Iran and Turkey in Lock Step

Despite Turkey recognizing Israel as a nation in 1949 and Iran’s recognition in 1950, they are outspoken critics of the 2020 UAE-Israel peace deal according to recent reporting on Iran from experts on Middle Eastern and Iranian government. In the epitome of an August surprise, the agreement brokered by the U.S. left President Trump detractors shocked. The shock comes not only from the lack of leaks surrounding the deal, but also its proof that stability in the Middle East is not exclusively contingent upon a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine.

Both Iran and Turkey reacted contentiously to the historic deal for which President Trump was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. The deal potentially thwarts the plan of both Arab states to further destabilize the area according to foreign policy research organizations reporting on the oppressive situation in Iran. Turkey’s encroachment into Libya, Syria, Somalia, and Qatar to Iran’s proxy war waged in Afghanistan; both countries remain active. Both use Palestine as the basis for why they oppose the deal, and they are not alone in their opposition. However, they and the greater region benefit from the agreement.

Significant Moves Yield Major Benefits 

For instance, the deal requires Israel to halt its annexation plan for portions of the West Bank for which Palestine claims ownership. This is a concession for Israel and Netanyahu, in particular, who leverage the annexation plan as the impetus for his re-election campaign. Additionally, the UAE seeks to acquire advanced U.S. weapons systems and military jets as a component of the deal. Israel is hesitant to support the latter for fear that those items could fall into the wrong hands. Currently, they are the only ones in the area with stealth warplanes and other U.S. military weapons.

Research conducted by the foreign policy group, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and substantiated by numerous news stories report that the acquisition of military weapons by the UAE is still a subject for debate. What is established is the normalization that is already taking place and is expected to develop. Unlike Egypt and Jordan, Israel and the UAE were never at war so the emphasis is on shared benefits as opposed to maintaining peace. Some of those benefits include doing business deals, exchanging intelligence, sharing technology, and generating wealth through new investment. The latest news from FDD, a research group focusing on Iranian government policy, agrees with those benefits along with the fact that a collaborative effort against their shared enemy of Iran is mutually beneficial, as well, and the deal paves the way for other countries in the region to enter into their own agreements with Israel.

A Secretive, But Productive Process Mediated by the U.S.

Initial private talks began in Warsaw in February of 2019 when Brian Hook with the U.S. State Department mediated talks between Netanyahu and several Arab leaders. The Wall Street Journal reports that Hook continued to sponsor conversations after the initial meeting. In June of 2019, Netanyahu’s ambassador to Washington published an op-ed championing Israeli sovereignty and its reach into the West Bank. Foregoing this effort in spite of campaign promises and administration statements was necessary to close the deal.

As it turns out, the two leaders have more common interests than conflicts with one another as indicated by leading think tanks on diplomatic research and foreign policy. Both share enmity with Iran and its proxies, and both favor investment and regional trade. For this reason, they struck a deal and the UAE ruler formally ended its boycott of Israel. Things are now moving quickly.

Ongoing Possibility of Peace and Stability

The official deal and repeal of the UAE’s boycott opens the door to banking, aviation, and other business ventures, which kicked off with an August 31st, 2020 flight from Israel to the UAE. The flight was historic in and of itself, but equally significant is the fact that Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman opened Saudi air space to allow a direct path for the flight. Saudi King Salman thus signaled his support of the deal and its possibilities despite maintaining its Israel boycott in support of a Palestinian state. Now the question becomes which country joins the next peace deal.

Covid-19 Forsakes Syrian Refugees

Regardless of where you live on this pale blue dot, no one has escaped the coronavirus pandemic. The World Health Organization, United Nations, and even our own CDC here at home have told us the inevitable, that the most vulnerable populations among us will be hit the hardest. Truer words have never been spoken. Let’s take a look at a rapidly brewing humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.

 We all know that war-ravaged Syria has displaced millions of people. This crisis of despair is on-going. No sooner have things begun to stabilize, now we see the coronavirus is upon the very refugee camps created to protect those who lost loved ones, their homes, and nearly all their worldly possessions. Currently, many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been working together to bring relief to these refugee camps. These NGOs have been working in concert with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Northeastern Syria (NES).

 The main NGOs leading the relief effort in the NES include; WHO, Kurdish Red Crescent, and the United Nations. Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse due to the arrival of the coronavirus. These organizations were granted limited access to three checkpoints along the Syrian border, but that number was reduced from three to two, and now to one.

 It’s not difficult to understand why, but medical supplies must get through, as there are just not enough medical facilities, doctors, equipment, PPEs, medicines, or the required supply chain to deal with this pandemic in NES, not to mention the actual refugee camps. Testing is also at issue. Although there have been few coronavirus cases reported in Syria this is most likely because test kits simply have not been made available.

In the districts in the Northeastern Region of Syria medical facilities do not even meet the minimum standard of 18 hospital beds per 10,000 people. The international relief efforts now operate about 58 primary health facilities, 37 mobile clinics, and 13 hospitals – all of which rely on medical supplies, and PPE from across Syrian borders. NGOs have attempted to complain to the United Nations’ Security Council of Syria’s failure to allow shipments, but Russia vetoed the request to look into the issue at the last meeting. 

The Syrian Government claims it has facilitated shipments and processed all the paperwork required, but the NGOs say none have arrived. Have the Syrian refugee camps been forsaken amid the coronavirus? Test kits that moved through Damascus seemed to have pit stopped there, and never made it to their final destination. The total number of infected and the total number of deaths from Covid-19 are simply not known reports foreign policy think tanks tracking COVID-19, like the FDD.

As things get worse and stuck in the bureaucracy and/or in various UN committees people are dying. Although the fighting has stopped, the Syrian Government is not too keen on cross border deliveries to the region which could potentially include weapons, more fighters, or the means to pick up the conflict battle in the future. Turkey doesn’t want the Kurds moving through its border, and the Syrian government doesn’t want any more problems from the Kurdistan area of Iraq moving from one side of the border to the other.

Most Middle East countries do not want these refugees and with the price of oil down they can’t afford to take them even if they did want them. While the rest of the region deals with their own coronavirus problems and they have their hands full, many are on the verge of economic collapse.

Russia as an ally of Syria and involved in the war effort to protect Assad’s Syrian military is not interested in the humanitarian crisis, only protecting the borders during a non-fighting period. If supplies cannot come from Turkey or Iraq, then could they come from Jordan? Well, there seems to be a problem with that, as it would require the convoys to traverse too much of Syria and go through a region where they don’t belong according to a leading report on current events affecting Syria and the Middle East.

Normally, such a humanitarian crisis like this would get the full attention of the world, but right now there is simply too much coronavirus chaos, and nations’ leaders are preoccupied with their own challenges and medical supply needs. Remember everyone needs medical supplies now, so even if the deliveries could be made, they’d still fall short of need, at least this is what indications of how COVID-19 is affecting foreign policy in Syria show us, notes the FDD.

One could say that a big crisis just received the ultimate force-multiplier (the coronavirus pandemic) adding more variables, shortages, and time to any potentially viable solution to the Syrian refugee problem. If you will recall, the EU had already been told by many of its nation members that they were full-up with immigrant refugees even before the Syrian conflict.

The Syrian Government is even using this coronavirus crisis to plant malware and spyware onto the smartphones of those in Syria to find out what they are up to. They are offering an APP for Android Phones that claims to be a digital thermometer so users can track their temperature, it doesn’t work, as it merely shows the same temperature whenever used, but it allows access to the phone and gives geolocation data as well.

As major cities in Syria like Aleppo were bombed by the Russians and the Syrian army millions were displaced and many fled to neighboring countries. Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and other nations simply couldn’t take anymore. The refugee camps got bigger and bigger, barely manageable, and somewhat controlled chaos at first to an impossible humanitarian crisis not seen in nearly a decade. The data and science and technology information affecting COVID-19 and the Middle East suggests that the refugee camps could lose 100,000 people before all this is over.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Some blame Assad and his regime, some blame the United States, some blame ISIS, some blame Iran, some blame Russia, and foreign policy researchers on COVID-19’s effect say it’s not surprising.

It’s hard to say what will happen to all those refugees, or how many will survive the latest coronavirus crisis, especially considering the issues with hunger in the camps along with the ever-present problem of starvation and extreme weather events the region has experienced so far. Coronavirus and its effect on policy in Syria and the Middle East are not fully known yet, but those with a watchful eye on the issues tell us, this won’t end well.

Iran Regime Still Trying to Buy Nuclear Enrichment Equipment and Weaponry

Iran’s intent on getting nuclear weapons is relentless, and every international diplomacy and international military affairs expert knows this. They are fully aware that this current Iranian regime has absolutely no intention of giving up its long-term plan to become a nuclear power, even if it means the potential demise of its leadership infrastructure hierarchy.

Iran has never honored any agreement made with the international community to cease and desist its nuclear weapons program. Iran has never come clean with all its nuclear weapons research or locations of all its facilities. Rather, inspectors, spy agencies, and resellers of dual-purpose (dual-use) technology and equipment have given us clues and the proof needed to state this fact.

Nothing will stop Iranian’s leadership from seeking the bomb, not a threat of economic collapse, or even a global pandemic which is wreaking havoc on their political establishment. In fact, during this pandemic, Iran has continued its nuclear shopping spree. The mainstream media is aware that the JCPOA deal is dead, and that Iran has procured almost all that’s needed to make and build a bomb, and that their uranium enrichment is all but there now. Yet, the global mainstream media is busy covering the CoronaVirus Pandemic and has made little to no mention of it.

It looks as if Iran is pretending to semi-comply with some of the international nuclear agreements it has made while continuing full-speed ahead to make a nuclear weapon. It appears they will try to do what North Korea did, withdraw from the international agreement framework and then do a nuclear test. Once that happens the cat is out of the bag and the whole scenario changes. Iran has asked for a $5 billion loan to help with problems from the Covid-19 (CoronaVirus) outbreak there, but many worry they will merely use that money to finally complete their project to make a nuclear weapon, as they almost have enough enriched uranium now.

Iran has been buying aluminum oxide and other materials needed to finish the final touches on their nuclear weapons project from sources in Bosnia and other places. They’ve then been moving those purchases through Pakistan and/or Turkey, allowing them to work around sanctions. The Iranian regime knows how to get whatever dual-use nuclear equipment and material it wants using economic sanction loopholes. After all, it’s been doing it for two decades now.

Should the West help with Covid-19 Pandemic Aid to Iran? The International Community is ready to respond, report Iranian foreign policy experts at the Atlantic. The U.S. has offered medical pandemic aid, but the Iranian Regime has turned it down citing a rumor that the U.S. may have caused the outbreak in the first place. Instead, the Regime has asked for a $5 billion loan from the IMF. Giving money might be a mistake, giving aid would be a wise choice, suggest well-informed foreign policy thinkers. Why? It’s simple really, giving humanitarian aid shows empathic intent; we are all in this together.

Iran has taken a big hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, it has been ravaging their society, and it’s doubly worse as Iran’s economy was in free-fall prior to the outbreak, due to economic sanctions note those with expertise on diplomatic policy in the Middle East and Iran. Of course, the gesture might be short-lived. The Iranian Regime also probably doesn’t want U.S. marked aircraft delivering medical supplies, as that might hurt their ‘evil U.S.’ blame-game narrative.

Still, the world wants to help where it can, and NGOs are in action mode. It’s their mission to help, and Iran definitely needs some assistance with the Covid-19 crisis, as they are getting hit as hard as New York City, Paris, Italy, and Spain say non-profit foreign policy think tanks like the FDD. The question still remains, how do you get help into a country that lacks trust in the International Community, and blames the U.S. for the Covid-19 pandemic?

If there is a window of opportunity to unite everyone under a common cause, this global pandemic is it. Unfortunately, that window of opportunity is rapidly closing according to reports and information from leading diplomatic researchers. And, even if aid is given and accepted by the regime, there is probably no chance they will slow their nuclear weapons program in the interim, nor can you expect them not to go back to the same old games after the pandemic crisis is over.

Will Iran Make Nuclear Weapons – Is the JCPOA Dead?

JCPA or JCPOA stands for The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In Persian, it’s known as BARJAM or barnāmeye jāme’e eqdāme moshtarak. The Obama Administration called it the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal, and that is pretty much what it is called today by everyone except international diplomacy experts and those who negotiated the agreement. If it dies, the agreement calls for reverting back to 2005 level sanctions. Is it going to die?

Well, just because the United States under the Trump Administration exited the agreement, it doesn’t make the agreement null and void. Remember there are many other parties to this agreement. The UK, France, Germany, China, Russia, and others as a signer. Thus, theoretically, the agreement is in full force and effect, right? Well, yes and no. You see, since the U.S. redrew from the agreement and implemented economic sanctions, Iran’s leadership has blown past their enrichment limits and purposefully violated other terms.

One could argue that Iran never fully complied with the nuclear agreement from the beginning, and there is now proof that they had lied about their nuclear weapons ambitions. So, perhaps the JCPOA wasn’t worth the paper it was written on, and the Trump Administration got it right and unilaterally took action.

Why Did the U.S. Withdraw from the JCPA or JCPOA?

It wasn’t just one thing or one reason. There were many reasons such as Iran’s meddling in the U.S. Military’s mission in Syria, Iraq, and the funding of proxy terrorist organizations throughout the region. President Trump made a campaign promise to get out of the Iranian Nuclear Deal if elected and to renegotiate a better deal. He still may do that.

Will the Trump Administration honor a deal made by the remaining parties of the agreement? Yes, if it meets his additional terms regarding ballistic missiles, proxy terrorist support, free trade, and commerce movement in the Persian Gulf in addition to better checks and verifications on nuclear weapons-grade uranium enrichment.

What Are the Other Parties to the JCPOA Doing About the Situation? 

Germany and France have invoked a clause in the Iran Nuclear Agreement that calls for dispute resolution. This had slowed down the game a little and has given everyone time to pause and consider the ramification of a potential war. Now that the UK has completed its BREXIT with the EU, the UK is looking to make a favorable trade deal with the U.S. and it’s possible the UK could follow the U.S. and call to end the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

The problem in the meantime is that Iran is continuing to enrich uranium to 5% and some believe they are well on their way to getting enough nuclear material to make a nuclear bomb according to recent reports from The Atlantic. Once they get to 5%, getting to 20% is a lot less work and from there to the 98% needed a hop, skip and a jump.

What Was the Original Intention of the JCPOA – Iran Nuclear Deal?

Originally, one of the Obama Administration’s goals in the deal was to keep Iran from ever getting closer to a year from having enough enriched uranium material to make a bomb says policy analysts at the think tank, FDD. The problem is that since the U.S. withdrew from the agreement, Iran which is suffering greatly under economic sanctions has chosen to use it as an excuse to further violate the terms of the agreement.

What Happens Next?

Iran is now using extortion tactics to persuade France and Germany to intervene and help with economic relief and bring the U.S. back to the table, as indicated by leading foreign policy analysts.

It turns out that this move by Iran may have been a severe miscalculation, along with their attacks on oil assets in the Persian Gulf, shooting down of an American Drone, planning attacks on U.S. Embassies in the Middle East, attacking a couple of U.S. Military Bases, and shooting down a civilian airliner, note researchers at one of the leading foreign policy think tanks. The Trump Administration is in control, economic sanctions are working and Iran is on its last leg.

Some experts on diplomacy and foreign policy suggest that timing is everything and the Trump Administration has perfectly played its cards. Iran appears to be about 5 to 10 months away from getting enough enriched uranium to make a couple of bombs, and they appear to have the technological know-how to build warheads and they’ve demonstrated their ballistic missile technology, but time is running out for the regime. Their main proxy terrorist chief Solemani has been snuffed out by a U.S. drone strike and their ability to pull a last-minute strike like a cornered tiger is going to be a lot harder to pull off now.

Meanwhile, the political wheels in the U.S. are turning as it is an election year, and the Democrats want to try to limit Trump’s war powers against Iran. This is no time to pull-back, it’s time to get tougher. So, the plot thickens to this very critical set of circumstances.

What is the Future of ISIS Now That Baghdadi is Gone?

We all know it would be premature to call ISIS defeated just because the self-proclaimed leader of the modern day Caliphate has met his demise. The idea of a Caliphate is still alive and well in the minds of many ISIS fighters. Just because ISIS is all but defeated in Syria, doesn’t mean its brutality and activities is over, far from it, warn experts on the matter. ISIS is very much becoming a global organization, and we’ve already seen the havoc it can cause throughout the Middle East and elsewhere.

Let’s discuss what happens next as the U.S. withdraws from the fight, pulls troops out of Syria, and declares a job well done. ISIS fighters are still out there in large numbers and have a presence in what looks to be 20 provinces or so. Organized groups, call them franchises if you’d like, ready to continue the fight, while recruiting more. The concept of a modern day Islamic Caliphate isn’t gone.

What is This Modern Day Caliphate All About Anyway?

Well historically in Islam, Muhammad was the divine leader of all of Islam. His first successor was Caliph Abu Bakr and ruled over what was the first Caliphate or the “Rashidun Caliphate’. According to historians, there were four Caliphs of the Islamic Empire. The Rashidun Caliphate lasted approximately 30-years.

It was the goal of Osama bin Laden to eventually unite all of Islam into a Caliphate, a lifetime project even he believed would take centuries to complete. Baghdadi had more aggressive plans to unite all of Islam under one rule, a Caliphate, and declared himself the leader.

This was a rather bold move considering a Caliphate didn’t exist, as individual countries make up most of the Islamic World today. It was also a rather harsh dictatorial approach, as only God (Allah) could decide the mortal human leader of the Caliphate. Baghdadi didn’t care and waged war within countries on anyone who resisted. Driven by religious conviction and recruiting passionate Muslims to come to fight, they brutally set out to set the clocks back to the past period of the Rashidun Caliphate.

We’ve Seen What ISIS Did in Its Quest – What Will It Try Next?

Needless to say, Baghdadi might be dead, but the passion, rage, and fervor of his followers is still very much alive. As ISIS finds defeat in Syria, its fighters have not all been killed, many have slipped away leaving the area to fight another day. Remember the recruited fighters came from all over, some as far away as North America, many from Europe, Africa, Indonesia, and most from the Middle East. These fighters are battle hardened and we’d be in denial to believe they no longer have the same ideology.

What about Syria, is ISIS totally defeated in Syria? There is no doubt that Baghdadi’s death is a major symbolic blow to ISIS. After all, he was the ‘leader of the Caliphate’ even if self-proclaimed. ISIS has lost in Syria, but its organization elsewhere is still in operation. Just in the last few years, ISIS has set up operations in Central Africa, India, and Pakistan. We can expect ISIS in Turkey to grow bolder and come out of the shadows there.

The Reality has Set In – ISIS isn’t Going Away – But Is It Our Fight?

There is a lot of talk in the Washington D.C. area foreign policy think tanks about what the U.S. ought to be doing about Syria now that ISIS is on the run, and what we should do about ISIS going forward. In 2016 Trump ran on “getting the US out of these endless wars” and the fight against ISIS is the epitome of an endless war merely because the leadership of ISIS and its fighters see it as such. They won’t stop until every infidel has been converted or killed or so they proclaim.

One of the goals of these Islamic fighters is to outlast their enemies’ will to fight and then defeat them. ISIS sees this as a generational fight, an on-going struggle, and it gives them a sense of purpose. Such strong will makes ISIS a dangerous adversary. Foreign policy researchers at the FDD remind us that it would be naïve to believe that ISIS is totally defeated or that merely killing its leader will cause the organization to crumble.

The Trump Administration is facing reality and weighing the taxpayers’ costs of the fight, and the loss of American lives to continue according to experts on international diplomacy. Their ‘realist’ approach is indeed an ‘America First’ point of view. Still, we have allies in the region who’ve counted on us to help keep the peace. Withdrawing troops puts forth further instability in the region.

What Comes Next In Syria With ISIS?

International diplomacy researchers at the FDD are watching closely to see if the U.S. withdrawal in Syria will relieve tensions among allies in the region or if it will, in the end, turn out to be the best choice provided the circumstances. It appears the Kurdish fighters in Syria are going to take some serious losses, and the remaining ISIS fighters will be further decimated by a combination of Turkish, Syrian, and Russian military advances according to research from the FDD. So, is this the end of the United States’ involvement in the Syrian Conflict? President Trump has warned that any mass slaughtering of Christians or the Kurds will not be tolerated there.

Does this mean we are only partially withdrawing from Syria and keeping an eye on the situation, or was that ‘warning’ or suggested ‘redline’ just more political rhetoric? Were our announcements of withdrawal overstated for purposes of misdirection for the enemy? The three-dimensional chessboard of diplomacy is filled with items of contention, each one examined under its own merits and how it fits into the larger scheme of things. It’s difficult to judge foreign policy endeavors by watching the media pundits who have only half the information. What comes next in Syria is anyone’s guess.

The Taliban Al-Qaeda Connection – The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend?

Is there really a Taliban Al-Qaeda connection? Well, that depends on your definition. If we are asking; “Does the Taliban and Al Qaeda have a common enemy, the United States?” The answer there is a clear; Yes! Perhaps then it should come as no surprise that the Taliban allows a safe haven to the Al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan. Indeed, there are 18-terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and the Taliban is friendly with all but four of them, according to a United Nations’ report on counter-terrorism. It turns out Al Qaeda is closely aligned with the Taliban. Al Qaeda also provides both religious and military instructors to the Taliban, that we know for certain. This information provided by the U.N. report on the Taliban is quite up-to-date, mid-July 2019.

Recently, the Trump Administration’s Mike Pompeo indicated some intelligence citing links between Al-Qaeda and Iran. Foreign Policy explained why attempting to link Iran and Al-Qaeda undercuts the Administration’s credibility. After all, as recently as last year they were fighting each other in Syria. Still, the claim that there is some sort of alliance or agreement might not be too far off seeing that they both have a common enemy; The United States. Iran is said to be allowing a safe harbor and travels for Al-Qaeda in and through Iran.

Alliances change quickly in the Middle East amongst rogue nation-states and terrorist organizations and even faster between the many terrorist organizations themselves. It’s difficult to stay on top of the shifting sand, but the ancient proverb is always on point; “The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend.” The United Nations Security Council report on Afghanistan notes a long-standing relationship between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. There isn’t this level of evidence for an Iran Al-Qaeda relationship, but based on Al-Qaeda’s activities and movements, Iran has at minimum been giving the terrorist organization a free-pass to go about their nefarious affairs.

The Trump Administration wants to end the money drain from the long drawn out war in Afghanistan, as it will be exactly 20-years on October 15, 2019. Unfortunately, to do this an agreement is needed from the Taliban. The Trump Administration wants the Taliban to agree to cease all alliances, coordination, and activities with Al-Qaeda as one of the conditions. Question is; how can we possibly trust the Taliban to stop associating with Al-Qaeda, asks Foreign Affairs Magazine? The answer is; we can’t, and everyone who has looked at this potential eventuality at least agrees on that. In other words, any agreement garnered from the Taliban isn’t worth the Charmin Toiletry it’s written on.

According to the FDD, leading researchers on the conflict in Afghanistan, the connection and symbiotic relationship between the Taliban and Al Qaeda is too interwoven to presume that such a break-up is possible, even “if” certain Taliban leadership were to agree to such a proposal in trade for the US drawing down and ultimately leaving Afghanistan. Likewise, the U.N. Security Council doesn’t believe this is a possibility either. Since the situation in Afghanistan is dynamic and the players in the region always sparring for the top podium. Those interested in the current trends here would be wise to follow the FDD to stay abreast of the latest updates on the conflict in Afghanistan.The Trump Administration is working to find the right move on the three-dimensional chessboard to secure stability in Afghanistan and minimize any future conflict. As reported by leading experts on foreign policy, these objectives will not be easy to attain and things are bound to get more complicated in the process. Needless to say, if the United States and our allies leave Afghanistan, that troubled region of the world will continue to be a hotbed of terrorist activity for many decades into the future.

Cash-Low Tehran Using Sovereign Wealth Fund to Stay Afloat

While boarding Air Force One for the G20 in Japan, President Trump said in an ad hoc interview; “The sanctions are very tough and Iran has to deal with them.” Trump stated he thought the leaders of Iran were making a big mistake, and said; “Iran should do the right thing for their people, if the Iranian leaders care about their people, they’ll make a deal. If they don’t, they are just thinking about themselves, and they are selfish and stupid if they don’t negotiate.”

Are Economic Sanctions Working In Iran?

The sanctions are working and Iran’s economy is experiencing 40-50% inflation as of the date of this article. Iran’s currency, the Iranian Rial, is expected to continue devaluation, and is now considered the most distressed currency in the region. The Iranian government is withdrawing money from its NDF – National Defense Fund at an increasingly faster pace, which is unsustainable according to FDD, researchers on sanctions. Iran has no choice, as sanctions have cut oil and gas revenues by over 50% and the regime’s cash flow is drying up.

One of the most recent U.S. allies to honor the Iranian oil sanctions is South Korea, according to reports from Reuters Business News. South Korea has plenty of other options, as it can buy oil from Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and/or the United States. Iran cannot afford to lose many more customers. At some point the low production volume will be below its break-even point. Iran’s economic crisis is getting worse by the day – currency speculators are betting against the Iranian Rial, and the downturn in the economy is affecting the average Iranian and those in the middle class at a very personal level.

Meanwhile, according to reports from Radio Forda the Iranian regime has been steadily drawing down the NDF, taking out billions for the military, its internal state broadcasting propaganda mechanism, and other expenses. If the US were to sanction the NDF and freeze funds, things could get a whole lot worse. Since Iran’s military has been named a state-sponsor of terrorism due to the regime’s proxy terrorist activities throughout the Middle East, the NDF sanctions can easily be justified. Although that decision has not yet been made, as of the writing of this article, things are happening as we speak with the Iranian crisis.

Will The Iranian Supreme Leader Sit Down With President Trump To Talk?

A meeting of the minds does not appear imminent. Ali Khamenei called the United States ‘the most oppressive regime’ and accused the United States of economic warfare – all this among a flurry of other insults and derogatory statements. Apparently, the Iranian regime is trying to play victim and hopes this will help its case with the international community, yet at the same time attempting to look strong to its own people. Most international relations think tanks believe that Iran will have to capitulate (blink first) and eventually negotiate. That assessment appears to be correct from all the economic data coming out of Tehran.

Tensions remain high as the G20 meeting continues, and the Iranian issue is a hot topic. The problems are not going away and the rhetoric continues. Although President Trump hasn’t drawn any redlines yet, he’s hinted on Twitter; 1.) “Iran can never have a nuclear weapon,” and; 2.) “Iran better not attack anything U.S. again or risk obliteration.”The second Trump tweet is in reference to the U.S. drone that Iran shot down while it was flying in international airspace, and as a reminder to all that the Trump Administration has not taken ‘military action’ off the table. Hard to say how much of that is just tough-talk, but most international diplomacy experts concur with the serious nature of the first item.

Trump Hands Iran Victory


For all of Donald Trump’s differences from his predecessor, during the presidential campaign he largely followed the same footsteps as Barack Obama when it came to to foreign-policy. They both agreed that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were poorly managed and they both had similar visions for trade with Europe. One area where the two couldn’t be further apart however, is Iran.

In fact, one of President Trump’s most divisive acts was upending a piece of flagship legislature put into place by the previous administration. The nuclear agreement with Iran known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was referred to by Donald Trump as the “worst deal ever.” The Foundation for Defense of Democracies CEO, Mark Dubowitz notes that unlike President Obama the current administration’s rhetoric regarding Iran has been far from sugar-coated. Learn more about Mark Dubowitz here.

President Trump had little interest in being diplomatic with Tehran. As he promised, the nuclear deal was ended and sanctions were brought back, but for the most part his administration’s military advisors were able to deal with concerns about blowback in the Middle East and managed to contain Iran’s presence in Syria.

The relative success of President Trump’s controversial decision makes it even more bizarre what he did next. The announcement that the U.S. would withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria and reduce our military presence in Afghanistan left a lot of people shaking their heads for the consequences it would mean for our allies in the region. What’s more concerning though, is the effects the decision will have on the US’s efforts to enforce policies meant to prevent Iran from funding terrorism. Many experts suggest that it will only be a positive for the totalitarian regime.

The President’s threats against Iran were clear about what lines they needed to stop crossing – in short, supporting terrorist organizations in Lebanon and Palestine such as Hezbollah. However he did not state in what way these lines would be enforced. With a minimized military presence in the region the President has left himself few options to enforce his will besides sanctions, which Iran has shown little reverence for in the past.
The most baffling aspect of Trump’s decision to the experts is that it runs counter to the position held by the majority of Democrats and Republicans who believe the U.S. should maintain a military presence in Syria. For little cost and risk of US casualties our troops have provided a stopper against Russian aggression, as well as Iranian and ISIS aggressors, and served as back up to our European allies in the region. It’s unclear what the President’s long-term plan is, if he has one, but one thing is certain, so far it looks good for Iran. Stay in the loop as the story progresses. 

Hezbollah Global Finance

History of Hezbollah

Hezbollah first came into existence in 1985 with the official, objective, of expelling Americans and other Western powers from Lebanon. Thanks to a large part, in training, from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Hezbollah’s military strength has grown to surpass the scale, and power of the Lebanese Army. Such extreme control, in addition to the widespread support of Hezbollah’s power, has led many to describe Hezbollah as a “state within a state”. With the ability to collect taxes within their region, as well as exert influence over local radio and TV stations, and provide fully funded social services – Hezbollah has managed to stand apart from various extremist groups in the region, as a form of self-governance.

However, despite Hezbollah’s high regard amongst Lebanese citizens, it is undeniably a lawless terrorist organization with a record rivaling AL Qaeda. Such attacks included frequent truck and suicide bombings. The targets have included the U.S. and French military and government forces, but have largely been focused on civilian Jewish communities ranging from Europe to Southeastern Asia and to South America. To understand how Hezbollah accomplishes its missions, it’s important to see where the money for training, and supplies, flow from.


For years Hezbollah has claimed to earn most of its revenue through donations from private citizens, as well as earnings through various investments, but Western intelligence agencies dispute these claims. Evidence suggests that, since its formation, Hezbollah has been dependent on Iran for the majority of its training, weapons, and financial aid to carry out all its operations. Some experts speculate that Iran provides Hezbollah up to $100 million a year or more.

In exchange, Hezbollah acts as Iran’s proxy in their conflict with Israel. The conflict between the Jewish nation and Palestine has long been stoked by outside forces and Hezbollah is often the primary party responsible. To get a sense of the extent of Iran and Hezbollah’s ties one only needs to look at Hezbollah’s formation when Iran provided the initial training necessary to get Hezbollah’s forces into fighting shape.

In light of Iran’s blatant aggression towards the West through its partnership with Hezbollah, many experts believe sanctions shouldn’t be lifted until the terms of a nuclear agreement that prohibit such financing are set into place. The past deal signed into law, by then, President Obama, and was lifted this year, by president Trump; called for the dissolution of Iran’s nuclear program – but had no such language regarding the extremist faction. Click here to read more.

Even more alarming, than the faulty nuclear agreement, is the recent allegations that the US made payments as high as 33.6 billion to the Iranian government, as a form of economic relief. Mark Dubowitz, from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, recently spoke on Fox News about the nature of these payments and their potential consequences. Click here to watch Mark Dubowtiz on YouTube.


Beyond Iran’s considerable financial involvement, Hezbollah earns a great deal of money from other sources and is in no way dependent on the Middle Eastern power. Every year Hezbollah manages to raise millions of dollars from private donors all throughout the world, mostly from wealthy Lebanese expatriates living in Africa, and South America. In one instance reported by Israeli intelligence, a transfer of $2 million was carried out by a human courier in Senegal (the second-highest rate of Hezbollah fundraising in Africa) made up entirely of donations by Lebanese business groups. The group claimed the money exchange was intended to avoid taxes.


To hide their fundraising activity, Hezbollah uses various charities to obscure the sources and eventual destination of money raised. The AL-Aqsa International Foundation, a terrorist financing scheme banned by the United States, Germany, and Great Britain raised funds for Hezbollah as part of a joint money laundering operation with the Palestinian group Hamas.

The “Martyr’s Organization” supplies finances to the family of suicide bombers. Many other charities donate to the group out of ideological motivation. Such tactics allow money to travel to Hezbollah from Western nations without financial institutions being aware of the deceit.

Criminal Enterprises

Thanks to its wide criminal network and well-trained operatives Hezbollah has found great success raising money through criminal means, such as diamond smuggling, money laundering, various types of fraud and electronic finance schemes, and drug production. These groups operate all over the world and have an elaborate system of transportation and money management built to avoid detection. Members of U.S. law enforcement agencies have stated that there is significant money moved out of the United States for terrorist operations each year. As much as $30 million dollars is generated from illicit scams in the United States alone.

Terror in The West

According to the Foreign Policy and the Observer Piece written by Emanuele Ottolenghi (FP) and Bridget Johnson (Observer)… Terror is in the West. Iran and Hezbollah have been generating a great influence in Latin America, with what can be seen as diplomatic gestures. In reality, Iran and Hezbollah are utilizing these foreign connections to strengthen their illegal activities. Alberto Nisman, an Argentinian prosecutor was murdered in 2015 during his attempt to expose the Iran connection between the “bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community center in Buenos Aires,” that occurred in 1994, Johnson states. This bombing killed 85 innocent people and when it came time for an investigation, former Argentine President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, decided to let the Islamic Republic investigate this crime on its own.

Johnson accuses Kirchner of being fully aware of the crime, stating that “Iran and its partners were behind the bombing.”But she signed off on the agreement anyway. Nisman began investigating the officials who signed the truth commission while Kirchner was busy firing the people involved in the investigation. The day Nisman was going to present his 288-page report to the federal judge charging those involved with an obstruction of justice and aggravated cover-up, he was found murdered with a shot to the head. Nisman’s report included findings discussing how “Argentia would profit from oil and grain deals while the Iranians wanted for the bombing would get off the Interpol Red Notice,” according to Johnson. And this is just the beginning.

Mark Dubowitz of Foundation for Defense of Democracies discusses this topic here. FDD’s Toby Dershowitz and Serena Frechter wrote in a policy brief that Hezbollah is currently on trial in Paris for their criminal activity in South America and the laundering of millions in euros in this area — similar to the situation between Hezbollah and the U.S.

It’s no secret that Latin America’s Triple Frontier (the border area shared by Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil) plays an important role in illicit activity. United States policymakers have neglected the Triple Frontier for over a decade, but recent federal investigations have brought to light multi-billion-dollar schemes run by Hezbollah. Earlier in the year, the Trump administration decided to pull away from the Iran nuclear deal and days after doing so, Washington “ramped up sanctions against Hezbollah,” Ottolenghi states. However, many are confused about where the U.S. stance and their policies currently lie. For example, the United States is against Hezbollah but supports “Lebanese State Institutions.” Because Lebanese State Institutions are run almost entirely by the Hezbollah, Ottolenghi believes that the “White House ends up undermining its own pursuit of the group’s illicit sources of finance.” This clear contradiction is being displayed in Paraguay now.

Ottolenghi states that there is evidence Hezbollah is “sending senior officials to the Triple Frontier to coordinate these activities” and that even “local operatives are involved in the local boom of cocaine trafficking.” While the U.S. Treasury was busy announcing the new Hezbollah sanctions, “Paraguayan authorities raided Unique SA, a currency exchange house”, Ottolenghi states. Farhat, the owner of this currency exchange house, was arrested for laundering $1.3 million in drug money. Farhat is said to be a member of the “Business Affairs Component”, Hezbollah’s External Security Organization. This organization is responsible for overseeing illicit finance and drug trafficking “overseas,” Ottolenghi explains .U.S. authorities are seeking to extradite Farhat, a sign that his actions have impacted the U.S. bank system. However, the Lebanese government is doing its best to prevent this from happening.

Hezbollah has chosen to push back by leveraging local influence through the Lebanese Embassy, Ottolenghi informs. Unfortunately, the Lebanese Embassy is considered a “state institution” one Washington looks forward to using as a “counterweight,” Ottolenghi explains. In May 2018, Hassan Hijazi, “the Lebanese charge d’affairs” in Asunción, sent a letter to Paraguay’s attorney general asking her to reject the request. Paraguayan authorities are apparently cooperative with the U.S., but they are also experiencing pressure from Lebanese Hezbollah.

An article in Foreign Policy states that for businesses like this to run smoothly, “such schemes rely on the complicity of local authorities, who rarely check incoming and outgoing merchandise that traverses the Triple Frontier weekly,” including through Ciudad Del Este’s Guaraní International Airport “by cargo plane from Dubai and the United States.” Just last year, Paraguay extradited a Lebanese drug trafficker to Miami who had ties to Hezbollah and was caught with shipping cocaine. Authorities found that in this case, the suspect was conspiring to ship “100 kilograms of cocaine a month to a Houston business associate by air cargo,” Ottolenghi states. Another similar case, also in Miami, had been investigated by the local FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, “mentions a weekly Miami-Ciudad Del Este cargo flight as the conduit for delivery of counterfeited electronics,” Ottolenghi continues. All at the same airport.

There is a fear that Farhat won’t be convicted if tried domestically, because of the history of “lost opportunities to go after Hezbollah in Paraguay.” Two Hezbollah criminals escaped a Paraguay penitentiary during a transfer between prisons last December. This, along with Asunción’s failure to enforce the “decade-old U.S. sanctions against Triple Frontier-based Hezbollah operatives, many of whom continue to live and trade on the Paraguayan side of the border” seems to lessen Ottolenghi’s confidence in them bringing these culprits to justice.

Ottolenghi believes the U.S. should send a clear message to Hezbollah, Hijazi, and Gebran Bassil- the Lebanese Foreign Minister. The message being: “You can get U.S. aid or you can do Hezbollah’s bidding. But you cannot do both at the same time and get away with it.” Ottolenghi also believes that the U.S. needs to give Paraguay some sort of reassurance, “ that punishing the envoy and extraditing the culprit is the right course of action.”

Ottolenghi knows that Washington will work with the Paraguayans to “bring Farhat to justice” and hopes that it inspires more dismantling of any other large schemes supporting Hezbollah’s finances in this particular region. In the end, Ottolenghi calls on Washington to recognize the Lebanese institutions as enablers, not counterweights.



Johnson, B. (2017, December 26). Western Shame: Tolerating Terrorists for Political Expediency. Retrieved November 8, 2018, from 

Ottolenghi, E. (2018, June 15). Lebanon Is Protecting Hezbollah’s Cocaine Trade in Latin America. Retrieved November 8, 2018, from