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The clash between Iran and the United States after Soleimani’s death

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“Operation Martyr Soleimani” began on the night of January 8. The leader of the Pasdaran Al Quds Brigade had died on the night of January 3.

 Some Iranian missiles hit two Iraqi bases, Ayan al-Asad and Erbil, in the Kurdish region. In Erbil there were also Italian troops, who hid in a bunker.

The Kurds are targets for Iran since they are allies of the United States and – at least initially- enemies of Assad’s regime.

 Iranian sources reported a number of U.S. victims of at least 80 people, a toll denied – at first – by the United States and later by the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, who subsequently stated that the Iranian Government did not know the number of enemy’s victims.

Indeed – as an important sign of psywar-Minister Zarif himself said he did not know what nationality the victims of the Iranian missile attack were.

 The attack was carried out after midnight so as to replicate the time and ways of Qasem Soleimani’s targeted assassination – an essential theme in the Shiite war theory.

Iran, however, launched at least twelve short-to-medium range ballistic missiles against groups of US soldiers, according to the rule of Qisas, i.e. “life for life”, which follows verse 178-179 of the Sura Al-Baqarah: “the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female”. This means blood for blood, possibly in the same way and form as the first offense.

According to the Iranian leaders, the missile attack is a “measure proportionate” to the U.S. action against Soleimani. Hence, again according to them, Operation “Martyr Soleimani” is expected to be concluded today but, not by chance, for other sources from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the so-called Pasdaran, there are still as many as 104 possible targets in the United States, Europe and the Sunni countries.

Hence targets in the United States and in the territories of the U.S. European allies that are under the Iranian scrutiny and can be hit at any time.

Therefore, it is the probable beginning of an asymmetric war between Iran and the United States, which will polarize much of the Middle East and will become increasingly uncontrollable as the current U.S. demilitarization of the Greater Middle East proceeds.

 Furthermore, this operation designed to avenge Qasem Soleimani’s targeted assassination – according to the principle of Qisas- entailed the use of only a small part of the Iranian missile apparata. In Iran’s mind, this implies triggering a response against increasingly virulent and ever less proportionate U.S. attacks.

If the U.S. attacks are progressive and significant, Iran will have a base of popular support throughout the Middle East, from which – at that time – the United States will be out. Hence there will possibly be a real regional war between Iran and U.S. Arab and Jewish allies, i.e.the dream of Ayatollah Khomeini who saw the final clash between the “two Satans” and “sacred” Iran.

Furthermore, after the missile attack, Imam Khamenei spoke of a “slap on the face” for the United States, considering that the primary aim – despite President Trump’s temptations to walk out – is to force the United States to a quickly and complete withdrawal from the whole Middle East region. Currently, however, there are 5,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq, in addition to further 10,000 on the way.

Now, in the likely prospect of an open clash between the United States and Shiite Iran, there are some technical-military factors to be considered.

 The United States can annihilate the Iranian Navy and Air Force within 48 hours.

 A real all-out conflict is no good to either of the two strategic players. The United States would certainly hit primary targets within the Iranian territory, thus causing incalculable damage, but it is certain that also the U.S. soldiers would have great difficulty in penetrating the Iranian territory, with rapidly unsustainable losses.

 It is obvious that this policy of attrition between Iran and the United States has a worldwide geopolitical value.

The U.S. primary interest is to defuse Iran as a regional player and fully weaken the “Shiite crescent” between Iran, Yemen, the Lebanon and Syria, thus directly favouring the Sunni countries, which are not necessarily more pro-USA than the others.

 Obviously in the U.S. strategists’ minds, hitting Iran also means hitting the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, for which Iran is the most reliable and important ally in the Middle East, not to mention Iranian oil transfers to China or military cooperation between Iran and Russia.

 The beginning of this new configuration of the confrontation between the pro-American and the pro-Russian and pro-Chinese blocs can be seen in Iran’s reaction to the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA in 2019.

Conversely the EU did not react at all to President Trump’s new sequence of sanctions against Iran, imposed after the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear agreement in which also the EU participated.

 The EU is the so-called “stone guest” of any agreement.

 The new U.S. sanctions hit Iran by reducing oil exports by at least 300,000 barrels/day, with a series of trade restrictions that are particularly damaging to the EU. However, as often happens to teenagers, Europe’s childish love for the United States is such as to tolerate any offense.

Iran decided to respond to this new geopolitical and economic order with a de facto alliance with Russia and China, but without direct military implications, as well as with a calculated tension with the Sunni petro-monarchies.

Allegedly the current reserves of the Iranian Central Bank amount to 110 billion US dollars, of which just over 50% “cash”.

 This allows at least two years of State-funded imports and this is the time horizon in which the Iranian strategic and military operations must be considered.

 Another variable that Iran is waiting to calculate is 2020, the year of the U.S. presidential elections.

The ability to destabilize the Middle East – the real factor on which Iran can count in the clash with the United States – is Iran’s real asset.

The network of proxies to systematically harm Israel, such as Hamas (the network of the Muslim Brotherhood, currently in Iran’s pay),Hezbollah, the Shiite organization created on Ayatollah Khomeini’s direct orders, and finally the Islamic Jihad, another Sunni organization now shifted under Iran’s umbrella.

Hence a strategy of irony, which has dissimulation as its original meaning.

Also cyberwarfare must be considered: the first Iranian cyberattack against the United States was against a U.S. government website, just the day after Soleimani’s death.

Later the Iranian cyberattacks hit the Federal Depository Library Program website, as well as other targets.

 In an all-out attack on the United States, certainly Iran will operate at first with cyberwarfare.

 The potential of Iran’s new cyberwarfare probably began in 2010, with the discovery of Stuxnet.

In all likelihood, it was an attack of Israeli origin, since the Stuxnet computer virus came from there.

 That was the time when Iran really brought itself up to date in cyberwarfare.

 From that moment on, the Iranian Shamoon viruses appeared, which in 2017 severely infected the computer network of the Aramco refineries in Saudi Arabia. Later, in November 2019, Iran knocked out the personal and corporate networks of some Saudi Aramco’s operators.

Hence Iran has developed a specific cyber-ability to hit critical infrastructure, financial institutions, major manufacturing companies and universities.

Iran can also change-forge air and maritime GPS.

 In the hierarchy of States capable of launching cyberattacks, the United States, Russia and China rank first, followed by Iran and North Korea.

With specific reference to proxies’ war, however, Iran has two major strongholds: the Lebanon, with Hezbollah’s fragmented power, and Syria.

Nevertheless, another future area of tension between Iran and its Sunni or Western enemies will be the Strait of Hormuz. Probably the Iranian Armed Forces’ future attacks in that area will take place simultaneously with cyberattacks.

 Russia, however, does not want any clash – even indirect – between the United States and Iran.

Furthermore, for Saudi Arabia, Soleimani’s assassination is obviously good news, albeit with some “ifs”.

Meanwhile a conflict – even an indirect one – between Iran and the United States could block the great G20 Meeting scheduled in Riyadh for late 2020.

Furthermore, in case of a war between Iran and the United States, the Saudi Defence would be obliged to use many of the resources otherwise devoted to the Vision 2030 project, which is number one in Mohammed bin Salman’s mind.

Finally, the financial insecurities already triggered by Soleimani’s assassination could harshly hit both the national and international interests of Saudi Arabia.

 As can be easily imagined, so far insecurity has led to a sharp increase in insurance premiums for all oil and gas transfers. This refers to a total value of transported oil and gas of at least 1.2 trillion US dollars.

 It should be noted, however, that 80% of all Gulf States’ GDP depends on oil.

Nevertheless, oil and gas account for only 30% of Iran’s GDP.

 Saudi Arabia exports approximately 6.5 million barrels/day, which leave from the ports of Ras Tamura and Ju’aymah and from King Fahd Industrial Port in Jubail.

 All targets which can be easily reached by Iranian operations.

 Iraq, the second largest exporter in the Middle East and Italy’s second or sometimes first supplier, exports 3.8 million barrels/day, accounting for 90% of Iraq’s public revenue.

 It exports through Basra and the Kawr Al’Amiya terminals. Once again, it is extremely easy to hit these targets from the Iranian bases.

Bypassing the above mentioned ports, Saudi Arabia’s, Iraq’s and other minor producers’ alternative options can be the Rabigh terminals, on the east coast of the Red Sea, or the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline.

Hence this will be the general framework of a probable military conflict between Iran and the United States, although certainly not planned by Iran.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Middle East

Justice delayed is justice denied. I lost my family to Iran Regime’s barbarity

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Mohammad Shafaei’s family- The toddler in his mother’s arm is Mohammad Shafaei

On May 4, over 1,100 families of the victims of the 1988 massacre in Iran wrote a letter to the international community. We called on the United Nations and European and American governments to take immediate action in preventing the regime from further destruction of their loved ones’ graves.

I was one of the signatories. I have lost six of my relatives to the regime’s cruelty. I was seven years old when my parents were arrested for their democratic ideals and activism.

My father, Dr. Morteza Shafaei, was a well-respected and popular physician in Isfahan. He was admired by people because he was extremely compassionate and giving to others. He was brutally executed by the regime in 1981 simply because he sought a democratic future for his family and his compatriots. The mullahs also killed my mother, two brothers, Majid (only 16) and Javad, and one of my sisters, Maryam, along with her husband.

By the age of 8, I had lost my entire family, save for one sister, as a result of the regime’s executions and crimes against humanity.

Mohammad Shafaei

The 1988 massacre stands as one of the most horrendous crimes against humanity after World War II. In the summer of that year, based on a religious decree issued by Khomeini, then-Supreme Leader of the theocratic regime in Iran, tens of thousands of political prisoners were liquidated. Most of the victims belonged to the principal democratic opposition movement Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).

It is believed that the regime massacred at least 30,000 political dissidents that year in the span of a few months. This much was confirmed by the designated heir to the regime’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri both in his published memoires and leaked audiotape in 2016, in which he condemned the ongoing crime against humanity in August 1988 during a meeting with high-ranking regime officials.

Those officials continue to serve the regime today in high-ranking positions. Ebrahim Raisi, for example, who was a member of the “death committees” in charge of rounding up and killing the political prisoners, is currently occupying the highly sensitive post of the Judiciary Chief. He is expected to announce his candidacy to run for President during the June election. After the June 2009 uprising, he said, “Moharebeh (waging war on God) is sometimes an organization, like the hypocrites (MEK). Anyone who helps the MEK in any way and under any circumstances, because it is an organized movement, the title of Moharebeh applies.” According the Islamic Punishment Act, the punishment for Moharebeh is death.

For years, the clerical regime has been systematically and gradually destroying the graves of the victims of the 1988 massacre in Tehran and other cities. As the world learns more about the killings and the international outrage grows, Tehran’s mullahs are scrambling to clear all traces of their crimes against humanity.

Most of us have forgotten where exactly our loved ones are buried, many of them in mass graves. The campaign for justice for victims of 1988 has gained greater prominence and broader scope. International human rights organizations and experts have described the massacre as a crime against humanity and called for holding the perpetrators of this heinous crime to account.

Paranoid of the repercussions of international scrutiny into this horrific atrocity, the Iranian regime has embarked on erasing the traces of the evidence on the massacre by destroying the mass graves where they are buried. The regime has tried to destroy the mass graves of massacred political prisoners in Tehran’s Khavaran Cemetery in the latest attempt. Previously, it destroyed or damaged the mass graves of the 1988 victims in Ahvaz, Tabriz, Mashhad, and elsewhere.

These actions constitute the collective torture of thousands of survivors and families of martyrs. It is another manifest case of crime against humanity.  

The UN and international human rights organizations must prevent the regime from destroying the mass graves, eliminating the evidence of their crime, and inflicting psychological torture upon thousands of families of the victims throughout Iran. 

Moreover, the Iranian public and all human rights defenders expect the United Nations, particularly the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet, to launch an international commission of inquiry to investigate the massacre of political prisoners and summon the perpetrators of this heinous crime before the International Court of Justice.

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Middle East

Can Biden Bring Peace to the Middle East?

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

As the fierce fighting between Israel and the Palestinians rages on, the Biden administration’s Middle East policy has been criticized for its relatively aloof, “stand back” approach that has resulted in the absence of any pressure on Israel to re-think its harsh mistreatment of the Palestinians, vividly demonstrated in the recent police attack at al-Aqsa mosque and the attempted eviction of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, viewed by the Palestinians as part of Israel’s “ethnic cleansing.”

Consequently, a UN Security Council draft resolution on the crisis has been reportedly held up by US, which has prioritized the familiar narrative of “Israel’s right to self-defense” ad nauseam, without the benefit any nuances that would reveal any fresh thinking on the problem on the part of the Biden administration.  As in the past, the new crisis in Israel-Palestinian relations has sharpened the loyalties and alliances, in effect binding the US government closer to its Middle East ally under the rainstorm of Palestinian rocket attacks, highlighting Israel’s security vulnerabilities in today’s missile age.  Determined to crush the Palestinian resistance, the mighty Israeli army has been pulverizing Gaza while, simultaneously, declaring state of emergency in the Arab sections of Israel, as if there is a military solution to an inherently political problem.  What Israel may gain from its current military campaign is, by all indications, bound to be elusive of a perpetual peace and will likely sow the seed of the next chapter in the ‘intractable’ conflict in the future.  

Both sides are in violation of the international humanitarian laws that forbid the indiscriminate targeting of civilian population and, no matter how justified the Palestinian grievances, they too need to abide by international law and consider the alternative Gandhian path of non-violent resistance, notwithstanding the colossal power of Israeli army.

As the editors of Israel’s liberal paper, Haaretz, have rightly pointed out, the problem is the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is highly unpopular, unable to form a government, afflicted with a corruption case, and who has been appeasing the extremist elements in Israeli politics who have no qualm about the illegal expropriation of Palestinian lands.  Israeli politics for its own sake needs to move to the center, otherwise the Israeli society as a whole will suffer, as more and more educated Israelis will leave the country, Israel’s recent gains through the Abrahams accord with the conservative Arab states will be essentially wiped out, as these states will need to cater to the rising tide of anti-Israel sentiments at home or face serious legitimation problems, and Israel’s regional rivals led by Iran will continue to harvest from the present crisis.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any political will in Washington to spur a political shift in Israel that would secure better results in terms of the elusive Middle East peace and both President Biden and the Democratic Party establishment are concerned that their Republican opponents will seize on any tangible US pressure applied on Israel.  In other words, domestic US priorities will continue for the foreseeable future to hamper a much-needed corrective Washington influence on an ally that receives 4 billion dollar military aid annually and, yet, is unwilling to allow the White House to have any input on its handling of the Palestinians at home and the West Bank and Gaza.  

But, assuming for a moment that the Biden administration would somehow muster the will to stand up to Netanyahu and pressure him to cease its massive attacks on Gaza, then such a bold move would need to be coordinated with a deep Arab outreach that would, simultaneously, persuade the Palestinian groups led by Hamas and Islamic Jihad to go along with a US-initiated cease-fire, followed by related efforts at UN and regional level to bring about the groundwork for a more enduring peace, such as by holding a new international peace conference, similar to the Oslo process.  

At the moment, of course, this is wishful thinking and the protagonists of both sides in this terrible conflict are more focused on scoring against each other than to partake in a meaningful peace process.  In other words, an important prerequisite for peace, that is the inclination for peaceful resolution of the conflict instead of resorting to arms, is clearly missing and can and should be brought about by, first and foremost, a capable US leadership, sadly hitherto missing.

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Middle East

Israel-Palestine Conflict Enters into Dangerous Zone

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Palestinians react as Israeli police fire a stun grenade during clashes at Damascus Gate on Laylat al-Qadr during the holy month of Ramadan, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 9, 2021. /Reuters

Since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in mid-April 2021, tension has escalated, with frequent clashes between police and Palestinians. The threatened eviction of some Palestinian families in East Jerusalem has also caused rising anger. But when Israeli security forces entered and attacked the unarmed Muslim worshipers, damaged the property, and humiliated the families, the situation turned into conflict.

Since the irrational and illogical creation of the Jewish State in the middle of the Muslim World, the tension started and emerged into few full-fledged armed conflicts and wars like; 1948–49, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, and 2006 wars/ conflicts. Tensions are often high between Israel and Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank. Gaza is ruled by a Palestinian group called Hamas, which has fought Israel many times. Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank complain that they’re suffering because of Zionists’ expansionist actions. Israel’s severe violations of human rights and extreme atrocities against Palestinians left Palestinians with no option other than protest and agitate. But Israel suppresses them and uses all dirty tricks to keep them silent.

It is worth mentioning that the United Nations Security Council has passed several resolutions to settle the Israel-Palestine issue peacefully. But Israel has not implemented either of them and kept using force to push them out and settle Jews in their land.

The State of Israel has been enjoying undue supported by the US, irrespective of who is president, but all of them support Israel unconditionally. Israel is the most favored nation of the US and the largest beneficiary of American aid, assistance, and support.

Ex-President Donald Trump helped Israel establish diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco. Donald Trump favored Netanyahu, dramatically moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. His daughter and son-in-law were the facilitators for his support to Israel.

Till last news, at least 56 Palestinians have died under an array of aerial bombardments of the Gaza Strip. Five Israelis were killed too. Rockets, bullets, and rocks are flying around Israel and the Palestinian territories with catastrophic intensity in the latest wave of violence that periodically marks the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Palestinian protesters run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli security forces amid clashes at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound on May 10, 2021, ahead of a planned march to commemorate Israel’s takeover of Jerusalem in 1967 Six-Day War.  Security forces have set on fire the centuries-old holy Mosque. Serious communal violence has broken out within Israel between Arab citizens and Jews. Fires were lit, a synagogue burned, a Muslim cemetery trashed, police cars set aflame, and an Arab-Israeli man killed. The mayor of Lod termed it a “civil war.”

The ferocity of the fast-escalating conflict might be extremely dangerous as Israel uses hi-tech, advanced, lethal weapons. A week ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed close to losing power after the climax of four inconclusive elections. The outbreak of hostilities has allowed him the opportunity to make his latest appearance as a tough guy and ended coalition talks by rival politicians. He might politicize the conflict in his favor.

There is a severe danger of spreading this conflict to a large-scale war, which might engulf the regional countries. There already exists tension among Israel and few regional powers. The recent Israeli attacks on Russian bases in Syrian may also widen the conflict.

Any war in the middle-East will have dire consequences globally. It is appealed to the UN and all peace-loving nations and individuals to speed up all-out efforts to stop the conflict at this initial stage and avert further bloodshed. It is demanded that the Israel-Palestine issue must be settled according to the resolutions passed by UNSC. Wish immediate peace, sustainable peace, and permanent peace in the Middle East and globally.

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