Worrisomely, Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran's elite IRGC Quds force on Thursday personally threatened President Donald Trump, saying "Come. We are ready. If you begin the war, we will end the war."
And following Soleimani's speech, well-known Iran hawk and national security adviser John Bolton convened a high level meeting to address the Iran issue on Thursday.
For months now we've been warning that regime change in Iran could be up next on the agenda for the Trump White House, especially as he's seemed to stack his administration with Iran hawks, foremost among them Bolton.
And things aren't looking good this week as a new report by Australia's ABC indicates the White House is in the intelligence planning phase to possibly strike Iran's alleged nuclear facilities as early as next month.
We reported earlier on what high level Australian government officials, part of the so-called "Five Eyes" intelligence sharing program, told the Australian broadcaster:
Senior figures in the Australia's Turnbull government have told the ABC they believe the US is prepared to bomb Iran's nuclear capability. The bombing could be as early as next month. —ABC report
The meeting was reportedly to consider further sanctions on Iran as well a possible "new agreement" with Tehran after the White House formally withdrew the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), and what the US could gain in terms of new concessions in a now high pressure environment of stringent sanctions and threat of military force.
This comes after Bolton doubled-down on Trump's Sunday tweet, telling reporters in Washington: "I spoke to the president over the last several days, and President Trump told me that if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price few countries have ever paid."
This is typical tough rhetoric from "bomb-Iran-Bolton," however any talk of new concessions or agreement is surely wishful thinking as on Wednesday Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement through official sources, saying the US should forget about any and all negotiations so long as Iran remains under threat, which is a refrain of Iran's consistent position since the US began pressuring European allies to not deal with the regime. Foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said that "one-way negotiations" in the current political climate are impossible.
Though as the WSJ observes "key elements of the administration’s Iran policy remain unclear," a careful look at recent administration speeches and statements on Iran makes clear that Washington is on the all-too-familiar regime change trajectory characteristic of the lead up to wars in Iraq, Libya, and a failed covert war on Syria.
First, a high level joint US-Israeli "working group" overseen by Bolton has been meeting for months, as Axios confirmed: "Israel and the United States formed a joint working group a few months ago that is focused on internal efforts to encourage protests within Iran and pressure the country's government."
Second, not only do a number of Trump admin officials have prior ties to the controversial Iranian opposition group in exile, Mujahideen e Khalq (MEK) — considered by Iran and many other countries as a terror organization (delisted under Obama), but Trump officials have increasingly vouched for the group in recent public statements, including Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley promoting official MeK social media accounts, as she did here, and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani actually speaking at the MeK's annual June rally in Paris, where he explicitly called on the Iranian opposition to overthrow the Tehran government.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley emphasizes how #Iran's "horrendous" regime faced massive protests in the Dec/Jan period. And yet the UN Human Rights Council remained silent.#IranProtests pic.twitter.com/XD6eN90a2a— P.M.O.I (@Mojahedineng) July 19, 2018
Next, similar to what occurred with Syria just prior to regime change demonstrations and armed conflict hit the country in 2011, the State Department early this week announced it is funding a Persian language channel which will be beamed into Iran, giving an American perspective of events.
American state-funded VOA News describes, "the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees the Voice of America, is taking new steps to help Iranians get around internet censorship." And further that "The BBG is also launching a new 24/7 Farsi-language channel across television, radio, digital, and social media formats."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referenced the planned television channel in his "Supporting Iranian Voices" speech at the Reagan library in California on Sunday, which, as we noted, was a clear attempt to drum up enthusiasm among and for an "opposition in exile" type movement characteristic of the infamous "Iraqi National Congress" that aligned with the Bush White House to sell the public on war in Iraq in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.
In fact one former State Department Iranian Affairs affairs officer recently commented that the Trump administration is doing just that, followed by a Reuters report confirming the same.
The State Dept. insider, Reza Marashi, warned precisely of the following based on his extensive contacts within the US foreign service: An eerily familiar drumbeat of war is intensifying across DC, as the continues its wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen. The ghosts of America’s neoconservative past are dusting off their Iraq playbook to make the case for war with Iran.
Indeed Reuters just this week again spelled out that, "The Trump administration has launched an offensive of speeches and online communications meant to foment unrest and help pressure Iran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups."
And this is the dangerous rhetoric that's been building ahead of Thursday's high level meeting, which the WSJ describes as "taking place among members of the administration’s Principals Committee, a Cabinet-level panel on national security issues that Mr. Bolton chairs and whose members include Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, among other senior officials."
The WSJ follows with this not so comforting line: "It is unclear what military options, if any, Pentagon officials might bring to the table."
It is likely that the White House will continue such pressures toward the end that Trump can make a "bigger better deal" with Iran's leaders; however, in this case of such a geopolitically charged issue involving a decades long enemy of the United States, the "Art of the Deal" may not work in this instance, allowing hawks like Bolton to win out with the "military option".
It is the third time Bolton has convened such a meeting since assuming his post in April, and comes during a week of increased public threats issued by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp commanders (IRGC), and most recently this direct address to Trump:
'You know that this war will destroy everything you own,' Major General Qassem Soleimani said during a speech in the central Iranian city of Hamedan.
He also said the Red Sea is not secure while U.S. troops are deployed in the area: 'Trump should know that we are nation of martyrdom and that we await him.'
'We are near you, where you can't even imagine ... Come. We are ready. If you begin the war, we will end the war,' he boasted.
We hate to say it, but it seems the moment one major theater of war is likely winding down (Syria) another could immediately take its place...so here we go again.