Report: Iran-backed Iraqi militias seeking new bases following F-35 dispatching

A source in the Iraqi Parliament Security and Defense Committee shed light on various objectives pursued by the United States in dispatching its strategic F-35 fighter jets, according to Bahrain’s Al-Khaleej daily. The F-35 is a single-seat, single-engine and all-weather stealth multirole fighters. The fifth-generation combat aircraft is designed to perform ground attacks and air-superiority missions.

Amer al-Faez, a member of the Iraqi Parliament and the Security and Defense Committee, claims targeting Iraqi sites with F-35 fighter jets – labeled by locals as the “Ghost” – sends a message that Washington has access to any target it wishes across Iraq.

These remarks by al-Faez were made following reports claiming U.S. fighter jets targeting Iraqi police positions in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Reports claimed the attack was the result of an error by U.S. forces in Iraq.

Sources in Iraq’s Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi  (aka Popular Mobilization Forces – PMF) are saying armed groups associated to these units are seeking new bases following the U.S. dispatching its F-35 fighter jets to the region. All the while, to prevent attacks by the advanced U.S. fighter jets, the PMF have been relocating their ammunition caches to previously unidentified locations.

“Dispatching ‘Ghost’ fighter jets to Iraq and their use in attacks targeting sites inside Iraq is considered as the U.S. flexing its muscles against Iran,” al-Fayez said, emphasizing the Americans have practically blueprinted plans to keep an eye on and continue observation/monitoring missions focusing on Iran from Iraqi soil.

Furthermore, Iraqi MP Abbas Sarut claimed missiles are ready to target the al-Taji airport located north of Baghdad. This is a clear reflection of the economic and military war between Washington and Tehran, he added.

“Armed militia groups that have been designated by Washington as terrorist groups may now be planning to target U.S. targets. This will increase tensions between the two sides and Iraq may become a conflict zone for these two competitors,” Sarut added.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry had previously reported government specialists discovering and neutralizing three ready-to-fire missiles aimed at the al-Taji airport. He provided no details about who was behind this failed attempt.

In other reports, Israeli intelligence sources are reporting Russia has begun pressuring Iran in Syria. The Russians have reportedly begun forcing the Iranian regime’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) out of their military bases and returning advanced drones from Syria to Iran.

Reports are claiming unexpected measures being carried out by the Russians in recent days against Tehran’s interests in Syria. The Russians have ordered a number of IRGC bases to evacuate immediately without providing any warnings.

Analysts are saying this indicates the Russians will also prevent Syrian dictator Bashar Assad from handing the Latakia ports over to Iran. This strategic port has access Mediterranean waters and is located to the Russian base in Homaymim. Further reports indicate the Russians have forced IRGC-linked militia groups out of important various airbases across Syria. This goes against Russia’s past agreement of allowing Iran’s IRGC to have a presence in such sites.

The website also explained that Russia had also exerted pressure on Iran to remove its sophisticated drones from Syria, including the Saegheh (Thunderbolt), enjoying the ability to carry precision-guided and anti-tank guided missiles. This drone was built on the model of an American RQ-170 drone that Iran claimed to have shot down back in 2011.

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The Iranian ‘Saegheh’ drone (AP)

Russia’s expulsion policy also includes the removal of Iran’s IRGC units from the Mazze military airport, located on the southwestern outskirts of the capital Damascus; the Khalkhala Airbase in al-Suwaida Province near the Jordanian border; Beit Saham in the southeastern suburbs of Damascus overlooking the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights; and the Tiyas airbase, known as T4, near the city of Homs.

Last year, Iran transferred a variety of armed drones to Syria, including the single-engine “Shaheed 129,” Mohajer-4 and Mohajer-6. These drones are able to carry missiles and bombs.

It appears that Russia and the U.S., along with Israel, have reached an agreement and are on the verge of ending Iran’s influence in Syria. Recent reports also Russia-associated forces clashing with Iran’s IRGC and IRGC-affiliated proxy groups from a number of Syrian regions. Furthermore, there is word of a trilateral agreement involving the U.S., Russia and Israel strengthening the initiative to force Iran out of Syria.

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Confronting Iran’s influence in Syria is vital

While Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of the regime ruling Iran, sought to garner attention and boast victory in Syria through the recent visit of Syrian regime dictator Bashar Assad to Tehran, developments in the Levant are actually  by far against the clerical regime’s interests.

U.S. President Donald Trump is now fully agreeing to maintaining a contingency in Syria – said to be 400 troops – in what appears to be a dual mission in the country’s northeast and the strategic al-Tanf base on the Syria-Jordan border.

Reporting on how his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin focused mainly on Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underscored how he and the Russian leader agreed on the need to remove all foreign forces that came into Syria.

Considering the fact that the Lebanese Hezbollah also plays a highly devastating role in Syria, the U.S. is seeking new sanctions against this terrorist group that was founded and continues to enjoy funding by Tehran.

All these measures are principally important, especially bearing in mind the fact that the regime in Iran seeks to establish an all Syrian militia in Syria, most likely a replica of its Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and Basij paramilitary forces. Tehran was the main force behind the launching of the Hashd al-Shabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces, in Iraq, who stand accused of fueling sectarian strife in the Mesopotamia.

And to add insult to injury, despite claims made by various Iranian regime officials, Russia is now confirming a decision to establish a “Syria Working Group” with Israel. Netanyahu has also been heard making remarks about launching a joint Israel-Russia working group to have all foreign forces leave Syria.

Tehran, sensing the need to save face in light of such developments, resorted to hasty comments to dampen the impact of this setback. Bahram Ghassemi, spokesperson for the Iranian regime’s Foreign Ministry, claimed Russia does not follow in line with Israel and claimed Tehran and Moscow enjoy “strong ties.” While the mullahs’ regime in Iran claim remarks made by Israeli officials have no impact on them, a Kremlin spokesperson confirmed a decision was made between Putin and Netanyahu to establish this working group soon.

The question now is how can the U.S. facilitate the pushing of Iran’s malign forces out of Syria?

Iran is already under tight U.S. sanctions. These measures should continue to especially deprive Tehran of finances used to fuel its regional agenda of wreaking havoc and continuous warmongering in Syria. As a reminder, Tehran insiders have been heard voicing the importance of maintaining influence in Syria for the sake of remaining in power back home.

Despite being long overdue, the United Kingdom recently designated all branches of the Lebanese Hezbollah – founded and funded by the regime in Iran – as a terrorist organization, putting an end to the separation between this group’s political and military segments.

The U.S. Treasury Department also sanctioned “Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba,” a radical Muslim militia group known to be loyal to Tehran and having around 10,000 fighters. The group leader, Akram Kaabi, is also blacklisted. These measures are necessary to chip the wings of Iran’s warmongering apparatus.

Tehran is known to be funding a conglomerate of extremist groups across the Middle East, parallel to billions provided annually to Assad in Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Houthis in Yemen and extremist militias in Iraq. Denying Iran access to the global financial system will deplete its treasury of the funds needed to continue this unbridled campaign of belligerence.

To put a nail in the coffin, Washington should designate Iran’s IRGC, the main force behind all these destructive activities, as a foreign terrorist organization. This can go parallel to a similar designation of the mullahs’ Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), now more legitimate following a recent surge of Iran-backed terror plots and assassinations across Europe. Even the Europeans are sanctioning portions of the MOIS in response.

Ending Iran’s influence in Syria is pivotal to returning peace to the Middle East. Interestingly, this also weakens Tehran’s crackdown apparatus and renders direct support to the Iranian people in their ongoing struggle against the mullahs’ regime.

UPDATE: Syria’s major feud erupts between Iran-Russia camps

Following years of collaboration between Russia and Iran in propping the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad to remain in power, there have been signs recently of feuds between these two sides, according to the al-Quds al-Arabi daily. One of the latest of such indications are clashes reported between Syrian regime forces linked Moscow and those units enjoying the support of Iran’s regime.

Israel has immediately taken advantage of this situation and sided with Russia in order to establish a united front against Iran. Tensions have escalated in relations between Russia and Iran, especially following Iran-linked bases and groups being targeted in Syria by Israel with Moscow’s prior knowledge.

Around one week ago clashes erupted between a group of Syrian military forces associated to Iran and commanded by Maher Assad, the brother of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and the al-Nemr group, commanded by Suheil al-Hassan, a Syrian military commander affiliated to Russia.

“Russia and Iran are distancing from one another in Syria. Taking its place is strengthening relations and increasing tires between Russia and Israel, aiming to decrease Iran’s influence in Syria to the point of forcing Tehran out of this country,” according to the Deutsche Welle website.

According to this report, Israel will not accept a Shiite government on its borders. All the while, Russia considers Iran’s presence and influence in Syria as an element undermining its efforts to establish cease-fire across the Levant, and of course, its future interests in this strategic country.

Russian political expert Anton Mardasov wrote in analysis recently published in the Al Monitor website: “The controversy between Moscow and Tehran has always been a part of the Syrian conflict. However, the debates between the two have started to become more political in nature, influencing the future of Syria’s armed forces and other military entities.”

Moreover, RBC, a Russian economic newspaper, published an article two months ago reiterating the threat of Iran-backed groups gradually gaining strength in Syria, and this issue will become an obstacle before Russia’s goal of uniting the Syrian military under a unified leader.

Following disputes between Russia and Iran over the future of Syria, in the past few weeks sources have reported intense battles among a units linked to Russia and militia groups associated to Iran’s IRGC.

Turkey’s Anadulo news agency cited various sources saying, “Clashes resumed among the two parties in Hama Province, central Syria, following two days of cease fire as the feuding sides sought to gain control over property, routes and even the locals’ homes in the region. There is no information on the number of casualties in these clashes.”

The ongoing situation is literally a war between Russia and Iran to gain the upper hand over the Assad regime. Russia has no interest in Iran’s military and associated militia units being present in areas near the Syrian opposition forces. Moscow knows Tehran has thousands of mainly Afghan and Pakistani militias on the ground in Syria, and this goes against Russia’s long-term interests in Syria as Moscow seeks to come to terms with the U.S. over ending the war.

Recent reports indicate Moscow has put forward an agreement and forced both sides to sign with a goal to end the conflict between branches of Assad’s restructured military (loyal to Russia) and units under the command of Maher Assad.

Relations between Russia and Iran have soured recently as reports indicate Russia was informed of Israeli air strikes against Iran-backed targets in Syria beforehand and went as far as facilitating these raids. Various Iranian regime operatives are even accusing Syrian and Russian officials of providing precise and up to date information to Israel in order to target Iran-backed bases in Syria.

Moscow is also very concerned about reports of a recent car bombing in Damascus taking place near the Russian embassy being carried out by Iranian operatives.

Adding insult to injury for Iran’s interests in the Levant, on Thursday, the Russia al-Yawm news network reported citing a “number of sources” indicating Iran’s IRGC intends to evacuate its military support base located in Damascus International Airport, with plans to transfer the ordnance to another facility.

Israeli media are also reporting the IRGC gearing to transfer its military base and assets to the T4 airbase in Homs, central Syria. This site has been the target of at least two Israeli air strikes in February and March of 2018.

This report also adds that in the past few years, Iran has used a site in Damascus International Airport dubbed the “Glass House,” located only a few dozen meters away from the airport’s main facility.

Iranian opposition reports have previously described the “Glass House” as Tehran’s main command/intelligence center in Syria, and the site had been heavily protected and under highly restricted conditions. Reports also indicate the Glass House is home to a number of arms depots and two underground facilities.

Israel has recently escalated its attacks against Iran’s assets in Syria and unprecedentedly gone public about such measures. Furthermore, Iran is now concerned of pro-Tehran Shiite militia forces in Iraq being threatened in similar fashion as Israel has warned IRGC-linked groups in Iran will also be targeted as Tehran’s assets in Syria have experienced to this day.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo conveyed a parallel message to Baghdad in his recent visit.

 

Israel targets sites of Iran’s IRGC Quds Force, militia groups in Syria

https://twitter.com/HeshmatAlavi/status/1077656867931914241A variety of sites west of Damascus, Syria, associated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force and proxy groups, were targeted in an Israeli air and missile strike Tuesday night. More than 30 missiles were launched in this attack that also saw a number of planes carrying weapons from Iran to Syria targeted.

At least 20 missiles were fired by Israeli warplanes as they targeted a base belonging to Iran where Lebanese Hezbollah members were stationed. Reports indicate Israeli warships were also participating in this strike, launching more than 20 cruise missiles towards targets in Damascus.

More than 20 rockets were also fired at bases located west of Damascus.

The Syrian Human Rights Observatory in Damascus said the cruise missiles were targeting arms caches belonging to Iran’s regime. Signs indicate this attack consisted of two waves of strikes carried out by Israel.

The Israeli government has made it clear time and again it will not allow Tehran establish permanent bases and provide arms and ammunition to proxy groups in Syria.

Further attacks were staged against targets in Qatana, southwest of Damascus. Sources on the ground reported a large number of ambulances were dispatched to western areas of Damascus, indicating a high number of casualties.

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Map by @sfrantzman indicating the sites reportedly targeted by Israel on Tuesday night

The second wave of Israel’s attack consisted of F16s bomber escorted by advanced F35 warplanes targeting various sites in Damascus. The targets included Hezbollah sites in a school in Dimas, the Syrian army 4th Saboura brigade headquarters, the 10th Qatana brigade, Syrian Defense Ministry factories in the mountain tops west and north of Damascus, the 67th and 137th brigades in the al-Sheikh region and other arms caches belonging to the Iranian regime.

This is described as the largest attack by Israel following the downing of a Russian military plane. Israel has also targeted two Syrian S200 surface to air missile sites.

The Israeli army also destroyed a site where Iran’s Fajr-5 missiles were being held in secret. There are also reports indicating Israel targeted a Hezbollah command site, killing a number of senior Hezbollah officials.

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Images of Iran’s Fajr-5 missile system

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Fajr-5, a guided 333 mm missile system

Newsweek, citing a source in the U.S. Defense Department, said the Israeli airstrikes were carried out minutes after senior Hezbollah officials were boarding an Iranian plane in Damascus intending to leave for Iran. This report also indicates Iran’s strategic arms warehouses, including advanced weapons GPS equipment, were targeted in last night’s air raid.

Two suspicious Iranian planes left the Damascus airport just half an hour prior to the attack. One Boeing 747 cargo plane associated to the Fars “Qeshm” airline landed in Damascus International Airport at 7 pm Tuesday night and left the airport at 9:28 pm, meaning half an hour prior to reports of an air attack in Syria.

According to Flightradar24.com, one of the Iranian planes, a Boeing F281-747, took off from Damascus and headed to the east and Tehran, escalated to 30,000 feet and entered Iraqi airspace at around 10 pm to then enter Iranian airspace at around midnight.

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Tweets by @sfrantzman on the suspicious Iranian flights

This thread provides a look at the various videos posted of this latest Israel attack targeting Iran’s interests in Syria.

 

Iran’s reactions to Trump withdrawing from Syria

On December 20, the world was shocked of U.S. President Donald Trump announcing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. One of the first reactions from the Iranian regime was delight. Yet this sudden burst of joy was very short-lived as it gave way to concern, along with fear.

Why?

Without any delay, reports were heard about the U.S. withdrawing from Syria paving the path for a series of very important developments across the globe.

The mullahs’ regime are certain of the fact that one of the most important issues on the table for Trump is the Iran dossier. Especially after White House National Security Advisor John Bolton unveiled Washington’s objective by saying the U.S. administration’s goal is to increase so much pressure on Tehran to break this regime’s bones.

“We think the government is under real pressure and it’s our intention to squeeze them very hard.”

“As the British say, squeeze them until the pips squeak….We are also going to significantly increase the enforcement of sanctions,” Bolton said in Singapore back in November.

This explains why following an initial delight, a wave of concern and fear has engulfed the Iranian regime.

Nosratollah Tajik wrote a piece titled “Exiting Syria: Trump’s game to confront Iran,” describing Washington’s objective as “focusing on special issues, from confronting Iran’s regional policies to a full return of forces back to the U.S.”

The Fars news agency, known as the mouthpiece of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), wrote, “As if Trump… is exiting his forces from the vulnerable Syria region to carry out a far more intense – maybe military – act against Iran.”

Former Iranian diplomat Ali Khorram says, “James Mattis leaving the U.S. administration, and being the highly important Secretary of Defense post, can have grave impact on developments across the globe, and most importantly on Iran.”

Afshar Soleimani, another former Iranian diplomat adds, “First and foremost, it appears that if Trump’s America hands Syria to any party, it will not be Iran.”

Yet what has made the status quo far more dangerous and complex for the Iranian regime are two other developments in this regard.

Firstly:

A U.S. aircraft carrier entering the Persian Gulf for the first time after Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal (and ending the longest absence of a U.S. aircraft carrier in this region from 9/11 to this day).

Secondly:

The position adopted by Pompeo on Trump’s decision to pull American forces out of Syria.

The Middle East remains the source of terrorism; we consider the Iranian regime as the leading state sponsor of terrorism across the globe and this region. The U.S. administration has launched a campaign to increase pressure on the Islamic republic to end this support for terrorism, he said.

Of course, the issue of Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces out of Syria remains a complicated matter with many questions remaining unanswered.

What is certain, however, is the Iranian regime’s concerns. This illustrates how this decision brings no change in the ongoing trend of increasing of pressures.

As Bolton said, “… squeeze them until the pips squeak…”

Iran after the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki

Al Arabiya

The Middle East situation on the ground is significantly different in comparison to a short while ago. There were times when Iran sought to become the leading hegemon in the region.

With Tehran’s honeymoon coming to an end after eight years of Obama at the helm in Washington, the regime is finding itself severely marginalized. There are also analysts saying the days of Iran’s clerics in power are numbered, especially with protests spreading throughout the country.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki to discuss a variety of issues, including trade, military, missiles, nuclear weapons and China.

Another topic highly anticipated by many is the Middle East and especially Iran’s destructive role in the Middle East. Trump has been crucial on Tehran, pulling out of a flawed nuclear pact and having a series of new sanctions return against the regime that is already rendering a long list of international companies heading out of Iran. The Helsinki Summit was only promising to add to the regime’s miseries.

President Trump speaks about Iran and the Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington on October 13, 2017. (Reuters)

 

Decision makers

The highly debated Helsinki summit will most likely kick-start a process completely in contrast to the Iranian regime’s interests, especially in Syria. Trump and Putin are expressing hopes their military forces in Syria will enjoy good cooperation. This means no word of Iran on future decisions for whatever is left of this war-devastated land.

When Trump resorts to terms such as the plague of Islamic terrorism, rest assured the Iranian regime is getting the message. Tehran has been the main beneficiary of extremists from all colors wreaking havoc across the Middle East; from Pakistan and Afghanistan all the way to the shores of the Mediterranean. Anyone ever ask how Iran has remained so secure while sitting in the middle of all this mayhem?

Trump continued on the necessity to place Iran’s regime under pressure to prevent its ambitions and activities focusing on supporting violence across the region, adding the US will not allow Tehran take advantage of the international coalition’s successful war against ISIS in Syria.

With all of Iran’s hopes lying on Putin, the Russian president praised his talks with Trump and emphasized conditions are ripe for effective cooperation in Syria. Again, no mentioning of a role for Iran. While Russia’s role in Syria is a very controversial topic, especially with the Russian air force launching massive bombing raids on civilians, Putin’s words mean trouble from Tehran’s perspective.

“We will be cooperating with the US on the war against terrorism and establishing peace,” Putin said. Iran thrives on chaos and any talk of fighting terrorism and establishing peace are a nightmare for this regime, to say the least.

Harsh times

Iran’s plights were already piling prior to Helsinki, with the US imposing sanctions one after another. Tehran is known to be spending huge budgets on Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and extremists in Palestine. And with heavy sanctions set to kick in on August 6th and November 4th, what Iran needs the most now is foreign investment.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had dispatched his senior advisor, former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, to Moscow. Considering today’s circumstances and Iran’s regime feeling the heat from Washington, the message delivered by Velayati was obviously a mayday call asking Putin to refrain from sealing a deal with Trump.

A major embarrassment came after Velayati claimed Moscow is ready to invest a whopping $50 billion in Iran. Putin had other thoughts, however, as Kremlin’s spokesman highlighted he cannot confirm such a claim and that Russia is willing to evaluate the possibility of providing Russian goods in return for Iranian oil.

Iranian MP Hedyatollah Khademi said sarcastically in response, “We thank Russia for providing us goods in return for oil so at least we won’t die of hunger!”

Iran’s regime is fighting for survival, knowing Washington will be demanding their proxies throughout the region to place down their arms, pack their bags and go home. (AP)

 

The first of many

With Tehran losing its grip on Yemen as the Houthis suffer defeats on the ground, Iran’s rulers consider any step back from Syria as the beginning of the end to all their devious regional ambitions of reaching “Quds through Karbala.”

This was a motto Iranian regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini resorted to in justifying the devastating Iran-Iraq War back in the 1980s. Those days are over. Iran’s regime is fighting for its very survival, knowing Washington will be demanding their proxies throughout the region to place down their arms, pack their bags and go home.

The Helsinki Summit also proves that Moscow is no longer interested in anything Tehran can offer. Putin seeks to preserve his own future interests in the Middle East and as sanctions against Iran increase, Tehran’s rulers will lack the money to maintain Kremlin’s political and military support.

As a nail in the coffin for Iran’s regime, Trump said US and Russian national security council representatives will be hammering out the details of Monday’s initial agreements. This means National Security Advisor John Bolton representing Washington’s interests. He’s certainly one American figure the Iranian regime is familiar with.

After seven years of pouring billions into Syria, Helsinki has left Khamenei watching in agony as world powers decide Iran’s future in the region. Add to this escalating protests and strikes across Iran, you have the exact ingredients needed for a recipe for disaster. From Tehran’s viewpoint, of course.

How Will Iran Respond To The Syria Attacks?

Forbes

We can consider the April 14th airstrikes against the Syrian regime’s chemical infrastructure as a point of no return in regards to this country’s future developments. For many years Bashar Assad and Iran were able to take the utmost advantage of the Obama administration’s policy of appeasement, and thus pave the path for Russia’s entrance into the Middle East. The main victims have been directly the peoples of Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other regional states.

Iran seeks to respond to these attacks, both to lift the spirits of its military and security forces across the country, and in regards to the regional balance of power. Facing increasing anti-government protests and its consequences, however, Tehran lacks the capacity to take on measures outside of its borders .

Considered Assad’s main sponsor after spending dozens of billions of dollars in Syria, Iran had prior to these attacks threatened repeatedly that such a US-led initiative will not go unanswered.

Tehran, however, has yet to take any action after the early morning April 14th airstrikes, while further reports in Middle East outlets indicate other bases associated to the Assad regime and Iran-backed militias in Syria are being targeted.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei unprecedentedly described the leaders of the United States, France and the United Kingdom as “criminals,” going against all diplomatic norms. Can such remarks be considered a green light for terrorist attacks by Iran and/or its affiliates?

The semi-official Tasnim news agency, associated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force, claims the Asaeb al-Haq, a 40,000- strong militia group affiliated to Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) with long-term relations with Iran, has several units currently besieging U.S. forces stationed in the Al Zahra airbase located northwest of Baghdad.

Tehran’s rulers are comprehending clearly how Obama’s appeasement policy, in the face of this regime’s crimes inside the country and those of its affiliated militias abroad, has ended. Ever since the Trump administration has entered the White House, we have witnessed firm actions against Iran’s belligerence, rendering significant results.

For some time, we are no longer hearing reports of IRGC boats harassing US warships in international waters of the Persian Gulf. It has been months since Tehran last test-launched a ballistic missile. Instead they are using Yemen’s Houthis to launch Iranian missiles into Saudi Arabia to both cover any tracks and save face to some extent.

In the nationwide uprisings of the past months that rocked the very pillars of Tehran’s entire apparatus, the Iranian people are extensively protesting the regime’s Middle East meddling. This, parallel to the recent currency nosedive crisis, is preventing the Iranian regime from executing widespread military initiatives in the region.

Trump’s firm policy has also forced North Korea to agree into significantly curbing its nuclear weapons program and ballistic missiles. Russia, able to voice demands in the past few years due to Obama’s weakness and gaining a significant Middle East foothold through its Syria campaign, refused to respond to the US-led airstrikes against Assad’s forces.

Iran took advantage of the highly flawed appeasement policy by staging military attacks seeking physically elimination, and also demonizing its opposition, being the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and specifically the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main member of this political coalition that is considered the alternative to the Iranian regime.

In Iraq PMOI/MEK members were target to numerous ground and rocket attacks by Iran-associated militias. Tehran resorted to such methods to  balance in the face of regional defeats, including a lethal September 2013 raid into the PMOI/MEK’s main base in Iraq as Tehran’s nuclear negotiators began secret negotiations to curb their nuclear program.

Following the transfer of all PMOI/MEK members to Albanian in the Balkans, Tehran’s ability to carry out military attacks against them is limited. Iran, however, has launched an active propaganda machine and extensively expanded its embassy mission in Albania.

The PMOI/MEK in Albania have hosted senior American dignitaries such as Trump’s new National Security Advisor John Bolton, Trump’s cybersecurity advisor Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator John McCain and senior delegations from Congress all on separate occasions. Tehran’s lobbyists, especially those in the U.S., label such developments as the U.S.’ leniency towards war against Iran. This is Tehran’s effort to distract attention from the main issue at hand, being the existence of a popular resistance movement and an Iranian democratic alternative representing the Iranian people’s true will of regime change.

In response to senior U.S. figures supporting the PMOI/MEK and the policy of regime change in Iran, Tehran is focusing its main demonizing measures against this organization to both distort Albanian sympathy regarding the PMOI/MEK’s presence in Albania on one hand, and claim the Iranian regime has no alternative.

“Considering their own experience with dictatorship and oppression, Albanians understand the PMOI/MEK’s pain and suffering,” said former Albanian MP Namik Kopliku. “We are proud to provide a safe haven to the PMOI/MEK who seek freedom for Iran. On the other hand, we are witnessing a long slate of measures by Iran’s lobbyists in Albanian media attempting to spread lies and tarnish the PMOI/MEK’s image amongst our people.”

As a result, this possibility exists of Iran responding to setbacks in Syria by launching a new media campaign against PMOI/MEK members in Albania through its ties to western media outlets, attempting to delegitimize this alternative and portray the Iran dossier as a decision merely between war and appeasement.

If Washington intends to materialize its firm Middle East policy into meaningful results it must place its crosshairs on Iran . This is not a call for a new and unnecessary war in the Middle East. In fact, this is a call to support the Iranian people and their organized resistance movement in the ongoing anti-government protest, coupled with imposing crippling sanctions against the IRGC and Iran’s Central Bank. US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin recently signaled the possible return of “very strong” sanctions against Iran.

These coordinated measures will significantly weaken Tehran inside the country and abroad, and facilitate true change by the Iranian people and their rooted opposition.

ANALYSIS: Are Syria strikes a wake-up call for Iran?

Al Arabiya

Despite many speculations, the anticipated US-led airstrike inflicted severe blows to Syria’s Bashar Assad regime. While many chemical facilities became targets to provide some cover for civilians from horrendous attacks in the future, the main message was sent to Iran.

A rain of missiles and warplanes attacking Assad’s military and chemical sites made the Syrian dictator understand the golden years of Obama’s presidency has ended completely for him, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei & Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Iran, considering Syria its own backyard, is now facing major decisions about its future in the Middle East and back home. After the West has raised demands for Tehran to significantly curb its ballistic missile program & regional meddling, this attack, only a month prior to US President Donald Trump’s May 12th deadline, will certainly demand a heavy price from Tehran.

Specifics

US warships and B1 stealth bombers, French Navy vessels, Rafael and Mirage warplanes, and British Tornado fighter jets were the western alliances’ arsenal against Assad’s military. Tomahawk cruise missiles levelled the Mezze military airbase southwest of Damascus. Iran-made Zolfaqar & Qiam missiles, along with their launchers, were reportedly destroyed.

The Jibil Qasioun base, north of Damascus, is destroyed, reports add. This was the Syrian army’s intercepting facility, modernized by Iran, and used as a base by the Lebanese Hezbollah.

The Chemical Research Center near Damascus & the Barzeh military-research base were both targeted by US missiles, leaving at least 5 Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force members killed, reports indicate.

Even though 90 percent of Iran’s IRGC Quds Force units evacuated all bases prior to the attack, sources in Syria say at least 15 IRGC Quds Force advisors were killed in these attacks. Their bodies are reportedly missing.

40 Lebanese Hezbollah members & 35 Syrian military personnel were also killed. Sources indicate these attacks have inflicted billions of dollars in damages to missile & arms depots in Homs, and military facilities in Hama, Mezze & Jibil Qasioun.

Despite claims made by Iran & Syria-associated media, all missiles inflicted severe damages on their targets, to say the least. In a desperate measure, Iran and Syrian state TV stations aired archived footage of Saudi air defense units intercepting Houthi missiles, claiming to be Assad’s forces taking action.

The Pentagon literally ridiculed such claims, saying Syria’s air defense units fired around 40 SAM missiles that were mostly ineffective after mainly fired after the airstrike, most likely placing civilians in danger.

‘Locked and loaded’

With France and the United Kingdom directly taking part in these attacks, it is now clear that the U.S. and Europe will join forces against Iran’s interests at times of sensitive geopolitical matters.

Russia chose to remain completely inactive and Iran, despite its previous threats of wiping Israel off the map in response to an attack on Syria, literally sees its forces on the run.

Claims of Assad’s units downing missiles are highly questionable, especially since the French and British warplanes would have been far easier targets. To add insult to injury for Tehran, further reports indicate further attacks targeting Iran-backed units on Saturday night and early Sunday morning local time.

Trump has warned that the US is ready to strike again if the Syrian regime resorts to further chemical attacks. America is ready to maintain pressure on Bashar Assad until he ends the process of killing his own people, he added.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley used very blunt language in saying her country is ‘locked and loaded’ to strike again in response to any new chemical attack, sending a very significant message to Damascus, Moscow and most importantly, Tehran.

Against principle?

Trump came under criticism over his remarks of seeking to pull out of Syria and leaving for others to finalize the remaining necessities. Criticism continued after he tweeted saying the missiles “will be coming,” apparently going against his principle and giving away the element of surprise.

However, the element of surprise is useful in mostly single-stage attacks, such as the April 2017 US missile strike on the Al Shayeerat air base following Assad’s chemical attack against Khan Sheikhoun.

Although that sent a political message to Assad and his sponsors, it did not prevent the regime from resorting to further chemical attacks. The early morning April 14th airstrike enjoyed the support of France and the UK, and a conglomerate of weaponry.

Parallel to the political message, Assad’s chemical arsenal is now crippled at least for years to come, according to the Pentagon.

Broader perspective

There are signs that the military presence of Iran’s IRGC and other militias in the region will become the next of focus of US policy in the region. It is clear Iran will continue its blueprint of using militias in Iraq, Syria and even Persian Gulf states, such as Bahrain, to advance its objectives across the region.

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran issued a statement following the attackcalling for the eviction of Iran’s “Revolutionary Guards and mercenaries from Syria, Yemen, Iraq and other countries of the region. The mullahs’ regime is the main source of survival of Bashar al-Assad and the main source of terrorism and extremism and warfare in the Middle East and the vast sections of the world.”

If Washington is serious about establishing meaningful peace and security across the region, placing Iran’s Middle East meddling in its crosshairs is a must. Crippling sanctions against Iran’s IRGC and the regime’s Central Bank will deliver the necessary punch.

Such a policy can go alongside pressures on the Iran nuclear deal prior to Trump’s deadline and the US Treasury Department vowing to add “very strong,” new “primary and secondary sanctions” against the regime.

Washington is taking steps to corner Tehran. A comprehensive strategy is necessary to resolve the nuclear deal mess, completely end Iran’s destructive influence throughout the Middle East, impose meaningful sanctions targeting Tehran’s financial network and most importantly, supporting the ongoing Iranian protests as this nation vividly abhors their unjust rulers and demands regime change.

ANALYSIS: Why is Iran raising the stakes in Syria?

As the world continues to fail in stopping the bloodshed of innocent people in Syria, Iran seeks two main objectives of saving face back home & raising the price any possible deal in the future that is becoming more and more likely now.

The Assad regime is continuously bombing innocent people in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, killing at least 500. Rescue workers are continuously pulling dead civilians from the rubble. As the United Nations Security Council has adopted a 30-day ceasefire resolution, it has become crystal clear that strong actions need to back-up such demands.

As the killings are appalling, we must keep in mind how Tehran is the driving force to maintain Syria as part of a dreamed Shiite-Persian empire. Iran continues to expand its foothold in Syria, while Arab countries across the Gulf, Germany and France are also being heard making strong demands. The European Union as a whole should also be making Iran understand such hostilities are unacceptable.

‘Proxy army’

Ever since the Assad waged war on the Syrian people back in 2011 Iran has placed its entire weight behind his dictatorship, and pleading Russia’s air support in 2015 to ensure the regime’s survival, knowing its own rule would be threatened in the case of losing Damascus.

Following the fall of Aleppo and ISIS being routed from Raqqa, and especially after enjoying Obama’s appeasement approach, this Tehran-Moscow-Damascus axis now has its crosshairs focused on the Syrian opposition’s remaining strongholds.

This alliance will thus seek to re-establish Assad’s control over Syria through Russia-sponsored peace, degrading an already weak UN-backed effort in this regard. Russia will demand to maintain its military bases, and Iran seeks to achieve its long desire of establishing meaningful influence across the region to the Mediterranean.

As widely reported, in areas now controlled by Assad, Iran is in the effort of establishing a lasting military presence for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Lebanese Hezbollah, hired mercenaries from Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, and local Syrian proxies.

US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster expressed concerns back in December about “the prospect of Iran having a proxy army.” Estimates indicate Hezbollah building an armada of 100,000 rockets based in Lebanon and possibly Syria. Such an Iranian fortification in Syria bears the potential of another Middle East war, although Tehran will most definitely back down knowing its apparatus lacks such a capacity.

Hassan Rouhani, Vladimir Putin and Tayyip Erdogan meet in Sochi, Russia, on November 22, 2017. (Reuters)

Twofold

While Iran may publicly boast the ultimate goal of seeking “the eradication of Israel,” as the leader of the IRGC’s Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, said recently, its main intention is twofold.

Tehran’s need for growing belligerence abroad is increasing as recent protests flare at home. Earlier this month tensions sparked across the region as the Israeli military shot down a drone launched by Iran-backed forces from the Syrian city of Homs. Fighter jets were also deployed to target the base controlling the drone, parallel to other military targets.

This escalation in provocation stems from Iran’s mentality of showing a strong stance abroad to maintain influence among an already dwindling social base at home. Today’s circumstances are forcing Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to publicly admit people are criticizing the ruling state and his position.

At such an extraordinary situation for Iran’s clerics, boasting a powerful position abroad against foreign enemies also provides a pretext for Tehran to quell domestic dissent.

Global collaboration

For Iran it is highly important how the global community responds to its bellicosity, understanding when is the time to dial down and when the timing is proper to further hostilities.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in a European Parliament speech emphasized the necessity for global collaboration to prevent Iran’s interference abroad, adding Tehran should end its efforts and the “revolution is over.” Across the Atlantic, US Vice President Mike Pence reiterated the fact that Tehran remains the main state supporter of terrorism, warning Washington will no longer tolerate Iran’s destabilizing activities across the region.

And returning from his Middle East tour, Ed Royce, Chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee issued a statement emphasizing the threat Iran poses for the entire region. Financial and diplomatic measures against Iran’s missile program and its support for terrorism were discussed in his meetings, according to a statement.

Moving back to the Green Continent, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on the European Union to increase pressure on Russia and Iran to end Syria’s violence. Merkel enjoys the opportunity and influence to lead Europe into putting aside its appeasement policy vis-à-vis Iran and stand on the right side of history.

Understanding the situation at hand, Iran is raising the price in Syria – such as the horrendous bombing campaign of East Ghouta – to use as a lever in possible future talks over its ballistic missile program and meddling in other states’ internal affairs.

Final thoughts

The international community, and especially the European Union, should be concerned over the Middle East experiencing a new wave of dangerous tension. US President Donald Trump promised last October to counter Iran’s “destabilizing activity and support for terrorist proxies in the region.”

It is high time to realize how Iran needs to escalate the stakes in Syria to both continue quelling dissent at home and renew saber-rattling for its correspondents.

The answer lies in supporting the Iranian people’s uprising against the ruling clerics and significantly elevating the price of Tehran’s destructive role outside its borders by threatening a return of crippling sanctions targeting the regime’s entities.

How The World Views Iran’s Role In Syria

As protests across Iran experience a variety of ups and downs following a major surge early this year, a wide array of analysts are seen writing about this important country’s domestic and foreign developments.

More recently, concerns for Tehran are also increasing abroad as its international isolation begins to take its toll.

To stand alongside the Iranian people, the international community must raise the cost of Tehran’s belligerence.

In a piece some time ago I discussed How Iran Is Losing Europe, especially taking into consideration the distancing of France from Iran and President Emmanuelle Macron’s improving relations with the United States.

Considering the fact that Iran’s economy is in desperate need of business ties with large French firms, such developments have become increasingly concerning for the Iranian regime’s ruling elite.

President Macron recently threatened military action against the Assad regime in Syria, widely known to be remaining in power thanks to the support of Iran and Russia.

“France will strike” if the Syrian conflict witnesses the use of chemical weapons against civilians, being in violation of international treaties, according to Reuters.

“On chemical weapons, I set a red line and I reaffirm that red line,” Macron added. “If we have proven evidence that chemical weapons proscribed in treaties are used, we will strike the place where they are made.”

Last May Macron emphasized chemical weapons use would represent a “red line” crossing. Updating his position, Macron took advantage of last Friday’s telephone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to weigh in grave concern over signs of chlorine bomb usage against civilians in Syria.

In recent weeks, rescue workers and aid groups in Syria, and the U.S. government, have been accusing Damascus of repeatedly deploying chlorine gas as a chemical weapon against civilians in Ghouta and Idlib.

This highly dangerous chemical substance, which Syria claims to possess legally for purposes such as water purification, can be lethal when used as a weapon and causes suffocation.

The “Syrians for Truth and Justice” organization is reporting how missiles carrying poisonous gasses targeting Ghouta belonged to Iran:

“According to Bellingcat, the munitions used in the February 1 attack are Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions (IRAMs), based on modified Iranian 107mm rockets. The standard warhead has been replaced with a large pressurized gas cylinder, and tail fins have been added to the rocket.”

Such developments go alongside further troubles brewing for Iran, emanating from strong remarks by other senior U.S. officials and figures.

Daniel R. Coats, Director of National Intelligence at a Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday:

“Iran remains the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism, providing financial aid, advanced weapons and tactics, and direction to militant and terrorist groups across the Middle East and cultivating a network of operatives across the globe as a contingency to enable potential terrorist attacks.”

In yet another reminder of Iran’s troubles regarding the controversial nuclear deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton emphasized in a FOX News TV interview of only three months remaining to U.S. President Donald Trump’s deadline regarding a decision over the accord’s future.

Promises were made Tehran would join the community of civilized nations as a result of this deal. The result, however, has been anything but.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday renewed his government’s call on Iran to withdraw from Syria, accusing Tehran of destabilizing the Middle East through military presence.

“Iran needs to withdraw its military, its militia from Syria, and allow a hope for the peace process to take hold in Geneva,” Tillerson emphasized at a news conference in Amman, the capital of Jordan.

As argued extensively in the past, an interesting insight is now provided into how Washington can impose meaningful pressure on Tehran at a time when protesters are chanting for Iran’s regime to “Let go of Syria, think about us.”

New York Post article reads in part:

“Now is the time for Trump to re-establish a robust military deterrent toward Iranian expansionism in close collaboration with regional allies. His administration declared the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist entity in October, and he should target key Guards’ bases and weapons in Syria accordingly. Such an approach could help prevent a larger-scale conflict.”

Iran understands how more money pumped abroad will flame their already crisis-riddled political status quo back home.

Washington may particularly be focusing on also closing Iran’s “land bridge,” connecting Tehran to Damascus to easily influence the entire region and connect to the Mediterranean.

Iran’s regime is very vulnerable following the recent uprising. Public unrest and the protesters’ demands for fundamental change are Tehran’s Achilles’ heel.

Identifying and supporting the very element that can realize this change is crucial.