It is not enough to halt the flow of Iranian funds to terror, say experts

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Syrian children sit on an abandoned missile casing at a refugee camp outside Damascus. (AFP, Alamy)
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smoke rises above the southern Syrian city of Daraa after an Assad regime missile strike. (AFP, Alamy)
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Iran’s Revolutionary Guard parade in Tehran (right). (AFP, Alamy)
Updated 28 August 2018
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It is not enough to halt the flow of Iranian funds to terror, say experts

  • Should Iran still not improve its behavior, each measure should be dialed up until its conduct changes

DUBAI: With Gulf states expressing growing concern over the nuclear deal with Iran, experts say more needs to be done to curb the country’s funding of terror.
Many regional countries say the deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), failed to set guidelines and restrictions on Iran’s use of cash injections that ultimately ended up in the hands of terrorists. Earlier this year, the US government traced some of the $1.7 billion released to Iran by the Obama administration back to terrorists, specifically Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthi rebels in Yemen. Ali Khedery, a senior political adviser and the longest continually serving US official in Iraq, said the Obama administration’s attempt to address Iran’s nuclear weapons program through the JCPOA was doomed to fail.
“That approach is fundamentally flawed because it addresses only one aspect of Iran’s malign and belligerent conduct,” he said.
“Washington, under all administrations since 1979, should have taken a more holistic and strategic view toward the problem of Iran’s policies,” Khedery said.
“The JCPOA was destined to fail in curtailing Iran’s global and regional terrorist activities because it didn’t address any of them, only the nuclear program, and it addressed it in a short-sighted and insufficient way because Iranians were able to negotiate sunset clauses, which meant a lot of them expired after a few years.
“Sanctions are just a tool, they’re not a strategy. What is needed is a strategy that recognizes the scope of the problem, which is that Iran practices domestic terrorism against its own citizens, and international terrorism by supporting Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, coordinating with different militias in Iraq, across the Gulf and Lebanon, and is engaged in all sorts of criminal and terrorist activities in every continent except Antarctica.” Once the problem is diagnosed, an overall strategy would have to be designed to mitigate that conduct, whether through military means, diplomacy or economic sanctions, Khedery said. Should Iran still not improve its behavior, each measure should be dialed up until its conduct changes. “I’ve been urging this policy for 15 years. The price is relatively low and the benefits quite high,” Khedery said. “It’s just a matter of political will in Washington and among our allies. Unfortunately, there wasn’t political will until President Donald Trump came to power.” Support is needed from Congress, the media, allied governments and legislatures, Khedery said. Europeans “have been victims due to the refugee influx from Syria and Iraq, which destabilized the EU,” he said. “So Europe more than anybody should be wanting Iran to behave more like a normal country and less like a terrorist state.” Miles Pomper, senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington, said sanctions that broadly affect the economy, or that interfere with transfers to terrorist groups, would be needed. “Given the amounts of money involved are believed to be relatively small, it’s not clear if anything will work,” he said. “Of particular importance is restricting Iran’s role in Syria, given the potential for Iranian-Israeli confrontation there,” Pomper said.
Khedery said Iran “sees itself as exempt from international law governing human rights and terrorism, including the activities of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and, more recently, its nuclear weapons program.”

 


Iraqi cleric Al-Sadr threatens to withdraw support for Abdul Mahdi’s government

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2019
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Iraqi cleric Al-Sadr threatens to withdraw support for Abdul Mahdi’s government

  • “No one can predict what Al-Sadr thinks and even his MPs do not know what the man thinks, so it is likely that this threat is part of the ongoing negotiations”

BAGHDAD: Moqtada Al-Sadr, the powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric, on Monday threatened to withdraw his support for the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi if the prime minister fails to finalize the formation of his Cabinet within 10 days.
Al-Sadr is one of the most influential clerics in the country, with millions of followers, a large armed faction and a parliamentary bloc. He is the official sponsor of the Reform Alliance, the second-largest parliamentary coalition, which is overseeing the formation of the government following the national parliamentary elections in May last year. The removal of his support for Abdul Mahdi’s government might take the form of an announcement that he no longer has confidence in the Parliament, or the organization of mass demonstrations.
Abdul Mahdi, who became prime minister in October, formed his government with the support of Reform and the pro-Iranian Construction coalition. The latter is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, the commander of Badr Organization, one of the most powerful Shiite armed factions. However, disputes between the two alliances over some of the candidates erupted at the last minute, as a result of which four ministries remain vacant: Interior, defense, education and justice.

Monday’s statement, which was signed by Al-Sadr and described as his “last call,” was addressed to his Saeiroon parliamentary bloc, the leaders of all political blocs, and Abdul Mahdi. It was issued in response to criticism on social on Monday because of the vote by members of the parliamentary blocs, including Al-Sadr’s MPs, the day before to grant all the privileges enjoyed by the former MPs to the deputies who ruled out by the Federal Supreme Court due to the error of counting their votes.
“All the political blocs must authorize the prime minister to complete his ministerial Cabinet within 10 days…and he (Abdul Mahdi) must choose (the ministers) according to the standards of integrity, efficiency and specialization, or I will not support him,” Al-Sadr’s statement read.

His position is the latest in a series of events that have put pressure on Abdul Mahdi in recent weeks. These include efforts by some political blocs, including Saeiroon, to dismiss a number of ministers under the pretext of failure to improve services and inability to combat the financial and administrative corruption that is rampant in their departments.
While most political leaders believe that reaching a political agreement on candidates to fill the vacant ministries within 10 days “will be very difficult” and predict “this may be the end of the government of Abdul Mahdi,” some believe that Al-Sadr’s goal is to pile more pressure on Abdul Mahdi as a way to obtain certain concessions.

“Saeiroon is still negotiating with the prime minister and the other political partners to obtain some key government posts that its rivals are looking to get, and Abdul Mahdi refused to give them to the Saeiroon candidates, so this could be a part of this,” said a prominent Shiite negotiator who asked not to be named. “No one can predict what Al-Sadr thinks and even his MPs do not know what the man thinks, so it is likely that this threat is part of the ongoing negotiations."