No, Kissinger’s View of the Shia Crescent is Correct

Sunni-Shia-Map-PEWKissinger’s Dangerously Flawed Views on Iran
by Eldar Mamedov
There are few people in the universe of US foreign policy with the standing and prestige of Henry Kissinger. He is still actively giving his opinions and recommendations on critical diplomatic issues. All the more concerning, then, that on some of them his analysis is increasingly out of touch with reality. The danger is that the Kissinger’s imprimatur confers on some seriously flawed ideas an intellectual respectability that would otherwise have been lacking. Relations with Iran are a case in point.
In a recent article Kissinger warned that the defeat of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS or IS) would lead to a consolidation of an “Iranian radical empire” if the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their “Shiite allies” in Iraq and Syria inherit the territory currently occupied by IS.
Whatever the reasons prompting someone with the reputation of preeminent realist to parrot this neoconservative mantra, the talk of a “radical Iranian empire” is utter nonsense, with dangerous implications if followed by the policymakers.
The reality that escapes Kissinger is that Iran’s regional policy is of a fundamentally defensive nature. Unlike other states in the region, Iran has no external security provider. While Turkey is a member of NATO and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Israel enjoy an extensive security relationship with the US, Iran can only rely on itself. The war with Iraq, when almost the entire world rallied behind Baghdad against Tehran, has made Iranians painfully aware of this reality, and to this day deeply permeates their security thinking.
To neutralize or mitigate threats, Iran has cultivated a network of allies and proxies in the Middle East, which could be deployed as a forward defense in order to keep threats away from Iran’s borders. Contrary to the myth of the Shiite character of the new empire Iran is supposedly building, these forces are neither ideologically nor religiously homogenous: the spectrum spans from conventional Shiite Islamists like Lebanese Hezbollah to secular dictators like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to Sunni fundamentalists like Hamas and even to a flirtation with Wahhabi Qatar when the opportunity presented itself.
On the other hand, as the recent visit of politically prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to Saudi Arabia has shown, Iran is very far from controlling the political life of what are supposed to be the integral parts of its “empire.” The government of Iraq, even if Shia-dominated, has never been Tehran’s puppet. Even if the majority of Iraqis are Shias, they are also Arabs, and it would be foolish to dismiss the potency of Arab nationalism.
There is no evidence whatsoever that the majority of Shias in Iraq—or other Arab countries where their presence is significant like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia—see themselves as part of a Persian-led “empire,” subscribe to the unorthodox velayat-e fakih (the rule of the religious jurist) import from Iran, or recognize the Ayatollah Khamenei, rather than, for example, Ayatollah Sistani, as their supreme spiritual and political authority. Any sympathy for Iran to be found in those countries is largely a product of severe domestic repression of the local Shias by the Sunni monarchies rather than an imperial Iranian design—a point that Kissinger conveniently neglects to mention.
Further to the west, Syria’s secular dictatorship has relied heavily on Iran for its survival. But Iran is not the only actor in the country. Assad’s regime also has close ties with Russia, who is on the same side as Iran in that country’s war but not with identical interests. And in Lebanon, although Hezbollah undoubtedly has close ideological and operational links with Iran, it is first and foremost a grassroots Lebanese organization: an ally, not a client, of Iran.
If Kissinger were right, then Iran would have been well on its way to imposing on the region the kind of top-down relationship enjoyed by the Soviet Union vis-à-vis its satellites in Central Europe after the defeat of the Nazi Germany. Yet, as the examples above suggest, Iran is simply not powerful enough to accomplish that even if it sincerely wanted to. As a result, Iran, like other regional players, has to adapt to a set of constantly shifting regional dynamics at least as much as it contributes to shaping them. Iran is an opportunist rather than an imperial power.
For the sake of argument, however, let’s imagine for a moment that Kissinger is right, that a “radical Iranian empire” is indeed in the cards, and that such a nefarious development must be prevented at all cost. Although he doesn’t say so directly, Kissinger is implying that the US has to ensure the survival of IS to balance the “Iranian empire.” Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a close ally of President Trump, already muttered an idea along these lines in the wake of the IS-perpetrated terrorist attacks in Tehran in June this year. Although not even Iran uber-hawks support Rohrabacher’s loathsome views, this idea, when endorsed by someone of Kissinger’s stature, could become much more influential, especially in the current climate of demonization of Iran in Washington.
Although Iran is certainly not sinless, there is no reason to single it out as a uniquely malign influence in the region. And under no circumstances should the US even consider supporting or tolerating in any way a vicious terrorist organization like IS. To the contrary, its imminent defeat should be used by all responsible actors in the region and beyond as an opportunity to start talks on a truly inclusive, multilateral regional security arrangement, with the legitimate interests of all states on board. Nothing is to be gained by the perpetuation of zero-sum games of the sort advocated by Henry Kissinger in his latest, misguided essay.
This article reflects the personal views of the author and not necessarily the opinions of the European Parliament.
*This article was modified on August 11, 2017 to reflect Dana Rohrabacher’s party affiliation.

The U.S. is absolutely on the road to war with Iran


Is the U.S. on the road to war with Iran?
Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Is the U.S. on the road to war with Iran?
There are two kinds of people: those with, and without, grace. President Trump can decide on which side he falls, although Mrs. Abe the Japanese Prime Minister’s wife has clearly made up her mind. Anyone who can read a whole speech in English knows enough to say, ‘Excuse me, I do not speak English well’. So, to not respond at all to the U.S. president sitting beside her, who turns to converse, conveys a distinct meaning.
There was a time when countries prided themselves on their civility and their citizenry for their courtesy. Now the byword is the put down; rudeness, crudeness and vulgarity rule the day — not to forget the jingoism, demagoguery and xenophobia that can win elections. If such was the state of a democracy, its founders, were they alive, would weep.
In the past week, U.S. presidential ire has been directed at Iran. Shortly after the administration’s annual declaration to Congress certifying Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, it slapped additional economic sanctions the following Tuesday (July 18). Three days later, Trump added threats of ‘new and serious consequences’ unless detained U.S. citizens are returned. Robert Levinson, a former law enforcement officer disappeared ten years ago in Iran. In addition, Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-born U.S. citizen, as well as a father and son Iranian-Americans, Baquer and Siamak Namazi — the elder a former provincial governor in Iran — have been sentenced to 10 years jail for spying. For perspective, it is worth noting that 5 million tourists visit Iran annually contributing $2 billion in revenue, and the country is trying to expand its tourism industry.
The nuclear agreement itself is difficult for the U.S. to abrogate unilaterally as it involves the five permanent veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. Yet Trump appears to have swallowed the Netanyahu line on the deal. Add that to Trump’s new found chumminess with the Saudis and their deep Wahhabi antagonism towards Shia Iran and we could be on the edge of another cataclysm in the Middle East, this time enveloping the whole region.
If we recall the history of the deal, the Obama regime first had to give up their zero-enrichment requirement before the Iranians would even agree to talk. They got low enrichment.
While sanctions had hurt Iran, it refused to buckle under the pressure; in fact it added centrifuges and speeded up enrichment. Had the Obama administration continued on this course, they would have had a nuclear Iran or war.
There are those in Washington who still believe sanctions and pressure would bring Iran to its knees. They have forgotten the Iranian response to Iraq and the Iran-Iraq war when Iran stood up to a better-armed Iraq despite enormous casualties.
If Trump keeps up the pressure imposing further sanctions, how soon before the extremists in Iran secure an upper hand and the deal falls apart? Could an unwinnable war (Iraq and Afghanistan are living examples) and/or a nuclear Iran be the consequence?
Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King’s College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for Antiwar.com, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.

Babylon vs Babylon the Great


Iran versus the United States – Raddington Report
BY MAJID RAFIZADEH
It’s war by any other means. The Iranian regime is heightening its efforts to damage US national interests and scuttle Washington’s foreign policy objectives by ramping up its interventions in the Middle East.
The regime’s concerted efforts are being directed by its Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, his Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its many tentacles. Among the actors in this play are the Navy, the Aerospace Force, ground forces, the Ministry of Intelligence, and the elite Qods force, which is led by General Qassem Soleimani and operates outside Iran’s borders to export the regime’s revolutionary ideals
Lately, Iran’s state-owned media outlets, long since the mouthpieces of Khamenei and the IRGC, have been extensively covering the increasing capabilities, power, and influence of Iran’s armed forces in the region. Iran’s leaders enjoy boasting about the leverage that the regime revels in defying the US in various fields.
The regime is accomplishing these objectives by steadfastly extending the core pillar of its foreign policy. In practice, this means the regime is working hard to widen its connections to militia and terrorist groups through different means, including political and military interventions in countries throughout the Middle East, including as Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon — not countries known for their stability at present.
Over in Iraq, Iranian leaders are delegating a more expansive role to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a network of Tehran-backed Shi’ite paramilitary groups, which are estimated to have roughly more than 60,000 fighters. With Tehran’s bank balances back in the black thanks to the nuclear agreement, the IRGC provides vital military, financial and advisory assistance to the PMF. The IRGC and Iran’s news outlets do not hide the presence of Iran’s ground forces in Iraq. The IRGC appointed one of its generals, Iraj Masjedi, to be the new ambassador to Iraq.
During the latest visit of the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Tehran, Khamenei emphasized the expanding role of PMF and how the presence of Shi’ite paramilitary groups on the ground are becoming political realities in Baghdad. One approach is linked to intensifying interference in the upcoming Iraqi elections. Iran’s sophisticated interventions has prompted the Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi to point out that “Iran has been interfering even in the decision [making process] of the Iraqi people…We don’t want an election based on sectarianism, we want an inclusive political process … we [hoped] that the Iraqis would choose themselves without any involvement by any foreign power.”
Khamenei warned Haider al-Abadi not to interfere with Iranian foreign policy goals. He made it clear that the objective of expanding the role of Iraqi militia groups is to spread anti-American sentiments and disrupt US regional objectives, telling the Iraqi leader that “We should remain vigilant of the Americans and not trust them.”
In Syria, IRGC has launched ballistic missiles, kicking off fresh phase of military interventions — this is Iran’s first deployment of such weaponry abroad in nearly three decades. It speaks to a transformation in how Iran’s armed forces will escalate its engagement in the region. But it also highlights the fact that Iran is buttressing Assad’s military. The IRGC generals made it evident that the attacks were “a message” and a “warning” not only to ISIS but also to the US and its regional allies.
For Iran, this is just the beginning. As former IRGC Guard chief Gen. Mohsen Rezai warned, darkly, “The bigger slap is yet to come.”
Iran has been busy in Yemen, as well. The Iranian regime is not only stepping up its support for the Tehran-backed Houthis, but is also deploying other proxies, including Hezbollah, in the war-torn state, in an attempt to further damage the country’s infrastructure and spoil US initiatives in Yemen. Although Iranian leaders deny playing any role in Yemen, the IRGC forces and its proxies are present in Yemen fighting alongside Houthi forces. Iran’s rising shipments of arms to Yemen, however, is impossible to deny. Several countries including the US have intercepted Iran’s attempt to deliver weapons to the Houthis. Most recently, the Saudi navy captured three members of the IRGC from a boat approaching Saudi Arabia’s offshore Marjan oilfield. The Saudi information ministry stated: “This was one of three vessels which were intercepted by Saudi forces. It was captured with the three men on board, the other two escaped.”
Hezbollah currently enjoys a presence in “every third or fourth house” in southern Lebanon, according to the IDF Chief of Staff, a clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 — and Iran does not show any signs of wishing to give up on their Lebanese proxy. Hezbollah affects Lebanon decision-making to serve Khamenei’s interest, not that of the Lebanese people. The growing financial and military assistance has also made Hezbollah “more militarily powerful than most North Atlantic Treaty Organization members” according to a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.
Iran’s support for terrorist groups across the spectrum, which are sworn to disrupt US foreign policy and damage Washington’s interests, is a core pillar of Tehran’s foreign policy. The 2016 statement by Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper remains very much accurate: “Iran — the foremost state sponsor of terrorism — continues to exert its influence in regional crises in the Middle East through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — Qods Force (IRGC-QF), its terrorist partner Lebanese Hezbollah, and proxy groups.”
There exists a rare opportunity that the US should seize. After eight years of Obama’s administration trying to appease the Iranian regime and after eight years of neglecting the security concerns of other regional governments, the Gulf states and other regional powers long to counter Iran’s support for terrorist groups, increasing use of brute force and regional military adventurism. The Trump administration can capitalize on regional powers’ political and military weight in holding back Iran. Isolating and sanctioning Tehran via establishing a powerful and united front is critical at this moment.
The Iranian regime is rapidly using its militia and terrorist groups to shape political realities across the Middle East. It is penetrating the political, military and security infrastructures of several Middle Eastern nations. The aim is to advance the regime’s Islamist revolutionary ideals, hegemonic ambitions, and to damage US national interests. A swift and proportionate response to the Iranian regime, which is an integration of political pressure and military force, ought to be a top priority.

Iranian Terrorism is Here to Stay

https://southfront.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Hezbollah.jpg
Military Intelligence head: Terrorism is here to stay
Arutz Sheva Staff, 22/06/17 19:11
The head of the IDF’s Intelligence Directorate, Major General Hertzi Halevi, spoke at the Herzliya Conference and addressed the security threats to Israel.
“Terror is here to stay,” Halevy said. “ISIS has lost territory and shrunk, but instead of an Islamic Caliphate, we see a virtual Caliphate. There is a clear connection between the pressure on Mosul and al-Raka and the wave of terrorism in Europe.”
According to him, the likelihood of an initiated war against Israel is low. “Power-building processes, especially in Gaza and Lebanon, transfer military power into irresponsible hands.Our enemies, who seek to deter Israel, are liable to bring upon themselves the next war.”
Today, Halevi said, wars begin and end differently. “These are wars with organizations. They do not start with a decision, but rather with a deterioration between the organizations. They do not end with a unilateral decision by paratroopers at the Western Wall.”
The head of Military Intelligence said that Iran, the Assad regime and Hezbollah constitute the main threat to the region, “with global funding and a major danger to the State of Israel. Iran is problematic not only because of the nuclear issue. It is in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.”
We see clearly that Hezbollah is building a military industry with Iranian knowledge, producing weapons and transferring them to southern Lebanon.
He said the terrorist attacks in Europe would continue for the foreseeable future.
Maj. Gen. Halevi said that Iran has been working in the past year to establish an infrastructure for the production of precise weapons in Yemen and in Iraq. “The nuclear agreement prohibits Iran from creating a certain weapon, but it produces other weapons. 20 countries are threatened by the deployment of Iranian Zelzal missiles.”
Addressing the recent Iranian missile strikes on ISIS targets, he said: “We saw it from medium range missiles. I think ISIS was hit hard. I ask myself: if Iran is so involved in Syria – why did not they strike from there? If it’s a show, it’s not clear it was so successful and it’s still disturbing.”
He also said that Israel has allowed more than seven million tons of construction material into Gaza in the three years since Operation Protective Edge. “How much of this has gone to the benefit of the civilians in Gaza? Do the children in Gaza receive a better education system? The answer is usually no. This is really a dilemma, since Israel has an interest in not having a crisis in Gaza.”
“The electricity dilemma reflects this well. On the one hand, the oxygen masks in the hospitals are connected to electricity, but the digging machines in the Hamas tunnels are connected to the same electricity. We have to let Hamas choose. We cannot let Hamas build an army so easily.”

Iran and the Shia Sickle (Daniel 8)

Saturday, 7 January 2017
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader believes that if it was not for the Iranian soldiers who were killed in the war in Syria, they would have had to fight American and Zionist agents in Tehran, Persia, Khorasan and Isfahan. We can consider that what Khamenei said in front of his people and the families of those who were killed, was just to justify the losses of Iran in the war in Syria that is on the borders of his country. His statement might have deep and straightforward importance, such as the threat inside Iran against the regime and that moving the war to outside the borders is for the sake of the regime.
Iran’s leadership has been reiterating lately the statements justifying the wars outside its borders to silence the critics that are against sending their troops to unnecessary wars, which would only satisfy the ego of religious and military leaders in Tehran seeking expansion and domination. The longer the war, the bigger the losses, stimulating more condemnation and questioning. The logic of fighting America and the Zionist would become senseless after 30 years – this was a slogan that aimed to retain power.
During the post-revolutionary decades, Iran’s leadership was justifying its support for terrorism, feeding regional and global violence, threatening its neighbors, building its nuclear program and preparing itself for wars. The sole state project and its ideology were all based on self-defense justifications and being threatened by the global Western Zionist regime invasion. After negotiating and signing the nuclear deal, and after establishing the reconciliation with the West, the pretext of fear was no longer valid; instead of becoming more open and turning towards more peaceful approached, Iran increased its foreign military adventures.
The regime adopted the concept of the militarization of society since Tehran’s war with Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein in the eighties. The late leader Ayatollah Khomeini, did not start working on stopping the war that lasted for 8 years, until five years later after calls from international mediators. The war served the need of the Iranian regime in eradicating all figures who were supporting the Shah and later on, rival powers inside Iran.
Why does today’s regime need to get involved in further wars to set up its pillars in Iran, especially when it has already eradicated most of its enemies? Iran is a big country that includes multiple forces that are not necessarily against each other, but are against the regime on the intellectual on the social levels and are against each other on the religious and security levels, which leads to besieging and conflicts. Foreign wars are an old way that helps restoring internal control, undertaken by regimes that do not find a way to control their own internal situation. Although Iran is a poor country on the national level, most of the military and security institutions, such as the Revolutionary Guard, the Basij, intelligence services and the army, are rich and massive. Iran is characterized by advanced industries and has its own national giant companies, including oil companies, refineries, import and export companies, hotels and others.
The problem of Iran – and its leaders are now fully aware of this problem – is that it is waging external wars that are not guaranteed. In Iraq for instance, whenever they stop a war, another one emerges. In Syria, even if Iran has succeeded in achieving a winning streak for the Assad regime, the regime is not strong and will definitely fall once Iran withdraws its troops and militias. As a result of this expansion, Iran has a military presence in Yemen, Afghanistan and Lebanon, therefore, the leadership of Tehran is facing a dilemma because it refuses to accept political solutions in conflict zones, which is trapping it there, leading to ongoing wars that would last for years. The question here is: How long will the Iranians keep mum on their losses and external adventures? It is up to the effectiveness and power of the security services and their ability to tighten control over the situation on the streets; as for the speeches and media propaganda, they will expire soon. Iran has initially exploited sectarian and religious justifications stating that it is defending shrines, but most of the battles did not take place in sacred shrines surroundings. Now, they are saying that the battles in faraway Aleppo are to protect Iran’s internal security.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Jan. 7, 2017.
________________
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed

Iran Establishes The Shia Sickle (Daniel 8:4)

Mouallem called Aleppo’s ‘liberation’ a ‘common victory’ for Iran and Syria and expressed Damascus’ gratitude for Tehran’s support. (Al Arabiya)
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English
Monday, 2 January 2017
Ali Akbar Velayati, the senior foreign policy advisor to Iran Supreme Leader, hailed the “liberation” of Aleppo as the “victory of the victories,” during a meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Muallem in Tehran, according to media sources.
The top Syrian diplomat accompanied by special security advisor to Bashar al-Assad, Ali Mamlouk, held a series of meetings with Iranian Officials including President Hassan Rowhani, his counterpart, Javad Zarif, and Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamakani.
“I hope our Syrian friends consider Iran as their second home,” Velayati said, “Iran has had long term and strategic relations with Syria and it will continue,” he added, according to Syrian newspaper Al-Wattan.
Syria’s foreign minister stressed that foreign fighters are in his country by the request of the government, in an insinuation to Ankara’s demand for the withdrawal of all foreign militants from Syria on a Turkey-Russia mediated ceasefire agreement came into effect Friday.
Some leaked reports revealed recently that Iran may withdraw all its militants including Hezbollah, from Syria, yet it is not clear whether the step will be within a regional separate agreement, or linked to “Astana” deal between Turkey and Russia, or a totally different one between Assad and the Kremlin.

Iran Expands The Shia Crescent (Daniel 8)

Iran to preserve strategic ties with Syria: Velayati
PressTV
A senior Iranian official has hailed the Syrian army’s latest triumph over foreign-backed terrorists in the flashpoint city of Aleppo, stressing that Tehran is set to maintain its “strategic ties” with Damascus.
Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, made the remarks in a meeting with visiting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in Tehran on Sunday.
“Aleppo’s liberation is a major victory, and Syria’s friends and enemies acknowledge it,” said Velayati.
The official further praised deep-rooted and longstanding ties between the Iranian and Syrian nations, adding that the Islamic Republic will preserve its “strategic” relations with the Arab country.
On Friday, the Syrian army announced a nationwide halt to fighting under a deal with the foreign-backed opposition.
The ceasefire, which does not apply to Daesh and Fateh al-Sham terrorist groups, came eight days after the Syrian military announced full control over Aleppo and called it a “crushing blow” to terrorists.
The Aleppo liberation came after the last remaining Takfiri elements were evacuated from the city along with civilians under a ceasefire deal mediated by Ankara and Moscow.
Syrians celebrate in Aleppo on December 22, 2016, after the army said it has retaken full control of the country’s second largest city. (Photo by AFP)
Muallem, for his part, called Aleppo’s recapture a joint victory for Syria and Iran.
Damascus has been seeking to bring an end to fighting and pave the way for intra-Syrian talks through cooperation between Iran, Russia and Syria, he added.
Touching on the upcoming Syria peace talks expected to take place in Kazakh capital city of Astana, the top Syrian diplomat said that for the discussions to be successful, armed groups have to distance themselves from Daesh and Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front.
Members of the two terror outfits should also retreat from areas on the outskirts of Aleppo, he pointed out.
The Syrian foreign minister further thanked Iran’s Leader as well as its nation and government for supporting Syria in different areas, particularly in Damascus’ fight against terror and efforts to find a political solution to the crisis plaguing the Arab country since 2011.
Muallem also expressed his satisfactions with the trilateral Tehran-Moscow-Damascus cooperation, saying it has been fruitful in anti-terror battles.
He arrived in Tehran on Saturday at the head of a high-ranking delegation. He held talks with senior Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani.

Syria Helps Create The Shia Crescent

Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Wikipedia.

Aleppo’s Fall Cements the Radical Shiite Axis

by Yaakov Lappin

Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Wikipedia.
Recent  gains by the pro-Assad alliance in Aleppo signal the rise of an emboldened, Iranian-led radical Shiite axis. And the more that this axis gains strength, territory, weapons and influence, the more likely it will be to threaten regional and global security.
Ideologues in Iran have formulated a Shiite jihadist vision, which holds that the Iranian Islamic revolution should take control of the entire Muslim world. Losing the Assad regime to Sunni rebels would have represented a major setback for Iran’s agenda.
In Syria, Iran has mobilized tens of thousands of Shiite militia fighters from all over the Middle East — as well as those from Hezbollah in Lebanon — to save the Assad regime.
As the Shiite axis wages a sectarian war against the Sunnis, it mobilizes and arms its proxies, and moves military assets into Syria. And its growing influence can be used for bellicose purposes in the not too distant future.
The conquest of east Aleppo is a victory for the wider, transnational Iranian-led alliance, of which the Assad regime is just one component.
A look at the order of battle assembled in Aleppo reveals that the war in Syria is not a civil conflict by any measure. In addition to Assad regime forces sent to fight Sunni rebels, there is also the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the Shiite Iraqi Kataib Hezbollah militia, Afghan Shiite militia groups and Iranian military personnel — all of whom receive the assistance of massive Russian air power.
The large-scale, indiscriminate airstrikes and shelling in places like Aleppo resulted in mass slaughter and ethnic cleansing of many Sunni civilians, producing the largest humanitarian catastrophe and refugee crisis in the 21st century. Such extreme war crimes will be sure to produce a new generation of radical recruits for ISIS and Al Qaeda.
The Iranian Quds Force, under the command of Qassem Suleimani, orchestrates the entire ground war effort. Suleimani is very close to Iran’s supreme leader.
The Quds Force also uses Syria as a transit zone to traffic advanced weapons from Iranian and Syrian arms factories to the Hezbollah storehouses that pepper neighboring Lebanon.
Hezbollah has amassed one of the largest surface to surface rocket and missile arsenals in the world, composed of over 100,000 projectiles, all of which are aimed at Israeli cities.
According to international media reports, Israel recently launched two strikes targeting attempts to smuggle game-changing weapons into Lebanon.
Syrian dictator Basher al-Assad owes his survival to Iran and Hezbollah, and their military presence in Syria continue to expand. Assad regime and Hezbollah representatives boasted of this fact in recent statements that were highlighted by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
The Shiite victors will likely turn their sights on seizing southern Syria, near the Israeli border. To accomplish that, they will need to do battle with an array of Sunni rebels that now control that area (groups that include ISIS-affiliates). If successful, the axis could be tempted to build bases that could be used to attack Israel.
The same pattern repeats itself in Iraq, where Iran-backed militias are moving in on Mosul, and could later threaten Iraq’s Sunnis — and Sunnis in Yemen, where Iranian-armed Houthi rebels control large swaths of the country, and are currently at war with a Saudi-led military coalition. The Houthis also threaten international oil shipping lanes and have fired on the US Navy using Iranian-smuggled missiles.
Iran’s ballistic missile program, which is developing long-range strike capabilities that could place Europe in range, and its temporarily dormant nuclear program, make the Shiite axis more powerful than any Sunni Islamist camp.
The Iranian coalition can also lure armed Sunni groups into its orbit, as it has done in the past with the Hamas terrorist regime in Gaza.
While the Israeli defense establishment has no desire to be dragged into Syria’s conflict, Jerusalem has indicated that it will act to remove any Iranian-Hezbollah base that it detects in Syria.
Few events illustrate more clearly how an ascendant Shiite jihadist axis is redrawing the map of the region than a recent military parade held by Hezbollah in the western Syrian town of Al-Qusay.
According to an assessment by the Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, that parade featured Soviet-made tanks, American armored personnel carriers, artillery guns, anti-aircraft guns and powerful truck-mounted rocket launchers with an estimated range of between 90 to 180 kilometers. “It is clear that state-owned capabilities, some of them advanced, were delivered to Hezbollah,” the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center said in its report.
Hezbollah, like the Assad regime and armed groups in Iraq and Yemen, is a component of an international axis whose battles against ISIS have managed to dupe some decision makers into believing that they are stabilizing forces. In actuality, the Shiite jihadists are just as radical as their Sunni jihadist counterparts — albeit more tactically prudent — and are far better armed and better organized.
Yaakov Lappin is a military and strategic affairs correspondent. He also conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks, and is the Israel correspondent for IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. His book, The Virtual Caliphate, explores the online jihadist presence.

The Iranian vs American Horn (Daniel)

  • “The Persian Gulf is the Iranian nation’s home and the Persian Gulf and a large section of the Sea of Oman belong to this powerful nation. Therefore, we should be present in the region, hold war games and display our power.” – Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
  • In addition, Khamenei is sending a message to the Iranian people that the current process of implementing the nuclear agreement, lifting sanctions, and partial economic liberalization does not mean that Iran is going to liberalize its politics and allow freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and more political participation.
Some politicians and policy analysts argue that Iran’s sanctions relief and the continuing implementation of its nuclear program would push Iran towards moderation in dealing with the United States and Israel, as well as scaling down Iran’s expansionist and hegemonic ambitions. The realities on the ground suggest otherwise.

As Tehran’s revenues are rising, anti-American and anti-Semitic rhetoric by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are escalating.

The Iranian regime continues to view the U.S. and Israel as their top geopolitical, strategic and ideological enemies. According to Iran’s Mehr News Agency, on May 1, Khamenei welcomed the Secretary General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Abdullah Shalah, and his accompanying delegation in Tehran:

“Ayatollah Khamenei reaffirmed that with this perspective in regional issues, Iran sees the United States as the main enemy with the Zionist regime standing behind it. He pointed to extensive, unprecedented sanctions of the U.S. and its followers against the Islamic establishment in recent years and dubbed the objective of them as discouraging Iran from continuing its path; ‘but they failed to achieve their goals and will fail in future as well.’ “

Khamenei is sending a strong signal to Washington that Iran’s reintegration in the global financial system does not mean that the Iranian regime will change its hostility towards the U.S. and Israel.
In addition, Khamenei is sending a message to the Iranian people that the current process of implementing the nuclear agreement, lifting sanctions, and partial economic liberalization does not mean that Iran is going to liberalize its politics and allow freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and more political participation.

Khamenei is also making it clear that Iran is not going to fundamentally change its foreign policy objectives in the region.

Regarding Iran’s role in the Gulf, Iran’s Supreme Leader pointed out on May 2 that

The Persian Gulf is the Iranian nation’s home and the Persian Gulf and a large section of the Sea of Oman belong to this powerful nation. Therefore, we should be present in the region, hold war games and display our power.”

When it comes to Syria, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has become more emboldened and empowered in supporting the Syrian regime financially, militarily, and in intelligence and advisory capacities. Even during the current peace talks, Iran is ramping up its presence in Syria to increase Bashar Assad’s leverage in the negotiations.

In Iraq, Iran’s sectarian agenda and support for Shiite militias continues to cause political instability. This week, hundreds of followers of the Iraqi Shia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, stormed into the Iraqi parliament building, demanding its speaker halt the session. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned that these protests could lead to the Iraqi state’s failure. After the protests, al-Sadr — who spent several years studying in Qom (Iran’s center of Islamic studies) — travelled to Iran.

Currently, some of the powerful Iraqi Shiite militias with which Iran has close connections, and in which it is investing its resources, are: Sadr’s Promised Day Brigade, the successor to the Mahdi Army; the Badr Organization, Asa’ib Ahl al Haqq (League of the Righteous) and Kata’ib Hezbollah (Battalions of Hezbollah).

In Yemen and Bahrain, Iran’s support for the Houthi rebels and Shiite groups continues to fuel the sectarian conflicts there.

Khamenei has also unleashed a series of anti-U.S. and anti-Israel tweets, including:

“Lebanon’s Hezbollah is strong enough not to be hurt by some pressures; today, no doubt Zionist regime is scared of Hezbollah more than past.” (1 May 2016)

“Shia-Sunni clash is colonialist, US plot. Top issue is to realize 2 sides of the extensive war & one’s stance to avoid being against Islam.” (1 May 2016)

Iran’s foreign policy is anchored in three areas: ideological principles (anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism), national interests (mainly economic gains), and nationalism.

Although Khamenei needed to emphasize Iran’s national and economic interests, there is no evidence that he is giving up on the revolutionary ideological norms. Khamenei is relying on the so-called moderates — President Hassan Rouhani and his U.S.-educated foreign minister, Javad Zarif — to continue the process of implementing the nuclear deal in order to benefit Iran economically and ensure the regime’s hold on power.

Nevertheless, at the end of day, the key decision makers in Iran’s political establishments are Khamenei and the senior cadre of the IRGC, who prioritize Iran’s ideological and revolutionary principles. It is from them that Khamenei draws his legitimacy.

As long as the Supreme Leader is alive, one should not expect that Iran’s reintegration into the global economy to move the country to the moderate end of the spectrum, or that its anti-American, anti-Semitic sentiments and fundamentals of Tehran’s foreign policies will change.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and Harvard University scholar, is president of the International American Council.

Iran and the Shia Sickle (Daniel 8)


Khamenei vows full support for Hezbollah

By ARIEL BEN SOLOMON
Wed, 20 Apr 2016, 05:33 PM

Rouhani warns world powers against lagging in implementing nuclear deal.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated the Shi’ite country’s full support for its ally Hezbollah, as the Lebanese organization came under harsh attack by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states for its involvement in Syria’s civil war.

“Hezbollah and its faithful youth are shining like the sun and are a source of honor for the Muslim world,” he told members of the Iranian Students’ Islamic Association in Tehran on Wednesday, Fars News Agency reported.

Khamenei’s comments came after Riyadh and its allies harshly criticized Iran and Hezbollah for their interference in the internal affairs of states in the region in the final statement at the 13th summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation last week.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have cracked down on Hezbollah, and have deported residents suspected of supporting the group.

Iran’s supreme leader also said that Iranian youth are being targeted in a “soft war” of the “imperialist front” led by the US and “Zionist regime” which includes the political, economic, and cultural fields, Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported.

“A reason why they would confront us in our attempt to achieve peaceful nuclear technology is this feature of the imperialist front; should Iran concede some ground, they will advance any further deny us further progress in biotechnology, nanotechnology and other strategic technologies,” he added.
President Hassan Rouhani warned world powers that Tehran would seriously respond if they lag in implementing the nuclear deal.

“We should monitor and verify the other side’s performance,” Rouhani at a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday, according to Mehr. “If we see any lagging and shortages from the other side, we should certainly show serious reaction,” he added.