Is Iran About to Lash Out at Its Dissidents?

495442311_720The United States and five other major powers negotiating about the Iranian nuclear program agreed to a four-month extension of the talks until Nov. 24. This period is a time of peril for opponents of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who have been of great value in revealing intelligence about its nuclear cheating. It’s possible that Tehran may use its negotiating leverage in this phase to attack its dissidents in Iraq, including the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the main resistance group that rejects clerical rule, and its largest unit, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK).

Because the resistance is instrumental in exposing double-dealing by Tehran, it may attack to end dissidents’ ability to reveal regime secrets. It’s time for Washington, for which the regime opponents have long been a useful ray of light on the covert Iranian nuclear weapons program, to use its diplomatic leverage with Baghdad to protect them while getting the dissidents out of Iraq to safer countries, including the United States.

As the July 20 target date approached for reaching the nuclear accord, the Iranian regime’s media person at the U.N. penned a letter to the Wall Street Journal, which I countered with an accompanying one. The regime spokesman launched an ad hominem attack on the main source of a Journal editorial, the NCRI, without dealing with the substance of the evidence. Because that organization has an excellent track record exposing the regime’s lack of transparency and noncompliance with its financial and nuclear commitments, the PR attack failed.

During his first news conference in June 2013, Iran’s President-Elect Hassan Rouhani claimed that its nuclear programs were completely transparent but promised “even more.” Because of Iran’s deceitful record on financial and trade sanctions, however, Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), demonstrate there is “no such thing as a good Iranian Bank.” They argue, “History will judge whether the president [Barack Obama] was right to compromise with a regime that has a long track record of nuclear mendacity.”

Despite Rouhani’s claims, Tehran is not transparent in its nuclear program, particularly regarding possible military dimensions. In referring to NCRI revelations about Tehran’s nuclear activities, President George W. Bush stated in 2005, “Iran has concealed its…nuclear program. That became discovered not because of compliance” with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), “but because a dissident group pointed it out to the world.”

Read more: atfp.co/1sC399a

Preparations for Assaults on Iranian Dissidents in Iraq by Iran’s Forces and Proxies

20861a34-74b5-4c36-b1a2-76c2f2601f05Consider the strategic value of Iranian dissidents in Iraq, current preparations and prior attacks by Iranian regime proxies, and responsibility to protect.

For Tehran, Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty, Iraq are of strategic import. Despite the regime’s charm offensive, talks on its nuclear file are likely to deadlock. And even if negotiations resume after a pause, military options are bound to become front page news again. The dissidents have extensive contacts on the ground in Iran and are potential strategic assets for Washington and its allies against Tehran. The dissidents have historic ties in the area that can help tilt the balance against radical Sunnis and counter an extremist “Shiite arc” of Tehran and its counterpart in Damascus.

Iran seeks to demoralize the dissidents in Iraq so they abandon their cause, repatriate them to Iran, and destroy them as the only organization that challenges clerical rule in Tehran. Moderate Sunni Arab Kingdoms like Jordan and Saudi Arabia are quietly sympathetic to the dissidents because they help counter the threat from radical Iran. Because of their strategic import, during June 2009 demonstrations in Iran in which colleagues of the dissidents participated, Iraqi forces acting on behalf of Tehran attacked the dissidents in Camp Ashraf, Iraq on July 30. Iraqis raided the Camp, killed 11, held 36 as hostages, and then releasedthem in October.

When unrest recurred in Iran during February 2011, Baghdad again ordered an attack to be launched against dissidents in Ashraf on April 8. There is video evidence of Iraqi forces directly aiming and firing at Camp residents.

On September 1, 2013, there was an attack on Ashraf that killed 52 residents, and assailants seized 7 as hostages. The UN stated, “The missing persons arereportedly being held somewhere in Iraq and may be at risk of being returned involuntarily to Iran, which would be a serious breach of international law.”

Rocket and mortar shells fell on the dissidents in Camp Liberty, killing six and wounding over fifty, on February 9, 2013. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called these attacks, “a despicable act of violence” and described residents as asylum seekers entitled to international protection.

Read more: bit.ly/1nol8wA 

The War Over How Washington Should Think About Iraq

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A grand debate is gaining traction in a virtual war for the eye of Washington policy analysts about the nature of the threat facing Iraq. The stakes are high: Whoever can define the threat can help shape the policy response.

On one side are counterterrorist analysts. Because of risks, they are unable to conduct field research embedded with terrorist groups. In the other camp are those who emphasize political factors in Iraq among Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and moderate Shiites.

The press defines the threat to Iraq as the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. If the threat is mainly the Islamic State, then military options, such as airstrikes, are feasible, though risky because Islamic State fighters embed within populated areas.

Indicative of those whose focus is on the Islamic State is our Shadow colleague Paul Miller. He states that, “The Middle East is now a more favorable operating environment for jihadist groups than ever before … [and they operate in] a wide swath of territory across Iraq and Syria that is essentially safe haven for jihadist militants.” Miller is correct; at issue, however, is emphasis.

Read more:http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/07/10/the_war_over_how_washington_should_think_about_iraq

 

Iran prepares to assault Iranian dissidents in Iraq

Iranian_Soldiers_boarding_a_SH-3_Sea_KingConsider the strategic value of Iranian dissidents in Iraq, current preparations and prior attacks by Iranian regime proxies, and responsibility to protect.

For Tehran, Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty, Iraq are of strategic import. Despite the regime’s charm offensive, talks on its nuclear file are likely to deadlock. And even if negotiations resume after a pause, military options are bound to become front page news again. The dissidents have extensive contacts on the ground in Iran and are potential strategic assets for Washington and its allies against Tehran. The dissidents have historic ties in the area that can help tilt the balance against radical Sunnis and counter an extremist “Shiite arc” of Tehran and its counterpart in Damascus.

Iran seeks to demoralize the dissidents in Iraq so they abandon their cause, repatriate them to Iran, and destroy them as the only organization that challenges clerical rule in Tehran. Moderate Sunni Arab Kingdoms like Jordan and Saudi Arabia are quietly sympathetic to the dissidents because they help counter the threat from radical Iran.

Because of their strategic import, during June 2009 demonstrations in Iran in which colleagues of the dissidents participated, Iraqi forces acting on behalf of Tehran attacked the dissidents in Camp Ashraf, Iraq on July 30. Iraqis raided the Camp, killed 11, held 36 as hostages, and then released them in October.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/211744-iran-prepares-to-assault-iranian-dissidents-in-iraq#ixzz375ZLkdYC

 

After Losing Iraq, Is Maliki Going to Lose His Job?

Political deadlock in Iraq’s National Assembly, Baghdad’s parliament, means that it may be until after mid-August before it tries to elect a speaker, two vice presidents, and a new prime minster, which are steps in forming a new government following April elections. Bargaining goes on backstage; hence, it is critical to examine how Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki might be outmaneuvered from office.

Domestic politics are against Maliki being selected to form the new government. He is unacceptable to key stakeholders: religious leaders; Iraqi Kurds; Sunni Arabs; and many Shia factions, such as followers of Moqtada al-Sadr. They do not trust Maliki’s pledges and believe he uses State institutions to consolidate his hold on power.

Maliki lost confidence of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, whose opinion carries great weight. In 2014, Sistani has been critical of the government. Michael Knights, an expert on Iraqi politics at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, considers the Sistani critique a blow to Maliki.

In the March 2010 elections, Maliki’s State of Law Party won 89 seats of 325 possible and was second to Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiya list, which had 91; the Kurds won 57. Pushed by Tehran, backed by Washington, and supported by Irbil (Kurdistan), Maliki not Allawi formed the government. Washington and Irbil presently have buyer’s remorse.

Now defunct, Iraqiya was a cross-sectarian coalition, which Maliki targeted with politically-motivated charges. He made allegations against former Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the highest-ranking Sunni Arab in Maliki’s government. In my 2013 interviews with Hashemi in Brussels, he provided evidence that he was unlawfully besieged by Maliki. Hashemi’s mistreatment is a vivid indication of the political shadow cast by outside military presence: Fewer than 24 hours after the last American combatants departed Iraq, Maliki ordered the arrest of Hashemi. Without boots on the ground, Washington’s influence plummeted.

Read more:

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On 27 June 2014, Raymond Tanter attended an event in Paris as an academic observer. He interviewed Iraqis and Jordanians. Tanter also interviewed Iranian dissidents who are supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. These conversations are to be used in a revision of the 2013 book, Arab Rebels and Iranian Dissidents, available at:

http://amzn.to/1eQhPsA

For a press release after the event, please click on:

http://bit.ly/1ltAURw

For some of the press coverage of the event, please click on:

http://bit.ly/1z3q1zX

http://bit.ly/1rRks2T

On 27 June 2014…

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World Insight – CCTV News: Iraq divided; Ukraine crisis; Cross-Straits relations

RT CCTNews Paris 3

Actions by Tehran in support of Damascus and Baghdad give the impression that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, (ISIS rebranded as The Islamic State (IS), is acting alone. In fact, The IS implicitly acts in concert with Damascus and Tehran, which creates a narrative for Assad and Maliki to argue they are fighting terrorists; but Damascus and Baghdad are also suppressing dissent from their respective populations.

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Stabilizing Iraq— Refrain from Coordinating with Iran Pressure Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) by Arming Syrian Moderates Condition U.S. Arms and Airstrikes on Inclusive Political Coalition

The following talking points are the basis of two media appearances by Raymond Tanter on 18 June 2013: BBC World Service Newsday, Radio, 2205 EDT and World Service TV, 2215 EDT

Thanks to Michael Eisenstadt for insights on which some of these bullets are based.

First, stop the loose talk about meeting with Iran to discuss the situation in Iraq.

Turning to Tehran to help stabilize Iraq would be like asking an arsonist to help put out the fire.

So the road to stabilizing Baghdad does not run through Tehran.

The road to Baghdad runs through a coalition of moderates in the region and in Iraq.

Second, the road to Baghdad passes through Damascus via moderate Arab rebels.

The White House has debated whether to train and equip the moderate opposition in Syria long enough. Now is the time to do so. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has an important presence is in eastern Syria. It is critical to threaten it there: The regime in Damascus seems to have a quiet understanding to refrain from attacking ISIS so long as it is fighting moderate rebel forces.

As Washington reaches out to moderate Syrian rebels with arms, the United States also needs to send a signal to Tehran that Washington is paying attention to Iranian dissidents. In this respect, the road to Tehran may go through an alignment of moderate Arab rebels and Iranian dissidents.

Third, make U.S. arms and airstrikes conditional on an inclusive political coalition.

Build an alliance with Kurds and Sunnis opposed to ISIS. The goal would be to recreate the coalition of moderates that defeated al Qaeda in Iraq in 2007. Because Prime Minister Maliki is unlikely to concur, quietly work with other politicians to create a majority able to select a new prime minister that reaches to minorities.

Condition expedited delivery of U.S. arms on whether there is a cross-sectarian strategy of inclusion of Sunnis and Kurds.

Continue refraining from launching American airstrikes until a political coalition of moderates is in place in Baghdad, preferably without Maliki.