THE IRANIAN THREAT TO THE U.S. HOMELAND

  • Following the strike that killed Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian response that targeted Iraqi bases, the possibility of a conventional war between the United States and Iran seems to have diminished.
  • Despite the decreasing tensions, both Washington and Tehran are likely to engage in asymmetric action against each other, and the United States has already levied new sanctions against Iran.
  • Iran’s final reply to the U.S. military strike and death of Soleimani is likely to be carried by a proxy, and may be months or years in the making.
  • Iran can project power beyond the borders of the Middle East through proxies that maintain a global footprint, including in the United States.
Following the January 2, 2020, targeted military strike that resulted in the death of Qasem Soleimani, the United States prepared for an Iranian response. Five days later, Iran responded with conventional force by launching nearly two dozen ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases where U.S. troops are stationed. No American forces were killed in the attack. Shortly after the Iranian strike, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that Iran had concluded its response to the U.S. killing of Soleimani. To further deescalate the situation, President Trump similarly tweeted that the United States was disinterested in continuing tit-for-tat strikes. In the short-term, it seems that the United States and Iran are toning down their rhetoric and actions that could allow for continued conventional military responses. Following the Iranian strikes on the Iraqi bases, the U.S. government quickly pivoted back to a familiar tool in the struggle with Tehran – sanctions. On January 10, as part of the U.S. maximum pressure campaign (which Iran deems economic warfare), the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned eight Iranian officials as well as the largest steel, aluminum, copper, and iron manufacturers based in Iran. As the United States continues to ratchet up sanctions, Iran will likely use the most potent weapon in its playbook – its proxies and clandestine agents to strike U.S. and allied interests in the Middle East and beyond.

The Iranian strike of the Iraqi bases is likely considered, especially among the regime’s hardliners, an insufficient response to the death of the second-most influential figure in Iran. However, Iran also likely calculated that raising the stakes too quickly and striking the United States or its interests directly would likely risk a harsh U.S. reply that could diminish the ability of the current regime to retain power. As such, Iran’s full response to Soleimani’s death could be months or years in the making. Iran certainly can use its Iraqi-based proxies, like Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and the recently FTO designated Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), to strike U.S. interests inside Iraq, with the long-term goal of ejecting American troops from the country. While Iran may avail itself of KH and AAH (while also cultivating new proxies) to continue action against the United States, Iran retains the ability to project a threat beyond the borders of the Middle East. Iran and its proxies operate in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, and the United States, and have a violent and long history of successful attacks. In the 1990s, Lebanese Hezbollah (LH), Iran’s most potent proxy, carried out two VBIED attacks in Argentina that killed more than 100 combined people. In 2012, LH carried out a suicide bombing attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, that resulted in the deaths of 7 individuals with dozens more injured. In 2013, in Nigeria, three LH operatives were arrested for planning attacks against U.S. and Israeli interests. In June 2019, in London, a large cache of ice packs containing ammonium and other explosive materials were confiscated from LH operatives.

Despite President Trump’s announcement that Iran was targeting four U.S. embassies, there are no imminent or credible indications that Iran or its proxies are poised to strike the United States or its interests soon. However, the threat to the United States, including the homeland, is real. Iran and its proxies have a pattern of behavior that suggests a strong presence in the United States. From 2007-2011, LH orchestrated a sophisticated money-laundering operation that spanned five continents. Before it was halted, it was estimated that $329 million of LH funds entered the U.S. formal financial system. Iran’s efforts in North America, however, are not strictly limited to finance. In 2011, the IRGC-QF plotted to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. Finally, numerous LH operatives, most associated with the group’s external operations wing known as the Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO), have been arrested and prosecuted in the United States.

In September 2019, the Department of Justice indicted multiple IJO operatives for conducting surveillance and intelligence gathering in major U.S. cities, to include New York City. Shortly after the Solemeini strike, the Department of Homeland Security sent out a new announcement via its National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) that highlighted a need for increased vigilance and noted Iran and LH’s ‘demonstrated intent and capability to conduct operations in the United States.’ John Miller, the New York City Police Department’s Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism, recently wrote, ‘we already know that Soleimani directed the most experienced terrorist organization [LH] under his control to study New York City closely for the day the Iranian government decided conditions were right to strike on U.S. soil.’ While it remains unlikely Iran would strike the U.S. homeland directly, Iran likely has the capacity to do so. However, if the current regime’s existential survival is assessed to be at stake, the U.S. should prepare for direct strikes.

 

 

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS KOMMENTAR : NEUE ZÜRCHER SONNTAGS-ZEITUNG / TRUMP HAT ALLES RICHTIG GEMACHT !

Markus Somm, Gastautor / NZZ – 13.01.2020 / –  Nachdem die Amerikaner General Qasem Soleimani, einen der höchsten Militärs des Iran, und dessen terroristische Helfershelfer in Bagdad getötet hatten, wurde da und dort bereits der dritte Weltkrieg ausgerufen. Insbesondere in Amerika, wo die meisten Medien inzwischen etwa so objektiv berichten wie seinerzeit die Pressesprecher des Vatikans über Martin Luther, herrschte eine interessante Mischung aus Kriegslust und Apokalypse.

Aber auch die europäischen Journalisten warnten sehr: Ausrufezeichen, düstere Adjektive, schwerwiegende Fragezeichen zerfurchten ihre Texte wie die Sorgenfalten ihr Gesicht. Es war die Stunde der Kriegsexperten angebrochen, wo Leute über Krieg redeten, die schon die Rekrutenschule als unnötiges Massaker empfunden hatten. Angst und Genugtuung zugleich: Hatte Donald Trump, der ungeliebte Präsident der USA, nicht endlich den entscheidenden Fehler gemacht, der all die Prophezeiungen erfüllen würde, wonach dieser grobe Mensch am Ende die Welt in den Ruin führt?

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS TODAYS REVELATION  :  Iran keeps concocting fake news on downed jet

 

By Stephen Bryen – ASIA TIMES 14 Jan 2020 –  Iran continues to tell false and deliberately misleading stories about the downing of Ukrainian Airline’s Flight PS-752, including the story that a nervous missile operator “with only six seconds” to decide, mistakenly shot down the jet. Tehran says the operator thought he was shooting at a cruise missile.

Every modern air defense system consists of at least three parts: the missile firing unit that contains the air defense missiles; an acquisition radar that searches a broad area to provide early warning of threats; and, an engagement radar that acquires the target and helps guide the missile.

The Russian-made Tor, which is the system that US intelligence thinks was used to blow up PS-752, uses both types of radars. The system has a modern digital command and control system and an IFF (identification friend or foe) system all sitting on a tracked vehicle. The complete package is known as a TLAR, transporter, launcher and radar. Iran bought 21 Tor systems in 2007.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : IF TRUE ?! WELLDONE MOSSAD ! / PUTIN SORGT SICH UM DAS KLERIKAL-REGIME IN TEHRAN

Aufgedeckt: Mossad half US-Regierung bei Soleimani-Mordanschlag

14.01.2020 • 14:03 Uhr  RUSSIA TODAY  – Wie üblich wies der israelische Premierminister Netanjahu jegliche Beteiligung von sich. Wie sich nun jedoch herausstellte, versorgte die israelische Regierung Washington mit geheimdienstlichen Informationen, die zur Tötung des iranischen Topgenerals Soleimani führten.

Gleichzeitig distanzierte sich der israelische Ministerpräsident von Hinweisen, dass die israelische Regierung in den Mordanschlag verwickelt gewesen ist. Am vergangenen Montag erklärte der innenpolitisch nach wie vor unter Druck stehende Netanjahu laut israelischen Nachrichtenagenturen:

Die Ermordung Soleimanis ist kein israelisches, sondern ein amerikanisches Ereignis. Wir waren nicht daran beteiligt und sollten nicht hineingezogen werden.

Mit der Wahrheit scheint es der oberste israelische Befehlshaber dabei nicht so genau genommen zu haben, zumindest nach Informationen US-amerikanischer und israelischer Nachrichtenquellen.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : BRILLIANT IDEA! – Boris Johnson suggests ‘Trump deal’ to replace Iran nuclear deal

Under the deal brokered in 2015, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed with China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US, to restrict its nuclear program.

By REUTERS   JANUARY 14, 2020 10:55 JERUSALEM POST

LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday called on U.S. President Donald Trump to replace the Iranian nuclear deal with his own new agreement to ensure that the Islamic Republic did not get an atomic weapon.

“If we’re going to get rid of it, let’s replace it and let’s replace it with the Trump deal,” Johnson said of the 2015 nuclear arms control deal with Tehran. “That would be a great way forward.”

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS INTEL BY MEIR AMIT INTELLIGENCE & TERRIORISM INFORMATION CENTER / ISRAEL – Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, profile of an Iraqi Shiite militia handled by the Iranian Qods Force

Operatives of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq south of Albukamal. They were careful not to display identifying signs of the militia (Al-Madar al-Siyasiya, July 7, 2017)

Teenage boy wounded by live ammunition fired at demonstrators (YouTube, October 14, 2019).

Teenage boy wounded by live ammunition fired at demonstrators (YouTube, October 14, 2019).

Overview
  • On December 6, 2019, the US Department of State announced the imposition of sanctions on Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the militia of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”), and on two other senior militia operatives. According to the American statement, members of the militia headed by Qais al-Khazali opened fire at Iraqi demonstrators which resulted in the killing of civilians. Furthermore, it was stated that Qais al-Khazali was handled by the Iranian Qods Force and authorized the use of deadly weapons against demonstrators in order to sow terror among Iraqi civilians.

Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”) is an Iraqi Shiite militia handled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qods Force. It is one of the three most important Shiite militias which are prioritized by the Qods Force in terms of military and financial support. The two other militias are the Hezbollah Battalions (Kataeb Hezbollah) and the Nujaba Movement (Harakat al-Nujaba or Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba). These three militias played a key role during the fighting against the US forces while they were deployed in Iraq. They consist of commanders and operatives who had acquired extensive fighting experience and maintain particularly strong ties with the Qods Force. In recent years, these militias were handled by Iran in various missions promoting Iranian interests, including support of the Syrian regime, fighting against ISIS, and the suppression of protesters against the Iraqi regime. The US has imposed sanctions on all three militias.

  • In the ITIC’s assessment, the removal of the United States from Iran and strengthening the Iranian influence on the Iraqi government are major strategic objectives for Iran. In order to fulfil these objectives, the Qods Force will use the Shiite militias comprising the Popular Mobilization[1]. In the ITIC’s assessment, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, Hezbollah Battalions, and the Nujaba Movement, which are part of the Popular Mobilization, are expected to be used as the spearhead of the Shiite militias in the campaign to remove the US forces from Iraq[2].
The three leading militias
Flag of the Hezbollah Battalions militia    Emblem of the militia of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq.
Right: Emblem of the militia of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq. Left: Flag of the Hezbollah Battalions militia

Emblem of the Nujaba Movement militia
Emblem of the Nujaba Movement militia

  • Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq played a major role in the fighting of the Shiite militias against the US army and Coalition countries in 2006-2011, with the guidance and support of the Iranian Qods Force. Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq’s main “specialty” was planting IEDs along the roads used by the US forces, causing the Americans heavy casualties. The militia is headed by Qais al-Khazali, a Shiite from southern Iraq, who had studied religious studies under senior cleric Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr (the father of cleric Muqtada Sadr, who wields major influence on Shiite current politics in Iraq, see below).

Qais al-Khazali, leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (Kanouzmidia, November 10, 2016)
Qais al-Khazali, leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq
(Kanouzmidia, November 10, 2016)

  • After the withdrawal of the US army from Iraq, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq did not lay down their arms and continued (along with other Shiite militias) to serve Iranian interests. Operatives of the militia were sent to Syria and were involved in the siege on Aleppo and the execution of many civilians. In addition, militia operatives took part in the campaign against ISIS and were involved in the killing and abduction of Sunni and Kurdish civilians in Iraqi regions liberated from ISIS’s control. During the protests in Iraq, operatives of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq were used by the Qods Force as the main instrument for brutal suppression of the demonstrators by firing live ammunition.[3]
  • After the targeted killing of Qassem Soleimani, Qais al-Khazali promised to avenge the blood of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization (who was killed in the attack against Soleimani). In a television interview, he undertook to implement Soleimani’s aspirations and demanded that the American forces leave Iraq immediately. He noted that they would absolutely not settle for less than the removal of all the forces of “American aggression” from the territory of Iraq. He added, addressing the Americans: “If your forces do not leave [Iraq], or even in the event of a delay in your departure, your forces will be considered as occupation forces and be dealt with accordingly.” Al-Khazali reiterated his threat, conveying a stronger message: “If you do not leave [Iraq immediately], or stall, you will be facing a strong Iraqi response that will make the earth tremble under your feet and turn the sky above your heads into hell. The decision is yours” (Al-Ahed TV Channel, January 5, 2020).

Al-Khazali sending a blatant threat at the United States: if the American forces do not leave Iraq immediately, they will pay dearly for that (Al-Ahed Channel, January 5, 2020).
Al-Khazali sending a blatant threat at the United States: if the American forces do not leave Iraq immediately, they will pay dearly for that (Al-Ahed Channel, January 5, 2020).

  • The purpose of the current study is to analyze the profile of the militia of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq as a model of a Shiite militia prioritized by the Qods Force, such that Iran is expected to use in the Iraqi arena as part of a campaign against the Americans. At a later stage, the ITIC will publish additional studies, analyzing the profiles of the militias of Hezbollah Battalions and the Nujaba Movement and examining the nature of their ties with Iran and the Qods Force.
Appendices
  • Appendix A: Profile of the militia of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq:
    • The activity of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq against the US forces in Iraq (2006-2011)
    • Handling Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq by the Qods Force after the withdrawal of the US forces from Iraq
    • Selected statements by Qais al-Khazali
    • Handling Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq by Iran to suppress the protest against the Iraqi government
    • Participation of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq operatives in a break-in at the US Embassy compound in Baghdad
  • Appendix B: US imposes sanctions on senior operatives of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq

[1] The Popular Mobilization is an umbrella framework which includes about 40 militias. Most of these militias are Shiite, affiliated with Iran.
[2] The number of US military personnel deployed in Iraq is estimated at about 5,200 (New York Times, January 5, 2020).

[3] What are the reasons for the brutality demonstrated by the Iranians in Iraq as opposed to their restraint in Lebanon? In the ITIC’s assessment, in the Lebanese arena, Iran has much more self-confidence due to Hezbollah’s strong position in the internal Lebanese political system, while the potential of risks estimated by the Iranians regarding their influence in Iraq is higher. This is in addition to Iranian concerns about the protest spilling over to their own country from neighboring Iraq. In retrospect, the intensive involvement in the events in Iraq cost Soleimani his life. However, one important Iranian objective has already been achieved: the anti-Iranian discourse that has accompanied the Iraqi protest against the government has almost completely disappeared and has now turned into an anti-American discourse, which is expected to be part of the campaign to oust the US forces from Iraq.

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS BACKGROUND: Die Schattenmilitärs des Iran –  Teherans langer Arm reicht bis Deutschland

Milizen, Agenten, VerbündeteTeherans Arm reicht bis Deutschland: Die geheimen Schattenmilitärs des Iran Donnerstag, 09.01.2020, 11:36  FOCUS ONLINE

Die iranische Revolutionsgarde, die zusammen mit dem Militär die Streitkräfte des Irans bildet, stellt eine Gefahr für prowestliche Staaten dar. Neben dem Libanon oder Irak sind die Milizen auch in Deutschland aktiv. Experten sehen darin gar eine “Gefahr von Terroranschlägen”.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS IRAN : OUTLOOK & RESULTS – The Soleimani Killing: Trump’s New Approach to the War on Terror

By Shay Attias January 12, 2020 / ISRAEL / BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,399, January 12, 2020

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Soft power and coercive diplomacy tools have not worked for almost 20 years against “peaceful Iran” (as Obama used to call it), and America has opted instead to exercise hard power. Trump’s order to kill Qassem Soleimani exposes once again the vast gap between the US and Europe on the problem of Iran.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : In Iran, It Is a Crime to Be a Christian

§  by Majid Rafizadeh December 29, 2019 at 5:00 am GATESTONE INSTITUTE
  • Three of the Islamist judges known to preside over the trials of Christians are Mashallah Ahmadzadeh, Mohammed Moghiseh, and Ahmad Zargar. The international community needs to consider imposing sanctions on them.
  • Converts to Christianity from Islam, according the Iran’s Islamic law, can face the death penalty. The Iranian Islamist judges generally resort to verses from the Quran and Hadith (Muhammad’s sayings and acts) to justify their verdicts.
  • Iran systematically violates the U.S. International Religious Freedom Act and this is why, since 1999, the U.S. has designated the Islamic Republic as a “Country of Concern.”
  • Under international law, the Iranian government has an obligation to respect freedom of religion. Yet, while Christians are being increasingly persecuted and their rights are violated in Iran at an unprecedented level, the international community still remains silent.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS TODAYS OUTLOOK : Soleimani’s Death Opens Door to Alternative Security Arrangements in the Gulf

By Dr. James M. Dorsey January 12, 2020 – ISRAEL – BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,400, January 12, 2020

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The killing by the US of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani has widened the opening for a potential restructuring of the Gulf’s security architecture.

In line with an Iranian plan launched at last year’s UN General Assembly by president Hassan Rouhani that calls for a security architecture that would exclude external forces, Tehran is arguing that an expulsion of all US troops from the Middle East would constitute revenge for the killing by the US of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Quds force.

While it likely would be a drawn-out process, Iraq’s parliament took a first step in this direction by unanimously asking the government, in the absence of Kurdish and Sunni Muslim deputies, to expel US forces from the country.

Ultimately, Iran may get only part of what it wants, at best.

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