Iran’s Multi-Front War against America and Its Allies

Two days before Thanksgiving, as President Donald Trump was preparing his surprise visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif phoned Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah and met with a delegation from the Taliban. The object of both discussions was to pressure U.S. and its allies: Zarif told the Taliban representatives that Iran wants a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and offered al-Nakhalah Iran’s full support for PIJ’s “valiant resistance” against Israel.

Iran’s decisions to push the Palestinians to fight Israel and to encourage the Taliban are part of a regional policy that seeks to evict the U.S. from the Middle East and stir up trouble for Washington worldwide. This is Tehran’s answer to the “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions that the Trump administration has mounted since pulling the U.S. out of President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal in May 2018.

Iran fought its multi-front war against the U.S. in multiple ways. In the Persian Gulf, it twice struck at foreign oil tankers over the summer, shot down a high-tech U.S. drone in late June, and launched drone and cruise-missile attacks on key Saudi oil facilities in September. It is also seeking to use its terrorist proxies in the Gaza Strip to provoke Israel into a wider regional war. In the fall of 2018, Israel accused Iran of ordering PIJ to attack from Gaza. The Palestinian terrorist group has thousands of missiles and fighters in Gaza, but is smaller than Hamas. Its leadership lives abroad and keeps in close contact with Iran, which supports it even though it’s made up of Palestinian Sunni Muslims. (In general, Iran tends to work with Shiite groups such as Hezbollah.) Israel was concerned throughout the summer of 2019 that PIJ might be trying to push it into a war in Gaza to distract it from Iran’s efforts to gain a permanent foothold in Syria and supply Hezbollah with precision-guided rockets. In response, Israel struck a PIJ commander on November 12, prompting the group to fire over 400 missiles over the Gaza border.

Evidence for how important the Palestinian group is to Iran comes from two phone calls that Zarif made after the November 12 battles. Iran’s Mehr News reported that Zarif congratulated al-Nakhalah on November 17. Then Zarif called again on November 25. Iran’s message was clear: Keep the pressure on Israel.

At the same time, Iran was also looking 1,900 miles away from the Gaza Strip, to Afghanistan. In the 1990s, Iran and the Taliban were on opposite sides of the war in Afghanistan, to the point where Iran almost invaded the country in 1998. Once the U.S. invaded to dislodge al-Qaeda after 9/11, Iran began to reconsider its antipathy toward the Taliban. The Islamic Republic now hopes to push the U.S. out of Afghanistan by whatever means are necessary and fill the resulting power vacuum. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused Tehran of being behind a May suicide bombing in Kabul. Peace talks with the Taliban and the U.S. broke down in September, and Trump’s Thanksgiving visit notwithstanding, Iran believes the U.S. is leaving Kabul and hopes to hasten the process.

Israel Prepares For War With Iranian Proxies

As Iran works with PIJ and the Taliban, it also seeks to pressure the U.S. in the Gulf, in Iraq, in Syria, and in Lebanon. In Iraq, it hopes its allies in parliament and among various Shiite militias will force the U.S. to withdraw; militia mortar and rocket attacks have hit U.S. bases in the country every month since May. In Syria, Iran-backed militias allied with Bashar al-Assad’s regime are facing U.S. forces across the Euphrates, and would like to grab the oil facilities that the U.S. is currently protecting. In Lebanon, Iran’s proxy Hezbollah wants control over the choice of the country’s next prime minister.

The Iranian regime is facing maximum pressure from the U.S. and suddenly finds itself squeezed at home, too, forced to brutally crack down on massive recent protests against a large gas-price hike. Its response has been to challenge the U.S. and American allies across thousands of miles of terrain from Kabul to Gaza. While it is cornered, it should not be underestimated.

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Cuban team leaves Iran as Greco-Roman World Cup cancelation looms

The 2019 Greco-Roman World Cup was slated to be held on Tehran on Nov. 28-29 but the United World Wrestling announced last Monday that the event has been ‘postponed’ until further notice. The body described security concerns in Iran as the main reason behind this decision.

Meanwhile, the Cuban team had already entered Tehran on Monday and was scheduled to hold a joint camp with the Iranian team before participating in the World Cup. However, a few days after the announcement of UWW’s decision, Iranian teams coach Mohammad Bana shut down the training and sent players back to their homes.

The Iranian wrestling federation said that it has offered evidence of Iran’s safety to UWW, expressing hope that the event would be held in coming days. However, UWW didn’t issue any statement to clarify the situation and only removed the event from its calendar on its website to raise speculations of a total cancellation.

The federation hosted the Cuban team during the past week, even organizing some tours in Tehran for the team to get Cubans acquainted with some tourist sites and the Iranian culture.

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Iran, Cuba to expand scientific, tech cooperation

During his meeting with Cuba’s Ambassador to Tehran, Gholami emphasized the need for closer cooperation in exchange of professors, students, and researchers between the two countries, saying that this kind of partnerships can be beneficial to both parties.

Learning Persian and Spanish languages is a good opportunity for both countries to exchange university students, he added.

The Science and Technology Parks are also among the other areas of cooperation between Iran and Cuba, he noted.

He also expressed hope that Iran and Cuba will expand their cooperation in all fields with the support of the Cuban Ambassador.

Alexis Bandrich Vega, for his part, invited Gholami to visit Cuba to hold talks with the Cuban Minister of Science, Technology, and Environment.

Emphasizing four issues concerning scientific and technological cooperation between Iran and Cuba, he said that learning the Persian language is among the priorities of the Cuban Embassy to develop relations between the two countries.

A course on religious and Islamic education has resumed at the University of Havana, he added, saying that it is hoped that Iran would help the university in developing this course in the field of professor exchange and the necessary information and research.

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Iranian foreign minister says path to rule of law begins as Syria constitutional committee meets

Iran's foreign minister has hailed the first meeting of Syria's constitutional committee in Geneva, describing it as the beginning of a "path to the rule of law" in the Arab country following over eight years of war.

Upon his return to Tehran, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: "Returned from Geneva where I met with Russian & Turkish FMs, & UN's Geir O. Pedersen, on eve of inauguration of Syria Constitutional Committee." 

Referring to the multilateral talks with his Russian and Turkish counterparts and the UN envoy for Syria in Geneva, he said: "After years of devastating war, path to rule of law begins— thanks to Astana process. Difficult road ahead, but no other alternative."

His comments came a few hours after the opposing sides joined the UN's Pedersen for face to face talks in an attempt to resolve the ongoing crisis in the war-torn Arab country.  The UN-backed peace talks on Syria are now underway in Geneva, as the representatives from the Syrian government and Western-backed opposition came together for the first time.

A total of 150 delegates representing the government, opposition and civil society on Wednesday met at a constitutional committee meeting held inside the Council Chamber of the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland.

The members of the constitutional committee, which took almost two years of consultations to be formed, are tasked with reforming the Arab country's constitution before it is put to the vote of the Syrian people.

The UN hopes this will be a chance to begin formulating tangible agreements between the rival side, but Russia and Iran have warned this is just the beginning of a long and difficult process.

In a joint communiqué released at the end of a separate meeting with Pedersen on Tuesday, Iran, Russia and Turkey stressed that Syria’s long-awaited constitutional committee must work independently and far from any foreign interference in order to draw maximum support from all walks of the Syrian nation.

Addressing the Wednesday meeting with Syrian groups, Pedersen acknowledged the enormously difficult task ahead. "I know it is not easy for all of you to be here together in this room."

"But the fact you are here, face to face, is a powerful sign of hope for all Syrians, everywhere," he added.  The UN envoy said reforming the country's constitution is the first step toward the beginning of a political process that will lead to UN-supervised elections under UN Resolution 2254.

However, he said, the process will have to be Syrian-led and Syrian-owned. "Do not expect me or my team to tell you what to write in your constitution. The future constitution belongs to Syrians, to the Syrian people and them alone."

Edited by Ed Newman
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Rouhani Hails Cuban Nation’s Resistance Against US, Global Arrogance

“Iranian people considers Cuban nation a combatant and resistant nation, as it were not for your resistance, the US exerted dominance not only on Cuba but also Latin America,” President Rouhani said during the meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, on the sidelines of the 18th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit on Friday.

He reiterated that Iran and Cuba are paying for their resistance and insistence on independence against the US excessive demands, and said, “They will leave behind the calamities and arrogant powers have no option but to surrender to the Iranian and Cuban nations.”

President Rouhani pointed to Iran-Cuba relations, and said, “Iran and Cuba have always had warm and friendly relations and their stances on regional and global policies were close to each other.”

Cuban president, for his part, said that Havana has always favored warm and cordial relations with Iran.

He also hailed Rouhani's speech during the 18th NAM Summit as extremely firm and straightforward, and said, “Today you (President Rouhani) explained the US excessive policies well”.

Cuba has always condemned the US antagonistic policies against Iran, Diaz-Canel said, adding that the US exit from the JCPOA is denounced by Cuba.

Describing Iran-Cuba ties as historic and strong, he said that the two countries' economic and trade exchanges should increase in all fields.

The 18th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the NAM with the participation of the heads of 60 countries, including President Rouhani, kicked off in Baku, Azerbaijan on Friday.

The NAM is a forum of 120 developing world states that are not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. After the United Nations, it is the largest grouping of states worldwide.

President Rouhani arrived in Baku on Thursday to attend the 18th NAM Summit, President Rouhani was invited to the NAM summit meeting by Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev.

At the NAM Baku Summit, the Republic of Azerbaijan will take over the chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement for the next 3 years.

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Hassan Rouhani: Non-Aligned Movement can take lead in addressing global challenges

The Non-Aligned Movement can take the lead in addressing global challenges, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said at the 18th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement in Baku on Oct. 25, Trend reports.

"The Non-Aligned Movement demonstrates its commitment to cooperation and opposes one-sidedness. This summit has been convened during the time when intensification of conflicts is taking place in the world, and all this leads to a violation of international obligations and interference in the internal affairs of states. The Non-Aligned Movement member countries can take the lead in addressing global challenges, including acts of extremism. More coordination is required to protect the interests of states. The Non-Aligned Movement can play a role in protecting the interests of member countries," Rouhani said.

Rouhani noted that regional security is achievable only through cooperation.

One of the threats in the modern world is the insecurity in cyberspace, the Iranian president said adding that the security in cyberspace is a prerequisite for the security of states and member countries of the movement can also cooperate in this area.

The 18th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement is being held in Baku on Oct. 25-26.

A preparatory meeting of the high-ranking officials of the participating countries was held on Oct. 21-22. The foreign ministers of the participating countries discussed the preparation for the summit on Oct. 23-24.

Representatives of 158 countries and international organizations participate in the summit, including ministers of foreign affairs, heads of state and government and other senior representatives.

Azerbaijan will chair the organization in 2019-2022.

The Non-Aligned Movement, uniting states that did not join any military-political blocs during the Cold War, has transformed into one of the important multilateral mechanisms.

Today, the Non-Aligned Movement is the second political platform after the UN by the number of member states.

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Iran nuclear deal signatories reiterate commitment to pact

United Nations, Sep 26 (Prensa Latina) Iran and the parties to the nuclear deal signed in 2015 agreed to maintain efforts to preserve that pact, considered a milestone of international relations.

During a meeting here this Thursday, cited by international media, there was consensus among representatives of the Islamic Republic, Germany, France, China, the United Kingdom and Russia, plus the head of foreign policy of the European Union (EU), regarding the need to maintain the pact.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Yavad Zarif described as positive the extraordinary meeting between foreign ministers of signatory nations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Federica Mogherini, head of EU foreign policy, assured that all parties are committed to preserving the pact, although this is increasingly difficult.

According to Mogherini, France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China and Iran agreed to continue efforts to keep the treaty alive, from which the United States withdrew in May 2018 at the behest of President Donald Trump.

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Trump Says He Instructed Treasury to 'Substantially Increase' Sanctions on Iran

US President Donald Trump has stated that he has instructed his administration to ratchet up sanctions on Iran.

"I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!" Trump said via Twitter.

The sanctions appear to be part of Trump's response to Iran's alleged involvement in the weekend attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

The statement comes after Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on 17 September that oil production had returned to the previous levels.

Prior to that, Saudi Aramco had to close two of its compounds, the Abqaiq and Khurais facilities, after they were hit by drones and caught fire. The incident led to a cut in oil production totalling 5.7 million barrels per day - about half of Saudi Arabia’s daily oil output. The closure of the facilities triggered a surge in oil prices worldwide.

US officials, including Trump, have accused Iran of being responsible for 14 September's attacks. Tehran has strongly denied the accusations. The Houthi movement, against which Riyadh and its allies have waged a four-year war, claimed responsibility for the attack and promised more strikes.

Tensions between Iran and the United States have escalated recently. Relations substantially worsened last year after US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and began re-imposing sanctions. In May and June, Washington blamed Iran for a series of security incidents, including attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman, and built up its military presence in the Middle East. Iran has rejected the allegations and accused the United States of trying to find a pretext for conflict.

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