Recently, US President Donald Trump addressed the UN Security Council in New York. Among many topics including the failure of socialism and the wrong path of globalism around the world, President Trump took up the subject of Iran.
In May of this year, the United States pulled-out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, the Iranian denuclearization deal). Certain American sanctions went into effect immediately. Other, oil-related sanctions will come into force in early November. Additionally, the United States has worked closely with allies old and new to expand the sanctions on Iran.
Explaining the United States’ withdrawal, President Trump said, “This horrible one-sided deal would allow Iran to continue its path toward a bomb.” Further, Trump expanded stating that the JCPOA enables Iran to continue its state sponsorship of terrorism. President Trump said that the JCPOA gave
Iran, “a cash lifeline when they needed it the most” further observing that Iran’s terrorism activities and aggression around the world, “has only increased.”
Clearly, the attitude of the Trump Administration towards Iran is not to reform the JCPOA but to gain an entirely new deal encompassing not only the denuclearization of Iran but to stop its international activities as a state-sponsor or terrorism.
It is possible that this only can be accomplished after a change of regime in Tehran. The Trump Administration has not advocated this directly but has applauded Iranian resistance groups around the world and has shown support for internal resistance to the regime in Iran. Perhaps, the Administration’s position regarding Iran is formally evolving in this direction.
Preparing for possible confrontation with a renewal of the oil-related sanctions in November, the Iranians recently announced Air Force drills around the vicinity of the Straits of Hormuz. Clearly, Iran is trying to make the point that it will militarily resist the reimplementation US sanctions. Additionally, Iran has threatened to close the Straits to choke-off Arab Gulf States’ oil sales if they cannot transit the Straits themselves.
Stealth and camouflage
Over the past several weeks, Iranian oil tankers have been observed using stealth and camouflage to transit the Gulf in order to make the open ocean and to deliver its oil around the world. Iranians were quite adept at this in the past to avoid sanctions and are practicing these skills once again.
Additionally, the Iranians are working to use ports on the Gulf of Oman, Just beyond the Straits of Hormuz, to traffic oil while trying closing the Straits. It is generally believed that the United States will have little problem keeping the Straits of Hormuz open and operating but armed conflict may come to pass.
Clearly, Iran is looking for outlets and safe spaces to conduct activities normally conducted in Iran proper. Iraq is unfortunately the base of many of these future operations benefitting Iran. To that end, Iran needs to both control of the populace to some extent and to a large extent co-opt the government of Iraq making it pliable to the practical needs of Iran.
To accomplish the first step of creating popular “support” for Iran in Iraq, Iran must form something of an information network in Iraq to control opposition. To that end, Iran is ramping-up its community-based spying in Iraq.
Starting back in 2013, the Iranian Republican Guards sponsored a conference loosely translated to “Insight Political Gathering.” This was a conference to institutionalize the gathering and processing of data points about the USA and Iraq gathered in Iraq and the greater Middle East.
Recently, this same organization has been formally constituted in Iraq and is operated by the Al Fatah Alliance. It is a civilian organization and, so far, is not under-arms as a militia. Insight Political Gathering’s purpose is to both uncover American influences and influencers in Iraq and to uncover and expose anti-Iranian Iraqis – most notably the protesters in the South of Iraq who recently burned the Iranian Consulate in Basra.
The Gathering’s leader, known as Abu Bashir, has recently met with the Iranian Ambassador in Baghdad.
The other track for success for undermining and controlling the Iraqi government for the benefit of Iran is to make sure that the official organs of government are responsive to Iran’s needs at least and actually operated by Iran at worse.
This week, all of the prospective candidates for Iraq’s President (the largely ceremonial Head of State) paid a visit to the Iranian ambassador. No actual minutes of the meetings are available but the implication is troubling. Clearly, Iran is already exercising unusual amounts of control over formal portions of the Iraqi government.
That the Insight Political Gathering sponsored by the Iranian Republican Guards can operate openly in Iraq and that candidates for Iraq’s highest offices feel a need to “check-in” with Iran’s formal presence in Iraq is appalling. If the new Iraq government will not be able to stand-up to Iran when formed, the Iraqi people should protest and insist that action be taken. Iraq must not become a client-state of Iran.