doubt, Modi has done the right thing by calling on Rouhani. India does not have many friends today. The Modi government’s image is very poor in the Muslim world. India’s march toward Hindu Rashtra and the lock down in J&K have generated negative opinion internationally.

Even “time-tested friends” like Russia are getting disillusioned with our “Chanakyan” diplomacy. How long can India remain ambivalent? Our credibility as a dependable partner is plunging.

It may seem an uphill task to repair the damage to India’s relationship with Iran. But on the contrary, it is easily undertaken if only there is political will. Tehran attaches high importance to India and Delhi needs to reciprocate that goodwill. The prospects are simply seamless to build a relationship of mutual benefit.

September 27, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment