Author Topic: Iran  (Read 350950 times)

G M

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Re: Iran
« Reply #1100 on: January 07, 2020, 08:31:54 PM »
If memory serves they were given increasingly stupid ROE during those years on a mission with no definable victory so I would not blame them.

On the other hand, what gain is there by blowing up historical stuff?  None that I can see, yet OTOH it allows others to put us in the same category as ISIS and the Taliban in this regard.  Sorry, but it's stupid.

How's the historical site tour business in Dresden these days?

Crafty_Dog

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ya

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Re: Iran
« Reply #1102 on: January 08, 2020, 04:33:41 AM »
I am wondering if Trump will take out a few nuclear  sites and solve the problem, before it is too late.

Crafty_Dog

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George Friedman : Iran-- what now? 2.0
« Reply #1103 on: January 08, 2020, 06:01:13 AM »
A bit glib IMHO when it comes to Obama's withdrawal, but GF is always worth reading

Iran and the United States: What Comes Next
By George Friedman -January 6, 2020Open as PDF

In order to understand the current confrontation between Iran and the United States, we might begin with the Persian-Babylonian wars. Alternatively, we could begin with the decision of the United States to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq after the election of Barack Obama. Efficiency demands the latter.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was carried out without opposition from Iran and indeed with covert support. Iraq and Iran had fought a brutal war during the 1980s, resulting in about 1 million casualties and costing a combined $5 billion. Not long after, Iraq would overestimate its position by invading Kuwait, leading to the first Gulf War. To Iran, the control of Iraq by Sunnis – a minority population and a sectarian rival no less – was an existential threat. Tehran was therefore delighted to see Saddam Hussein fall, since his absence would create an opportunity for it to dominate whatever government came next.

The war went differently. The U.S. blocked Shiite ambitions, fought the Sunnis and wound up in a crossfire between the two. Obama came into office committed to making it stop, planning to withdraw most but not all U.S. troops and to build an Iraqi army consisting of both Sunnis and Shiites that was friendly to the United States. (Iran, naturally, opposed the prospect.) But then came the Islamic State, which forced Washington to maintain troops in Iraq and caused Iran to intervene so as not to let a Sunni power take hold in Baghdad. The U.S. and Iran often cooperated with each other in the ensuing fight.

Yet, they were always wary of each other, in no small part because of Iran’s aspirations for a nuclear weapons program. Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons resulted in an imposition of massive sanctions and in a widely advertised, U.S.-Israeli cyberattack on Iranian nuclear enrichment that was supposed to have set back the program dramatically. This reopened the possibility of keeping troops in the country, just as Donald Trump was taking office.

Trump said he wanted to reduce the U.S. military footprint in the Middle East but also favored regime change in Iran. This apparent contradiction had to do with the logic of a U.S. withdrawal. For Iran, directly controlling or at least neutralizing Iraq is a geopolitical imperative, but Tehran could not afford another war. After the fight against the Islamic State, the withdrawal of U.S. troops to a very small number left Iran in an extremely powerful position. At the same time, Iran maintained a number of pro-Iran groups in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq, and was supporting the Assad regime even before the Russian intervention.

In other words, Iran had used its operations in various countries, coupled with the drawdown of U.S. troops, to create a massive sphere of influence commonly known as the “Shiite Crescent,” stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean and all the way to the Arabian Sea. This strategy was forwarded by a series of elite Iranian generals, such as Qasem Soleimani. Iran had gone from solely defending itself from Iraq to emerging as the major force in the Middle East.

Escalation With the U.S.

The American perception of Iran was formed largely in the post-1979 era, with the occupation of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran and the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. While it’s true that Iran is responsible for both acts, it’s also true that Iran is more pragmatic than it is sometimes portrayed. It cooperates with the U.S. when it needs to and acts hostilely when it doesn’t. This is pretty normal behavior, but it creates confusion through which Washington has to navigate.

So when it was time to turn its attention to Tehran after the defeat of the Islamic State, Washington had two strategies. The first was to sponsor a coalition of states to undermine the growing Iranian sphere of influence. The key members of this odd coalition were Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Israel was focused on attacking Iranian assets in Syria (and potentially in Lebanon). The Saudis and UAE were fighting Iranian proxies in Yemen, where a battle erupted between the country’s Sunnis, who had been largely out of power since the fall of Saddam, and the Shiites. Managing this battle fell to the U.S. soldiers and intelligence personnel still in the country.

The second response was to increase economic sanctions on Iran, not really because of its nuclear or missile programs, but to remind Iran of the risks of building its sphere of influence. The sanctions severely damaged the Iranian economy, and the protests, arrests and amnesties commonly associated with economic duress broke out. The government in Tehran was not existentially threatened by sanctions, but they were bad enough to cripple the economy, spark internal unrest and thus warrant a response. There were riots in Lebanon and Iraq, both threatening Iranian socio-political influence. In other words, the gains that Iran had made were in danger of being reversed, while the Iranian economy itself was weakening.

Iran needed a counter. The goal was to demonstrate the weakness of the United States as a guarantor of regional stability and the ability of the Iranians to impose counter-economic pressures and, in the worst of cases, cause a U.S. intervention. The latter would be an intervention with insufficient force and might solidify the government’s position, providing an otherwise unhappy populace and Iran-sponsored militias with a unifying cause.

The first attempt at this came in the Persian Gulf, where Iranians captured several tankers. The hope was that soaring oil prices and pressure on the U.S. from oil consumers would halt hostile operations against Iran. It was a low risk, high reward tactic that ultimately failed to achieve its goals, especially after the U.S. declined to launch an air attack on Iran in response and indirectly supported the U.K.’s seizure of an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar.

The second attempt was an escalation on the same theme: the attack on a Saudi oil facility through Yemeni Houthi militants. It was also designed to boost oil prices and encourage the Saudis to reconsider their relationship with the U.S.-backed coalition. Once more, the attack didn’t achieve Iran’s ultimate objective.

Iran was in an increasingly precarious situation. Domestic unrest due to sanctions persisted. Its sphere of influence was under pressure on every front, particularly in Lebanon and Iraq where anti-Iran sentiment was growing.

Tensions Come to a Head

The deterioration of Iran’s position demanded that the government consider more assertive actions, particularly in Iraq. Its answer, as it had been so many times before, was the Quds Force, an elite branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, led by none other than Soleimani. Like U.S. special operations, they specialize in training and maintaining allied forces abroad – including, in Iran’s case, Hezbollah and the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq.

When U.S. bases were attacked, the assumption was that the attacks were planned and perhaps carried out by Quds-backed militias, such as the PMF and Kataib Hezbollah. Whether the U.S. knew before or after the attacks that Soleimani was in Iraq after a trip to Syria, it was obvious that major operations were being planned against U.S. diplomatic and military personnel in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. The capture of Soleimani would be catastrophic to Iran. Therefore, the American read that the Iranians were being pressed to the wall was confirmed by his presence. Iran was taking a major risk given his knowledge of its operational capabilities. That meant that the Iranians had decided on escalating beyond prior attacks. The Quds Force’s specialty was attacking specific facilities to undermine military or intelligence capability or to achieve psychological and political ends. In any case, seeing him near Baghdad Airport likely told U.S. intelligence not only that he was there because the situation was difficult, but that he was there to correct the imbalance of Iranian power in the Levant. In other words, he was working with his Iraqi counterpart to carry out significant operations. It followed that the U.S. didn’t want these operations, whatever they were, carried out, and that killing him was a military necessity.

All of this has to be framed in the strategic context. The U.S. does not want to engage in extensive operations in the region. Washington is depending on sanctions and proxies. Iran still wants to maintain its sphere of influence into the Mediterranean, but above all, an even greater priority is the neutralization of Iraq and the stabilization of its own country. Iran can’t afford to allow Iraq to become a bastion of anti-Iran forces, nor can it wage a conventional war against the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Iran must therefore use what it has used so effectively in the past: special and covert operations. It follows that Iran will take its time to respond. It also follows that the U.S. and its allies, having bought time by killing the head of the Quds Force, must use the time effectively.

DougMacG

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Re: Iran
« Reply #1104 on: January 08, 2020, 06:10:05 AM »
I am wondering if Trump will take out a few nuclear  sites and solve the problem, before it is too late.

Perfectly justified in doing so but my guess is he will instead show restraint at this point.  We will see.

DougMacG

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Re: George Friedman : Iran-- what now? 2.0
« Reply #1105 on: January 08, 2020, 06:20:34 AM »
Good analysis always.  Risky to predict the unpredictable:

"It follows that Iran will take its time to respond."

Oops, they already did.  They get away with firing some missiles.  We suffered no casualties.  Let's hope this is the end of it.  Iran should nope this is the end of it.

As a sometimes defender of Pres Trump, let's hope whatever he says next doesn't make things worse.
 This is an important point in his Presidency.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Iran
« Reply #1106 on: January 08, 2020, 07:10:08 AM »
Trump’s Post-Soleimani World
He now has to manage the consequences of his deterrent strike.
By The Editorial Board
Jan. 6, 2020 7:10 pm ET
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President Donald Trump in Miami, Jan. 3. PHOTO: JIM WATSON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
It may be true that no good deed goes unpunished, but only the ever-active Donald Trump could take it upon himself to punish his own good deed.

The good deed was ordering the elimination of Iran’s Qasem Soleimani, who as head of Iran’s Quds Force spent his years deploying one strategy: Export the 1979 revolution by killing people. The dead included Americans, Iraqis, Iranians, Europeans, Syrians and others across the Middle East. In the days before a drone hit his car, Soleimani was planning more death.

The Fallout From Soleimani's Killing


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President Trump had a good couple of days after the strike. His statement on the action was measured and direct. Despite criticism, Mr. Trump kept quiet, letting the action speak for itself. Still, it was a major decision by the President involving the nation’s interests, and naturally his supporters across the country wondered what would come next. What came next was something familiar: a Trumpian crackback at his critics—in Iraq.

Though Mr. Trump kept the lid on Sunday as pundits and Democrats howled across social media and the morning shows, he apparently couldn’t abide a largely symbolic vote in Iraq’s parliament—most Sunnis and Kurds didn’t show up—to expel U.S. troops from the country. Aboard Air Force One Sunday evening, Mr. Trump threatened to “put very big sanctions on Iraq.” His twin threat to bomb Iran’s “cultural sites” quickly devolved into a debate about the Geneva Conventions, with some Republicans separating themselves from the remarks.

We think the President’s strike against Soleimani was justified on the merits, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent Sunday morning explaining on TV. A concurrent reality, however, is that we are starting a presidential election. To win, the Democrats desperately need to be able to run against Mr. Trump personally, as Mike Bloomberg’s ad blitz is making clear.

If the President allows his Soleimani decision to look like a one-and-done event, with no follow-up beyond tweets and rhetorical barrages against the Iranian and Iraqi people, he’ll give his opponents an opening.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren may be on the dismissable fringe of Democratic foreign policy, but moderates such as Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Mr. Bloomberg will seek to buttress their “return to normalcy” argument by saying Mr. Trump’s post-Soleimani behavior shows he is too impetuous and volatile to entrust with national security. They know their best chance lies with driving voter unease about Mr. Trump as Commander in Chief.

Mr. Trump’s obligation is to prove them wrong. Isolationists in his party will counsel Mr. Trump to wash his hands of the post-Soleimani world, but that isn’t possible now. With that decision, President Trump has put powerful forces in play in the Middle East and beyond. If events now spin in dangerous ways, such as if the U.S. leaves Iraq in a huff, Mr. Trump will not be able to blame everyone else. He should be reassuring Iraq that the U.S. is there to help preserve its sovereignty, not to exploit it.

The Iranian mullahs’ threats against U.S. citizens may or may not be bluster. Their announced intention to abandon limits on uranium enrichment under the Obama nuclear deal isn’t much more than they were already doing. But it is meant to drive a wedge between the U.S. and Europe while they wait for Mr. Trump’s successor in 2021.

Since pulling out of that pact in 2018, Mr. Trump has developed an increasingly strong hand with a “maximum pressure” campaign built around severe economic sanctions on Iran. The mullahs are unloved at home and have few real outside allies. Their cat’s paw, Qasem Soleimani, is gone.

The opportunity now exists to shape a coalition of allies, and perhaps even a few serious Democrats, in support of additional policy initiatives on Iran. We would not rule out proposing talks with the Iranian regime about negotiating an end game to its self-depleting 40-year struggle with the West.

Targeting Soleimani was a bold act that other Presidents probably would not have attempted to restore a measure of deterrence against an enemy state. Most Americans appreciated its show of strength. But now Mr. Trump has to show he can manage the consequences in a way that proves it was a wise decision in America’s interests.

Crafty_Dog

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Crafty_Dog

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G M

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Crafty_Dog

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Re: Iran
« Reply #1110 on: January 09, 2020, 08:40:56 PM »
Also see

https://www.macleans.ca/news/world/trumps-hit-on-soleimani-exposed-a-lot-of-uncomfortable-truths/

The "shared contempt" writing style of these two pieces allows them to speak some really candid truths to "their side".

ccp

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Butti like every other Dem on Earth
« Reply #1111 on: January 10, 2020, 05:53:51 AM »
blames orange man of course:

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2020/01/09/pete-buttigieg-blames-donald-trump-after-reports-indicate-iran-shot-down-ukraine-plane/

My response ,

Well if we go back to . Kerry Rice Obama doctrine which concludes a nuclear Iran is not so bad
could anyone imagine the same country  that shoots down a passenger jet taking off from its own airport
having NUCLEAR tipped missiles?




Crafty_Dog

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ccp

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Re: Iran
« Reply #1113 on: January 10, 2020, 01:43:08 PM »
"Six U.S. administrations were complicit in turning Iran into a regional power. In that context, the Obama administration’s decision to flood Iranian war chests with cash and recognize its right to build a nuclear bomb was the logical culmination of the rot eating away at the Beltway for four decades. It was perhaps to be expected that an outsider who often doesn’t know when to keep quiet, and can’t stay off Twitter, would be the one to sing out like the boy in the fairy tale. It’s true, the emperor has no clothes. The rules have changed but that doesn’t mean the Iranians won’t be looking for revenge."

I remember well Reagan backing out of Lebanon.  cost benefit analysis seemed to justify that then .

As for revenge from a Middle Easterner - remember Lockerbie.

The big problem now is the nucs as Trump implied.


Crafty_Dog

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G M

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Re: Iran
« Reply #1117 on: January 12, 2020, 02:22:16 PM »
1)  https://clarionproject.org/iranian-students-call-for-resignation-khamenei/?utm_source=Clarion+Project+Newsletter&utm_campaign=c8d535d346-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_01_12_03_10&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_60abb35148-c8d535d346-6358189&mc_cid=c8d535d346

2) Rumint:  Plane was shot down because of certain defectors who were on board , , ,

2. Doesn't make sense. Iran can arrest/disappear anyone they want without the damage done by killing everyone on board a foreign airliner.


G M

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Re: Iran
« Reply #1119 on: January 12, 2020, 03:34:15 PM »
It's my understanding that Iranian dissidents have smuggled out videos of Iranian forces hacking the limbs off of protesters in public. I haven't seen the videos, but Iran hasn't been shy about violently suppressing dissent up to this point.


Agree it doesn't make sense, but the fact of the rumint itself says something about what some people think of the Iranian government.

Separately:

https://www.breitbart.com/news/iran-agrees-de-escalation-only-solution-to-solve-crises/

https://twitter.com/eqanbar/status/1216370928621379585?s=04&fbclid=IwAR0VB6wC769GZgMe1yMpQpmxra1jU3hQlAXBNNh9I_viNtPE3U-lBy5vXpo

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7876363/Iranian-protesters-Tehran-turn-against-regime-military-admits-shooting-plane.html

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/jan/12/iran-deploys-riot-police-tehran-amid-protests-over/

DougMacG

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Re: Iran
« Reply #1120 on: January 13, 2020, 07:37:08 AM »
"It's my understanding that Iranian dissidents have smuggled out videos of Iranian forces hacking the limbs off of protesters in public. I haven't seen the videos, but Iran hasn't been shy about violently suppressing dissent up to this point."

Right.  They didn't need the attention and embarrassment of shooting down a passenger plane.  Just makes the anger and unrest worse.  The regime could have just shot whomever they wanted as they boarded.

I haven't figured out what the Iran-Canada connection was with the passengers, Iranian Canadians?  I know a European who could not land in the US on a trip to Vancouver because of having visited Iran once.  Our no-fly list is not copied by Canada, but still, this connection is strange to me.  They go to school in Canada because they can't go to American universities?  Then vacation in Iran, go home for the holidays.  Flying through Kiev satisfies a Canadian travel ban?

https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/canadians-plane-crash-iran-1.5419076

The accuracy of the shoot down was good.  A Russian, not a North Korean-made missile?  What price does Russia pay for supplying the terror regime with lethal weapons used against civilians?

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Iran
« Reply #1121 on: January 13, 2020, 09:58:43 AM »
There are a lot of Iranian family connections in the west going back to the era of the Shah.  I remember there were many of them at the International House at Penn in the mid 70s getting MBAs at Wharton.  Good backgammon players they were too!

I remember in the 2000s being approached a couple of times from Iran to participate in martial arts exchanges and one time one of their people met with me.  I was curious so I let the meeting happen.  Great English, self described translator, could travel to US because his brother something something.  The meeting confirmed my suspicions that their offer was really front for a propaganda exercise and so of course I passed.


Crafty_Dog

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Re: Iran
« Reply #1123 on: January 14, 2020, 10:39:25 AM »
Interesting!



Crafty_Dog

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To Save the Deal, the Euros Might Be Triggering a Process That Could End It.
« Reply #1126 on: January 14, 2020, 05:04:41 PM »
Indeed!
================
Stratfor
To Save the Iran Nuclear Deal, Europeans Trigger a Process That Could End It
5 MINS READ
Jan 14, 2020 | 22:18 GMT
HIGHLIGHTS
France, Germany and the U.K. initiated the accord's dispute resolution mechanism to try to force Tehran back into compliance and negotiations. But the move could prompt the return of U.N. sanctions....

The Big Picture
Since the United States left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal in May 2018 and subsequently cut all waivers for Iran's oil customers a year later, Iran has reduced its compliance with the JCPOA to regain some leverage in talks with the European Union and the United States. But now as Iran has cut its commitments five times in the past nine months, the Europeans have finally decided to trigger the accord's dispute settlement trigger in response to Iran's moves.

See Middle East and North Africa section of the 2020 Annual Forecast
France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the so-called E3 grouping of signatories to the Iran nuclear deal, announced on Jan. 14 that they were triggering the dispute resolution mechanism of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in hopes of getting Iran to come back into compliance with the accord. The E3 had telegraphed its decision for weeks; it arrives as the United States has called on the E3, China and Russia to pull out of the JCPOA and negotiate a new agreement with Iran.

The Europeans Hope to Drag Out the Process
Despite increased pressure from the United States, the E3 said they were "not joining a campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran," and that their intent was to "preserve" the Iran nuclear deal. While it is unrealistic for Iran or the United States to rejoin the agreement both have now abandoned, the Europeans don't want to see the two years of diplomatic negotiations leading to the deal go for naught and think the JCPOA should be used as the starting point toward a new agreement. Right now, the Trump administration is not even considering that option.

Triggering the dispute resolution mechanism starts a process that could bring back U.N. Security Council sanctions on Iran within two months. But an accelerated settlement does not appear to be the E3's intent. As long as all the parties agree, most of the steps in the dispute resolution process can be extended for an indefinite period. The Europeans will likely try to drag out the process as long as possible and use it as leverage to force Iran into new negotiations. They probably recognize that Iran is unlikely to go back into full compliance with the deal itself, barring a major reversal in U.S. sanctions policy. So, they will hope that by initiating the process that could "snap back" U.N. and EU sanctions on Iran, they can deter Tehran from taking more aggressive actions with its nuclear program.

What to Watch for
Iran's next moves will be important. The new year already has brought the biggest crisis between Iran and the United States in decades and one that easily could have resulted in the United States striking targets inside Iran. With President Donald Trump insisting that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon on his watch, a U.S. military response to further escalation on the nuclear front by Tehran is possible. This possibility, coupled with the European position, could prompt Iran to slow the pace at which it is willing to resume aspects of its nuclear program, though Iran is likely to continue some degree of nuclear escalation.

With Trump insisting that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon on his watch, a U.S. military response to further escalation on the nuclear front by Tehran is possible.

The United Kingdom's position is also important. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Jan. 14 that the JCPOA could be replaced with a "Trump deal," and it's possible the United States will try to exploit any daylight that emerges between the United Kingdom's position and the rest of Europe given the close relationship between London and Washington.

The next moves by the United States also will be critical. The Trump administration will push France, Germany and the United Kingdom to go quickly through the dispute settlement process, but currently, the U.S. position is that it is no longer a party to the nuclear deal. But if the Europeans seek extensions and allow the dispute process to slow, the Trump administration could argue that it is a party to the JCPOA and go straight to the U.N. Security Council to argue that Iran is in noncompliance with its commitments. The Security Council resolution regarding the nuclear deal does not require JCPOA members to use the accord's dispute resolution process in order to determine noncompliance. And if the United States makes that determination then U.N. sanctions snap back on Iran unless the Security Council — subject to a U.S. veto — passes a resolution to extend sanctions relief for Iran. Russia and China could, however, reject the U.S. ability to trigger such sanctions, and not recognize them.

The closer we get to October, when the U.N. arms embargo on Iran expires under the JCPOA, the more likely it is the United States will attempt such creative arguments to try to bring back the U.N. sanctions on Iran. As we wrote in our 2020 Annual Forecast, Iran's continued nuclear escalation and the possible U.S. argument to snap back sanctions on Tehran will likely result in "either the de facto or de jure end of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action."

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Iran
« Reply #1127 on: January 14, 2020, 05:18:16 PM »
second post

Why Iran Came Clean on Flight 752
5 MINS READ
Jan 14, 2020 | 19:37 GMT
Teams examine the scene of a Ukrainian airliner that crashed being unintentionally targeted by Iranian air defenses shortly after takeoff in Tehran on Jan. 8, 2020.
Teams examine the scene of a Ukrainian airliner that crashed shortly after takeoff in Tehran on Jan. 8, 2020. Iran suddenly admitted to downing the plane after three days of denials.

(AKBAR TAVAKOLI/IRNA/AFP via Getty Images)
After three days of denial, it was a stunning about-face. On Jan. 11, Iran's Armed Forces General Staff admitted that one of its surface-to-air missile systems had shot down Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 due to human error. The full acknowledgment turned heads, yet there was a reason for Iran's reversal: The country has no desire to turn itself into an international pariah, but would rather find a way to engage with the rest of the globe, limit the impact of U.S. sanctions and negotiate with the West. The frank admission goes to show that such strategic goals influence many of Iran's choices — including its volte-face on the aviation disaster.

The Big Picture
The U.S. assassination of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani has yet to ignite war between the countries, but the tensions that his death elevated mean any miscalculation could have disastrous results — as evidenced by Iran's downing of a Ukrainian plane on the supposition that it was a U.S. missile. While Tehran's subsequent decision to admit responsibility shocked many, it fits into Iran's larger strategy to maintain engagement with the world.

See Iran's Arc of Influence
The Limits of Denial
It is not common for countries to quickly offer a mea culpa after accidentally downing civilian aircraft. The most recent comparable incident was the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014. A Dutch-led investigative team concluded that pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine used a Russian surface-to-air missile to down the plane during its Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight; more than half a decade on, Russia continues to deny any involvement. The reasons to admit responsibility can vary, but for Tehran, domestic concerns and worries about potential legal quarrels down the road ultimately tipped the balance.

In the immediate aftermath of Flight 752, Iran attempted to cover its tracks and issued denials, hoping that it could hold the line internationally. First, Tehran announced that the plane had crashed due to a technical fault and that sky-high tensions with the United States would preclude it from handing over the black box to Boeing, which had manufactured the 737-800 airliner. To buttress their claims, Iranian authorities pushed state and semi-state media into action to back the government narrative. Even as late as Jan. 10 — just hours before Iran finally admitted responsibility — the head of the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization, Ali Abedzadeh, maintained that there was no evidence that the plane had been shot down, echoing his line from earlier in the week, when he said, "Scientifically, it is impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane, and such rumors are illogical."

The international reaction to Iran's declarations was ones of skepticism. As the days wore on, Washington, Ottawa and others publicly called out Tehran, noting that they had intelligence suggesting that a technical issue did not down the plane. In previous incidents in which the Iranian and global narrative differed, Iran has managed to use plausible deniability to its advantage: Most notably, it still denies any responsibility for last year's attacks on oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and two Saudi oil-processing facilities. The downing of Flight 752, however, was very different, as it occurred over Iranian soil.

Contrition, Born of Hard Realities
This left Iran little choice but to admit that it accidentally shot down the aircraft. Not doing so would have had several repercussions. First, continued denials would have weakened the international community's already-fragile trust in Iranian statements and promises. Canada, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom and a number of other European countries would have come under increased pressure from their own populace to force Iran to admit responsibility and provide financial compensation for the families of the victims.

Iran's leaders may want to control the flow of information and citizens, but they can scarcely ignore the fact that many Iranians are accustomed to traveling abroad and that the country's economy is deeply dependent on foreign trade and energy exports.

Second, diplomatic tensions between Iran and the West would have deepened even further. Canada, which lost 57 citizens in the crash (a further 81 passengers on the doomed flight were bound for the country), would almost certainly have pushed the United States and European powers to tie future negotiations with Iran to compensation for the families of the Canadian victims. While Flight 752 may not become as important as Iran's nuclear program or its ballistic missile program for Europe, it certainly would have cast a shadow over talks and limited Iran's ability to push for financial support through mechanisms like the EU-Iran financial link, INSTEX.

Accordingly, Iran is likely to offer some compensation for the victims of the incident. In fact, Tehran might even try to use the issue to pry open certain bank accounts and financial connections that remain closed due to sanctions. For example, it could offer compensation with funds currently frozen as a result of U.S. measures or demand modifications to INSTEX so that it can pay through that channel. Still, the matter is likely to remain contentious and complicated given the number of passengers who held both Iranian and other passports. Iran does not acknowledge dual citizenship, meaning foreign governments could demand compensation for passengers it recognizes as its own nationals but Tehran does not.

The intense international pressure once again reflects a simple reality for Iran: It is a country that maintains deep connections to the international world. Iran's leaders may want to control the flow of information and citizens (they certainly calculated — correctly — that the security apparatus could contain the inevitable street protests over the government's admission of culpability), but they can scarcely ignore the fact that many Iranians are accustomed to traveling abroad and that the country's economy is deeply dependent on foreign trade and energy exports. Because of Iran's strategic imperative to improve its economy, blunt the impact of sanctions and eventually negotiate with the United States, the Islamic republic had little choice but to come clean over an incident that killed so many foreigners — and fellow Iranian





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Iranian attacks on US in Iraq in 2020
« Reply #1134 on: January 29, 2020, 02:43:16 PM »
https://clarionproject.org/is-iran-behind-the-multiple-attacks-on-us-targets-in-iraq-in-2020/?utm_source=Clarion+Project+Newsletter&utm_campaign=b83ce0fcfb-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_01_29_07_43&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_60abb35148-b83ce0fcfb-6358189&mc_cid=b83ce0fcfb

Separately it now appears the Iranians were intending to kill in their counter attack after the Soleimani hit.  We had some 20 soldiers with rattled brains from concussion blasts.

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GPF: What awaits Iran?
« Reply #1135 on: January 29, 2020, 02:47:33 PM »
    What Awaits Iran?
By: Hilal Khashan

Shiite clerics have always played an active and essential role in Iranian public affairs. Safavid shahs (1501-1736) found them extremely useful in proselytizing Persians from Sunnism into Shiism. They also extended political legitimacy to Qajar shahs during most of the 19th century. Clerics in Shiism are more involved than Sunni counterparts in the lives of their religious communities. Shiite Muslims, following their religious doctrine, need continuous guidance from senior clerics; otherwise, they would go astray. Toward the end of the last decade of the 19th century, a revered ayatollah rose to the center stage of Persian politics upon the urging of nationalist and clerical compatriots.

Shiite Clerics Pioneer Iran's Political Development

In 1890, Nasir al-Din Shah issued the Tobacco Concession, which granted a British company the right to monopolize the country’s tobacco industry. In response to widespread public grievances against the humiliating terms of the concession, Ayatollah Mirza Shirazi issued a binding religious edict that banned the sale and consumption of tobacco products. Shirazi’s decision emptied the concession of its meaning and coerced the shah to annul it. Then, in 1901, Mozaffar al-Din Shah authorized the D’Arcy Concession, which gave exclusive rights to a British company to prospect for oil in Iran. Even though William D'Arcy’s company struck oil in commercial quantities in 1908, the Iranian people, led by the clergy and Bazaaris (the merchant class), disapproved of the deal since it overlooked the country’s national interests. The shah and corrupt Qajar bureaucrats were only interested in cash and personal gains. The Tobacco and D’Arcy concessions paved the way for a national movement that demanded the establishment of a National Assembly and creation of a constitutional form of monarchy. The move, known as the 1905-1911 Persian Constitutional Movement, failed because of Russian military intervention and British withdrawal of support for it.

In 1921, the Persian Cossack Brigade under the command of Reza Khan staged a military coup with British backing to defeat Bolshevik-supported ethnic forces who wanted to seize Tehran. He blunted their objective and became prime minister. In 1925, he established the Pahlavi Dynasty and assumed the name of Reza Shah Pahlavi. He saw himself as a modernizer and was impressed by the secular approach to the modernity of Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk. He stopped short of adopting Ataturk’s secularist approach because he feared backlash from Iran’s powerful clerical establishment. Reza Shah’s contributions to Iranian economic and cultural domains, including the emancipation of women, clearly demonstrated Ataturk’s influence on him. Reza Shah’s anti-British sentiment and Anglophobia, and preference for Nazi Germany, led Britain to force his abdication in 1941.

Iranian civil society thrived during the years of British occupation of southern and southwestern Iran. Political parties functioned freely, and independent media publications increased. In 1951, the Iranian Majlis (parliament) voted to appoint Mohammad Mossadeq, who immediately moved to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. His nationalist and social secular stance alarmed the U.S. and Britain about his possible linkages to Iran’s communist Tudeh Party. In 1953, the army staged a coup that overthrew Mossadeq, and the U.S. and Britain colluded to reinstate Reza Shah.

The Accidental Success of Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution

The Iranian people did not forgive the shah for returning to power as a result of an Anglo-American conspiracy. Interaction with these two countries, in addition to Russia, did not favor Iran, which succumbed to their superior military power. The shah’s legacy did not stop them from seeking to modernize Iran and transform it into a significant military force. In 1963, he unleashed the White Revolution to accelerate the process of economic development. Industrialization increased the demand for labor and set off a massive process of internal migration from rural areas into Iranian cities. The new urban dwellers, who arrived with their spiritual guides, found shelter in slummy neighborhoods. Hostility to the Pahlavis did not matter much in the countryside, which lay on the margins of Iranian politics. The death of pacifist and politically quietist Ayatollah Borujerdi in 1961 ushered in the rise of Ruhollah Khomeini, who loathed the shah and waited for an opportunity to challenge his policies. The White Revolution presented itself as an opportunity for Khomeini to condemn the shah’s Westernization as an attack on Islamic principles and way of life. The shah ordered the arrest of Khomeini, who went into exile in Turkey in 1964. Khomeini then settled in Najaf, Iraq, until 1978, when he moved to France to continue his anti-shah activism.

Low-intensity demonstrations opposing the shah started in 1975 and gained momentum right after the Rex movie theater arson attack in Abadan in August 1978, which killed more than 400 people. Influenced by Khomeini’s description of the shah as an American and Israeli lackey, streets in Iranian cities became full of anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist slogans. Opposition to the shah’s repressive policies and aversion to U.S. foreign policy dominated the course of the 1979 revolution. Despite police repression and torture of political activists by secret police, the regime found itself unable to stop the rebellion. The shah fled Iran in January 1979, and Khomeini returned triumphantly to Tehran two weeks later. Khomeini’s rule by the jurisconsult religious theory, which amounted to an ideological coup in the doctrinal history of Twelver Imami Shiism, has governed the country ever since.

Khomeini took advantage of his public support to tighten his grip on state institutions without any opposition from the new religious ruling elite, who did not take the idea of the modern state seriously. Khomeini realized the importance of creating political and military institutions to protect the regime against the possibility of a counterrevolution, especially at a time when its Arab neighbors and the United States were contemplating ways to abort the revolution. He wanted the guardians of the Islamic Revolution to operate outside the jurisdiction of the state to oversee its activities and ensure their conformity with Khomeini’s religious doctrine.

Khomeini took advantage of the 1980-88 war with Iraq to eliminate leftist and nationalist opposition to his regime. Many Iranians grew discontented with the revolution because it failed to improve their standard of living and suppressed their freedom of expression. The reformists emerged as a counterforce to the conservatives in the aftermath of the 1997 presidential elections in which Mohammad Khatami won a landslide victory. Protests simmered afterward mainly by moderate parliamentary aspirants whose candidacy was disqualified by the Guardians Council.

The protests peaked in 2009 over the outcome of the presidential elections. They occurred mostly in Persian cities such as Tehran, Isfahan and Tabriz. They pitted reformists against conservatives over rigging the presidential polls that enabled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to win a second term in office. Reformist candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi did not seek to dismantle the revolution; they demanded only the removal of the temporal powers of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who lacked Khomeini’s charisma, and restriction of his powers to spiritual matters. The Basij volunteer militia ruthlessly crushed the protests that came to be known as the green movement. The green movement fell short of a revolution because it sought to reform the events of 1979 instead of phasing them out. Subsequent protests did not take off because of political differences.
But today, ordinary people are finding it even more challenging to make ends meet, as demonstrated in 2017-18 over the sharp increase in food prices. In 2019, demonstrators took their anger to the street to protest sudden oil price increases. In the two spates of protests that turned violent, Iranians chanted “Death to Palestine,” and “Help us, not Gaza,” to register opposition to squandering scarce Iranian financial resources on foreign adventures. The Basij had no mercy on the protesters.

State-controlled media outlets now accuse foreign countries of perpetrating the violence targeting private and public property. Iran’s protests do not seem to have a political leadership to give them direction and momentum. Activists who could provide a powerful boost to the demonstrations have fled the country to escape the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ harsh, oppressive measures. The conservatives hope to use the protests to topple the government of President Hassan Rouhani, who, in turn, expects them to cause the demise of the supreme leader’s rule. Rouhani’s long-shot goal is to extend his authority to the institutions of the supreme leader that dominate the Iranian economy, especially the Khatam al-Anbia Construction Firm, which belongs to the IRGC.

The Fate of Khomeini’s Revolution

The reformists are increasingly winning over the public at the expense of the conservatives, who are rapidly losing popular support. Mousavi’s Green Path of Hope front has succeeded in rallying a broad coalition of opposition groups ranging from leftist reformists to centrists. Demography is working against the conservatives; the majority of Iran’s population is young. More than 70 percent of Iranians are under 35 years old, and many of them neither relate to Khomeini’s revolution nor know what slogans he raised. Young Iranians remember Khomeini for meddling in foreign affairs and provoking Iraq to start an eight-year war against the Islamic Republic that decimated its economy and inflicted more than 1 million deaths.

Iran suffers from prolonged and torturous sanctions that are becoming unbearable. The currency has become worthless, and necessities are expensive and unaffordable. The past two years’ demonstrations over food and fuel price hikes differ from previous waves of discontent in at least two respects. People are no longer making demands for political reforms, but regime change. Of equal importance is that protests cut across Iran’s diverse ethnic composition. Iran is not yet, however, ready for a new revolution that ushers in a new political system on the ruins of wilayat al-faqih (guardianship by an Islamic jurist) because the IRGC does not allow protesters to question the authenticity and legitimacy of Khomeini’s religious revolution.

The unfortunate shooting down of the Ukrainian aircraft in early January enraged the Iranian people. It shifted the focus of the Iranian people from the condemnation of the U.S. killing of Qassem Soleimani into anger and frustration against the regime. During the most recent protests, demonstrators chanted, “The enemy lies within us.” Frequent droughts are increasing the pace of internal migration from rural areas into Iranian cities and overburdening their antiquated infrastructure. The new urban poverty belts are capable of initiating Iran’s counterrevolution.

The Iranian people’s mood during the past 150 years has vacillated between demands for reform (both bureaucratic and political), nationalism and anti-imperialism. Iranians today yearn for freedom and are unmoved by Khomeini’s revolutionary slogans. Foreign countries need to avoid prodding Iranians to revolt against the regime because it would legitimize a harsh crackdown. Since U.S. President George W. Bush in 2003 encouraged Iranian demonstrators to bring down the government and introduce a democratic order, Iranian reformist leaders have eschewed sponsorship of the protests lest they be labeled treacherous. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hope that Israel and Iran could restore their amicable relations after overthrowing the regime does a disservice to Iranian protesters.

Political change in Iran is bound to be painful and delayed. The Iranian revolution has created deep roots in the country, and it will not collapse because of protests, since the authorities are determined to do whatever is necessary to crush the opposition. In previous demonstrations, they unleashed thugs to destroy property in order to justify Basij retaliation and intimidate
peaceful protesters against taking their anger and frustration to the street. The success of the 1979 revolution owes much to the Iranian army, whose commanders chose to maintain neutrality. The IRGC, however, is highly unlikely to take a neutral stance since its survival is at stake. The best course of action for the U.S. is to keep the sanctions in place because they are working, while Iran’s economy of resistance is not. The Iranians no longer tolerate empty ideological mobilization that does not put bread on the table. The Iranian political system is anachronistic and will atrophy in the end, but there is no quick fix.   




Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Iran's next election
« Reply #1138 on: February 19, 2020, 10:27:09 AM »


 

What Iran's Next Vote Means for Policy and the Presidency

Highlights
•   Iran's economic struggles and intensifying tensions with the United States have helped clear the path to victory for conservative candidates in the country's upcoming parliamentary elections.
•   The selection of the next parliament speaker will help indicate whether policy debates in the new legislature will take a more hard-line or traditionalist stance.
•   Regardless of the election outcome, Iranians' mounting disillusionment with their government could ultimately undermine the next parliament's legitimacy, as well as the electoral prospects of moderate presidential candidates in 2021.
________________________________________
On Feb. 21, Iran will hold the first round of parliamentary elections that could usher in the return of a more conservative legislature. With moderates and reformists taking a back seat, such an outcome would nudge Tehran toward more hard-line and hawkish foreign policies, leaving less room for negotiation with the West amid soaring U.S.-Iran tensions. Regardless of its next ideological make-up, however, Iran's incoming parliament will struggle more than ever to answer the economic and social demands of an increasingly desperate and cash-strapped electorate — a reality that could have dire consequences for Tehran's political stability ahead of the country's crucial 2021 presidential election.

The Big Picture
________________________________________
While less powerful than Iran's many unelected institutions, Tehran's 290-seat parliament plays a crucial role in fielding debate between the country's broad political spectrum. How these discussions unfold in the country's next parliament will provide a key glimpse into where Iran's political future is headed, especially in regards to its struggling economy.
________________________________________
Iran's Arc of Influence

Ripe for Change

The last parliamentary elections in 2016 occurred at a time when Iranians were optimistic about what negotiation and moderation with the West could bring their country. Pledging that closer relations with the United States and Europe would yield economic rejuvenation, reformist and moderate candidates won 41 percent of the seats in parliament, followed by conservatives at 29 percent and independents at 28 percent. This year's elections, however, will be held against the backdrop of exceptional economic and diplomatic difficulty for the Iranian government and its citizens. And this, along with intensifying U.S.-Iran relations, has increased the likelihood of a more hard-line leaning parliament.
 
Washington's "maximum pressure" campaign and resulting U.S. sanctions have heavily burdened Iran's economy over the past year. And some Iranians blame the current factions and politicians in their government (including parliament) for incurring those economic damages. Within this context, voters are more likely to cast their ballot for candidates who promise to offer something new and different, compared with the last four years — and the more nationalist and hawkish policies heralded by hard-liners and conservatives offer just that. Combined with the unprecedented rash of disqualifications of incumbents before the election, this environment means the next parliamentary election is more likely to be a showdown between conservative factions, and less of a contest between moderates and conservatives like in 2016. Indeed, in 44 of Iran's 208 constituencies, there are only conservative candidates running for parliamentary seats.

These conservatives have diverging views on how to conduct economic policy. They all generally oppose the more moderate, globally-connected policies of reformist-backed moderate President Hassan Rouhani. In terms of security and foreign policy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is full of mostly conservative factions (including some that lean hard-line), is also likely to have more allies in the upcoming parliament who will applaud a more aggressive approach to Iran's regional military stance and proxy warfare, as well as its more global struggle against U.S. efforts to contain Iran's regional influence.

A Key Vacancy

The appointment of the next speaker of parliament will provide one of the first glimpses into where Iranian politics might be headed following the Feb. 21 vote, and whether legislative debates will lean toward more hard-line or traditionalist policies. The speaker guides and referees the legislative agenda, and is generally viewed as one of the more important public-facing politicians in Iran.
 
The current speaker, Ali Larijani, is the longest-serving speaker in Iran's history. But after 11 years, Larijani has decided to step down and not run for re-election, leaving a vacuum likely to be filled by a more hard-line speaker to represent the country's likely more conservative parliament. Mohammad Baqher Qalibaf, the former mayor of Tehran, is currently one of the top front-runners poised to succeed Larijani. As the former head of Iran's air force, Qalibaf would be the most prominent former member of the IRGC to ascend to the speakership, which would solidify the military's significant influence in Iran's government should he indeed become speaker.

New Parliament, Same Problems

Regardless of how many seats various factions secure in the upcoming election, however, reformists, moderates, traditional conservatives and hard-line conservatives alike will all have to govern within the confines of a public that's increasingly angry about the diminished state of Iran's economy. The country's enduring economic morass, driven in part by U.S. sanctions, means that economic policies will dominate discussions in the new parliament. The likely strongest voices, the conservative factions, will mull a wide range of ways to mitigate the country's financial woes, ranging from the more populist to the more austere. But in this pursuit, legislators will face pressure from their constituents to prioritize near-term and immediate economic solutions as opposed to long-term economic structural solutions.
 
The diminished state of the country's economy has also fueled a general sense of political disillusionment against the government as a whole. And should this dissatisfaction lead to low turnout on Feb. 21, it could end up undermining the overall legislative authority of the next parliament by delegitimizing the electoral outcome.

Presidential Implications

Once the dust settles from the parliamentary polls, the next looming question regarding Iran's political future will be the 2021 presidential race. Larijani is among the powerful candidates who could potentially run, along with Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri; Saeed Jalili, the former leader of the Supreme National Security Council; member of parliament Ali Motahari; and Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi.

Rouhani's failure to free Iran from the crushing weight of U.S. sanctions could ultimately be his moderate allies' death knell in the 2021 presidential election.

To help ensure his moderate camp maintains popularity ahead of 2021, Rouhani has campaigned to help the reformist and moderate candidates still running for parliamentary seats by showcasing his government's economic achievements. He's also promised growth in the non-oil sector, as well as claimed his government has helped with the creation of new private sector companies and 3.6 million jobs. But while these talking points will help maintain the support of some of his stalwarts, the president's continued inability to fulfill his core promise of freeing Iran from the crushing weight of U.S. sanctions will continue to chip away at his popularity, and could ultimately be his moderate allies' death knell in the presidential election.

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Stratfor: Iran's drive to build better missiles
« Reply #1139 on: February 19, 2020, 11:12:19 AM »
second post

What’s Driving Iran to Build a Better Missile
13 MINS READ
Feb 18, 2020 | 20:15 GMT
This photo shows Iran's successful test launch of its Qiam-1 ballistic missile
This photo shows a test-launch of the Iranian Qiam-1 ballistic missile. The tactical and strategic advantages that missiles give to Iran mean it will resist any future efforts to limit its ability to develop more advanced missile systems.


Tehran considers missile development essential to Iran’s security. And as the accuracy and capabilities of its missiles improve, Iran is showing a greater willingness to use them....

Greater attention will be given to Iran's missile and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programs from now on. The September drone attacks on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and the January missile attack on two military bases in Iraq that left 109 U.S. military members diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries highlighted Iran's increased willingness to use its missile and UAV arsenal for tactical and strategic objectives.

Iran's missile program is an integral component, if not the crown jewel, of its armed forces, and Tehran considers the program essential to national security. The United States, however, wants to significantly constrain Iranian missile development in future negotiations that would also cover Iran's nuclear program and its support for regional militias. But to reach a deal, the United States will have to narrow its conditions. This will limit the prospects of an agreement under U.S. President Donald Trump's maximalist demands.

The Big Picture

Iran's nuclear ambitions have long captured the West's attention, overshadowing concerns over the development of Iranian missile technology. But as the missile program advances, that focus is shifting. Even though any future talks regarding sanctions relief with the United States will almost certainly include a demand for limits on its missile program, Tehran is not likely to agree to substantial constraints.

See Iran's Arc of Influence

The Legacy of the War of the Cities

Almost from the time the Iranian missile program was created in 1979, its importance was embedded into the Islamic republic's psyche. Before he was deposed in the Iranian Revolution, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi pursued his ambition to build the Middle East's most advanced and powerful military force. But it withered after the United States cut off military support in the revolution's wake. The outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980 demonstrated just how few military options Iran had left. Under the shah, it boasted the region's most capable air force. But without U.S. support, the country was unable to maintain the aircraft it had acquired, leaving it unable to answer the Iraqi missile and airstrikes that pummeled key urban centers like Tehran.

In response, Iran sped development of its missile and rocket capabilities in a bid to counter Iraq. Iran acquired a number of Soviet-designed Scud-B short-range ballistic missiles from Libya, Syria and North Korea. In 1985, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) created its own military units, including its own missile force, in hopes of reverse-engineering the Scud-B missiles with the help of North Korea, which had itself used the Scud-B to create the Hwasong-5 missile. By the end of its war with Iraq in 1988, Iran was able to open a manufacturing plant to produce its own Scud-B variant, the Shahab-1 ballistic missile. But before that, Iran and Iraq both targeted one another's urban areas in exchanges of fire that became known as the War of the Cities. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians evacuated Tehran as the combat raged.

The experience of the war taught Iran the strategic value of using missiles to break the morale of opponents' populations and raising the economic cost of attacking Iran. Since then, Iran continued to pursue an advanced and diverse ballistic missile arsenal, often with North Korean guidance. In the 1990s, Iran developed the Shahab-2, its own variant of the Scud-C missile (equivalent to North Korea's Hwasong-6). While the Shahab-2's range of 500 kilometers (310 miles) improved slightly on its predecessor's, it still fell within the category of a short-range ballistic missile. At the same time, Iran also developed a medium-range ballistic missile based on North Korea's Hwasong-7 (another reverse-engineered Scud). The Shahab-3, with a range of 2,000 kilometers, could reach most of the Middle East.

Iran's Evolving Missile Priorities and Development

As it worked to develop its missile program with North Korea's help in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, Iran focused on acquiring ballistic missiles with a strategic aim of deterring its adversaries from pursuing to war with it, an objective it learned from its Iran-Iraq war experience. From a tactical perspective, however, those missiles gave Iran few battlefield advantages; the rudimentary navigational systems on early Shahab variants would often miss their designated targets by as much as a kilometer, on average. While this left them ineffective in hitting specific battlefield targets, they retained strategic value in targeting urban areas, where precision was not as important.

Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq brought the United States to Iran's doorstep, Iran has focused research and development efforts on making its missiles more accurate rather than extending their ranges.

For Iran, the deterrence that even inaccurate missiles can provide gives them strategic importance. Today, the Iranian missile arsenal is perhaps the region's largest and most diverse. As Gulf Arab rivals such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates spend billions on Western-made military equipment to arm their conventional militaries in a way that sanctions-strapped Iran cannot match, Tehran has chosen to continue to invest in its missile program as a standoff weapon. In the event of a regional war, the missile arsenal would allow Iran to damage the Saudi and Emirati economies and threaten their civilian populations. Similarly, Iran's strategy of providing missiles to allies like the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories achieves many of the same strategic objectives in a wider geographic footprint.

Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq brought the United States to Iran's doorstep, Iran has focused research and development efforts on making its missiles more accurate rather than extending their ranges beyond the Middle East. In both the 1990-91 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Iran noted the effectiveness of the United States' tactical use of missiles and airpower to degrade Iraqi forces. When President George W. Bush included Iran in his 2002 "axis of evil" speech, Tehran learned that it, or its proxies, could soon be involved in more wars in the Middle East, providing it with further incentive to increase its missile arsenal's reliability, accuracy and capabilities for use against tactical targets.

As a part of that development, Iran has introduced and tested more advanced short-range and medium-range ballistic missiles. The roles that the Shahab-1 and Shahab-2 missiles once filled are now filled by the Fateh-110 and Qiam-1. The Fateh-110 and its successors, including the recently introduced Fateh-313 and the Zolfaghar successors to the original Fateh-110, are solid-fueled, reducing launch time. Their more advanced guidance systems make them more useful against specific targets. The Qiam-1 also improves on the Shahab-2's accuracy and also has been upgraded in recent years.

Similar to its shorter-range ballistic missiles, the Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile has birthed several more advanced variants designed to increase its accuracy. The latest is the Emad, first tested in 2015, which introduces a maneuverable reentry vehicle that uses satellite navigation to dramatically increase its accuracy. Iran's latest and most advanced medium-range ballistic missile, the Khorramshahr, likely includes some of those improvements.

In 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of launching a medium-range ballistic missile that could carry multiple warheads after Iranian media suggested that the Khorramshahr was being developed to possibly have a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle. Although Iran has not unveiled or tested ballistic missiles with a range longer than 2,000 kilometers, the United States is concerned that Iran's space program is a cover for research into dual-use technology that could be transferred to an intercontinental ballistic missile. Iran's recent announcement that it plans later this year to launch a satellite using a new solid-fueled launch vehicle called Zoljanah highlights the intersection between the two programs. That technology grew out of the IRGCs ballistic missile program — unlike its liquid-fueled launch vehicles, such as the Simorgh, which have greater separation from that specific program.

Finally, Iran's research in recent years has also included expanding and developing other types of missiles, including cruise missiles. The most established of these is the Soumar, which Iran unveiled in 2015. Like Iran's original ballistic missiles, the Soumar has its roots in Soviet technology.

Recent Operational History and Development

The development of Iran's missile program has other benefits, including for domestic propaganda purposes and prestige. Indeed, Iran now routinely unveils new missiles during the annual 10-day celebration in February marking Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini's 1979 return to Tehran. In February 2019, Iran unveiled several new missiles, including the Hoveyzeh cruise missile, a successor to the Soumar, and the Dezful ballistic missile, an upgrade to the Zolfaghar. This year, Iran unveiled the Raad-500, a missile akin to the Fateh-110.

While many of its new missiles are evolutionary variants and possibly sometimes little more than an older missile with a new paint scheme, Iran has sought to demonstrate and test several of them in operational conditions in an attempt to achieve tactical successes. Not only has it used variants of the Qiam-1, Fateh-110 and other missiles in places like Yemen, but Iran also is starting to launch them directly from its own territory for strategic purposes against Kurdish, Saudi, U.S. and Islamic State targets.


The uptick in Iran's own use of its ballistic and cruise missiles and its increased proliferation of missiles to its allies, particularly in Yemen and Iraq, suggests that Iran is becoming more willing to deploy its more advanced missile systems as their accuracy and capabilities improve. Granted, with most of the operations, the decision to use them tactically has often come in response to the actions of others.

Since 2017, Iran has launched missiles five times from inside its own borders — the first such strikes since 2011. In 2017 and 2018, Iran launched attacks against Islamic State targets in Deir el-Zour, Syria, using the Zolfaghar and Qiam-1 short-range ballistic missiles to retaliate for Islamic State-claimed attacks in Tehran and Ahvaz. Several of those missiles failed, proving to be largely inaccurate. In 2018, Iran launched seven Fateh-110 missiles against the Iraqi headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran; several party leaders were killed when one missile hit the room where they were meeting. In 2019, several Iranian cruise missiles, thought to be Soumars, landed short of Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq oil processing facility. Finally, in January's attack on an Iraqi military base housing U.S. troops, Iran used 11 Fateh-313 and two Qiam-1 missiles to hit two sites, with several other missiles failing in flight. The accuracy of the attack remains a subject of study, but initial satellite evidence suggests a greater degree of accuracy than the 2017 and 2018 attacks in Syria. Nevertheless, operationally most of Iran's ballistic and cruise missiles appear to remain relatively inaccurate in a tactical sense, albeit with continued improvements. Iran found greater success with the UAVs it used against Abqaiq and Khurais.

Outlook and International Concerns

Iran's ballistic and cruise missile programs are of increasing concern for the United States and other Western countries for several reasons. First, Iran has shown for decades that it is willing to transfer missile and rocket systems to its regional allies who have shown a willingness to use them. Second, the United States and Western countries fear that Iran may eventually develop an ICBM that could reach destinations far beyond the Middle East. This is precisely why they oppose Iran's space program, considering its dual-use capabilities. In addition, Iran's strategic missile program and any future ICBMs will be used to establish a nuclear deterrence if Iran can develop a nuclear warhead capable of being delivered by missile. Third, Iran has shown it is willing to use its missiles and drones against civilian targets, as evidenced by September's attacks on Saudi Arabia. And finally, the programs improve Iran's ability to inflict casualties and damage on U.S. and allied forces in the region.

Iran is not likely to easily agree to negotiations with the West that significantly cover its missile program. Indeed, Tehran fought hard to ensure that negotiations with the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama focused solely on Iran's nuclear program. The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal and U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 that implemented it contain ambiguous wording that gave Iran wiggle room to continue testing missiles without directly breaking either agreement. Resolution 2231 says that "Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology, until the date eight years after the JCPOA Adoption Day [October 2023]." Iran has argued that none of its ballistic missiles have been "designed" with the intent to deliver nuclear weapons and that it being "called upon" is not the same as stronger language like "shall not" that is often found in similar resolutions — giving it the room to continue its activity.

The European signatories to the JCPOA have typically agreed with Iran's interpretation and say that Iran's missile tests and space launches go against the spirit of the agreement, but they typically do not go as far as calling them an outright violations. But as Iran becomes more willing to use its missiles in an operational setting and continues to ramp up its nuclear program, Europe's tone has slowly shifted closer to the White House's position. Continued operations by Iran will only make it more difficult for the United States and increasingly Europe to accept compartmentalizing talks on a successor agreement to the JCPOA. At this point, from the perspective of the United States and Europe, the two issues are becoming increasingly intertwined as a result, which does not bode well for future talks if the West demands significant constraints on Iran's missile program.

That said, Iran has signaled in recent years that it may be willing to reach an understanding with the West about its missile program. In 2017, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran would not develop missiles with a range beyond 2,000 kilometers, near the upper end of its Soumar and Khorramshahr missiles, and Iranian military leaders, including those in the IRGC, have reiterated that range limit. Nevertheless, the West still would likely demand that range restraints be written into an agreement, making it more difficult to achieve a future deal.

Iran's perception of threat in the Middle East has not changed. The Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the JCPOA has led Iran to realize that even if it signs another deal with the United States, there's nothing to prevent a future administration from negating it. So Iran would still feel compelled to continue to develop new missiles. In addition, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan all remain violent theaters, and a resurgence of the Islamic State or a successor group cannot be ruled out. Finally, the increasingly aggressive foreign policy postures staked out by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will not soften if Iran signs a deal with the West. Indeed, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia would view any deal with significant constraints on Iran's overall regional strategy as an opportunity to expand their own influence, much like Iran saw the fall of Saddam Hussein as an opportunity to expand its influence in Iraq.

Simply put, with that threat perception in mind, Iran is unlikely to budge significantly on the red lines for its missile program, unlike its willingness to make concessions with its nuclear program. Many of the same strategic and tactical factors that drove Iran to invest heavily in its missile program remain in place and cannot be reversed overnight. This does not bode well for future U.S.-Iran talks until the United States and others are willing to restrict their demands to missiles with ranges beyond the Middle East. In the meantime, Iran will continue to work to boost its missile arsenal's accuracy and capabilities.

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Iran works to overcome losing Soleimani
« Reply #1140 on: February 28, 2020, 02:18:18 PM »
Iran Works to Overcome Losing Soleimani
by Yaakov Lappin
Special to IPT News
February 28, 2020
https://www.investigativeproject.org/8327/iran-works-to-overcome-losing-soleimani

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Impact on Iran of Kung Flu
« Reply #1141 on: February 28, 2020, 02:40:13 PM »
February 28, 2020   View On Website
Open as PDF



    The Coronavirus Outbreak: Impact on Iran
By: Caroline D. Rose

Over the past two weeks, Iran has been dealing with an outbreak of coronavirus that has so far led to 388 infections and 34 deaths in the country. The government has struggled to contain the virus, and in barely more than one week, there have already been riots over its mismanagement of the outbreak. The virus has not only had political consequences but also economic ramifications, especially stemming from the closure of border crossings with some of its most critical trade partners. The dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the outbreak comes at an especially vulnerable time for the regime. Over the past two years, the United States has applied a maximum pressure campaign on Iran that it hoped would squeeze the country’s finances, instigate social unrest and curtail Iranian influence in the Middle East. It has done so mainly through sanctions, which have crippled Iran’s economy and caused some degree of unrest but failed to weaken the regime to the point of collapse. The coronavirus outbreak, however, has the potential to undermine the regime in ways that U.S. sanctions never could.

Still, we don’t expect the government to completely crack under the pressure; Tehran will manage by implementing curfews, quarantines and other measures to crack down on anti-government sentiment. But coronavirus is yet another issue that will cause the public’s frustration with the government to rise. It highlights the growing distrust of the regime, as well as the government’s own resilience in the face of adversity.

Economic Implications

Many have highlighted the potential implications of the outbreak for Iran’s economy, particularly the effects on trade and Iran’s currency. But the country’s formal economy won’t take as big a hit as other affected countries like China and Italy. Sanctions have already crippled Iran’s economy, forcing the country to reduce its dependence on exports and rely increasingly on illicit trade. While the outbreak will certainly further discourage other countries from trading with Iran and affect its access to foreign currency, the list of willing buyers for Iranian exports is already limited, and the value of the rial has already declined substantially.

Instead, the outbreak’s largest economic impact will be felt in the shadow economy, which has been Iran’s greatest weapon against sanctions. Iran’s gross domestic product dropped by 4.8 percent in 2018 and an additional 9.5 percent in 2019, and its unemployment level rose to 16.8 percent last year. Import shortages, high living costs, drained foreign currency reserves, a strained pension system, and skyrocketing prices for bread, beef, sugar and milk have also contributed to the country’s deep recession. Iranians have therefore increasingly resorted to the informal market as a means of survival. In 2017, Iran’s informal economy was estimated to account for about 36 to 38 percent (worth $12.3 billion) of economic activity in the country. Experts estimated that $10 billion to $15 billion worth of products were smuggled across Iran’s borders annually. By contrast, non-oil exports traded through official channels were worth about $650 million in 2019. At a time of extreme economic hardship, therefore, smuggling has provided a source of income for thousands of otherwise unemployed Iranians.

The informal economy has also enabled Iran’s oil export market to survive. This is because U.S. sanctions only target trade of Iranian goods in the formal market. In May 2019, the U.S. announced a fresh round of sanctions with the intention of slowing Iranian crude production to zero. The campaign has been fairly successful: Iranian exports have fallen 87 percent from 2016 levels, and oil output decreased to 2.1 million barrels per day last October from 3.8 million bpd in 2018. Tehran has therefore been forced to turn to other means, including smuggling, to sell its most profitable export.

In 2018, experts estimated that between 5.3 million to 10.6 million gallons of crude were smuggled out of Iran daily – though this number has undoubtedly declined as production has fallen. Proxy networks and Iraqi Shiite militias loyal to Tehran have served as dependable intermediaries in Iranian smuggling networks. Militias within Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, which the Iraqi government has entrusted with guarding certain border checkpoints, patrolling highways and protecting oil fields, have been particularly helpful. Iraqi Shiite groups and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have also helped smuggle Iranian crude into Syria, now the largest customer for Iranian oil. Crude is typically smuggled across the border using trucks and vans through unofficial or militia-guarded checkpoints, particularly along challenging terrain such the marshlands in the Maysan province. It is often offloaded between Iraqi Shiite groups with limited Iranian logistical supervision and transported along the al-Boukamal-al-Qaim highway at the Iraq-Syria border. Though trucks, which can carry only about 120 barrels of oil, and vans, which can carry only 12 barrels, are not as efficient as oil tankers, Iran’s wide network of proxies in Iraq has turned cross-border smuggling into one of the most reliable methods of distributing Iranian oil to external markets.

But this method will be jeopardized if Iraq closes its border over coronavirus fears. Iraq has already closed some crossings for several days to stop the virus from spreading. The economic impact will depend on how strictly Baghdad enforces the border closures and prohibition on travel to and from Iran. Smuggling won’t end entirely, as poorly defended border crossings will continue to enable illicit trade. But the element of fear will certainly have an impact on Iran’s informal economy. All of the reported infections in Iraq and Lebanon have been linked to Iran. People involved in the trafficking of goods will be increasingly hesitant to deal with Iranians, particularly as cases in the region continue to rise in countries that lack protective gear, medical services and well-staffed hospitals. Even if the Iraqi government does not enforce the border closure as strictly as it says it will, the virus could take a toll on Iran’s informal economy.

Political Unrest

Most importantly, the virus comes to Iran at a politically inopportune time. In its first two weeks of the outbreak in Iran, the government has already shown signs of unpreparedness. Sanctions and the recession have stripped Iran’s health care system down to its bones, depriving it of critical medical equipment, personnel and expertise. As of 2019, the World Health Organization recorded the country had only 10 doctors per 10,000 people. (For comparison, in the U.S. there are 45 doctors per 10,000 – and the Association of American Medical Colleges considers even this a shortage.) Reports have poured in from Iran about the lack of protective masks, hand sanitizer and adequate medical equipment in both rural and urban environments. And the government’s track record of reporting infections has upset opposition lawmakers and citizens alike. Tehran announced the two cases that hit Qom on Feb. 19, two days before elections to the country’s parliament, or Majlis, and withheld information about an additional 18 cases and two deaths (translating to a higher mortality rate than the global rate of a little over 3 percent) two days later.
 
(click to enlarge)

But the government had a powerful interest in underselling the scale of the outbreak, less than two months after it sparked protests when it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger airplane during a missile barrage targeting U.S. forces in Iraq, and ahead of an election that was already fated to be controversial. In January, the Guardian Council barred 6,850 reformist candidates from the ballot, causing widespread outcry over a lack of democratic representation and leading to calls, particularly in urban areas, to boycott the vote. The last thing the government needed, then, was a mass viral outbreak that would further damage the credibility of itself and the election. In the end, the election’s outcome was favorable for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with 30 conservative hardliners gaining seats in the Majlis. Just 42.57 percent of Iranians voted, the lowest participation rate since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and down nearly 20 percentage points from the previous election in 2016. Fear of infection certainly played a role in keeping Iranians from the ballot box, and the government didn’t shy away from accusing its “enemies” of sensationalizing the outbreak to influence its internal affairs – even if, in the end, the low turnout probably worked to the government’s advantage.

In the wake of the election, as the extent of the outbreak has become clear, there have been riots over the government’s mishandling of the virus. In Talesh, a city in Iran’s northern Gilan province, people protested the government’s secrecy and mysterious quarantines outside a hospital on Feb. 23 until security forces dispersed them with tear gas. In Isfahan, medical students protested in front of the University of Medical Sciences over the lack of protective gear and supplies, while in Rasht, protesters started fires in the streets to oppose unexplained street closures, where they were met with crackdowns from security forces. And in Najaf, protesters upset with the government’s refusal to close the city’s international airport attempted to block travelers’ access.

In the face of rising unrest, Tehran has tried to nip political threats in the bud. On Feb. 26, Iran’s cyberpolice unit arrested 24 people accused of spreading rumors about the virus, and warned news outlets and social media users against reporting cases that contradicted official reports. The government is gradually shutting down social gatherings, religious sites, schools and sports matches in affected provinces as well as the cities of Isfahan, Mashhad, Tabriz, Shiraz and Tehran, which will soon turn into full-fledged quarantines and curfews. Under such restrictions, large anti-government gatherings will be difficult to coordinate. But that doesn’t mean political resentment toward the regime won’t continue to fester.

In unstable countries such as Iran, the coronavirus outbreak is not only a health crisis but also a political and economic threat to the regime. In the face of a crushing sanctions campaign, the government has been struggling to keep the lights on, keep protesters off the streets and keep up its campaign to spread its influence in the region. The hospitals are lacking proper medical kits and virus protection to treat patients. Panic risks crippling its illicit economy, which has struggled to make up for its teetering formal economy. With such political and economic uncertainty, Iran’s government cannot finance this outbreak and come out unscathed. However, after everything the regime has endured in recent years, it will likely take much more than the coronavirus to force regime change.   

Crafty_Dog

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JP: How Iran spready Corona to Middle East
« Reply #1142 on: February 28, 2020, 02:42:05 PM »
second

How Iran's Regime Spread Coronavirus to the Middle East
by Seth Frantzman
The Jerusalem Post
February 25, 2020
https://www.meforum.org/60493/how-iran-spread-coronavirus-to-the-middle-east

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Stratfor Iran in the eye of the Corona Storm
« Reply #1143 on: March 03, 2020, 05:46:59 AM »
Iran Is in the Eye of the Coronavirus Storm
8 MINS READ
Feb 25, 2020 | 20:10 GMT
Kuwaiti Health Minister Sheikh Basel al-Sabah, right, speaks with the media on Feb. 22, 2020, as officials at the Kuwait City airport prepare to take Kuwaitis returning from Iran to a hospital to be tested for the COVID-19 virus.
Kuwaiti Health Minister Sheikh Basel al-Sabah, right, speaks with the media on Feb. 22, 2020, as officials at the Kuwait City airport prepare to take Kuwaitis returning from Iran to a hospital to be tested for the COVID-19 virus. Iran has emerged as a regional epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

(YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP via Getty Images)
HIGHLIGHTS
Given its weak health infrastructure, especially in rural areas, Iran will struggle to contain the spread of the coronavirus; the country has become a source of infection in the broader region.
The Iranian public's lack of trust in the government's ability to disseminate accurate information will further undercut Iran's ability to contain the virus, even as the virus becomes a convenient excuse for the government to explain low participation in recent parliamentary elections.
As the coronavirus spreads, the United States will be pressured by the global community to weaken its firm trade and financial sanctions on Iran to help Tehran access the materials and financial support it needs to contain and combat the outbreak.
With cases in a half-dozen Middle Eastern countries that originated from travel within its borders, Iran has emerged as a regional epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak — which causes the respiratory illness the World Health Organization calls COVID-19 — just as global fears of a pandemic are amplifying. There are clear negative impacts for Iran both politically and economically, as well as potential negative economic and health impacts for the surrounding region. But depending on how Iran manages the internal and external information flow, the outbreak could also harm and/or help the country's already fragile foreign friendships, should it compel Tehran to reach out to the broader world for more help.

The Big Picture
Iran has become a regional hub in the global outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. As the Iranian government is already struggling with popular legitimacy, one silver lining of the outbreak could be some relaxation or leniency on tough U.S. sanctions if Iran needs more financial help and materials from the global community to battle the outbreak.

See The Geopolitics of Disease
The Immediate Concern: Containment Within Iran
Containment of the COVID-19 virus within Iran will be a challenge because of Iran's poor health infrastructure and traditional unwillingness to communicate freely and openly across all branches of government and between health institutions. Heavy financial sanctions and global travel restrictions for its health professionals further impede Iran's existing infrastructure weakness. Iran has well-trained doctors but its hospitals and health facilities throughout the country are poorly equipped and supplied, and it especially struggles to provide rural communities with quality health care. A years-long health infrastructure improvement plan dubbed the Health Transformation Plan was found recently to have done little to improve rural access to health care facilities, which means if the coronavirus spreads to rural areas, effective treatment of and accurate reporting on the outbreak could become a more serious problem. Iran already shuttered schools in 10 provinces for two days and canceled numerous public events, designating 230 hospitals to focus on COVID-19 management. But only time will tell if these measures are enough to curb new cases.

A map showing health care infrastructure in the Middle East and North Africa.
Another key challenge for Iran will be accessing and communicating correct information to both domestic and international audiences. Per available information from Iran's Health Ministry, as of Feb. 25, the number of cases in the country stands at 95, with most cases in the infection epicenter of Qom. With 15 deaths reported nationwide, Iran now has the highest number of COVID-19 fatalities outside China, underlining the serious nature of the outbreak. Of course, the reported figures raise the valid question about whether the death toll and infection count are actually higher. Iran's ability to access accurate health reporting from across the country is limited because of poor infrastructure. And its ability to accurately test and screen for infection is also in question because of the lack of access to the right equipment. Upcoming spring celebrations for the Nowruz new year holidays in Iran will be a risk for further spread of the coronavirus if the infections continue.

Domestic Political Impact in Iran
The COVID-19 outbreak has significant implications for Iran domestically: a further shaking of trust in the government. Iranians already struggle to trust their government — consider what happened with the Ukrainian airliner shootdown in January — and fears of a possible pandemic will undercut the government's ability to regulate information flow and ultimately control the virus itself. On Feb. 24, one Iranian member of parliament from the disease epicenter in Qom panicked Iranian media with a report that there have already been 50 deaths from the virus. Although the Health Ministry quickly refuted this report, accurate numbers remain unclear and are likely to change as more information becomes available. At least two government officials, including the deputy health minister spearheading infection-fighting efforts as well as a member of parliament from Tehran, have contracted the virus, raising the risk of further spread to government officials. Though these two officials have been open with the public about their own cases, there is likely a lot of information yet to be uncovered.

A small political silver lining from the timing of the outbreak is that it provides a convenient justification for low turnout in last week's parliamentary elections. But while fear of the spread of the COVID-19 virus was likely a factor preventing widespread turnout in the election, the reality is that the government was already struggling with its legitimacy with an economically anxious population. No matter how broadly pro-government media reports that fears of COVID-19 explain last week's low voter turnout, there are many reasons why Iranians lacked enthusiasm to cast their ballots for yet another government many of them struggle to trust.

Regional and Global Impact
With global fears of a pandemic rising, it is likely that Iran's neighbors will continue to shut border crossings and reduce travel and trade links in the near term to mitigate the virus' spread. Armenia, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan and Iraq (both southern and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in the north) have closed their borders with Iran, while Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates have limited travel to Iran following confirmation of COVID-19 cases linked to Iran travel. Bahrain and Lebanon have also confirmed cases of COVID-19 linked to Iran travel but have yet to close their borders or restrict travel, though domestic pressure is rising to do so.

Any curtailed trade, especially with China, will have a greater impact on Iran than on its trade partners.

Because of sanctions and the unique nature of Iran's "resistance economy," Iran is not as globally integrated in terms of trade as it would like to be, though it is connected to the global community and especially the surrounding region in terms of travel connections. It has depended on the trade and travel links that it does maintain to help it weather the economic pressure from U.S. sanctions. Iran's economic growth is already sluggish, and if trade and transport links are cut with trade partners like China, Iraq, Turkey and Kuwait — all of which have temporarily reduced or cut travel with Iran or closed their borders — this will have a direct impact on Iran's non-oil sector revenue. Indeed, any curtailed trade, especially with China, will have a greater impact on Iran than on its trade partners because of Iran's dependence on a more limited number of trade links due to sanctions.

Religious travel to and from Iran could be a source of spread from Iran to a handful of neighboring and nearby countries that have a sizable population of Shiites, and raises the risk of all pilgrimages to Sunni, Shiite and Christian sites around the region being potential sources of infection. Shiite pilgrimages to and from Iran and Iraq, in particular, are a source of concern. As of Feb. 25, Iranian religious authorities have issued fatwas or religious edicts prohibiting travel to Qom, but it is unclear whether Iranian security forces will be attempting to limit physical travel. Saudi Arabia has yet to record any COVID-19 cases but when it hosts the Hajj pilgrimage in August, it will be on high alert for the spread of COVID-19 from Muslim pilgrims from around the world, including Iran. For some Muslim populations, the tradition of domestic travel to visit family and friends during the month of Ramadan will be a time of concern about infection spread. Business-related travel, of course, is a likely source of spread from Iran to neighboring countries, including with Iran's suspected patient zero, a merchant who had traveled to China.

Impact on Sanctions and Iran's Pariah Status
As countries rush to shut off travel and trade links to Iran to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, the irony for Iran is that it is happening at a time when Iran is striving to combat U.S. efforts to isolate its economy from the rest of the world via sanctions. We will likely see an effort by the European Union to help Iran access the material help it needs. The COVID-19 outbreak comes at a time when a number of EU countries were already trying to find a way to help Iran access the goods it needs without triggering U.S. sanctions. Depending on how bad the infection spread becomes in Iran, the European Union will be motivated to extend a helping hand via the state-to-state supply of critical goods or financing, despite U.S. sanctions.

Based on precedent, there is deep uncertainty about Iran's willingness and ability to accept help from the global community and cooperate with it to contain the spread of COVID-19. If Iran shares information about its COVID-19 outbreak and cooperates with the outside world, there is a small chance it could lead to some leniency from the United States in terms of some financial restrictions, even as Iran's regional trade partners and neighbors temporarily shut down their links to mitigate the spread of infections. Iran's openness to a delegation from the World Health Organization (WTO) that is set to arrive this week is one sign of its willingness to work with the outside world. The WTO said sanctions negatively affect Iran's ability to treat the virus by impeding its access to medical equipment. Some of the U.S. sanctions on Iran allow for humanitarian goods, but depending on how bad the infection becomes, the United States might be swayed to further relax some trade restrictions.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2020, 05:54:46 AM by Crafty_Dog »

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Iran accelerates nukes
« Reply #1144 on: March 03, 2020, 03:17:10 PM »
second post

Iran Sharply Accelerates its Uranium Enrichment
4 MINS READ
Mar 3, 2020 | 20:25 GMT
The Big Picture
Iran's higher than expected leap in LEU accumulation brings forward the time frame at which it will have enough LEU for a breakout. Iran has meanwhile stonewalled IAEA efforts to inspect other suspect sites that might help inform it of past nuclear activities. The lack of development on advanced centrifuges, however, makes the LEU accumulation rate less alarming than it could have been.

What Happened
The International Atomic Energy Agency distributed its quarterly report on Iran's nuclear activities to member governments March 3, including a second document detailing Iran's alleged stonewalling of IAEA efforts to resolve questions about past nuclear activities. This is the first report since Iran took the position that it is not obligated to provide the IAEA with access to three sites that have not been inspected before. During an inspection in 2019, the IAEA found traces of uranium at Iran's Turquz Abad site. The IAEA also reported that Iranian officials have indicated they will deny access to additional sites.

The report also showed that Iran had increased its stockpile of low enriched uranium (LEU) from 372 kilograms in early November to 1,021 kilograms at present, with monthly production rising to about 170 kilograms per month. Part of this acceleration came from the reactivation of two cascades of IR-1 centrifuges at the hardened Fordow facility. Some additional production capacity also has come from advanced centrifuges at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz. Not all of the current LEU production is at the maximum 4.5 percent U-235 level, however; some of it is as low as 3 percent.

Why It Matters
The acceleration of enrichment beyond what most observers had previously expected means the point when the United States or Israel might begin to consider preventive military action to stop Iran's nuclear activities has drawn closer. Iran will now achieve enough LEU to make one device sooner, no later than April now. Based on rough calculations assuming current throughput capacity and Iran's ability to reactivate some additional IR-2 centrifuges it is not using at present, the current breakout time — or the time that would be needed to produce enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for one warhead if Iran began processing LEU to HEU — is now probably around four to six months.

The leap in LEU accumulation will reignite the debate in the United States and Israel about where exactly the red line should be, and what can be done to slow Iran's progress.

This report did not, however, contain evidence of breakthroughs on advanced centrifuges. Iran continues to perform research on a number of new models, but has not deployed anything beyond one cascade of IR-6s. It has not added more machines as powerful, or more powerful, than the IR-6 beyond what we knew was possible based on the last IAEA report in November 2019. Evidence of breakthroughs on the development of even more advanced machines or preparations for the deployment of additional IR-6 cascades, combined with having enough LEU for one device, would raise immediate alarms for the United States and Israel due to the potential for an extremely short breakout time of below two months; the new IAEA report does not suggest such a crisis is imminent.

Still, the leap in LEU accumulation will reignite the debate in the United States and Israel about where exactly the red line should be, and what can be done to slow Iran's progress. The high percentage of time Iran's centrifuges are operational indicates that any covert efforts by the United States, Israel or others to take them offline are not very effective. (There is no evidence in this report pointing to a new Stuxnet-like operation.)

U.S. pressure on the Europeans to bring the issue back to the U.N. Security Council and trigger a "snapback" of Security Council sanctions is likely to increase. But this is unlikely to trigger an immediate change of policy on Iran's part. Recent comments by U.S. officials have hinted that the United States will not seek to invoke snapback before the expiration of the Security Council sanctions on conventional arms sales to Iran lapses in October.

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Shamkhani replaces Soleimani
« Reply #1145 on: March 11, 2020, 09:05:49 PM »
After Soleimani, Iran Sends Shamkhani to Iraq to Take Control
by Seth Frantzman
The Jerusalem Post
March 10, 2020
https://www.meforum.org/60554/iran-sends-shamkhani-to-iraq-to-take-control

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Re: Iran in the eye of the Corona Storm
« Reply #1146 on: March 13, 2020, 10:08:02 AM »
It seems to me no one is asking, why is isolated Iran, thousands of miles from China's Wuhan germ warfare center, the first foreign place to catch the virus? And why is their chief of Bio-warfare the first Iranian to catch it?  Do I have that about right? There is some unreported connection there?

Maybe they just happened to attend the same seminar on global humanitarian benevolence at that time?

World mainstream media suffers from a deplorable lack of curiosity on this IMHO.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2020, 10:55:45 AM by DougMacG »

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Stratfor: The CIA's 1953 Coup
« Reply #1147 on: March 17, 2020, 03:39:58 PM »
   
    What We're Reading: A Coup in Iran
By: Caroline D. Rose
 All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror
By Stephen Kinzer

While social-distancing, I picked up Stephen Kinzer’s “All the Shah’s Men,” a book about the long-term geopolitical consequences of the 1953 CIA-led coup that deposed Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh – and the lessons the U.S. has (or has not) learned since then. I read this book at the right time; there’s renewed demand for democratic reform in Iran and an uptick in rocket-fire between coalition forces and Iran-backed proxies in Iraq. As these trends resurface, it’s a good opportunity to re-explore the complicated history of U.S.-Iran relations.

The 1953 CIA mission, codenamed TPAJAX Project (otherwise known as Operation Ajax), overthrew Mosaddegh, an Iranian nationalist who delivered democratic rule to Iran but threatened Western economic interests by nationalizing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. After a British boycott of Iranian oil failed to convince Mosaddegh to back down, and with Washington and London hesitant to intervene militarily, American intelligence took the initiative. The CIA successfully funded, organized and hired infiltrators, protesters and gangsters to reinstate the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, as Iran’s leader.

The U.S. mission succeeded in its short-term goal of ousting Mosaddegh, but the long-term objective was to reshape Iran in its own image. Mosaddegh’s restrictions on U.S. and British oil assets, combined with his National Front Party’s demands to eliminate foreign influence, created the impression that the current system threatened long-term American interests. In attempting to install a U.S-style system, the U.S. ironically deposed the most democratic, secular government Iran ever had, setting in motion forces that, as Kinzer says, would culminate in the establishment of the Islamic Republic and a strict anti-U.S. agenda.

Kinzer’s central argument is that the 1953 coup reversed Iran’s progress toward secular democracy, returning the country to the authoritarian rule of the Pahlavi dynasty and sowing the seeds for the 1979 Islamist revolution. Kinzer even speculates that if the U.S. had never intervened, a very different Iran would have emerged – one that could have cooperated with the U.S. on shared Middle East interests.

While I agree with Kinzer that the 1953 coup was a flawed operation that backfired on the U.S., I disagree with his argument that the U.S.-engineered coup was the reason U.S.-Iran tensions are so fraught today. While 1953 certainly was a turning point (the coup was traumatizing for Iranians and, naturally, increased anti-U.S. sentiment), it was not the only factor that led to Islamist rule or Iran’s current campaign to expand its influence across the wider Middle East.

Other factors are at play here. Iran’s geography compels the country to compete for influence in the Middle East. Its mountainous terrain and difficulty accessing the Persian Gulf (the narrow Strait of Hormuz makes broader naval exploration difficult) have shaped Iranian interests. It’s why the Safavids, and even the ancient Achaemenid Empire, broadened their reach beyond Persia. In addition, the Zagros Mountains have insulated Iran from much of the rest of the region, making Iran dependent on indirect power to project influence across the Middle East. We can only speculate, but it’s likely that even if Mossadegh remained in power, Iran today would still be seeking westward expansion, possibly by different means.

Kinzer does poignantly demonstrate how the 1953 coup should serve as a lesson about American adventurism abroad. Attacks – economic, political or military – have the power to galvanize anti-U.S. sentiment. However, placing the blame for current U.S.-Iran tensions solely on Operation Ajax disregards the other, major historical forces that have molded Iran and its geopolitical interests into what they are today. It’s a convenient way to explain modern Iran’s complicated geopolitics. Iranians will never forget Mosaddegh’s ouster, just like they won’t forget their loss to the Ottomans at the Battle of Chaldiran or the Iran-Iraq War; an array of forces are always at play in this complex country.

Caroline D. Rose, analyst
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Re: Iran and the China Virus
« Reply #1149 on: April 02, 2020, 11:02:31 AM »
https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/15836/coronavirus-iran-sanctions

Great article.

Still not asked or answered, what was the original virus connection between the Communist China source and the top people at the world's leading state sponsor of terror in Iran?