Friday, 11 May 2018

REVEALED: Nothing to do with nukes: it's all about regime change

Leaked Doc Reveals White House Planning "Regime Change" In Iran

10 May, 2018

It appears Rudy Giuliani wasn't joking.

Just a few days after the former NYC mayor and latest member of President Trump's unexpectedly let it slip that "we got a president who is tough, who does not listen to the people who are naysayers, and a president who is committed to regime change [in Iran]", the Washington Free Beacon has obtained a three-page white paper being circulated among National Security Council officials with drafted plans to spark regime change in Iran, following the US exit from the Obama-era nuclear deal and the re-imposition of tough sanctions aimed at toppling the Iranian regime. 

The plan, authored by the Security Studies Group, or SSG, a national security think-tank that has close ties to senior White House national security officials, including - who else - National Security Adviser John Bolton, seeks to reshape longstanding American foreign policy toward Iran by emphasizing an explicit policy of regime change, something the Obama administration opposed when popular protests gripped Iran in 2009, writes the Free Beacon, which obtained a leaked copy of the circulating plans.
The regime change plan seeks to fundamentally shift U.S. policy towards Iran and has found a receptive audience in the Trump administration, which has been moving in this direction since Bolton—a longtime and vocal supporter of regime change—entered the White House.
It deemphasizes U.S military intervention, instead focusing on a series of moves to embolden an Iranian population that has increasingly grown angry at the ruling regime for its heavy investments in military adventurism across the region. -Free Beacon

For now - at least - overthrowing the Iran government, with its extensive and close ties to the Kremlin, is not official US policy; SSG president Jim Hanson told the Free Beacon that the Trump administration does not want to engage in direct military intervention in Iran - and is instead focusing on other methods of ridding Iran of its "hardline ruling regime." 

"The Trump administration has no desire to roll tanks in an effort to directly topple the Iranian regime," Hanson said. "But they would be much happier dealing with a post-Mullah government. That is the most likely path to a nuclear weapons-free and less dangerous Iran."

That will likely change, however.
One source close to the White House who has previewed the plan told the Free Beacon that the nuclear deal, also known as the JCPOA, solidified the Iranian regime's grip on power and intentionally prevented the United States from fomenting regime change
"The JCPOA purposefully destroyed the carefully created global consensus against the Islamic Republic," said the source, who would only speak to the Free Beacon on background about the sensitive issue. "Prior to that, everyone understood the dangers of playing footsie with the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism. It's now Trump, Bolton, and [Mike] Pompeo's job to put this consensus back in place."

The source tells the Beacon that Bolton is "acutely aware of the danger the Iranian regime poses to the region." 

"John is someone who understands the danger of Iran viscerally, and knows that you're never going to fundamentally change its behavior—and the threats against Israel and the Saudis especially—until that revolutionary regime is gone," the source said, adding that "nothing's off the table right now if Israel is attacked."

That said, Bolton is confident that an Iranian regime change will occur in the next six months:

John Bolton - We Will Be Celebrating in Tehran Before 2019

>You can't say you weren't warned

A second source tells The Beacon that the Trump administration recognizes that the "chief impediment to the region is Iran's tyrannical regime." 

"The problem is not the Iran nuclear deal it's the Iranian regime," said the source. "Team Bolton has spent years creating Plans B, C, and D for dealing with that problem. President Trump hired him knowing all of that. The administration will now start aggressively moving to deal with the root cause of chaos and violence in the region in a clear-eyed way."
Regional sources who have spoken to SSG "tell us that Iranian social media is more outraged about internal oppression, such as the recent restrictions on Telegram, than about supporting or opposing the nuclear program. Iranian regime oppression of its ethnic and religious minorities has created the conditions for an effective campaign designed to splinter the Iranian state into component parts," the group states. -Free Beacon

"More than one third of Iran's population is minority groups, many of whom already seek independence," the paper explains. "U.S. support for these independence movements, both overt and covert, could force the regime to focus attention on them and limit its ability to conduct other malign activities." 
Without a regime change, the United States will continue face threats from Iranian forces stationed throughout the region, including in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon.
"The probability the current Iranian theocracy will stop its nuclear program willingly or even under significant pressure is low," the plan states. "Absent a change in government within Iran, America will face a choice between accepting a nuclear-armed Iran or acting to destroy as much of this capability as possible."
That said, President Trump made clear earlier in the week that US officials must make efforts to differentiate between the people of Iran and its ruling regime.

"Any public discussion of these options, and any messaging about the Iranian regime in general, should make a bright line distinction between the theocratic regime along with its organs of oppression and the general populace," according to the plan. "We must constantly reinforce our support for removing the iron sandal from the necks of the people to allow them the freedom they deserve."

US Moves To Cut Off Iran From Global Economy

Six years after SWIFT cut ties with Iranian banks during the last round of Western sanctions on the Persian nation, on Thursday afternoon the U.S. took another step toward cutting Iran off from the global economy when the US Treasury announced it was levying sanctions on a financing network and accusing the country’s central bank of helping funnel U.S. dollars to the blacklisted elite military unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard known as the Quds Force, the WSJ reported.

Acting together with the United Arab Emirates, the US Treasury said that it had sanctioned six individuals and three "front companies engaged in a large-scale currency exchange network that has procured and transferred hundreds of millions" of dollars to Iran's elite military force; overnight Israel’s government blamed the the same Quds Force for rocket attacks from Syria Wednesday night, an action that triggered massive retaliatory strikes by Israel’s military against Iranian targets in Syria, escalating the risk of a wider regional war.

In Washington, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin accused "the Iranian regime and its Central Bank" of misusing banking access in the UAE to acquire US dollars to fund the IRGC-QF's "malign activities, and to arm its "regional proxy groups." The new sanctions also ban US individuals and entities from doing business with the currency network.

Mnuchin alleged that the sanctioned entities had concealed the acquisition of funds and transfers: "We are intent on cutting off IRGC revenue streams wherever their source and whatever their destination."

Countries around the world must be vigilant against Iran’s efforts to exploit their financial institutions to exchange currency and fund nefarious actions of the IRGC-QF and the world’s largest state sponsor of terror,” Mnuchin also said.
Specifically, the Treasury accused an Iranian company, Jenah Aras Kish, of being a front for the Quds Force, and said the firm received oil revenues from Central Bank of Iran accounts and gave that money to couriers who exchanged it for millions of U.S. dollar notes in the U.A.E. through two Iranian firms, Khedmati & Co. and Rashed Exchange.
That cash was then taken back to the Quds Force and distributed to Iran’s regional proxies, the U.S. said. To hide the activities from U.A.E. authorities, the Treasury Department said the network used forged documents.
Washington has repeatedly accused the Iran Revolutionary Guard of backing terrorist groups and militias affiliated with Iran, including in Lebanon and Syria where missile warfare involving Israel and allegedly Al Quds unfolded on Thursday.

In February 2015, Reuters reported that at least $1 billion in cash had been smuggled into Iran despite US and other sanctions. In that case, the cash passed through money changers and front companies in Dubai, in the UAE, and Iraq. As we further reported in December 2015, the smuggling ring used gold as the key commodity used to bypass borders and monetary barriers, as well as middlemen in Turkey and the UAE where the chain of accountability led to the very top echelons of government in both nations.

The Treasury also accused Iran's central bank of being "complicit" in supplying the IRGC. 
The Central Bank of Iran is complicit with the Quds Force for use by its proxies—that should send a very powerful message,” Sigal Mandelker, Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in an interview. “We’re going to use all of our authorities to disrupt these networks.”
Thursday's actions foreshadow the return of U.S. economic penalties as Washington reimposes sanctions that had been lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear agreement. Iran’s central bank wasn’t formally sanctioned in Thursday’s actions, but will be in the coming months, at which point the entire nations will once again be blacklisted by SWIFT, making USD-based international transactions impossible.

And while Thursday’s action targets only one network, it is a model of how the administration plans to implement a complete ban on dealings with the Central Bank of Iran and dollar transactions coming due in the months ahead.
Incidentally, this time around, SWIFT may not need to even get involved. “There are secondary sanctions consequences for doing business with these entities,” said the Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Sigal Mandelker, referring to the currency-exchange network. Secondary sanctions are actions against companies that interact with blacklisted entities.

Because of Trump’s decision to reimpose broad U.S. sanctions, the use of U.S. dollar banknotes by Iran is banned after August, “and you can expect that we’re going to take that authority very seriously,” she said. “Foreign financial institutions, governments all over the world need to be on high alert to make sure that they understand the pattern and practice that these networks use to try to gain access to the USD.”

* * *
Meanwhile, western governments and companies - many of whom disagreed with Trump's withdrawing from the nuclear deal, have been trying to figure out how aggressively Washington plans to enforce its new sanctions regime against Iran, "wary of Treasury sanctioning European bank and firms, for example, if they continue to do business with Iran beyond deadlines for compliance approaching over the next six months."

For now, European officials have said they plan to stay in the nuclear deal with Iran, which may not only give license to their companies to maintain ties to Iran, but also may be setting up a diplomatic rift between the U.S. and its closest allies.
However, if and when the US imposes a few multi-billion fines on European banks, any willingness the EU has to bypass Trump's sanctions will promptly evaporate. Furthermore, Europe "doesn’t have the power to take important decisions," said Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament’s nation security and foreign policy committee. The "Europeans, by sanctioning Iran, seek to dance in front of the Americans."

As a result, it's only a matter of time before Iran finds itself locked out financially from the world.

Or rather the Western world, because as the US and Europe fade away as key partners for Iran, China is about to step in again.

As Bloomberg reported today, "to develop its $430 billion economy, Iran is being forced to rely on political allies in the east. Trade with China has more than doubled since 2006, to $28 billion. The biggest chunk of Iran’s oil exports go to China, about $11 billion a year at current prices."

China is “already the winner,’’ Dina Esfandiary, a fellow at the Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College in London, told Bloomberg. "Iran has slowly abandoned the idea of being open to the West. The Chinese have been in Iran for the past 30 years. They have the contacts, the guys on the ground, the links to the local banks.’"

And they’re more willing to defy U.S. pressure as Trump slaps sanctions back on.
In short, the more Trump pushes Iran - and the broader middle-eastern region - to comply with the will of Israel and Saudi Arabia, the closer Iran will get with China whose influence in the middle-east, where it is ideologically aligned with Russia, will only grow...

TheUS-Israeli Plan To Assassinate Iran's Elite Revolutionary GuardCommander

The United States gave Israel the green light to assassinate Iran's top military officer, Iranian Revolutionary Guards al-Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, according to a widely circulated report in Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida published earlier this year. News of the agreement, first published in Arabic in January, is now resurfacing in both Russian and Middle East regional media the day after Syria and Israel engaged in a massive overnight exchange of fire in what constitutes the most sustained Israeli attack on Syria in decades

In the Arab world Al-Jarida is generally considered to be a platform through which Israel circulates news and its perspective to neighboring countries in the region. The newspaper first published report based on an Israeli government source who was cited as saying, "there is an American-Israeli agreement" that Soleimani is a "threat to the two countries' interests in the region"—which reportedly led to a Washington green-light for the Israelis to assassinate him. 

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani (left), photographed in Iraq in 2015. Image source: Reuters via Al Monitor

General Soleimani, as leader of Iran's most elite force, also coordinates military activity between the Islamic Republic and Syria, Iraq, Hezbollah, and Hamas - a position he's filled since 1998 - and as Quds Force commander reports directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, and oversees Iran's covert operations in foreign countries. 

Israeli officials initially "leaked" the story after days of internal Iranian anti-government protests gridlocked the country in late December and early January, bringing international media attention and discussions in Tel Aviv and Washington of a potential coup attempt in the works. Whether or not there actually ever was such a green-light given by the American side, Al-Jarida report ultimately served the purpose of a semi-official threat issued through the media by the Israelis. 

The threat of assassinating Iran's most elite military commander has taken on new importance and urgency after Israel laid official blame on Gen. Soleimani on Thursday, alleging that he personally ordered a rocket attack against Israeli bases on the Golan Heights from within Syria, which triggered a massive escalation overnight. "It was ordered and commanded by Qassem Soleimani and it has not achieved its purpose," Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-General Jonathan Conricus claimed, as cited by Reuters.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect to the report, and worth revisiting, is the revelation that Israel was supposedly "on the verge" of killing Soleimani three years ago in an operation near Damascus; however, the Obama administration was said to have warned the Iranians of the impending Israeli plot which according to Israeli sources was thwarted because of US intervention, resulting in "a sharp disagreement between the Israeli and American security and intelligence apparatuses regarding the issue."

But the Trump administration now appears to be quite at home with a "gloves off" approach as this week more evidence emerged suggesting the White House is now eyeing regime change in Tehran. As we previously reported, the Washington Free Beacon has obtained a three-page white paper now being circulated among National Security Council officials with drafted plans to spark regime change in Iran, following the US exit from the Obama-era nuclear deal and the re-imposition of tough sanctions aimed at toppling the Iranian government.

The plan, authored by , including - who else - National Security Adviser John Bolton, seeks to reshape longstanding American foreign policy toward Iran by emphasizing an explicit policy of regime change. 

"The ordinary people of Iran are suffering under economic stagnation, while the regime ships its wealth abroad to fight its expansionist wars and to pad the bank accounts of the Mullahs and the IRGC command," writes the Security Studies Group, or SSG, a national security think-tank that has close ties to senior White House national security officials. "This has provoked noteworthy protests across the country in recent months" it further claims as an argument to push a "regime change" policy.

No doubt, a targeted strike or clandestine assassination attempt on Soleimani is likely now very high on the Israeli agenda and perhaps even the US agenda, especially after this week's military escalation and Israeli claim that the Iranians are firing rockets into Israel (something for which there's currently not a shred of evidence). 
* * *
A recent history of high level Israeli assassinations abroad also suggests such a plan is on the books, as Israeli intelligence has been known to conduct high-risk secretive assassinations in foreign countries over the past years and decades. One notable headline grabbing operation, reportedly by Mossad agents, occurred in 2010 and resulted in the assassination of a top Hamas commander who had checked into a high end Dubai hotel after flying in from Syria.

An eleven man Israeli hit squad had entered the hotel while dressed in tennis gear and carrying tennis rackets, and were later reported to be traveling on fake Irish and French passports. After conducting surveillance the Mossad agents got Hamas' Mahmoud al-Mabhouh to open his hotel room door and quickly suffocated him without arousing suspicion from other hotel guests. By the time the body was discovered, the assassins had flown out of Dubai to various locations around the world and were never seen again. 

And in 2015 a secret document revealed by The Intercept as part of the Edward Snowden leaked NSA archives confirmed that Israeli agents had assassinated a top Syrian general and personal aide to President Assad in 2008 while the general dined at his family home near Tartus, along the Syrian coast. The daring operation involved Israeli naval commandos and snipers targeting Gen. Muhammad Suleiman's house from the waters of the Mediterranean and shooting him in the head and neck. Israel considered him responsible for coordinating weapons and supplies between Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah, as well as overseeing an alleged nascent nuclear development program at Syria’s Al Kibar facility which had previously been bombed by Israeli jets

Six months prior to Syrian General Suleiman's murder, a top Hezbollah officer was killed by a joint CIA-Mossad operation in the heart of Damascus. According to former intelligence officials who confirmed the assassination plot to the Washington Post, a car bomb planted near a Damascus downtown restaurant instantly killed Imad Mughniyah - Hezbollah's international operations chief who was believed to have masterminded several terror attacks targeting Americans. 

Furthermore, Palestinian activists have pointed to a long history of Israeli assassinations of Palestinian, Iranian, and Syrian scientists, engineers, and notable figures living abroad. Most recently a Palestinian engineer was assassinated near his home in Malaysia, which was widely suspected to be the work of a Mossad hit team

So concerning reports that Iran's Qassem Soleimani might be in Mossad's crosshairs, while such a high risk operation against a top Iranian official would be unlikely to succeed, it is certainly not without precedent. 

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