As Twitter Purges Real Iranians, US-Backed MEK Cult Revealed to Run Anti-Iran Troll Farm – By Elliot Gabriel – MINT PRESS

Iran Social Media Bans
#YouAreBots

 

While “actual” Iranians face social media bans, countless bots and anti-government accounts belonging to the US-backed former terror group, MEK, have been permitted to run rampant across Twitter and other platforms.

TIRANA, ALBANIA – Iran is once again being subject to double standards as part of an ongoing effort to deprive it of access to media platforms where it can influence audiences overseas – in this case, on Twitter.

The effort has seen hundreds of Iranian accounts allegedly tied to Iranian pro-government “propaganda” efforts subject to a massive cull across platforms owned by Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc., and Google parent company Alphabet Inc.

Those purged from the platforms include profiles, channels, and accounts belonging to Iranian nationals who have been accused of involvement in alleged “coordinated manipulation” of information related to Middle Eastern events and ”divisive social commentary.”

 

On YouTube, this has included accounts belonging to media entities owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, the state media corporation that operates such channels as the English-language PressTV and Spanish-language HispanTV.

Watch | Al Jazeera on Albania’s Iranian Regime Change Bot Factory

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/g-D5s_yCTQM?rel=0&showinfo=0&start=834

Yet while “actual” Iranians face bans from social media, countless bots and anti-government accounts belonging to U.S.-backed opposition groups posturing as the “Iranian people resistance” have been permitted to run rampant across the web.

 

#YouAreBots

Last month, nearly 800 accounts based in Iran were suspended by Twitter for allegedly violating the network’s policies, per an investigation alongside “industry peers” that allowed the social media giants a better “understanding of these [Iranian] networks.” Twitter hasn’t been forthcoming about the methods it used to investigate the networks tied to such alleged “Iranian interference,” but users including patriotic university student SeyedMousavi7 and Press TV journalist Waqar Rizvi were among those suspended.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Zarif directly addressed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a tweet aiming to highlight the contradiction:

Hello @Jack. Twitter has shuttered accounts of real Iranians, incl TV presenters & students, for supposedly being part of an ‘influence op’. How about looking at actual bots in Tirana used to prop up ‘regime change’ propaganda spewed out of DC? #YouAreBots”

Another tweet by Iranian legislator Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi addressed to the Twitter chief said:

You suspended my official account as MP of Iran for my violation of not determined twitter rules, but why you have not blocked bots of MEK in Tirana, a group that killed 17000 Iranian people, used to prop up ‘regime change’ propaganda? #YouAreBots”

The tweet followed a report by Al Jazeera English which detailed how monitors and researchers were able to pinpoint a sharp uptick in a trend of actual social media manipulation.

 

The Wizard Behind the “Resistance” Curtain – Maryam Rajavi and the MEK Cult

The report connected the growing phenomenon to the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) or People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), a cultish group of Iranian exiles that was listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. until 2012 and have been based in a camp outside the Albanian capital, Tirana, since the U.S. began openly backing it in 2013.

The group has long enjoyed the backing of the Iranian government’s enemies, ranging from toppled dictator Saddam Hussein to Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Hiding behind various front groups like the France-based “parliament-in-exile,” The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the MEK has sought to depict itself as a representative, democratic coalition that speaks for all of Iran’s religious, ethnic, and political groups proportionately” and is committed to a secular, pro-market, and free Iran.

MEK Maryam Rajavi and Rudy Giuliani

The group has paid a number of top Trump administration officials to speak at its functions and echo its calls to enact a “regime change” in Tehran, including former New York City Mayor and top White House lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and National Security Advisor John Bolton, among a long list of U.S. lawmakers and officials.

Yet the group, which have also been described as “skilled manipulators of public opinion,” are said by ex-members to tolerate little internal dissent and are seen by many as little more than a well-funded, mafia-style cult commanded by self-styled “Iranian President-in-Exile” Maryam Rajavi and backed by her friends across Western and Gulf capitals.

Some who escaped the MEK and remain stranded in Tirana spoke to Al Jazeera and described the manner in which the cult orchestrated what appeared to be a trending wave of support for the group and its anti-regime message toward the end of last year, when Iranians took to the streets to protest adverse economic conditions largely caused by a mixture of domestic legislation and intense pressure by Washington.

Much of this trend was clearly fueled by bots – accounts that are often fraudulent and behave in an automated fashion, amplifying messages through swarm-like behavior such as retweeting, liking, and republishing videos and articles posted alongside hashtags such as #FreeIran and #IranRegimeChange.

In many cases these trends – which sought to focus, variously, on the plight of Iran’s national or religious minority groups ranging from Kurds to Christians, women’s rights groups, and dissidents –grew as a direct result of work by MEK members toiling away in an Albanian troll farm to boost their group’s online propaganda.

Former MEK militant Hassan Heyrani told the outlet:

Overall I would say that several thousand accounts are managed by about 1,000-1,500 MEK members … It was all very well organized and there were clear instructions about what needed to be done.”

Another former “keyboard warrior,” Hassan Shahbaz, added:

Our orders would tell us the hashtags to use in our tweets in order to make them more active … It was our job to provide coverage of these protests by seeking out, tweeting and re-tweeting videos while adding our own comments.”

 

Useful Tools in the Age of Trump

Journalist, writer and scholar Azadeh Moaveni told Al Jazeera that the 2016 election of former real estate mogul Donald Trump, who surrounded himself during his campaign with a range of zealous anti-Iran and pro-Israel hawks, was a turning point in such anti-IRI media operations.

“Once it became clear that there would be heightened hostility with Iran, there was a profusion of new accounts, anonymous accounts who were single-mindedly and purposefully going after people who wrote about, talked about Iran with nuance,” she noted.

Whether the report, or Iran’s demands, will have any impact on the continued backing of MEK by Iran’s opponents remains yet to be seen. In the last year alone, a bevy of U.S. figures including late Senator John McCain, former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, and various senators have visited the Rajavi cult’s compound in Albania as U.S. rhetoric against Iran’s “regime” has escalated and the U.S. has unilaterally withdrawn from the six-party Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or nuclear accord.

In the meantime, social media networks like Twitter and Facebook have squirmed as the same U.S. lawmakers have sought to crack down on alleged Russian and Iranian “interference” online.

Without a doubt, the troll farms of the MEK will remain an important weapon in the arsenal of those seeking to manufacture the illusion of widespread anti-government fervor in an Iran under the gun of economic sanctions, media terrorism, and the low-intensity warfare of sustained “regime change” efforts.

Top Photo | Iranians surf the Internet at a cafe in Tehran, Iran, Sept, 17, 2013. Ebrahim Noroozi | AP

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

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AngloZionist attack options against Iran – By THE SAKER – [This analysis was written for the Unz Review]

 

[This analysis was written for the Unz Review]

In the past few days, the Internet has been flooded with a frankly silly rumor about the US soliciting Australia’s assistance in preparing an attack on Iran.  Needless to say, that report does not explain what capabilities Australia would possess which the USA would lack, but never-mind that.  Still, the report was picked up in too many places (see here, here and here ) to be ignored.  In one of these reports, Eric Margolis has described what such a US attack could look like.  It is worth quoting him in full:

Outline of a possible AngloZionist attack on Iran

The US and Israel will surely avoid a massive, costly land campaign again Iran, a vast, mountainous nation that was willing to suffer a million battle casualties in its eight-year war with Iraq that started in 1980. This gruesome war was instigated by the US, Britain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to overthrow Iran’s new popular Islamic government.

The Pentagon has planned a high-intensity air war against Iran that Israel and the Saudis might very well join. The plan calls for over 2,300 air strikes against Iranian strategic targets: airfields and naval bases, arms and petroleum, oil and lubricant depots, telecommunication nodes, radar, factories, military headquarters, ports, waterworks, airports, missile bases and units of the Revolutionary Guards.

Iran’s air defenses range from feeble to non-existent. Decades of US-led military and commercial embargos against Iran have left it as decrepit and enfeebled as was Iraq when the US invaded in 2003. The gun barrels of Iran’s 70’s vintage tanks are warped and can’t shoot straight, its old British and Soviet AA missiles are mostly unusable, and its ancient MiG and Chinese fighters ready for the museum, notably its antique US-built F-14 Tomcats, Chinese copies of obsolete MiG-21’s, and a handful of barely working F-4 Phantoms of Vietnam War vintage.

Air combat command is no better. Everything electronic that Iran has will be fried or blown up in the first hours of a US attack. Iran’s little navy will be sunk in the opening attacks. Its oil industry may be destroyed or partially preserved depending on US post-war plans for Iran.

The only way Tehran can riposte is by staging isolated commando attacks on US installations in the Mideast of no decisive value, and, of course, blocking the narrow Strait of Hormuz that carries two-thirds of Mideast oil exports. The US Navy, based nearby in Bahrain, has been practicing for decades to combat this threat.

There is a lot of interesting material in this description and I think that it is worth looking into it segment by segment.

First, I can only agree with Margolis that neither the USA nor Israel want a ground war against Iran: the country is too big, the Iranians too well prepared and the size of the force needed for such a campaign way beyond what the Empire can currently muster.

Second, Margolis is absolutely correct when he says that Iran does not have the means to stop a determined AngloZionist (missiles and aircraft) attack. Iran does have some modern air-defense capabilities, and the attackers will sustain a number of losses, but at this point, the size disparity is so huge that the AngloZionists will achieve air superiority fairly soon and that will give them an opportunity to bomb whatever they want to bomb (more about that later).

[Sidebar: assessing Iranian air defenses is not just a matter of counting missiles and launchers, however, and there is much more to this.  According to one Russian source Iran has 4 long range anti-aircraft missile S-300PMU-2 systems (with 48Н6Е2 Mach 6,6 interceptor missiles), 29 military anti-aircraft self-propelled missile complexes Tor-M1, some fairly advanced anti-aircraft missile complexes like the Bavar-373, a passive electronically scanned array radar (whose illumination and guidance system almost certainly includes modern Chinese electronics) and an impressive number of radar systems early warning radar of the Russian, Chinese and Iranian manufacture.   This category includes systems like the high-potential long-range radar detection and target designation Najm-802 radar (has 5120 receiving and transmitting modules, operates in the decimeter S-range and is designed to detect ballistic targets and small elements of high-precision weapons), the Russian meter radar “Nebo-SVU” advanced early warning and control system with a fixed-array radar, as well as a meter range early warning radar of the type “Ghadir” .  Most importantly, these radars are all integrated into the network-centric missile defense system of Iran. For example, the “Ghadir” radar is able to detect not only the tactical fighters of the USAF, the KSA and Israel, but also ballistic missiles immediately after launch (at a distance of about 1100 km). As a result, the presence of Iranian radio engineering units of multi-band radar detection facilities in the Western direction (the Persian Gulf) will allow the Iranians to prepare a flexible echeloned air defense to defend against high-intensity missile strikes.  And yet, no matter how much the Iranians have improved their air defenses, the sheer number of of missiles (including the new advanced AGM-158 JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile) low observable standoff air-launched cruise missile delivered by B-1B bombers) means that the Iranian defenses will inevitably be overwhelmed by any massive attack.]

I therefore also agree with Margolis that the Iranian oil industry cannot be protected from a determined US/Israeli attack.  In fact, the entire Iranian infrastructure is vulnerable to attack.

Margolis’ final paragraph, however, makes it sound like Iran does not have credible retaliatory options and that I very much disagree with.

Example one: Iranian capabilities in the Strait of Hormuz

For one thing, the issue of the Strait of Hormuz is much more complicated than just “the US Navy has practiced for years to combat this threat“.  The reality is that Iran has a very wide range of options to make shipping through this strait practically impossible.  These options range from underwater mines, to fast craft attacks, to anti-shipping missiles, to coastal artillery strikes, etc.

[Sidebar: Therein also lies a big danger: the Israelis and or the US could very easily organize a false flag attack on any ship in the Strait of Hormuz, then accuse Iran, there would be the usual “highly likely” buzzword from all the AngloZionst intelligence agencies and, voilà, the Empire would have a pretext to attack Iran.]

In fact, the mere fact of issuing a threat to shipping through this narrow body of water might well deter insurances from providing coverage to any ships and that might stop the shipping all by itself.  Should that not be enough, Iran can always lay even a limited amount of mines, and that will be enough (please keep in mind that while the USN could try to engage in mineclearing operations, to do so right off the coast of Iran would expose USN minesweepers to an extreme danger of attack).

Margolis does mention this issue when he writes:

While Iran may be able to interdict some oil exports from the Arab states and cause maritime insurance rates to skyrocket, it’s unlikely to be able to block the bulk of oil exports unless it attacks the main oil terminals in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf with ground troops. During the Iran-Iraq war, neither side was able to fully interdict the other’s oil exports.

However, I believe that grossly under-estimates the Iranian capabilities in this context.  Let’s take one example, the Iranian submarine force.

The Iranian submarine force is a highly specialized one.  According to the 2018 Edition of the IISS’s Military Balance, the Iranians currently have 21 submarines deployed:

  • 3 Taregh-class diesel-electric submarine  (Russian Kilo-class Project-877EKM)
  • 1 Fateh-class coastal submarine
  • 16 Ghadir-class midget submarines
  • 1 Nahand-class midget submarine

When most people hear “diesel-electric,” they think of old diesel trucks, and are not impressed, especially when these are contrasted with putatively “advanced” nuclear attack submarines. This is, however, a very mistaken opinion because submarines can only to be assessed in the environment they are designed to operate in. Naval geography is typically roughly divided into three types: blue water (open ocean), green water (continental shelves) and brown water (coastal regions). Nuclear attack submarines are only superior in the blue water environment where autonomy, speed, diving depth, weapon storage capacity, advanced sonars, etc. are crucial. In comparison, while diesel-electric submarines are slower, need to resurface to recharge their batteries and are typically smaller and with fewer weapons onboard, they are also much better suited for green water operations. In shallow brown water, midget submarines reign, if only because nuclear attack submarines were never designed to operate in such an environment. Now take a quick look at the kind of environment the Strait of Hormuz constitutes:

 

Notice the interesting combination of very shallow and shallow depth typical of brown water and then the green water type of environment when going further into the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.  With this in mind, let’s see what kind of submarine force Iran has acquired/developed:

For brown water operations (Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz) Iran has a relatively large and capable fleet of midget submarines. For green water operations (the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea), Iran has three formidable Taregh/Kilo-class submarines (which are even capable of limited blue water operations, though with much less autonomy, speed, armament or sonar than a nuclear attack submarine).  Just like “diesel-electric”, the term “midget” submarine makes it sound that we are talking about a toy or, at best, some primitive third world hack which, at best, could be used to smuggle drugs. In reality, however, the Iranian “midgets” can carry the same heavyweight torpedoes (533 mm) as the Kilos, only in smaller quantities. This also means that they can carry the same missiles and mines. In fact, I would argue that Iranian Ghadir-class “midget” submarines represent a much more formidable threat in the Persian Gulf than even the most advanced nuclear attack submarines could.

[Sidebar: the USA has stopped producing diesel-electric submarines many years ago because it believed that being a hegemonic power with a typical (aircraft carrier-centric) blue water navy it had no need for green or brown water capabilities. Other countries (such as Russia, Germany, Sweden and others) actively pursued a diesel-electric submarine program (including so-called “air-independent propulsion” – AIP – ones) because they correctly understood that these submarines are much cheaper while being also much better suited for coastal defensive operations.  Ditching diesel-electric submarines was yet another major mistake by US force planners; see this article on this topic.  The new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and the Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer were supposed to partially palliate to this lack of green and brown capabilities, but both turned out to be a disaster]

The Russian Kilo-class submarines are some of the most silent yet heavily armed submarines ever built, and they could potentially represent a major threat to any US naval operations against Iran.  However, we can be pretty sure that the USN tracks them 24/7 and that the Kilos would become a prime target (whether in port or at sea) at the very beginning of any AngloZionist attack. But would the USN also be capable of keeping track of the much smaller (and numerous) Iranian midget submarines? Your guess is as good as mine, but I personally very much doubt that, if only because these relatively small subs are very easy to hide. Just take a look at this photo of a Ghadir-class submarine and imagine how easy it would be to hide them or, alternatively, create decoy looking just like the real thing. Yet this midget submarine’s torpedoes could sink any vessel in the Persian Gulf with a single torpedo.

While the US definitely has a lot of very capable reconnaissance and intelligence capabilities available to try to locate and then destroy these threats, we also know that the Iranians have had decades to prepare for this scenario and that they are truly masters at what is called maskirovka in Russian military terminology: a combination of camouflage, concealment, deception, and misdirection. In fact, the Iranians are the ones who trained Hezbollah in Lebanon in this art and we all know what happened to the Israelis when they confidently waltzed into southern Lebanon only to find out that for all their reconnaissance/intelligence capabilities they were unable to deal with even a relatively primitive (technologically speaking) Hezbollah missile capability. For all the patriotic flag-waving, the truth is that if the Iranians decide to block the Strait of Hormuz the only option left for the US will be to land a force on the Iranian shore and engage in a limited but still extremely dangerous offensive land-attack operation. At this point, whether this counter-attack is successful or not will be irrelevant, as there will be so much combat activity in this narrow bottleneck that nobody will even consider to bring ships through it.

I also believe that Margolis is wrong when he writes that all Iran could do would be to stage “isolated commando attacks on US installations in the Mideast of no decisive value“.  One very real Iranian option would be to strike US targets (of which there are plenty in the Middle-East) with various missiles.  Furthermore, Iran can also launch missiles at US allies (Israel or the KSA) and interests (Saudi oil fields).

Example two: Iranian missile capabilities

I would not trust everything the CSIS writes (they are a very biased source, to put it mildly), but on this page, they posted a pretty good summary of the current Iranian missile capability:

On the same page, CSIS also offers a more detailed list of current and developed Iranian missiles:

(You can also check on this Wikipedia page to compare with the CSIS info on Iranian missiles)

The big question is not whether Iran has capable missiles, but how many exactly are deployed.  Nobody really knows this because the Iranians are deliberately being very vague, and for obvious and very good reasons.  However, judging by the example of Hezbollah, we can be pretty sure that the Iranians also have these missiles in large enough numbers to represent a very credible deterrent capability.  I would even argue that such a missile force not only represents a capable deterrent capability, but also a very useful war-fighting one.  Can you imagine what would happen if US bases (especially airbases and naval facilities) in the region came under periodic Iranian missile attacks?  Judging by the Israeli experience during the First Gulf War or, for that matter, the recent Saudi experience with the Houthi missiles, we can be pretty sure that the US Patriots will be useless to defend against Iranian missiles.

Oh sure, just like the US did during the First Gulf War, and the Israelis did in 2006, the AngloZionists will start a massive hunt for Iranian missile sites, but judging by all the recent wars, these hunts will not be successful enough and the Iranians will be able to sustain missile strikes for quite a long time.   Just imagine what one missile strike, say, every 2-3 days on a US base in the region would do to operations or morale!

Reality check: the US is vulnerable throughout the entire Middle-East

Above I only listed two specific capabilities (subs and missiles), but the same type of analysis could be made with Iranian small speedboat swarms, electronic warfare capabilities or even cyber-warfare.  But the most formidable asset the Iranians have is a very sophisticated and educated population which has had decades to prepare for an attack by the “Great Satan” and which have clearly developed an array of asymmetrical options to defend themselves and their country against the (probably inevitable) AngloZionist attack.

You have probably seen at least one map showing US military installations in the Middle-East (if not, see here, here or here).  Truth be told, the fact that Iran is surrounded by US forces and bases presents a major threat to Iran.  But the opposite is also true. All these US military facilities are targets, often very vulnerable ones.  Furthermore, Iran can also use proxies/allies in the region to attack any of these targets.  I highly recommend that you download this factsheet and read it while thinking of the potential of each listed facility to become the target of an Iranian attack.

The usual answer which I often hear to these arguments is that if the Iranians actually dared to use missiles or strike at the US bases in the region, the retaliation by the USA would be absolutely terrible.  However, according to Eric Margolis, the initial and main goal of a US-Israeli attack on Iran would be to “totally destroy Iran’s infrastructure, communications and transport (including oil) crippling this important nation of 80 million and taking it back to the pre-revolutionary era“.  Now let me ask you this simple question: if Margolis is correct – and I personally believe that he is – then how would that outcome be different from the “absolutely terrible” retaliation supposedly planned by the USA in case of Iranian counterattack?  Put differently – if the Iranians realize that the AngloZionists want to lay waste to their country (say, like what the Israelis did to Lebanon in 2006), what further possible escalation would further deter them from counter-attacking with the means available to them?

To answer this question we need to look again at the real nature of the “Iranian problem” for the AngloZionists.

Real AngloZionist objectives for an attack on Iran

First and foremost, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Iran has any kind of military nuclear program.  The fact that the Israelis have for years been screaming about this urbi et orbi does not make it true.  I would also add that common sense strongly suggests that the Iranians would have absolutely no logical reason to develop any kind of nuclear weapons.  I don’t have the time and space to argue this point again (I have done so many times in the past), so I will simply refer to the US National Intelligence Estimate’s conclusion that Iran had “halted its nuclear weapons program” and leave it at that.

[Sidebar: I don’t believe that the Iranians ever had a nuclear weapons program either, but that is irrelevant: even if they once had one, that would put them on par with many other countries which took some initial steps in the development of such a capability and then gave it up.  The only point is that it is the official US position that there is no current military nuclear program in Iran.]

The real problem of Iran is very simple.  Iran is the only country in the world which is:

  1. Islamic and leads the struggle against the Saudi/Daesh/ISIS/al-Qaeda/etc. ideology of takfirism and the terrorism they promote
  2. Openly anti-Zionist and anti-Imperialist and combines conservative religious values with progressive social policies
  3. Successful politically, economically and militarily and thereby threatens the monopoly of power of Israel in the region

Any one of those features by itself would already constitute a grievous case of crimethink from the point of view of the Empire and would fully deserve a reaction of absolute hatred, fear and a grim determination to eliminate the government and people which dare to support it.  No wonder that by combining all three Iran is so hated by the AngloZionists.

This entire canard about some Iranian nuclear a program is just a pretext for a hate campaign and a possible attack on Iran.  But in reality, the goals of the AngloZionists is not to disarm Iran, but exactly as Margolis says: to bomb this “disobedient” country and people “back to the pre-revolutionary era”.

Here is the key thing: the Iranians perfectly understand that. The obvious conclusion is this: if the purpose of an AngloZionist attack will be to bomb Iran back into the pre-revolutionary era, then why would the Iranians hold back and not offer the maximal resistance possible?

Because of the threat of a US nuclear retaliation?

US nuclear attack options – not much of an option in reality

Here again, we need to look at the context, not just assume that the use of nuclear weapons is some kind of magical panacea which immediately forces the enemy to give up the fight and to unconditionally surrender. This is far from being the truth.

First, nuclear weapons are only effective when used against a lucrative target.  Just murdering civilians like what the USA did in Japan does absolutely no good if your goal is to defeat your opponent’s armed forces.  If anything, nuking your opponents “value” targets will might only increase his determination to fight to the end.  I have no doubt that, just as during the first Gulf War, the USA has already made a typical list of targets it would want to strike in Iran: a mix of key government buildings and installations and a number of military units and facilities.  However, in most cases, those could also be destroyed by conventional (non-nuclear) weapons.  Furthermore, since the Iranians have had decades to prepare for this scenario (the USA has always had Iran in its sights since the 1979 Revolution), you can be quite sure that all the peacetime facilities have been duplicated for wartime situations. Thus while many high-visibility targets will be destroyed, their wartime counterparts will immediately take over.  One might think that nukes could be used to destroy deeply buried targets, and this is partially true, but some targets are buried too deep to be destroyed (even by a nuclear blast) while others are duplicated several times (say, for 1 peacetime military headquarters there would be 4, 5 or even 6 concealed and deeply buried ones).  To go after each one of them would require using even more nukes and that begs the question of the political costs of such a campaign of nuclear strikes.

In political terms, the day the USA uses a nuclear weapon against any enemy it will have committed a political suicide from which the Hegemony will never recover. While a majority of US Americans might consider that “might makes right” and “screw the UN”, for the rest of the world the first use of nuclear weapons (as opposed to a retaliatory counter-strike) is an unthinkable abomination and crime, especially for an illegal act of aggression (there is no way the UNSC will authorize a US attack on Iran). Even if the White House declares that it “had to” use nukes to “protect the world” against the “nuclear armed Ayatollah”, the vast majority of the planet will react with total outrage (especially after the Iraqi WMD canard!). Furthermore, any US nuclear strike will instantly turn the Iranians from villains into victims. Why would the US decide to pay such an exorbitant political price just to use nuclear weapons on targets which would not yield any substantial advantage for the US? Under normal circumstances, I would think that this kind of unprovoked use of nuclear weapons would be quite unthinkable and illogical. However, in the current political context in the USA, there is one possibility which really frightens me.

Trump as the “disposable President” for the Neocons?

The Neocons hate Trump, but they also own him.  The best example of this kind of “ownership” is the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem which was an incredibly stupid act, but one which the Israel Lobby demanded.  The same goes for the US reneging on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or, for that matter, the current stream of threats against Iran.  It appears that the Neocons have a basic strategy which goes like this: “we hate Trump and everything he represents, but we also control him; let’s use him to do all the crazy stuff no sane US President would ever do, and then let’s use the fallout of these crazy decisions and blame it all on Trump; this way we get all that we want and we get to destroy Trump in the process only to replace him with one of “our guys” when the time is right“.   Again, the real goal of an attack on Iran would be to bomb Iran back into a pre-revolutionary era and to punish the Iranian people for supporting the “wrong” regime thus daring to defy the AngloZionist Empire.  The Neocons could use Trump as a “disposable President” who could be blamed for the ensuing chaos and political disaster while accomplishing one of the most important political objectives of Israel: laying waste to Iran.  For the Neocons, this is a win-win situation: if things go well (however unlikely that is), they can take all the credit and still control Trump like a puppet, and if things don’t go well, Iran is in ruins, Trump is blamed for  a stupid and crazy war, and the Clinton gang will be poised to come back to power.

The biggest loser in such a scenario would, of course, be the people of Iran. But the US military will not fare well either. For one thing, a plan to just “lay waste” to Iran has no viable exit strategy, especially not a short-term one, while the US military has no stomach for long conflicts (Afghanistan and Iraq are bad enough). Furthermore, once the USA destroys most of what can be destroyed the initiative will be in the Iranians’ hands and time will be on their side. In 2006 the Israelis had to fold after 33 days only, how much time will the US need before having to declare victory and leave? If the war spreads to, say, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria, then will the US even have the option to just leave? What about the Israelis – what options will they have once missiles start hitting them (not only Iranian missiles but probably also Hezbollah missiles from Lebanon!)?

Former Mossad head Meir Dagan was fully correct when he stated that a military attack on Iran was “the stupidest thing I have ever heard”.  Alas, the Neocons have never been too bright, and stupid stuff is what they mostly do.  All we can hope for is that somebody in the USA will find a way to stop them and avert another immoral, bloody, useless and potentially very dangerous war.

The Saker

Trump threatens Iran with a catastrophic war – By KEITH JONES (WSWS)

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24 July 2018

US President Donald Trump issued a bloodcurdling threat of all-out war against Iran late Sunday night.

Using language akin to that he previously employed in threatening North Korea, a state of 25 million people, with annihilation, the US commander-in-chief tweeted that Iran would “SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED, if it “EVER” dared to “THREATEN” Washington “AGAIN.”

Trump’s all in-caps tweet was no idle bluster. His administration is pursuing a provocative and reckless drive for regime change in Iran that threatens to ignite a catastrophic war that would set the entire Middle East ablaze, and potentially trigger a head-on clash between the US and other great powers.

In May, Washington blew up the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and relaunched full-scale economic warfare against Iran—an illegal act tantamount to war. Next month sanctions will “snap back” on Iran’s auto sector and trade in gold and other metals. In November, sanctions targeting Iran’s energy, shipping and insurance sectors and the transactions of its central bank are to take effect.

Washington has vowed to reduce Iran’s oil exports, which provide the bulk of the state budget, to near zero. To date it has refused to provide sanction waivers to its ostensible allies in Europe and Asia and instead demonstratively threatened them with exclusion from the US market and financial system if they do not comply with the unilateral American embargo on Iran.

The Pentagon is already engaged in fighting with Iranian forces. US troops in Syria, deployed in the name of fighting ISIS, have repeatedly targeted Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and Washington is providing vital logistical and tactical support for the Saudi monarchy’s savage war in Yemen against the Iranian-supported Houthi.

Yesterday, John Bolton, Trump’s national security advisor and a longstanding proponent of a US attack on Iran, gleefully reiterated Trump’s threat, saying the president had told him, “if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid before.”

Trump cast his ominous Sunday tweet as a response to a warning from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that if the US persisted in seeking to destroy Iran’s economy and impose a pro-US government in Tehran, it risked unleashing “the mother of all wars.”

Earlier this month, Rouhani—unnerved by his failure to win a commitment from the European powers that they would not bow to US pressure and renege on their obligations under the Iran nuclear accord—said that were Iran denied the right to export its oil it might close the Strait of Hormuz.

Within hours, the Pentagon issued a statement vowing to ensure “freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce” through the strait, which is the conduit for one-fifth of all world oil exports.

Trump’s claims that Iran threatens the US are preposterous.

It is American imperialism that for a quarter-century served as the bulwark of the tyrannical dictatorship of the Shah and that, with the aim of once again reducing Iran to a neo-colony, has waged a four-decade-long campaign of sanctions, bullying, and war threats against the Islamic Republic, the bourgeois nationalist regime that misappropriated the popular revolution that overthrew the Shah.

It is Washington that illegally invaded Iran’s north-eastern neighbor, Afghanistan, in 2001 and its western neighbor, Iraq, in 2003, in what top Bush administration officials, including Bolton and Vice President Dick Cheney, publicly boasted was a prelude to regime change in Tehran.

It is the US that, in pursuit of untrammeled dominance of the world’s principal oil-exporting region, has waged a succession of ruinous wars since 1991 in the Mideast and North Africa that have razed whole societies, leaving millions dead, injured and displaced.

It is the US that between 2011 and 2015 spearheaded the imposition of sanctions that halved Iran’s oil exports and crippled its economy. It did so while repeatedly threatening Iran with war if it did not submit to Washington’s demands that it dismantle its civilian nuclear program, and while continuing to arm Israel, Saudi Arabia and other regional client states with hundreds of billions of dollars worth of high-tech weaponry.

And it is the Trump administration that has repudiated the Iran nuclear accord and is now waging all-out economic war on Iran, although the International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly found Tehran in full compliance with the 2015 agreement.

Yesterday various Democrats and retired Pentagon and CIA officials criticized Trump’s bellicose tweet. Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer said Trump was trying to distract attention from his “essentially un-American” performance at his July 16 summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. “He’s weak on Putin, and he wants to prove he’s tough on Rouhani,” Hoyer told the Washington Post.

The Democrats share the objective of Trump’s “America First” policy—the assertion of US global hegemony—and they, no less than the Republicans, have been complicit in the drive, since 1991, to use the residual military power of the US to compensate for the vast erosion of its relative economic power and global position.

But there are deep and explosive tactical differences over how to pursue this strategy. This is exemplified by the frenzied campaign of the Democrats, mounted in close concert with the CIA and broad sections of the military-security apparatus, targeting Trump for being “soft on,” if not an outright patsy of, Putin.

This faction of the American ruling elite is bitterly opposed to any let-up in the US military-strategic offensive against Russia, and views Trump’s focus on an immediate showdown with Iran as a distraction from the struggle against this more formidable strategic foe. It has been campaigning for the US to mount a massive military escalation in Syria, arguing that this would provide the US the opportunity to deal a body blow to Russia, while simultaneously augmenting strategic pressure on Iran.

Trump, on the other hand, calculates that a temporary accommodation with Russia could serve US interests. First and foremost, by forestalling the further strategic alignment of Russia and China, but also by smoothing the way for the US war-drive against Iran.

One of Trump’s objectives in Helsinki was to pressure Putin to press for the elimination, or at least drastic curtailment, of Iranian influence in Syria as part of any “peace settlement.” Russia, it should be noted, has in recent months effectively given the Israelis and Americans a free hand to attack Iranian forces in Syria.

Trump’s eagerness to provoke a confrontation with Iran is bound up with his calculation that China must be confronted sooner rather than later. The re-subjugation of Iran would give the US a stranglehold over the oil resources of the Middle East, which are vital to sustaining China’s economy, as well as eliminate an important link in China’s One Belt, One Road strategy to deepen the integration of Eurasia.

Whatever the outcome of this conflict over how best to pursue US imperialism’s predatory aims, Washington is moving inexorably down the path to a volcanic explosion of violence that threatens the people of the Middle East and the world with catastrophe.

As for the European imperialist powers, they resent Trump’s policies only because these threaten their own interests, including their plans to capture Iran’s markets and oil resources. Thus Berlin, London and Paris have all responded to the further escalation of US imperialist violence in the wake of the 2008 world financial implosion by arming themselves to the teeth.

The resurgence of class struggle around the world, including in the US and the Middle East, underscores that the struggle against imperialist war must be founded on the independent political mobilization of the international working class and the fight for socialism.

Keith Jones

The WSWS, Iran’s economy, the Basij & Revolutionary Shi’ism: an 11-part series – by Ramn Mazaheri for The Saker Blog – (WSWS)

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by Ramn Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

In February the WSWS published a three-part series in response to my criticism of their inflammatory coverage of the protests last winter in Iran, and also to try and rebut the entire concept of “Iranian Islamic Socialism”.

I have waited a few months to read it and respond, but I present this 11-part series in order to: explain the undeniably socialist nature of Iran’s economy, give the first leftist examination in the West of the Basij, and to explain how the religious-cultural roots of revolutionary Shi’ism ultimately creating modern Iranian Islamic Socialism.

I apologise for not responding sooner. However, may I please defend myself by reminding that I had just published a 5-part series which gave a People-centered re-history of the Russian Revolution, was on the brink of publishing a 3-part series which analyzed the structure of the fascinating leftist project in Northern Syria, was preparing an 8-part series which aimed to totally contradict the Western perspective on Mao, the Cultural Revolution, the Great Leap Forward and much else regarding Communist China, and in between I was in Cuba covering their elections from a decidedly leftist perspective (in short: vote cobblers!).

And I also had to do my usual daily hack journalism for PressTV to support the French working class, the Iranian taxpayer and that extremely selfish part of any social class: me, and my opportunist’s desire to pay my bills! And then Ramadan started…but that’s no excuse for not rolling down my sleeves and getting to work on this series – at least it never has been for working-class Muslims. (And contrary to popular belief: Ramadan never hurts, but always helps.)

I also wanted to wait and see what Washington would do with the JCOPA agreement on Iran’s nuclear energy program, as that would dramatically affect any discussion on Iran. Unsurprisingly, the US has maintained their centuries-old policy of not keeping their policies.

I also waited because I focused on a possible silver lining: the obvious injustice of Washington’s decision has – I hope – increased receptivity towards new ideas which analyse Iran sympathetically, instead of so very antagonistically.

Therefore, this series aims to include four things: a response to the WSWS, and one one which provides new ideas, not a mere back-and-forth arguing over the same points of contention; a historical and structural analysis of the Iranian economy, from it’s unique never-colonised era of the Shahs to the modern era, with its totally unique (revolutionary) economic aspects; an analysis of a cultural phenomenon and institution which cannot be ignored, but about which there is almost total Western ignorance – the Basij; and finally an explanation of the religious, philosophical and cultural roots of revolutionary Shi’ism, the dominant ideology of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the modern Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iran is in good company: they are unsupported by the WSWS, along with everyone else

When it comes to differences we must start at the end and work backwards, reverse-engineering ourselves into mutual comprehension and cooperation: In the end, the problem is that no revolution exists or has ever existed which was good enough for the WSWS to support, excepting only the Russian Revolution.

So Iran is not alone to be a leftist country which is left hanging at the time of Western “soft war”, as Iran was last winter. In many years of reading the WSWS I have never seen them express genuine support for Iran, Cuba, China, Eritrea, North Korea…anywhere.

What the WSWS does – and what they only do – is condemn capitalism and imperialism. They do it very well, and I’m certainly glad they do it. But we all surely see how such a one-sided approach produces imbalance, and thus a host of subsequent errors.

The WSWS also is politically partisan – they champion the Socialist Equality Party. Iran must be an original sinner to the WSWS, having had their revolution 30 years before this party’s inception. I don’t know what their plans are for starting an Iranian Socialist Equality Party, but they should definitely read this series before launching their recruitment efforts. (And they should be aware that calling for the downfall of the nation is unacceptable and undemocratic sedition which will not be tolerated, much less accepted and then elected.).

“The task of revolutionary socialists is to politically arm the working class in Iran with a socialist and internationalist strategy.”

Daste shoma dar nakoneh – thank you for your troubles (literally: May your hand not hurt). I mean those thanks quite sincerely! But, this series will show how Iranian revolutionaries in the working class – and religious class, and lower class, and other classes – have already shown how very well-armed they are with socialist and international strategies.

The WSWS fails to grasp this.

Their 3-part series also shows that they misunderstand Iran on many fundamental levels. This series hopes to clarify some of their errors.

And since they do not understand it – how can they praise it? Ok, don’t praise us, but I go back to my original complaint in this journalistic back-and-forth: the WSWS was piling on Iran alongside the capitalist-imperialists they swear are not their allies. Never allies…except when it comes to Iran?

However, the WSWS would, in their ivory tower journalism, prefer to see an Iran destroyed in the delusion that destruction from looming imperialists would fantastically result in the world’s first Trotskyist state! It’s not that I begrudge the WSWS their idealist fantasies – I have plenty of my own – but I remain disappointed at their choice of targets, because the fall of Iran would have so many negative ramifications for the anti-imperialist movement in the Middle East, and thus the global anti-imperialist movement, and it certainly would be the cruelest loss for Islamic Socialism, which is taken quite seriously in the Muslim world even if atheistic Trotskyism cannot tolerate the very thought of it.

But those two paragraphs are a boring recap of our old arguments and subjects – I promise new ones from here on out.

The tone readers should expect from this series is one of respect, professionalism & goodwill, and not egoistical sniping or the self-aggrandisement of myself or Iran. The narcissism of small differences is seemingly the biggest obstacle leftists have to overcome, and such tones would be proof of such divisive narcissism. The WSWS, as I said from the very beginning, is on the right side of very many issues in a very brave and admirable fashion.

But if I may permit myself only one snipe in order to show my humanity, much like how every Iranian carpet purposely contains one mistake in order to show that only God is perfect:

I noticed that the WSWS did not fail to reprint and directly quote every single word of praise I gave them, LOL?

That’s not very Iranian of ya, FYI! Maybe you shouldn’t get a big head, because ornately lavishing excessive praise on anything in sight is simply what Iranians are culturally compelled to do, LOL!

However, I do not consider this a very serious snipe at the possible self-aggrandising of the WSWS, because they had the exceptional good manners to acknowledge my compliments as “generous”. And also because I meant every word of praise, and I still do: The WSWS is a real fighter against the imperialist aims of Washington, Paris, London, Tel Aviv and other rabid capitalists.

But the WSWS’s claim, just after kindly acknowledging my inadequate generosity, that they are “the pole of socialist opposition to imperialist aggression and war” is a bit too much – they are only “one pole”.

Despite their fine, informative articles the WSWS has not changed my position nor my support for Iranian Islamic Socialism, which is also one pole of socialist opposition to imperialist aggression and war.

What the WSWS may not realize is that Iranian Islamic Socialism is something which was created entirely without any help from me, but sprang from the Iranian working class. (Or the Iranian 99%, or the Iranian 99% minus the so-called “talented 10th”, or the Iranian People, or the “Iranian proletariat plus their housewives” – as you like, the meaning is clear.)

What the WSWS series has done is mainly this: helped educate people about the role of Iranian communists in the 1979 Islamic Revolution; this series also hopes to educate people about certain uniquely Iranian concepts, structures and facets of history which were greater motivating forces in the 1979 Islamic Revolution than the communist Tudeh Party.

The reason for the first article in their series was to, “…reject their attempts to blackguard opposition to rampant social inequality and capitalist austerity as imperialist subversion.”

The WSWS has taken the reason for opposing the protests which Iran broadcast to other nations as if it was the same reason they broadcast within Iran. That is not the case.

Yes, the government talked about the obvious foreign involvement, but within Iran they also acknowledged repeatedly and loudly that the economic reasons for the protests were justified. Indeed, many politicians made much hay over it. Few Westerners imagine than Iran has a vibrant media, but I can assure everyone that many journalists and politicians had a field day over the protests, raking parts of the government over the coals.

But Iran has been subject to an economic blockade for decades, and thus has been forced to tolerate economic protests since at least way back to 1992. Iran is not like Cuba which (likely due to their closeness to Miami) truly tolerates no protests at all excepting the Ladies in White. I suspect that the WSWS believes that the government actually tried to blame it all on “imperialist subversion” because this is was the main, self-centred, largely-ignorant theme of Western coverage of the protests.

The stated reason for their 2nd article was to remedy my lack of applying class perspective to my already-faulty historical analysis – faulty, because I do not give credit enough credit the communist Tudeh Party for their role in the revolution.

Too much Tudeh from the Trotskyists

Well, I know a little bit about the Tudeh – my uncle was jailed by the Shah in 1954 for protesting on their side!

The bulk of their 3-part series is devoted to describing Tudeh’s involvement, and all I can say is…they have a right to focus on what they wish. I thank them for giving time to present Iran’s history from a sympathetic perspective.

But I am not much interested in retelling the history of the Tudeh Party. Every Iranian knows the role it played; every Iranian sees the impact they made in government policy, even if they lost; and every Iranian knows why they absolutely deserved to lose, democratically, despite the efforts of people like my Amoo (uncle on father’s side).

After World War II, the communists were always confined to two small groups – the students ands the intellectuals. I think I can quite easily hang the WSWS with their own words:

“(Other Stalinist and Maoist parties in Iran) Like the Tudeh Party, they were taken unawares by the explosion of mass opposition to the Shah’s rule in 1978…

How could the communists be so unaware if they were truly a grassroots, mass movement? This quote shows how out of touch with the average Iranian the Iranian communists were, and why democracy forbid their victory.

To compare Tudeh to the the communists in 1917 Russia or 1949 China is absurd – even at the height of the revolution Tudeh had perhaps 5,000 members, after all. The Tudeh’s main influence was informal – by influencing discussion for decades – and not in a real, grassroots, tangible, organisation-driven – and thus truly revolutionary – way.

As far as students: One must know that there were not many universities in Iran until after 1979 – the idea that the students came from a broad cross-section of society, as they do now, is simply not true: middle- and upper-class families were privileged in university selection…clearly not enough to win or deserve democratic support of a nation.

Compare all of this with the mass grassroots presence of Islam and it should be clear how and why Islam was – and continues to be – democratically chosen to be Iran’s primary revolutionary force. It was the mosque which was the grassroots centre of revolutionary activity, and not the Tudeh Party local headquarters.

We should not underestimate the influence intellectuals have in shaping the talking points and water-cooler discussions of a culture, but during the Iranian Islamic Revolution Tudeh was a party for the intellectuals and not the People. That is not stating an opinion, but an obvious fact.

However, considering their much larger postwar role, their decades of political presence, and how they advanced the political modernity of Iranians, it is commendable and natural that the WSWS wants to tell their history. But the facts show that it is easy to exaggerate their influence among the average Iranian who, polls repeatedly show, overwhelmingly reject atheism to the tune of 95%. (Of course, most of the communists in Iran were devoted Muslims – this is a reality many Westerners cannot handle intellectually.)

The communists did not win – Iranian Islamic Socialism did.

(A similar (pro-Iranian yet) nationalist Islamic-communist coalition just won parliamentary elections in Iraq…and I am about as surprised by that as when I saw the sun come up last week during Ramadan. We should expect a very similar Iraqi Islamic Socialism to ensue…assuming Western imperialist meddling is eliminated, as it was in Iran, which is a rather hopeful assumption, I’ll admit.)

Given this fact of the Tudeh Party’s lack of grassroots presence and support, it makes the WSWS’s standard Trotskyist explanation of “when in doubt, blame Stalin” seem woefully inadequate when discussing Iran:

“It was the vacuum of working class political leadership created by the decades of betrayals by the Stalinist Tudeh party that enabled Khomeini to cast himself as the Shah’s most indefatigable opponent, and for he and his clerical followers to develop a mass following, extending from the bazaar to the urban and rural poor, between 1975 and 1979.”

This falsely implies that Khomeini came out of nowhere in 1975 and co-opted the revolution like some sort of political opportunist. That is terribly, terribly inaccurate.

Apart from actually being implanted for decades among the working class, many in Iran’s clergy had long ago abandoned the status-quo quietism which is what the clergy in Western Europe practices today. The two are simply not comparable; the Western tendency to assume a Western-oriented universality is not at all applicable, yet again.

Politically-progressive clergy in Iran were exiled, imprisoned and killed pre-1979, and the failure of Western leftists to acknowledge that the clergy can play a positive role in political liberation dooms, I believe, their chance to successfully implement any of their policies which have nothing to do with religion. Indeed – it is all or nothing with Western leftists, and they want to control God as well.

And this is perhaps the ultimate irony: Iranian socialists have said all this for years: It is possible to be Muslim and socialist!

The WSWS even quotes the marriage between socialism, the Tudeh Party and Islam…and yet they also deny that it happened?

Caught unawares by the revolutionary upsurge of 1978-79, the Tudeh Party emerged, in the aftermath of the February 1979 overthrow of the Shah’s regime, as the staunchest supporters of Khomeini, anointing him the leader of the “national-democratic revolution.” Kianuri, now the Tudeh General Secretary, hailed Shiism as “a revolutionary and progressive ideology which we shall never encounter blocking our road to socialism….”

Strong stuff from Tudeh’s Kianuri, but the WSWS apparently imagines that the Tudeh’s alliance with revolutionary Shi’ism was also one of political opportunism, when it was the loving marriage of socialism and Shi’ism after decades of courtship. Again, this concept breaks the rigid brains of Western leftists.

Iranian Islamic Socialism, unlike Tudeh, is not out of touch with the working class

This ideological marriage is something which has been discussed for decades in Iran already, and obviously formed the basis for the entire 1979 Revolution, but I will address it for modern readers in parts 9 and 10 of this series: Cultural & Permanent Revolution in Revolutionary Shi’ism & Iranian Islamic Socialism, and then ‘Martyrdom and Martyrdom’ & martyrdom, and the Basij. Regular WSWS readers may be especially interested in these concepts.

Why are these ideas largely not new, Ramin? Well, it’s because Iranians think about God, and they also think about socialism! Our brain does not explode by holding these two ideas in our head at the same time, nor are we hypocritical, nor doctrinally unsound – in our context (open-minded people) we even pass for normal!

Iranians for decades had been discussing how to marry socialism with Islam in a manner exactly similar to the historical progression of socialism in pre-1917 Russia. Both revolutions were nearly bloodless, and the reason is because the anti-reactionary forces had worked hard for decades to win over the People. Neither of these were “10 days that shook that world” – mere explosions of violence – both were “many decades of struggle that shook the world”.

Therefore, it should be easy to see: how Iranian Islamic Socialism has been preceded by decades of grassroots preparation, why it has taken such firm root, and why 40 years of near-total global opposition has been unable to dislodge it.

Iranian Islamic Socialism, however, does not pass for normal in modern global politics…and I’m very glad for that, considering what does pass for normal in the neoliberal, neo-imperialist age. This is good for Iran, but quite sad for the rest of the world.

But Iranian Islamic Socialism is not going anywhere, and its failure would be a reactionary-inspired human rights disaster no less lamentable than what befell the people of Russia after the fall of the USSR. And, LOL, not make Iran Trotskyism’s very long-awaited first victory.

Why do I use the phrase ‘Iranian Islamic Socialism’?

This is not haphazard – it is in this particular order for a reason.

“Iranian”: People have this absolutist idea that Iran aims to follow the Koran to the letter in every instance, and that Iranian society aims to be an exact replication of the time of Prophet Mohammed.

What they fail to realize is that Khomeini was unequivocal: the imperatives of the state must take precedence over the needs of Islam.

He made it completely clear: good temporal governance on behalf of the inhabitants of the country must take precedence over Shariah, and may God forgive us. This debate was public and went on for years during and after the Iranian Cultural Revolution (one of only two official cultural revolutions ever) and yet it is still not appreciated by non-Iranians.

In these public and democratic debates over what the new Iran “should be”, what won out was an idea often associated with Abdolkarim Soroush: “religion” and “religious knowledge” are two different things; the former is sacred and immutable, the latter evolves and changes so that societal solutions can be found. Make no mistake: The Islamic Republic of Iran is based on the latter – religious knowledge which is used to promote democracy, pluralism and equality and Islam.

Obviously, many of the more religious did not like making religious injunctions secondary to politics, but the idea of a government designed to promote only Islam simply did not win out, just as the Tudeh did not win out democratically. It does not mean these ideas are not present, however, as Iran is a democracy – religions proponents are well-represented in Iran, of course.

Are there traditionalists who want the former – yes: they want “Islamic Iranian Socialism”. The 7th century Revolution of Islam was a political revolution in large part because Prophet Mohammad ended tribalism, and by extension nationalism. Thus, many want just “Islamic Socialism”. But they have a very tough convincing job to do, considering Khomeini opposed them, and that we have had decades of subsequent hardening of this “Iran is based on religious knowledge and not religion” concept; but they certainly have many of supporters among the Iranian people. I realize that on a global level the idea that Iran is insufficiently Islamic may seem surprising, but on a domestic cultural level it remains a genuine issue. It is also a guaranteed-acceptable method and safety valve for Iranians to criticise their government whenever they are having a bad day, LOL.

Regardless of that, I think many have not taken this long-standing reality into account when they talk about Iran’s government, but it should radically reorient anyone who doesn’t realize what is the top priority of Iran’s Islamic democratic government: the nation.

And, of course, we should remember that those who want “Islamic” first are not anti-Iran in the slightest – they just want more religion in Iran.

Therefore we see that Iran is definitely “nationalist” above all, like China or Cuba, and the opposite of the formerly independent nations of the European Union and especially the Eurozone.

This is all why “Iranian” is the first term.

“Islamic” comes second, because it has clearly and democratically been placed there. We see that Iran’s system is truly not the fundamentalist, everything-is-religion government it is portrayed as – it is clearly a modern system, based on nationalism, is an edifice built upon the most modern ideas of governmental structure available in 1979, and all while being hugely inspired by Islam.

“Socialism” is the final term, and the most contentious, mainly because socialism has yet to shake its original association with destructive, undemocratic, state-enforced atheism.

Socialism is clearly based on two fundamental precepts: empowering the long-oppressed with democratic rights, and massive state-organised economic redistribution, which is anathema in capitalism. Thus, socialism is both a structure of government and an economic policy. Therefore, Iran certainly has socialism.

Calling Iran ‘capitalist’ is misinformed, duplicitous, lazy or all 3

Part Three of the WSWS’s series is dedicated to Trotskyist propaganda – indeed, this is what the final part of every single WSWS article does (and I admire their ideological discipline). But that means deliberately denying realities and subverting the commonly-held definitions of words. This required me to write Part 2: How Iran got economically socialist, and then Islamic socialist.

The reality is that some of the Tudeh Party’s socialist ideas were indeed integrated into policy – the proof is clear from their years of cooperation with other revolutionary groups, but also quite easily found in the pudding which is Iran’s state-run, welfare-state & redistribution-and-not-profit-oriented economy.

Iran’s economy is something which is rarely appreciated properly and not because the WSWS is purposely obscuring accepted definitions: it is because Iran has a unique (revolutionary) structure which is not easily comprehended. This is the impetus for part 3, What privatisation in Iran? or Definitely not THAT privatisation.

I do not believe that Iran – nor China, nor Cuba, nor a few others – can be talked about as “bourgeois” states when they have had and have sustained anti-bourgeois revolutions: new rules regarding discussion of them must therefore apply. I think those nations are revolutionary because they have fundamentally changed their class structures, and thus makes Trotskyism anyone else unable to answer “in advance” which classes will bring democracy and socialism.

This is the reason why I have included something which I think may be unprecedented in a Western language: an objective analysis of the Basij, which is what is discussed in parts 4-7.

While few Westerners know or can explain why or how the 1979 Revolution handed 10-15% of the entire Iranian economy in the hands of charities (the bonyads, or state charity cooperatives, explained in Part 2) I think it is impossible to understand Iran without understanding the 10+ million member organisation the Basij. The WSWS series makes no mention of it. Therefore, I have made a 4-part sub-series on this institution.

In Part 4 I compare them with the only parallel I can find in the modern world: Structural similarities between Iran’s Basij and the Chinese Communist Party. The idea that the Basij is some sort of neo-Nazi Brownshirt militia is total nonsense, and I think readers will be interested to see the many parallels between the CCP and the Basij.

The reason I think it’s important to talk about the Basij now is: because it could reduce the chances of war.

Non-Iranians need to realize that any foreign invasion of in Iran implies the mass, grassroots involvement of the Basij. Certainly not all of them, as only a small percentage of this volunteer group are involved daily in security operations (contrary to popular belief), but very certainly invasion would involve a lot of them. I think that if people learned about the solidity of this group – whether one condones or condemns them, and I remain 100% objectively neutral in my examination and refuse to either condone or condemn them on my part – one must simply accept that they are a huge force to be reckoned with in any war.

However, there is quite nearly zero scholarship of the Basij. What little exists is sensationalist nonsense or based on the decades-ago beginning of the Basij during wartime. Hopefully the four-part sub-series clarifies the Basij, and it is certainly the first leftist analysis of the Basij available in the West.

However, not everyone wants to understand modern Iran via discussing in detail their economy and their socio-political institutions. Therefore, Parts 8-10 attempt to do describe Iranian Islamic Socialism via religion and culture.

Part 8 talks about the “Cultural Revolution” of Imam Ali and Part 9 talks about the “Permanent Revolution” of Imam Hussain, via historical-political examinations of their lives in the Revolution of Islam.

Islam, unlike Christianity, was indeed a sweeping political revolution: therefore, these two religious figures of the early Islamic era can also be viewed in a completely areligious and historical-political fashion; the post-revolutionary culture & era, while having been initiated by Prophet Mohammad, is thus incredibly similar to the post-revolution eras of other global revolutions such as the Russian & Chinese revolutions.

The ideas represented by Ali and Hussain are so firmly lodged in Iran’s collective unconscious and current political reality that, like the Basij, they simply must be understood – and they provide quite superb revolutionary models for non-Muslims, too!

Part 11 explains the Iranian Islamic Revolution via the greatest Iranian movie of all-time – The Death of Yazdgerd – which is also the greatest political movie of all time.

That is a very bold statement, but merited. If I may say so humbly: Iran is widely considered perhaps the greatest pound-for-pound cinema-producing nation; so if we also consider that Iran has produced one of the the greatest political human dramas since the advent of cinema, is it not out of the question that they also produced the greatest political drama within cinema?

This relentless moral machine-gunning of the institution of monarchy – something which every society can relate to, adding to its genius – is truly unparalleled in film, and it is even available with English subtitles for free on Youtube here. For a fascinating and whirlwind two hours – and to see what your ancestors endured (unless you have a royal lineage) – I encourage you to watch it.

The 11th and final part discusses the future of Iranian Islamic Socialism in the context of a (possibly) post-JCPOA world.

I hope readers find this series informative and enjoyable. I also hope it will answer many questions about modern Iran which are shrouded in mystery for non-Iranians.

I did not intend for this series to begin publication on Eid Al-Fitr – the day after the end of Ramadan – but that is an auspicious coincidence!

But as somebody smarter than me once said: We may disagree on what goes on beyond the sky, but here on earth our political choices should be quite morally obvious by now.

Eid Al-Fitr Moborak! Happy End of Ramadan!

***********************************

This is the 1st article in an 11-part series which explains the economics, history, religion and culture of Iran’s Revolutionary Shi’ism, which produced modern Iranian Islamic Socialism.

Here is the list of articles slated to be published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!

The WSWS, Iran’s economy, the Basij & Revolutionary Shi’ism: an 11-part series

How Iran got economically socialist, and then Islamic socialist

What privatisation in Iran? or Definitely not THAT privatisation

Structural similarities between Iran’s Basij and the Chinese Communist Party

Iran’s Basij: The reason why land or civil war inside Iran is impossible

A leftist analysis of Iran’s Basij – likely the first ever in the West

Iran’s Basij: Restructuring society and/or class warfare

Cultural’ & ‘Permanent Revolution’ in Revolutionary Shi’ism & Iranian Islamic Socialism

‘Martyrdom and Martyrdom’ & martyrdom, and the Basij

‘The Death of Yazdgerd’: The greatest political movie ever explains Iran’s revolution

Iran détente after Trump’s JCPOA pull out? We can wait 2 more years, or 6, or…

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

 

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Pompeo: US Will ‘Not Allow Iran to Develop a Nuclear Weapon’ – By SPUTNIK

A Ghadr-H missile, center, a solid-fuel surface-to-surface Sejjil missile and a portrait of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are displayed at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran

© AP Photo / Vahid Salemi

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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The United States is monitoring media reports about Iran’s plans to build up its nuclear capacity, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

“We’re watching reports that Iran plans to increase its enrichment capacity,” Pompeo wrote in a Twitter post on Wednesday. “We won’t allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran is aware of our resolve.”

Iranian state media reported earlier in the day that the government has ordered to start operations to boost uranium enrichment in light of the recent US decision to re-impose sanctions on Tehran.

Pompeo called Iran’s actions another representation of Tehran’s “foolishly squandering its resources.” Therefore, protests in the country come as no surprise, the US secretary of state concluded.US President Donald Trump announced in May that the United States would pull out from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump also decided to restore wide-ranging sanctions on Iran, including secondary sanctions against financial institutions of third countries doing business with Tehran.

The JCPOA was signed in 2015 by Iran, the European Union and the P5+1 group of countries — China, Germany, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.The deal stipulated the gradual lifting of the anti-Iranian sanctions in exchange for Tehran maintaining the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.

Putin chastizes Macron over Iran sanctions on video: You’re not sovereign, you’re “like obedient little children” – By Michael Bateman (Russia Insider)(SOTT)

Russian President Vladimir Putin is applauded by his French counterpat Emmanuel Macron after delivering a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia May 25, 2018.

© Grigory Dukor / Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin is applauded by his French counterpat Emmanuel Macron after delivering a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia May 25, 2018.

There has been much talk of Macron behaving like the leader of a sovereign nation recently, but we don’t buy it.

To us, he still has the manner of a schoolboy trying hard to ingratiate himself with grownups. Plus, he is distinctly effeminate.

He obviously didn’t get to where he is on his own merits, rather he was put there by people who are probably not very effeminate.

Putin is a plain-spoken, no BS kind of guy, so this exchange was entertaining.

Macron was trying to say that France is a sovereign nation, which is obviously not true – just look how cravenly they toed the Israeli line in joining in on the recent attack on Syria, Macron spouting the lies dictated to him by his masters. It was pathetic and embarrassing.

Here, Putin gently explains to Macron that he is mistaken.

In the video, Putin’s words are mistranslated as: “You paid like the dearest ones”, which loses all the punch of the original Russian. What Putin actually said is “You paid like ‘milenki’, the sense of which can be better conveyed with ‘obedient little children’. We corrected it in the transcript below.

The translation comes from Putin’s Press Office, which is run by Mr. Peskov. Leave it to government bureaucrats to blow Putin’s best one-liner of the weekend. Mr. Peskov, it is time you hired native English speaking translators who actually speak English. The quality of the translations coming from your office are frequently quite awful, especially when quoting Putin.

The president of France attending his first day of work with his mother Sorry, but this is very, very strange

Transcript:

Macron:

Concerning international security, I would like to assure Vladimir, that I am not afraid since France has an army

that can protect my country

but I have a strict obligation in relation to other European allies

and I think that this kind of the European security architecture is our responsibility.

In any case, we will not turn our back to anyone, and will not do it at the expense of other European countries.

I will do it this way since I am not afraid and I will fulfill my obligations

Putin:

Unfortunate…

Of course, one shouldn’t be afraid but the practice says differently.

Look, we are all dealing with Iranian issue, there were already cases of implementing American sanctions against European companies

9 billion dollars fine was paid by PBNP Paribas French bank, then Deutsche bank for violation of the unilateral sanctions

And what happened? You payed it like obedient little children

the same happened with a Japanese bank

This practice should stop.

This is unacceptable, this is what is all about.

So, if this continues… What is good about it?

This is what destroys the existing world order.

We, nevertheless, need to agree with our American partners on any other rules of conduct

This is extremely important because this is something that underlies our today’s discussion.

Trust. Either there is some or there’s no.

If there is no, then nothing good will come out it

Then, it will be like I said in the speech, nothing except force will rule, and this can lead to a tragedy at the end.

Comment: Putin is adept at dealing with duplicitous weasels like Macron:

US State Department Tells Syria What It Can and Can’t Do on Its Own Soil – By Peter Korzun (Strategic Culture Foundation)

US State Department Tells Syria What It Can and Can’t Do on Its Own Soil

The US State Department has warned Syria against launching an offensive against terrorist positions in southern Syria. The statement claims that the American military will respond if Syrian forces launch an operation aimed at restoring the legitimate government’s control over the rebel-held areas, including the territory in southwestern Syria between Daraa and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Washington is issuing orders to a nation whose leadership never invited America in in the first place! The very idea that another country would tell the internationally recognized Syrian government that it cannot take steps to establish control over parts of its own national territory is odd and preposterous by any measure.

State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said Washington would respond with “firm and appropriate measures.” But does the US have any legal grounds for responding with any measures at all? What is it actually doing in Syria? And wait a minute … President Trump recently solemnly promised to leave! Indeed, there is no justification for the US military presence, especially after the Islamic State ceased to be a factor influencing the events there, once that force had been reduced to insignificance. It would have been totally routed a long time ago if America had not intervened, allowing the remnants of the militant group to survive. Wasn’t it President Trump who said many times that the only justification for the US presence in Syria was the need to fight the Islamic State and nobody else? Wasn’t it he who happily declared the final victory over the terrorist group? That mission has been accomplished and yet… the US is still there, issuing warnings and instructions that others must comply with or else.

The statement calls on Moscow to use its influence with the Syrian government to prevent the liberation of the captured areas in accordance with last year’s de-escalation agreement between Russia, the US, and Jordan. Moscow has also called on Washington not to destabilize Syria with missile and air strikes and to do something about the humanitarian catastrophe in southwestern Syria, but is anyone listening? Last month, Russian President Putin said in a statement that any cooperation with the US in Syria had been suspended after the April attacks, which the Russian government viewed as an act of aggression against a sovereign state. It was not Moscow who started the whole thing, rendering all previous arrangements null and void. Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on April 18 that Washington was ready for an armed clash with Russia in Syria. This statement did not go unnoticed in Moscow.

Although it is a guarantor of the de-escalation zone in southwest Syria, what has the US done to prevent the rebels from attacking Syrian forces and staging all kinds of provocations?

What about the 12,000-strong Southern Front that has amassed in southern Syria preparing for an assault on Syrian forces? Is that not a violation of the agreement in regard to the de-escalation zone? They plan to capture Daraa and turn it into the capital of a would-be quasi-state supported by the US and Israel. A false-flag chemical attack cannot be ruled out. The militants have some experience staging such provocations. The logistics for this force involve crossing the Jordanian-Syrian border under the guise of providing humanitarian assistance. Has any de-escalation agreement given a green light to such activities?

The situation could have been discussed during the recent Astana meeting, but the US was conspicuously absent while encouraging military preparations in the province of Deir ez-Zor.

The US warning coincides with the news that the US is going to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. And any “foreign” presence there — such as Iranian, for instance — would be viewed as a threat to Israel’s sovereignty, and of course America would be ready to help its old friend and ally. The Heights are Syrian land. They were captured during the 1967 war and illegally annexed by Israel in 1981. That move has not been recognized internationally but the US is ready to defy the rest of the world. It’s not the first time. The embassy in Israel was moved to Jerusalem, the Iran deal was unilaterally torn up — the list of examples illustrating US scorn for international opinion can go on.

Despite its stated intentions to leave, the US warning shows that it will stay in Syria for a long time and its future plans have little to do with the Islamic State. The goal is the partition of Syria, with large swaths of its territory remaining under America’s control, including the Daraa province. The US absence at the Astana meeting confirmed its plan to stymie the ongoing Russia-led peace efforts in favor of seeing Syria divided and using other venues for peace talks in order to diminish Russia’s influence, isolate the Assad government, and squeeze Iran out. Step by step, America’s uninvited intervention in Syria is exacerbating the situation, increasing the risk of a wider conflict. If this plan to create a quasi-state in southern Syria goes through, this will be the beginning of the reshaping of the Middle East in accordance with Washington’s vision for the world at its best.

In Face of US Threats, Iranians I Met Remain Calm and Confident in Their Strength – by Miko Peled ( MINT PRESS )

A woman walks her dog past a mural depicting a nefarious Statue of Liberty on the wall of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, May. 8, 2018. Vahid Salemi | AP

Unlike the drama one sees in the media, responses in Iran to the international saga unfolding are mostly calm: “We have been there before and we survived, we shall survive again.”

TEHRAN, IRAN — The look on people’s faces when I mention that I had just returned from visiting Iran is priceless. Even if the trip had been a terrible failure, it still would have been worth it just to see these expressions of confusion, disbelief and sometimes disdain at the mere mention of a visit to Iran. The trip was not a terrible failure; quite the opposite in fact. It was a reminder that looking at the U.S. from the outside, and in this case from a country that has all but been declared an enemy of the U.S., one has the advantage of a very different perspective; and America, led as it is by Donald Trump, seems petulant and dangerous and possessing far too much power.

Naturally, wanting to hear first-hand what Iranians thought about current affairs played a big role in my decision to embark on this trip. It happened that it came about shortly after Trump’s declaration that the U.S. is pulling out of the Iran agreement and that sanctions were going to be reinstated. Though some people had suggested that I cancel the trip, I felt that this made the trip all the more important and interesting. The U.S. pulling out of the Nuclear Agreement and reinstating the sanctions will have a major effect on the country and its people, so hearing directly from the people who are affected by these policies was invaluable. Furthermore, since Iran is a Muslim country, I wanted to hear what Iranian people thought about the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel.

Once in Iran, the first impression I had was of calm and cleanliness all around. The edge, the smoking and intensity that one experiences in the Middle East and to a great degree in Europe were not present, or at least not evident; and one does not see billboards advertising cigarettes and certainly not alcohol. As for the Iranian people’s attitudes toward Iran’s predicament, no one I spoke to seemed particularly worried about the U.S. and Israel, and most people projected a calm confidence that was surprising and at the same time reassuring.

Responses to the reinstatement of the sanctions and the warnings of an attack from Israel ranged from dismissive to confident that Iranians can handle whatever the future holds for them. Perhaps this is because, as Muslims, Iranians see these challenges as part of God’s confidence in them: as the passage from Surat El-Isra suggests, La yukallifu llahu nafsan illa wusaha – which loosely translated means, God only places upon us burdens we are capable of carrying.

 

Washington demands total capitulation

However, as one reads the recent list of demands placed on Iran by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, it is clear that the U.S. is not interested in an agreement with Iran but rather wants to see total Iranian capitulation. The list includes demands that will turn Iran into a servant of Israel and the U.S.; it requires that Iran turn its back on its allies, like Hezbollah and Hamas, and relinquish its role in Syria and Yemen. Iranian support to groups that resist Israel and the U.S. is characterized by Pompeo as supporting terrorist groups. However, Hezbollah, which maintains resistance to Israel and secures Lebanon’s southern border from Israeli incursions, has just won a major political victory in the Lebanese general elections. Iran is also known to support Hamas, which also maintains resistance to the Israeli occupation and oppression in Palestine.

One particular demand, which would have been funny had it not been so tragic, is to “respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi government,” where the Shi’a cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr had just won an important victory. Pompeo’s demands include that Iran must “end its threatening behavior against its neighbors, many of whom are U.S. allies, including its threats to destroy Israel and its firing of missiles at Saudi Arabia.”

 

The critical role of Europe’s backbone

In response to these demands, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei’s set conditions that would allow for the agreement to remain. These conditions were aimed mostly toward the European partners to the agreement, who say that they are committed to the deal — although large European companies, like French oil giant Total and the Danish shipping company Maersk, seem to be running like rats fleeing from a sinking ship, worried about harming their business connections with the U.S.

Understandably, Iran is asking for assurances that the European partners to the agreement pull their weight and not let the U.S. destroy the Iranian economy. European powers should protect Iranian oil sales from the U.S. sanctions and continue buying Iranian crude. As U.S.-controlled banks are likely to jeopardize any trade with Iran, European banks should safeguard trade with Iran. Besides these, Iran is asking that France, Germany and the U.K. avoid asking for a new agreement on Iran’s ballistic missile programme or its regional activities, such as its presence in Yemen, Iraq and Syria.

Unlike the drama one sees in the media, responses in Iran to the international saga unfolding are mostly calm: “We have been there before and we survived, we shall survive again.” Iranians are confident in their military and, in the event of an Israeli attack, they feel they will be able to defend themselves. More than anything, the U.S. pulling out of the agreement is seen as a test for the Europeans. Will the European countries show backbone and stand up to the U.S., or will they cower? Iran, having withstood the test of time, will withstand this too.

Top Photo | A woman walks her dog past a mural depicting a nefarious Statue of Liberty on the wall of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, May. 8, 2018. Vahid Salemi | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

‘Our path’: Iran announces plan to stay in Syria as Pompeo issues unprecedented threats – By Tyler Durden Russia Insider (SOTT)

Map of Syria and Iran

It’s not up to Uncle Sam but up to Syria and Iran alone

After last Thursday’s relatively brief meeting in Sochi between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad wherein Putin stressed that it is necessary for all “foreign forces” to withdraw from Syria, there’s been much speculation over what Putin actually meant.

Many were quick to point out that Assad had agreed that “illegal foreign forces” should exit Syria – meaning those uninvited occupying forces in the north and northeast, namely, US troops, Turkish troops and their proxies, and all foreign jihadists – while most mainstream Western outlets, CNN and the Washington Post among them, hailed Putin’s request to see Iran withdraw from Syria.

Whatever non-Syrian entity Putin intended to include by his words, both Syria and Iran gave their unambiguous response on Monday: Iran announced it would stay in Syria at the request of the Assad government.

“Should the Syrians want us, we will continue to be there,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi declared from Tehran, cited by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency. “Nobody can force Iran to do anything; Iran has its own independent policies,” Qasemi said, in response to a question referencing the widespread reports that Russia desires Iran to withdraw forces from Syria.

“Those who entered Syria without the permission of the Syrian government are the ones that must leave the country,” he said further in a clear reference to the some 2000 US troops currently occupying Syrian-Kurdish areas in the northeast and eastern parts of the country.

As we noted in the aftermath of Israel’s May 10 massive attack on multiple locations inside Syria which marked the biggest military escalations between the two countries in decades, Russia has appeared content to stay on the sidelines while Syria and Israel test confrontational limits; however, Russia is carefully balancing its interests in Syria, eager to avoid an uncontrolled escalation leading to a direct great power confrontation.

But increasingly Israel’s patience appears to be wearing thin after Prime Minister Netanyahu’s oft-repeated “Iranian red line” warning has gone unheeded. In multiple summits with Putin going back to 2015 (the two have met over 6 times since then), Netanyahu has repeatedly stressed he would not tolerate an Iranian presence in Syria and further signaled willingness to go to war in Syria to curtail Iranian influence.

“Iran is already well on its way to controlling Iraq, Yemen and to a large extent is already in practice in control of Lebanon,” Netanyahu told Putin in one especially tense meeting in August 2017, and added further that, “We cannot forget for a single minute that Iran threatens every day to annihilate Israel. Israel opposes Iran’s continued entrenchment in Syria. We will be sure to defend ourselves with all means against this and any threat.”

Israel’s uptick in military strikes on Syria attacks on sites purported to be Iranian bases housing Iranian assets have intensified exponentially over the past half-year, nearly leading to an unprecedented breakout of region wide war during the May 10 exchange of fire, wherein Israel claimed to have been attacked by Iranian rocket fire.

The fact that both Iran and Syria can so openly and confidently announce Iran’s intent to stay in Syria means Damascus sees itself in new position of strength after both shooting down multiple Israeli missiles and simultaneously firing rockets into Israeli occupied Golan territory a response perhaps very unexpected by Israel’s leadership which had grown accustomed to attacking the Syrian army and its allies with impunity.

Meanwhile, Damascus announced Monday that all suburbs around the capital have been fully liberated from al-Qaeda and ISIS terrorists, marking the end of a years long insurgency in and around the capital. As Al-Masdar News noted, “The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is in full control of Damascus city and its countryside for the first time since the advent of this conflict.”

Yet the pattern which has emerged over the past few years has been that every time the Syrian Army emerges victorious or carries overwhelming military momentum, Israel or the US launches an attack.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected Pompeo’s bombastic demands and vowed to continue “our path,” insisting that the US could not “decide for the world.”

Rouhani’s words, as quoted by ILNA news agency, were as follows: “Who are you to decide for Iran and the world? The world today does not accept America to decide for the world, as countries are independent … that era is over… We will continue our path with the support of our nation.” This continuing escalation of rhetoric will likely only ensure Iran becomes even more entrenched in Syria, but it will be interesting to see how Russia responds diplomatically.

We’ve already seen Israel’s “diplomacy” in the form of repeat missile attacks, but how much will Russia and Iran sit back and take before enforcing their own red lines against Israel and the West?

Source: Zero Hedge

Comment: See also: ‘Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?’ Rouhani rejects Pompeo’s Iran demands

See Also:

US And Israel Holding Global Economy Hostage in Showdown With Iran – By Corey Schink (Sott.net)

Iran currency

Squeezing Iran’s economy

For decades now the US and Israel have waged regime change across the Middle East and North Africa. In the chaos that ensued Iran underwent a transformation that naturally expanded its influence. Now, upset with the consequences of their actions, the US and Israel have a new plan: take the global economy hostage in order to force Iran to abandon that influence. As usual, Russia is doing its best to manage the West’s insanity while maintaining course for a more sane future.

On May 1, 2018, hours after Netanyahu issued his bizarre ‘Iran lied’ powerpoint presentation, and a week before Trump ditched the Iran deal, Netanyahu and Putin had a phone conversation. During this chat Putin stressed the deal’s importance for international stability, reiterating that it must be “strictly observed by all parties.” Not one who’s prone to taking ‘international stability’ into account, Netanyahu had other ideas.

A week later, Trump announced that the US was backing out of the Iran deal, which effectively meant increasing instead of decreasing its economic stranglehold on the country. Speaking to the Heritage Foundation, Secretary of State Pompeo stated that these will be the “strongest sanctions in history,” and that the US will “apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime”. It is now clear why Merkel and Macron were so desperate to talk Trump out of this decision.

Prior to the (re)imposition of sanctions, the EU was Iran’s top trading partner. After Obama eased sanctions, European companies were chomping at the bit to renew business, and did so in earnest. From 2013 to 2017, the EU’s trade with Iran grew dramatically, with imports growing 89.7 percent, and exports nearly 20 percent, with last year’s trade volume reaching $23.5 billion.

Now several major companies – namely Peugeot, Boeing, Airbus, and Shell – are at risk of losing either billions in deals or, if they maintain business ties, the loss of a lifeblood of American credit and the imposition of onerous fines. EU officials are talking tough, but it seems their hands are tied both by the constitutional charter of the EU (which stipulates that they must follow NATO’s lead in foreign policy) and the practical effects of being cut off from American finance.

But that’s just Europe. As The Hill reports:

China’s trade with Iran was worth more than $37 billion in 2017 – it exported $18.59 billion worth of goods, a growth of 13 percent year-on-year. China accounted for about 21 percent of Iran’s exports; the United Arab Emirates, 14 percent (worth over $5 billion); Iraq, 14 percent (worth over $5 billion); South Korea, 9.5 percent (worth over $3.4 billion); and India, 6 percent from January to October 2017.

There is the possibility that certain companies may apply for ‘waivers’ that allow them to continue trade with Iran. However Trump remains mum about whether or not he’ll authorize them, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, has stated that any licenses allowing Airbus or Boeing to sell to Iran will be revoked. To put it bluntly, the US and Israel have planted a bomb in the global economy and, though they intend it to take out Iran, there are many, many bystanders who stand to suffer significantly.

But if this is ‘Art of the Deal’ thinking, then what is it that they want? Trump might want higher oil prices for American oil companies and a better position for US companies dealing with Iran. The pressure on foreign businesses will no doubt provide leverage in other negotiations. But it was Pompeo who spelled out the heart of the maneuver: regime change. In his speech to the Heritage Foundation, Pompeo laid out the Deep State’s demands, stating that, “We are open to new steps with not only our allies and partners, but with Iran as well, but only if Iran is willing to make major changes.

Here are their suggested changes:

  1. Iran must declare to the IAEA a full account of the prior military dimensions of its nuclear program, and permanently and verifiably abandon such work in perpetuity.
  2. Iran must stop enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing. This includes closing its heavy water reactor.
  3. Iran must also provide the IAEA with unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country.
  4. Iran must end its proliferation of ballistic missiles and halt further launching or development of nuclear-capable missile systems.
  5. Iran must release all U.S. citizens, as well as citizens of our partners and allies, each of them detained on spurious charges.
  6. Iran must end support to Middle East terrorist groups, including Lebanese Hizballah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
  7. Iran must respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi Government and permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shia militias.
  8. Iran must also end its military support for the Houthi militia and work towards a peaceful political settlement in Yemen.
  9. Iran must withdraw all forces under Iranian command throughout the entirety of Syria.
  10. Iran, too, must end support for the Taliban and other terrorists in Afghanistan and the region, and cease harboring senior al-Qaida leaders.
  11. Iran, too, must end the IRG Quds Force’s support for terrorists and militant partners around the world.
  12. Iran must end its threatening behavior against its neighbors – many of whom are U.S. allies. This certainly includes its threats to destroy Israel, and its firing of missiles into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It also includes threats to international shipping and destructive – and destructive cyberattacks.

His list might sound, to the informed reader, like a series of Israeli hallucinations. But what it really boils down to is the complete and unequivocal curtailing of Iran’s influence in the region. How, then, to proceed?

Well on May 18th, Putin and Assad had a ‘surprise meeting’ to discuss a draw-down of foreign troops on Syrian soil. In discussing this, they each shared a significantly different view of the situation. In matters of geopolitical importance, one expects that words are chosen very carefully. With that in mind, the informative difference between Assad’s and Putin’s version of ‘drawing down foreign troops’ was revealed when Assad spoke of the removal of all ‘illegal foreign forces’ while Putin explicitly states that ‘all foreign forces’ need to evacuate the country – presumably including Iran:

“We affirm that with the achievement of the big victories and the remarkable successes by the Syrian Arab army in the fight against terrorism and with the activation of the political process, it is necessary for all foreign forces to withdraw from the Syrian Arab Republic territories.”

Iran responded in an unexpectedly hostile manner to Russia’s statement:

“No one can force Iran to do anything, Iran is an independent country that determines its own policies,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told reporters at a daily press conference Monday.

“The presence of Iran is at the invitation of the Syrian government to fight against terrorism and defend the territorial integrity of Syria, and will last as long as the Syrian government wants Iran to help it,” he added. “Those who have entered the country without the consent of the Syrian government must leave Syria.”

As was pointed out on Behind the Headlines recently, Russia does not want an expansionist Iran. Russia’s intentions have been made clear in word and in deed: they want to shore up Syrian and Iranian defenses in order to re-establish a balance of power in the region. As far as a nuclear-powered Israel goes, Putin made it abundantly clear that any use of nuclear weapons on a Russian ally would be met with an instantaneous response from Russia.

Naturally Iran is loathe to cede any strategic gains she has made to those who daily call for her annihilation. Instead she’s staking her strategy on continued economic relations with Europe in order to offset the effects of the sanctions. The European Commission has set in motion the legal and financial processes necessary to protect companies working in Iran, increasing overall economic partnership, and making it easier for the European Investment Bank to finance those projects.

We see in these developments, again, the ‘immovable object’ at loggerheads with the ‘unstoppable force’. The first round of US sanctions take effect in August, when the US will sanction Iran’s automotive sector, its metallurgical and steel industries, any significant transactions of Iranian rials, any US dollar banknotes purchased by Iran, and any facilitation of Iranian sovereign debt.

In November the US will up the ante and sanction all of Iran’s port operations, its petroleum transactions, energy sector, any insurance plans, any foreign financial transactions or messaging services with Iran’s Central Bank.

Is the US as powerful as ever? Can it actually enforce an economic siege of Iran? Who will get what they want: Trump’s ‘shiny, new Iran deal’; or the Deep State’s regime change?

On the way to answering those questions, some rather interesting events are likely in store.

Corey Schink

Corey Schink was born and raised in the Midwestern United States, where he worked on farms and as a welder, musician, and social worker. His interests in government, philosophy and history led to his writing for SOTT in 2012 and to becoming a SOTT editor and Truth Perspective co-host in 2014. He now resides in North Carolina, where he enjoys the magnificent views of the Appalachian Mountains.

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