ANALYSIS: With ISIS on the run, is it time to focus on Iran?

Iraq announced the official defeat of the ISIS terror group on its soil recently. Efforts in Syria pinpointing on the cities of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zoor, the last two ISIS strongholds, are also on the rise with estimates forecasting the group’s complete annihilation in October.

Unfortunately, since the rise of ISIS in 2014, thanks to the marginalization and crackdown of mass Sunni populations by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, Iran has benefited from the existence of ISIS to divert international attention and crosshairs away from its mischiefs.

After three long years of devastation and destruction brought about by ISIS, it is high time for the international community to exert its energy and pressures on Iran to bring an end to its proclivity of regional meddling and bellicosity.

Most recently revelations have made clear of Iran’s efforts to produce advanced, precision weapons in Lebanon and Syria. These activities are dangerously close to Israel, an enemy Tehran’s regime has sworn to wipe off the map.

Iran has been very active in Syria and focusing efforts to transform the country into a military entrenchment base. Anyone having knowledge about the Iranian regime’s nature and recent history understands how Tehran’s ruling clerics seek to establish war fronts across the Middle East to spread their malign influence.

An image grab taken from Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV on August 24, 2017 shows Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah. (AFP

The main proxy

These sites in Lebanon and Syria are intended to produce missiles with state-of-the-art capabilities. Tehran has specifically pressed the gas pedal on these measures during the past year in Lebanon. The Lebanese Hezbollah, Iran’s main proxy and offspring from 1982 to this day, will most likely be the principal benefactor of these new missiles, enabling it to threaten specific targets.

This goes parallel to Tehran’s repeated efforts, especially during the ongoing six-year war in Syrian, to smuggle strategic, game-changing weapons into Lebanon. These attempts have been greeted with numerous Israeli airstrikes against various targets in Syria in recent years, such as advanced weapons caches or convoys that reports indicate were headed for none other than Hezbollah.

Already entangled in the Assad/Iran war against the Syrian people, Hezbollah has yet to show any retaliation against Israel in response to these airstrikes. While these assertions may not be new, the changing times in the Middle East are further providing grounds for dire action as “tomorrow” may prove to be too late.

To add to the regional concerns stirred by Iran, the al-Shabaab terror network, a known affiliate of the al-Qaeda network, has raised the stakes by taking control of uranium mines in Africa. Reports indicate its intention is providing Iran with such crucial sensitive supplies. This can be described as yet another failure of Obama’s highly flawed, back-channeled deal with Tehran that left the regime’s pivotal threats unaddressed.

A SANA handout picture shows (L-R) Hassan Nasrallah, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Damascus on February 25, 2010. (AFP)

The bigger picture

Iran has been taking advantage of the overall Middle East situation to extend its sphere of reach and influence through Hezbollah and a slate of other proxies. Tehran has also focused on propping the Assad regime in Syria, holding on its foothold in Yemen through supporting the Houthis against Saudi Arabia, and maintaining its strategic presence in Iraq after the fall of ISIS. The latter is specifically important considering the upcoming 2018 parliamentary elections.

And even more disturbing about Syria are recent blueprints of de-escalation zones across the country. The southern de-escalation zone in particular would provide Iran and its company of proxies the highly sought opportunity to consolidate their stretch across these sensitive areas. These measures are also aimed at limiting Saudi influence in Syria, considered a red line for Tehran.

Iran took advantage of strategic policy mistakes in Iraq. This should not be repeated in Syria. Assad in Damascus has since 2011 relied on Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah for its very survival. The Syrian regime has maintained its strategic positioning thanks to Iran’s crucial role in delivering economic and military assistance through the years.

Iran is now seeking to place itself as the ultimate winner of the Syria war, and a glimpse at post-2003 war Iraq and the status of Lebanon provides a prelude of the devastation to come. As such, all the more important to launch global initiatives to counter Iran’s hostile aims.

US President Donald Trump ordered a massive military strike against a Syria Thursday in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack they blame on President Bashar al-Assad. (AFP)

Understanding the reality

Assad may now threaten to look East after the war rather than West in retaliation to those who stood against him. Yet he should be reminded of how he must face accountability for his horrific crimes against humanity, mostly at the behest of the ruling regime in Iran.

In a recent Paris visit, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Assad leaving Syria is a high probability. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has called on world powers to impose a transition plan in Syria. The French top diplomat also made it crystal clear there is no place for Assad in Syria’s future.

All this goes parallel to the necessity of displaying an allied, international determination that Iran’s threats against the security of the region and beyond will not go tolerated.

As a recent New York Times piece explains, “The Trump administration has so far seemed willing to cede Syria to Russia, save for the defeat of the Islamic State. But Washington should understand what this really means: ceding it to Iran.”

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Iran’s Missile Production Progam in Lebanon

Looking for means to continue spreading havoc across the Middle East and maintain a grip on its dwindling influence across the region, new alarming reports indicate Iran is now digging dangerously deep to establish a long-term strategic foothold in Lebanon.

A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) general has recently informed a Kuwaiti newspaper of the launching of rocket and missile factories for the Lebanese Hizb’allah. To further raise eyebrows, these factories are reported to be over 50 meters underground, protected by layers of armored concrete in the face any possible Israeli airstrike.

The al-Jarida daily ran a report on Monday quoting an IRGC deputy explaining how Iran in recent months has placed the final touches on manufacturing sites making Hizb’allah capable of manufacturing missiles, rockets, and firearms. Mohammad Ali Jafari is the chief commander of the IRGC and yet the al-Jarida report did not specify which of his deputies exactly made the comments.

Just recently, Iranian Defense Ministher Hossein Dehghan, himself a former IRGC brigadier general, boasted of Hizb’allah currently establishing itself as an entity capable of producing missiles and rockets with a variety of ranges, including over 500 kilometers, and able to target any and all parts of Israel. Dehghan’s comments did not go as far as to provide any specific details on Hizb’allah’s new capabilities.

Reports indicate these new missiles include surface-to-surface, land-based anti-ship missiles that maybe replicas of China’s C-802s, and torpedoes fired from light high-speed craft.

However, there are speculations about how the Lebanese Hizb’allah is actually obtaining necessary materials, and going forward with the production of components described as sophisticated, and yet very necessary for the output of advanced weaponry. The truth is Iran itself is facing difficulties in ballistic and anti-ship missiles.

The factories have reportedly been active for the past three months, with IRGC advisers and Lebanese experts trained in Tehran’s Imam Hossein University stationed amongst its staff. The Imam Hossein University is used as a key training institution to prepare IRGC personnel for its most sensitive missions, including Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missile drive, and exporting terrorism abroad. Reports indicate hundreds of IRGC personnel and foreign elements have received training at the facility, especially on how to master techniques of rocket and missile manufacturing.

These clandestine sites are said to be constructed deep underground, as Hizb’allah continues to fear potential airstrikes. The multiple layers of defensive measures also reveal the distance Iran will go and the budget it is willing to allocate in its disastrous support for terrorism. No single facility in this network spread across Lebanon produces complete rockets or missiles. In fact, each site is designed for separate aspects of the ordinance needed which are then sent to a specific assembling facility to finalize the effort.

This new initiative to establish indigenous rocket/missile factories came after Israeli attacks against a weapons factory based in Sudan and various supply routes from Syria used by Iranian elements to transfer Iran-made rockets to Hizb’allah.

According to Long War Journal, “…the Revolutionary Guard began building the factories in Lebanon ‘after Israel destroyed an Iranian weapons factory in Sudan years ago which provided arms to Hezbollah’ – likely referring to an Oct. 2012 air strike attributed to the Israelis on the Yarmouk weapons factory in Khartoum  – ‘and targeted weapons shipments to Hezbollah from Syria.’”

The new underground facilities signal a significant advance in the capability enjoyed by Hizb’allah to obtain more sophisticated rockets/missiles and increase its dangerous stockpile like never before. The report indicate Hizb’allah has been test-firing these rockets/missiles and using such weapons in large numbers in its Syria campaign. The production of armor-piercing rounds and anti-tank missiles are amongst the most sensitive concerns.

This trend has been an ongoing process for over a decade. Hizb’allah’s deputy chief Naim Qasem in late 2014 claimed the group had already acquired the capability to produce some of the components of rockets used in the 2006 war. Months later, Iran’s export of missile production technology was confirmed by IRGC Air Force chief General Amir Ali Hajizadeh. Hizb’allah, Iran’s proxy in Iraq, Syria, and Palestine, were the recipients of this technology. The latest developments add to the signs of Iran’s widespread effort of making its proxies capable of practicing autonomous and domestic fighting tactics.

This new development underscores the dangerous nature and depth of Iran’s involvement in Syria, Lebanon and across the region. This further proves the correctness of CENTCOM chief General Joseph Votel’s recent remarks at a Senate hearing describing how “Iran poses the great long-term threat to stability for this part of the world.”

Considering the fact that Iran also uses Syria as a ground link to provide arms and other logistics for Hizb’allah, there is a need to fully implement measures stated by Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., on bring an end to Syria being a “safe haven for terrorists” and the necessity “we get Iran and their proxies out.”

Alarming is also the fact how the nuclear deal sealed between six world powers and Iran has provided a windfall of billions of dollars for Tehran, money that should be used to benefit the Iranian people’s interests.

These latest reports of Iran launching underground rocket/missile factories for Hizb’allah in Lebanon highlight how Iran has taken advantage of a weak international position to this day to spread its support for terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, and how urgent measures are needed to bring an end to such lethal meddling across the Middle East. The first necessary step in this path is to designate Iran’s IRGC according to its true identity: a foreign terrorist organization.

Originally posted in American Thinker

Appeasement of Iran Must End

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By Shahriar Kia

A tumultuous year lies ahead. With a new administration taking the helm in Washington, the French elections upcoming, then the sham “elections” in Iran, and unprecedented developments in the making in the Middle East and on the international stage.

2017 has begun with enormous concerns for the mullahs in Iran. With the death of former Iranian regime president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s establishment witnessed the fall of one of its two pillars.

To this end, Tehran’s religious dictatorship suffered a devastating blow and weakened in its entirety.

The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the most ruthless factions of his regime are trekking down the path of further contraction, advocating extremismsupporting terrorism, and pursuing their nuclear ambitions.

With the regime weakness bringing joy to the Iranian population, the mullahs are left terrified of a repeat of uprisings on the model of 2009. This is especially significant with crucial presidential “elections” coming in May.

The general public and even political prisoners are voicing their dissent like never before, especially thanks to social media. Families of regime victims are protesting, especially those whose loved ones perished amongst the 30,000 political prisoners massacred by the mullahs back in 1988. The people are demanding an end to ruthless executions and the regime’s existence.

The Iranian people, one year after the Iranian nuclear pact’s implementation, have gained nothing. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, however, has ironically benefited Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), allowing Iran to finance lethal ambitions in Syria and throughout the Middle East.

The world has come to realize that the mullahs, the IRGC, the Lebanese Hizb’allah and other Shiite militias have no such role of confronting extremism and Daesh (ISIS/ISIL). In fact, their goal has been to maintain Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in power.

They have the main source of distributing terrorism and instability across this flashpoint region. In fact, their presence in Syria guarantees the mullahs’ continued rule back home.

Khamenei recently said if they hadn’t fought in Syria, they “had not been confronted [in Syria], we should have stood against them in Tehran, Fars, Khorasan and Isfahan.”

In response to the latest Syrian ceasefire effort, Iran and its proxy elements are the sole parties seeking to sabotage the entire initiative. According to Syrian opposition leaders, Iran is the sole party seeking nothing but to maintain Assad in power at all costs.

No political solution is possible in the Levant as long as the IRGC and their Shiite militias are present in the country. Thus, if we seek peace in this land, the only serious path forward lies in expelling the mullahs from Syria. The main party in detriment from a ceasefire and eventual peace in Syria is none other than Tehran.

The Obama administration’s appeasement policy vis-à-vis Iran is the main reason behind the Syria tragedy and the mullahs’ dominance in this war. Iran counted on the West’s engagement approach to literally export its extremism under the banner of Islam.

The end of Obama’s tenure leaves little hope for the mullahs’ regime to act as they wish. This situation intensified ever since the occupation of Iraq back in 2003. Khamenei has been the main benefactor in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. But such days are over.

Considering the failed rapprochement approach, a policy change is needed to end the Middle East crisis. Actions must be taken in the face of the IRGC’s terrorism and its destructive role in the region. Otherwise neither the Middle East nor the world, for that matter, will ever experience true peace and tranquility.

We cannot ally with one form of extremism to root out another. Extremism under the name of Islam, be it Sunni or Shiite, is no different in viciousness and none represent Islam. In fact, they are better described as forms of religious fascism.

Therefore, no government can promote an alliance with Tehran under the pretext of pursuing a security policy. Furthermore, we cannot neglect our principles for the mere sake of short-term economic gains and turn our backs on human rights and women’s rights violations in Iran.

Today’s Iran has an alternative with a democratic agenda based on respecting religious freedoms, universal suffrage, separation of church and state, and gender equality. The voice of this alternative should be heard, as proposed by nearly two dozen senior top U.S. officials in a hand-delivered letter to President Donald Trump.

This alternative is none other than the National Council of Resistance of Iran under the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, who years ago presented her vision for a future Iran in a 10-point-plan.

The solution presented by the Iranian opposition can render a new era for the people of Iran, nations across the Middle East and beyond. We only need to remain loyal to our democratic values and principles.

Originally published in American Thinker

Shahriar Kia is a political analyst and member of Iranian opposition (PMOI/MEK). He graduated from North Texas University. @shahriarkia

Crimes in Aleppo: Iran must be ousted from Syria

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A Syrian solider looks at al-Ramousseh crossing, where fighters of the rebels were scheduled to leave in the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, Syria, on December 16. Photo by European Pressphoto Agency
By Alejo Vidal Quadras   |   Dec. 29, 2016

The unspeakable scenes we witnessed in Aleppo — the massacre of women, children, doctors and other innocents — broadcast to us almost live by the civilians trapped in the siege will go down in history along with Darfur, Srebrenica or Rwanda as major stains on the moral conscience of the world.

Continue reading “Crimes in Aleppo: Iran must be ousted from Syria”

Iran’s Use Of Extremism To Gain Political Leverage Must Be Confronted

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Lebanese Hezbollah supporters carry a replica of Hezbollah emblem during a religious procession to mark Ashura in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Lebanon October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

Ever since day one in 2011 when war erupted in Syria Iran has been dispatching tens of thousands of troops to shore the Syrian military. These efforts were parallel to Iran’s decades of support for Shiite extremist groups such as the likes of the Lebanese Hezbollah, a conglomerate of others in Iraq and across the region, constituting a major pillar of Iran’s policies.

Continue reading “Iran’s Use Of Extremism To Gain Political Leverage Must Be Confronted”

Iran exporting terrorism & narcotics to Middle East states: report

Iran is source of terrorism: Arab coalition spokesman

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General Ahmed Assiri

The provision of long range missiles being to the Houthis in Yemen will render grave consequences, warned General Ahmd Assiri, official spokesman of the Arab coalition forces.
“The spread of these types of ballistic weapons is neither in the interest of regional states nor the world. The weapons currently possessed by the Houthis has most likely expanded by now, reaching the hands of groups such as the terrorist Lebanese Hezbollah and Daesh (ISIS/ISIL), and other terrorists,” General Assiri said.
“By supporting the Houthi militias through providing smuggled weapons Iran intends to prolong the war in Yemen and further its destruction… the regime in Iran is the source of terrorism,” he said in an interview with Asharq daily.

 

Lebanese cleric warns of Iran exporting narcotics to Arab countries

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Alame Seid Mohamed Ali al-Husseini

Iran is exporting narcotics to Arab countries, warned Alame Seid Mohammad Ali Al-Husseini, Secretary General of the Lebanese Islamic-Arabic Council, in an interview with al-Madina daily on November 30th.
“Iran is attempting infiltrate into Arab countries by provoking sectarianism and distributing narcotics. The mullahs’ regime has from the very beginning used weapons, provoked sectarianism and exported its lethal viewpoints of spreading the revolution, all aimed at increasing its foothold in the region. Currently Iran is focused on exporting narcotics,” he said.
“Various sources have emphasized the mullahs’ regime, and especially the Revolutionary Guards, have begun planning to export narcotic pills and heroine powder, and intending to give a green light to a number of narcotics dealers in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, the Persian Gulf, Venezuela and Bolivia. Heroine is generally the most dangerous and most horrific type of all narcotics,” he added.

 

And some news from Syria…

Syria: 35 Iran militias killed in Aleppo

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Rebels staging attacks in Aleppo, Syria

Free Syrian Army members defeated an attack staged by the troops of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad on Wednesday aiming to take hold of Aleppo’s Sheikh Saeed district. Dozens of militias linked to Iran were killed in this attack.
35 Iran-linked militias were killed in these attacks and a number of others were injured, said Captain Abdulsalam Abdulrazzaq, a spokesman of groups linked to the FSA, in an interview with Orient TV. FSA rebels were able to retake all positions taken over by the militias in Sheikh Saeed.
The FSA also captured four Iran-linked militias, all from Afghanistan.
Thousands of civilians have been forced to flee areas controlled by Iran-backed Shiite militias, seeking shelter in northeast Aleppo.

 

Rebels take over strategic city of al-Bab in northern Syria

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Attacks staged by the Free Syrian Army

Opposition fighters continue to retake villages from Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) control in northern Syria and Free Syrian Army members have advanced from Aleppo towards the strategic city of al-Bab, Orient TV reported.
FSA members cleansed the towns of Khalile and al-Ajime in their campaign of “Operation Forat Shield.” On the other hand, Turkish warplanes conducted airstrikes against four Daesh bases, destroying a number of their military vehicles.
FSA fighters also took over the towns of Sabuyran, al-Khalile and Azzazur. These towns are located east of al-Bab on a road linking this town to the city of Minbej. With these victories the FSA has made advances towards al-Bab with support provided by the Turkish military. Turkish warplanes have continued to bomb Daesh bases in this area.
The liberation of these towns facilitates FSA’s attack against the city of al-Bab. As a result, FSA fighters have reached areas only five kilometers from the town of Baja’e. Taking over the city of Saflaniye has also become much more realistic for the rebels as a result.
On the other hand, the FSA can also completely retake the city of Qabasin from Daesh.

 

Syria: Assad militia commander killed in Aleppo

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Assad militia commander in Aleppo

Battles enraging in east Aleppo resulted in the death of Mohamed Rafe al-Arab, a commander of the “Quds Brigade” linked to the Assad regime, Syrian activists reported. He was killed by Syrian opposition rebels.
It is worth noting this individual had received a medal of “heroism” from the Russian army for taking part in military operations and supporting the Assad military.