Posts Tagged ‘Ali Khamenei’

Iran, Syria, and the nuclear question

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

(Developing story)

Iran is within reach of achieving an expansion of its influence through solidifying an arc of Shia states or Shia-led states reaching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterrean Sea. Iran, Iraq, Syria under Alawite rule, and a Lebanese state where Hezbollah is the largest party, has its own well-trained and well-armed militia and blocking or veto power over the actions of the government, represent a formidable challenge to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which have significant Shia populations subject to the pull of Iranian influence.

Despite the obvious benefit of removing chemical weapons from Syria and greatly resducing the chances they might fall into the wrong hands, the chemical weapons deal does not signal an advance for U.S. interests in the region, for it leaves al-Assad in power and increasingly dependent on Iranian economic and military support (including troops and commanders), with Hezbollah providing battle-hardened troops from Lebanon to support al-Assad militarily, particularly in decisive battles.

Proponents of a much-touted potential nuclear deal with Iran need to keep these broader considerations in mind. A nuclear deal that doesn’t address the Syrian question or that leaves Iranian nuclear weapons break-out capabilities intact, could prove to be an illusory achievement. In particular, an accord that would allow work on the Awak heavy water reactor to continue during an initial six-month “freeze” on Iran’s nuclear program is viewed by experts as allowing Iran to continue its advance toward achieving a nuclear weapons capability while sanctions are loosened.

Moreover, we must ask what made Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei suddenly become willing to settle the nuclear issue with the group of P5+1, immediately following Obama’s military back-down on Syria and what must have appeared in Tehran as lack of resolve to use military power.

For recent commentary, see:

(1) Jackson Diehl, “John Kerry’s Middle East dream world,” Washinton Post, November 10, 2013.

(2) Raniah Salloum, “Teherans Mann für Syrien: Irans gefährlichster General,” Der Spiegel, 10 November 2013 (17:34 Uhr).

Er ist Teherans Mann für heikle Missionen im Ausland: Kassim Soleimani, Chef der Eliteeinheit al-Kuds. In Afghanistan und im Irak hat er den Amerikanern bereits schwer zu schaffen gemacht. Jetzt soll er Irans Einfluss in Syrien retten.

(3) Julian Borger, “Iran nuclear programme deal in danger of unravelling; US negotiator leaves talks to reassure Israeli prime minister after France sinks bid to seal temporary agreement,” The Guarian, November 10, 2013.

(4) Julian Borger, “Last-minute rethink stalled deal on nuclear Iran; Details have emerged of how talks with Tehran in Geneva broke up at 11th hour after France and US took a robust stance,” The Guardian, November 11, 2013 (13.06 EST).

The Trenchant Observer

The U.S., Iran, and Afghanistan; attacks on home of Karroubi and offices of Moussavi

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Iranian Help on Afghanistan?

In an interesting column in the Washington Post, David Ignatius reports on the possibilities for engaging with Iran to gain its assistance in dealing with Afghanistan, and the arguments for and against such an approach within the Obama administration.

Ignatius quotes President Obama’s statement, in an August 4 meeting with journalists, that he was in favor of establishing a “second track” (in addition to that on nuclear issues) for talking about Iran’s potential role in helping to stabilize Afghanistan, where the U.S. and Iran have a “mutual interest” in battling both the drug trade and the Taliban.

The question for the Obama administration is whether to take up these feelers (from Iran). Advocates argue that stabilizing Afghanistan is a strategic priority and that the United States should seek help wherever it can. They also argue that rather than undermining talks on the nuclear issue, contacts on Afghanistan could be an important confidence-building measure.

Skeptics contend the Afghan gambit would dilute the main focus of Iran policy, which is stopping Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. That same logic led the Bush administration to pull back in March 2006 from its proposal for talks in Baghdad with Iran, after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had appointed a key adviser, Ali Larijani, as his representative.

–David Ignatius, “The U.S. should test Iran’s resolve to stabilize Afghanistan,” Washington Post, September 17, 2010.

Attacks on Home of Karroubi and Offices of Moussavi

Meanwhile, in Iran paramilitary militia and/or government security officials on September 2 reportedly attacked the home of opposition leader and 2009 presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi.

Pro-government crowds swarmed outside the battered home of a key Iranian opposition leader Friday after militiamen attacked with firebombs and beat a bodyguard unconscious in a brazen message of intimidation and pinpoint pressure on dissent.

Mobs of hard-line militiamen — known as Basij — began breaking down the front door of Karroubi’s residence before being driven back by warning shots from guards, according to the Sahamnews website, which supports Iran’s pro-reform movement.

Karroubi was at home at the time, but was not injured, his son Hossein told The Associated Press.

Media restrictions imposed by Iranian authorities blocked journalists from reaching the site and independently verifying the accounts. A video posted on the Internet by a group backing the opposition showed smashed windows and graffiti on the walls and door panel of the house, located on a tree-lined street in north Tehran.

Hossein Karroubi said dozens of hard-liners — some on motorbikes — continued to damage the opposition leader’s home on Friday and that police were not responding to the scene. Some security cameras outside the building were torn down, he said.

–Brian Murphy and Nasser Karimi, “Mobs attack home of Iranian opposition leader,” AP, published on Iran on MSNBC, September 3, 2010.

On Wednesday night, September 15, Iranian government security forces and/or paramilitary militia reportedly attacked the offices of Mir Hossein Moussavi, the leading opposition candidate in the June, 2009 presidential elections.

–Associated Press, “Forces raid office of Iran’s opposition leader,” September 17, 2010.

–See also Ramin Mostaghim and Meris Lutz, “Iran opposition leader’s offices raided,” Los Angleles Times, September 17, 2010.

AP also reported that

Adding to the pressure on the opposition, Tehran chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi issued a new warning that the movement’s leaders could be brought to trial, Iranian newspapers reported Thursday.

See also

Ladane Nasseri, “Iran Pledges to Bring to Trial Opposition Leaders Who Challenged President,” Bloomberg, September 16, 2010

These attacks follow the surfacing of an alleged official letter to Iranian newspapers and media outlets banning any reporting on the activities of Karroubi, Moussavi, or former president Mohammad Khatami.

–See William Yong and Robert F. Worth, “Iran Clamps Down on Reporting on Protest Leaders,” New York Times, August 25, 2010.

Khamenei’s January call for opposition members to be dealt with strictly in accordance with the law

In January, two days after groups believed to be linked to the Revolutionary Guards allegedly open fire on the car of opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for such groups to abide by the law, stating

“Relevant bodies should fully respect the law in dealing with the riots and the ongoing events,” he told clerics and seminary students bused to Tehran from the shrine city of Qom for an annual political commemoration.

“Those without any legal duty and obligations should not meddle with these affairs,” he said. “Everyone should hold back from arbitrary acts and everything should go within the framework of the law.”

Borzou Daragahi, “Iran’s Supreme Leader Tells Militias not to Meddle,” Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2010

See The Trenchant Observer, “NEWS TO NOTE: In Iran, Khamenei calls for non-interference by militias and for officials “to fully respect the law,” January 14, 2010

The contradiction between Khamenei’s call for the authorities and paramilitary groups to act within the law and these recent attacks raises basic questions as to whether Kamenei has lost or is losing influence over the Revolutionary Guards and paramilitary groups such as the Basiji.

The Trenchant Observer

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NEWS TO NOTE: In Iran, Khamenei calls for non-interference by militias and for officials “to fully respect the law”

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times reports that two days following the firing of shots at the car of former Iranian presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi,

…Iran’s supreme leader Saturday told shadowy pro-government militias not to interfere in the nation’s postelection unrest even as the head of the notorious Basiji militia warned that his forces would “jump into the fray” if authorities didn’t act strongly against the opposition movement.

In his first public comments since protests last month that coincided with a major religious holiday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made a rare attempt to ease tensions. Two days after gunmen with suspected ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard allegedly opened fire on the car of opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi Khamenei urged all to abide by the law.

“Relevant bodies should fully respect the law in dealing with the riots and the ongoing events,” he told clerics and seminary students bused to Tehran from the shrine city of Qom for an annual political commemoration.

“Those without any legal duty and obligations should not meddle with these affairs,” he said. “Everyone should hold back from arbitrary acts and everything should go within the framework of the law.”

Borzou Daragahi, “Iran’s Supreme Leader Tells Militias not to Meddle,” Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2010

Khamenei’s remarks on January 9 were also quoted extensively by Iran’s English language television channel, Press TV, as follows:

…Ayatollah Khamenei warned that the enemy was drawing up an “intricate” plot for a “dangerous game.”

“In these unclear conditions, we must act with vigilance and open eyes. However, when the conditions require, we must also show firmness. This way we can stop the enemy in its tracks,” the Leader explained.

Ayatollah Khamenei then asked all responsible bodies of the Islamic Republic to precisely implement the articles of the law in a “full and firm” fashion.

The Leader said that “those who have no responsibility or legal duty” must not interfere in that process.

“Some innocent people, who hate these villains, may seriously be hurt. Therefore, everyone must refrain from taking any action on their own. Everything must be done according to the law.”

Press TV, January 9, 2010

Tehran’s leading English language newspaper described the remarks in similar terms. The Tehran Times, January 9, 2010