For critics of the Iranian regime, this adds to concerns about the sorts of resources that the Islamic Republic will be able to either use illicitly or distribute to terrorist groups beyond its borders. These concerns were already amplified in recent weeks by news of discussions regarding the possible purchase of advanced weapons from Russia.
Now “arewelivinginthelastdays.com” quotes Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan as saying that the Iranian armed forces have “foiled” the intentions underlying Western-led sanctions on Iran’s trade in weapons, and that they would continue to do so in the future. Dehqan said it is an “important mission” for Iran to develop “advanced and sophisticated defensive equipment” like that which was unveiled on Monday.
This anti-Western rhetoric underscores the motives behind much of Iran’s support for global terrorism. This was explained, for instance, in a Media Linereport on Monday regarding conflicts between Iran and the Palestinian Authority regarding recently-announced Iranian plans to make cash payments to perpetrators of attacks on Israel and to Palestinians whose home are lost as a result.
The report notes that Iran intends to circumvent existing Palestinian institutions and deliver these payments directly to their recipients, thereby circumventing the PA’s authority and securing a more direct Iranian foothold in Palestine. Media Line reports that Iran is able to justify such moves by characterizing the PA as an “American tool” and insufficiently adversarial toward Israel.
Such commentary strongly suggests that Iranian activities in the region are aimed not only at asserting its own power but also specifically at challenging Western power or the perception thereof. This project has led to attacks on American targets in years past, and many critics of recent Western policy toward Iran are fearful that the same will happen again. Some such critics are taking their own steps to confront Iran over its past and potential support for terrorism.
That side of Western policy circles scored a small victory recently when the Middle East and North Africa Financial Network reported that Americans were likely to gain access to well over 2 billion dollars in Iranian assets, to be claimed as compensation for the victims of past Iranian terrorist attacks. The figure is based on the expectation that a pending case will come to a similar conclusion as one that determined last week that victims of terrorism could intercept funds due to be paid to Iran by the United States over business disputes stemming from before the Islamic Revolution.
More claims and judgments of this kind are likely to follow, in light of the seriousness with which some of Iran’s critics are looking at recent changes in Western policy toward Iran. MENAFN quoted a lawyer involved in the case as saying, “The Islamic Republic needs to understand that these court judgments have not been canceled and that the terrorism victims will continue to pursue them in legal forums all over the world. They don’t forgive and they aren’t going to forget either.”
Some Western legislators are striving to supplement these financial penalties with expansion of the kinds of sanctions that the Iranian defense minister dismissed in his recent comments. The lifting of sanctions under the July 14 nuclear agreement has opened up the possibilities for Iran to restore its diminished oil economy. But Iran has substantial ambitions, including a one million barrel per day boost in output, which will require foreign investment and stable economic resources.
CNN reported on Monday that these ambitions remained in place and Iran was no closer to cooperating with an OPEC-Russian plan to freeze oil output in an attempt to stabilize prices. Deputy Iranian Oil Minister Amir Hossein Zamaninia reaffirmed this commitment to non-cooperation, saying, “We do not intend to sanction ourselves again after coming out of the sanctions.”
This is latest in a series of statements that highlighted the ongoing competition between Iran and leading OPEC member Saudi Arabia. It is a conflict that relates not only to Iran’s sanctions status but also its support for terrorism as the two Middle Eastern countries vie for both economic and military influence in various areas of the region.
Iran’s sponsorship of Yemeni rebels and the Syrian government has been well-publicized, and the Saudis have become increasingly involved on the opposite sides in an attempt to forestall the projection of Iranian strength. Iran’s actions in Palestine have also received some attention in the Israeli media at a time when the Saudis and Israelis have shown signs of greater willingness to cooperate against a mutual enemy.
What has received comparatively little attention is Iran’s ongoing influence in neighboring Iraq, which is a minor partner in a burgeoning alliance among Iran, Syria, Russia, and Hezbollah. But on Monday, Assist News Service reported upon some of the latest terrorist activities that have served to solidify Iranian power in certain areas of Iraq.
The report notes that Shiite militant groups that are operating in Iraq under the direction of Iranian military advisers and often on the basis of Iranian recruitment have been driving Iraqi Christians from their homes and stealing their assets en masse as part of an apparent ongoing project to establish sharper sectarian boundaries in the region.
This same goal is arguably a driving force in Iranian state terrorism in its own border areas, namely in the province of Iranian-Pakistani province of Sistan-Baluchistan, which has been described as a hotbed for Sunni rebels, and also for the drug trade. The latter was used as the justification for a wave of recent executions in Iran, but Fox News reported on Monday that the crackdown was so severe that the entire adult male population of one village was killed on accusation of drug trafficking.
Assuming that such crackdowns are aimed at reasserting the regimes control over the physical and cultural environment, they reflect other types of crackdowns closer to Iran’s populated areas. Iran News Update has extensively reported upon the ongoing political arrests and obstructions of free speech, especially in the months since the nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers. And still accusations of that crackdown continue to accumulate, with one of the latest concerning the conclusion of a case involving two Iranian musicians and a filmmaker.
IranWire reported on Monday that an Iranian court had sentenced Mehdi Rajabian, Hossein Rajabian, and Yousef Emadi to three years in prison plus a three year suspended sentence as punishment for their efforts to promote and disseminate the work of Iranian alternative musicians. A separate IranWire report indicated that the repressive environment represented by these sentences has contributed to a “mass exodus” of Iranian television and film personalities, which has “greatly accelerated” as a result of rising levels of access to information from outside of the country.
In the midst of recent developments, the continued flow of this information can be expected to expose not only the freedoms that are available in foreign democracies but also the full range of activities being carried out by the Iranian government against targets both within the country and in the broader Middle Eastern region.