ANALYSIS: Understanding Washington’s fast-evolving Iran policy

On the doorstep of US President Donald Trump’s first National Security Strategy speech, the administration launched an unprecedented campaign of pinpointing the crosshairs on the epicenter of all extremism causing havoc across the Middle East: Iran.

This comes following a Wall Street Journal article explaining how in the post-ISIS world Washington will begin pinpointing its focus and resources on the larger and more dangerous threat posed by Tehran.

‘Hard look’

The Trump administration has made it clear that a wide array of destructive policies adopted by Tehran have become unacceptable, a clear indication of the end of Iran’s years of windblown successes, thanks mainly to eight years of the Obama’s unbridled appeasement policy and strategic mistakes of previous administrations.

Described as a “first” by Reuters, last Thursday US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley displayed a detailed exhibition of Iranian equipment used to arm Yemen’s Houthi militias – long known to be backed by Iran – and thus, to destabilize the region, especially its archrival, Saudi Arabia.

“We are not just focused on the nuclear program,” Haley said during a press conference at a US Department of Defense hangar where the Iranian equipment were placed before the media. “We’re also taking a hard look at Iran’s ballistic missile program, its arms exports, and its support for terrorists, proxy fighters and dictators.”

Iran can also be described as the facilitator, and maybe even the godfather, of a slate of malign practices rendering suffering across the Arabian Peninsula, leading to the Levant and eastward to Central Asia.

“It’s hard to find a terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints all over it,” Haley continued, adding how this regime is “fanning the flames” of conflict.

It is worth reminding that for decades the US State Department has considered Iran the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. We may actually be on the verge of meaningful and long overdue measures against Tehran on this very important and vital subject.

A different Iraq

US policy shifting also faces major decisions regarding the path forward in Iraq, as the three year war against ISIS group begins to wind down and Washington seeks to roll back Tehran’s influence over Baghdad. Disputes between the central government and the Kurdish region, parallel to the May general elections in which Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi seeks reelection, are important subjects for all parties involved.

“Iran simply does not respect the sovereignty of its neighbors,” said Douglas Silliman, the US Ambassador to Iraq, while voicing how Washington is encouraged over recent efforts made by Baghdad to establish stronger ties with Riyadh and Amman.

This adds to Tehran’s troubles in Mesopotamia, as there are signs of growing rifts among its allies in Iraq’s Shiite majority. A stereotype mentality would suggest Iran is seeking the return of Nouri al-Maliki, a former prime minister considered by many as extremely loyal to Tehran.

Maliki, however, would need the unified support of Iraq’s Shiite community. Troubling Iran’s intentions is how various influential figures, such as Muqtada Sadr, have established close ties with Riyadh or signaled their own objectives.

Hadi al-Amiri, commander of Iraq’s largest Shiite paramilitary group, the so-called Badr Organization, called on his fighters on Thursday to begin taking orders from the national military and end their ties with the group’s political wing.

This move, parallel to unconfirmed reports of orders for the group’s fighters to withdraw from cities they currently control, paves the path for Amiri to take part in the upcoming May 12th parliamentary elections.

Back in July, Ammar al-Hakim, a politician known for his links to Iran, withdrew from the Tehran-backed Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq to launch a new party, the National Wisdom Movement. Al-Hakim has claimed to seek Sunni support for his new initiative.

July was the same month of Sadr’s Saudi and UAE visit, and he also raised eyebrows by calling for the controversial Popular Mobilization Forces to dismantle and integrate into the country’s armed forces.

Reports also indicate that Sadr intends to establish a political alliance with Abadi, the al-Wataniya slate of Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi and the Civil Democratic Alliance before May’s elections. Raising concerns for Iran is the fact that all these parties have called for political reforms in Iraq.

Necessary deterrence

With the US military effort against ISIS decreasing in necessity, the Trump administration is also weighing the future of its Syria campaign, with Iran on their mind. Having recently announced the presence of more than 2,000 American forces stationed currently in Syria, the new goal for these units is a highly debated subject.

As we remember the drastic experience of Obama’s premature pull-out of Iraq and the resulting consequences that paved the path for the rise of ISIS, US Defense Secretary James Mattis has indicated American troops have no intention of leaving the Levant in the foreseeable future.

It is vital to ensure ISIS is prevented the ability to morph into a dangerous new entity with the potential of raising new threats in this already hostile region. Furthermore, rest assured Washington is taking into considerable consideration the presence of Iranian proxies across the Levant, and how the stationing of US troops on the ground acts as a major deterrence element against Tehran’s treacherous initiatives.

Times have changed

Advocates of engagement vis-à-vis Iran are accusing the Trump administration of trailing the path of launching a war with Iran. Their intentions are far from preventing the US from entering a new war, but to protect Tehran from any strong measures, including international sanctions that target the regime and actually benefit the people by weakening the ruling system.

This piece is not a call for war with Iran, and there is a logic that needs understanding for those concerned about Iran responding violently to a US policy shift. Tehran’s support for militias in Iraq back in the 2000s enjoyed the support of two key elements:

1. A completely unified Iranian regime with former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad acting as the puppet of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

2. Billions in revenue rendered by skyrocketing oil prices soaring up to nearly $140 a barrel in June 2008.

This is not the case today, as Iranian politics is a scene of unprecedented internal quarrels described locally as “dogfights,” and the lowered price of oil and increasing sanctions leveled against Tehran are disrupting the regime’s efforts, seeking to maximize its regional bellicosity.

‘Global threat’

As emphasized by Ambassador Haley, it is high time for the international community to take decisive action, such as crippling sanctions targeting the regime and its belligerent institutions, to finally bring an end to what has become “a global threat.”

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran, known for blowing the whistle on Tehran’s clandestine nuclear program, indicates how a “firm policy hinges on the following practical measures:

– Evicting the IRGC and its proxy militias from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan, and preventing the transfer of Iran’s weaponry and troops to these countries;

– Imposing comprehensive sanctions on Iran and the IRGC, especially preventing their access to the global banking system;

– Referring Iran’s human rights violations dossier, particularly the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, to The International Criminal Court, and placing the regime’s senior officials responsible for these crimes before justice;

– Imposing previous UNSC resolutions covering Iran’s nuclear weapons program, banning uranium enrichment, and launching unconditional inspections into the regime’s military and non-military sites.”

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ANALYSIS: The ball is rolling in Syria, against Iran

Developments over Syria following recent collaborations between leaders of the United States and Russia have gained significant momentum. This also signals a decreasing Iranian role and a prelude to further setbacks for Tehran.

An hour long phone call last Tuesday between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin followed the latter’s meeting with Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad.

After allocating billions on its Levant campaign, Iran is witnessing its hegemony fading as measures aimed at bringing the Syria war to a close gain momentum.

Political flexibility

The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed last week to facilitate a full-scale political process in Syria and to sponsor a conference in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi to end the war.

While some may consider this a victory for Iran, jumping to early conclusions blinds us from understanding how Tehran sought full hegemony in Syria. Today, circumstances account to major setbacks.

Putin’s hosting of talks on Syria inclines that Moscow calls the shots. This leaves Tehran deeply concerned, especially following its six-year long campaign to maintain Assad in power. The mere fact that Iran is sitting at the table with Russia, also in talks with the US over different issues, and Turkey, a Syrian opposition supporter, leaves no doubt Tehran will need to display political flexibility.

After allocating billions on its Levant campaign, Iran is witnessing its hegemony fading as measures aimed at bringing the Syria war to a close gain momentum. (Reuters)

Many would argue a pact between Washington and Moscow will define the blueprint of finalizing Syria’s crisis. Did the Sochi talks place Tehran and Ankara in line with Moscow and Washington? Doubts remain in this regard and Iran understands clearly how a post-ISIS Syria will come at a heavy price.

And with Russia significantly scaling down its military presence on the ground in Syria, Iran’s dreams of a Shiite crescent are endangered, to say the least. Moreover, the mere fact that China is considering a role in reconstructing post-war Syria means more players in the future of this country, and a declining part for Iran.

Seeking to safeguard its interests in Syria, Iran’s terrorist-designated Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) is also eyeing a share in Syria’s reconstruction. This should sound alarm bells, especially since such a role would provide a front for Iran’s efforts to maintain a foothold in the Levant.

Higher global interests

Certain is the fact that Russia’s reservations are not limited to Syria. On the international stage Moscow and Washington enjoy a certain stature. This said, it is quite obvious Moscow will not sacrifice its higher global interests for Syria.

The phone call between Trump and Putin is a sign of coordination between their two countries in Syria. With Washington playing an observer role in the Astana talks weighing Syria, one can conclude their role in the Levant is not eliminated.

Far from it, in fact. US Defense Secretary James Mattis said recently how the US is in Syria to stay. “US troops, in Syria to fight Islamic State, won’t be packing their bags now the jihadist group is essentially beaten. They’re staying on,” Bloomberg reported. This comes as the Pentagon is also likely to announce the presence of around 2,000 US troops in Syria, according to Reuters.

Iran understands fully that US presence in Syria is a source of dilemma for any future plans in the region. Considering the drastic consequences of Obama’s premature departure from Iraq, there are doubts Trump will allow such a repeat in Syria.

Riyadh’s reservations

Considering the relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia, one can conclude that Moscow will also be taking Riyadh’s reservations over Syria into consideration. Knowing the Arab world’s support is crucial, Putin will strive to obtain Riyadh’s consent.

In his latest meeting with United Nations special envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized how his government worked with Saudi Arabia to unify the Syrian opposition, also indicating UN’s blessing for this latest push.

Unlike Iran, Assad remaining in power is not a red line for Russia. And Moscow will seek Riyadh’s cooperation to have the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council and regional states jump on the train to bring a final end to the Syria crisis.

This spells into a more significant role for Saudi Arabia, Iran’s Middle East archrival, whose Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has in a recent New York Times interview described Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei “the new Hitler of the Middle East.”

Foreign Ministers, Sergei Lavrov (C) of Russia, Walid al-Muallem (L) of Syria and Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, attend a news conference in Moscow, Russia, April 14, 2017. (Reuters)

 

The shadow

Fueling more concerns for Iran is the fact that the Sochi talks focused on establishing peace and stability in Syria based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254. This platform was even described by Iranian state media as an “American and Zionist conspiracy.”

The shadow of UN-backed solutions for Syria will continue to haunt Tehran. Putin also emphasized changes in the process of Syria’s political agreement will render based on the Geneva agreement framework.

To add insult to injury, the Syrian opposition meeting Thursday in Riyadh agreed to dispatch a single bloc for next weeks’ UN-backed peace talks. Nasr Hariri, a known Syrian opposition figure selected as the new chief negotiator, is heading to Geneva for the talks set to begin tomorrow. The opposition is ready to discuss “everything on the negotiating table,” according to Hariri.

Tehran would have been delighted to continue fragmenting the Syrian opposition, as witnessed throughout the 6½ year war.

Iran’s dilemma

An opportunity is available to end Syria’s fighting, with a high possibility that a final political solution will materialize in the Geneva talks.

Iran, however, thrives on increasing violence across the region. Any decrease in such tensions is against Tehran’s interests as it allows the international community to place its crosshairs on Iran’s belligerence, including a controversial nuclear programdeveloping ballistic missiles, as senior Revolutionary Guards commanders recently threatened, spreading its influence across the Middle East through supporting terrorism and proxy groups across the board, and human rights violations.

In his abovementioned interview, the Saudi Crown Prince reiterated how the world has “learned from Europe that appeasement doesn’t work.” As the international community seeks to bring an end to the war in Syria, appeasing Iran through this delicate process must be strictly prohibited.

Make Iran Pay a Price for Regional Meddling

There is no doubt that the Middle East is in turmoil like never before. And this is highly due to the disastrous engagement/lead-from-behind policy adopted by the Obama administration, despite its claim it sought to lessen tensions.

Iran is taking advantage by expanding its sphere of influence through proxy groups in Iraq, propping the Assad regime in Syria by dispatching a conglomerate of militia shock troops and fueling the Yemen war by providing arms, money and logistical support to the Houthis. However, the days of Iran’s advances are numbered.

As the Trump administration continues to place its crosshairs on ISIS in Syria, Tehran is busy in a land-grab campaign, already thinking about the post-ISIS Levant. Iran has also through the years ordered its offspring, Lebanese Hezbollah, to dispatch thousands of its members to Syria.

Washington must come to understand more action is needed against Iran’s moves in Syria. Tehran is also seeking to raise the stakes for the US in the all-important region of southeastern Syria. A series of incidents all clearly indicate the escalating tensions on the ground and in the skies:

—         US fighter jets targeting Iran-backed militias nearing a base of America-backed forces in al-Tanf on the Syria-Iraq border,

—         US warplanes shooting down two Iranian-made drones and a Syrian Sukho-22 jet targeting allied Kurdish forces on the ground,

—        Iran launching medium-range ballistic missiles from its soil to Deir Ezzur in eastern Syria.

The most recent White House warning to Assad not to resort to a chemical attack raised the temperature even higher. It is obvious Assad would need permission from Iran and Russia for such a move. Thus Washington was sending an “on notice” message to Damascus, Tehran and Moscow.

Iran’s objective is clear: establishing a land corridor passing through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and reaching the Mediterranean shores. On both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, Tehran has militia proxies seeking to push ISIS out of the region and prevent any US-backed forces, be it the Kurds and Sunni Arabs advancing upon Raqqa, or the Free Syrian Army in the southeast, from gaining any further foothold in Syria after the fall of ISIS.

Iran seeks full control over the Syria-Iraq-Jordan borders and will not tolerate any US presence in the area. Iran has also ordered Hezbollah to stretch its activities to Daraa in southern Syria close to the Israeli border.

While the Trump administration has taken unprecedented military action to protect its interests, White House statements explaining US-led coalition forces do “not seek to fight” Iran-backed forces will be viewed by Tehran as a window of opportunity to continue their belligerence in a highly-hostile flashpoint area.

And while we are here, Russia declaring a freeze on deconfliction agreements with the US is nothing but a bluff considering the fact that Moscow has already accomplished more than its expectations in Syria: fortifying a naval and air base, and establishing a major foothold in the Middle East after decades of absence.

It is high time for Washington to begin defining and taking steps in the direction of its broader post-ISIS Middle East policy. It is imperative to understand Iran’s threats will only further increase and the end of ISIS will not mean the end of violence or Tehran’s destructive meddling.

Iran’s actions in Iraq after 2003 should provide a very disturbing vision. Tehran dispatched its mullahs and flooded the country with money to launch “cultural centers.” This was the beginning of Iran spreading its tentacles and injecting its disparaging mentality to fuel sectarian wars that continue to haunt Iraq and wreak havoc in the country.

Shiite militias have been harassing the Sunni minority for over a decade as Tehran seeks to change the complete social fabric of Mesopotamia. The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), known as the Hashid al-Sha’bi in Arabic, are a replica of the mullahs’ Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Iran’s influence in Iraq has reached the point of this entity being legalized by the Iraqi Parliament.

As ISIS routed the classic Iraqi army thanks to the disastrous policies of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iran began justifying PMF presence in battles for Falluja, Ramadi, Salahaddin, Tikrit and now Mosul.

Firstly, it is a dire necessity for the US and its regional allies, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and all Gulf Cooperation Council states, to quickly remedy the Qatar crisis and prevent Iran from taking advantage of such a rift.

Secondly, as ISIS is being eradicated, all attention must be focused on Iran and its devastating meddling in the region. One very imperative measure to curb Iran’s influence and bring an end to its reach across the region is for the US, European Union and Arab nations to designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.

Finally, Sunni Arab states should be involved in rebuilding the devastated lands of Iraq, Syria and Yemen to prevent Iran from again taking advantage of such an initiative for its deceptive objectives.

Iran must come to learn that the days of meddling in the region without paying the price are over.

Will Iran’s Hassan Rouhani negotiate on Syria?

After establishing the Iran nuclear deal as his first-term legacy, the question now is what new initiative will Iranian President Hassan Rouhani embark on his second term? Should there be any expectation from the international community in Rouhani’s second term as this regime’s president? And if Rouhani has the will to bring about any change in for example Syria, a big if, will it be for the better good of the Syrian people and the region? Or merely seeking Iran’s interests?

Iran’s policies in the region have been considered by many to be based on double standards. How does Iran legitimize its interference in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and across the region while millions have been killed, injured and displaced as the entire region remains in turmoil?

Iran claims to seek peace, stability, and cooperation in the Middle East through negotiations with neighboring countries. Yet the status quo has changed significantly for Rouhani’s second term. Donald Trump is now the U.S. President, bringing an end to Obama’s appeasement policy and calling on all countries to isolate Iran.

Many of Iran’s regional neighbors view the regime as an ally of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, who has massacred tens of thousands of his own people.

Iran, however, continues its support for Assad, arguing international law considers Assad as the president of a legal government in Syria. Does being a legal government legitimize such measures against its own constituents?

Tehran is validating its support for the Syrian regime based on a request placed by Assad and claiming 60% of the country’s lands are in the hands of ISIS and al-Qaeda. And the mullahs’ regime refuses to accept the existence of a Syrian opposition that enjoys international legitimacy and support.

While the international community accepts the fact that ISIS and other terrorists must be destroyed in Syria, this does not provide the grounds for Assad, with Iran’s support, to massacre innocent civilians. Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused Assad of committing war crimes and using starvation as a tool in this regard.

UN special rapporteurs and envoys have levelled very concerning allegations against the Assad regime, and for Iran to continue its support for Assad is very troubling, to say the least. The UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan da Mistura, has also cited Iran providing $6 billion a year to Assad, considered a conservative figure by many.

Iran accuses other countries of recruiting terrorists from across the globe to fight against Assad and places the blame of enormous civilian losses on their part. And yet one cannot neglect the fact that Iran is providing arms, ammunition and tens of thousands of militias to prop up the Assad regime and killing tens of thousands of civilians, as reported by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Iran accuses other countries of interfering in Syria and Bahrain, for example, and yet refuses to accept its role in the Levant as such meddling by an outside party.

Iran is proposing talks with the three other regional powers, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to hold talks aimed at:

  • preserving the unity of Syria,
  • establishing a power sharing government, yet failing to determine the highly sensitive subject of the fate of Assad as president of Syria,
  • holding UN-supervised president elections.

The sensitive question is will Hassan Rouhani pressure Assad to accept such terms.

Although it is crucial to understand why Tehran’s regime is deeply interested in Syria. The Levant, under the rule of Assad, provides a land bridge to the Lebanese Hizb’allah, and thus the Mediterranean, for Iran, allowing this regime to spread its influence from its soil all across the region. In the case Iran loses its foothold in Syria, considering it its 35th province, it will be the beginning of the end of Tehran’s regional hegemony.

Such an outcome would rebound all of Iran’s dilemmas inwards and provide the grounds for social unrests to overcome the mullahs’ regime. As a result, the very nature of Iran’s ruling apparatus prevents the rendering of any meaningful change in its regional policy.

“Take into notice any change in behavior is no different from the change in the entire establishment,” said Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently.

Trump’s strike against Assad in Syria: The message for Iran

The United States military took decisive action early Thursday morning through launching a total of 59 precision guided Tomahawk cruise missiles targeting a Syrian airbase north of Damascus.

This site was believed to be used by Bashar Assad to carry out a horrific chemical weapons attack last Tuesday, leaving more than 500 killed and injured in Idlib Province of northwest Syria. Entire families were devastated, such as Abdulhamid al-Yussof, who lost 25 members of his family, including his wife and 9-month twin babies, Ahmed and Aya.

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US President Donald Trump ordered the military strike, carried out by two US warships, the USS Porter and USS Ross, prior to his meeting with the visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida, possibly also sending a message also to North Korea about its nuclear ambitions.

More importantly, however, this strike, signaling a major shift in US policy, will be viewed as a strong message to Iran, being the main supporter of Assad regime throughout span of this atrocious six-year carnage against innocent civilians. And this turn of events couldn’t have arrived at a more critical timing, only weeks prior to Iran’s presidential election. Tehran will need to carefully evaluate the road ahead.

The strike

The very nature of the US attack, taking place at 3:40 am local time when minimum activity at the Shayrat airbase was expected, the fact that Washington had at least to some extent informed Moscow of its intentions prior to the strike, and the effort put in at the United Nations Security Council to obtain international consensus shows the objective was to deliver a political message to Assad, Iran and all other parties involved in Syria.

Reports indicate many hardened hangers and fueling stations at the airbase were destroyed. A more important statistic was also reported indicating Assad lost 9 to 14 Sukhoi warplanes, an asset fortunately very difficult for this regime to replace. Additionally, General Khalil Ebrahim, one of Assad’s senior commanders, was killed in the strike along with a number of other Syrian regime troops involved in the horrific Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack.

International consensus

Following eight years of devastating inaction by the Obama administration, partly due to its seeking to seal a highly flawed deal supposedly intended to curb Iran’s nuclear program, the global community has made its position loud and clear by voicing support for this measure against Assad.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francoise Hollande issued a joint statement supporting the US missile strike. Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said his country understands the reasoning behind this military move by the US, and British Defense Minister Michael Fallon described the action quite necessary.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry also fully approved the strike against Assad’s military targets. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley voiced strong words in the Security Council on Friday, saying Iran also bears heavy responsibility in Assad’s chemical attack after supporting the ruthless Syrian dictator for years.

“Getting Assad out is not the only priority,” Haley said in a Sunday interview with CNN. “What we are trying to do is obvious defeat ISIS. Secondly, we don’t see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there. Thirdly, get the Iranian influence out. And then finally, move towards a political solution.”

Representing a rare bipartisan measure, a significant number of Democrat and Republic senators in the US on Friday presented a bill to punish the Syrian regime for its war crimes.

Senators Bob Corker, Ben Cardin, Marco Rubio, Jeanne Shaheen, Robert Menendez and Todd Young introduced the “Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act”, instructing the US Secretary of State to “report on war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Syria, and authorize assistance for investigations and other credible transitional justice efforts, including a potential hybrid tribunal, to hold Assad and his regime accountable for their heinous acts.”

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa backed the attack on Assad’s airbase, adding Thursday’s attack was a clear warning to Iran and all states supporting Assad in massacring innocent people.

Iran left terrified

Being caught completely off guard after enjoying 8 years of Obama’s unrestrained appeasement, Iran has found itself cornered after the recent US precision air strike against its Syrian puppet.

The road ahead for Tehran is now quite complex, to say the least. One so-called expert best depicted Iran’s utter fear in an interview with Iranian state TV saying, “I hope the US brings this to a halt and resolves this issue through diplomatic agreements.”

The semi-official Fars news agency, voicing the position of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), shed light on another aspect of Iran’s concerns. “The Syrian coalition… welcomed the strike and called for the continuation of such attacks,” the wire reads.

Ever since US President Donald Trump came to the White House, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan have called for the elimination of Assad and increasing sanctions against Iran, according to the Iran Online website. Turkey welcomed the military action against Assad and once again placed forward its plans to immediately impose a no-fly zone over Syria.

While reports indicate the presence of IRGC elements in Shayrat, the White House announced Trump is discussing with other world leaders the possibility of establishing a safe zone in Syria, according to Iran’s Entekhab website. Reports indicate the Pentagon is also providing Trump with plans on attacking Syria and setting Assad aside, the post continued.

Final thoughts

This attack couldn’t have come at a worse timing for Iran. To resolve the Syrian crisis the international community needs to expel Iran from the Levant and move forward by first designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.

Already concerned about the possibility of its powder keg society exploding into nationwide protest similar to that of 2009, Tehran has now suffered a major setback in Syria.

Evicting Iran from the Levant is “indispensable to bringing peace and tranquility to, and removing fundamentalism and terrorism from the region and the world,” according to a statement released by the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

Looking into the near future, Iran’s presidential election, read selection, is scheduled for May 19th. Knowing the Sharyat airbase strike by the US has sealed Washington’s change in policy and attitude, Tehran is left devastated and seeking desperate measures to maintain face, especially inside the country.

Massacre In Syria Is Why Iran Must Be Evicted

International media aired horrifying images of Bashar Assad’s most recent massacre through an atrocious chemical attack staged by his Sukhoi 22 warplanes targeting the city of Khan Sheikhoon in Idlib Province, in Syria’s north. At least 100 suffocated to death and more than 400 were left injured with symptoms similar to those caused by sarin gas. Most of the victims were women and children and even the hospital where the victims were being treated was bombed.

While the Syrian opposition delegation involved in the Geneva talks said this chemical attack has left future negotiations looking bleak, this horrific act of vicious barbarity should pinpoint the international community’s attention on the main element behind all this carnage: Iran’s involvement in Syria in a diehard effort to maintain the dictator Bashar Assad in power.

A wave of international condemnations followed this killing spree.

“Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world,” U.S. President Donald Trump said in a statement.

“While we continue to monitor the terrible situation, it is clear that this is how Bashar al-Assad operates: with brutal, unabashed barbarism,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said through a statement, urging Russia and Iran to prevent Assad from the use of chemical attacks.

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini held the Syrian regime responsible for this horrendous chemical attack.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson called for accountability for those behind the dreadful Idlib attack and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault requested an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the world must not neglect Assad’s crimes and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu condemned the Idlib attack as an inhumane crime.

The scene on the ground is considered even too gruesome to describe. Physicians in Idlib have called on the international community for their support. Idlib’s White Helmets warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in Khan Sheikhoun, adding Assad’s bombing campaign is targeting their sites and even known medical centers.

The Syrian Physicians Organization said the al-Rahme hospital in Khan Sheikhoun was targeted in six different bombing raids, leaving no doubt of Assad’s indifference between military and non-military targets.

Reports indicate all hospitals in Idlib Province are struggling to provide care for casualties from Khan Sheikhoun.

The Syrian crisis has recently been gaining increasing attention in the international stage, with the tide turning against Assad and his main supporter, Iran. As rebels staged surprising attacks in Damascus recently, social media activists campaigned through the hashtag #IranOutOfSyria to raise voice against Tehran’s deadly meddling in Syria.

Public opinion in the Arab World has been increasingly against the role played by Iran through its Revolutionary Guards – the entity behind Tehran’s human rights violations, nuclear program and ballistic missile drive – and a conglomerate of proxy groups in Syria. There no longer is any doubt in the Middle East that the main element behind the ongoing catastrophes caused by the war in Syria is none other than the regime in Iran. Over 500,000 people killed and 14 million displaced throughout the country or scattered across the globe has been the end result to date.

What has raised eyebrows recently is far more transparent positions taken by the West, especially the new U.S. administration on Syria. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has vividly underscored the necessity to confront Iran’s meddling in the region, evicting its forces from Syria and labeling Assad as a war criminal. A recent European Union Foreign Ministers session in Luxembourg emphasized on the necessity to support the Syrian opposition and guaranteeing Assad having no future in Syria.

Already riddled with a presidential elections crisis around the corner, these recent developments have left Tehran terrified, especially due to Washington’s major policy overhaul turning attention to the roots of this crisis, being the regime in Iran.

For years the Iranian opposition has been highlighting how Iran is the main reason for the continuation of the war in Syria and the main obstacle before peace.

Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, condemned the Idlib chemical bombing and the ruthless killing of civilians, describing the killing of such innocent children as a grave war crime. Khamenei and Assad, as in 2013, are responsible and must face justice, Rajavi continued, adding war and crisis will continue until Iran and the IRGC are evicted completely from Syria.

While the new Trump administration has only been at the helm in Washington for less than three months, a major change in guards has already been witnessed. There is bipartisan support on Capitol Hill on Syria to bring an end to Iran’s role and presence in this country. States across the Middle East and Turkey also agree action is necessary against Iran’s fueling of the Syrian crisis.

To this end, and after six years of utter carnage, it is high time to completely root out and eradicate any and all Iranian related presence in Syria, and the first step in such a roadmap to reach peace in the Levant is to designate the Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization.

Syria: Iran IRGC present in Assad’s Shayrat airfield

Following the U.S. missile attack in Syria targeting the assets of Levant dictator Bashar Assad, Arab and Syrian opposition media outlets have published details depicting the presence of Iran’s elements in Assad’s bases, including the Shayrat airfield.

Basel Ezzatedin, Director of the Qasioun News Agency office in the city of Homs, in an interview with Iranian opposition INTV satellite television described how the Shayrat airfield has been used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

“The Shayrat airfield, located east of Homs, is considered a vital and strategic base for the Assad regime. Iran’s IRGC officers are present in this site and they have been behind a series of activities for some time now, all carried out through [Assad’s] experts and officers,” he explained.

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“They issue any and all orders to Assad’s officers through this airfield. This base is used to carry out Iran’s will in Syria. Iranian commanders are stationed in the airfield’s hotel. The Shayrat military airfield is one of the most important training bases in central Syria and most of the military attacks were launched form this site,” Ezzatedin continued.

“The majority of airstrikes launched against Homs and other liberated areas are carried out through this base. This airfield was specifically used by the Sukhoi warplanes piloted by Assad’s elements to launch the recent chemical attack against Khan Sheikhoun, leaving 100 people dead… nearly 20 days ago, a military delegation linked to the IRGC inspected the Shayrat base. This delegation consisted of 15 Iranian officers, including technical experts, pilots and senior ranking officers. Through this visit Iran sought to evaluate its support for Assad’s air force. The IRGC provides a variety of bombs made in Iran for the Assad regime’s air force in this airfield… A number of Assad’s forces were killed in the recent U.S. airstrike, including Brigadier General Khaled Isa Ebrahim… Six other individuals were also killed and 22 Assad elements were left wounded… of course, IRGC members are present in most Syrian airbases. They are briefed and instructed by IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani who is literally in charge of directing Iran’s terrorism and instructing Bashar Assad,” he added.

How Iran Got Stuck in the Syria Quagmire

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By Heshmat Alavi

Iran, known for its unbridled sectarian meddling in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon, is currently facing an unwanted quagmire and dead-end in the Levant. We cannot limit Iran’s role and its meddling across the Middle East to 2016 alone. There is an ongoing war in the region, resulting from Iran’s escalating interventions.

Iran’s ultimate objective is to completely restructure the region’s entire fabric, pursuing a truly destructive and very dangerous policy in this regard. The war in Syria is one of the pillars of this initiative, also continuing in Iraq and Lebanon.

Former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, known for his close relations with Tehran, was the byproduct of Iran’s policies in that country. Iraq under Maliki back in 2010 was oppressing the Sunni community, leading to a major revolt by this vital sector of Mesopotamia. Iraq continues to suffer from such atrocities.

Iran sustained its warmongering and expansionist ambitions in lands far away, such as Yemen. This initiative is also facing major difficulties, with Oman — known for its warm relations with Iran — recently joining the Saudi-led coalitionagainst the Iran-backed Shiite Houthis in Yemen.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sought to deliver serious blows to Saudi Arabia, using the war in Yemen as the necessary medium. However, Yemen cannot and will not remain the Houthis’ hostage, and this country will not witness a repeat of the Hizb’allah scenario in Lebanon.

The Syria Swamp

Syria, despite the heavy Iranian influence, is now becoming a colossal challenge for Tehran. As U.S. President Barack Obama failed to live up to expectations, Russia and Turkey have taken the helm, sidelining Iran as a result.

While Syria comprises the backbone of Iran’s expansionist adventure in the region, one cannot truly claim Tehran has made significant advances. The Aleppo war made it clear Iran’s aim is to occupy Syria. There is no Assad army in Syria and Iran-backed Shiite militia groups are rampant across the country.

By falling to Russia’s knees to intervene in Syria, Iran accepted the harsh reality of Assad no longer governing what is left of the country.

Currently Iran is no longer considered Russia’s partner in Syria. Moscow has its own interests, not necessarily in line with those of Tehran.

The Free Syrian Army, a major wing of the Syrian opposition, suspended its participation in the Astana negotiations in response to continuous military attacks by Iran and Assad against the Wadi Barda region near Damascus.

This has prompted Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to demand that Iran rein in the Shiite militias and Assad from violating the so-called ceasefire.

“Turkey is working with Russia on the question of sanctions for those who violate the ceasefire deal, which was brokered by Ankara and Moscow,” Reuters reported citing Cavusoglu.

This is a vivid show of how Iran has been sidelined in Syria. It is quite obvious that Iran has no intention of allowing a political solution evolve and reach tangible results in Syria. Iran thrives on lasting crises and this is the mullahs’ very policy to maintain Assad as their puppet in Damascus.

Tehran is furious over the fact that Russia and Turkey signed an agreement with a variety of armed Syrian opposition groups, inviting them to the Astana talks. To add insult to injury, Ankara has made demands “requiring all foreign forces to withdraw from Syria, before a diplomatic solution is reached or even discussed.”

Of course, Iran giving in to such demands is highly unlikely after feeling shelved in the wake of the recent Ankara/Moscow initiative. It has, is and always will be in Iran’s nature a continued desire and need to inflame the entire region in turmoil. This is a vital lifeline for Iran.

Following close to six years of disastrous warfare, nearly half a million innocent Syrians killed and more than 11 million displaced, it is high time to reach a final and lasting solution.

“The regime in Tehran is the source of crisis in the region and killings in Syria; it has played the greatest role in the expansion and continuation of ISIS. Peace and tranquility in the region can only be achieved by evicting this regime from the region,” said Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran(PMOI/MEK), the main NCRI member, has played a pivotal role in alerting the global community of Iran’s human rights violations, terrorism, and meddling across the region, and the mullahs’ clandestine nuclear weapons drive. These revelations have further plunged Iran into its current crises.

After decades of appeasement by the West have proven a dismal failure, Tehran must be approached by a determined and firm international community.

Originally posted in American Thinker