Category: Amir Basiri

Obama-Era Windfall Enabling Iranian Military Buildup


Iran is engaging in an unprecedented buildup of military assets thanks to the billions obtained through the Obama-brokered and highly flawed nuclear deal. Iran’s military leaders are boasting of carrying out a transformation of their fighting capabilities, giving the regime the option of becoming an offensive juggernaut throughout the Gulf region. Such claims are already the source of major concern amongst senior figures in Washington.

Late April reports from inside Iran cited officials describing a 145% increase in the defense budget under the tenure of the so-called “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani and the regime’s military forces aiming to launch a massive restructuring with the objective of becoming a force always on the initiative.

Since the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, senior regime officials have used the resulting windfall to purchase new military hardware and additional armaments. Note that there is no mention of using such funds for the greater good of the Iranian people, despite a high percentage living in poverty. Iran has also signed huge multimillion-dollar contracts with Russia.

Senior U.S. officials and members of Congress have major suspicions that Iran is using a significant portion of the highly controversial $1.7 billion in cash provided by the Obama administration to back its network of terrorist groups spread across the Middle East.

Such disturbing disclosures have raised new concerns over the use of U.S. cash provided to Iran — the “leading state sponsor of terrorism”, in the words of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — to adopt a more aggressive approach in the face of U.S. forces stationed across the already flashpoint region.

Iran’s military additions were announced by Brigadier General Kiumars Heidari during ceremonies marking the regime’s Army Day. Despite the lack of attention such an announcement gained in Western mainstream media, insiders of the national security community are known to have been discussing the issue for the past few weeks.

Iran’s objective is to transform its army into a force with “offensive” capabilities, signaling a significant overhaul from its support role for the leading Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), considered Tehran’s primary force.

Boosting its logistical, weaponry, and support capabilities are the goals the Iranian regime hopes to revamp in its classic army. Experts are analyzing this announcement as a major policy shift in the Iranian military, with a far-reaching potential of making Tehran capable of intervening across the Persian Gulf region. This is a sensitive area where the U.S. military already enjoys noteworthy influence and presence.

Iran channeling the cash it received under the nuclear deal for its military apparatus should come as no surprise, and the Obama administration had even predicted such a scenario. Former Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged some of the money Iran received in sanctions relief would go to groups considered terrorists, according to a CNN report.

Iran also has a long history of funneling billions to its military and paramilitary programs. Iran used the currency windfall gained from the European Union through the period of 1998 to 2005 to invest heavily in its clandestine nuclear and missile programs. Ironically, the person at the helm of these efforts was none other than the regime’s then secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Hassan Rouhani, who is now wrongly and naively dubbed a “reformist” by various parties in the West.

Concerns are being raised about the safety of American forces in the Middle East, among reports of Iranian forces continuing to harass U.S. Navy ships. (Although rest assured, the regime in Iran may talk the talk, but will not walk the walk to provoking a serious military confrontation with the U.S. and its allies in the region.)

Capitol Hill is already witnessing a renewed push to reinstall economic sanctions against the regime in Tehran. Knowing their window of opportunity will end this fall at the latest, the Iranian regime is using this period to the utmost extent. Tehran is continuously expanding its arsenal while saber-rattling against U.S. allies in the region by taking advantage of the Obama administration’s refusal to beef up sanctions.

As the Trump administration weighs its options on Iran, designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization would send the right signal to the mullahs. Already in control over vast portions of the country’s economy, the IRGC also plays a major role in domestic crackdowns and human rights violations, Iran’s meddling in the region and involvement in Syria, and spearheads the regime’s nuclear program and ballistic missile ambitions.

This force must be reined in through sanctions.

Iran is engaging in an unprecedented buildup of military assets thanks to the billions obtained through the Obama-brokered and highly flawed nuclear deal. Iran’s military leaders are boasting of carrying out a transformation of their fighting capabilities, giving the regime the option of becoming an offensive juggernaut throughout the Gulf region. Such claims are already the source of major concern amongst senior figures in Washington.

Late April reports from inside Iran cited officials describing a 145% increase in the defense budget under the tenure of the so-called “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani and the regime’s military forces aiming to launch a massive restructuring with the objective of becoming a force always on the initiative.

Since the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, senior regime officials have used the resulting windfall to purchase new military hardware and additional armaments. Note that there is no mention of using such funds for the greater good of the Iranian people, despite a high percentage living in poverty. Iran has also signed huge multimillion-dollar contracts with Russia.

Senior U.S. officials and members of Congress have major suspicions that Iran is using a significant portion of the highly controversial $1.7 billion in cash provided by the Obama administration to back its network of terrorist groups spread across the Middle East.

Such disturbing disclosures have raised new concerns over the use of U.S. cash provided to Iran — the “leading state sponsor of terrorism”, in the words of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — to adopt a more aggressive approach in the face of U.S. forces stationed across the already flashpoint region.

Iran’s military additions were announced by Brigadier General Kiumars Heidari during ceremonies marking the regime’s Army Day. Despite the lack of attention such an announcement gained in Western mainstream media, insiders of the national security community are known to have been discussing the issue for the past few weeks.

Iran’s objective is to transform its army into a force with “offensive” capabilities, signaling a significant overhaul from its support role for the leading Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), considered Tehran’s primary force.

Boosting its logistical, weaponry, and support capabilities are the goals the Iranian regime hopes to revamp in its classic army. Experts are analyzing this announcement as a major policy shift in the Iranian military, with a far-reaching potential of making Tehran capable of intervening across the Persian Gulf region. This is a sensitive area where the U.S. military already enjoys noteworthy influence and presence.

Iran channeling the cash it received under the nuclear deal for its military apparatus should come as no surprise, and the Obama administration had even predicted such a scenario. Former Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged some of the money Iran received in sanctions relief would go to groups considered terrorists, according to a CNN report.

Iran also has a long history of funneling billions to its military and paramilitary programs. Iran used the currency windfall gained from the European Union through the period of 1998 to 2005 to invest heavily in its clandestine nuclear and missile programs. Ironically, the person at the helm of these efforts was none other than the regime’s then secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Hassan Rouhani, who is now wrongly and naively dubbed a “reformist” by various parties in the West.

Concerns are being raised about the safety of American forces in the Middle East, among reports of Iranian forces continuing to harass U.S. Navy ships. (Although rest assured, the regime in Iran may talk the talk, but will not walk the walk to provoking a serious military confrontation with the U.S. and its allies in the region.)

Capitol Hill is already witnessing a renewed push to reinstall economic sanctions against the regime in Tehran. Knowing their window of opportunity will end this fall at the latest, the Iranian regime is using this period to the utmost extent. Tehran is continuously expanding its arsenal while saber-rattling against U.S. allies in the region by taking advantage of the Obama administration’s refusal to beef up sanctions.

As the Trump administration weighs its options on Iran, designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization would send the right signal to the mullahs. Already in control over vast portions of the country’s economy, the IRGC also plays a major role in domestic crackdowns and human rights violations, Iran’s meddling in the region and involvement in Syria, and spearheads the regime’s nuclear program and ballistic missile ambitions.

This force must be reined in through sanctions.



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Iran's Foiled Bahrain Plot


Members of an Iran-backed terrorist cell were arrested by Bahrain authorities over the weekend, all being accused of planning assassinations aimed at targeting senior government officials. There are reasons to believe this cell is responsible for a February bus bombing that left several policemen wounded.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) provided military training for six of the arrested suspects, while the Iraqi Hizb’allah terrorist organization — funded by Iran — trained five other members, according to the BNA, Bahrain’s state news agency. Three other cell members received their training inside Bahrain.

This occurred parallel to a call made by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan suggesting the Trump administration to issue further sanctions on Iran and most specifically target the IRGC, describing the entity as “Iran’s army of terror.”

The speaker went to make a very specific call that will raise the stakes with Iran and place the IRGC where it belongs.

“I think we should designate them as a terrorist organization,” he added.

The Tunisian Foreign Ministry has also voiced its concerns and strongly condemned all measures causing insecurity and instability in Bahrain, and making it clear its government stands beside Manama.

According to a Bahrain Interior Ministry statement, two exiled Bahrain nationals currently living in Iran were coordinating the terrorist cell’s activities. Mortada Majid al-Sanadi is one such individual, who also happens to be designated as global terrorist by the U.S. State Department.

A similar IRGC and Lebanese Hizb’allah plot aimed at launching terrorist attacks across Bahrain was foiled by the country’s authorities.

Bahrain had in the past also arrested 47 individuals, all accused of having links to “terrorist elements in Iran,” who in November 2015 blueprinted plans to carry out imminent attacks throughout the country. Bahrain recalled its ambassador from Iran a month later in response to a raid targeting a bomb-making workshop discovered in Bahrain. A significant number of individuals were also arrested due to suspected ties with the IRGC.

Through the course of Sunday’s arrests, Bahrain security forces also seized a large quantity of explosives manufactured domestically, alongside communications equipment and different weapons, all from the homes of the detained suspects. Iranian sponsored proxies, not enjoying a remarkable report card, are now further accused of providing support to local Bahraini cells in building bombs.

Lebanese Hizb’allah leader Hassan Nasaralah has reportedly provided the main suspect in Sunday’s arrests, known as Ali Ahmed Fakhwari, a whopping $20,000 to provide necessary funding to wreak havoc through terrorist attacks across Bahrain, according to the wired BNA report.

Bahrain had earlier this month also announced the discovery of a 54-man group of individuals suspected of being involved in attacks targeting security forces. Such plots included planning a prison break in January and obtaining automatic weapons.

Iran has a history of plotting and conducting terrorist and sectarian attacks across the globe recently, mostly through a network of proxies including the likes of the Lebanese Hizb’allah, the IRGC Quds Force, Shiite extremists in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, and Shiite foot-soldiers dispatched from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Syria. Iran’s terror plots and attacks have targeted various countries including Cyprus, Egypt, Georgia, India, Thailand, and others. Hizb’allah was specifically accused of being behind a July 2012 bus bombing in Bulgaria, that resulted in five Israeli tourists and the driver being killed.

U.S. authorities were also able to foil an Iranian plot aimed at assassinating the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. in Washington back in October 2011, while Iran was also pursuing plans to bomb the Israeli and Saudi embassies in the U.S. capital.

Former UN ambassador John Bolton recently put it best emphasizing how Iran is the world’s main state sponsor of terrorism. As the war against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) ends in victory against the group, the regime in Iran should be next on the list, as Tehran arms and finances Sunni and Shiite terrorists under the banner of Islam, he said. The mullahs are truly the epicenter of a global terrorist network, Bolton added.

Recent developments emphasize how the spotlight needs to be shone on Iran and its dangerous meddling in the region, described by the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) as far more dangerous than the mullahs’ nuclear program.

As Speaker Paul Ryan explained, the NCRI in a recent statement also emphasized on the necessity to campaign “all assets to place the IRGC and all affiliated proxy groups in terrorist lists of the United Nations, United States and European Union; referring Iran’s Middle East crimes dossier to the UN Security Council; adopting binding resolutions to expel the IRGC and proxy groups from the region; and ending all political and economic relations with Tehran are amongst such measures.”

With crucial presidential elections just around the corner for Iran, rest assured the regime will resort to more such warmongering across the region in attempts to place a lid and cloak all domestic crises that bear the potential of inflating into 2009-like uprisings.

Members of an Iran-backed terrorist cell were arrested by Bahrain authorities over the weekend, all being accused of planning assassinations aimed at targeting senior government officials. There are reasons to believe this cell is responsible for a February bus bombing that left several policemen wounded.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) provided military training for six of the arrested suspects, while the Iraqi Hizb’allah terrorist organization — funded by Iran — trained five other members, according to the BNA, Bahrain’s state news agency. Three other cell members received their training inside Bahrain.

This occurred parallel to a call made by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan suggesting the Trump administration to issue further sanctions on Iran and most specifically target the IRGC, describing the entity as “Iran’s army of terror.”

The speaker went to make a very specific call that will raise the stakes with Iran and place the IRGC where it belongs.

“I think we should designate them as a terrorist organization,” he added.

The Tunisian Foreign Ministry has also voiced its concerns and strongly condemned all measures causing insecurity and instability in Bahrain, and making it clear its government stands beside Manama.

According to a Bahrain Interior Ministry statement, two exiled Bahrain nationals currently living in Iran were coordinating the terrorist cell’s activities. Mortada Majid al-Sanadi is one such individual, who also happens to be designated as global terrorist by the U.S. State Department.

A similar IRGC and Lebanese Hizb’allah plot aimed at launching terrorist attacks across Bahrain was foiled by the country’s authorities.

Bahrain had in the past also arrested 47 individuals, all accused of having links to “terrorist elements in Iran,” who in November 2015 blueprinted plans to carry out imminent attacks throughout the country. Bahrain recalled its ambassador from Iran a month later in response to a raid targeting a bomb-making workshop discovered in Bahrain. A significant number of individuals were also arrested due to suspected ties with the IRGC.

Through the course of Sunday’s arrests, Bahrain security forces also seized a large quantity of explosives manufactured domestically, alongside communications equipment and different weapons, all from the homes of the detained suspects. Iranian sponsored proxies, not enjoying a remarkable report card, are now further accused of providing support to local Bahraini cells in building bombs.

Lebanese Hizb’allah leader Hassan Nasaralah has reportedly provided the main suspect in Sunday’s arrests, known as Ali Ahmed Fakhwari, a whopping $20,000 to provide necessary funding to wreak havoc through terrorist attacks across Bahrain, according to the wired BNA report.

Bahrain had earlier this month also announced the discovery of a 54-man group of individuals suspected of being involved in attacks targeting security forces. Such plots included planning a prison break in January and obtaining automatic weapons.

Iran has a history of plotting and conducting terrorist and sectarian attacks across the globe recently, mostly through a network of proxies including the likes of the Lebanese Hizb’allah, the IRGC Quds Force, Shiite extremists in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, and Shiite foot-soldiers dispatched from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Syria. Iran’s terror plots and attacks have targeted various countries including Cyprus, Egypt, Georgia, India, Thailand, and others. Hizb’allah was specifically accused of being behind a July 2012 bus bombing in Bulgaria, that resulted in five Israeli tourists and the driver being killed.

U.S. authorities were also able to foil an Iranian plot aimed at assassinating the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. in Washington back in October 2011, while Iran was also pursuing plans to bomb the Israeli and Saudi embassies in the U.S. capital.

Former UN ambassador John Bolton recently put it best emphasizing how Iran is the world’s main state sponsor of terrorism. As the war against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) ends in victory against the group, the regime in Iran should be next on the list, as Tehran arms and finances Sunni and Shiite terrorists under the banner of Islam, he said. The mullahs are truly the epicenter of a global terrorist network, Bolton added.

Recent developments emphasize how the spotlight needs to be shone on Iran and its dangerous meddling in the region, described by the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) as far more dangerous than the mullahs’ nuclear program.

As Speaker Paul Ryan explained, the NCRI in a recent statement also emphasized on the necessity to campaign “all assets to place the IRGC and all affiliated proxy groups in terrorist lists of the United Nations, United States and European Union; referring Iran’s Middle East crimes dossier to the UN Security Council; adopting binding resolutions to expel the IRGC and proxy groups from the region; and ending all political and economic relations with Tehran are amongst such measures.”

With crucial presidential elections just around the corner for Iran, rest assured the regime will resort to more such warmongering across the region in attempts to place a lid and cloak all domestic crises that bear the potential of inflating into 2009-like uprisings.



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How to Get It Right on Iran


Perhaps the most challenging foreign policy dilemma facing the Trump administration is none other than Iran. Issues include Iran’s nuclear program, a regional policy focused on increasing its hegemonic reach, a network backing a conglomerate of militia groups rampaging the entire region, a dangerous missile program, and continuing human rights violations. The question before Washington is how to tackle these issues without launching yet another unnecessary war or adopting an appeasement-based policy.

This situation has become ever more sensitive as Tehran once again resorted to a new round of hostilities in successfully testing a naval missile hitting a target at 250 kilometers, launching a new pair of ballistic missiles last weekend, and again dispatching its fast-attack boats to harass a U.S. Navy surveillance ship in the international Gulf waters of the Strait of Hormuz. The provocative move was described as “unsafe and unprofessional” by a U.S. official.

Washington has continuously witnessed those favoring efforts to find so-called “moderates/reformists” inside the regime. However, after 38 years in power, the mullahs have through their atrocious domestic crackdown and wreaking havoc across the Middle East proven this perspective to be nothing but a hoax.

Wrong mentality

Such unfounded hope has focused on a figure emerging from within the regime to spearhead reform measures and ultimately shift significantly its foreign policy. Advocates of such an approach also argue mistrust and misunderstanding have rendered hostilities between the Washington and Tehran, adding the source of this mistrust has been U.S. hostility against Iran.

Supporters of this policy call on Washington to be less hostile on Tehran to allow “moderate” factions rise, leading to a gradual reform and Iran emerging as a responsible regional powerhouse.

Such a misconception dates back to the 1980s when voices in Washington described as “moderate” former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who went on to father Iran’s nuclear program and purge a slate of political dissidents abroad. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton pursued a similar approach with “reformist” Mohammad Khatami, who viciously oppressed the 1999 student uprising in Iran.

The climax of these strategic mistakes by Washington came under the administration of Barack Obama, who turned his back to the 2009 uprising, wrote secret letters to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and with his rapprochement in effect provided Iran a green light to engulf the entire Middle East in flames, as we have so unfortunately witnessed in Syria and Iraq. So much for Obama’s mentality of signing a nuclear deal with Iran to result in the transformation of the mullahs’ and their foreign policy altogether.

Disastrous results

The concessions made by Obama in this regard to Iran were unnecessary, to say the least. Not only was Iran allowed to preserve its ballistic missile and nuclear program, Syria is now a radicalized state thanks to Tehran’s meddling. One can truly argue Obama’s approach allowed Tehran to support Assad in the massacre of over half a million Syrians, the displacement of 12 million and the entire country left in ruins.

Obama also turned a blind eye to Iran brewing disaster in Iraq through the Revolutionary Guards’ proxy militias that continue to massacre the Sunni minority to this day, all under the pretext of battling Daesh (ISIS/ISIL).

Speaking of the Guards, the Iranian opposition held a press conference in London on Tuesday unveiling the IRGC’s secret network of 90 docks used to send arms to militia groups across the region and smuggle a whopping $12 billion of goods in the ongoing effort of taking control of Iran’s economy and providing illicit funds for its terrorist activities.

The Obama-crafted nuclear agreement actually encouraged the Iranian regime to increase its belligerence and press the gas pedal on its radical Middle East agenda.

The road ahead

The Trump administration should not forget the failure of his predecessors in adopting a correct Middle East policy. The U.S. has lost credibility, influence, commerce, and most importantly the trust of the Iranian people. This is not to mention the loss of thousands of American lives and massive treasury wasted.

Iran poses the most substantial threat to U.S. Central Command’s multifaceted area of responsibility, CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph L. Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

“We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region,” he continued. “It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world.”

The main cause has been none other than the grave misunderstanding about the reality of Iranian politics and internal factions that leaves no room for “moderates” or “reformists.” The history of appeasement/engagement/rapprochement vis-à-vis Iran’s mullahs is enough proof that such an illusion must be set aside for good.

Amir Basiri (@amir_bas) is an Iranian human rights activist.

Perhaps the most challenging foreign policy dilemma facing the Trump administration is none other than Iran. Issues include Iran’s nuclear program, a regional policy focused on increasing its hegemonic reach, a network backing a conglomerate of militia groups rampaging the entire region, a dangerous missile program, and continuing human rights violations. The question before Washington is how to tackle these issues without launching yet another unnecessary war or adopting an appeasement-based policy.

This situation has become ever more sensitive as Tehran once again resorted to a new round of hostilities in successfully testing a naval missile hitting a target at 250 kilometers, launching a new pair of ballistic missiles last weekend, and again dispatching its fast-attack boats to harass a U.S. Navy surveillance ship in the international Gulf waters of the Strait of Hormuz. The provocative move was described as “unsafe and unprofessional” by a U.S. official.

Washington has continuously witnessed those favoring efforts to find so-called “moderates/reformists” inside the regime. However, after 38 years in power, the mullahs have through their atrocious domestic crackdown and wreaking havoc across the Middle East proven this perspective to be nothing but a hoax.

Wrong mentality

Such unfounded hope has focused on a figure emerging from within the regime to spearhead reform measures and ultimately shift significantly its foreign policy. Advocates of such an approach also argue mistrust and misunderstanding have rendered hostilities between the Washington and Tehran, adding the source of this mistrust has been U.S. hostility against Iran.

Supporters of this policy call on Washington to be less hostile on Tehran to allow “moderate” factions rise, leading to a gradual reform and Iran emerging as a responsible regional powerhouse.

Such a misconception dates back to the 1980s when voices in Washington described as “moderate” former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who went on to father Iran’s nuclear program and purge a slate of political dissidents abroad. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton pursued a similar approach with “reformist” Mohammad Khatami, who viciously oppressed the 1999 student uprising in Iran.

The climax of these strategic mistakes by Washington came under the administration of Barack Obama, who turned his back to the 2009 uprising, wrote secret letters to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and with his rapprochement in effect provided Iran a green light to engulf the entire Middle East in flames, as we have so unfortunately witnessed in Syria and Iraq. So much for Obama’s mentality of signing a nuclear deal with Iran to result in the transformation of the mullahs’ and their foreign policy altogether.

Disastrous results

The concessions made by Obama in this regard to Iran were unnecessary, to say the least. Not only was Iran allowed to preserve its ballistic missile and nuclear program, Syria is now a radicalized state thanks to Tehran’s meddling. One can truly argue Obama’s approach allowed Tehran to support Assad in the massacre of over half a million Syrians, the displacement of 12 million and the entire country left in ruins.

Obama also turned a blind eye to Iran brewing disaster in Iraq through the Revolutionary Guards’ proxy militias that continue to massacre the Sunni minority to this day, all under the pretext of battling Daesh (ISIS/ISIL).

Speaking of the Guards, the Iranian opposition held a press conference in London on Tuesday unveiling the IRGC’s secret network of 90 docks used to send arms to militia groups across the region and smuggle a whopping $12 billion of goods in the ongoing effort of taking control of Iran’s economy and providing illicit funds for its terrorist activities.

The Obama-crafted nuclear agreement actually encouraged the Iranian regime to increase its belligerence and press the gas pedal on its radical Middle East agenda.

The road ahead

The Trump administration should not forget the failure of his predecessors in adopting a correct Middle East policy. The U.S. has lost credibility, influence, commerce, and most importantly the trust of the Iranian people. This is not to mention the loss of thousands of American lives and massive treasury wasted.

Iran poses the most substantial threat to U.S. Central Command’s multifaceted area of responsibility, CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph L. Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

“We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region,” he continued. “It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world.”

The main cause has been none other than the grave misunderstanding about the reality of Iranian politics and internal factions that leaves no room for “moderates” or “reformists.” The history of appeasement/engagement/rapprochement vis-à-vis Iran’s mullahs is enough proof that such an illusion must be set aside for good.

Amir Basiri (@amir_bas) is an Iranian human rights activist.



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