MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : IRANIAN MULLAH’S FAVOR JOE BIDEN

MEMRI TV Clip No. 8455 – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani: The End Of The Trump Administration Will Make Conditions More ‘Favorable’ For An Administration That Will Act In Accordance With U.S. Interests

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a November 11, 2020 cabinet meeting that aired on IRINN TV (Iran) that the current Trump administration, which is coming to an end, has interfered in Iran’s relations with other countries and that the end of this administration will make conditions more “favorable.” He said that Trump’s administration was not very familiar with international politics and that it almost carried out the “dictates” of Israel and of extremists.

weiterlesen / click to continue

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : IRANIAN MULLAHS PREPARING HOPEFULLY FOR BIDEN

LATEST IRAN NUCLEAR INSPECTION REPORT REVEALS MULTIPLE CONCERNS
by Simon Henderson  – Policy Alert November 16, 2020 – Headlines about increased stockpiles of enriched uranium are only half the story.

President-elect Joe Biden’s team has indicated that he wants to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and its numerous restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities once he takes office, but the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency shows that Tehran’s program is moving ahead anyway. Even if the next administration does manage to reinstitute the JCPOA in some form, it will likely be a rather different accord.

weiterlesen / click to continue

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : Trumps stops Biden on Iran for the next 4 years – Than he will be back again in charge !

Monday, November 16, 2020
U.S. ELECTION ROILS IRAN POLICY
Bottom Line Up Front:
  • The Trump administration is attempting to complicate efforts by the incoming Biden administration to alter the ‘maximum pressure’ policy toward Iran.
  • The Administration’s additional sanctions will need to be rolled back if the Biden administration seeks to rejoin the 2015 multilateral Iran nuclear deal.
  • A core element of the Trump strategy is to base many of its additional sanctions on Iran’s support for international terrorism.
  • Iran’s violations of the 2015 nuclear agreement will need to be reversed if the United States is to re-enter the pact.
The outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election is producing a tussle between the outgoing Trump Administration and the incoming Biden administration over policy toward a key U.S. adversary, Iran. Iran policy was one of the few foreign policy issues on which there were sharp differences between President Trump and now President-elect Joseph Biden. In 2018, President Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal, negotiated by the Obama/Biden administration, in favor of a ‘maximum pressure’ that applies sweeping U.S. sanctions intended to collapse Iran’s economy. In a September 13, 2020 editorial, Biden stated an intent to rejoin the nuclear deal if Iran comes back into compliance with its nuclear commitments under the accord.

The issue has caused increasing tension during 2020 as the Trump administration has announced a steady stream of additional sanctions against Iran, and has pledged to continue adding sanctions until the January 20, 2021 inauguration. The moves appear to be intended to complicate Biden’s effort to rejoin the Iran deal, which has been kept alive, although just barely, by the other parties to the accord – the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China. Tehran has demanded – and the incoming Administration recognizes – that restoring the agreement to its full implementation will require the U.S. to lift all sanctions re-imposed or newly imposed since the U.S. left the accord. In the days since the U.S. election, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran (and Venezuela), Eliot Abrams, has pointedly warned the incoming Administration against easing sanctions on Iran on the grounds that doing so would reduce U.S. leverage to force a change in Iranian behavior. His warnings followed a visit to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in which he coordinated efforts to oppose any attempt by the incoming Administration to re-engage with Iran.

Some Trump administration steps might be difficult, although not impossible, for the Biden administration to unwind. The Trump administration has made increasing use of sanctions authorities that are based on Iran’s support for groups that commit acts of terrorism. In 2019 and 2020, it designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under a 1996 law and Iran’s Central Bank as a terrorism-supporting entity under a 2001 Executive Order. Revoking both designations will require an interagency discussion process that will give Iran hardliners within the U.S. foreign policy and counterterrorism bureaucracy an opportunity to challenge the ‘delisting’ of these entities. On the other hand, the Trump administration has used the terrorism justification to sanction Iranian economic entities such as steel plants, Mahan Airlines, regional oil and general goods trading companies, and Lebanese banks. The new U.S Administration could reasonably argue that its predecessor applied terrorism sanctions authorities too broadly. And, many of the new sanctions imposed on Tehran have been based on executive orders and not laws passed by Congress; an executive order can be revoked at any time. The Biden administration might also need to formally withdraw the Trump administration’s October 2020 insistence that it has triggered a ‘snap back’ of all U.N. sanctions on Iran, although the U.N. Security Council did not recognize that declaration and has not implemented it.

In order for the Biden administration to return the United States to the deal, Tehran will have to reverse its post-U.S. withdrawal violations of its nuclear commitments under the accord. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in early November that Iran’s stockpile of low enriched uranium is about 8 times as large as the amount allowed under the accord – enough material, if enriched to weapons-grade purity, to produce two nuclear weapons. Iran also recently confirmed that it had begun constructing a new facility, in a hardened mountain location, to assemble advanced centrifuges. The new facility’s status would have to be negotiated as part of a Biden administration re-entry into the nuclear deal. The challenges that both Iran and the Biden administration will need to overcome in order to fully restore and reinvigorate the 2015 nuclear agreement appear significant but not insurmountable.

 

 

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS INTEL BY MEIR AMIT CENTER ISRAEL – Spotlight on Iran

November 1, 2020 – November 15, 2020Editor: Dr. Raz ZimmtThe meeting between the Iranian deputy minister of defense (left) with the Iraqi national security adviser (IRNA, November 3, 2020).

The meeting between the Iranian deputy minister of defense (left) with the Iraqi national security adviser (IRNA, November 3, 2020).

The meeting between the senior adviser to the Iranian minister of foreign affairs with the Syrian president (Fars, November 10, 2020).

The meeting between the senior adviser to the Iranian minister of foreign affairs with the Syrian president (Fars, November 10, 2020).

Overview – The Senior Adviser to the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali-Asghar Khaji visited Damascus and met with President Assad and discussed the ongoing negotiations process concerning the settlement of the war in Syria, regional developments and bilateral relations. Khaji headed an Iranian delegation that took part in the Russian-organized International Conference on Return of Syrian Refugees, which was held in Damascus.
  • The Iranian deputy minister of defense visited Baghdad at the helm of a delegation made up of senior military and security officials, and met with high-ranking Iraqi officials, chief among them the national security adviser and the Iraqi minister of interior. During the visit, the sides discussed cooperation between the two countries on military and security matters, and combating terrorism and crime.
  • Growing Iranian concerns about efforts to stymie its economic activity in Syria and Iraq: a commentary published by the Mashregh News Agency expressed disappointment about Iran’s marginal role in Syria’s economic reconstruction, which lags behind the role Russia and China are playing in this regard. Another opinion article, published by the Mehr News Agency expressed concern about Saudi Arabia’s efforts to increase its sway in Iraq, at Iran’s expense, by purchasing land and establishing economic projects. These articles join a chorus of Iranian outlets that have expressed criticism over the past two years toward the leaderships of Syria and Iraq, who prioritize other countries over Iran in carrying out economic projects in their countries.
  • Iranian media outlets reported that the agreement, reached during the visit to Iraq of the governor of the Iranian Central Bank concerning the release of Iranian funds frozen in Iraqi banks, is gradually being implemented.
Iranian Involvement in Syria
  • On November 10, the Senior Adviser to the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali-Asghar Khaji, met with the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, and discussed the negotiations concerning the settlement of the war in Syria, regional developments and relations between the two countries. Khaji arrived in Damascus at the helm of an Iranian delegation that met with senior Syrian officials and participated in the international conference on refugee return. In his meeting with Assad, Khaji stated that the international refugee conference can be an opening for reducing the suffering of Syrian refugees, building trust and establishing peace and stability in Syria. He called for resolving the crisis in Syria through political means, and stressed the importance of continuing the work of the Syrian Constitutional Committee. As part of his visit to Syria, Khaji also met with the Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister, Faisal al-Miqdad (Fars, November 10).
  • During speech at the conference on refugees, which was inaugurated on November 11, Khaji declared that the refugee question is a result of the war forced on Syria. He further claimed that the “terrorist groups” supported by the United States have prevented the refugees in the Rukban Camp on the Syrian-Jordanian border from leaving the camp. He condemned the sanctions placed by the United States on Syria, calling them “inhumane.” Khaji stressed Iran’s support for a political solution to the crisis in Syria and stated that Iran offered to establish an international fund for Syria’s reconstruction (Tasnin, November 11).
  • A report published by the Mashregh News Agency (November 4) expressed surprise about Iran’s marginal role in the economic reconstruction of Syria, despite the ample assistance Iran provided to the country during its civil war, and notwithstanding a series of agreements to expand their cooperation, which the two countries have signed in recent years. The article noted that when it comes to participation in Syria’s reconstruction, Iran is lagging far behind Russia, which is already promoting substantial projects, including one in the Tartous Port, with the aim of expanding the export of Russian goods to Syria. The article claimed that Iran is lagging behind China too, which has expressed great interest in being involved in Syria’s reconstruction. Furthermore, Iranian exports to Syria are more limited in scope compared to China, Russia and even Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which displayed hostility toward Syria during the civil war, the commentary argued.
  • This is not the first time that Iranian media express disappointment about Syria not prioritizing Iran in the reconstruction process. For example, on January 21, 2018, the reformist daily Qanoon published an article critical of the Syrian president, arguing that he prefers Russian companies over Iranian ones in the reconstruction process of his country. A similar article was published on January 17, 2018, on the website Tabnak, which argued that the Russians and Syrians are acting to stymie Iranian influence in the country, and that the agreement signed between the Russian and Syrian governments determined that the involvement of Iran and Iranian companies in Syria’s reconstruction is contingent on Russian approval.
  • On November 11, the Iranian Deputy Minister of Energy, Qasem Taqizadeh Khamesi, conducted a video call with the Syrian minister of water, during which the two discussed implementing an agreement concerning cooperation between the two countries in the sector of water and sewage. During the call, the Iranian deputy minister described the capabilities of the Iran’s water and sanitation sector in handling water provision, water and waste-water treatment, manufacture of pumping equipment, and building water desalination facilities. The Syrian minister of water expressed Syria’s desire to utilize Iran’s capabilities in the sphere of water and sanitation (IRNA, November 11). In late September 2020, the Iranian Minister of Energy, Reza Ardakanian, conducted a video call with the Syrian Minister of Water, Tamam Ra’ad, and discussed with him the implementation of an agreement concerning cooperation in the water sector, which was signed last year between the two countries. The Syrian minister of water stressed the need to use the experience and knowledge of Iranian companies in rehabilitating the water and sewage infrastructure in Syria, and called for expanding the participation of Iranian companies in water treatment projects in his country. At the end of the call, the two ministers agreed to establish a strategic committee for cooperation in the water sector, headed by the deputy ministers of water and energy of the two countries (ILNA, September 25).
  • A ceremony held in Damascus launched the Arabic translation of a book that collects the sayings of the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, about the Prophet Muhammad. The speakers at the conference condemned the denigration of Prophet Mohammad in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The conference was attended by the Iranian Ambassador to Syria, Javad Torkabadi, Sheikh Hatem al-Jabouri, one of the leaders of the tribes of Deir Ezzor, and Sunni and Shia religious clerics, including Sheikh Akram Diab, a member of the Shura Council of Lebanese Hezbollah (website of the Iranian Broadcasting Authority, November 7). The book launch event in Damascus is yet another manifestation of Iran’s efforts to increase its religious influence in Syria. In recent years, Iran held Shia religious events in Syria on various holy days, and has also been involved in reconstruction and restoration work in Shia religious sites damaged during the civil war.
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
  • In early November, the Iranian Deputy Minister of Defense, Qassem Taqizadeh, arrived for a visit in Baghdad at the head of a delegation of senior military and security officials, and met with high-ranking Iraqi officials. On November 3, Taqizadeh met with the Iraqi National Security Adviser, Qassim al-Araji, and discussed bilateral relations and political and security developments in the region. The senior Iranian official stated during the meeting that just as Iran stood by Iraq during the campaign against ISIS, it will also stand by its side during the reconstruction phase. The Iranian deputy minister of defense also remarked that Iran is willing to share its capabilities in the military industry sector with the Iraqi army and security forces, and also to assist Iraq in sectors of civilian industries, such as car and airplane assembly and petrochemical production. The Iraqi national security adviser asserted that Iraq seeks to improve and expand the ties between the two countries, and that the cooperation with Iran contributes to the stability and security of the region (IRNA, November 3). On November 5, the Iranian deputy minister of defense met with the Iraqi Minister of Interior, Othman al-Ghanmi, and discussed bilateral cooperation, security issues and combating crime and terrorism (IRNA, November 5).
  • Against the backdrop of a visit by a senior Saudi delegation headed by the ministers of industry and agriculture in Iraq, and the likely upcoming visit of the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kazimi, to Saudi Arabia, the Iranian news agency Mehr (November 10) published a report on “the Saudi Influence Operation in Iraq under the Cover of Economic Investment.” The report claimed that Saudi Arabia seeks to establish economic projects across Iraqi to gain influence and control over the country. The report pointed to growing criticism within Iraq’s political system of handing over land across Iraq, including in Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, to the Saudis, which may endanger Iraq’s sovereignty and security, and also damage its aquifers. According to Mehr, the Saudis wish to take over Iraq’s natural resources and economy, thus achieving their economic and political goals, including reducing Iranian influence in Iraq, activating ISIS cells across the country, and involving Iraq in the normalization process with Israel. The news agency assessed, however, that the Iraqi government will be forced to re-examine its decision to hand over Iraqi lands to Saudi Arabia given the widespread internal opposition in Iraq to Saudi’s economic activities, and that in any case, Saudi Arabia will fail to realize the goals of the United States and Zionism in Iraq.
  • This is not the first time that Iranian media expresses concern about the possibility of improved relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which may jeopardize Iranian interests. In May 2020, the Iraqi Minister of Finance, Ali Alawi, visited Riyadh, which raised concerns in Iran. Following the visit, reports emerged about Saudi’s intention to supply Iraq with electricity, as an alternative to electricity from Iran. In response, the website Khabar Online published (May 24, 2020) a commentary warning of Saudi Arabia’s intention to exploit the formation of a new government in Baghdad and the economic crisis in Iraq to bolster its ties with Iraq at Iran’s expense.
  • Iranian media reported last week that the agreement reached in the last visit of the governor of the Iranian Central Bank in Baghdad last month, concerning the release of Iranian funds frozen in Iraqi banks, is gradually being implemented (Asr-e Iran, November 11). In mid-October 2020, the Governor of Iran’s Central Bank, Abdolnaser Hemmati, visited Iraq at the helm of a banking delegation, to discuss with senior Iraqi banking and economic officials, the matter of Iranian funds frozen in Iraqi banks. At the end of the visit, Hemmati declared that an agreement had been reached between Iran and the Iraqi Central Bank and trade banks concerning the unfreezing of the funds, which total at about $5 billion. Those funds will be used by Iran to purchase basic goods (Mehr, October 12; Fars, October 14).

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : GOOD MORNING, SLEEPY JOE! – Iran schließt Neuverhandlung des Atomdeals mit Biden-Administration aus

  1. Nov 2020 – In einem langen Mediengespräch mit den Medien erörterte der Sprecher des iranischen Außenministeriums, Saeed Khatibzadeh, dass der Iran den 2015 geschlossenen Gemeinsamen Umfassenden Aktionsplan, auch bekannt als Atom-Deal, nicht neu verhandeln werde.

weiterlesen / click to continue

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS INTEL BY MEIR AMIT CENTER / ISRAEL – The Intelligence Organization of the IRGC: A Major Iranian Intelligence Apparatus

Dr. Raz Zimmt –  Main Argument

The Intelligence Organization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has become a major intelligence apparatus of the Islamic Republic, having increased its influence and broadened its authorities. Iran’s intelligence apparatus, similar to other control and governance apparatuses in the Islamic Republic, is characterized by power plays, rivalries and redundancy. The Intelligence Organization of the IRGC, which answers to the supreme leader, operates alongside the Ministry of Intelligence, which was established in 1984 and answers to the president. The redundancy and overlap in the authorities of the Ministry of Intelligence and the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization have created disagreements and competition over prestige between the two bodies. In recent years, senior regime officials and officials within the two organizations have attempted to downplay the extent of disagreements between the organizations, and strove to present to domestic and foreign audience a visage of unity.

The IRGC’s Intelligence Organization (ILNA, July 16, 2020)

The IRGC’s Intelligence Organization (ILNA, July 16, 2020)

  • The IRGC’s Intelligence Organization, in its current form, was established in 2009. The Organization’s origin is in the Intelligence Unit of the IRGC, established shortly after the Islamic Revolution (1979). The Unit underwent several organizational and structural changes, culminating in the establishment of the Intelligence Organization. Since the late 1980s, and even more so in the late 1990s and in the first decade of the 21st century, the intelligence organ of the IRGC has gained power at the expense of the Ministry of Intelligence. The causes for the rise in the power of the IRGC’s intelligence include the blow suffered by the Ministry of Intelligence after the exposure of its involvement in the “chain murders” of Iranian intellectuals; the power struggles between the supreme leader and presidents Muhammad Khatami and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which reinforced the desire of the supreme leader to bolster the intelligence organ of the IRGC, as it is not subject to oversight of the government and the legislative branch; the 2009 Green Movement protests, which demonstrated the need for improved control of the top echelon of the regime, led by the supreme leader, over the means of repression; the waves of protests that erupted in recent years due to the intensifying economic crisis; and growing tensions between Iran and the United States and its allies since the withdrawal of the United States under the leadership of President Trump from the nuclear accord (JCPOA). The upgrade in the status of the Intelligence Organization and the expansion of its authorities is part of a general trend of the rise of the IRGC, which currently plays a significant role in Iran’s political system and economy.
  • Starting in 2009, after the Intelligence Branch of the IRGC was upgraded to an Organization, Iranian cleric Hossein Taeb, who is considered to be a close adviser to Khamenei, has headed the Organization. Taeb joined the IRGC in the early 1980s, served for about a decade in the Intelligence Ministry, and in the late 1990s, returned to the IRGC. In 2008, he was appointed as the commander of the Basij arm of the IRGC, and played a central role in repressing the 2009 protests. Shortly after the quashing of the protest movement, he was appointed as the leader of the Intelligence Organization. He holds hardline and hawkish views, which reflect the official line dictated by the supreme leader of Iran.
 Hossein Taeb (Tabnak, January 27, 2020)
Hossein Taeb (Tabnak, January 27, 2020)
  • Similarly to the decentralized modus operandi of the IRGC over the past decade, the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC operates through intelligence centers operating across Iran’s 31 provinces. Based on partial and sporadic information about the structure of the organization, it appears that it is comprised of a number of thematic departments, in line with the tasks assigned to the Organization.

Some of the central tasks of the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC are: foiling terror attacks, thwarting political subversion, actively participating in repression of protests and riots, combating “Western cultural penetration” and morality violations, monitoring and enforcement in the virtual sphere, countering ethnic separatism and “religious deviance,” preventing grave crimes and smuggling, and tackling economic corruption. In recent years, additional missions were assigned to the Organization, which were previously under the sole purview of the Intelligence Ministry, such as: capturing regime opponents abroad, arresting tourists and dual-nationality Iranians for the purpose of prisoner swap deals with Western countries, or for advancing various economic interests. In addition, the Organization’s involvement in repressing regime opponents and critics at home has been expanded.

  • According to a number of unverified reports, the cyber arm of the IRGC also operates under the Intelligence Organization. The Cyber Defense Command of the IRGC was established over the past decade to protect local information systems from cyber attacks; monitor organized crime, terrorism and cyber intelligence collection; thwart attacks on the values of the Islamic Revolution; and increase the security of user of cyber systems.
  • The expanding roles and growing clout of the Organizations have resulted in increased public and political criticism of the Organization, which includes accusations of abuse of its authorities, as well as involvement in corruption and financial irregularities. Despite this criticism, not only has the standing of the Organization not been diminished, but it appears that the regime is determined to bolster the Organization’s standing even further, as the challenges the regime faces mount at home and abroad.
The Structure of the Report
  • This report contains the following chapters:
    • Introduction
    • Central Milestones in the Evolution of the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC
    • The Relationship between the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC with the Ministry of Intelligence
    • The Head of the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC, Hossein Taeb
    • Estimated Structure of the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC
    • Responsibilities of the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC:
      • Combating Terrorism
      • Foiling Political Subversion
      • Repression of Protests and Riots
      • Kidnapping Regime Opponents Abroad
      • Arrests of Tourists and Dual Nationals
      • Combating “Western Cultural Penetration” and Preserving Morals in Physical and Virtual Spaces
      • Combating Ethnic Separatism
      • Combating Manifestations of “Religious Deviance”
      • Preventing Grave Crimes
      • Foiling Smuggling
      • Combating Economic Corruption
      • The Fight against COVID-19
    • Accusations of the Organization of Involvement in Corruption and Irregularities
Methodological Notes
  • This is the first extensive report to be written on the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC. Over the past decade, a handful of articles have been written about the Iranian intelligence community, which provide a partial and limited description of the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC. Among the most prominent of these studies is an extensive study of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, published in December 2012, by the American Congressional Research Service “Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security: A Profile;” an article by Carl Anthony Wege, titled “Iran’s Intelligence Establishment” published in the summer of 2015; and the article by Udit Banerjea titled “Revolutionary Intelligence: The Expanding Intelligence Role of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps,” published in the fall of 2015.
  • In addition, a number of studies published in recent years dealt extensively with the activities of the IRGC. The research produced by Ali Alfoneh, Afshon Ostovar and Saeid Golkar are worth noting, as well as a 2009 report published by RAND Corporation. However, those studies too, which described the various aspects of the IRGC’s activities at length, rarely discussed the work of the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC.
  • For the purpose of writing this report, I relied on the above-mentioned studies, in addition to two other types of sources:
    • Occasional reports, published in recent years on Iranian news websites, websites affiliated with Iran’s exiled opposition, and websites of leading Western media outlets in Persian, and particularly BBC Persian.
    • Many dozens of reports published in Iranian media about the activities in various spheres of the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC.
  • Naturally, the publicly available information about the activities of one of the most secretive organizations in Iran is non-systematic and the extent of its veracity is often unclear. This applies to reports published by the Iranian regime, which are often intended to glorify the capabilities of the organization. Reports published by the Iranian opposition, on the other hand, often include false information intended to tarnish the image of the Iranian regime. More so, the extent to which the information published about the Intelligence Organization is up-to-date is also unclear, due to the structural changes that the Organization has undergone over the years. Due to the secretive nature of the organization, some of the reports about it (particularly in the West) contain factual errors. The challenge of lack of reliable, up-to-date information is particularly acute when it comes to describing the structure of the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC. Despite these limitations, it is possible, based on the available information, to describe the main spheres of activity of the Intelligence Organization, its position within Iran’s intelligence community, and the major trends in its evolution over the years.
Introduction

The Intelligence Organization of the IRGC (سازمان اطلاعات سپاه پاسداران) has become a major intelligence agency of the Islamic Republic over the past decade, increasing its influence and holding broad authorities.

  • The Iranian system of rule involves multiple bodies who are tasked with overlapping responsibilities. This institutional redundancy is a prominent characteristic of the Iranian regime, which allows the supreme leader, who holds most executive authorities, to encourage competition between the various power centers that have overlapping authorities, thus preventing the concentration of power in any one of them. One such example is the overlap of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the adviser on international affairs to the supreme leader, the Supreme National Security Council, the Strategic Council on Foreign Policy, and the Qods Force of the IRGC, all of them institutions involved in developing and executing Iran’s foreign policy. Iran’s intelligence apparatus is also characterized by power struggles, particularly between the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC, which answers to the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and the Ministry of Intelligence (وزارت اطلاعات), which answers to the president (although the appointment of the minister of intelligence by the president is subject to the approval of the supreme leader).

The logos of the Ministry of Intelligence (right) and IRGC (left)

The logos of the Ministry of Intelligence (right) and IRGC (left)

  • In October 2014, the Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, described 16 governmental bodies (some of which were established over the past two decades) involved in intelligence activities. According to the report, the coordination between the intelligence agencies is vested in the Council for Intelligence Coordination (Fars, October 14, 2014). According to the 1983 law that established the Ministry of Intelligence, the Council for Intelligence Coordination initially included nine members: the minister of intelligence, the attorney general, the minister of interior or his representative, the head of the intelligence security unit of the IRGC, the head of the Intelligence Unit of the IRGC, the head of the Intelligence Security Unit of the Iranian Armed Forces, the minister of foreign affairs or his representative, and the head of the Intelligence Security Unit at the Internal Security Forces. The Council is responsible for holding meetings and exchanging ideas concerning intelligence missions and related issues, exchanging information about methods for carrying out intelligence missions of the various intelligence community members, assigning responsibilities to each of the bodies, coordinating issues common to all the bodies with the Supreme National Security Council, examining suggestions of the Armed Forces regarding intelligence matters for the purpose of transferring the suggestions to the legislative branch, setting criteria for the work of intelligence agencies, and establishing an intelligence “war rooms” for managing crises and emergency situations. The Ministry of Intelligence was determined to be the central intelligence body charged with setting goals, missions and the strategy of the various intelligence agencies (the website of the Ministry of Intelligence, October 18, 2014).
  • The work of the council was evident, as an example, in the February 2010 operation to capture Abdolmalek Rigi, the leader of the Sunni-Balochi seperatist organization, Jundollah, when the plane he boarded in the UAE, en route to Kyrgyzstan, was forced to land by Iranian authorities. This operation required the coordination between the various intelligence agencies, the armed forces including the IRGC, the Ministry of Intelligence and the Air Force of the Armed Forces (Tasnim, September 21, 2018).
The arrest of Abdolmalek Rigi, the Commander of the Jundollah organization (YJC, August 6, 2020)
The arrest of Abdolmalek Rigi, the Commander of the Jundollah organization
(YJC, August 6, 2020)
  • The Intelligence Organization of the IRGC works in parallel to the Intelligence Protection Organization (سازمان حفاظت اطلاعات سپاه). This organization, established in 1983, also underwent structural changes, similarly to the Intelligence Organization. The Intelligence Protection Organization y works to prevent spying within the IRGC, penetration of the ranks of the organization, and leaking of secret information outside of Iran. The Intelligence Protection Organization is also tasked with protecting senior officials, diplomats, sensitive sites, flights and airports. This Organization is also tasked with political and security monitoring of IRGC members and ensuring their safety. The Organization is currently headed by Mohammad Kazemi, who rarely appears in the media (IranWire.com, April 9, 2019).
Mohammad Kazemi, the Head of the Intelligence Protection Organization of the IRGC (Fars, January 29, 2017)
Mohammad Kazemi, the Head of the Intelligence Protection Organization of the IRGC
(Fars, January 29, 2017)
  • As part of the structural changes carried out within the IRGC in 2009, three units within the Intelligence Protection Organization were merged: the Air Security Unit, tasked with securing planes and airports; the Ansar al-Mahdi Corps , tasked with protecting senior regime officials, except the supreme leader; and the Vali Amr Corps , tasked with the protection of the supreme leader. According to a number of reports, the Vali Amr Corps operates independently, and does now answer to the Organization of Intelligence Protection y (BBC Persian, December 28, 2016).
Central Milestones in the Evolution of the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC
  • Following the Islamic Revolution (1979) and the dismantling of the National Organization for Security and Intelligence (SAVAK), the IRGC was tasked with the collection of intelligence. During this period, the organization focused on collecting intelligence for the benefit of the persecution campaign the regime led against its political opponents, including Mojahedin-e Khalgh, and the Communist Party (Tudeh). The employees of the Intelligence Unit of the IRGC were recruited among the revolutionary youth, and were overseen by directors with experience in clandestine activity against the monarchy (Shahrvand.com, December 8, 2016). At first, the unit operated under the name The Unit of Intelligence and Investigations, and was involved in the recruitment into the ranks of the IRGC and identifying and repressing anti-revolutionary activities. Later, the name was changed to the Intelligence Bureau, and its intelligence and security authorities were expanded (IranWire.com, April 9, 2019).
  • Following the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War (September 1980), and the entry of the IRGC into the battlefield, the organization diverted most of its intelligence resources to the war effort. As a result, the need arose to consolidate the non-war-related intelligence and security activities in the hands of a different body. In 1984, the Ministry of Intelligence was established, and became the central actor in collection of intelligence and thwarting activities against state security. Upon its establishment, most of the resources of the Intelligence Unit of the IRGC were transferred to the new ministry, and the IRGC’s Intelligence Unit became a more operational-tactical one, focusing mostly on gathering military intelligence in support of the war effort (Shahrvand.com, December 8, 2016).
  • The involvement of the IRGC in non-military-related security and intelligence mission was resumed after the war (1988). Starting in the late 1980s, the IRGC required intelligence support for operations of the Qods Force, which was established at the end of the war with Iraq, and in assassination operations of Iranian opposition activists abroad, particularly during the 1990s (Shahrvand.com, December 8, 2016). In light of the transformations in its mission, the IRGC’s intelligence unit came to operate under the name The Intelligence Branch of the General Staff of the IRGC (Mashregh News, May 18, 2019).The Branch enjoyed this growth in prestige and authorities owing to the blow suffered by the Ministry of Intelligence after the exposure of its involvement in the “chain killings” of Iranian intellectuals in the 1990s. This involvement led to the resignation of the Minister of Intelligence Ghorbanali Dorri Najafabadi in 2000, and the purging of the Ministry of “rogue ” The subordination of the Ministry of Intelligence to the reformist president at the time, Mohammad Khatami, increased the resolve of the Supreme Leader Khamenei to bolster the Intelligence Branch of the IRGC, which is not subject to the oversight of the government and legislative branch (Majlis), and assign additional tasks to it, the most important of them, repressing regime opponents (Shahrvand.com, December 8, 2016).
  • In October 2009, the Intelligence Branch was upgraded to the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC, after it had been merged with a number of other intelligence units within the IRGC. Hossein Taeb, who previously served as the commander of the Basij branch of the IRGC, was appointed to head the Organization. The Organization cohered against the backdrop of the protests, which erupted in the summer of 2009 across Iran (the Green Movement), due to the perceived falsification of the presidential elections in June 2009 to the disadvantage of the reformist opposition. The establishment of the Intelligence Organization awarded the supreme leader and the Iranian leadership with a greater ability to control the means of repression and surveillance, which are not subordinate to the government.
  • The diminution of the Ministry of Intelligence was accelerated following the political crisis that erupted between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader Khamenei. In April 2011, the president announced that he will accept the resignation of the Minister of Intelligence, Hayder Moslehi. Shortly afterwards, Khamanei issued an extraordinary statement, in which he expressed support for the minister of intelligence, and ordered him to assume his position again. The disagreements between the president and the supreme leader quickly turned into a major political crisis within the leadership of the regime and further reinforced Khamenei’s desire to bolster the standing of the IRGC, which is directly subordinate to him.
  • In May 2019, the Intelligence Organization was merged with the Strategic Intelligence Branch of the IRGC. Hossein Taeb remained at the helm of the Organization. Hossein Mohaqeq, who previously served as the head of the Branch for Strategic Intelligence, was appointed as Taeb’s deputy, replacing Hossein Nejat, who served as the deputy head of the Organization since December 2016. Nejat was appointed as the head of the Branch on Cultural and Societal Affairs within the IRGC (Tasnim, May 18, 2019; DW, May 18, 2019). During the ceremony marking the new appointments, the Commander of the IRGC, Hossein Salami, declared that Iran is waging a total intelligence war with the United States and the “front of the enemies of the revolution and the Islamic Republic.” This total war includes psychological warfare, cyber operations, military operations and public diplomacy. He asserted that it is possible to defeat the enemy in this war. He remarked that the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC is tasked with identifying the threats facing Iran, and not neglect for a single moment the analysis of the strategy of the United States. Salami added that the Intelligence Organization will now place a particular emphasis on the United States and will expand its activities abroad as well (Tasnim, May 18, 2019).
The commander of the IRGC (left) alongside Hassan Mohaqeq, the Deputy Head of the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC (Tasnim, May 18, 2019)
  • The organizational changes in the IRGC’s intelligence took place against the backdrop of the intensifying conflict between Iran and the United States due to the May 2018 decision of President Donald Trump to withdraw from the nuclear accord (JCPOA) and adopt the “maximum pressure” strategy against Iran. In addition, the structural changes occurred after the announcement of the United States to add the IRGC to the list of designated foreign terrorist organizations of the U.S. State Department starting April 15, 2019. The growing standing of Taeb at the helm of the upgraded Organization is seen as another indication for the determination of the regime to enhance the response to the growing challenges at home and abroad, and intensify internal repression due to concerns about the resumption of popular protests in response to the worsening economic crisis. Following the merger of the Intelligence Organization with the Branch of Strategic Intelligence, the newspaper Jahan assessed that the structural changes are intended to boost the capacities of the IRGC and its ability to operate in the total intelligence campaign against the United States, and to provide a better response to the threats originating in “hostile intelligence agencies” and the “regional and supra-regional intelligence networks” operated by them (Jahan News, May 19, 2019).
  • In November 2019, the Deputy Commander of the IRGC, Ali Fadavi, addressed the expansion of the missions of the Intelligence Organization in light of the protests across the country and escalating tensions between Iran and the United State and its allies. Fadavi accused the United States, France, Britain, Germany and Saudi Arabia of being involved in the protest that erupted across Iran in November 2019 (“the fuel protests”), and remarked that the intelligence of the IRGC is responsible for carrying out tasks on behalf of the IRGC, and is serving as the law enforcement arm of the Judiciary (Mashregh News, November 24, 2019).
  • The upgrade in the standing of the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC and expansion of its missions should be seen as part of an overall trend of increasing clout of the IRGC, which currently plays a significant role in Iran’s political system and economy. The appointment of Mohammad-Ali Jafari as the Commander of the IRGC in 2007 marked an important step in increasing the involvement of the organization in politics. In a speech Jaafari made in September 2007, he stressed that the IRGC is not a uni-dimensional military organization, and that its goal is to preserve the Revolution and its accomplishments against enemies as home. Jaafari defined the IRGC as an organization that is not “purely military” but also “political and ideological” (Hamshahri, September 29, 2007).

MESOPOTAMIA NEW : IRANIAN NUCLEAR UNDERGROUND

October 28, 2020

Iran Is Building an Underground Nuclear Facility, UN Watchdog Says

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran is building an underground nuclear facility, the agency’s head told the Associated Press. Satellite images released today show that Iran has begun construction (AP) at its Natanz nuclear facility, which was damaged in July by an explosion that Iran claimed was sabotage. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said that Iran is also stockpiling low-enriched uranium, though it does not appear to have enough to make a nuclear weapon.

The move comes amid heightened tensions (NYT) between Iran and the United States, including over Iran’s nuclear activities. The Donald J. Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement more than two years ago and has ratcheted up sanctions on the country. Since then, Iran has increased both its stockpile and purity of enriched uranium, though it allows access for IAEA inspectors.

Analysis
“Iran is determined to develop a sophisticated nuclear apparatus and advanced centrifuges are the core of such a program. Iranian officials have repeatedly said the nuclear program is for civilian energy purposes only, but U.S. officials suspect the country is developing a military capability,” CFR’s Ray Takeyh writes.

“The United States should start by negotiating a de-escalatory agreement that contains Iran’s nuclear program and lowers regional tensions. But it should then work both to negotiate a follow-on to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and to tackle more fundamental regional disagreements,” Elisa Catalano Ewers, Ilan Goldenberg, and Kaleigh Thomas write for Foreign Affairs.

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS BACKGROUND : IRAN INTERFERING IN U.S. ELECTION

 

Bottom Line Up Front: 28 Oct 2020 – TEHRAN FAVORS JOE BIDEN !

  • The Iranian government is using cyber operations to try to deny President Trump re-election.
  • Iran’s attempts to influence U.S. voters demonstrate a more sophisticated understanding of U.S. politics than Iran has previously displayed.
  • Tehran’s leaders have decided against escalation in the Middle East, judging that doing so could increase U.S. support for President Trump.
  • The U.S. election system itself is secure from Iran’s attacks, but the Trump administration’s responses to Iran’s meddling will not deter Iran from continuing them.
On October 21, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe stated that U.S. intelligence had determined that Iran attempted to interfere in the November 2020 U.S. election by sending spoofed email messages to U.S. voters in several states. According to Ratcliffe, Iran, as well as Russia, had also succeeded in obtaining some publicly available U.S. voter registration information. The Iranian operation outlined by Ratcliffe consisted primarily of emails, purporting to emanate from a U.S. right-wing group, the Proud Boys, physically threatening the targeted voters unless they vote for President Trump. The Iranian cyber operation sought to trigger a political backlash against President Trump by associating his campaign with domestic fringe groups and voter intimidation efforts. The operation seemed to represent a level of sophistication in Tehran’s understanding of U.S politics that Iran has not previously demonstrated. In exposing the Iranian operations, U.S officials sought to reassure the public that U.S. intelligence could quickly uncover and thwart foreign election interference attempts, including by more capable cyber adversaries such as Russia. U.S. officials stressed that neither Iran nor Russia would be able to infiltrate U.S. election systems by altering voter rolls, votes cast, or vote tabulations.

 

Tehran’s intent in interfering in the U.S. vote is clear – to try to oust President Trump in order to relieve the effects of the Administration’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran. In contrast to President Trump, former Vice President Joseph Biden has stated that, if elected, he will change Iran policy by seeking to re-enter the 2015 multilateral Iran nuclear deal that entailed significant easing of U.S. economic sanctions. Iran also seeks to avenge the Trump administration’s strike that killed IRGC-Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani in January.  Iran also shares the overall goals of Russia in seeking to sew political dissension inside the United States and weaken U.S. global influence, more generally.

Iran’s cyber interference in the U.S. election reflects a calculation by Tehran that alternative policies would not necessarily yield desired results. Many experts expected that Iran might conduct armed operations in the region designed to contradict President Trump’s assertions that his administration has improved stability and security in the region. Such actions could have included a repeat of Iran’s 2019 missile attack on Saudi oil installations and attacks on ships in the Persian Gulf, or attacks by Iranian allies and proxies such as the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen or Iraqi Shia militias. However, a new escalation by Iran risks provoking a U.S. military response that might – contrary to Tehran’s wishes – cause the American public to rally around the incumbent. This prevailing assessment by Tehran appears to account for the relative quiescence of Iran’s forces and regional allies during in the past several months, although Iran’s allies in Iraq have kept up their steady stream of attacks on facilities that host U.S. forces. At the same time, Iran’s leaders have assessed that engaging the Administration in new nuclear negotiations would boost President Trump’s re-election prospects. Iran’s leaders have refused talks unless and until the Administration abandons its maximum pressure sanctions policy. Iran undoubtedly knows that President Trump would be unlikely to undertake such softening of his Iran policy because it is designed to appear as tough on Iran’s anti-U.S. regime as possible.

Although U.S. election systems are apparently secure, the U.S. responses to Tehran’ cyber operations are unlikely to force Iran to discontinue its efforts. On October 22, the Treasury Department sanctioned Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the IRGC-Qods Force, and three Iranian institutes and media outlets for ‘us[ing] false narratives and other misleading content to attempt to influence U.S. elections.’ However, the penalties levied on these organizations involve blocking their U.S.-based assets and sanctioning foreign banks that conduct transactions with them. These Iranian organizations are not known to have any U.S. assets or to transact any business with U.S. firms or major international banks, rendering the U.S. penalties largely moot. The U.S. response demonstrates the limitations of relying on U.S. sanctions against Iran and will almost certainly fail to deter Tehran from continuing its efforts to foster President Trump’s defeat on November 3.

 

 

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : IRAN LEADERSHIP – HOPING FOR JOE BIDEN

Iran’s nuclear work goes forward at 2 covert sites – opposition

Oct 25, 2020 @  DEBKA FILES ISRAEL – Nuclear work continued surreptitiously at two undisclosed nuclear weapons development sites operated by the Revolutionary Guards after Iran signed a nuclear accord (JCPOA) with six world powers in 2015. Both sites are operated by the Revolutionary Guards. The revelations came from the US office of National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in a special briefing this week.

weiterlesen / click to continue

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS PROTEST : German-Iranian architect arrested in Tehran: rights group

25 Oct 2020 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — A German-Iranian woman has been reportedly been arrested in Iran and is being held in solitary confinement in Tehran’s Evin’s prison.

Nahid Taghavi, 66, was arrested at her Tehran apartment on October 16, according to a statement by the Germany-based International Society for Human Rights (IGFM). The Iran-born architect, who has held German citizenship since 2003, had her passport and German identity card confiscated and is being used as a “political bargaining chip,” according to the organisation.

weiterlesen / click to continue

« neuere Artikel / next articles   ältere Artikel / previous articles »