Wednesday, February 15, 2017

15-Feb-17: Things Iran is good at

Genuflecting: The caption to this Iranian news photo is: "Minister
of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi 
and the Swedish Minister of European Union Affairs and Trade Ann Linde
seen in this Feb 11 photo meeting in Tehran" [Image Source]
There are some striking photos in the news today and yesterday, showing Swedish political leaders - among them, self-avowed feminists - bowing their heads to men, the females donning hijabs and head scarves and generally conveying a sense of deep deference to the Islamist regime ruling Iran with an iron fist - a posture rarely seen in international affairs or among people espousing the views that the Swedes claim to hold dear.

Sweden's prime minister Stefan Löfven led the visiting delegation, and has come under angry criticism from opposition politicians and female rights among others.
“This is disastrous for what is being called a feminist foreign policy,” says Jan Bjorklund of the Liberal Party. According to him, the Swedish government should have demanded not to make the hijab compulsory for the female members of the delegation. And if Iran did not agree to that, then the trade agreements should have been signed in Sweden or a third country. The Swedish government calls itself the “first feminist government”, but Linde has defended her decision to wear the hijab in Iran, saying that the only other option would be to send an all-male delegation. Swedish companies have been lining up to gain access to Iran’s lucrative market after the lifting of international sanctions... ["Sweden defends officials wearing headscarves in Iran", Tehran Times, February 14, 2017]
The Swedish delegation to Iran has had a significant impact outside
Iran. The caption reads: "Sweden's "first feminist government" has been
called hypocritical for wearing the hijab in Tehran"
[Image Source: Screen grab from a Sydney Morning Herald video]
But Löfven would have been heartened by the local reception his team got. They were
greeted with praise from Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who hailed the positive relationship between the two countries during a meeting with the Swedish premier in Tehran. "America and many European powers have played a role in causing traumatic events in Syria and Iraq, and the people of the region are aware of this interference and are rightly skeptical," Khamenei was quoted as saying by Iranian television... [Löfven] also met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani... who hailed the "moderation" in Sweden's foreign policy, ["Iran hails relations with Sweden during prime minister's visit to Tehran", DW (German State Radio), February 11, 2017]
The Swedes must have had the case of Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali on their minds while in Tehran. He's an academic physician born in Iran who has taught at universities in Belgium, Italy and Sweden. His field is disaster medicine and he traveled to Iran in April 2016 to take part in a professional conference. With no warning and without any warrant, Iranian Ministry of Intelligence officials arrested him there and charged him with “collaboration with enemy states”. The New York Times reported earlier this week [click] that he is being held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison and faces the death penalty. 

An image from last Saturday in Tehran that has already gone massively
viral: Swedish "feminist" government officials' walk of shame
Djalali's wife and two children live in Stockholm so the case has a higher profile there than in the countries where most of this blog's readers live. His wife is surely wondering what, if anything, those Swedish feminists did that was helpful to his cause during their well-publicized visit with the Mullahs. We were unable to find any reference to it in the media reports of the "feminist: visit to Iran, but we may have missed it.

For the past year, there's been a serious rush of vendor delegations from Europe, Asia and North America visiting, and showing extreme deference to, the Iranian regime along with an impressive flow of cross-border business deals with the Iranians [click here for a Google search results listing]. No doubt that this is a happy time for the people in charge of Iran.

But beyond the embarrassed faces and unmistakable humiliation of the visitors on show, there are significantly more disturbing next-moves emanating from the Iranian regime as flagged, for instance, yesterday by the Washington Times:
Iran’s hard-line Islamic regime has escalated its overseas terrorist operations, establishing a network of over a dozen internal training camps for foreign fighters, the regime’s largest resistance group said at a press conference on Tuesday in Washington. The National Council of Resistance of Iran issued its intelligence report specifying the camps’ locations and the countries represented... The council’s largest member is the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK). It boasts an extensive spy network inside the mullah-run government, including the all-powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its special forces wing, the Quds force, and has a track record of exposing clandestine parts of the Iranian national security apparatus.
The Quds force played a significant role in the Iraq War by training Iraqi Shiites on how to make bombs that killed scores of American troops. The Quds force is now directing thousands of Iraqi Shiite militia members in Iraq, some of whom have gone to Syria to fight for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The U.S. calls Iran the world’s No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism. However, neither the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps nor the Quds force is on the State Department’s list of designated terrorist organizations. The Treasury Department in 2007 designated the Quds force as a material supporter of terrorism, but National Council of Resistance of Iran officials say the U.S. government should go much further.
“The Iranian resistance has emphasized on countless occasions that the source and the epicenter of terrorism, fundamentalism and regional meddling is the fundamentalist regime ruling Iran,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the council’s Washington office. [Iran growing network to train foreign terrorists, dissident group says”, Rowan Scarborough in Washington Times, February 14, 2017]
The Washington Times report goes on:
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has approved a directorate inside the Quds force “in order to expand its training of foreign mercenaries as part of the regime’s strategy to step up its meddling abroad, including in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Afghanistan and elsewhere.” “The camps have been divided based on the nationality of the trainees and the type of training,” the council said. “Both terrorist training and also military training for militias are provided, enabling them to better infiltrate and advance the regime’s regional objectives.”
What skills can aspiring jihadists acquire under the Iranian auspices?
The training is divided into two types of courses; a crash-course of 45 days for troops that will be used to fight in paramilitary forces like the IRGC’s Basij force or a full training course which lasts from between 9 and 12 months... The full training course has many different sections: Heavy weaponry; Missile Launches; Marine Training; Theoretical Training (how to spend terror rhetoric); Survival Training; Commando Training; Paratrooper Training; Security Training... The report makes clear that the IRGC is in control of these terror training camps, in an attempt to export terrorism, destabilise other countries and take control in those countries. ["IRAN’S  IRGC’S TERROR TRAINING CAMPS REVEALED", Iran News Update,., February 15, 2017]
Here's something else the Iranians know to do well: fomenting yet more mischief in Gaza. It stems from the choice of a seasoned murdering terrorist to become the new head of Hamas in Gaza [we analyzed this here: "13-Feb-17: Another Shalit Deal milestone: Four terms of life imprisonment but this murdering jihadist now heads Hamas in Gaza"]
The implication of the selection means that Iran has retaken the reins in Gaza after a long hiatus during which Egypt, on one hand, and Turkey and Qatar, on the other, tried to fill the vacuum. Iran chose to take back the reins in Gaza because of the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.  Iran fears that in the upcoming talks in Washington, President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu will discuss an aggressive option vis-à-vis Iran. It is doubtful if any “elections” were held in Gaza to choose Sinwar. The result is due to pressure by Hamas’ military wing on the political wing, and the announcement’s timing is Iran’s way of conveying a message before the Trump-Netanyahu talks. If that’s the case, don’t expect that Sinwar’s “election” foretells a new escalation from Gaza against Israel. Just the opposite, Iran will restrain Hamas in order to keep the Gaza front available for Iran’s own needs, and Iran’s alone. ["Iran Grabs the Reins in Gaza", Pinhas Inbari, JCPA, February 14, 2017]
Velayati on Aljazeera this past week [Image Source]
In the interests of fairness, we will point out that Iran does have its fans, and the Iranians don't necessarily see themselves as being the bad guys or in any great trouble. You can get a sense of that from published pieces like "World owes Iran debt of gratitude for sacrifices in fight against terror" [PressTV, February 13, 2017] and "Lavrov: Exclusion of Iran from anti-terror coalition is a mistake" [Tehran Times, February 12, 2017].

Also: Iran doesn't see any reason to discontinue its rapid development of long-range offensive missiles [reviewed here two weeks ago]. As Ali Akbar Velayati (a former Iranian foreign minister and today Supreme Leader Khamenei's Advisor on International Affairs) said three days ago in an Al-Jazeera television interview [translated into English by MEMRI here]:
"If America imagines that threats and sanctions will lead Iran to stop its missile program, this is a misconception, a mere fantasy... America is not strong enough to bring us to our knees... Mr. Trump is fickle and changes his policies every other day... Running a country like America is not an easy thing. All of Trump's predecessors faced similar problems. The most important things is that he has failed, especially with us in Iran. Mr. Trump does not possess special qualifications that would enable him to claim that he wants to take over the world. His policies are immature and have led him to a confrontation with the whole world"
This sounds like bluster - something the Iranians are also good at - but it's more serious than customary bluster given the threats that have emanated from Iranian leaders at various points since the JCPOA, the infamous unsigned "agreement" that has brought such unearned benefits to Iran, came into effect. For instance, this comment which we quoted in an earlier post ["28-Jun-16: Is Iran now threatening more nuclear plotting?"]
Discussing what president Obama has called snapback and "real consequences"] "Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said the country will be able to “immediately” reverse its commitments under a final nuclear deal with world powers if it finds out that the other side has breached commitments under the [JCPOA]... Whenever Iran feels the other side has not honored its commitments, the “reversibility” of Tehran’s nuclear program will happen immediately, he said." [Tasnim News Agency, Iran, July 28, 2015]
We think they're good at that sort of thing too.

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