Insider news & Analysis in Iran

 By INU Staff 

INU - On Monday, the Washington Examiner reported that US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had had an unscheduled telephone conversation, which was likely motivated by mutual concerns over developments involving the Islamic Republic of Iran. The report speculated that the unplanned communication may have had to do with the weekend incidents in which Iran test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles and positioned fast attack vessels relatively close to the intended course of an American surveillance vessel.

Whatever the case, if the phone call was in any way related to Iran it will be easy to regard it as yet another example of growing coordination among Western and Middle Eastern powers as they seek to confront and counteract Iranian ascendancy in the region. Iran News Update has highlighted this phenomenon several times in recent weeks, at times pointing to last month’s Munich Security Conference as what some foreign policy experts have described as a major turning point in international attitudes toward Tehran following the 2015 nuclear agreement, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

At Munich, a number of regional powers made similarly vituperative comments about Iran’s regional role, describing the Islamic Republic as a destabilizing force and the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The contributors to this commentary included both Israel and Saudi Arabia, traditional adversaries who have continually shown more signs of cooperation as Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps reach their hands farther into the affairs of surrounding countries, especially war-torn Syria and Yemen.

Notable criticism of Tehran also came from Turkish delegates to the conference, in spite of the fact that Turkey and Iran had been enjoying improved relations in recent months. In this way, the conference highlighted the escalation of tensions among players in the Syrian Civil War – something that might even threaten Iran’s relationship with its steadfast ally in that conflict, Russia.

This is something that global policy analysts have been speculating about virtually since Russia first became directly involved in the civil war. Iran News Update pointed out last week that the Russian Foreign Ministry’s had describing this involvement as being in line with Moscow’s interests. The article pointed out that such commentary could be interpreted to underscore the widely-recognized possibility of Russian and Iranian interests diverging in this area.

This is a possibility that some of Tehran’s longstanding adversaries may be exploring with some eagerness in the aftermath of the Munich Conference. This is arguably the implication of a Reuters report that emerged on Monday and described Mr. Netanyahu’s plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

Israel enjoys good relations with Russia in spite of the steadily emerging alliance between Moscow and Israel’s bitter enemies in Tehran. Thursday’s meeting is expected to provide the Israeli leadership with an opportunity to try to convince Russia that Iran’s current activities in the region are at odds with Russia interests. Specifically, Netanyahu will highlight the apparent Iranian efforts to gain a permanent foothold in Syria, where Iran’s clerical regime will continue to inflame sectarian tensions and destabilize the region.

The Reuters report also puts Netanyahu’s planned remarks in context with broader Israeli criticism of “Tehran’s steadily increasing influence in the region… whether via its own Revolutionary Guard forces or Shi'ite Muslim proxies, especially Hezbollah.” Of course, many other critics of the Iranian regime have been pointing squarely at the same phenomena and encouraging leading world powers like the United States to set policy accordingly.

The Munich Conference provided one example of this broader criticism, but so have other events and statements, including press conferences and distributed briefings by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the leading Iranian opposition group. The NCRI’s intelligence gathering was highlighted in a recent editorial at The Hill, which credited the resistance group articulating key details of the region-wide threat posed by the Revolutionary Guards.

The editorial went on to conclude that the international community must send the message that activities like the ongoing development of an IRGC-led terrorist network “will bear a heavy price tag.” And it appears that this is a conclusion is shared by a growing number of global powers, and that it may lead to highly coordinated action toward that end.

 

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