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Colonel Thomas Cantwell

Retired US Military Officer Urges the United States to Maintain Pressure on Tehran

Colonel Thomas Cantwell

Colonel Thomas Cantwell speaking at the Grand Gathering of the Iranian opposition in Paris- June 2014

Colonel Thomas Cantwell, a retired military officer and employee of the United States Army who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, wrote an op-ed for Real Clear Defense calling for sustained pressure towards the Iranian regime.

His comments came a week after the White House announced its decision to include the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) on its terror blacklist. It is the first time a US Presidential administration has included the regime’s repressive organ on the list of foreign terror organizations (FTOs).

Cantwell describes how the decision was emblematic of Donald Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” towards the Iranian regime. In his speech announcing the decision, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested that the decision would be part of a wider effort to “ratchet up pressure” on the brutal regime.

The IRGC is Instrumental for the Regime’s Survival

“The president’s announcement correctly identified the powerful, hardline organization as the regime’s primary instrument of terrorism as a form of statecraft,” Cantwell wrote.

The IRGC is active across the Middle East. Its troops and resources have been discovered operating in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. There is not a single conflict in the Middle East in which the IRGC does not have a disruptive, destabilizing influence.

At home in Iran, the IRGC is one of the regime’s organs of repression through which it crushes political dissent. Its plainclothes agents arrest members of the Iranian opposition and the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK) at their peaceful protests. They also carry out torture and kidnapping operations against MEK members.

Following the FTO designation, the Washington Post called the IRGC, the “single most effective guarantor of the regime’s survival.”

They Are Being Stretched to Their Limit

Cantwell describes how the IRGC is already under immense pressure within Iran. He writes, “the mass uprising last year stretched the repressive capabilities of the IRGC to their limit. Had the IRGC been weakened ahead of time by global economic isolation, the public protests might have forced the clerical regime further into domestic isolation, precipitating its collapse.”

The protest movement within Iran is gaining momentum under the leadership of the MEK. The new designation will severely weaken the IRGC at a time when the regime will need to rely on it to quell protests.

The regime’s “actions on the world stage have been indicative of its escalating desperation in the face of the dual pressures of its own people and the international community,” Cantwell writes. This desperation can be increased with sustained pressure from the US and its international allies.

For Cantwell, once the IRGC is stretched beyond its means and the protest movement intensifies, the regime will have nothing left to protect it. It will inevitably collapse.

The MEK Offers Iran a Positive Future

Filling the void left by the regime will fall on the MEK’s shoulders. The Iranian opposition President-elect Maryam Rajavi has a ten-point plan for restoring democracy in Iran. It promises Iranians a secular future with an independent judiciary, gender equality, and religious freedom, without nuclear weapons and the death penalty.

But to fully realize this dream, the US must tackle the other repressive organs within the regime. The first on the list, Cantwell argues, should be the Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS).

The MOIS has been behind many of Iran’s terror plots abroad, including the one last June that intended to detonate a car bomb at the MEK’s annual Grand Gathering event in France.

“As Tehran watches the walls closing in, it will surely shift some of its resources from a newly isolated IRGC to an intelligence service that still enjoys a foothold,” Cantwell writes. “In this sense, the terror designation could represent a greater danger to the West,” he continues, “but only if the US and its European allies fail to follow up by keeping the pressure on Tehran.”

Cantwell finished with a message of hope. “On the other hand,” he writes, “if they do so,… they will critically impede the Iranian regime’s strategy for maintaining its grip on power.” This would signal support for the Iranian public and help usher in a new democratic dawn for the Iranian people.

Staff writer

 

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Chief commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)

After Calls from the MEK and NCRI, the US is Set to Include the IRGC and MOIS in its Terror Blacklist

 

Chief commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)

IRGC Commander, Ghassem Soleimani (Middle) commander of the terrorist Quds force, sitting next to Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari is the Iranian commander-in-chief of the IRGC (left), and IRGC deputy commander Salami (Right)

Over the weekend, two op-eds captured the international sentiment towards the Iranian regime. The first came on Saturday, April 6. Ali Safavi of the National Council of Resistance of Iran’s (NCRI’s) Foreign Affairs Committee wrote an op-ed for Lima Charlie World calling on the international community to acknowledge the threat of Iranian state-sponsored terror.

The Iranian regime has openly admitted that it sends agents to the United States and other nations under the guise of journalists. In August last year, US authorities arrested two agents of the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) for plotting a terror attack against members of the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK), an opposition pro-democracy group.

Given the clear evidence that the Iranian regime is planning terror attacks on US soil, Safavi argues that that the MOIS and Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) should be included in the US’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list.

The two are already on the US government’s Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT) blacklist.

The IRGC plays a central role in suppressing the political opposition within Iran. Companies associated with the entity control most of the Iranian economy.

Exporting Terrorism and Violence

Safavi describes how both the IRGC and the MOIS are active in several countries across the globe. “The IRGC has numerous facilities inside Iran to train terrorists as part of the regime’s strategy to step up its meddling abroad,” he writes.

The IRGC has also been behind around 608 deaths of American service members, around 17% of the total US personnel deaths in Iraq between 2003 and 2011. This is in addition to the many thousands of Iranians it has tortured and killed.

2018 saw a marked increase in the regime’s state-sponsored terrorism output. Plots were foiled in Albania, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the US. Iranians and European citizens were among those targeted.

Safavi argues that the MOIS and IRGC meet the criteria for inclusion on the FTO list. Under Section 29 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a group must meet three requirements for inclusion on the list. It must be a foreign organization. It must engage in terror activities, or “retain the capability and intent to engage” in terrorist activities, and it must pose a threat to US nationals or the national security of the United States.

The IRGC and MOIS clearly fulfill all three requirements.

A Welcome Announcement

Writing for Eurasia Review, human rights advocate Hassan Mahmoudi wrote that the blacklisting of IRGC would, “ramp up pressure on the elite force.”

The move will be welcomed among the Iranian opposition, including the NCRI and MEK. The MEK’s president-elect, Maryam Rajavi, has been calling for a more assertive stance towards the Iranian regime from the international community. This inclusion of its MOIS and IRGC forces will be just that.

On January 11, Maryam Rajavi urged the US to include the IRGC in its FTO. She also called for governments to refer Iranian human rights abuses to the UN Security Council.

For decades, western governments have adopted a policy of appeasement towards Iran. In doing so, it has empowered and emboldened the regime. Mahmoudi writes, “inaction regarding the IRGC and MOIS has further enabled the regime to set up missile factories in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq in order to broaden its regional sphere of influence.”

 

The inclusion of the organizations on the FTO is more than simply a symbolic one. It will make it illegal for a US person to provide material “support or resources” to these entities. This includes advice or assistance. It will also allow the government to remove MOIS or IRGC officials from US soil.

Staff writer

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