By Shahriar Kia
Iran’s destructive role across the Middle East has become common knowledge and crystal clear for all. During the past two decades, especially, the presence of this regime’s proxy militias and affiliated Shiite groups has been considered an overt secret. Yet the question is how has Iran been able to dispatch so many fighters, and on a constant basis, to various flashpoint scenes in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Iran has trained, equipped, financed and dispatched thousands of fighters to various battlegrounds across the region. However, with its own economy literally in peril, how has Tehran afforded such an expensive campaign?
Iran allocates a large portion of its annual budget to finance a massive domestic crackdown machine, parallel to exporting terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism. This goes part in parcel to Tehran’s continuous effort to obtain weapons of mass destruction, including its clandestine nuclear drive and ballistic missiles program. A percentage of the capital necessary for such endeavors, and the repressive forces inside the country, have ironically been provided by the highly boasted Iran nuclear deal.
The mullahs’ regime is also known to plunder billions from the Iranian people’s pockets, leaving millions across the country living in poverty. Whereas it is worth noting Iran is one of the richest countries in the world in natural resources, registered as enjoying the second largest gas reserves and fourth largest crude oil reserves.
Not long ago Iranian and western media showed how many Tehran locals were resorting to sleeping in graves in the winter cold. The number of homeless people in Iran is skyrocketing at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, many Iranians have been forced to sell body parts, such as kidneys, to help make ends meet, making this a huge market in Iran.
Rallies and demonstrations are also on the rise in Iran as more and more people are protesting very poor living conditions rendered through the disastrous policies implemented by the mullahs’ regime. Just recently residents of Ahwaz in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan in southwest Iran staged a week-long rally demanding Tehran bring an end to its disastrous desertification campaign that has devastated the local economy. Thousands of people also took to the streets in Tehran in late February demanding secure employment and delayed paychecks.
As the Iranian people suffer, the money needed to provide for their needs is used by the mullahs’ regime to pursue their own domestic and foreign agendas. As a voice focusing on unveiling such efforts, the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) relies on a vast social base inside the country to gather such intelligence to unveil some of the regime’s most sensitive projects.
Senior U.S. officials have in the past acknowledged how the Iranian opposition, People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), has warned the globe over the most important aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, such as the Natanz uranium enrichment plant and the Arak heavy water plant back in 2002 that sent shockwaves across the globe.
The Iranian opposition has through the years delivered significant blows to the mullahs through over 100 different revelations shedding light on most specifically Tehran’s nuclear weapons program. Without such an important campaign the mullahs’ will most definitely have obtained nuclear weapons by now, placing them in a dangerously powerful position in a tumultuous Middle East.
The MEK has also provided valuable information on Iran’s terrorism and Islamic extremism, such as unveiling the names of 32,000 hired agents in Iraq back in 2007; training and financing Iranian and non-Iranian forces in Syria in the summer of 2016 along with details and maps; and the Revolutionary Guards’ role in massacring Aleppo residents in December 2016.
To train its foreign fighters Iran has launched a network of bases across the country, 14 of which were identified and made public by the NCRI in a February press conference held in Washington. Other such militias are being trained in Syria and Iraq near the very warfronts they are then sent off to.
Iran trains Iraqi Shiite militias in bases across Iraq, dispatching such individuals to pursue Iran’s objectives in Iraq. Iran also used this asset to target Iranian opposition members formerly in Iraq in 8 different attacksthat targeted their camps, Ashraf and Liberty, leaving over 175 MEK members killed and more than 1,000 injured. These attacks were mainly carried out by Iraqi militias under IRGC orders.
To end Iran’s ability to use proxy militias to wreak havoc across the Middle East the new U.S. administration should target the main entity behind this campaign, being none other than the mullahs’ cherished IRGC. The designation of this lethal entity as a foreign terrorist organization is long overdue, and such a measure will most definitely send a signal to Iran that both America, and the international community, mean business.
Tehran has to understand that such undertakings will no longer be tolerated, and continuing with such actions and further missile tests will bear a heavy price tag. This approach will place America as a shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people’s plight to establish freedom and democracy.
Shahriar Kia is a political analyst and member of Iranian opposition (PMOI/MEK). He graduated from North Texas University. He tweets at @shahriarkia.
Originally posted in The Hill