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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Time to take advantage of cracks in Tehran’s armor – opinion

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There’s nothing new about the powers-that-be in Tehran speaking out of both sides of their mouths, particularly when switching from Farsi to other languages. The only “novelty” was the inauguration on Tuesday – and swearing-in before the Majlis on Thursday – of Ebraim Raisi as Iran’s eighth president, replacing Hassan Rouhani in the role that he’s held since 2013.

Though it remains to be seen how Raisi “The Butcher” handles the predicament currently confronting the Islamic Republic, it’s safe to say that one way in which he’ll toe the ayatollahs’ line is to rule with an iron fist while lying about it for international consumption.

Indeed, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s hand-picked victor in the staged June 18 “election,” Raisi is certain to hit the ground running where attempting to quash the countrywide protests that have been plaguing his country for the past few weeks is concerned.

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At this juncture, however, the Iranian people are so fed up with their plight at the hands of the regime that they’re no longer willing to be fed the propaganda. They want actual sustenance in the form of food on the table and water in the tap, both of which are running as scarce as electricity.

The fact that their slogans at mass demonstrations include calls for Khamenei’s death means that they no longer fear the torturous punishment that befalls Iranian dissidents. Their denunciations of the government’s funding of Palestinian terrorism, let alone its bankrolling ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads, indicates that they have become emboldened by the sense that they have nothing left to lose

THE TROUBLE is that what they have to gain could easily be thwarted by fantasists in Washington. Yes, the administration of US President Joe Biden incredibly refuses to abandon its notion that a return to some form of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 countries from which former president Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 – is the way to curb the threat from Tehran.

Team Biden’s ongoing delusion is that an agreement with the mullah-led regime will guarantee greater “transparency” of its uranium enrichment and centrifuge-spinning activities, and hence, a better ability to keep it in check. Raisi undoubtedly has had a few good guffaws over that one.

Even he knows that trove of documents seized by the Mossad from a warehouse in Tehran three years ago provided the White House with concrete proof of Iran’s blatant violation of the JCPOA, spurring Trump to exit from it. And in case he hadn’t been cognizant of the connection, Rouhani stated it outright in his last speech to his cabinet ministers on Monday night.

Raisi, like Rouhani, is also aware that the above catalyzed the signing last summer of the Abraham Accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, with other Arab neighbors following suit. Not only were these countries interested in aligning themselves with the tough sheriffs in town – Trump and then-Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu – but had as much of an interest as the “Great Satan” and “Small Satan” in keeping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and in arming terrorists in their midst.

With new players in Washington and Jerusalem, Raisi has his work cut out for him. He needs to exert brute force on a rampaging public and flex his muscles at the West just enough to be wooed to Vienna, but not overplay his hand to the point that even liberal leaders open to sanctions-relief begin to change their minds.

THIS BRINGS us to Israel. During a briefing in Jerusalem on Wednesday with ambassadors of UN Security Council member states, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz stated unequivocally that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) air force was behind “dozens of terror attacks in the region employing UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] and missiles.”

He also named Saeed Ara Jani, head of the IRCG’s UAV command, as “the man directly responsible for the launch of suicide UAVs.” Gantz was referring, among others, to that used in the July 29 attack on the Israel-managed Mercer Street oil tanker in the Arabian Sea, which left a Romanian captain and British security officer dead.

“This is an international crime,” said Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who took part in the meeting. “[So], what is the international community going to do about it? Does international law still exist? Does the world have the ability and the will to enforce it? If the answer is yes, the world needs to act now.” Otherwise, he added, “it will be every man for himself.”

Iran is counting on that, and with good reason – particularly in view of the decision by the European Union to send senior diplomat Enrique Mora to Raisi’s swearing-in ceremony. And since the new president announced in his inauguration address on Tuesday that he “will certainly seek to lift sanctions,” Mora’s attendance means that the EU is just as hot to trot back to the JCPOA as it’s always been, regardless of minor issues like IRGC drone attacks on commercial vessels.

SPEAKING OF which, three days before the maritime assault in question – and five before the hijacking of the Panama-flagged tanker, Asphalt Princess, near the Strait of Hormuz – IRGC Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami declared, “No people can attain grace and power without jihad, war and resistance, and if the enemies are not resisted, society’s honor, security and power are lost.”

The occasion of his oratory was the 33rd anniversary of Operation Mersad, the last major battle at the end of the Iran-Iraq war, which resulted in a slam-dunk victory by Iranian forces against the opposition group Mujahideen Khalq.

Salami’s July 26 diatribe, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), conveyed the message that “the entire Muslim world has now become an arena of jihad, and the arrogant [Americans] are fleeing.”

According to MEMRI, he went on to say, “Lebanon and Hezbollah now stand strong and capable against the Zionists, and every time the enemy wants to make a move, Hezbollah nips it in the bud. America has brought the nations of the world nothing but poverty, backwardness and the looting of their wealth. America has lost its credibility in Iran, and we sacrifice our lives for the Iranian nation.”

Then, he hit the relevant crux of the matter.

“Now that the enemies have all realized that they are unable to defeat the Iranian nation in bitter warfare,” he said, “they have hatched other plots, such as imposing economic sanctions… From the first day of the [Islamic] Revolution, our enemies, chief among them America, showed their hostility towards us with all kinds of plots, assassinations, sanctions and threats, but our nation never stopped; [on the contrary, it] accelerated its pace.”

These foes, he announced, “must know that the Iranian nation will not give up Islam and the revolution because of power outages or a water shortage… The people of Iran have shown these days that they are loyal to the ideals of Islam and of the revolution.”

Salami seemed not to grasp that footage of those very people shouting to be released from the chains of the corrupt, repressive regime’s bondage has managed to make its way to Twitter for everyone to see and many to champion.

Whether or not his social-media adviser failed to fill him in on the discrepancy between his words and goings-on in the street below, however, he was able to claim with no small amount of justification: “Today, we are dictating the terms under which a superpower like America will return to the nuclear deal, and this indicates the [extent of] the authority wielded by Islamic Iran.”

Biden and his European cohorts must not prove him right. The time has come to take advantage of the cracks in the regime’s armor. Khamenei, Raisi and Salami should be put on notice that it is not they, but rather their victims, who warrant bolstering.

Since that’s not likely to happen in the immediate future, Israel will have to go it alone. Let’s hope that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is up to the task.

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